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2.5 BILLION Spent on CAM Testing. Result? It Doesn't Work. PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Right on the heels of my ChOPRAH article comes this article from MSNBC. $2.5B study on how "alternative medicine" shows virtually no effectiveness. A waste of money? Not necessarily.

From the article:

Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

While that's an enormous amount of money for a study, we now have overwhelming evidence that alternative medicine is largely a scam in which greedy companies try to take money from a gullible public. Stay tuned as I'm sure Deepak ChOPRAH will say something along the lines of "These studies are flawed" and "This is a lame attempt by the medical establishment to shore up their crumbling position."

You can lead a man to evidence, but you can't make him consider it.

 

 

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written by Mully410, June 10, 2009
Good post. Jeff. Thanks for the update.
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Typos
written by Morrigan, June 10, 2009
Shouldn't "heals" be "heels", and "we know have" be "we now have"? smilies/cool.gif

Anyway, this study doesn't reveal anything skeptics haven't already known for a while, but hopefully it will plant a seed in some minds... baby steps towards making sCAM go the way of phrenology and humours, I hope.
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written by Kuroyume, June 10, 2009
I take it that 'know' equals 'now'.

Finally, 'alternative' medicine shown for what it's worth: placebo (at best). smilies/wink.gif A few of these plants and herbs may actually have some medicinal value - but the overwhelming evidence points to most of them being either useless or dangerous.

But, you know, how will this change public perception? We can list complete debunking of many things (Bigfoot, Loch Ness, Lordes, Popoff, homeopathy, Sylvia) and yet the credulous march on. What is the 'cure'?
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typos
written by JeffWagg, June 10, 2009
Apologies! I fixed them.
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written by Kuroyume, June 10, 2009
Thanks, Jeff.

After reading the article, there is a feeling of 'chasing after windmills'. You know what I mean. The 'well, if you use 1.5 grams instead of 1.49999 grams, the effect is completely different' type of rationalization. If there is a medicinal use of some herb, then it must be measurable somewhere. It can't be in the specific incantations or finess of preparation. This sounds all too much like audiophiles with the 'if the wire is braided just right, the response is ten times better' - to quote my friend (even though he'd run screaming if he heard that), Penn Jillette, BULLSHIT! There either is or isn't some active ingredient present that has a medicinal effect. If it requires some form of processing to create that effect then the science needs to be employed to determine it. Otherwise we're pissing in the wind and hoping not to get sprayed...
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written by The Diluted Fool, June 10, 2009
One additional benefit of this study: because it was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the adherents of alternate "medicine" can't claim the study was biased by a conflict of interest.
Although, I suppose it's quite possible they'll now start claiming the NCCAM is a front for big pharma. I mean, they need some straw to cling onto.
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And now, altmed for your pet
written by garyg, June 11, 2009
http://tinyurl.com/ltwrlw (from today's Washington Post Metro section)
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written by TDjazz, June 11, 2009
While the study proves CAMs don't work, I have a problem with that much money having been spent on the task. My debt is approximately one 100,000th of $2.5 billion. With stimulus money being squandered and misused, and large companies being bailed out (and still failing!), it would be great if the government looked at everyday taxpayers who have comparatively low and moderate debt and bail them out so they can stimulate their own economies.

Imagine around 100,000 people becoming debt free--now that's stimulus. But the kick in the head about the CAM study is that the CAM industry won't be affected one bit.
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written by redwench, June 11, 2009
It was stimulus money. They had to pay lots of people to take part in the studies, administer them, and staff them. Plus all the tests, "drugs", and number crunchers. On the whole, it was money not-too-badly spent, as several of the herbs/supplements tested had shown some promise earlier. New drugs have to come from somewhere after all. Now, the studies on distant healing and other obvious nonsense were definitely cases of money-better-spent-elsewhere....
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written by tempestbrewer, June 11, 2009
Thanks so much for this link-- my dad's been starting to get into CAM so I'm glad this came out when it did.
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written by stacyhead, June 11, 2009
Sharks get cancer...
http://www.scienceonline.org/c...5464/259d
possibly a study on how to prevent smoking cessation in the shark population would be a better use of money...
smilies/cool.gif
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Good discussion going on in the JREF forum about this article.
written by Tricky, June 11, 2009
There's more discussion going on about this over in the Forum. People who find this interesting might want to check it out. http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=145234
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It takes a thief ...
written by pxatkins, June 12, 2009
I think the JRF might consider getting into the alt-med business, espcially homoepathy. It's harmless, would be a marvellous fundraiser, depleating only the resources of the willingly-woo* and all proceeds could be put to The Cause. The Annual Report, in an open attempt to demostrate how the gullible get scammed, would clearly state what has been perpetrated. You could include a 'for more information ...' URL on the packaging that brings 'em here.

(if you go ahead I want copyright on that expression ... smilies/grin.gif )
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written by Skemono, June 12, 2009
I think the JRF might consider getting into the alt-med business, espcially homoepathy. It's harmless

No it's not.
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written by Skeptigirl, June 12, 2009
You can lead a man to evidence, but you can't make him consider it.
Like the quote, but in all fairness you should have included women. smilies/wink.gif

You can lead a person.....

And yes, it does matter.


As for the money spent, I'll have to add this to my conclusion if everyone quit spending money on medical interventions that weren't supported by scientific evidence, there'd be more than enough saved to pay for health care for everyone in the country. I agree, we need these studies to convince people but it is unfortunate one must invest in testing hypotheses that are not well founded in the first place.
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Evaluating why anti-woo progess is so slow
written by Skeptigirl, June 12, 2009
From the article (bolding mine):
However, critics say that unlike private companies that face bottom-line pressure to abandon a drug that flops, the federal center is reluctant to admit a supplement may lack merit — despite a strategic plan pledging not to equivocate in the face of negative findings.

Echinacea is an example. After a large study by a top virologist found it didn't help colds, its fans said the wrong one of the plant's nine species had been tested. Federal officials agreed that more research was needed, even though they had approved the type used in the study.

"There's been a deliberate policy of never saying something doesn't work. It's as though you can only speak in one direction," and say a different version or dose might give different results, said Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired physician who runs Quackwatch, a web site on medical scams.
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It isn't a study...
written by tantryl, June 15, 2009
The article is talking about the $1.25 billion spent by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine on various studies on a wide variety of treatments.

There's quite a lot of different studies, you can read all about them here: http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/

The vast majority found that very common alternative medicine treatments as mentioned in the article were complete bunkum. Each study itself had millions spent on it, and of course the Center itself would have absorbed no small amount of cash in administration.

But it isn't a single $2.5bn study, and if you can force yourself to overcome your gag reflex and read all the results there are some interesting ones that should get more study (if only to show that the results were due to poor testing methodology).
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Yes, we can read.
written by Skeptigirl, June 15, 2009
It isn't a study...
written by tantryl, June 15, 2009
The article is talking about the $1.25 billion spent by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine on various studies on a wide variety of treatments.
I doubt many if any people reading this discussion thought it was a single study.

Each study itself had millions spent on it, and of course the Center itself would have absorbed no small amount of cash in administration.

But it isn't a single $2.5bn study, and if you can force yourself to overcome your gag reflex and read all the results there are some interesting ones that should get more study (if only to show that the results were due to poor testing methodology).
And the reason you think we should throw even more money down this dry well is?

If we were smart our research would be driven by well supported hypotheses. What we have here instead is research driven by sCAM marketers who are making millions while we clean up the mess. I propose we do the studies you suggest, but we tax the sCAM product market to pay for them.
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I'm glad you can read
written by tantryl, June 16, 2009
It's an important skill. We're all very proud of you for mastering it. Maybe, one day, you'll be able to teach others how to write and express their views accurately after reading and comprehending something. One day.

Some examples of where those skills in the news posting and these replies that might come in handy:

$2.5B study on how "alternative medicine" shows virtually no effectiveness.


While that's an enormous amount of money for a study


Anyway, this study doesn't reveal anything


One additional benefit of this study: because it was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the adherents of alternate "medicine" can't claim the study was biased by a conflict of interest.


While the study proves CAMs don't work


But the kick in the head about the CAM study is that the CAM industry won't be affected one bit.


I'm sorry you're offended by my accurate portrayal of the meaning of the vast majority of references to "the study" or "a study" or "this study".

And the reason you think we should throw even more money down this dry well is?


Well, I tend to agree Jeff's notion here:

While that's an enormous amount of money for a study, we now have overwhelming evidence that alternative medicine is largely a scam in which greedy companies try to take money from a gullible public.


People are going to waste money on crap in general. But the more evidence we have that it is crap, the better chance we have of converting them. Brow beating and calling people stupid doesn't generally work.

For example, would you have preferred I just left that opening paragraph insult as is? Or am I better off giving evidence that my point was made due to a repeated erroneous representation so that those who disagree might come to understand why I might think that?
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written by Skeptigirl, June 16, 2009
written by tantryl, June 16, 2009
...Some examples of where those skills in the news posting and these replies that might come in handy:...[see examples above] For example, would you have preferred I just left that opening paragraph insult as is? Or am I better off giving evidence that my point was made due to a repeated erroneous representation so that those who disagree might come to understand why I might think that?
If people using singular pronouns didn't read the link and referred to 'the' study, then it probably wasn't an issue whether it was one study or hundreds. If they did look at the link, using singular pronouns would be an issue for the more pedantic among us. Personally, I don't see how your point matters.

If it made a difference to someone that it was a bunch of million dollar studies instead of one big 2.5 billion dollar study and now that they have the revelation you have provided, they have a different opinion of the money wasted not only buying crap but researching it as well, I hope they speak up. I'd be interested to know why it mattered.


People are going to waste money on crap in general. But the more evidence we have that it is crap, the better chance we have of converting them. Brow beating and calling people stupid doesn't generally work.
This is rather a false dichotomy and a straw man rolled into one. I've certainly not argued research refuting (or supporting) alt med is of no use. So you are arguing a straw man if you think that is what I said.

What I did say was that it is a shame we have to waste research dollars on ignorance. Evidence based hypotheses should be the driving force for research efforts, not snake oil marketing. Clearly we have yet to reach the ideal where science is king (or queen).

As for the false dichotomy, you've suggested we have 2 options: providing the scientific evidence or "Brow beating and calling people stupid." Allow me to suggest a third option: putting some of those research dollars into studying why it is people believe in crap and what are the best methods for changing that condition. My argument is, we make the false assumption all people need is good evidence and they will see the light. There already is overwhelming evidence that science based medicine is successful and effective. We've achieved miracles in curing cancers and infectious diseases. OTOH, there is a false belief that there is evidence much of the alt med is successful. It is not the evidence that is the problem here. There are other factors at work.
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written by SalzVR6, June 26, 2009
Not only does Tom Harkin (D, Iowa) talk out of both sides at once, he's an idiot.

Somebody from Iowa- the state powered by corn subsidies- wants America to shift "from sick care to genuine wellness". I put the link at the bottom- read it when you're bored.

Here's an idea Tom- want some wellness? Quit making American taxpayers subsidize corn. For every 10 gallons of gas we buy, we pay 50 cents of Archer, Daniels, and Midland's corporate income taxes. This corn subsidy- for ethanol- indirectly generates 300 calories per per, per day, in the typical American diet. Let's pause here and express thanks to Al Gore for also championing ethanol- the thermodynamically absurd fuel of America's future.

300 calories per day means a pound of fat for each and every American, every 12 days, forever. Maybe eliminating this might defatten that 15-year old moose down the street- at least enough that we're not buying him insulin on the 3rd anniversary of his Medicaid membership. But what do I know? I'm not a senator bought off by ADM.

Only an idiot would expect a politician from Iowa to propose getting rid of a corn subsidy. Well. Hypocrisy is not Tom's only selling point. Like me, he's also an idiot. But a bigger one.

Tom Harkin is the same dipshit that started what became the NCCAM. Your tax money. Being used to legitimize overpriced water and homepathic bullshit. And about the NCCAM being good at proving distilled duck shadows don't alleviate cold symptoms, he had this to say- "Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short. It think quite frankly that in this center and in the office previously before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things rather than seeking out and approving."

That's right. It fell short because they kept using science to disprove bullshit. These are the people that the government will use to run YOUR healthcare system.

I'm not saying the system isn't a mess, I'm not saying it's not overpriced, and I'm not saying it doesn't need fixing.

I'm saying that the people that are supposed to be fixing it are too dumb, too self-absorbed, and entirely too ignorant to masturbate effectively, let alone decide on health care. These organ banks will have a say in how our families, friends, and ourselves get treated for such things as, oh, cancer, viral infections, and the whole lot.

What's more is that people voted for this idiot. More than once.

This pile of shit he wrote is what set me off.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ ynews_ts408;_ylt=AiTJv6ibVmZkDa75E18kOJv9wxIF;_ylu=X3oD MTJmMW0yajNtBGFzc2V0A3luZXdzLzIwMDkwNjI1L3luZXdzX3RzNDA 4BGNwb3MDMQRwb3MDMgRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3J5BHNsawNvcC1lZH NoaWZ0aW4-
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written by Steel Rat, July 09, 2009
So Jeff, your statement in the ChOPRAH article, that one makes money by doing something that works, would seem to be incorrect. All one needs to do is make people think it works...
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