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QEDCon is fast approaching (indeed, I can't believe I have to leave for Manchester tomorrow night), and because my talk there will be about the phenomenon of "integrative medicine," I've been thinking a lot about it. As I put together my slides, I can't help but see my talk evolving to encompass both "integrative" medicine and what I like to refer to as quackademic medicine, but that's not surprising. The two phenomenon are related, and it's hard to determine which has a more pernicious effect on science in medicine. One aspect of quackademic medicine that I probably don't write about as much…
I've written on quite a few occasions about a pair of scientists beloved by the antivaccine movement. I'm referring, of course, to Christopher Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic. Whether it is their publishing dubious "evidence" that HPV vaccines cause premature ovarian failure or even death or demonizing aluminum as a vaccine adjuvant, Shaw and Tomljenovic publish nothing but antivaccine pseudoscience that antivaxers love to cite whenever they dump some turd of a study on the medical literature. Just last month, they dumped their latest turd of a study, in which they basically tortured mice in the…
Over the last two Mondays, I've been writing about an unproven cancer therapy that I hadn't really heard much about before. The cancer treatment is called Rigvir; it is manufactured in Latvia and marketed primarily through a Latvian entity called the International Virotherapy Center (IVC). To recap, Rigvir is an unmodified Echovirus, specifically ECHO-7, that, according to the IVC, seeks out cancer cells, replicates in them, and thus lyses the cancer cells (causes their membranes to break, spilling out the cancer cells contents, thus killing the cell), hence the term "oncolytic virus."…
Naturopathy and naturopaths are a fairly frequent topic on this blog—and for very good reason. If there is an example of a pseudomedical "discipline" that has been gaining undeserved "respectability," it's naturopathy. It's licensed in all too many states, and physicians who have fallen under the spell of so-called "integrative medicine," a specialty that rebrands science-based lifestyle medical interventions as somehow "alternative" or "integrative" and uses them as a vessel to "integrate" quackery into medicine, seem to have a special affinity for naturopaths. Indeed, so common has the…
I sometimes like to write about things happening in my neck of the woods that are relevant to the kinds of things I normally blog about every day. This habit of mine dates back at least to the days when investigative reporter Steve Wilson of our local ABC affiliate used to lay down fear mongering barrages of nonsense about mercury in vaccines that would have made Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. proud if he ever knew about them. Then there was a report on "orbs" seen in photographs where the reporter speculated whether they were actual spirits. Then there's the periodic fascination with veterinary…
It's October again, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As someone who takes care of breast cancer patients, I have a love-hate relationship with October. On the good side, I like seeing positive messages about what's going on in breast cancer research, advocacy, and clinical treatment. On the other hand, the quacks come out. I also see a lot of bad breast cancer studies. You might think that I'd like that too because it provides blog fodder. I could actually do without that, but in this case I happened to come across a "study" that illustrates why I detest how those promoting unproven…
Last week, I wrote about Rigvir, a highly dubious cancer therapy developed in Latvia. Rigvir is an oncolytic virus, and its proponents claim that it targets only cancer cells for destruction, leaving normal tissue alone. Its history and how it came to be approved in Latvia in 2004 and added to the Latvian Health Ministry's list of reimbursable medications in 2011 remain rather mysterious, but how it is being marketed does not. For example, Rigvir has become a new favorite treatment at a number of quack clinics, such as the Hope4Cancer Institute in Mexico, where Rigvir is offered along with…
John Weeks has long been an activist for what is now known as "integrative medicine," earlier known as "complementary and alternative medicine"(CAM). Basically, for many years Mr. Weeks has been at the forefront of encouraging the "integration" of quackery with real medicine and promoting what I like to refer to as "quackademic medicine," a perfect term to describe the increasing encroachment of pseudoscience and quackery in medical academia in the form of—you guessed it—integrative medicine. Despite his having zero background in scientific research or the design and execution of experiments…
Two years ago, I wrote about a study that demonstrated how the antivaccine movement had learned to use Twitter to amplify their antiscience message. At the time, I noted how in 2014, when the whole "CDC whistleblower" conspiracy theory was first hatched, antivaxers were so bad at Twitter, so obvious, so naive. The Tweeted inane claims at government officials, scientists, legislators, and whoever else might have influence on vaccine policy, using hashtags like #CDCwhistleblower and #hearmewell. (These hashtags are still in use, but much less active.) However they did get better, to the point…
Last week, an antivaxer "challenged" me to look over a paper purporting to show that aluminum adjuvants in vaccines cause inflammation of the brain and therefore contribute to autism, a paper that she would be "citing frequently." Being someone who lives by the motto, "be careful what you wish for," I looked it over in detail. Not surprisingly, my conclusion was that the experiments were poorly done using obsolete and not very quantitative methodology and that the results do not support the conclusions made by the authors. I was not alone in this conclusion. Skeptical Raptor was, if anything…
This blog is based in the United States, and I'm an American. Unfortunately, this produces a difficult-to-avoid baked-in bias towards medicine as it is practiced in the US and, to a lesser extent, as it is practiced in the English-speaking world, because English is my language and I can read accounts coming out of English-speaking countries. The same bias exists with respect to pseudo-medicine, with our concentration having been primarily on either quackery that is practiced in the US, UK, Canada, or Australia (and sometimes New Zealand). It's not because I'm not interested in medicine and…
Back in the day I used to do a weekly feature every Friday that I used to call Your Friday Dose of Woo. For purposes of the bit, woo consisted of particularly ridiculous or silly bits of pseudoscience, quackery, or mysticism, such as the Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface. Amazingly, I managed to keep that up for a couple of years, but over time I started sensing that I was getting a bit too repetitive. The same bits of pseudoscience kept recurring. Over time I had to dig more and more to find suitable bits of woo that amused me enough to inspire me to ever more over-the-top heights of…
? "Why, oh, why do I have to die in the cause of such crappy science?" For antivaxers, aluminum is the new mercury. Let me explain, for the benefit of those not familiar with the antivaccine movement. For antivaxers, it is, first and foremost, always about the vaccines. Always. Whatever the chronic health issue in children, vaccines must have done it. Autism? It’s the vaccines. Sudden infant death syndrome? Vaccines, of course. Autoimmune diseases? Obviously it must be the vaccines causing it. Obesity, diabetes, ADHD? Come on, you know the answer! Because antivaxers will never let go of…
It's Friday, and it's been a rough week. So, after digging into an epidemiology study yesterday, I'm in the mood for something a bit less...heavy. Antivaxers sometimes call me to task when I point out what to me is a simple fact, namely that antivaxers are basically conspiracy theorists. In essence, to believe many antivax views, you have to believe that there is a vast conspiracy among big pharma, the government, and the media to hide great harm from vaccines because...well, it's never quite clear. To protect pharma profits? Really, this is no different than the cancer quacks who claim that…
Humans are visual creatures. That's why one of the most effective methods to communicate a message is through visual means, and among the most powerful visual media are movies and television shows. Cranks, quacks, and antivaxers know this, and, unfortunately, they've increasingly been taking advantage of this by making their own propaganda movies disguised (thinly) as documentaries to promote their message. I've documented a number of such movies, ranging from The Beautiful Truth (a film promoting the cancer quackery known as the Gerson protocol), The Greater Good and VAXXED: From Coverup to…
A week ago, I wrote about a naturopath in Utah named Harry Adelson, who was advertising his use stem cells to treat lumbar and cervical disk problems, including degenerated and dehydrated disks. That alone was bad enough, but what elevated "Not-a-Dr." (my preferred translation of the "ND" that naturopaths like to use after their names to confuse patients because it's so close to "MD") Adelson above and beyond the usual naturopathic quackery is his cosplay of an interventional radiologist, in which he purchased a C-arm to use fluoroscopy to inject his "stem cells" right into the intervertebral…
As a medical blogger with a skeptical bent and a rather aggressive proclivity towards defending science-based medicine, I generally like STAT News. Sure, it's occasionally screwed up royally (e.g., its credulous false balance reporting on a patient of cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski named Neil Fachon), but in general it's usually a good source of medical news and analysis. No publication is perfect, of course, but STATNews is generally better than average, and I appreciate that. That's why I was disappointed to see how thoroughly a pharma-backed astroturf group whose mission is to loosen…
There are many ways to combat antivaccine pseudoscience. Personally, I've chosen my favored methods, namely blogging, giving talks, and generally combatting pseudoscience on social media wherever I find it. That's not all I do (for example, I do have a couple of papers in the peer-reviewed medical literature designed to combat the infiltration of pseudoscience into academia), but it is where I put most of my effort. For one thing, I'm good at it. For another thing, it's fun. Also, it's something I can work into my busy schedule more easily. It even brings me a bit of notoriety now and then,…
Yesterday I discussed a highly unethical clinical trial of a new herpes vaccine, based on what appears to be questionable science but backed by über-Libertarian Peter Thiel. The reason the trial is so unethical is because Rational Vaccines, the company that developed the herpes vaccine and is conducting the clinical trial, not only arranged to carry it out offshore but, unlike all American companies carrying out clinical trials offshore for purposes of gathering data to support an application for FDA approval, Rational Vaccines apparently carried the trial out without any oversight by an…
In the early 1980s in the wake of reports, publicized by a news report and later a book by Harris Coulter and Barbara Loe Fisher (DPT: A Shot in the Dark), that the whole cell DPT vaccine was linked to encephalitis and brain damage, a flood of product liability lawsuits was on the verge of bringing the US vaccine program to its knees. Later studies exonerated the DPT, especially a large case-control study, but those studies did not come until the 1990s. Even though existing evidence at the time did not clearly support a link, it did not clearly rule one out. As a result vaccine manufacturers…