Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Experts denounce clinical trials of unscientific, 'alternative' medicines

Date:
August 20, 2014
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Experts call for an end to clinical trials of 'highly implausible treatments' such as homeopathy and reiki. Over the last two decades, such complementary and alternative medicine treatments have been embraced in medical academia despite budget constraints and the fact that they rest on dubious science, they say.

Experts writing in the Cell Press journal Trends in Molecular Medicine on August 20th call for an end to clinical trials of "highly implausible treatments" such as homeopathy and reiki. Over the last two decades, such complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments have been embraced in medical academia despite budget constraints and the fact that they rest on dubious science, they say.

Related Articles


The writers, David Gorski of Wayne State University School of Medicine and Steven Novella of Yale University, argue that, in these cases, the medical establishment is essentially testing whether magic works. Gorski and Novella are both editors for Science-Based Medicine, an organization and blog dedicated to exploring the complicated relationship between science and medicine.

"We hope this will be the first of many opportunities to discuss in the peer-reviewed literature the perils and pitfalls of doing clinical trials on treatment modalities that have already been refuted by basic science," said Gorski. "The two key examples in the article, homeopathy and reiki, are about as close to impossible from basic science considerations alone as you can imagine. Homeopathy involves diluting substances away to nothing and beyond, while reiki is in essence faith healing that substitutes Eastern mysticism for Christian beliefs, as can be demonstrated by substituting the word 'god' for the 'universal source' that reiki masters claim to be able to tap into to channel their 'healing energy' into patients."

"Studying highly implausible treatments is a losing proposition," Novella added. "Such studies are unlikely to demonstrate benefit, and proponents are unlikely to stop using the treatment when the study is negative. Such research only serves to lend legitimacy to otherwise dubious practices."

What is needed, say Gorski and Novella, is science-based medicine rather than evidence-based medicine. Biologically plausible treatments should advance to randomized clinical trials only when there is sufficient preclinical evidence to justify the effort, time, and expense, as well as the use of human subjects.

"Somehow this idea has sprung up that to be a 'holistic' doctor you have to embrace pseudoscience like homeopathy, reiki, traditional Chinese medicine, and the like, but that's a false dichotomy," Gorski said. "If the medical system is currently too impersonal and patients are rushed through office visits because a doctor has to see more and more patients to cover his salary and expenses, then the answer is to find a way to fix those problems, not to embrace quackery. 'Integrating' pseudoscience with science-based medicine isn't going to make science-based medicine better. One of our bloggers, Mark Crislip, has a fantastic saying for this: 'If you mix cow pie with apple pie, it does not make the cow pie taste better; it makes the apple pie worse.' With CAM or 'integrative medicine,' that's exactly what we're doing, and these clinical trials of magic are just more examples of it."

Gorski and Novella call on patients to exercise their critical thinking skills when it comes to evaluating the evidence for or against any kind of treatment, whether it is deemed "alternative" or not. "Critical thinking will help patients learn to recognize when a course of treatment is not supported by data or to tell when a health claim from any practitioner is just too good to be true," Gorski said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David H. Gorski, Steven P. Novella. Clinical trials of integrative medicine: testing whether magic works? Trends in Molecular Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.molmed.2014.06.007

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Experts denounce clinical trials of unscientific, 'alternative' medicines." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140820123248.htm>.
Cell Press. (2014, August 20). Experts denounce clinical trials of unscientific, 'alternative' medicines. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140820123248.htm
Cell Press. "Experts denounce clinical trials of unscientific, 'alternative' medicines." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140820123248.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Mind-Controlled Prosthetic Arm Restores Amputee Dexterity

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 29, 2014) A Swedish amputee who became the first person to ever receive a brain controlled prosthetic arm is able to manipulate and handle delicate objects with an unprecedented level of dexterity. The device is connected directly to his bone, nerves and muscles, giving him the ability to control it with his thoughts. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Google To Use Nanoparticles, Wearables To Detect Disease

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Google X wants to improve modern medicine with nanoparticles and a wearable device. It's all an attempt to tackle disease detection and prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Can Drinking Milk Lead To Early Death?

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) Researchers in Sweden released a study showing heavy milk drinkers face an increased mortality risk from a variety of causes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins