Natural, Herbal Products Contain Pharmaceuticals

April 8, 2009 at 5:16 pm (Bad Science, Supplements) (, , , , )


Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before, but I’ve just seen a link to yet another report of natural/herbal pills containing pharmaceuticals. Read the rest of this entry »

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Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine – dangerous

March 26, 2008 at 4:29 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Remedies) (, , , , , , , )

There has been a reported case of poisoning by herbal remedy. This has been discussed on the Bad Science forum and was also reported in an online news article that featured on Ben Goldacre’s Miniblog. I can’t see a report of this case on the herbal remedies page at whats the harm yet, but hopefully it will soon be up there – I’ve just submitted it. I’ve looked before at dubious herbal remedies and linked to some systematic reviews – like this one for individualised herbal medicine. The review is by R Guo, P H Canter and E Ernst and includes the following quote (my emphasis) –

Individualised herbal medicine, as practised in European medical herbalism, Chinese herbal medicine and Ayurvedic herbal medicine, has a very sparse evidence base and there is no convincing evidence that it is effective in any indication. Because of the high potential for adverse events and negative herb–herb and herb–drug interactions, this lack of evidence for effectiveness means that its use cannot be recommended.

Not only is there insufficient evidence that individualised herbal medicine is effective, but there is also a chance that the medicine(s) you take will be dangerous. Is it worth the risk?

UPDATE: has covered this story as well.

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More Whinging about the BBC

March 19, 2008 at 12:33 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Media, Remedies) (, , , , , , , )

Following on from my whining and moaning about the BBC not giving details of a paper on a pentaherbs formulation for eczema, I sent an email. I complained that there had been at least two health/science stories recently that were so devoid of detail it was difficult to track down the papers that the news reports had been based on (“I’ve been unimpressed with recent coverage of science/health stories – particularly the lack of detail. For example, failing to include the study author’s name”). I also complained about the selective reporting of positive findings and the omission of any negative findings in the BBC report on herbs for eczema (“Initially, I was disappointed by the lack of detail in your report. On reading the original papers, I was further disappointed by the selective reporting of the papers by the BBC”). The Health Editor of the BBC website replied:

Many thanks for your message. As the is site intended for lay readers, it is our editorial policy not to give specific references to pieces in journals, as is the practice in national newspapers.  In both instances the name of the journal and research institution is featured prominently in the story.  In addition, we provide web links to the relevant journals.

I replied to the BBC’s email as follows:

Thanks for your response. I still feel it would be helpful (even to lay readers such as myself) if details such as the author’s name were given, as this makes it easier to search for the paper(s) that a news story is based on. A proper reference to the paper in question would be even better.

Can I also ask why the BBC reported on the positive findings of the papers (the improvement in ‘quality of life’ and the reduced use of medication), but ignored the negative aspects (the increased risk of adverse events in the TCHM group and the greater improvement in SCORAD scores in the placebo group)?

As somebody has pointed out to me, references provide a way of instantly checking the facts behind a story. It feels patronising to effectively be told that lay readers don’t need references / can’t understand academic papers and, given the BBC’s recent reporting of academic papers, I don’t think that the BBC are best placed to decide who can or cannot understand a scientific paper.

I’d like the BBC to include proper references to the academic papers they report on. Failing that, brief details such as the author’s name would at least give us a clue. Lay reader or not, if I can’t be trusted with details of the original paper then how can I see if a report is accurate? It does seem to me to be a very patronising attitude, “our reporters read the papers – so you don’t have to”. I hope I’m being over-sensitive and this is not actually the BBC’s intention.

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I can read it!

March 14, 2008 at 1:43 pm (Bad Science, Media, Remedies) (, , , , , , )

Right – I’ve probably got this completely wrong.*

Following yesterday’s whinge about not being able to read a study that the Beeb had reported on, some kind soul has emailed me the PDFs of the studies that the BBC seem to be basing their news report on. I’m really not qualified** to comment on the TCHM papers, but here are some observations/questions anyway: Read the rest of this entry »

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Why can’t I read it?

March 13, 2008 at 5:49 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Media, Remedies) (, , , , , )

Right – I’ve probably got this completely wrong. I must have clicked on the wrong link or something. There must be something I’m missing here. No decent media outlet would report on something that cannot be checked. Would they? Read the rest of this entry »

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Does Woo Work?

February 29, 2008 at 10:08 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Dawkins, Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy, Remedies, Supplements, Woo) (, , , , , , , , , )

I have previously asked “What’s Woo Worth?“. My earlier post looked at the profits to be made from herbal medicine, homeopathy and supplements. This post takes a quick look at the evidence for the same categories of woo. Read the rest of this entry »

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