I’ve documented the infiltration of quackery into academic medicine through the “integration” of mystical and prescientific treatment modalities into medicine. Here, I look at a seemingly small incident, a veritable pebble in the quackademic avalanche. Is it too late for the pebbles to vote?
Rigvir is a "virotherapy" from Latvia promoted by the International Virotherapy Center and, increasingly, by alternative cancer clinics. There is no convincing scientific evidence for its efficacy. That didn't stop its advocates from presenting a case report. Not surprisingly, the case report isn't convincing either.
The overwhelming scientific consensus is that it is incredibly unlikely that cell phone radiation causes cancer or other health problems. That doesn't stop The Nation from constructing a conspiracy theory inn which cell phone companies are likened to tobacco companies in their campaign of denial designed to hide evidence of harm while disingenuously claiming to be neutral regarding the science and saying that scientists should determine whether radiation from cell phones is hazardous.
Last week, the media were awash with reports of the "interstitium," which was dramatically described as a hitherto undiscovered "organ," a narrative that was definitely a triumph of PR over science that went beyond what even the investigators claimed in their paper. Worse, the investigators themselves even speculated that their discovery could "explain" acupuncture and other kinds of alternative medicine, thus providing an opening for quacks to run wild with their discovery, something I expect to see very soon.
I've written twice before about German alternative medicine cancer clinics, the quackery they ply, and how they take advantage of desperate cancer patients. Finally, in a disturbing report a journalist has investigated what one of these clinics (Hallwang) does and how such clinics can continue to operate.
It's been a bad week for homeopathy. First, the NHS in the UK has stopped funding homeopathy in London. Then, news stories appeared about research fraud and a retracted clinical trial of homeopathy for cancer in which the investigators had already been arrested. So sad!
In the online echo chamber promoting alternative medicine, there are varying degrees of deception. There are true believers (who are often victims), entrepreneurs (who are often true believers who found a profitable business), and scammers. The categories are not mutually exclusive.
A couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed by the a reporter from the Georgetown student newsletter about its integrative medicine program. It got me to thinking how delusion that one’s work is science-based can lead to collaborations with New Age “quantum” mystics like Deepak Chopra. "Integrative medicine" doctors engaging in what I like to refer to as quackademic medicine all claim to be "evidence-based" or "science-based." The words apparently do not mean what integrative medicine academics think they mean.
There is a type of “vaccine injury” story promoted by the antivaccine movement that is particularly pernicious, a narrative I call “death by Gardasil.” The stories, which use tenuous connections between vaccination against HPV to prevent cervical cancer and the unexpected death of a teen or young adult, are always tragic, and you can’t help but feel incredible empathy for the parents. However, none of these stories constitute compelling evidence that Gardasil kills young people. Basically, antivaxers exploit the grief of these parents and their understandable desire to find a cause for their child’s demise to demonize HPV vaccinations as …
Yesterday's crank fight continues, as James Lyons-Weiler, antivax warrior and founder of the Institute for Pure and Applied Knowledge, stung by Leslie Manookian's attack painting him as insufficiently antivaccine and even a tool of the vaccine-industrial complex, strikes back. Hilarity ensues as he battles Manookian for the title of Most Antivaccine Crank in the World.