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More Evasion PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

This last Sunday I posted "We Should be Insulted," a commentary on the seeming endorsement of acupuncture by US agencies. Following that, I sent an inquiry to Ms. Cynthia Bass at the National Cancer Institute [NCI] - a division of the National Institutes of Health [NIH] - with this direct comment and question:

I have seen references in NCI literature to the use of acupuncture in cancer treatment, to relieve certain side-effects of chemotherapy. My question: Is there any scientific, double-blind research that shows acupuncture is effective?

Please note: I specified "double-blind" because many non-blinded tests of acupuncture have been done, with mixed results, but no such tests can be considered as evidential unless done that way, and I've never found any records of double-blinded tests of this claim. Ms. Bass did not answer the question. She referred me to a list of frequently-asked questions - and the official answers - on the NCI site; this is not unexpected, considering the volume of inquiries that the agency must receive. I have selected here those that almost respond to my inquiry. The questions are in bold font, followed by the answers:

Have any clinical trials (research studies with people) of acupuncture been conducted?

Most studies of the use of acupuncture in cancer patients have been done in China. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) began evaluating the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture as a complementary and alternative therapy.

Not a response, only a side-step. The double-blind provision is not answered.

Studies of the effect of acupuncture on the immune system

Human studies on the effect of acupuncture on the immune system of cancer patients showed that it improved immune system response.

Double-blind? We're not told. Another side-step.

Studies of the effect of acupuncture on pain

In clinical studies, acupuncture reduced the amount of pain in some cancer patients. In one study, most of the patients treated with acupuncture were able to stop taking drugs for pain relief or to take smallerdoses. The findings from these studies are not considered strong, however, because of weaknesses in study design and size. Studies using strict scientific methods are needed to prove how acupuncture affects pain.

"Findings" that are not "strong"? Interpretation, please? What were these "weaknesses," why were the results of those tests not summarily thrown out, and the "weaknesses" not subsequently corrected? "In one study"? How many others were done, with what size of database, by whom, and with what results? This is a blatant dodge, very carefully worded to be technically correct, but basically meaningless! The average inquirer might be dazzled by such verbiage, but this inquirer is an experienced and dedicated curmudgeon...!

Studies of the effect of acupuncture on nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy

The strongest evidence of the effect of acupuncture has come fromclinical trials on the use of acupuncture to relieve nausea and vomiting. Several types of clinical trials using different acupuncture methods showed acupuncture reduced nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy,surgery, and morning sickness. It appears to be more effective in preventing vomiting than in reducing nausea.

I persist: were these double-blind protocols? Again, no idea of database size, actual "types of clinical trials," or figures, have been made available. No, I don't expect that all that would appear in this sort of brief response, but I must ask where that data might be available...

Studies of the effect of acupuncture on cancer and symptoms (other than nausea) caused by cancer treatment

Clinical trials are studying the effects of acupuncture on cancer and symptoms caused by cancer treatment, including weight loss, cough, chest pain, fever, anxiety, depression, night sweats, hot flashes, dry mouth, speech problems, and fluid in the arms or legs. Studies have shown that, for many patients, treatment with acupuncture either relieves symptoms or keeps them from getting worse.

How many studies? With what significance? This NCI "response" is a series of generalized, weak, feel-good comments designed to not offend the naïve who choose to accept acupuncture as legitimate, nor to annoy practitioners of the quackery. I demand a hard, definitive, answer to my simple, direct question: Is there any scientific, double-blind research that shows acupuncture is effective?

But this one tops them all:

Have any side effects or risks been reported from acupuncture?

There have been few complications reported. Problems are caused by using needles that are not sterile (free of germs) and from placing the needle in the wrong place, movement of the patient, or a defect in the needle. Problems include soreness and pain during treatment; feeling tired, lightheaded, or sleepy; and infections. Because chemotherapy andradiation therapy weaken the body's immune system, a strict clean needle method must be used when acupuncture treatment is given to cancer patients. It is important to seek treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner who uses a new set of disposable (single-use) needles for each patient.

How reassuring that the "qualified acupuncture practitioner" - whatever that may be - is urged to use clean needles! What else? This is mind-boggling! And, the "soreness and pain during treatment; feeling tired, lightheaded, or sleepy; and infections," are well-established side-effects of chemotherapy, but I got the impression that the application of acupuncture - which is the element we're discussing here - is supposed to relieve those problems! What am I missing?

The last applicable NCI/NIH comment here is simply classic. It poses a simple, direct question and then totally avoids providing any answer!

Is acupuncture approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a cancer treatment in the United States?

The FDA approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. The FDA requires that sterile, nontoxic needles be used and that they be labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only.

Yes, the Federal Drug Administration approved acupuncture needles, in the same way they have approved thousands of devices - for safety. The needles won't break, they're flexible and sharp. That's it! I'm reassured to know that they must also be "nontoxic." Again, what else? As compared to "toxic" needles? This non-response has no reference to the efficacy or application of these needles in regard to cancer treatment - which was the question the NCI posed, itself!

Folks, this is a betrayal, a farce, an avoidance of the responsibility of the National Cancer Institute - and thus of the National Institutes of Health - to answer questions. It's professional baloney put out by experienced cover-my-ass bureaucrats who we pay - apparently - to dodge direct inquiries.

So, to the NCI and the NIH: here's the answer to my question, which is: "Is there any scientific, double-blind research that shows acupuncture is effective?" No, there is not. Acupuncture is a well-developed mythology of pseudoscientific mumbo-jumbo that ranks high in the quackery constellation, fails carefully-designed tests, and makes fortunes for the practitioners largely because of the reluctance - no, the refusal - of the NCI and NIH to level with the citizens of the USA.

I urge those of you who are as alarmed as I am, to contact such individuals as Ms. Cynthia Bass at the Client Access Unit of CancerCare - cbass@cancercare.org - and make your displeasure known. Expect references to other sites, but stick with it. You're taxpayers, you pay salaries of those at the NCI and the NIH, and you have a right to know...

FOLLOWUP:

A reader volunteered this astute observation on this item:

In the Q & A section, the NCI/NIH offered the equivalent of posing the question: "Are journeyman plumbers certified to work on the space shuttle's toilet?" Their response was the equivalent of saying they approved the use of Stillson wrenches for this work, if they were made by a reputable manufacturer. A non-answer indeed.

Touché!

 

 

 

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written by daveg703, August 03, 2009
Well, I'm just as disgusted with that mealy-mouth, evasiveness as you are, Randi, and I have already fired off an email to Ms. Bass concerning that shameful avoidance of a clear, direct question- one the certainly deserves an answer.
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written by minusRusty, August 03, 2009
Uhm, I have a question.

What would the protocol be for an acupuncture double-blind study??
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written by daveg703, August 03, 2009
Well, as long as I have the floor to myself this morning, here's an excerpt from what I sent to Ms. Bass:

In the Q & A section, the NCI/NIH offered the equivalent of posing the question:
Are journeyman plumbers certified to work on the space shuttle's toilet?
Their response was the equivalent of saying they approved the use of Stillson wrenches for this work, if they were made by a reputable manufacturer. A non-answer indeed.
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written by Shampoo, August 03, 2009
Honestly, I wouldn't expect more from a FAQ. But the answers seem consistent with the hypothesis that acupuncture works as a placebo.

If you want real answers, search pubmed. For example
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu...d_RVDocSum:
Cancer-related fatigue is a substantial problem for cancer patients and their caregivers, but no effective treatment exists. Acupuncture has been suggested to improve cancer-related fatigue, but no randomized clinical trials have been conducted. We hypothesized that true acupuncture, compared with sham acupuncture, would reduce cancer-related fatigue in cancer patients receiving external radiation therapy. The aim of this study was to determine effect size and feasibility. A modified, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted. The subject, clinical staff, and assessor were blinded, but the acupuncturist was not. Subjects received acupuncture once to twice per week during the 6-week course of radiation therapy. Data were collected at baseline, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 10 weeks, which was 4 weeks after that last radiation session. Twenty-seven subjects enrolled, and 23 completed the last data collection. Both true and sham acupuncture groups had improved fatigue, fatigue distress, quality of life, and depression from baseline to 10 weeks, but the differences between the groups were not statistically significant. The true acupuncture group improved 5.50 (SE, +/- 1.4smilies/cool.gif points on the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Fatigue Subscale (FACIT-F), whereas the sham acupuncture group improved by 3.73 (SE +/- 1.92) points. This difference was not statistically significant (p = .37). All subjects guessed that they were in the true acupuncture group. Our study was underpowered to find a statistically significant difference. To demonstrate a statistically significant improvement between true and sham acupuncture would require 75 subjects per group in a future study. Owing to poor recruitment, the feasibility of a larger trial using the same methodology is low. Despite being underpowered, it appears that subjects receiving true acupuncture may benefit more than subjects receiving sham acupuncture. In the discussion section, we review our experience with using a sham-needle controlled study.
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@minusRusty
written by Shampoo, August 03, 2009
Uhm, I have a question.

What would the protocol be for an acupuncture double-blind study??
That is a very good question. The abstract I posted just now used sham-acupuncture to blind patients from whether or not they got real acupuncture. But you can't blind it from the person administrating the procedure. So there is the risk that the acupuncturist will behave differently and the patient responds to that. To avoid that bias, you can try to ensure there is a strict protocol of behaviour (for example, no talking, or unnecessary movements). While that still doesn't make it true double-blind, it should remove most of the bias.
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written by daveg703, August 03, 2009
I would like to see a preliminary qualification procedure, just as the M.D.C. requires. I would blind the acupuncturists, have them wear sterile gloves, and then use ten real volunteers, with a control group of twenty very large raw rump roasts, only ten of which will receive acupuncture. If the acupuncturists can tell which subject is human, they will advance to the next level. In the meantime, a judging panel from the JREF will cook the roasts and while blindfolded will decide whether there was any improvement due to acupuncture. I admit there are a few nagging details to work out, but it seems like a good notion. smilies/cheesy.gif smilies/cheesy.gif
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written by Shampoo, August 03, 2009
Oh, you're gonna love this: Laser needle acupuncture! What'll they think of next. smilies/cheesy.gif
From a research perspective, though, it does have the advantage over acupuncture in that double-blind studies are very easy to do (just turn off the laser). No surprise it's not effective though (in this study the placebo was better)
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written by Skeptigirl, August 04, 2009
You can perform the acupuncture on the correct and incorrect sites as a way of blinding a study and if the person inserting the needles doesn't know the patient's diagnosis you could also blind the test administrator. So the administrator might insert needles for some bladder problem and for a stomach problem (presumably the insertion sites differ) and not know which problem the patient actually had.
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written by Skeptigirl, August 04, 2009
It's really a sad commentary on the medical profession that we are unwilling to confront false beliefs but rather think we need to accommodate the believers instead. There's a place for accommodating a patient's cultural beliefs but being the administrator or researcher at the NIH is not that place.
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Double Blind
written by Amos M., August 04, 2009
It seems that a study could be conducted wherein the subjects have different ailments, of which the acupuncturists are not informed. Because of this, they wouldn't behave differently because all the acupuncture performed would be equally likely to be the wrong treatment for the ailment. The subjects would also be kept ignorant of which treatment they were receiving, of course.
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written by MadScientist, August 04, 2009
@minusRusty: That'll be when both the torturer and the victim have no sense of sight. (sorry, couldn't resist that one).

It would be easy to set up a double-blind study; the acupuncturist gets a victim he/she doesn't know, is only told what illness to be treated and whether they use 'sham' or 'real' (also sham really) acupuncture. Victim doesn't know if they get sham or real. The victims are assigned to torturers in a random fashion and whoever is organizing the test shouldn't know which torturer will be getting what victim because another party does that by taking, say, sealed envelopes and randomly assigning them to a torturer.
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written by Adam_Y, August 04, 2009
Double blind studies of acupuncture have been done. The way they blind the studies is to use toothpicks and needles in a sheath so both the person and the acupuncturist doesn't know if they are toothpicks or needles.
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Colorpuncture
written by JeffWagg, August 04, 2009
Yep, Swift on Colorpuncture coming soon. It's just what it sounds like.
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written by bosshog, August 04, 2009
"treatment with acupuncture either relieves symptoms or keeps them from getting worse."

How, pray tell, can you ascertain that symptoms were "kept from getting worse" by a specific treatment, especially one that doesn't involve verifiable biochemical processes? Perhaps they simply didn't get worse, treatment or no. Furthermore, did they stop getting worse for a day? A month? Ten years? Forever?

This whole FAQ reminds me of a recent commercial for One A Day Vitamins for Women which claims that "Emerging research suggests that vitamin D may promote breast health". Powerful words indeed!
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Ugh! They're so full of it.
written by CelticGoddess1326, August 04, 2009
My mom made me get acupuncture once when I was about 16 or so (this is kind of off-topic as I had it for acne, not cancer). It was the most uncomfortable thing I've ever done; I'd rather donate platelets again. Mom swore afterwards that my skin looked better, but I noticed no difference. Mom had been assured that it would "clear everything right up." Really? I'm 29 and still get acne (I'm allergic to every non-prescription acne medication on the market - how fun is that?).

I know we need to do studies to reassure the credulous, but this type of blatant quackery isn't worth our time and money.
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written by Alan3354, August 04, 2009
My wife got acupuncture for something, I forget what, despite my telling her it's a scam.
She's from California, tho. ¿Que puedo hacer?
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written by Karl_Withakay, August 04, 2009
"In one study, most of the patients treated with acupuncture were able to stop taking drugs for pain relief or to take smallerdoses."

"The findings from these studies are not considered strong, however, because of weaknesses in study design and size. Studies using strict scientific methods are needed to prove how acupuncture affects pain."

Translation: There is insufficient evidence at this time to recommend acupuncture and all other responses here are a smokescreen to hide that fact.

Single and double blinded studies of acupuncture have been done and they show that it does not matter where you needle the subject, or if the needles actually penetrate, and somehow the researchers manage to draw the conclusion that sham acupuncture (either using non-traditional insertion points or not penetrating)is also effective rather than the conclusion that acupuncture is no more effective than placebo. see http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=492
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I did my part
written by Skepdude, August 04, 2009
First I railed against this on my blog, then I send an e-mail, which hopefully will get forwarded to the director of the NCI. Please follow suit. You have my permission to use my e-mail as a template. They need to hear from us. http://tinyurl.com/nnfqj3
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Acupuncture Double Blind?
written by StarTrekLivz, August 04, 2009
Most of what I know about Acupuncture comes from the internet and "The X-Files" so I could be WAAAAYYYY wrong.

But everything I've seen identifies "meridians" and "conjunctions," specific lines or points which need to be stimulated (the needle) to restore the correct flow of "Qi." It isn't a random placing of needles, even the local Chinese grocery store has a chart on the wall (I can recognize the picture but I don't read Chinese, so I have no idea what it says).

So, why not put the needles somewhere else? Not one of the charted places?

Also, I remember from college that during pledge week, some houses would simulate the feel of knives and needles with ice or very cold metal (which did not perforate the skin, but felt like it). Could that be a way?

Just a thought, and will cheerfully accept correction if I'm wrong or if this is not thought through.
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unwilling or unable?
written by melusine, August 04, 2009

To skeptigirl.
Could you elaborate on your comment. I fail to understand you when you say:
It's really a sad commentary on the medical profession we are unwilling to confront false beliefs but rather think we need to accommodate the believers instead
Do you mean that doctors are actually unwilling to work on a person's beliefs?
I agree that some doctors are not only unwilling but actually believe in the validity of acupuncture and other nonsense…
However, the rational ones are not unwilling to. There are many things to consider when you work on your patient beliefs. Not only do we often lack the time to work on it, but changing your patients belief isn't as simple as explaining the difference betwen personnal experience and statistical evidence. If you, as I suspect, work in the medical field, you also know that some beliefs cannot be explored without threatening the patient/doctor relation. We are not in the teacher position of open questionning. We are in a much less rationnal situation dealing with emotions. And not all the patients are able or willing to discuss their beliefs.

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Grades
written by melusine, August 04, 2009
I don't fully know the NIH organisation. In France the HAS (more or less the equivalent if I'm not mistaking) has 3 types of publications. One for the patients (without references and recommandation grades) which is some kind of a Q and A. 2 for the professionnals: one is the argumentary (on what bases/studies and why the review group concludes to such recommandation), the other is a summary (without the why) for practical use. Is it different for the NIH?

I'm not surprised that a Q and A does not provide the references since it is not it's purpose (which is to quickly answer frequent questions right? And I doubt that Mr Randi's question is the kind of question Q and A was made for).
However a direct question should be answered with references. especially since the question is clearly Evidence based medecine oriented.
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written by finstercat, August 04, 2009
"...not considered strong, however, because of weaknesses in study design and size."
Excuse me? Whatever happened to evidence-based medicine? It's appalling that with all the discussion about universal healthcare, and with the emphasis on EFFECTIVE treatments to help get soaring medical costs under control, the NCI/NIH would deign to dignify a procedure that has never been properly investigated or validated (emphasis on "properly").
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written by mazyloron, August 04, 2009
I posted this in the forums as well, but I'd love to see what people have to say in response to this: http://apps.who.int/medicinedo...#Js4926e.5

I'm not personally an acupuncture supporter, I think it's just more woo...but, the WHO isn't some random crackpot wooster, they're usually pretty rational, I thought. And that link has way more information than I am qualified to evaluate - I am not a doctor or scientist, just a normal guy who doesn't see any good reason to think that Qi lines and meridians exist outside of anyone imagination. Yet, there's a ridiculously long list of studies on this link, showing what looks like a mountain of evidence for acupuncture's effectiveness: http://apps.who.int/medicinedo...26e/6.html

I'd love to know what Randi says about this one, though I doubt he'll see it.
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re: Unwilling or Unable
written by StarTrekLivz, August 04, 2009
I think you're right, most doctors have so much pressure to see x number of patients per hour they do not have the time to disabuse them of a lot of woo woo -- except if the woo woo is keeping them from seeking the treatment they need. Also, in these days of "political correctness" doctors may feel they are encroaching into an area they should not go, challenging a belief system, for example. Also, I know a couple doctors who don't believe in woo woo and acupuncture and prayer as cure, but do know about the Placebo affect, and, again as long as it does not interfere with a prudent therapy regime, will let the patient indulge in anything that makes them think they feel better but will not actually hurt them.
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written by Michael K Gray, August 04, 2009
"Laser Needles"?
Brings a whole new meaning to double-blind tests!
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Turn about is fair play...
written by Human Person Jr, August 04, 2009
Believe it or not, I try to explain to my MD that acupuncture and other sCAM approaches are bogus. She told me that Qi is scientifically proven to exist, and that an acupuncturist "healed" her of pain in her shoulder. She also tried to get me to take Ayurvedic medicine that her husband brought back from India, but I would have none of it. Furthermore, she lent me three books on reincarnation, so I could become "enlightened" as to the bigger picture. She said that she and I have been together in a past life and we'll be together again in a future life. I remained silent, but thought, "Gee, I hope I'm the doctor next time and can scare the beejeezus outta you!" Needless to say, her days with me are numbered.
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written by MadScientist, August 04, 2009
@StarTrekLivz: If all you know of acupuncture comes from "X-Files" and the internet then you're as knowledgable as any acupuncturist (although poking the needles in is a bit of an art; if you don't know what you're doing you'll have people screaming all the time). Unlike textbooks on human anatomy there is virtually no consistency between acupuncture charts. Basically everyone makes up their own cock-and-bull story and says things like "master so-and-so who learned from master such-and-such said that blah blah." It's reminiscent of that bit from Cats: "at least we all heard that somebody heard, which is incontestable proof!" You don't have to spend much time in China before it becomes painfully obvious how much nonsense is spread about via hearsay and appeal to non-existent authority.
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@human person, jr.
written by redwench, August 05, 2009
I am naively hoping that your post was a joke...

Why on earth would anyone use a medical practitioner again after they spouted such nonsense? I would recommend you file complaints with the State Medical Board, her employers (should she have them), and any insurance provider list she is on. This individual should not be treating patients in need of medical care.
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written by GeekGoddess, August 05, 2009
Simon Singh covers several protocols for double-blind testing of acupuncture in his book Trick or Treatment.
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written by NewCoaster, August 05, 2009
Human Person Jr.

Your doctor is a quack. You should not only find another doctor, but you should letter your soon-to-be-former GP know WHY you are leaving their practice.

There are several GP's in my small community who practice acupuncture...even the more odious and silly auricular acupuncture..Healing Touch, Emotional Freedom Technique and as well advocate (and wear) magnets and crystals.

I am not worried about PC, or offending quacks or charlatans. I do spend time education patients when I find out they are receiving some form of sCAM. For this, I am perceived as a "crank" by the "quacks".
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written by Skeptigirl, August 05, 2009
written by mazyloron, August 04, 2009
I posted this in the forums as well, but I'd love to see what people have to say in response to this: http://apps.who.int/medicinedo...#Js4926e.5
I'm not personally an acupuncture supporter, I think it's just more woo...but, the WHO isn't some random crackpot wooster, they're usually pretty rational, I thought. And that link has way more information than I am qualified to evaluate - I am not a doctor or scientist, just a normal guy who doesn't see any good reason to think that Qi lines and meridians exist outside of anyone imagination. Yet, there's a ridiculously long list of studies on this link, showing what looks like a mountain of evidence for acupuncture's effectiveness: [url=http://apps.who.int/medicinedo...26e/6.html
Wow,]http://apps.who.int/medicinedo...26e/6.htmlWow, just wow. Thank you for bringing that to our attention. My first impression is the WHO failed to vet the studies they've accepted as evidence of acupuncture's effectiveness. This misinformation will take years to undo if, as I suspect, many of these studies were either poorly done, faked, or perhaps done with small sample sizes but having tossed out any of the related studies with small sample sizes where negative results were obtained.

In your second link you see no studies with negative results listed. Thus the WHO is saying, if we look at 10 studies showing no effect in 9 of them we can still count the 1 study showing a positive result as evidence acupuncture treats a specific condition.

I will, however, take a closer look at the studies they did cite to verify my suspicions.


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Bizarre error above
written by Skeptigirl, August 05, 2009
Must be the quotes missed the hidden text in the hyperlink. Weird though in that it shows the first "Wow," twice. Oh well.
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written by Skeptigirl, August 05, 2009
written by melusine, August 04, 2009
To skeptigirl.
Could you elaborate on your comment. I fail to understand you when you say:
It's really a sad commentary on the medical profession we are unwilling to confront false beliefs but rather think we need to accommodate the believers instead
Do you mean that doctors are actually unwilling to work on a person's beliefs?
I agree that some doctors are not only unwilling but actually believe in the validity of acupuncture and other nonsense…
However, the rational ones are not unwilling to. There are many things to consider when you work on your patient beliefs. Not only do we often lack the time to work on it, but changing your patients belief isn't as simple as explaining the difference betwen personnal experience and statistical evidence. If you, as I suspect, work in the medical field, you also know that some beliefs cannot be explored without threatening the patient/doctor relation. We are not in the teacher position of open questionning. We are in a much less rationnal situation dealing with emotions. And not all the patients are able or willing to discuss their beliefs.
You seem to have ignored the second sentence in my post, "There's a place for accommodating a patient's cultural beliefs." That or you took cultural beliefs to have a narrower meaning than I intended.

When I was in nursing school in the 80s, it was a trend to incorporate patients' alt med practices into their treatment. It was, and still is, important to be culturally sensitive, and the idea was patients were going to use alt med anyway, so by expressing acceptance of their practices at least they might tell you about them and you could note if something interacted with anything you were prescribing.

There is a place for working with individual patient beliefs though I no longer buy the idea I must accommodate to the point of compromising my principles of promoting science based medicine.

But I was addressing a larger issue. That is the issue of treating alternative medicine as harmless and/or necessary because of all the reasons you cited: not enough time, alienating the patient and so on.

It is not harmless. And promoting critical thinking about medical decisions has great benefits. As for the difficulties involved in addressing such beliefs with individual patients, I think we can accommodate today, but work to develop patient communication tools which break down the barriers of established false beliefs and tools which can be effective given time and other constraints health care providers face today. Just because a problem is difficult is no reason to resign oneself to complacency.

As for the overall problem I was originally addressing, if you read the comments from the NIH committee after it was reported that 2.5 billion dollars spent researching alt med had almost nothing to show for the money spent, you'd understand a bit better what I was getting at. There was a clear reluctance to admit their belief in alt med was unfounded. The comments were quite apologetic suggesting perhaps the studies weren't done well rather than most alt med is bunk. How much should we spend on researching popular treatments which have been promoted by marketers, sometimes without even traditional medicine history behind the claims? When is it time to say, the is a problem with the whole concept of non-science based medicine?

Some of the people who believe in this stuff are in influential places within our government. We should be calling them out on their wasteful legislation and questioning their appointments to positions such as managing the NIH.
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@skeptigirl
written by mazyloron, August 05, 2009
Thanks for the response to that WHO link. I've actually found some more info refuting it or at least questioning it, that I linked in the forum here: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?p=4971258

Still, I'd love to hear what anyone has to say about it. The best response I've found is a leading acupuncturist claiming that the study is biased and not to be trusted. Which is certainly something, but hardly enough to convince most people.
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My sCAM-impaired GP
written by Human Person Jr, August 05, 2009
@ redwench -- Unfortunately, every word of my comment is true. There are other troubling aspects about this woman that I didn't reveal, due to space considerations. I've had numerous arguments with her about her wacked-out belief in sCAM "therapies." She gets very upset and says that I don't trust her (true) and that my intelligence prevents my ability to see obvious truths (not true). You are, of course, right that I must stop seeing her. She's a good person, but not a good doctor. I plan to make a full report to my insurer.

@ NewCoaster -- Thank you for relating your experiences. I'm working on a letter explaining to my GP why I've found another doctor. Even without this letter, though, she would know why. I've strongly (and respectfully) disagreed with her many, many times. I should've left her care long ago, and I'm ashamed that I haven't. My daughter nearly died (at age 10) from a perforated appendix, while her mother took her to one witch doctor (sCAM practitioner) after another, trying to get a "healing" for her. The crazy bitch didn't even tell me my daughter was sick. One week later, the surgeon was telling me that my daughter might not survive her illness. Given the horrific nature of the near-tragedy, and that it was brought about by my idiot EX-wife's belief in sCAM, I should be horse-whipped for staying with this GP for more than one visit.
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written by Skeptigirl, August 05, 2009
Just got a call from one of my clients, a medical clinic, they had a worker get a needlestick, with an acupuncture needle! OH my word. I could not say I was just in a discussion about how acupuncture is not supported by science.

So, like the patient with false beliefs we have to gently approach, I have to do the same when it is a medical provider that is also a customer of mine. smilies/cry.gif
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written by Skeptigirl, August 05, 2009
@mazyloron
Thanks for the links. I'll take a closer look at those later tonight.
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to skeptigirl
written by melusine, August 06, 2009
No I didn't miss the second part of your sentence. I simply wasn't sure of your position on the subject (i.e if you where talking about the practical use of alt med or the positioning of the NIH). Thank you for clearing that for me. Now I know I totally agree with you.
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written by minusRusty, August 06, 2009
@greekGodess: Thanks for the reference to Simon Singh. I'll see if I can get my hands on a copy.

@amos M and MadScientist: Okay, so you could have, say three sets of people, say, (1) liver problems, (2) joint problems, (3) control group (miscellaneous problems, or none at all), and the torturer acupuncturist is randomly told correctly or incorrectly which group the victim patient belongs to. That makes sense. (I figured the other blinding would be "real" vs "sham" needle sticks, it was the other half I was curious about.)

Thanks, guys.

-Rusty
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HE IS A FRAUD JAMES RANDI THE PROOF IS HERE HE WONT EVEN LOOK
written by stanley03061973, August 10, 2009
Have a look i think the million is mine now this blokes a fraud he want look i will prove it any day of the week we arent alone have alook for yourself http://www.youtube.com/user/stanley03061973 HAVE A LOOK JAMES
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I did my part-Follow Up
written by Skepdude, August 12, 2009
Me e-mail to NCI was answered.Unsatisfactorily! I send a second one! Next comes a letter. Anyone has an idea where to mail it so that the director actually gets it? Worst comes to worst, I send it to their regular address from the web addressed to him. Don't know if that will make it throug though! Anway...

http://skepfeeds.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/my-e-mail-to-the-nci-a-follow-up/
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written by stanley03061973, August 12, 2009
james randi a fraud
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