Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo-woo in medicine.
Stanislaw Burzynski: Using 1990s techniques to battle the FDA today (David Gorski) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/stanislaw-burzynski-trying-to-relive-his-success-beating-the-rap-in-the-1990s/ In the 1990s, Burzynski got cancer patients to lobby Congress to force the FDA to allow him to use antineoplastons. The strategy worked that time, and his supporters are trying it again. Change.org petitions, the ANP Coalition, and other efforts rely on emotional appeals and rhetoric rather than science. How can we counter their influence?
Top 10 Chiropractic Studies of 2013 (Harriet Hall) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/top-10-chiropractic-studies-of-2013/ ChiroNexus listed the top 10 studies of 2013. One isn’t a study at all, one is a negative study misrepresented as positive, and the rest are poorly designed small studies without control groups or with inadequate controls, with evidence of bias and with questionable clinical relevance. If these are the top 10, the rest must be truly terrible.
More Acupuncture Misrepresentation (Steven Novella) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/more-acupuncture-misrepresentation/ A small study compared acupuncture to sham acupuncture for reducing menopausal symptoms in breast cancer patients being treated with aromatase inhibitors. The results were negative (real acupuncture was no better than sham acupuncture), so they deceptively tried to spin it as positive on the basis of a post hoc analysis showing that one small subgroup (African American women) had fewer hot flashes. They falsely concluded that acupuncture has potentially significant benefits and that racial differences warrant further study. For acupuncture researchers, it’s “Heads I win, tails you lose.”
Ngrams and CAM (Jann Bellamy) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/ngrams-and-cam/ Ngram is a Google tool that scans millions of books and charts the yearly frequency of the use of the word or phrase in the search box. Searching for various CAM terms suggests trends attributable to demand, cultural awareness, and advocacy efforts. After a period of rapid increase, Ngram shows a recent decrease in the frequency of CAM-related terms, hopefully a sign of decreasing cultural impact.
Urinary Tract Infections Cause Depression. Directors Cut. (Mark Crislip) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/urinary-tract-infections-cause-depression-directors-cut/ A study of treatments for urinary tract infections compared 5 prevention and management strategies including acupuncture. In a computer simulation, they put in a high estimated prior probability that favored acupuncture, and not surprisingly got results that made acupuncture come in second after antibiotics. It was a worthless study and it depressed Dr. Crislip to see it in the flagship journal of his specialty, infectious disease.