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August 22, 2006

Why Bogus Therapies Seem to Work

Topics: Alternative Therapies

cover.jpgIn response to an email we received from a reader, here's a 1997 article that's just as informative and appropriate for today's patients as it was then. It's an important reminder that patients need to discuss with their physician, any alternative treatments they may be considering either apart from or in conjunction with their physician-supervised treatment.

Patients need to be aware that those who sell therapies of any kind have an obligation to prove, first, that their treatments are safe and, second, that they are effective. The latter is often the more difficult task because there are many subtle ways that honest and intelligent people (both patients and therapists) can be led to think that a treatment has cured someone when it has not.

... This is true whether we are assessing new treatments in scientific medicine, old nostrums in folk medicine, fringe treatments in "alternative medicine," or the frankly magical panaceas of faith healers.

... To distinguish causal from fortuitous improvements that might follow any intervention, a set of objective procedures has evolved for testing putative remedies. Unless a technique, ritual, drug, or surgical procedure can meet these requirements, it is ethically questionable to offer it to the public, especially if money is to change hands. Since most "alternative" therapies (i.e., ones not accepted by scientific biomedicine) fall into this category, one must ask why so many customers who would not purchase a toaster without consulting Consumer Reports shell out, with trusting naivetë, large sums for unproven, possibly dangerous, health remedies.

... For many years, critics have been raising telling doubts about fringe medical practices, but the popularity of such nostrums seems undiminished. We must wonder why entrepreneurs' claims in this area should remain so refractory to contrary data. If an "alternative" or "complementary" therapy:

Continue reading "Why Bogus Therapies Seem to Work."

Posted by Richard at August 22, 2006 5:04 PM

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