A Rough Guide to Evidence-Based Medicine

May 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm (Evidence, Miscellaneous) (, , , , , , , , , , )

On the unimpressiveness of personal anecdotes and the usefulness of clinical evidence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Papers for Skeptics

August 11, 2011 at 3:42 pm (Miscellaneous) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I’m sure everyone has favourite research articles (please tell me it’s not just me). I thought I’d share some of mine. Most are available as free full text, but there are a few where I link to an abstract. Some links will open in PDF, but I’ve tried to make these obvious in the post. I think I’ve saved copies of each paper where full text was available, so if a link to the full text of a paper dies and you can’t get hold of it elsewhere do feel free to email me or leave a comment below and ask for a copy. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Placebo Effect In 60 Seconds

January 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm (Placebo) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In which I attempt to explain a phenomenon I do not understand. Within an arbitrary time limit. Read the rest of this entry »

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Risks of CAM Part One: Nocebo

August 25, 2010 at 6:30 pm (Alternative Medicine, Chiropractic, Nutritionism, Patrick Holford, Placebo) (, , , , , , , )

Risk of adverse effects from (mis)information

As well as relying on the placebo effect when making claims of the efficacy of their therapies, those providing alternative treatments may also be aided by something akin to the nocebo effect. If you tell healthy people they are sick (or sick people that they are sicker than they thought), it may be possible to induce the perception of symptoms that you can later claim to have resolved. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Beginner’s Guide To Homeopathy

December 5, 2009 at 3:52 pm (Beginner's Guides, Homeopathy) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The latest in an occasional series looks at homeopathy.

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The Powerful Placebo

November 13, 2009 at 10:32 pm (Placebo) (, , , , , )

I sometimes hear (or read) about the “power of placebo” – there are academic papers that examine the placebo effect, there is a book titled “The Powerful Placebo: From Ancient Priest to Modern Physician“, and there are news stories about the power of placebo (there is this recent article, for example, that refers to “the magical power of placebo” in reference to $25 necklaces popular with some sportsmen).

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Acupuncture Works. According to the BBC’s Headline.

January 23, 2009 at 9:30 pm (Alternative Medicine, Bad Science, Placebo) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

The BBC has reported on an acupuncture study. Here, the headline is “Acupuncture ‘works for headaches'”. Oh dear. Smart Bombs has written a cracking post on the reporting of this study in the mainstream media and linked to the Guardian and the BBC reports. Read the rest of this entry »

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“It would be unethical to have a control group”

November 20, 2008 at 6:28 pm (Bad Science) (, , )

This is something I’ve heard a few times now. Read the rest of this entry »

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Allergy Alternatives – NLP

October 17, 2008 at 5:15 pm (Alternative Medicine, Dangerously Wrong, Placebo, Woo) (, , , , , , )

A reader named Claire recently left a comment on my blog that included a link to Allergy Alternatives. I was surprised to see that they claimed to relearn your immune system by having a nice chat with you. I dropped them a line to find out more.

Dear Allergy Alternatives,

I was interested to read your website, featuring statements to the effect that you can provide an allergy treatment that is effective without
any drugs or supplements, that you help “re-educate [the] immune system”, and that the treatment “educates your immune system with the news that the allergen is not harmful“.

The treatment is apparently along these lines: “The process is largely conversational. We will discuss your allergy and its possible causes. You will explore any attachments that you may have acquired, ensuring that you are ready and eager to let this behaviour go. Using the power of your imagination through enhanced visualisation we will teach your immune system a new response.

Please can you send me further detail of how discussing an allergy with someone can teach their immune system to respond differently to the allergen? I would like this because I am interested in the actual mechanism of action of your treatment.

I would also like to see references to the trials that you or others have published which refer to the effectiveness of your treatment. I ask for these references because I would like to see what kind of clinical evidence you have for efficacy.

Kind regards,
Mr X.

Since sending this initial email, I’ve been pondering that someone out there would apparently tell people with genuine allergies that they can simply wish them away. Not only does it feel weird that they seem to be suggesting that allergies are something that you can wish upon yourself or wish away, but it seems to me it could be dangerous to tell someone you have relearnt their immune system as they could easily assume that this would mean they no longer had to take their antihistamines – or, in the worst case scenario, that someone with a serious allergy could be led to believe that it was safe for them to throw away their EpiPen. Now that I’ve spent five minutes thinking on these lines, I’m left wondering what the hell Allergy Alternatives are thinking. I have drafted a new email to ask whether they tell people with genuine allergies to maintain their prescription and keep hold of their EpiPen (not to mention continuing to see their GP). Reproduced below with original spelling.


Further to my previous email, I would also like to know if Allergy Alternatives advises patients to keep up their prescriptions of antihistamines and to continue to carry an EpiPen (if requried) and maintain contact with their GP?

Mr X.

ETA: link.

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Langer and Crum – Exercise and the Placebo Effect. Or: Advice improves physical measures of health? WTF?

October 3, 2008 at 8:38 pm (Bad Science, Placebo) (, , )

Ben Goldacre wrote about a study performed by Alia Crum and Ellen Langer in his book Bad Science. This study also featured on the Bad Science blog, and the story goes something like Read the rest of this entry »

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