Thursday, September 1, 2011

Are all ‘CAMs’ Elixirs and Snake Oil?

CAM is short for ‘complimentary and alternative medicine’.

Ed Meyertholen, our resident guru, has recommended the following book to me.

Snake Oil Science:  The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine by R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D.
In Ed’s email, he commented:  It does an excellent job ofbook-SnakeOilScience explaining the research method and the difficulties of planning a research study, especially with regard to clinical trials.  You may find it enlightening.
The subject is very interesting … especially the placebo effect.  I have mentioned it a few times when reporting on my dutasteride trial.  Because I am also a believer in certain alternative medicines including acupressure and Reiki, it should prove an interesting read.
The book was published in late 2007.  You can buy it new for  $12.76 or used for as little as $4.26 + shipping.  The book description includes the following:
… Here is not only an entertaining critique of the strangely zealous world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) belief and practice, but it also a first-rate introduction to how to correctly interpret scientific research of any sort. Readers will come away with a solid understanding of good vs. bad research practice and a healthy skepticism of claims about the latest miracle cure, be it St. John's Wort for depression or acupuncture for chronic pain.
A review from Publishers Weekly:
snake-oil(Found on Amazon) A biostatistician, author and Senior Research Methodologist at the University of Maryland, Bausell looks at the alternative methods used by more than 36 percent of Americans to treat pain and illness by posing the question, "Is any complementary and alternative medical therapy more effective than a placebo?" … A breakdown of the placebo effect's hows and whys follows (are people hardwired for susceptibility?), along with a look at "high-quality studies" and "systematic reviews" (including an Italian study that finds natural opioid secretion in the brain responsible for the perceived benefits of placebos) which largely support Bausell's answer. Entertaining and informative, with plenty of diverting anecdotal examples, Bausell offers non-professionals and pros a thorough look at the science on CAM, along with a complementary lesson in the methods of good medical research. 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Other reviews from the book’s webpage:

"Readable, entertaining and immensely educational...[Bausell] writes with a sense of humor and palpable compassion for all involved."--New York Times

"Anyone who reads Bausell's rigorous scientific analysis of the risks and benefits of complementary and alternative medicine will be left wondering why they are spending so much on so many useless products."--Jerome P. Kassirer, M.D., Tufts University School of Medicine, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, New England Journal of Medicine

"The book is aimed at the consumer, and it is written in a simple,
Elixirs entertaining style such that the consumer will understand it and enjoy reading it. So the consumer should and, I'm sure, will buy this book. But in addition I would also warmly recommend it to healthcare professionals who work in CAM or have an interest in this area. They will not easily find a harder hitting, more eloquent, or smarter critique of CAM!"--Edzard Ernst, M.D., Ph.D., Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, UK

I have added Ed’s recommendation to my reading list and will probably buy the Kindle Edition if my library doesn’t stock it. 
  • If you have read the book, please let me know your thoughts. 
  • Have you had any positive or negative experiences with CAMs?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to comment. By taking a moment to share your thoughts you add much to these articles. The articles then become more than just something I said or believe. In addition, by adding a comment, you might just be helping the next reader by sharing your opinion, experience, or a helpful tip. You can comment below or by sending me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.