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A tale of quackademic medicine at the University of Arizona Cancer Center

Quackademic medicine.

I love that term, because it succinctly describes the infiltration of pseudoscientific medicine into medical academia. As I’ve said many times, I wish I had been the one to coin the phrase, but I wasn’t. To the best of my ability to determine, I first picked it up from Dr. R. W. Donnell back in 2008 and haven’t been able to find an earlier use of the term. As much as I try to give credit where credit is due, I have, however, appropriated the term “quackademic medicine” (not to mention its variants, like “quackademia”), used it, and tried my best to popularize it among supporters of science-based medicine. Indeed, one of my earliest posts on this blog was about how quackery has infiltrated the hallowed halls of medical academia, complete with links to medical schools that have “integrative medicine” programs and even medical schools that promoted the purely magic-based medical modalities known as reiki and homeopathy. It’s been a recurrent topic on this blog ever since, leading to a number posts on the unethical clinical trials of treatments with zero or minimal pre-trial plausibility, the degradation of the scientific basis of medicine, and the acceptance of magical thinking as a means of treating patients in all too many medical centers.

One strong candidate for quackademic ground zero, if there can be such a thing for the phenomenon like quackademic medicine, which is creeping up like so much kudzu in the cracks of the edifice of science-based medicine (SBM), is the University of Arizona. U. of A. is, of course, the home of one of the originators of the concept of quackademic medicine and one of its most famous and tireless promoters, Dr. Andrew Weil. Dr. Weil, as you might recall, has even been the driving force for creating a highly dubious “board certification” in integrative medicine. Sadly, apparently this new board certification has been so popular among physicians wanting to “integrate” a little quackery into their practices, that its first examination has been delayed from May to November 2014, so that the American Board of Physician Specialties can figure out how to accommodate the unexpectedly large number of applicants.

So what happens when a patient arrives at U. of A. for treatment? I found out last week when I received an e-mail, which led to a fairly long e-mail exchange, with a man whose son was diagnosed with leukemia and is being treated at the University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC). Although this man gave me permission to use his name, I am going to decline to do so because there is a child involved, although anyone involved in his case at U. of A. will likely quickly be able to identify who the man is. It turns out that he is a professor at U. of A. in a humanities department (which is why I’ll refer to him henceforth as the Professor), and, even though he is not a scientist, he clearly knows how to think (which would not be surprising if you knew what department he was in). In his e-mail, he told me how appalled he was at the sorts of treatments being offered to his son:

I was appalled to discover that the center offers treatments like Reiki, Reflexology, Acupuncture, Cranial massage, etc. These treatments are advertised as “healing”–including boosting one’s immune system, complementing conventional chemotherapy etc. I wrote the the [sic] director of the center who at first expressed concern and thanked me for calling these things to her attention. She said she would convene a board of physicians to look into it. After three months went by, I wrote to her asking for an update. She told me the board was still working on it and that she was “confident they would take care of it”. I have been asking her for a timeline and she is not returning my emails.

At first I thought this was probably the pernicious influence of Andrew Weil, but I have since discovered that cancer centers around the country are offering these “treatments” including places like Sloan-Kettering. Because of this, I’ve concluded there is no point in going to the media to try to expose what’s going on.

Of course, blogs are the media. The new media, but media nonetheless. At least I like to think so.

The Professor is probably correct about going to the traditional media, though. There probably is little point in going to the press, although we can always hope. Most of the time, when the press looks into the infiltration of quackademic medicine into medical academia, the result is a story like this appalling one from a year and a half ago in which NBC News chief medical correspondent Nancy Snyderman strongly embraced quackademic medicine to the point that she even said that if a doctor “doesn’t know” about integrative medicine, “I think it’s time to ask for a referral to someone who does.” It made me sad to see a woman who normally stands up for science, at least with respect to vaccines and combatting the antivaccine movement, to fall so hard for pseudoscience when it exists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Even I have had to hang my head in shame when I discovered that my alma mater both for medical and undergraduate school, the University of Michigan, actually has a program in anthroposophic medicine.

Unfortunately, although I hoped that the Professor would make as much of a stink as he could, I felt compelled to warn him that I doubted he would be successful because this sort of “integration” of quackery with academic medicine is very much entrenched at the University of Arizona. It started with the pernicious influence of Andrew Weil, but if Dr. Weil were to drop dead or retire today I doubt that it would change much, if at all, because quackademic medicine has had years to become embedded in the culture there. To put it bluntly, U. of A. is one of the centers of quackademic medicine in the US, if not the world, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I also looked up UACC’s director, Dr. Ann E. Cress, and noted that she’s an interim director, which makes it highly unlikely that, even if she were so inclined, she could do much of anything. An interim cancer center director isn’t going to be able to take on Andrew Weil. It also doesn’t help that there are researchers at U. of A. like Dr. Myra Muramoto, who recently scored a $3.1 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI)—not the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, mind you, the NCI—to do this:

Dr. Myra Muramoto, Arizona Cancer Center member and associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, has received $3.1 million from the National Cancer Institute to develop and evaluate a new program to train chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists in effective ways to help their patients and clients quit tobacco.

The grant will fund “Project Reach,” which will partner over the next five years with Pima County chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists and their office staff to evaluate ways they can best help their patients quit tobacco.

That’s a big chunk of change of the sort that cancer centers value above all, money from NCI grants. When cancer centers are being considered for NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center status (NCI-CCC)—or trying to renew their status—one huge consideration is the level of NCI funding its investigators have. Basically, for this purpose NIH grants are good, but NCI grants are the best. That’s why any investigator with a $3.1 million NCI grant will have outsized influence and an NCI-CCC or any cancer center seeking NCI designation. Of course, because chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists often claim, without valid scientific evidence, to be able to help people quit smoking with their woo, such a grant would almost certainly have the effect of encouraging referrals of smokers to these practitioners, to make sure enough patients accrue to the study funded by the grant.

Quackademic medicine at UACC

It turns out that U. of A. does indeed offer its patients tons of “supportive” care therapies not rooted in science. A quick look at its Survivorship Care page reveals:

In collaboration with the medical and psychosocial services at The University of Arizona Cancer Center, we will work with patients to:

  • Reduce physical symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment (e.g., pain, fatigue, insomnia, etc.)
  • Manage side effects of chemotherapy and radiation with therapies such as acupuncture, botanicals, and mind-body medicine
  • Examine lifestyle factors and situations (e.g., diet, risk for undernutrition, physical activity, emotional coping skills, support network, and spirituality) that may affect symptoms and/or course of disease
  • Develop and work toward goals for health, wellness, and what is most meaningful and valuable after diagnosis, as well as during and after treatment
  • Actively participate in their health care
  • Regain a sense of control and well-being despite the diagnosis

Notice the quackademic medicine “integrated” with potentially science-based modalities for supportive care: acupuncture, botanicals, “mind-body” medicine. Note how such useless modalities like acupuncture are listed as being, in essence, co-equal with various dietary, lifestyle, and coping modalities. This is basically how quackademic medicine “rebrands” what should be science-based modalities as somehow being “alternative” or outside the mainstream. It then lumps them together with modalities that are pure quackery (acupuncture, reiki, therapeutic touch, etc.), the implication being that it’s all part of a lovely “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) package that represents the “best of both worlds.” Of course, we at SBM reject the idea that there are “two worlds,” citing the oft-repeated adage that there is no such thing as “alternative medicine.” Rather, there is medicine that has been scientifically demonstrated to work. There is medicine that has not been scientifically shown to work. There is medicine that has been shown not to work. The reason “alternative medicine” is alternative is because it falls into one of the latter two categories. What do you call alternative medicine that’s been shown scientifically to work?

Medicine.

I know, I know. We say this a lot here, but it’s true. Also true is Mark Crislip’s almost famous adage, which I like to use in almost all of the talks I give about “integrative” medicine these days:

If you integrate fantasy with reality, you do not instantiate reality. If you mix cow pie with apple pie, it does not make the cow pie taste better; it makes the apple pie worse.

As I’ve said many times before, I wish I had thought of this quote.

Trying to hide the stench of cow pie in the apple pie

Make no mistake about it, UACC is “integrating” fantasy with reality by offering reflexology (or, as I like to call it, a nice foot and hand massage with delusions of grandeur), reiki (or, as I like to call it, faith healing substituting Eastern mysticism for Judeo-Christian beliefs), craniosacral massage (or, as I like to call it, a nice scalp massage with delusions of grandeur), healing touch (also known as therapeutic touch, which I like to call reiki without the foreign name), and many others. At least, I wasn’t able to find anywhere that the UACC offers homeopathy to patients, although one of the most famous of the “magical grants” awarded by NCCAM was to a University of Arizona researcher in Dr. Weil’s department to study homeopathy.

It didn’t take too long for it to become clear to the Professor that UACC was not dealing with him in good faith. At least, that’s what he told me in a subsequent e-mail. What led him to believe this was a combination of not getting his e-mails answered and then what happened after he complained about perhaps the most egregious example that he found at UACC. He first brought this issue up back in December, and, after several requests to have a meeting, the Professor became frustrated and basically sent a threat to go to the media. Shortly after that, the web page on the UACC site that had so disturbed the Professor became this:

Access Denied

Yes, that’s a big “Access Denied” message. One wonders whether UACC deleted the page or just hid it so that you need a University of Arizona login to see it. Maybe one of our readers from U. of A. could check and report back here.

Thankfully, due to the magic of Google Cache, we can see what was there until as recently as a week ago:

Schuster

One wonders if the administration of UACC, out of concern that the Professor might actually do what he said he would do (shop his story around to newspapers), got rid of the web page for Frank Schuster. Of course, it’s not so easy, as I showed above, and, in case anyone’s interested, I’ve saved a web archive of the page for permanent archival purposes (for me, that is).

I can see why the UACC administration would be embarrassed enough to act like this. On the now defunct page, potential patients for UACC were treated to incredible claims like:

Very simply, Reiki is energy that flows through the body of the practitioner, and conveyed through the hands into the body of the recipient. It is subtle energy, but it can be felt – usually as a warmth, tingles or slight pressure.

And, perhaps the most ridiculous claim of all:

Any particular effects cannot be predicted. The energy is intelligent and it will do whatever is best. What can be stated is that it will help any condition.

That’s right. Apparently this “healing energy” from the “universal source” is so intelligent that it will do whatever is needed or best. That totally must be why it can’t be studied! Its effects are so darned unpredictable! It’s also hard not to note that on the old web page about Mr. Schuster there was a link to his practice’s web page Energy-Therapy.net, where there’s also a link to his blog Energy Therapies, which appears not to have been updated since 2005 but is quite revealing nonetheless. Indeed, in one post on Mr. Schuster’s web page, we see a claim that speaks for itself:

ALL illness and disease are indications of an unbalanced or depleted energetic condition. The resulting manifestation as pain or anxiety is the body’s way of letting you know that something in your life is out of balance.

But don’t worry, Mr. Schuster can help. You don’t even have to come to his practice or UACC! That’s because, you see, Mr. Schuster offers distance healing:

Distant Healing is defined as a “mental intention on behalf of one person, to benefit another at a distance.”

In this context, prayer is a mental act of intercession in which the believer (pray-er) puts himself “between” God and the recipient.

God then uses the prayer (pray-er) as the conduit for the request – be it healing, therapy, or another type of petition. God’s healing power is directed through the healer to the person in need. If that person is present, the power can be conveyed through touch. In the event that person cannot be present, God’s healing power is effectively conveyed by mental intention through the thought process. In this realm distance is not a consideration.

One might not believe any of this, nor have faith that this kind of healing can occur. Actually, that is irrelevant. The only faith that really matters is that of the healer or pray-er. The single requirement of the recipient is to be in a receptive mode, open to healing possibilities. It is not necessary to believe that the acts of prayer, distant healing or touch healing are effective.

This is, of course, completely unscientific. It’s religion, pure and simple. In fact, I would argue that it’s just another form of faith healing, given how Mr. Schuster invokes God as the source of the “healing power.” And it’s only $25 for four 15 minute sessions! (More if you want to donate more.) What a bargain! At least there’s a quack Miranda warning at the bottom of the page, and one notes that Mr. Schuster also includes a plug for NCCAM.

I don’t know whether Mr. Schuster actually offers distance healing to UACC patients, although it’s clear from his web page that he offers it. Regardless of whether he offers it to UACC patients or not, I hope that I would not be alone in arguing that mystical nonsense like reiki (which Mr. Schuster appears to implicitly admit to be faith healing) has no place in an academic medical center, much less an NCI-CCC like UACC. There are only 41 NCI-CCCs in the entire country. I’m faculty at one and am proud of having been on the faculty of two different NCI-CCC’s. The NCI designation is supposed to mean that these cancer centers are the best of the best, adhering to only the highest standards of patient care, research, and community engagement. To see an NCI-CCC offering faith healing, distance healing, and treatments based far more on magical thinking, religious and mystical ideas, and prescientific concepts of disease, such as reiki, reflexology, and acupuncture, embarrasses me almost as it would to learn these modalities were being promoted for patients by my own cancer center as though they were legitimate treatment modalities. Fortunately, they are not, which is one reason I’m proud of my cancer center, but I nonetheless fear this occurrence. After all, if M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center can fall so deep into the rabbit hole of woo, I’m under no illusion that it can’t happen where I work too. All it would take is a new cancer center director, a new director of supportive services who is more “open” to these sorts of treatments, or maybe a new member of the board of directors who is woo-friendly. SBM is fragile these days.

Perhaps Dr. Cress feels the same way, along with many of the other excellent science-based clinicians and researchers based at UACC. I doubt it’s a coincidence that there isn’t a single mention of CAM or “integrative medicine” in a recent history of UACC published on the UACC blog last fall. In a way, I feel a bit sorry for Dr. Cress in that, as an interim director, she probably has neither the authority nor inclination to deal with this issue definitively. She probably wants to let whoever is appointed the next permanent director deal with it. Whatever the case, the Professor still doesn’t know whether Mr. Schuster is still affiliated with UACC or not, the removal of his web page from public view notwithstanding. I’m not sure that even the minimal action of removing from the UACC website a webpage that links to a website offering distance healing would have happened if the Professor hadn’t been faculty at the University of Arizona and threatened to go to the press.

Maybe they were concerned that people would also notice that Mr. Schuster’s other website, Paths-Mind-Is-It.com, offers a veritable cornucopia of dubious products, such as Increased Synchronicity, which claims to be able to:

  • Increase in awareness of the present moment. Fully appreciating the here and now
  • Have future self send information back through time to current moment. This is specific for the following periods of time…1 minute, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month and 3 months
  • Have current self send current information back through time to past self. This is also specific for the following periods of time…1 minute, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month and 3 months
  • Increasing unity/harmony between past, present and future self

Hey, if Mr. Schuster can send healing messages over distances, why not forward or backward in time, too? Yes, basically, his PATHS “utilize proprietary breakthrough technology” that claims this:

Rapid Data Transfer (RDT) GENERATION II embodies a quantum leap in Mind Technology. RDT Gen. II is a unique technology that helps you use the potential of your own mind without any drugs or medications. It can help you to improve in almost every area of your life including, health (physical, mental, emotional & spiritual), enlightenment, productivity, success, communication, finances, relationships, fitness and sports – even improve your memory!

RDT has been helping thousands of individuals, like you, improve their lives in many ways (click here to read success stories) in as little as 3 minutes a week.
RDT or Rapid Data Transfer facilitates high-speed communication between an on-line Theater Presentation and the human subconscious.

As best I can figure, PATHS are multimedia computer presentations that claim to be able to do all sorts of things for you, including improving your stem cell health, strengthening your connective tissue, and doing quantum meditation. Note that the word “quantum” features prominently in this “technology,” and regular readers know what the use of that word almost always indicates in this context.

What remains of the cow pie

Even if Mr. Schuster is indeed gone from UACC, there’s a lot of woo that remains there, as the Professor mentioned in his e-mails. Specifically, he pointed out something called The Seven Levels of Healing, a program created and offered by Dr. Jeremy Geffen, MD, FACP, who is described as a “board certified medical oncologist and leading expert in integrative medicine and oncology and is the author of the book The Journey Through Cancer: Healing and Transforming the Whole Person.” I think I’ll quote the Professor about why he found this so objectionable, because, really, without letting myself go, I’d have a hard time putting it better myself. In his criticism, the Professor also cites examples from Dr. Geffen’s website:

Today I’m in the cancer center and I’ve noticed something else. You offer here something called “The Seven Levels of Healing”. I looked up this program. Level 7 is about the nature of spirit. Here’s one thing they say:

Spirit is our true nature: timeless, eternal, and dimensionless, the source from which all awareness, all creativity and, ultimately, all healing flows.

As you know, this claim is scientific nonsense. One may have religious faith in such a claim, but is it appropriate for this claim to be made by the cancer center? The description continues:

The goal of “The Nature of Spirit” is to assist each person to discover this spiritual aspect of themselves, and to bring this into full, ongoing awareness. When what we experience as physical reality is threatened, it is more important than ever before to remember that another part of us is timeless and eternal, and remains strong, healthy, and powerful, no matter what our physical circumstances may be. In recognizing the nature of our spiritual selves, and the incredible mystery of awareness itself, we uncover the source of ultimate love and freedom — an infinite ocean from which healing can be drawn.

Again, completely unscientific claims about healing. As far as I know, the “Seven Levels of Healing” program is free. This makes it less objectionable, although in my mind, it is still objectionable for the cancer center, a supposedly scientific, evidence-based institution, to be pushing what is essentially religion. Moreover, in the description of level 3: “The Body as Garden”, they say the following:

Here we explore the full spectrum of complementary approaches to healing: nutrition; exercise; massage; yoga; herbal therapies; Ayurvedic, Tibetan and Chinese medicine; acupuncture; homeopathy: chiropractic; and visualization. We do not offer or promote these approaches as cancer treatments per se, and we do not believe that they should be viewed in this manner. However, we do believe that they can supplement conventional care by cleansing, toning, relaxing, and strengthening the body, thus giving health and well-being the greatest chance to emerge.

Although these claims are vague, it would be quite natural for someone to interpret them as meaning that these treatments, some of which are offered at the center for a fee, can aid in one’s recovery from cancer. I know of no evidence to support this claim. And do you have any idea what they mean by ‘cleansing’ and ‘toning’ the body? Do these terms have any scientific meaning in this context?

Likely, the Professor learned of this program through a fliers or pamphlet like this one. He is quite correct, too. By offering this particular program, UACC has irresponsibly placed its imprimatur and thus the assumed imprimatur of science on pseudoscience and mystical, religious mumbo-jumbo. There is no excuse for this.

This “Seven Levels of Healing” represents a program by a physician who is not UACC faculty but is promoted by UACC to its patients. It offers homeopathy, which, no matter how much homeopaths try to deny it, is pure quackery, as we’ve described many, many times here. Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine are modalities based on prescientific ideas of how diseases work not unlike the four humors in prescientific European medical traditions. Worse, according to the biography on the website, Dr. Geffen is apparently “focused on implementing ‘The Seven Levels of Healing’ program in cancer centers throughout the United States, along with writing, speaking, and consulting with hospitals, cancer centers, and professional organizations in developing leading-edge integrative programs for medicine, wellness, and life.” Although several cancer centers appear to have adopted the “Seven Levels of Healing” woo, from what I can tell, UACC is the only NCI-CCC that is involved, making it by far the most prominent cancer center to be using Dr. Geffen’s program. I really hope that I don’t learn of any more.

Given the infiltration of quackademic medicine into even the most respectable medical centers, it’s hard to know whether UACC is merely the cancer center that’s gone the farthest down the rabbit hole of pseudoscience or whether I just don’t know of ones that are even worse. Given the large shadow that Andrew Weil casts over the medical school there, it might well be so that, when it comes to quackademic medicine in oncology, UACC reigns supreme. As prominent as M.D. Anderson and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centers are, as far as I can tell, neither of them has yet offered distance healing to their patients, although many are the academic medical centers that offer a quackery only slightly removed from distance healing, namely reiki. After all, what’s the difference between saying you can channel “healing energy” from the “universal source” into a patient if you’re in the room with him or if you’re thousands of miles away? In my mind, not much. At least one academic medical center offers homeopathy. (Actually, I wish it were only one.)

Can anything be done?

Often, I’m asked something like, “What’s the harm?” After all, UACC and the other cancer centers that offer up “integrative oncology” don’t deny patients science-based treatments for their cancer. True enough. However, as the Professor demonstrates, the existence of “integrative oncology” programs has a profoundly confusing effect on patients and their families, who, quite reasonably, assume that an NCI-CCC would not offer any treatments that were not science-based. Consequently, the line between science and pseudoscience is becoming increasingly blurred, to the point where even a lot of physicians have a hard time telling the difference when it comes to modalities like acupuncture, which has been the most successful at projecting a facade of science over prescientific mystical origins and a mid-20th century resurrection based on political need in China, thanks to low quality studies and random noise in clinical trials. Worse, this infiltration has led to grossly unethical clinical trials, such as the Gonzalez trial, in which patients undergoing a “natural” therapy for cancer did much worse than conventional therapy, even for a disease with as grim a prognosis as pancreatic cancer. Perhaps an even more pernicious effect (actually, there’s no “perhaps” about it) is that this blurring of the lines between science and pseudoscience so badly batters the filters against pseudoscience that a cancer center like UACC can allow practitioners like Frank Schuster and Dr. Jeremy Geffen to be associated with its programs, and even hire them to provide unscientific medicine.

My first wish is that more patients like the Professor would so vigorously protest the infiltration of quackery into academic medical centers like UACC. My second wish is that it would take more than the potential embarrassment of publicity about a practitioner that even the quackiest of quackademics can’t defend to push a cancer center to act to protect the scientific basis of cancer care. Maybe the Professor can serve as an example of the first wish, but I fear I will not live to see the second ever fulfilled.

Posted in: Acupuncture, Cancer, Chiropractic, Energy Medicine, Medical Academia, Religion

Leave a Comment (119) ↓

119 thoughts on “A tale of quackademic medicine at the University of Arizona Cancer Center

  1. It’s going to take a series of successful fraud lawsuits to stop the metastasis of quackademic medicine.

    Many of you SBM bloggers are in a good position to serve as expert witnesses.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Fraud lawsuits, public, high-profile deaths, or a major Hollywood movie, a serious one that treats CAM as a serious harm rather than a potential gag, showing someone’s death by untreated cancer.

  2. I’ve lived in Arizona all my life. $HERSELF and I attended the UofA, my kids all have degrees from UofA (five as of this May), and a college lover’s father was chief of pathology at the medical school.

    Needless to say, a lot of the physicians around here are UofA graduates.

    It’s embarassing (not to mention disturbing) to have to inquire into whether they are actually practicing medicine or magic.

    BTW, I can have one of the kids (currently grad students) check to see whether that page is accessible. Ping me if you want me to.

    1. David Gorski says:

      In retrospect, I assume it isn’t, because the Professor is U. of A. faculty. However, he isn’t medical school faculty, and maybe if you’re affiliated with the medical school or cancer center you can access the page.

      1. Matt says:

        I’m currently a medical student here at the UA and I can’t see the page either, even once I log in, so I’m assuming “Frank the Magician” has had his page permanently deleted.

        On a related note, we did have a lecture from Dr. Weil during our last block here (our Life Cycles block) on “Aging Gracefully”. I know several of my friends boycotted the lecture out of principle, but I wanted to go to see the woo in all its glory (dangerous to be that close to the epicenter of quackery, I know). Dr. Weil’s lecture actually was just on eating right and staying active. Based on his reputation and other endeavors, I can only assume his lecture was somehow tempered by the medical school administration who didn’t want to be associated with such woo. The material was also excluded from our testable objectives. I was thoroughly disappointed as I was ready to ask for some, oh you know…science, explaining any woo-ful claims he made, but they just didn’t come!

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Yep, the ol’ bait and switch of quackery. When Weil (or Oz, or even Mike Adams) provides reasonable, science-based advice that is identical to what you would hear from any real doctor, it muddies the water and makes it harder to offer unrestrained criticisms. Which is why they do it, no doubt.

  3. Yodel lady says:

    This page from the Arizona Oncology Foundation http://www.arizonaoncologyfoundation.org/programs-and-services/ at UA still lists Frank Schuster and gives a short bio for him. (Click on “Read More about our Reiki Therapists.”

    1. David Gorski says:

      Do you know what the relationship between the Arizona Oncology Foundation and UACC is? It’s not clear from the AOF website if there is one. I do see Frank Schuster and a reflexologist touted on the website, though.

      1. Yodel lady says:

        David, you’re right, there’s no clear relationship. I jumped to a hasty conclusion when I posted. The Arizona Oncology Foundation has a “history” web page (http://www.arizonaoncologyfoundation.org/history/). It says Arizona Oncology began collaborating with Sunstone Cancer Support Centers in 1991 to provide integrative services to cancer patients. The University of Arizona Cancer Center describes their Supportive Care for Healing Initiative (which includes Reiki and many other services ranging from chemotherapy education to tai chi here (http://azcc.arizona.edu/node/2265), and says “Many of these services were previously offered by Sunstone Cancer Support Center.” Sunstone ceased operations in 2009 (https://www.facebook.com/notes/sunstone-cancer-support-centers/sunstone-bids-farewell/180940792998).

        I don’t see anything that really explains what “collaboration” entails. Where does the money for the services come from, who screens the workers, who’s responsible if something bad happens, etc.?

      2. Kimberli Cox says:

        Dave,

        The AOF is a subsidiary of Arizona Oncology, which is itself a subsidiary of US Oncology with large multidisciplinary group practices across the US (ie, Texas Oncology). They are not affiliated with UACC and would be consider the “main rival” for services at UACCC (information straight from a friend who recently left their employ as a surgeon).

        Andrew Weil is adjunct faculty, but not employed by UACC. ; many of the surgical faculty were in direct opposition to his name being used as seemingly affiliated with the medical center or UACC. He has a “boutique practice” in town.

  4. windriven says:

    I’m sorry, but after reading the Schuster part of this I can’t help but ask: doesn’t Arizona have Psych Services on campus? There is a level of delusion in Mr. Schuster’s ramblings that seems to go far beyond wishful thinking and deep into the heart of darkness.

    ” As far as I know, the “Seven Levels of Healing” program is free. This makes it less objectionable”

    Or not. While the “Seven Levels” may currently be offered without direct cost, the program consumes resources, all of which are ultimately paid by some combination of the patients themselves, their insurers, benefactors of the institution, and grantors. In a world of unlimited resources, free is indeed free. But this is not our health care world and free means only ‘paid indirectly,’ arguably a more sinister and insidious way to fund is garbage.

  5. goodnightirene says:

    Very. disturbing. situation.

    Worse yet, I continue to encounter similar situations almost daily, including at my clinic–which I have mentioned before is a regional academic medical center. I was recently referred to a new gynecologist after mine moved out west. I, of course, was sure to stipulate that I wanted someone very rigidly science-based. All went well for most of the visit, and then at the end he brought up a treatment claim that made me look at him very skeptically. I asked about the evidence and he replied, “well, it’s mostly anecdotal for that”. Now I wonder about most of the other things he made claims for.

    This is the problem with fence-sitting. It destroys your credibility to the actually-informed. It also makes me wonder about the credibility of the people who make these “referrals”, which so often turn out to be somewhat disappointing.

    Sob, sob.

  6. Kevin says:

    It’s actually a bit comforting to see that this isn’t only in the field of nutrition, though I obviously wish it were nowhere. I’m on track to finish my Phd/RD and I constantly run into this kind of ‘alternative medicine’ in our field. There’s even a dietetic practice group through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in “Integrative and Functional Medicine”. I am on their listserv and cringe at the stuff that comes out.

    I teach several introductory nutrition classes and I find that many choose to major in nutrition because they’ve read all of this fantastical quackery and attribute ludicrously over-exaggerated claims to nutrition (cures cancers, prevents all chronic disease, etc etc). Undoing this mindset and teaching them the meaning of ‘evidence-based practice’ is a struggle.

    The sentiments that you mention above largely play into a lot of the reasons I’ve become disheartened with dietetics. Certainly, there are great RDs out there – but I fear for the field as more and more come into it to push their anti-grain, gluten/dairy free, ‘unprocessed’ mantras for all.

    1. Dr Robert Peers MBBS [UniMelb] says:

      Hi Kevin,

      I think the anti-grain, no-gluten thing will eventually die down, although there may be a genuine gluten sensitivity that differs from the autoimmune disease [coeliac disease]–or is it just irritable bowel, in an anxious case who reads too much?

      I have often asked my patients whose naturopaths have said NO WHEAT NO DAIRY, what the hell they are talking about? I tell them, look, wheat is good for you, unless you have coeliac–and I can test for that.

      As for dairy, well, butter is nice–but too much is bad, Then there’s a slight worry over growth factors and insulin-promoting whey peptides–in milk, dried milk, cheese and yoghurt–that make calves grow very fast, and that may give humans bigger bones and muscles, but at a price: rapid growth and maturation are achieved via growth and proliferation hormones that suppress longevity and anti-cancer genes, and may also create dense breast and prostate tissue in adolescence.

      So, say I, don’t drink TOO MUCH milk–or switch to soy–or drink all you like, but also eat lots of WHEAT [or other grains, nuts, legumes], for these foods provide inositol–a suppressor of growth signalling and undue cell proliferation, that may protect milkoholics from the above adverse consequences of drinking the milk of a different species.

      Finally, are chronic diseases not nutritional in origin? If so, then keen young dietitians are right to think that they can prevent them. Except they would have to start in the womb, by working with midwives to ensure healthy–esp. low-fat–diet is followed in pregnancy.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Hi Dr. Peers.

        Is there anything inositol can’t treat? Because judging by your youtube channel, the breadth of conditions the answer is “no”.

        Finally, are chronic diseases not nutritional in origin? If so, then keen young dietitians are right to think that they can prevent them. Except they would have to start in the womb, by working with midwives to ensure healthy–esp. low-fat–diet is followed in pregnancy.

        Really? You think all diseases are nutritional in origin? What a startling claim. And you think a low-fat diet is a necessity, despite the nutritional needs of growing infants and in particular the myelin sheaths surrounding each neuron? Curious.

        1. Dr Robert Peers MBBS [UniMelb] says:

          Damn! I was trying to bait young dietitian Kevin, whose link to “Nutrevolve” dot something reveals some good stuff [but some odd ideas on diabetes, and sheer speculation re cardiovascular genes]–and look which fish I caught instead: WLU, The Nemesis from The North!

          So what does The Mouth From The South say to his Newfie Nemesis, about inositol as a Panacea; about nutrition causing chronic disease; and about dietary fat in the maternal [and postnatal] diet?

          LOTS!!! I’ll keep it brief here, as I hope to record the fevered outpourings of the dark recesses of my brain, ere long, on a WEBSITE, for all to see.

          1. Is there nothing inositol can’t treat? Damn good question, that–perhaps you could nominate some disease, and I’ll try to answer the challenge. Asthma? Erectile dysfunction? Cancer? Multiple sclerosis?

          You have seen my YouTube videos, that do give the impression–to the superficial observer–that I push inositol for everything. Look more closely, and you will see that I recommend it [via diet or supplement] ONLY where it has proven efficacy or potential benefit–based on two proven cellular effects: inhibition of serotonin 2A receptors [Ref 1], which reverses anxiety; and quite unrelated inhibition of Insulin-like signalling.

          a) ,Anxiety, apart from being unpleasant, drives numerous downstream physical and mental disorders [Ref 2]–all common in general practice–from stress-induced comfort-eating and obesity, to other addictions [smoking, alcohol, drugs], high cardiovascular risk, hypertension, diabetes, autoimmune disease, poor antiviral immunity, osteoporosis, muscle loss, thinning of skin, impotence, allergy, and Parkinson’s disease.

          Anxiety is also a very common co-morbid aggravator of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, migraine and epilepsy. Oh, and it causes fatigue.

          Inositol, via diet [preferably] or supplement [needed for moderate and severe anxiety] affords a simple way to reverse or ameliorate all the above, highly prevalent “stress” based clinical diagnoses, enabling a large reduction in public spending on the drugs used for these disorders.

          b) Inhibition of Insulin-like signalling–specifically, of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 signalling by inositol [Ref 3] has broad-spectrum anti-cancer and pro-longevity effects–by mimicking a key effect of dietary restriction, inositol [without such restriction] affords a very wide range of clinically applicable benefits against both cancer [esp. prevention] and ageing.

          In my post, I gave the example of protecting, via high-inositol diet, a big dairy and meat eater against the sinister effects of raised IGF-1 signalling, which include trivial acne and more lethal aggravation of hormone-dependent cancers–and probably other cancers as well.

          Finally, the two key anti-ageing transcription factors activated by IGF-1 signal suppression–FOXO/Daf 16 and Nrf-2–induce the expression of ancient cytoprotective genes for detoxification, antioxidant enzymes, synthesis of the key cellular antioxidant glutathione, enhanced immune response [including antimicrobial peptides and fast-acting, germ line-like antiviral RNAi genes] and protein quality control [with huge potential to treat protein aggregation diseases--Alzheimer's, Parkinson's. Huntington's, Motor Neuron Disease, tauopathies, etc.].

          Exploiting the anti-anxiety and anti-ageing benefits may also be synergistic: better anti-viral immunity in anxious subjects has huge implications for controlling EB virus [in multiple sclerosis], hep B and hep C, HPV in warts, and cancers of cervix and throat, and even CMV, in age-related immune decline. The antiviral effects of anti-ageing would clearly synergize with those of anxiety reversal–and would also enhance the immune memory response to vaccinations, in people calm or anxious.

          Note that I did not wake up one day, inspired by some dream of curing the world with inositol, then start flogging it at my surgery and on the web, for personal profit. My interest is in public health, not in profit. I prefer to use dietary sources alone–sufficient for the anti-ageing benefits, but not enough to reverse higher degrees of anxiety.

          I first heard of its use for anxiety in 1999, then found it had significant anti-cancer properties, which [in 2005] turned out to be due to IGF-1 signalling suppression–which I already knew, from Cynthia Kenyon’s work, implied a parallel effect on longevity, energy and immunity.

          So IS this humble seed sugar a Panacea after all? In my general practice, I see a very wide variety of diseases, and am always on the lookout for opportunities to apply one or more of its diverse range of cellular effects, to unusual or uncommon disorders–like severe allergic mastocytosis, or hair loss, or fungal infections, or tinnitus, or pulmonary fibrosis.

          And note the effects of anti-ageing on STEM CELLS: IGF1 tends to age them, while FOXO [above] is known to induce two key stemness transcription factors [OCT4 and SOX2], that are regularly used in 4- or 5-component transcription factor cocktails, to turn skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells. Here we have a cheap way to activate tissue stem and progenitor cells, by nutritional means–a new road to tissue regeneration therapy and wound repair.

          You remember the Mediaeval Alchemist’s two essential properties required for an Elixir of Youth? Using alembic, water, salts and minerals, and furnace, one had to transmogrify, mutate and dephlogisticate purest liquid gold, to produce an Elixir that would 1] Cure Diseases, and 2] Prolong Life. Hey MadisonMD, Panaceas only do 1]!!! I’m into Elixirs!

          And hey guys, how would the CAMologists feel if 1] Doctors added an Elixir [e.g. good Medi diet] to their disease prevention and treatment arsenal, and if 2] a new breed of Health and Longevity Practitioners, working in collaboration with the Docs, were trained up–to show the public that advanced scientific nutrition, practised by this formidable alliance, has far more to offer than the cancerous growth of WOO.

          2. Are our chronic Western diseases mainly of nutritional origin? Great question, that I have studied for 24 years now. I’ll stick this on my forthcoming amazing WEBSITE. In the meantime, Google DR G WRENCH and HUNZA, or try SOILANDHEALTH dot whatever, with further link to JOURNEYTOFOREVER and [avoiding some woo on the site] find the Wrench book [online] under FARM books. Truly amazing British Doc who saw in the Hunza his long-sought control group, to confirm Dr Robert McCarrison’s Indian work, showing that diet does cause serious diseases.

          My hypothesis is that the fatty Western diet creates chronic diseases, by reducing the polyunsaturate content of cell membranes–causing insulin resistance in the outer cell membrane, plus oxidation and inflammation arising from increased mitochondrial superoxide release. Pre-natally, such a diet promotes gestational diabetes, along with foetal brain damage due to maternal cortisol and placental inflammation, resulting in anxiety disorder and cognitive dysfunction, incl. delusion-proneness.

          Postnatal fatty diet is linked with diabetes and widespread oxidative and inflammatory degeneration in most tissues and organs, including stem cells. Fatty diet has now been shown to cause Parkinson’s pathology in rats, within 4 months–a good example of sick mitochondrial membranes.

          Finally, membrane pathology appears to drive both ADHD and Alzheimer’s–common seed oils, due to refining, are low in vitamin E, a reduced level of which is a potent threat to the richly polyunsaturated membranes of brain synapses and retinal rod cells. The resulting lipid peroxidation can now be linked mechanistically with the pathogenesis of both disorders. More of that later. It’s not the DNA, man–it’s the membranes.

          3. William, infants do need saturated fat–but also long-chain Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids–but Mum has no need to actually eat any sat fat at all, in or after pregnancy, since sat and mono fats are [by definition] non-essential, and are easily made in Mum from dietary carbs. Just ask Gary Taubes!!

          Furthermore, fatty pregnancy diet is known to cause both gestational diabetes and offspring anxiety disorder. The latter is not good for postnatal MYELIN development, because Polish scientists have shown, in rat models, that anxious rat pups have stress axis activation, with cortisol-induced activation of a key brain development enzyme [GSK3beta] with negative, anti-growth effects on both brain synapses and MYELIN [see on PubMed BUTT A AND GSK3BETA; and also JOPE AND ROH, re brain damage from activated GSK3beta].

          Not only are fatty maternal and infant diets unnecessary for brain or bodily growth–since breast milk is rich in maternally-made sat fats [and Omega-3 and Omega-6 from Mum's LOW-FAT, oil-rich diet]–but my despised inositol may correct myelin defects in anxious infants and growing children:

          a) By reversing the child’s anxiety, cortisol’s tissue wasting effects will cease, and myelin formation will improve–as will the associated impaired synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis. White matter imaging may prove this predicted therapeutic effect, using diffusion tensor imaging.

          b) Inositol’s anti-ageing effects include important metabolic effects, that may actually ENHANCE myelination, in several ways. First, activation of myelin precursor cells by a stem cell boosting action, may promote the proliferation of myelin-producing glial cells. Secondly, Inositol induces the gene expression of the master gene for mitochondrial biogenesis [PGC1alpha], meaning more energy for energy-hungry myelin glia, for cholesterol and fat biosynthesis. PGC1 alpha ALSO increases the synthesis of both myelin basic protein and the key myelin lipid Sulfatide. Wow. Finally, inositol drives the synthesis of a SECOND myelin lipid, called plasmalogen.

          Does it ever end? NO!!

          A formerly anxious infant or child, treated with inositol foods [grains, nuts, legumes, citrus] will enjoy both a resolution of their anxiety, plus the above hypothesised anti-ageing benefits, meaning not just normal myelination, but better then the average child.

          Now step in Dr R Douglas Fields, with his brand-new idea that learning is not just done at synapses, at the tips of nerves, but also ALONG the nerve [if it is a myelinated axon]. Intensive learning, like juggling or keyboard training, ramps up the activity of certain nerve bundles, whose myelinated axons respond by WRAPPING MORE MYELIN around the busy axon. Which increases the velocity of axonal transmission considerably, thusly forming a kind of high-speed broadband network effect. This means faster visuospatial coordination, enhanced scholastic performance, and a really smart kid.

          It may also restore and enhance synaptic and myelin-based learning and connectivity in bipolar, schiz and autism cases suffering co-morbid anxiety disorder induced by fatty maternal diet.

          And this Smart Kid Diet can be done with Beans, Oranges, Nuts and Grains–BONG!! So it’s Bill Maher for President, and everyone gets a BONG and a free gastric bypass!! Ha Ha

          And all the little Murrigan and Canuck kiddies are gonna grow up real smart, with vastly superior IQ, like William Lawrence Utridge!! And they’ll be damn good at endurance sports, too, courtesy of inositol-induced anti-ageing energy, via enhanced mitochondrial biogenesis and oxidative [endurance] metabolism in their long-distance-winning hearts and muscles.

          Like those Kenyan marathon men, who eat lots of maize porridge, leaving potato and pasta Western runners eating their dust.
          And like Paavo Nurmi, the Flying Finn, who won a heap of middle-distance Olympic Gold Medals in the 1920s–he was vegetarian in his youth, having no money for meat. So to get protein, you eat beans and nuts–and cannot avoid getting my Magic Gold Medal Molecule.

          So there’s my ever-so-brief response to your 3 questions.

          1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Yeah, I’m not going to read that, I’m just going to point out that the longer your post proclaiming the magic of inositol, the more you look like a crank.

            1. Dr Robert Peers MBBS [UniMelb] says:

              How many pages are there in Newton’s Principia Mathematica? Gee, that’s pretty long and detailed too, isn’t it, Nemesis?

              Why don’t you just stick to the easy-read stuff, like Psychology Today, and Popular Science, and not wrestle with the basic sciences required to investigate the origins of human disease–like epidemiology, pathology, nutrition, biochemistry, molecular biology, immunology, psychiatry, virology and so forth.

              Your brain power, which I seem to have seriously overestimated, is limited to defending empiric medicine against woo–an articulate spokesman for pharmacology [the "science" of learning which drugs to give for diseases we don't know how to prevent]. Some science that is.

              Show me that you can actually DO science–present to us a new and original hypothesis on the cause of anxiety, or on the possible connection between quantum uncertainty and residual Big Bang energy and chaos, within the atom.

              I collect and file facts with a purpose in mind, mostly to find, if possible, simple causes for complex diseases–I’m in medicine, but I am appalled that we can’t prevent all these diseases, that I have dealt with for 40 years, here in Australia, and in the UK as well. I have seen a lot of sickness and tragic preventable death.

              You asked, before the readers of this website, that I justify my research on inositol, and on the causes of disease. OK, it takes a long post to summarise 24 years of intensive study, PRECISELY TO SHOW THAT I’M NOT A CRANK–and you refuse to read my detailed and reasoned response, and STILL CALL ME A CRANK.

              I want you to look up all the best definitions of Science–from Newton, Bacon, Darwin, Whewell etc., and see if the curiosity-driven skeptical inductive method of discovering Nature’s hidden laws and secrets has anything at all to do with the personal kicks you obviously get from being a serial CARPING NEGATIVE CRITIC, who picks easy CAM targets to boost your own ego and satisfy the pathological urge, seen in many anxiety-afflicted psychologists, to dominate and control–and put down–others.

              And I notice that you NEVER question medicine. Need some yourself?

              And you show revealing signs of poor self-discipline and emotional control–for all to see on this website. SHAME on you.

              Would the REAL CRANK please stand up?

              1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                Hi Dr. Peers,

                I just wonder why you are spending so much time here, writing long posts, rather than submitting to a peer reviewed journal so millions can take advantage of your miracle product and thus heal the world. Since it’s apparently so simple. You know what would be even better than such an article though? A well-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Put inositol up against whatever metamucil is in Australia, in capsule form, then see who does better. If the effect is as powerful as you say it is, you can show results with low-n trials. The decision to lower blood pressure with medication took a mere 77 patients and revolutionized medicine, ushering in a new era of screening rather than clinical diagnosis.

                I’m obviously not going to be convinced, since we got off on the wrong foot, what with you being outraged at Burzynski’s willingness to use unproven treatments to cure cancer, when his patients should be using your unproven treatment to cure cancer. So why not change the mind of the medical community? The reach is far greater than this humble blog, and since your evidence is so convincing, I’m sure none of the researchers will venture objections as strong as mine, ignorant as I am of the literature.

                I’m just saying it seems like a better use of your time, and clinical trials, well-controlled, are always more convincing than theoretical speculations.

              2. MadisonMD says:

                … you refuse to read my detailed and reasoned response, and STILL CALL ME A CRANK.

                That “detailed and reasoned response” reading, in part:

                You remember the Mediaeval Alchemist’s two essential properties required for an Elixir of Youth? Using alembic, water, salts and minerals, and furnace, one had to transmogrify, mutate and dephlogisticate purest liquid gold, to produce an Elixir that would 1] Cure Diseases, and 2] Prolong Life. Hey MadisonMD, Panaceas only do 1]!!! I’m into Elixirs!

                Man, these are the dribblings of kook, a crackpot. How about a crank?

                Get this:

                virtually universal characteristics of cranks include: Cranks overestimate their own knowledge and ability, and underestimate that of acknowledged experts.

                Yes, clearly. check.

                Cranks insist that their alleged discoveries are urgently important.

                Check.

                Cranks rarely, if ever, acknowledge any error, no matter how trivial.

                Yes, got that. check

                Cranks love to talk about their own beliefs, often in inappropriate social situations, but they tend to be bad listeners, being uninterested in anyone else’s experience or opinions.

                Check check double. Has anyone discovered a Peers post that fails to mention inositol?

                Well, Peers, facts is facts. You claim to have discovered that inositol is the very elixir of life. You meet the above criteria. You, sir, are indeed a crank.

          2. MadisonMD says:

            Peers forgot to mention that inositol can turn pewter into gold.

            1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              All of it, including the tin? He’s got a leg up on alchemists then.

              1. Dr Robert Peers MBBS [UniMelb] says:

                Lately, I’ve been experimenting with a homeopathic dose of my wondrous Cognition Elixir, and guess what? It’s STILL strong enough, at dilutions that modern science can scarcely measure, to give me the awesome brain power to turn William’s argument about dietary fat and myelin development into PURE SHIT!

                I can’t yet test my Elixir on MadisonMD, who for some curious reason has no hypothesis on anything–might be something to do with her wandering around among a Hundred Haystacks of Hypotheses, looking for somewhere to start, or a Needle or something, hidden within.

                Anyway, do, both of you, have a lovely day.

                Always a pleasure to hear from you.

              2. MadisonMD says:

                Homeopathic inositol live extending elixir/panacea. I see you will be rich and live forever Peers. You can have the last laugh dancing on all our poor graves in 100 years. Come to think of it, maybe you learned homeopathy from Hahnemann himself, and perhaps you are an original rosicrucian.

                can’t yet test my Elixir on MadisonMD, who for some curious reason has no hypothesis on anything

                I prefer to put my hypotheses in grant proposals and publish the experimental results and conclusions in peer-reviewed journals, thank you. Needless to post here.

    2. Angora Rabbit says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks so much for posting. That took great courage. I, too, train RDs (undergrad degree and PhDs in nutrition). I completely empathize with your situation. Fortunately our institution has a *very strong* science and biochem background, so this sort of nonsense does not appear in our curriculum. However, we cannot control what happens during the internship. The best we can do is to give our students a solid background in woo detection and critical thinking. Note that Critical Thinking is one of the education criteria from the AND! To that end, my seniors get a full lecture on critical thinking; I’d be happy to share it off list if you wish. I give them the tools to ward themselves at later dates, because they will be seeing this again. It IS worth the struggle, truly. Don’t back down – the smart ones will respect that and take courage from your example. *Those* are the students you are teaching to.

      As an RD/PhD, you will be in a unique position to train subsequent generations of RDs. The field desperately needs people like you – we cannot recruit enough RD/PhD faculty with a strong science background.* Thus, if you couple this with a solid research program, you can truly write your meal ticket in academia. I encourage you to stick with it – truly, you will have a powerful combination to make change.

      * Mostly because they are not interested in academic research but just teaching, which is fine, but we need them in research, too.

      1. MadisonMD says:

        @AR
        Appreciate your posts greatly. Regarding basic science strengths of certain institutions precluding nonsense, it might depend on where you look.

        1. Angora Rabbit says:

          And which department. That is so sad to see, given there are also good people there. We should meet.

          Fyi, I have it on good authority that, if you look carefully, Weil does NOT have an appointment in the real Dept of Nutrition at Arizona. The faculty were asked to extend him an appointment and voted a resounding “no!” Which is why he had to invent his own. He was voted off the island.

          1. Dr Robert Peers MBBS [UniMelb] says:

            Hi Rabbit,

            What do we do with this Dr Weil? I can’t help liking the guy–he looks very guru-like, has a charisma-laden deep resonant voice, a measured and confident style, a Rhodesian ridgeback doggie, and a laid-back desert and cactus lifestyle. I like him!

            About 1990, when I began my own foray into nutrition, I bought a book of his, hoping to find some good stuff on nutrition or herbs. Yeah, he did CAM stuff, but I ignored that bit–perhaps with too much tolerance–in favour of the bits I was interested in.

            Seems he’s a rebel at heart. He studied botany, I think, before doing medicine. Might think he’s superior to non-botanical MDs, and mischievously wants to stick it up his nation’s medical establishment.

            Which led the New England J of Med editor, Dr Marcia Angell, to warn readers about “the Weil threat to American medicine”. That was many years ago, when his CAM–or maybe his nutrition–may have looked a bit more science-based, and really DID look threatening.

            Sadly, when I see his more recent stuff, it looks crazy, and I don’t think he studies nutrition much at all.

            What a pity to lose such a good guy–if only he had a better sense of mission and strategy, and would harness his smooth style and talent for publicity with a disciplined determination to challenge Big Medicine in the proper way, with hard-hitting research-based preventive and therapeutic nutrition–with optional herbs of proven efficacy, to keep his link with botany, if he prefers.

            Medicine, of course, will survive without nutrition–it has a wide range of partial chemical remedies to keep it in business. However, only nutrition can ever improve public health, and we need sqillions of community dieticians out there, or the future is going to be bleak.

            Doctors who adopt nutrition, in an honest and public-spirited way, are a hybrid species of incredible value to the future of public health. They know the diseases, the pathology, maybe some of the biochemistry. They know psychiatry.

            By adding preventive and therapeutic nutrition to their career–as we see in Finland, with stunning results in cardiovascular prevention–a mere handful of zealous medical reformers has huge potential to convince the public–and the government–to go P=Health: start a massive diversion of public funds, from reactive, low-impact medicine, towards radical disease prevention.

            The money should go to the dieticians, to implement P-Health, and in time there would be more docs joining in.

            But to get this rolling, we just don’t seem to have enough really really smart, really really angry public-spirited dieticians and nutritionists, to get the public’s attention.

            They will come, inevitably, but right now the best people to kick this off, and get immediate attention, are docs who wear two hats.

            So if Andrew had seen this possibility in his rebellious youth, and transformed himself into the Wild Man of Public Health Medicine, what a real threat he would have been, after all, to an obsolete, self-serving mediaeval profession that long ago hijacked the health agenda for private profit, to the utter ruin of public health.

            Pity it may be too late to stop his WOOnami rolling. Why can’t we try converting him, at this late hour, to The Good Cause? That resonant voice and talent for self-publicity, if re-aligned with the latest nutritional discoveries, could do so much to save your country from a spiralling healthcare disaster.

            If his brain is as big as his ego, maybe there’s hope still. Is it worth trying, or is this a hopeless cause?

            1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              Weil has never been a good guy.

              Why do we need millions of dieticians? Eat your vegetables and fruits, avoid processing if possible, focus on lean meats, whole grains, nuts and eggs. Nutrition isn’t really that hard, it’s just easy to do it badly. Food isn’t medicine, it is fuel and over extreme long-term, if eaten early enough, has some preventive value. The idea that you need some sort of technical expert to set up a scientific diet for most people is rather absurd, as humanity has managed to thrive in nearly every environment and nearly every diet, from ultra-vegan Jainism to near-carnivore Inuit. There are exceptions, favism, PKU and the like, and some individuals are better off with modified diets (post-MI for instance). But for the majority of the population, why is there a need for such deep technical expertise?

              1. windriven says:

                “why is there a need for such deep technical expertise?”

                Because somebody needs to tell me how to fit a steaming apple galette into that perfect nutritional matrix!

              2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                Rarely, in small portions, and with great gusto :)

        2. corky says:

          madsionMD, I too am from madison (on the faculty in the med school) and am horrified that they would peddle some of the JUNK on that page!!! DETOX???? You might feel bad if you eliminate caffeine (no DUH)! I also hear people associated with the medical school suggest acupuncture and supplements for which there is NO clinical evidence on radio shows frequently. Makes me CRAZY. How is the public to know what to do when the Doctors, who are supposedly educated in science, don’t understand the science? Guess I will have to try to do my part to teach critical thinking to the undergraduates in my courses!
          I thought having to deal with this woo with the the veterinarians for my dogs was bad enough (lets try acupuncture for that arthritis). I guess I will be quizzing my doctors from now on!

          1. Angora Rabbit says:

            Corky and MadisonMD – we need a meet and greet.

          2. MadisonMD says:

            Corky and AR:
            I’ll request our host to send you both my email. I think I have AR triangulated already– we have crossed paths unbeknownst. Corky, I wouldn’t be surprised to find you right down the corridor…

  7. nutritionprof says:

    “I was appalled to discover that the center offers treatments like Reiki, Reflexology, Acupuncture, Cranial massage, etc. These treatments are advertised as “healing”–including boosting one’s immune system, complimenting conventional chemotherapy etc.”

    is it not “complementary”? If they can’t get that right, why should there be an expectation that they get anything else right?

    1. The Professor says:

      Yes, I did misspell, “complementing”, but I am not they. But even if *they* had misspelled it, I find it odd that you think this would predict their involvement in medical quackery. You need to get some perspective on spelling errors.

      1. David Gorski says:

        No problem. I fixed it for you. I should have noticed the spelling error/typo (whatever it was) and fixed it when I went through my final run-through of this post. Sorry about that.

        Personally, I find spelling/grammar/usage flames to be exceedingly lame. On my not-so-secret other blog I usually correct the error (if error it turns out to be) and then ruthlessly delete such comments with extreme prejudice, because if all you have to say consists of a spelling flame with little or anything substantive about the actual content of the post, then to me the comment is really not worth preserving. View it as a pet peeve of mine that I make no secret of. Unfortunately, at this blog, I don’t feel quite as free to eliminate such comments, because it’s more than just me here.

  8. Gregor Samsa says:

    Duke University is testing the waters of “Integrative Medicine”. There is no mention, yet, of such as homeopathy on the website, but it swallows the usual claims for acupuncture (TCM, thousands of years old, qi, energy pathways). This after saying that their offerings are evidence based. http://www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org/patient-care/acupuncture

  9. Eldric IV says:

    Shouldn’t Dr. Crislip’s quote be

    “If you integrate fantasy with reality, you do not instantiate FANTASY. If you mix cow pie with apple pie, it does not make the cow pie taste better; it makes the apple pie worse.”

    There is no need to instantiate reality and this would also maintain parallelism with the second sentence.

    1. David Gorski says:

      My advice would be to take it up with Dr. Crislip. :-)

      1. Lula Lemmon says:

        Cop out.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          How is that a cop out? It was Dr. Crislip’s quote, not Dr. Gorski’s.

        2. windriven says:

          I suspect that Dr. Crislip would shrug his shoulders and say something along the lines of, “right you are.” Why the obsession with this?

          1. David Gorski says:

            Exactly, or he might have a sarcastic rejoinder about pedantry, although probably not as sarcastic as mine tend to be. :-)

  10. Skeptic says:

    I see reiki, acupuncture and others being offered through an “integrative” and “evidence-based” clinic at University Hospitals, Cleveland.

    Ditto the famed Cleveland Clinic.

    1. David Gorski says:

      Don’t remind me about UH. I did my surgery residency there. I got my PhD at Case Western Reserve University while affiliated with UH. None of that stuff was there in the 1990s. I finished in 1996; so I guess a lot can happen in 18 years. Sigh.

  11. Carl says:

    “Reiki with Frank” is scheduled for this Friday, on-site:
    http://azcc.arizona.edu/node/2693

    …as is cranialsacral massage with “Justine”:
    http://azcc.arizona.edu/node/4234

    …and “Healing Touch Therapy with Heidi” on Thursday:
    http://azcc.arizona.edu/node/2691

    Not only is it insane that any institution has any of this garbage, but they also refer to these people by first name only, which is a sloppy ethical standard. Shouldn’t you know the full name of the quack who is about to molest you?

    By the way, here’s a great benefit listed on the Healing Touch page:
    “Supports the dying process”

    1. David Gorski says:

      I can’t argue with that one.

    2. brewandferment says:

      The whole first names thing has to be part of the carefully managed image that the sCAM people want you to accept. They want to be seen as the “personal, friendly, caring folk” all warm and fuzzy and devoted to you, unlike those formal, impersonal, status-seeking experts who are so superior as to insist upon titles. It’s marketing, it is–just brand management.

  12. Al Stroberg says:

    May be worse than you thought. Last Fall’s issue of the UCLA Med Center magazine featured an article of the importance and wide acceptance of spirituality in patient care.
    http://magazine.uclahealth.org/body.cfm?id=6&action=detail&ref=1032

  13. Self Skeptic says:

    I don’t think it’s such a good idea for SBM’s point of view, to spread the term “quackademic medicine” around; it brings to mind a different concept than you intend, for those who are aware of the various careerist distractions that keep academic medicine from doing impartial science. (These distractions are many and various; ask and I’ll list some, if you don’t know what I mean.)

    The term “quack,” in general, is problematic. If there’s only one medicine, medicine that works, does that mean that every doctor who uses [i]mainstream[/i] medical procedures that don’t work as advertised, is a quack? Does it matter whether or not the practioner “believes in” the procedure? What should we think when the weight of evidence indicates a procedure doesn’t work, but guidelines still recommend it, for historical, social, and/or economic reasons. Is the physician who continues doing it, or fails to challenge it, a quack, even though he is forced to do it by peer pressure, and fear of lawsuits?

    I would hold that he is, if patient welfare is the key; but that would make all doctors quacks. If a quack is someone who seems to more about money and prestige, than the welfare of his or her patients, then CAM providers who make only a modest living, and believe in what they are offering, are off the hook, while many high-ranking academic experts, are on it.

    Therefore, I think the term “quack” alone or in combination, should probably not be used, by anyone who wants to be taken seriously while discussing medicine.

    1. David Gorski says:

      Ah, I wondered how long it would be before someone tone trolled.

      Let’s just put it this way: Your concern is noted. I’ll say things the way I want to, your “concern” notwithstanding. I’ve done a pretty good job of being taken seriously without your advice, as I hope you will see later this year. :-)

    2. Sawyer says:

      You are just plain wrong on this issue. There are situations where a softer approach may be called for, and different styles of writing may succeed where SBM is failing. This isn’t one of those situations.

      I can promise you that people in every other field of science, be it physics or chemistry or geology or astronomy or botany or oceanography or computer science, looks down at the medical community with great disdain for letting CAM researchers into universities. These other fields have successfully kept the cranks out of the classrooms and laboratories for nearly a hundred years. Do you know how they did it? By being brutally honest with every single person that applied for a job about whether or not their research plans were reasonable. If someone is trying to secure grant money for a physics project that involves a perpetual motion machines, their colleagues tell them it’s a dumb idea. And they’ll tell the general public it’s a bad idea too. They don’t mince words trying to look for a friendly term to describe pseudoscience. Crank is an appropriate term in physics, and quack is in medicine. Deal with it.

      The idea that world of academia should try being more friendly to alternative medicine to improve their overall standards is laughed at by almost every single scientist outside the realm of medicine. I applaud the editors of this site for being some of the only doctors that seem to understand that, and I hope they continue to ignore your please to start pandering to quacks.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Other disciplines respect science and require you to do the math before you are taken seriously.

        CAM proponents do not do the math. They do not respect science. In most cases, in a best-case scenario, they think that bench and test tube work is sufficient to prove the ancient wisdom of the Whoever that this four-leaved herb is good for the limbs because we have four limbs. Never mind that if Pfizer tried that approach, they would be…I don’t know what. Laughed at by the FDA? Completely destroy their research pipeline? Utterly prevented from ever having an approved drug again?

        It’s rank hypocrisy, it’s asking for a double standard for stupid reasons. It’s justifying an income stream through special pleading.

        It stinks.

      2. Self Skeptic says:

        I agree it’s not good to have CAM mixed up with mainstream medicine. It causes the same problem that wrong guidelines causes; people won’t know what to believe. My comment wasn’t addressed to being “harsh” about it.

        The main problems with the term “quackademic medicine” are:

        1) except for the small number of people involved specifically with SBM, it sounds like it is meant to discredit academic medicine in general. This isn’t trivial; a lot of intelligent people are disgusted with the prevalence of medical academics who abuse their power, by publishing detectably misleading research reports, but aren’t held accountable. However, it’s not a good idea to discredit the whole enterprise, since academic medicine is where all real science-based medicine originates, (along with the mainstream placeholder fictions and sloppy science I’ve mentioned).

        I’m pointing out that a general term of disrespect like q.m., would probably have unintended consequences, if it caught on beyond the circle of SBM followers.

        2) This site claims to encourage reason and critical thinking. A term that depends on the accidental rhyming of “quack” with the first syllable of “academic”, is modeling a different, one might say opposite, kind of thought. Though I dabbled in it myself, when I brought up the Truth Fairy as the only self-correction mechanism of medical science that would make dissenters from the status quo, unnecessary. You didn’t like that, as I recall. But I figured, when at SBM, do as the SBMers do. ;)

        1. David Gorski says:

          except for the small number of people involved specifically with SBM, it sounds like it is meant to discredit academic medicine in general

          Um, no. In the six or so years that I’ve been using the term rather commonly, you are, quite literally, the very first person whom I’ve ever encountered who expressed that concern or interpreted the term “quackademic medicine” that way, and I’ve encountered a lot of people who are not physicians and who understood that the term applies to CAM immediately because of the context. (Remember, the term is always used in the context of discussing CAM in academia.) Anecdotal? Sure, but it’s not as though anyone’s going to do a study over whether people think that “quackademic” medicine “discredits” all academic medicine; so that’s the best I have at the movement.

          Perhaps you should be a bit more careful about so grossly generalizing your personal emotional reaction to a word as applying to everyone “except for the small number of people involved specifically with SBM.”

        2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          However, it’s not a good idea to discredit the whole enterprise, since academic medicine is where all real science-based medicine originates, (along with the mainstream placeholder fictions and sloppy science I’ve mentioned).

          I’m pointing out that a general term of disrespect like q.m., would probably have unintended consequences, if it caught on beyond the circle of SBM followers.

          That rather points to the issue and problem that the term “quackademic medicine” is trying to identify, isn’t it? CAM already has too much respect, and that unearned respect is allowing it to ooze into real medicine and academia without doing the work.

          In part, SBM fights a PR war, and terms like “quackademic medicine” is one weapon in its arsenal.

          1. David Gorski says:

            In fact, I might be using the same term again this week for my post, as I’m debating whether I should do a followup. It turns out that the quackademic medicine runs deep in the UA hospital system. It’s not just the cancer center.

  14. Self Skeptic says:

    Ah, “concern” (complete with quotes) and “tone trolling” – more terms of mockery. Just what the world needs.

    I wonder what big surprise you have for us? Did you convince the radiologists to change their screening mammography guidelines, or at least convince a society of surgeons, or a cancer society, to publicly dispute them? If so, I have nothing but sincere congratulations to offer you – that would be a real contribution, in line with SBM’s name, rather than its usual subject matter.

    1. David Gorski says:

      One is curious what major accomplishments Self Skeptic has had in terms of persuading. Given his seeming ability (or at least his seeming belief that he has the ability) to know the best way to persuade and his confidence in castigating anyone whose style he doesn’t like, surely he must have an awesome track record to let us all know about. Surely, he can educate all of us struggling peons who will clearly never understand his awesomeness with respect to persuasion. I eagerly await the opportunity to learn at his feet, unworthy worm that I apparently am.

      1. Self Skeptic says:

        My second paragraph wasn’t sarcastic – I really do wonder what your surprise will be. I thought maybe it had to do with your comment in another thread that new screening mammography guidelines might come out within a year. You haven’t told me yet why you think that. But maybe instead, you discovered something in the lab.

        I guess you aren’t going to tell us what you think differentiates a quack from, say, a multi-tasking Ivy League medical academic/researcher/pharmaceutical, er, collaborator, of the more unsavory type, who says things that aren’t true, for careerist reasons. (I’m not talking about anybody at SBM, obviously. I’m talking about the thought leaders who figure prominently in all the books about bad pharma.) I wouldn’t call him a quack, mostly because I think name-calling looks sophomoric (tastes differ, we don’t have to agree about that) but also because but it seems too simplistic. I’d rather figure out what kind of charlatan he is (a dupe? a con man? a businessman? a man who thinks he has to break some eggs to make a Nobel-winning omelet?), and to know how he got that way, than to call him a name.

        I used to assume that “quack” refers to someone who is (knowingly) a con man pursuing worldly gains by making dubious medical claims;, but since the ongoing discussion as to whether SBMers think that CAM is mostly about money, or about true believers, maybe I have it wrong. It seems that a lot of people here think many or most CAMers are true believers, but still quacks. So it seems as if some discussion of the term might not be superfluous. (I don’t expect there is one absolute definition; probably just a cluster of denotatons and connotations.)

        1. David Gorski says:

          It is not, nor has it ever been, necessary to be a con man or liar to be a quack. Some of the worst quacks have been true believers. That connotation you have is yours. As for the term, I will use it as I see fit, and the term “quackademic medicine” fits very well, for reasons that I explained right at the beginning of the post. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter for now.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            Perhaps a good metric of who is a quack and what is quackery is that the person or practice in question should have known better. Meaning that someone using a practice that is not efficacious is not a quack unless unless it would be reasonable to assert that the person should have known better. Same with quackery. That way intent and avarice do not play into it, nor does it make genuine misunderstandings or limitations of scientific knowledge quackery. The cutoff is obviously not sharp, and will necessarily change. Someone practicing chiropractic with subluxation theory back in 1890 would not have been a quack, but most certainly is now.

  15. Newcoaster says:

    Personally I love the term quackademic medicine and try and promote it where appropriate. I’m not aware of any great infiltration into my alma mater in my old province (Manitoba) or the medical school in the province I now reside (British Columbia) though I haven’t looked seriously for a while.

    Quackademia is occurring in some non university settings unfortunately. There is an organization in Vancouver called InspireHealth which has received millions in grants from our provincial government for promotion of various CAM treatments. They claim they have research supporting what they are promoting, but as yet nothing has been published. I wrote the CEO several years ago and got a boiler plate response, but no data. ( Hal Gunn, if you read this….Ha…I’m still waiting). They also have threatened legal action for libel when skeptics have written op eds about them. Remind me of Scientologists.

    Recently, our esteemed government also gave money to a glorified community college (Kwantlen College) in support of a new program to teach Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Minister responsible for higher education…sigh…who gave the grant is a former member of the board. I wrote him as well as the president of Kwantlen College expressing concerns, and the lack of evidence for TCM. No reply from anybody, but I did notice the public relations person from Kwantlen looked up my LinkedIn profile.

    1. embeetee says:

      I was dismayed to read your post that Kwantlen and my provincial government are partnering to open a school of TCM. Beyond dismayed.

      Thank you for making me aware of this travesty. I’ll be adding my voice to yours in letters to Kwantlen, to the Premier, to the Minister and to my local MLA. And I’ll keep at it.

      What a waste of human and financial capital which should be spent otherwise on education and therapies which actually improve health and healthcare outcomes.

      How disheartening.

      1. Newcoaster says:

        Thanks. Unfortunately it is all politics. Kwantlen is in a district of voters heavily populated by south Asians and Chinese, who are culturally more comfortable with TCM and Aryuveda. The Minister of Higher Education (Amrik Virk) of south Asian background himself, and is clearly motivated by getting votes, and hanging on to his government paycheque. His qualifications for being the minister for higher education? He’s a retired career RCMP officer. Sigh, and again, sigh.

        1. HM says:

          That sucks, I’m South Asian and firmly believe in SBM. Any of the quack stuff that my family talks about, I make them show me where it’s been double blind studied.

          I’ll be emailing my MLA about this, the province shouldn’t be putting money toward qackademics.

  16. Douglas Guillory says:

    Two things that separate medicine from most academia are the incredible complexity of the body and the involvement with death. Both of these drive people to try anything. However, I think that many of the cancer trials also seem to be desperation driven and were terrible failures.

  17. Chris Hickie says:

    Oh, this is awful. This is where I did my pediatrics residency (U of A) and I remember some of this stuff was just being mentioned but I didn’t see it being offered to the children with cancer .

    Perhaps we should worry that somewhere in the US there is a pediatric heme-onc program that will given Burzynski’s ANPs, but I will still continue to hope that the board-certified oncologists won’t.

    1. Anna says:

      Agreed. I’m a grad student at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Campus, and tales such as these are deeply disturbing. I would love to join some sort of EBM-oriented student club, if one existed. I know we’re not alone — the vast majority of students I’ve encountered here seem more interested in evidence than faith-based anecdotes.

    2. David Gorski says:

      Maybe as an alumnus you should complain. It gets worse, so much so that I’m thinking of doing a followup post about quackademic medicine outside UACC, but rather at the main UA hospital.

  18. Ben Berumen says:

    You and your term quackademic , show a deep embedded ignorance . As you can see there are a great number of diseases that are termed incurable, syndrome, the human body attacking itself, and so on. The point is that what you call science based medical advancement is sadly in its infancy when it comes to actually having a positive outcome with cancers, lupus, arthritis, hearth disease, just to mention a few.
    I su jest that before you judge with such severity alternative ways of healing the body, look into the hearts of the millions of people that ended their life’s disappointed and poor for trusting western medicine blindly.
    I’m not su jesting that western medicine doesn’t have its place but it has to be looked at for what it is, with all it’s limitations, including the financial burden that it places in society .
    I assure you there are quacks and quackery in every form of medicine practiced, including western medicine.

    If you are in pain, or have been told that you only have a few months to live, perhaps you can find the right quack to help you, but you have to look, and I assure you you will find, wether you look under the rock of western medicine or the rock of of alternative therapy…

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      The definition of “syndrome” is not “incurable chronic disease”, it is “a condition not diagnosed through objective findings”, often with connotations of uncertainty in etiology. AIDS is a syndrome cause by HIV infection that kills off most or all of your CD4+ cells. Chronic Lyme syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia syndrome, these are all diagnosed purely through symptoms, exclusion and subjective findings, and all lack etiologies and objective ways of diagnosing them.

      What you are actually describing appears to be autoimmunity. In some cases we know what causes the autoimmunity, but not all syndromes are autoimmune in nature, and not all autoimmune diseases result in syndromes.

      The point is that what you call science based medical advancement is sadly in its infancy when it comes to actually having a positive outcome with cancers, lupus, arthritis, hearth disease, just to mention a few.

      Really? Cancer? We can cure a lot of cancers. Like, a lot. We know what causes heart disease in large part, and how to prevent it (the problem is, for many patients, a lack of compliance with their doctor’s orders). Lupus I don’t know enough about, and “arthritis” is an amazingly broad category, some of which are autoimmune, some of which are simple wear-and-tear. And in many cases we know contributors, if not causes, for instance, genetic changes with high penetrance map one-to-one with specific conditions.

      Merely because you do not understand these conditions doesn’t mean that the quackery is right. Non-quackery at least has a whole bunch of prior probability going for it, a convergence of findings and understanding of how the body works. Quackery on the other hand, posits energies that can’t be detected, mutually-contradictory etiologies and treatments, and above all – no evidence to support them.

      I su jest that before you judge with such severity alternative ways of healing the body, look into the hearts of the millions of people that ended their life’s disappointed and poor for trusting western medicine blindly.

      So, in your mind, the heart is less of a pump and more of a scientific fortune cookie? Curious.

      At what line of longitude does “western” medicine stop working by the way? I’ll avoid crossing it. And if I lap it twice in one day, does that mean it starts working again?

      Note that if you meant “heart” metaphorically, I will point out that people have always had beliefs about what healed them, for years. Thoth, or YHWH for instance, or radium water, or enemas. That doesn’t mean they worked. People also believed in a flat earth, turtles all the way down, and a geocentric universe.

      I assure you there are quacks and quackery in every form of medicine practiced, including western medicine.

      Agreed, that’s why there are discipline mechanisms in place. Sadly, the activism by quacks have essentially carved out a niche where best practices and sound medicine (not to mention simply knowing something about basic anatomy) do not apply.

      If you are in pain, or have been told that you only have a few months to live, perhaps you can find the right quack to help you, but you have to look, and I assure you you will find, wether you look under the rock of western medicine or the rock of of alternative therapy…

      Perhaps if you have been told you only have a few months to live – get a second opinion and make sure you understood the diagnosis. And if it is accurate, perhaps come to grips with the fact that we will all die, it is sooner for you, and that you can live your final days in something approaching peace and with controlled pain, or you can desperately die without dignity trying to cure your cancer with enemas.

      Merely because real medicine can’t reliably cure all cancers doesn’t mean alternative medicine can cure any. But the quacks are happy to charge you a pretty penny for unproven treatments. Because they’re greedy.

      1. mouse says:

        WLU The definition of “syndrome” is not “incurable chronic disease”, it is “a condition not diagnosed through objective findings”, often with connotations of uncertainty in etiology.

        Agreed that it is not an incurable chronic disease, but I’m afraid it also is not a condition not diagnosed through objective findings. Merriam Webster “a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality”

        As well as the ones you listed above we have also Down’s Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, etc.

        Many syndromes do have objective tests.

        See a list of syndromes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Syndromes
        List of genetic syndromes http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/search?query=syndrome&Search=

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Ah, my bad, thanks. My understanding is (or was) that “syndrome” was used in cases of uncertain etiology. Perhaps it is only in some cases.

  19. Kat says:

    Part of me wants to believe they’re REALLY trying just to offer various forms of placebo. Perhaps they feel by giving them ‘credence’ they’ll increase the effect of said placebo.

    Or maybe they’re trying to offer a more “human” element of comfort to cancer patients with these “natural” treatments, in addition to the actual effective but scary chemotherapy. (Which would be a really terrible way of going about it)

    I’m in absolutely no way saying that it’s a good idea and I 100% agree with your article. Just trying to give some sort of explanation to make myself feel better about all of this…

  20. Dr. Peterson says:

    This is an opinion not grounded in science. I am writer from Natural Standard and the California Journal Of Oriental Medicine with two NSF grants. I have read over 12,000 abstracts and articles from the Stanford University’s “High Wire Press”. Do a word search on Chinese medicine and see what you find or phytochemistry. Next time you tout a medical study, count the number of double blind crossovers. Functional MRI’s, EEG’s and Pet Scans prove acupuncture has merit, and curcuma will kill cancer cells. Reiki and Traditional Chinese medicine are not in the same ballpark. If you would do a serious inquiry you’d eat these myopic words posted here.
    Buddha would say, “I sit in the middle while yes and no chase each other around in a circle”.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Buddha didn’t have a microscope, and he died from bad pork. I might take spiritual advice from him, but not health advice, thanks.

      Dr. Peterson, what do you think of drug companies that promote the use of drugs either for conditions for which they have not been tested, or for orphan drugs with no conditions for which there is proof of efficacy?

      Now ask your self why it’s OK to be outraged at that, but perfectly fine to sell “traditional” herbs when there is pretty good evidence that plants are great at destroying organs (aristolochia and kidneys, kava-kava and livers).

      Don’t you think, rather than promoting these substances as magical with evidence of efficacy only from “traditional use”, we should undertake the hard but rewarding work of pharmacognosy that will demonstrate with real evidence whether it actually works or not? Whether it is safe or not? Didn’t you learn from those 12,000 papers that sometimes, or even often, the claims made for traditional herbs are wrong?

      Functional MRI’s, EEG’s and Pet Scans prove acupuncture has merit, and curcuma will kill cancer cells

      The scans actually merely prove that areas of the brain light up when you poke people with needles, which is very far from showing acupuncture “works”. They can also show a dead salmon thinking, did you know that? And all those scans are normally justification for clinical trials – which we’ve jumped into already and found acupuncture is placebo. And for every curcuma, there is a laetrile.

      Do the work first, then gloat.

      1. windriven says:

        “he died from bad pork”

        Using the, ahem, logic of the alt med types, Buddha would still be alive if only he’d been a Jew.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Depends on the sect, really. And he probably would have had to cosume virgin coconut oil, or 40 mg of vitamin C per day, or put coffee up us butthole to still be alive today. Again, depending on the sect.

    2. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Functional MRI’s, EEG’s and Pet Scans prove acupuncture has merit

      No, actually they don’t. They prove that there are many researcher degrees of freedom and that they are both difficult to interpret and highly subject to researcher bias. If fMRI can show that a dead salmon responds to stimulus, it can also be misrepresented to show efficacy in acupuncture. It is also demonstrated that studies in neuroscience, notably fMRI, cannot possibly be as positive as they are (more reading within and in the second part, plus many other resources and scholarly articles). There is simply not enough power in the studies available to justify the results.

      So, since we know that fMRI, EEG, and PET data (though PET the least) are highly subjectible to bias and that there are definitively a large number of studies using these modalities that claim to be correct positives results but simply cannot be, it is scientifically inaccurate to claim that fMRI proves acupuncture has merit.

      It was Feynman who said that the first principle is you must not fool yourself, and that you are the easiest person to fool. Making the claim you have is not supported by the science. And the fact that you have grants and read a bunch of abstracts does not impart credibility to your specific claims.

  21. claudia says:

    I would like to see references to studies showing the lack of effect of the different “alternative” treatments. I think you are tarring all of them with the same brush, and distinctions can be made. I assume massage, reflexology, etc. are offered to alleviate the symptoms of disease and its treatment, not as the method to eradicate the cancer, etc. Massage definitely relaxes many people. As well as alleviating muscle pain and anxiety, human touch may also soothe. Some hospitals are considering allowing pet dogs to visit patients. I think this would provide an emotional benefit. Hasn’t patting a pet been shown to lower blood pressure? I know dogs and cats make many nursing home residents happier and are a welcome distraction. TM became mainstream long ago. The effects of ginger in alleviating nausea is not questioned, I assume. This site strikes me as too dogmatic.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      I would like to see references to studies showing the lack of effect of the different “alternative” treatments. I think you are tarring all of them with the same brush, and distinctions can be made.

      A fair criticism. Which is why there are some 2,000 posts here dealing with the evidence and lack thereof for all those different modalities. So if you want the references you seek…. start reading the archives here. If you go to the top you will see conveniently grouped categories that can help you cover specific topics. Like acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, etc. We are still working on further grouping and referencing, but it is here is some form or another. You can also check out Quackwatch for more references.

      I assume massage, reflexology, etc. are offered to alleviate the symptoms of disease and its treatment, not as the method to eradicate the cancer, etc.

      No how is using too broad a brush? Massage is science based, but can be misused. Something we discuss here as well. Massage for sore muscles or to lift your mood? Great! We support that. Massage for accelerating weight gain in infants? Not so much.

      Reflexology…. definitely quackery. A foot rub is pleasant (for some, my fiance is too ticklish for most any massage, but couldn’t stomach the idea of a foot rub) but that is not reflexology. Reflexology is the idea that certain parts of the feet “map” to certain organs and rubbing on them helps heal or treat that organ. An idea so ridiculous that a completely fake“butt reflexology was able to get published because if you believe in reguler foot reflexology nothing seems too ridiculous. But if you want to say foot rubs can help alleviate stress and and some symptoms os disease, sure we agree. But that isn’t reflexology, nor is that what the people actually doing it claim it to be.

      As well as alleviating muscle pain and anxiety, human touch may also soothe.

      Absolutely agreed and entirely science based. You seem to be falling for what we here call the Trojan horse of CAM. Call things like diet, exercise, and massage “alternative” even though they are firmly rooted in science (well, massage the least so but still reasonably scientifically plausible) and then other really ridiculous “alternative medicines” get a pass – like reflexology.

      Some hospitals are considering allowing pet dogs to visit patients. I think this would provide an emotional benefit. Hasn’t patting a pet been shown to lower blood pressure?

      Well, sure. And that is not at all alternative. We know how and why petting a dog lowers blood pressure – it is a soothing and calming act which decreases sympathetic and increase parasympathetic nervous activity as well as decreasing catecholamine release which relaxes arterial muscle tension thus decreasing blood pressure. Transiently. If the dog were to bite you, for example, your blood pressure would go right back up and probably even higher. There is nothing magic or alternative about the idea of being soothed and relaxed. Nor anything specific about dogs. I, for example, am not a big dog person. I do not find them relaxing and enjoyable and petting one would likely have little effect on me. I like cats (which is why I have two). Petting them is something I find soothing and relaxing.

      That said, our own Dr. Crislip (an infectious disease doctor) has talked about dogs in hospitals. He is of the opinion (and I agree with him) that the admitted and science based benefits of dogs in hospitals don’t necessarily outweigh the risks. Hospitals are places with sick people. Sick people have germs. There is a reason why we all must wash our hands in going from room to room seeing our patients – we can spread germs and disease. A dog going from patient to patient can very easily become a vector to spread diseases around the hospital (in addition to the fact that it may be bringing in outside germs itself). The data isn’t there to say whether this really happens, but it seems to me (and Dr. Crislip) to be prudent to not allow it, because we know the mechanisms by which it could happen very well and in order to prove it we would have to track people and watch them get more sick and possibly die as a result. It does not strike us as ethical to try and prove scientifically that dogs in hospitals can lead to disease and death by actually letting people get diseased and die. But I digress.

      I know dogs and cats make many nursing home residents happier and are a welcome distraction.

      Perfectly reasonable. That is a different setting to an inpatient hospital and I think nobody here would object to it. But not only is that still a science based idea, we here also care about the quality of life of a person. As long as there is no compelling reason to think there is likely harm involved (like dogs inside hospitals) and there are no ridiculous or magical claims (like cats in nursing homes can reverse Alzheimer’s or prevent macular degeneration) then we have no issue with it at all. But we also do not see any valid reason for calling that “alternative medicine.”

      TM became mainstream long ago.

      Forgive me but I can’t seem to conjure up what TM stands for.

      The effects of ginger in alleviating nausea is not questioned, I assume

      Well, not exactly. It seems there actually is some evidence to say it has a small to moderate effect on nausea for some people. We have no issue with that at all if people wish to drink some ginger tea (delicious, IMHO) to quell some nausea no worries. But that is, once again, a science based claim. It was validated and shown to have efficacy through science. The issue comes with overselling the effects or trying to claim that because it is “natural” it is better. Or packaging it with all sorts of other herbs that are untested and can have their own effects – wanted or not. And it certainly does not work better, nor is it particularly any safer, than the actual anti-emetics we use in medicine. Ginger ain’t got nothin’ on ondansetron. And ondansetron is extremely safe. I actually keep a few tabs of it around myself, as insurance in case I have one too many with friends.

      This site strikes me as too dogmatic

      I think if you actually gave it a chance and read more you’d see that we are far from dogmatic. At least, no more dogmatic than your chemistry professor absolutely insisting that water is composed of two hydrogen and one oxygen atom and that alchemy is fundamentally bunk. We take a nuanced approach here and look at (and document) copious amounts of evidence.

      But we argue that the very idea of “alternative medicine” makes no sense. As I illustrated above, much of what you wish to call alternative is really just medicine. Because once “alternative medicine” has evidence to show its efficacy, it ceases to be “alternative” and is just plain ol’ medicine. CAM is a fake category, an ideological construct, to allow things that have lower evidence, no evidence, or evidence against them to be hawked to people who don’t know better (and that includes many physicians who don’t know better; it is not a question of intelligence or education but on specific knowledge of the topic). If there is evidence there is evidence. Period. It is then medicine. If there is not, then there is not and there are endless things which fall into that category. Calling them “CAM” is a marketing term, not a useful description of what they actually are – unproven, untested, or disproven ideas.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        Forgive me but I can’t seem to conjure up what TM stands for.

        Transcendental meditation was the only thing I coudl think of, but it’s not mainstream, it’s nutty and some of its proponents are vicious quacks.

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          Transcendental meditation was the only thing I coudl think of, but it’s not mainstream, it’s nutty and some of its proponents are vicious quacks.

          The topic of meditation is an interesting one. Yes, it is most certainly prone to and infested with hippie woo-woo. But there is a legitimate practice of it that is science based and not at all woo-woo. Sam Harris has an excellent interview with Dan Harris on the topic.

          I myself used to practice meditation and am now getting myself back into it. I found a vipassana group locally that I want to check out. In principle it is a perfectly science based modality. But the group could easily be woo-woo nonsense. I’ll tolerate some degree of it, but I’ll just have to wait and see what they are actually like (next week I’ll go, this week has been too hectic for me)

          1. Chris says:

            Transendental Meditation takes woo to new heights. There are videos of them doing their “yogic flying”, where people hop on mattresses with their legs crossed.

            There is also a political party, the Natural Law Party, that has some interesting ideas. I have heard in skeptic circles that their “studies” have some wonky statistical methods, but that was a long time ago and I can find them (perhaps one of the very very early SGU podcasts).

            1. Andrey Pavlov says:

              Transendental Meditation takes woo to new heights. There are videos of them doing their “yogic flying”, where people hop on mattresses with their legs crossed.

              Undoubtedly. Much more room for woo-woo in that sort of stuff. Perhaps my terms are not as correct and precise as they should be. I am referring to the sort of stuff that Sam and Dan Harris are talking about. And not for any specific pathology, but for purely personal psychological benefit. I grant that there is some role for management of diseases that are aggravated by high levels of stress, but that this is once again a transient effect that can be readily reversed and no substitute for necessary medical interventions. It is, however, a reasonable part of lifestyle modification for those who are amenable.

              1. Chris says:

                “Sam and Dan Harris”, I am not really familiar.

                My favorite ,a href=”http://mathworld.wolfram.com/TranscendentalNumber.html”>transcendentals are things like pi, e, and others. My favorite depiction is Euler’s Identity, because it also includes my favorite number, the square root of negative one.

              2. Andrey Pavlov says:

                “Sam and Dan Harris”, I am not really familiar.

                I provided a link to their conversation on the topic upthread.

                Your wolfram link reminded me of this and this.

              3. Chris says:

                Sorry, I missed it.

                By the way, I first learned about the Transcendental Mediation and Natural Law folks about ten years ago from this incident: The Cost of Containing One Case of Measles: The Economic Impact on the Public Health Infrastructure—Iowa, 2004.

                The college that sent the undervaccinated students to India was a Maharishi University. At least that is how I remember it. It where I first heard about John Hagelin, and his special kind of weirdness.

                So my opinion of any “transcendental” stuff other than very useful numbers usually involves lots of eye rolling.

              4. Andrey Pavlov says:

                So my opinion of any “transcendental” stuff other than very useful numbers usually involves lots of eye rolling.

                Fair enough. As I said before and seems to be more clear now my understanding of the particular word choices and descriptors is not particularly great.

                I do hope that my intended meaning and what I am actually referring to is clear despite my muddled language.

            2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

              Seconded, TM isn’t mere meditation, it’s a bit of a cult..

              1. claudia says:

                Yes, there are TM communities. Merely anecdotal: a frequent practitioner of TM suffered seizures as a result.

        2. n brownlee says:

          “Massage is science based, but can be misused.”

          As well as being absolutely contraindicated in some diseases- notably, neuroendocrine tumor diseases. Massage of a body area in which neuroendocrine tumors have metastasized can cause serious, even fatal reactions.

          1. Andrey Pavlov says:

            As well as being absolutely contraindicated in some diseases- notably, neuroendocrine tumor diseases. Massage of a body area in which neuroendocrine tumors have metastasized can cause serious, even fatal reactions.

            An excellent and important point indeed.

            1. Incomplete logic!!!
              Why and How?

              If touch is absolutely contraindicated in neuroendocrine tumor diseases that means; any movement of the body, walking, dancing, gardening, and even surgery would also be absolutely contraindicated.

              Wrong comparison!!!

              1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                If touch is absolutely contraindicated in neuroendocrine tumor diseases that means; any movement of the body, walking, dancing, gardening, and even surgery would also be absolutely contraindicated.

                Straw man. Or, put another way, you are either too stupid to understand n brownlee’s point, or are deliberately misrepresenting it. “Massage” and “touching” are not synonymous, massage, of necessity to work out muscle knots and stretch tissues, must exert considerable force. Rolfing leaves bruises.

                So – did you make a stupid mistake, or are are you deliberately misrepresenting what someone else said?

              2. n brownlee says:

                If you were a real doctor, you’d know that neuroendocrine tumors secrete neuroendocrine hormones- gastrin, serotonin, adrenaline, and others, necessary to normal body processes. The human body normally uses these substances in microtiny amounts. Neuroendocrine tumors secrete the substances in much larger amounts, much too much. In fact, patients quite commonly die not from the gross action of the tumors- but from the damage the extra hormone does to many body systems Carcinoid patients, for instance, have serious cardiac complications if the disease isn’t well managed .

                Massage of body areas to which carcinoid tumors have metastasized has been documented to cause a high level of release of the hormones, triggering carcinoid crisis- and a good chance of death.

              3. Andrey Pavlov says:

                So – did you make a stupid mistake, or are are you deliberately misrepresenting what someone else said?

                I think this is a fine example of Schrodinger’s SSR. It is actually both until such time as a suitable observation forces a collapse of the wave function and he picks one.

                Either way it doesn’t matter.

              4. n brownlee says:

                I got a hundred bucks says he’ll never answer or comment on any of the comments here. Any fade except SSR. Any takers?

              5. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

                No takers.

                I’ve got a comment in moderation in reply to one of Steve’s laments about how “nobody reads the sources he provides“.

                The liar.

      2. claudia says:

        Thank you for taking the time to sharpen my thinking skills and ways of categorizing and analyzing these various issues and treatments (though I do not do this professionally, of course).
        I think I was thinking of biofeedback rather than TM. Controlling one’s brainwaves using computer feedback to lower blood pressure? I read about it long ago. It is still used to alleviate certain problems: http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/biofeedback/basics/definition/prc-20020004

        But meditation has widely been said to be beneficial by practitioners to their state of mind. Wouldn’t that be hard to dispute? Though I’ll search your site for its other effects.

      3. claudia says:

        I believe I was thinking of biofeedback rather than TM. Controlling one’s brainwaves using computer feedback to lower blood pressure? I read about it long ago. It is still used to alleviate certain problems: http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/biofeedback/basics/definition/prc-20020004

        But I know meditation has widely been said to be beneficial by practitioners to their state of mind. I’ll search your site for its other effects.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Biofeedback can certainly reduce blood pressure acutely, while concentrating on it. Does it last? Because high blood pressure is generally a chronic concern (right up until it acutely bursts a blood vessel). Unless biofeedback has persistent effects, it’s not useful when people need it most – throughout their day, while driving to work, while eating, while walking, while talking, while reading, etc. I’m not familiar enough with biofeedback to say, but I would guess that you can’t simultaneously lower your bloodpressure and, say, chew gum. If you knew you were about to blow a clot or blood vessel, sure, you could use biofeedback to prevent it, but generally the very situations that cause BP spikes would preclude biofeedback.

          Meanwhile, persistently avoiding salt, taking medication and exercising regularly all will lower blood pressure throughout the day.

          And if there’s enough research on the topic, it’s not CAM – it’s merely an alternative option in medicine. Of course, in this case it woudl appear to be an inconvenient one that would probably have very, very low compliance rates for most patients (and most would probably be better off using that time to exercise which has benefits for far more than just blood pressure).

    2. Chris says:

      Try reading more articles on this blog. Plus you might try using its search function.

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      I would like to see references to studies showing the lack of effect of the different “alternative” treatments.

      That’s not how it works – the burden of proof is on the claimant. If you want to say “X cures/causes Y”, you need to produce evidence for X. There are an infinite number of things that could cause or cure cancer – sunlight, puppies, asbestos, pollen, polyester, war in the Middle East, sneezing, anything. So if someone is attempting to sell you X to cure Y, don’t you think it’s reasonable to ask “how do you know”? And that’s basically what this site does.

      Some hospitals are considering allowing pet dogs to visit patients. I think this would provide an emotional benefit. Hasn’t patting a pet been shown to lower blood pressure?

      Some points:
      1) Having an emotional benefit isn’t the same thing as curing something. You can feel really good about the cancer that’s killing you, but that doesn’t prevent it from killing you.
      2) If petting a dog has been shown to lower blood pressure, then it’s not “alternative”. It may also be clinical insignificant, and having dogs in hospitals have the potential to introduce zoonotic diseases.

      The effects of ginger in alleviating nausea is not questioned, I assume.

      Ginger is well-recognized as alleviating nausea, with numerous randomized controlled trials showing it is effective for mild nausea. That’s why it’s not considered “alternative”, and that’s why your doctor will recommend it for mild nausea. This is bait-and-switch, spoon-fed to you by CAM proponents, a use of an uncontroversial fact to try to sell you controversial ones.

      This site strikes me as too dogmatic.

      That might be because you don’t understand how science and medicine works.

      At its bare minimum, this website, science and medicine all ask the same thing – how do you know? For real medicine, you can point to clinical trials. For CAM, you can’t (or won’t – because the trials have been done and CAM failed, such as homeopathy and acupuncture). CAM practitioners will instead point to testimonials on their website (with a convenient “buy now” option!), or “ancient wisdom” (keep in mind a big piece of “ancient wisdom” was that women were inferior to men). But if CAM practitioners ever get off their arses and study something, and it’s found to be effective, it becomes “medicine”. Witness St. John’s Wort for mild depression and ginger for nausea. But what you’ll almost never see is a negative study leading to the abandonment of a CAM practice. Homeopathy, has been shown repeatedly to be useless, but is a mainstay of naturopathic training and education. High-dose vitamins are actively dangerous but orthomolecular practitioners keep pretending they’re panaceas.

      1. claudia says:

        I appreciate the long responses to my quick, poorly explained hodgepodge of questions. I am not aware of studies done by practitioners or advocates of most alternative therapies. In some cases (not me), people who use them are somewhat anti-science (not climate change denier types) despite being educated in sometimes very good colleges and thus feel studies are unnecessary or flawed. Others have given up on western medicine for one reason or another. Their reasoning may be that ancient traditions (Chinese, Indian, Native American) should not be dismissed and cite the use of many medicines from plants, seed, etc. Drinking clean water and breathing clean air bridges the two approaches, perhaps. Sometimes, the therapies are used improperly and dangerously (http://www.ibtimes.com/arizona-sweat-lodge-deaths-are-sweat-lodges-safe-371978) and juice diets. I still don’t understand what spirituality is. Many feel that if Steve Jobs had received tradition treatment right away, he might not have died. An area medicine may be wrong is in traditional preparation for colonoscopy and its warnings against gravity colonics. Some MD’s agree. I have two highly intelligent relatives who received MD’s from very good medical schools (not U of A) who are quite knowledgeable about some alternative therapies. Though not a scientist, I feel that in a variety of fields, methods are insufficiently rigorous and cannot support findings.

        1. Chris says:

          You should read the book Dr. Hall reviewed on her first article for this blog: Snake Oil Science.

        2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          Dr. Gorski, a cancer surgeon, has written about Steve Jobs on SBM. In no particular order:
          http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/one-more-thing/
          http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/steve-jobs-medical-reality-distortion-field/
          http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-death-of-steve-jobs/

          In addition to Snake Oil Science, you might want to read:

          - Homeopathy, how it really works by Jay Shelton
          - Mistakes were made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris (not about CAM but is interesting for how the mind deceives)
          - Trick or Treatment by Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh
          - The Emperor of all Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (not about CAM, but still excellent)
          - Overdiagnosed by Gilbert Welch (not about CAM, but it does show how medicine is self-critical, which CAM is not)
          - Do you Believe in Magic by Paul Offit
          - Science Left Behind by Alex Berezow
          - Vaccine by Arthur Allen (not about CAM, an amazingly comprehensive overview of vaccines)
          - Bad Science and Bad Pharm, both by Ben Goldacre

          The thing about “it’s old” as an argument is – if it was so great, why didn’t people routinely live into their 80s? They had X old thing in the past, and they still died (often in their infancy). TCM has a history dating back to before Christ, life expectancy didn’t reach its current standards until the introduction of “Western” (i.e. proven) medicine – and China still lags behind the life expectancy of other countries with greater access to medical care. This also applies to herbal “medicine” – it’s not like these plants sprang up with the discovery of the germ theory of disease. These plants existed in the past, if they are so effective why did our ancestors die young, often (again) in infancy?

          If something works, it should work when tested. If somethig fails after being tested under controlled condition, it either didn’t work or is so ineffective it’s probably not worth paying money for. And further – CAM is often accompanied by a pernicious, caustic attack on modern medicine. So you go to a homeopath to complement your GP, and there’s a good chance they will try to convince you to abandon your GP and use exclusively homeopathic products. CAM deliberately erodes faith in science because it is their direct competitor and they are trying to acquire a larger share in the market by siphoning off customers (not patients, CAM practitioners have customers because you are not buying medical care) from real doctors.

  22. claudia says:

    Thank you very much for the clarifications. UCSF has added complementary medicine to its mix, but do not know in what way or still in the experimental stage. I wonder whether studies of the effects of acupressure and acupuncture took into account variation among practitioners’ techniques and training. The first few times I obtained acupuncture (from MD’s), it had no effect. Now, I see an acupuncturist who has a PhD in acupuncture from China. He is more interactive and adapts his treatment to the client’s complaints. When he inserts a needle, he asks if I feel some pain from the needle and only inserts it if I do. He will actually place needles in the area bothering the patient (e.g., the neck and side of the head where patients feels Migraine). A good overview? — http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/091012
    On Transcendental meditation: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24227815

    1. Chris says:

      First, go and find the articles about NCCAM on this site. They even include a personal meeting the editors of this blog had with its director a few years ago (and even an article a week or so ago). Also, click on the tags listed on the right side of this page, or just search for the words of a paper. Because it might have been addressed: An Acupuncture Meta-Analysis.

      Second, the other link goes to a letter commenting on Beyond medications and diet: alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure: a scientific statement from the american heart association.. I can only see the title of the letter you linked to, but I am going to assume the author objected to this which is on the abstract of the above American Heart Association statement:

      Among behavioral therapies, Transcendental Meditation (Class IIB, Level of Evidence B), other meditation techniques (Class III, Level of Evidence C), yoga (Class III, Level of Evidence C), other relaxation therapies (Class III, Level of Evidence B), and biofeedback approaches (Class IIB, Level of Evidence B) generally had modest, mixed, or no consistent evidence demonstrating their efficacy.

      Meditation is fine in some cases, but not as a way to control hypertension.

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        One thing TM is good at is distorting the information about the efficacy of TM – both to novice practitioners and to the public.

    2. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Thank you very much for the clarifications.

      My pleasure.

      UCSF has added complementary medicine to its mix, but do not know in what way or still in the experimental stage

      And that is precisely the issue. Why is being “added” to the mix? As I discussed above if there is evidence for something it should be added to the mix. If not, it shouldn’t. If there is evidence against it, it should be removed from the mix.

      Nowhere in that is there room for something distinct called “CAM” to be added to the mix. If it has evidence to support it, it simply isn’t CAM. If it doesn’t, but is labeled CAM, there is no right to add unsupported modalities to the mix.

      If research is warranted then it should be done. But adding the “CAM” label adds nothing to it. In fact, the NCCAM can’t even define it themselves:

      While generally useful in describing attributes of health care, such definitions by exclusion pose challenges for NCCAM and the field of research we support… Frankly, we do not spend much time wrestling with questions about whether something is “specifically CAM.” Instead we look at the wide range of things that fall more or less under the CAM umbrella from a much more pragmatic perspective on real-world health practices, and see four things.

      Basically there isn’t a definition of CAM that meets any sort of scientific rigor and so they choose to call CAM whatever people who practice or use CAM decide to call CAM. It is a tautology that brings nothing to the table, but allows for things with less, no, or contradictory evidence to get a pass and be “integrated” in with things that actually have satisfactory evidence and are just called “medicine.”

      As for TM, see my comment here.

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Now, I see an acupuncturist who has a PhD in acupuncture from China. He is more interactive and adapts his treatment to the client’s complaints.

      The factor that, when tested, has the greatest impact on the effectiveness of acupuncture, is practitioner enthusiasm. Needling location, needling depth, even needling at all, matter far less than the practitioner being pleasant, taking a lot of time, asking a lot of questions, and appearing optimistic that acupuncture will help. If your current acupuncturist spends considerably more time with you than your previous one(s), that aligns with the science saying it is the time spent, not the needles, that matter.

      And yes, practitioner experience has been studied. Researchers are not stupid, they include for and account for practitioner experience. But after more than 3,000 studies, no specific effects for acupuncture have been identified, no specific needling locations have been identified, no specific system of acupuncture has been shown to work (because there’s not just Chinese acupuncture – there’s Korean, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, even Indian I believe). The only area where there appears to be substantial benefit are with two symptoms – pain and nausea, and these symptoms are also the symptoms most amenable to placebo effects.

  23. David Feuer says:

    Chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists may not be able to do anything directly to treat cancer, help people quit smoking, etc., but they certainly can play a positive role. In the course of their work, whatever you may think of it, they see and feel people’s bodies. They can be (and, I believe, sometimes are) trained to watch for obvious signs of disease like skin lesions, unusual moles, swollen lymph nodes, severe halitosis, etc., and use the trust their clients have in them to direct them to get appropriate treatment. The ones who believe they really can cure anything won’t cooperate, of course, and neither will the outright frauds, but I think there are “moderates” among them who believe they can do more than they really can, but still recognize that there are things medical doctors, dentists, etc. should handle.

    1. Andrey Pavlov says:

      Chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists may not be able to do anything directly to treat cancer, help people quit smoking, etc., but they certainly can play a positive role

      Nobody questions that some will have some ability to do something along those lines. Why is it that actual medical practitioners somehow can’t? Why is the (seeming) solution to have quacks see patients rather than training actual medical providers better? What is unique – and not quackery – that they bring to the table?

      They can be (and, I believe, sometimes are) trained to watch for obvious signs of disease like skin lesions, unusual moles, swollen lymph nodes, severe halitosis, etc., and use the trust their clients have in them to direct them to get appropriate treatment.

      Sure, but for each one that they do accurately refer how many more don’t get a timely referral?

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