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 December 17, 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 December 17, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

Flu Outbreak Closing Schools in Ohio

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) A wave of flu illnesses has forced some Ohio schools to shut down over the past week. State officials confirmed one pediatric flu-related death, a 15-year-old girl in southern Ohio. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
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