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.
The return of the revenge of high dose vitamin C for cancer (David Gorski)
Numerous news stories have recently covered studies showing that high-dose intravenous vitamin C is effective in cancer treatment. The evidence is poor quality and the doses required are extremely high. Those who advocate vitamin C also advocate orthomolecular medicine, integrative medicine, “functional” medicine, and other dubious approaches.
How to Think (Harriet Hall)
A new book, The Critical Thinker’s Dictionary by Robert Carroll, covers the biases, logical fallacies, and illusions that interfere with critical thinking. Each topic is illustrated by memorable examples, many taken from the world of medicine. Accessible, entertaining, and useful for all, even those who think they already know about the subject. Highly recommended.
HIV Denial and “Just Asking Questions” (Steven Novella)
“I’m just asking” can be a deceptive gambit for feigning neutrality when the asker has an underlying agenda. The HIV denialist movie House of Numbers is a good example. The medical science behind HIV/AIDS is astoundingly robust. The disease is no longer a death sentence: patients have a normal life expectancy with anti-retroviral drugs. “Just asking questions” about AIDS may dissuade patients from life-saving treatment.
False “balance” on influenza with an appeal to nature (Scott Gavura)
The natural fallacy and the excuse of false balance are strategies often used by vaccine opponents. A typical newspaper column listed “natural” ways to prevent or treat influenza, and didn’t even mention handwashing or vaccines. There’s no need for the media to “balance” the effective treatments of medical science with the ineffective recommendations of quacks.
The Pollyanna Phenomenon and Non-Inferiority: How Our Experience (and Research) Can Lead to Poor Treatment Choices (Clay Jones)
Pollyanna was the quintessential optimist. In medicine, an overly optimistic interpretation of research and clinical experience can lead to poor choices, especially in antibiotic prescribing. Despite new guidelines for treating ear infections, antibiotics are still being overused for infections that would have resolved without treatment. Often broad spectrum antibiotics are chosen based on non-inferiority studies when they are not the best choice: using them contributes to the development of resistant strains of bacteria.