Brief Announcement: Video of Panel on Alternative Medicine

Last month at JREF’s The Amaz!ng Meeting in Las Vegas, 3 SBM bloggers along with Rachael Dunlop of Australia participated in a panel on “The  Truth About Alternative Medicine.” The video is now available on Youtube. It’s a chance for readers to see Steven Novella, David Gorski and Harriet Hall and hear them speak instead of just reading what they write.

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14 thoughts on “Brief Announcement: Video of Panel on Alternative Medicine

  1. DevoutCatalyst says:

    Thank you, Colonel !

  2. antiskepticalhealth says:

    Some things are best left to the imagination and this is definitely one of them.

  3. lizditz says:

    It’s an hour well-spent. Nice to match the voices & faces to written work, too.

  4. Bwahaha! “antiskepticalhealth”!

  5. I just finished the video. It was fun and entertaining to watch. @Harriet, to be honest, it’s hard to imagine that the kind, mind-mannered lady sitting there is the same person that writes some of the most scathing and direct-to-the-point paragraphs on the internet. You’re a bad-ass! :)

  6. Chris says:

    Yes, she is!

    You should read her autobiography.

  7. Hi all,

    Working on something. Does anybody know the following:

    – NCCAM’s annual budget
    – # of years NCCAM has been around
    – Number of “positive findings” from the NCCAM
    – Number of legitimate recommendations made by the NCCAM re: alternative medicine

  8. tgobbi says:

    # SkepticalHealthon 25 Aug 2012 at 12:45 pm
    Hi all,
    Working on something. Does anybody know the following:
    – NCCAM’s annual budget
    – # of years NCCAM has been around
    – Number of “positive findings” from the NCCAM
    – Number of legitimate recommendations made by the NCCAM re: alternative medicine


    This may answer a few of your questions:

    Annual budget:

    NCCAM Funding: Appropriations History

    Congress established the Office of Alternative Medicine in 1992 and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 1999. Funding appropriated for each fiscal year is listed below.

    National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
    FY 2011: $127.7 million
    FY 2010: $128.8 million
    FY 2009: $125.5 million
    FY 2008: $121.5 million
    FY 2007: $121.6 million
    FY 2006: $122.7 million
    FY 2005: $123.1 million
    FY 2004: $117.7 million
    FY 2003: $114.1 million
    FY 2002: $104.6 million
    FY 2001: $89.2 million
    FY 2000: $68.7 million
    FY 1999: $50.0 million

    It’s been here since 1999 according to the above link.

    As for “number of positive findings” I believe it’s zero.

    And here’s an article I wrote for a local newspaper’s online edition in May ’12:

    Paul Offit MD, in a recent interview, offers serious criticism of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) – an agency I’ve posted about on several occasions. You can listen to this 8 1/2 minute interview at:

    Dr. Offit is a pediatrician whose specialty is infectious diseases. According to Wikipedia he’s an expert on vaccines, immunology and virology.

    Among the NCCAM studies he criticizes are those on using magnets for medical purposes. Magnets, Dr. Offit states bluntly, don’t work in treating headaches by increasing blood flow. He cites incorrect reasoning based on the fact that blood contains iron. The fallacy is that the iron in blood isn’t magnetizable!

    He also mentions an NCCAM investigation of whether intercessory prayer can treat HIV. It hasn’t been shown to work. The problem here is one of “prior plausibility.” In other words it’s not a sound, scientifically based physiological study. A short explanation of “prior plausibility” is that if there’s no scientific basis for a theory there’s very little chance of credibility. Homeopathy, due to its basic false premise, is an example. So, infers Dr. Offit, it’s a waste of money to study something that has virtually no chance of working.

    He also states that the public isn’t paying attention to studies that show much of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) doesn’t work. For example: dietary supplementation. Supplement manufacturers sell products that are designed to deliver large amounts of antioxidants. The irony is that is has been demonstrated that ingesting large doses of antioxidants actually increases incidences of cancer and heart disease and shortens life expectancy! “Oxidation is not necessarily a bad thing,” the doctor insists. Among the things that oxidation does is to kill new cancer cells.

    Dr. Offit stresses that CAM is a question of a belief or faith-based system vs. an evidence-based system, i.e. mainstream medicine.

    Investigation of CAM should be continued, according to Dr. Offit, to learn about the placebo effect, not because the therapies actually work. “Acupuncturists, chiropractors and naturopaths or anybody who practices alternative medicine, which I would argue is placebo medicine, has a duty to the medical profession to know why it is that’s true.” This is how Dr. Offit believes NCCAM should be allowed to continue, not working on studies that have “virtually no chance of success because they’re not biologically based… Those who practice placebo medicine should know their limits. Where the line gets crossed is when alternative practitioners either bilk their patients or recommend against conventional therapies that are helpful or recommend for alternative therapies that are harmful without adequately warning their patients. And finally I think in terms of just creating this magical thinking, this kind of scientific denialism, it’s really worse than scientific illiteracy…”


    Finally, a number of prominent quackbusters (including, IIRC, Dr. Sampson) have suggested that NCCAM should be discontinued.

  9. @tgobbi, wow, THANK YOU!

  10. lilady says:

    (Messed up, for a *change*, on a post)

    Great presentation!

    Our three SBM bloggers are bad asses…and they all kick butts.

    @ SkepticalHealth: Hope this link is helpful:

  11. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    The fallacy is that the iron in blood isn’t magnetizable!

    A second fallacy is that if you would have a pipe in which a magnetizable fluid would be flowing, the flow would increase if you held a magnet to that pipe. Fluid approaching the magnet would be attracted, but fluid going away would also be attracted to the same point. The net effect would be zero. Or maybe the fluid would accumulate there if the pipe was elastic. Or maybe the friction with the wall of the pipe on the side of the magnet would increase, slowing the flow.

    More advanced SCAMmers claim that some kind of magnetic fields can increase capillary flow. They show small movies showing a capillary vessel through which blood starts to flow when the magnetic field is turned on. But many capillary vessels are shut off. They open and close periodically. If they all would open at the same time you would probably die of shock. But this mechanism makes it possible to increase blood flow on demand, for instance when the heart beats faster in response to a higher demand of oxygen/glucose or when heat has to be managed or when blushing takes place.

  12. BillyJoe says:

    I already knew what the panel members look and sound like so that was no revelation for me. Also, having read extensively on this and other science-based medical sites, there was essentially no new information for me here. Finally, in general, I find time spent listening to video discussions like this better spent reading a well constructed article on, for example, SBM. Having said that, the video covered a large number of issues related to CAM and would have been very informative for those new to the topic as would have been likely as this particular meeting, which is not specifically about SBM.

  13. Great video, it’s really important for the general public to watch this video.

  14. gziomek says:

    Just wanted to point out that I have the same tie Dr Gorski is wearing in the video :)

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