$2.5 billion down the drain on "alternative" meds

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Cave Man, Jun 10, 2009.

  1. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #1
  2. Eidorian macrumors Penryn

    Eidorian

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    #2
    Oh Boy I know a few people that will love to read this.
     
  3. NinjaHERO macrumors 6502a

    NinjaHERO

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    #3
    Ah, the government at work.

    maybe we just need to spend another 2.5 billion to make sure.:D
     
  4. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

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    #4
    Doesn't matter that it's all down the drain... or so homeopaths would have us believe. ;)
     
  5. Gelfin macrumors 68020

    Gelfin

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    #5
    It's even better, isn't it? A small bottle of sewer water should have memory of the money it's been in contact with and be worth trillions.
     
  6. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #6
    There is a little bit of FUD here...

    This is pro forma in scientific research. Pilot studies are definitionally underpowered to produce statistically significant results. Their goals are generally to establish that a trial is feasible, to eliminate practical issues in conducting the trial, and to make decisions about measurement issues and things like that. One could substitute a "reputable" potential treatment for acupressure in the above and one would expect the rest of the paragraph to look the same.

    I think the problem is not primarily that we spend money on vetting these treatments (or disproving that vaccines cause autism). It is that, once convincing scientific data becomes available, we do not do a good job of using it to get the public to stop clamoring for in-efficacious treatments.
     
  7. Eanair macrumors 6502

    Eanair

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  8. Iscariot macrumors 68030

    Iscariot

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    #8
    Reminds me of that study proving acupuncture to be a placebo effect instead being used to demonstrate that acupuncture is so powerful even fake acupuncture works.

    Edit: how many people would $2.5 billion have insured?
     
  9. Capt Crunch macrumors 6502

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    #9
    I hate scams as much as the next man, but if it works, it works. I have an acquaintance who had nearly debilitating pain every day from the result of a back injury. He went to all the doctors and nothing worked. As a last ditch effort he got acupuncture and was pain free from then on.

    He's not a sensitive guy so I grilled him on it. How on earth is a bunch of BBQ skewers going to cure his pain? It has to be the placebo effect. His response? "I don't care, it worked." Can't argue with that.

    I'm not advocating that acupuncture be a regular treatment, just saying that placebos can be an effective treatment.
     
  10. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #10
    I don't think even an acupuncturist would claim that it was possible for acupuncture to do this. I'd suggest that it's just as likely that your friend's pain resolution was a complete coincidence. But as you point out it could also be due to the placebo effect (although the placebo effect usually doesn't work on that scale). Back pain (and the perception of all pain) has a large psychological element. A good example is why sporting injuries always hurt more when you're on the losing side. For lower back pain (without an obvious mechanical cause) clinical trials have shown that increasing job satisfaction is one of the greatest treatments. Which is pretty cool and why medical science is awesome.

    You can most certainly argue against it from an ethical standpoint. One can't really ethically prescribe and charge a patient for a treatment with which there is no evidence that it works (or evidence to the contrary). Irrespective of if the patient is a willing co-conspirator.

    As far as the evidence goes there has been conflicting data on acupuncture. Here is the latest review conclusion in the cochrane database;

    Yes they most certainly can be. But using medications as placebos, as with antibiotics which were used as quasi-placebos for a long time, has it's own downsides. Which are sometimes major. A placebo isn't a win-win situation.
     
  11. rhsgolfer33 macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    Maybe 10 people, at the current cost. ;)
     
  12. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

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    #12
    Alternative medicine is a misnomer, at the point it's proven to work, it simply becomes medicine.:rolleyes:
     
  13. niuniu macrumors 68020

    niuniu

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    #13
    Not really. Alternative means unconventional in this sense, it doesn't mean unproven.
     
  14. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #14
    Can you provide an example of the term being used in this sense?
     
  15. niuniu macrumors 68020

    niuniu

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    #15
    Of course I could.


    alternative medicine, as used in the modern Western world, encompasses any healing practice "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine".
    ^ Bratman, MD, Steven (1997). The Alternative Medicine Sourcebook. Lowell House. pp. 7. ISBN 1565656261.
     
  16. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #16
    Let me put it another way: can you provide an example of alternative medicine of proven effectiveness?
     
  17. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #17
    There is good evidence that homeopathy completely cures minor thirst.
     
  18. djellison macrumors 68020

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    #18
    Here's the problem.

    For those with critical thinking skills, those with half a brain, those who like to think for themselves - these studies tell us what we already knew anyway.

    For those who believe in such treatment, who try homeopathy, who try faith healing etc etc - these studies are irrelevant and they'll keep trying the wrong things.

    It needs to be made illegal, punishable by prison time, to offer alternative medical treatments known to be bunk claiming they have a basis in reality.
     
  19. niuniu macrumors 68020

    niuniu

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    #19
    The point was about a misnomer. He said it was a misnomer, I showed that it wasn't a misnomer as meaning is lost in his redefinition.

    Now you aren't putting it, 'another way', you're moving onto a different point. And yes there are mountains of studies on alternative medicines and techniques, some showing effectiveness, some casting doubt. Don't take my word for it, hit the library and get some real research done, it's a massive field, I'm sure you'll enjoy it with your earnest interest.
     
  20. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #20
    A simple question, which you have declined to answer.
     
  21. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #21
    There is at least some evidence for some things -- this is why I reject the "common sense" idea that all CAM can be ruled inefficacious based on common sense without investigation.


    Meta-analysis demonstrating efficacy of accupuncture in treating neck pain

    Meta-analysis with positive evidence for efficacy of touch therapies in short term pain management

    And some negative evidence...
    Meta-analysis failing to find effects in pain management for magnet therapy
    Meta-analysis failing to find effects for manual therapies (e.g. craniosacral therapy) in headache management

    The predominant view among modern clinicians is that at least some alternative medicines and therapies work for some things. Why is this a shock? These things were developed and refined over millenia. They were not typically refined using the modern scientific process, nor were they rigorously evaluated over these thousands of years. However, they would not be that likely to have persisted for those lengths of time if they were completely inefficacious. Of course, Chinese herbal remedies were not developed for thousands of years to treat Alzheimer's disease, as AD wasn't known to Chinese herbalists. Acupuncture wasn't developed to deal with chemotherapy pain management because chemotherapy didn't exist.

    Some things are pretty unlikely. We healthcare providers don't believe that one should go to one's chiropracter to manage Parkinson's disease.

    But writing off all CAM as universally inefficacious because common sense tells one that one can do this is no more reasonable than blindly believing in them. The question of whether money spent vetting CAM is being spent efficiently is another matter entirely, but dismissing all CAM is unreasonable.
     
  22. .Andy macrumors 68030

    .Andy

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    #22
    One might take issue with "refined" here mkrishnan. How does one "refine" something if it's not scientific at least in part, with the aim to systematically making it more efficacious?

    Unfortunately the do. Alternate therapies aren't so much about them working organically. They also hitch a ride on the placebo effect as well as the psychology of being proactive about one's illness and seeking help from someone who is more "knowledgeable". They can easily persist for reasons other than "working" in the conventional sense.

    As per your illustration of acupuncture, it's been shown that the needle placement as directed by ancient and "refined" chinese texts actually counts for very little in it's effects. It's more about having the needles stuck in than it is about their placement along mystical energy lines. Millennia of refinement burdened the treatment with mysticism which is part of it's appeal but not part of its action. The "accu" part can be discarded. It's more of just "puncture".

    I like to separate CAM to distinguish between complementary and alternative medicines. Complementary medicines can have some evidence to them. Such as acupuncture. Hence they are complementary to modern medicine and included in mainstream patient care. Alternative medicines on the other hand, don't have any scientific evidence, many were not developed over millennia i.e. homeopathy, and are designed and pushed to take the place of modern medicine to exploit people's misunderstandings, misconceptions, and fears.

    It is not blind to write off homeopathy or iridology or live blood film examination as shams. They make zero sense, are utterly inaccurate, and should not be given the time of day whatsoever. These things are dangerous in that they give patients a false sense of security, are practiced by people with minimal training and skills, and are often used as an alternative to seeking modern medical help. Instead of being complimentary to modern medicine, they are often marketed to perpetuate a culture of distrust of doctors, which is a survival tactic to ensure continuation of an income stream. And as I said above, it is not ethical to be offering a treatment with which one has no evidence of it's efficacy.

    I think chiropractic treatments are a good example of the difference between complimentary and alternative. Chiropractors used to be alternative. Subluxation is bogus. They had a credibility problem. As such they made the push as an organisation towards being more like physiotherapist-lites. In which they train at universities and learn evidence-based physiotherapy techniques.
     
  23. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

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    #23
    Gene therapy, stem cell implants, cloning, all unconventional by any definition, all unproven, but all provable in one way or another.

    If anyone can prove the homeopathy has an effect beyond that of the placebo, it will instantly be taking into mainstream medicine and hence will simply be medicine.

    Hence aspirin, hence penicillin, hence the x-ray... All were decidedly stupid ideas originally, I know, I'l chew on some bark for this headache, I know I'll eat this mouldy bread to cure this infection, ooo lets blast radiation through my body for no apparent reason.... I joke but you see my point I trust.

    I've had accupuncture and accupressure, neither had any effect beyond sucking money out of my bank account. I've also had Chiropracty and keyhole surgery, both of which made verifiable improvements to my conditions, hence they are not "alternative"

    Most alternative therapies are alternative because they do not work.
     
  24. skunk macrumors G4

    skunk

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    #24
    Verifiable and effective, then. What more do you want?
     
  25. WinterMute Moderator emeritus

    WinterMute

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    #25
    What I wanted was for the procedure to cure the problem, not cause another one.:D
     

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