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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

WDDTY’s ‘inconvenient’ editorial guide to recognising quackery

Quackery is seductive. For those who don’t know the signifiers, and/or are susceptible to its language, then it is understandable (to some extent) why many are beguiled. And once taken in, it is difficult to get them out again, so defensively protective do they become of their (self-) indulgence – think cult. But there is a pattern to quackery: commonly recurring rhetorical tools which the sufficiently sceptical can readily detect. And this particular WDDTY piece, with its woven inclusion of many of these identifying features, serves as an almost comprehensive guide to how to identify quackery.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

How to build a body of misleading pseudo-evidence for bogus treatments and mislead us all | Edzard Ernst

Because this sort of thing can't be said often enough.
Some sceptics are convinced that, in alternative medicine, there is no evidence. This assumption is wrong, I am afraid, and statements of this nature can actually play into the hands of apologists of bogus treatments: they can then easily demonstrate the sceptics to be mistaken or “biased”, as they would probably say. The truth is that there is plenty of evidence – and lots of it is positive, at least at first glance.

Alternative medicine researchers have been very industrious during the last two decades to build up a sizable body of ‘evidence’. Consequently, one often finds data even for the most bizarre and implausible treatments. Take, for instance, the claim that homeopathy is an effective treatment for cancer. Those who promote this assumption have no difficulties in locating some weird in-vitro study that seems to support their opinion. When sceptics subsequently counter that in-vitro experiments tell us nothing about the clinical situation, apologists quickly unearth what they consider to be sound clinical evidence.
Read the rest here: How to build a body of misleading pseudo-evidence for bogus treatments and mislead us all | Edzard Ernst.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Encyclopedia of American Loons: #783: Suzanne Humphries

Suzanne Humphries is a nephrologist turned vocal proponent of pseudoscience, woo, and worse. She has been involved with the International Medical Council on Vaccination, a front group for anti-vaccinationism, and has written several blog posts and done several podcasts and interviews (e.g. for NaturalNews) insinuating that kidney failure is caused by vaccines...

Full lunacy here: Encyclopedia of American Loons: #783: Suzanne Humphries

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Encyclopedia of American Loons: #780: Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is – as most of you know – the socialite founder of Huffington Post. Despite other potential virtues, the Huffington Post’s attitude to science, especially in their health and well-being sections, is more than questionable; indeed, Huffpo is an abysmally shameless pusher of pseudoscience and woo, including anti-vaccinationism, Deepak Chopra-style altmed garbage; and self-help articles most of all reminiscent of The Secret....

Full lunacy here: Encyclopedia of American Loons: #780: Arianna Huffington

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Encyclopedia of American Loons: #775: Steve Hotze

Steve Hotze is a wingnut crackpot who runs a big, lucrative practice in suburban Houston focused on “nontraditional therapies” and treatments for allergies, thyroid problems and yeast infections. He is particularly known for promoting natural progesterone replacement therapy for women, a treatment that can hardly be said to be particularly science-based. He also runs a daily health and wellness show that airs on Sen. Dan Patrick’s Houston radio station, KSEV. Quackwatch has taken due note of him, though...

Full horrific details here: Encyclopedia of American Loons: #775: Steve Hotze

Monday, 9 September 2013

Encyclopedia of American Loons: #697: Charlotte Gerson

Gerson therapy is a treatment regimen of which it is claimed that it is able to cure even severe cases of cancer through a special diet, coffee enemas, and various supplements. It does, of course, not cure cancer, but Charlotte Gerson – the current main promoter – has anecdotes! The treatments is named after the German crank Max Gerson. Charlotte is his daughter....

Encyclopedia of American Loons: #697: Charlotte Gerson

Friday, 24 May 2013

Harpocrates Speaks: Mark Geier: Not a Leg to Stand On

Poor, poor Mark Geier. For those who don't know, Dr. Mark Geier is half of the father-son team that developed the "Lupron Protocol" for treating autism. Put simply, Geier and his son came up with the scientifically unsupported idea that testosterone and mercury bind together in humans, allegedly causing autism. His treatment for this involves dosing children with leuprolide, followed by chelation. Leuprolide (also known by the brand name Lupron) is legitimately used for treatment of precocious puberty and as part of IVF treatment. It is also used off-label to chemically castrate sex offenders...

Read more: Harpocrates Speaks: Mark Geier: Not a Leg to Stand On

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Encyclopedia of American Loons: #544: Stanislaw Burzynski

...Burzynski is not licensed to treat cancer with his mixture. He claims to have a lot of anecdotal evidence for his treatment, though looking more closely at what he’s actually doing reveals a lot of curious details, for instance that conventional cancer treatments are used as well in his treatments, and that the success part of his success stories is nevertheless not always unambiguously ascribed to those conventional treatments. The treatments at the Clinic are enormously overpriced...

Read the full horror story here: Encyclopedia of American Loons: #544: Stanislaw Burzynski (?)

Stanisław Burzynski is Polish, but he operates in the US.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ cites paper that demonstrates there is no such thing as homeopathy

I do not/cannot dispute the improved ‘quality of life’ reported by cancer patients receiving some or other ‘alternative’ treatment to complement (prior or ongoing) conventional adjuvant therapy (ie chemotherapeutic drugs, radiotherapy, or other supplemental treatment following surgery). If the patients themselves report such, then who is to argue? They’re hardly going to lie about feeling good when they feel lousy, are they? Attentive care does make people feel better. This has nothing to do with the ‘remedies’ they are administered – not physiologically anyway.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Patent Medicines and Alternative Medicine I: The Dawn of Patent Medicines | Steelclaws on Snake Oil

Patent medicines or nostrums were originally so named in the 17th century because those finding favour with the reigning monarch were given letters patent, which authorised the use of the royal endorsement in their advertising. It does not have anything to do with the modern concept of patenting. Indeed, throughout their history, most were not patented but trademarked instead, as patenting would have forced them to disclose the formula – something quite a few of them desperately wanted to avoid.

During the 18th century medicine was in flux. Old ideas – Galen and the Hippocratic tradition – were slowly on their way of being phased out as doctors influenced by Enlightenment sought to make medicine into a science, although it would take a very long time before medicine truly could be called scientific. At the same time, increased access to exotic plants brought to Europe during the Age of Exploration encouraged experimentation. People speculated freely on diseases, how best to treat them and systematise medicine. In addition to scientific progress – though slow – the 18th century gave rise to quackery on an unprecedented scale, some of which survives to this day, homeopathy being the most famous and widespread example....

Read more here: Patent Medicines and Alternative Medicine I: The Dawn of Patent Medicines | Steelclaws on Snake Oil