Some alt-med quickies

By Phil Plait | July 26, 2009 8:00 am

Hey, how about some good news on the alternative medicine front? Well, I’ve got some, along with some setbacks. But it’s mostly positive…

1) From Orac: a homeopath is tapped to run the UK’s Lymphoma Association? Note to self: do NOT get sick with in London for TAM UK in October. Holy crap.

2) The Lancaster (Ohio) Eagle-Gazette ran a pro-vax op-ed piece. Good on them!

3) Autism Speaks has had two high-profile resignations this year, both because the organization refuses to accept the overwhelming evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism.

4) More bad press for the Australian antivaxxers, who have been so successful that people Down Under — including at least one baby — have been dying. This particular page was sent to me by David McCaffery. Yes, that David McCaffery.

4) The Onion weighs in on herbal remedies. "So my idiot friends who have never been to medical school don’t know what they’re talking about?" Awesome.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Antiscience

Comments (35)

Links to this Post

  1. The Nerdies 2010 – Semi-finals « The Skeptic Detective | February 1, 2010
  1. Mother Jones also had an article.
    Here’s the link to the article (pending moderation)
    The antivaxers are busy in the comments section. (Me, too.. at least for ToddW)
    J/P=?

  2. Gary Ansorge

    AH, anti vaxers, hopefully a dying species,,,.

    Now if we could just get Oprah to disavow Jenny,,,

    GAry 7

  3. Gary, if we could just get Oprah to shut up… period!

  4. Y’know what really burns my toast about these woo-woos? It’s the fact that their “movement” is doing irreparable damage to the efforts of people — at least here in the States — who are concerned about the pharmaceutical industry rushing products to market without sufficient FDA testing (while, of course, the FDA — or the “Failure to Do Anything”, as I call ‘em — looks the other way) and, upon finding insufficient uptake to enhance their profits, decides to bum-rush city and state governments into mandating vaccinations with insufficiently-tested products (witness the explosion in direct marking to consumers of prescription drugs — and the attendant blitz of “ask your doctor” ads with acres of “fine print” about possible side effect — in the past decade or so).

    In Georgia (iirc) and here in DC, there’s been considerable controversy over a vaginal-infection vaccine — can’t remember what it’s called — that its manufacturer tried to stampede legislators and city councils into making mandatory for young girls, except that as the news started leaking out about the side effects of the vaccine, which was apparently hustled through inadequate testing, people started raising hell, and the plan was scuttled here in DC (don’t recall about elsewhere).

    Sadly, I didn’t bookmark the links to press reports at the time, so I don’t have all the gory details. What really gripes my ass here is that legitimate concerns about Big Pharma’s disregard for safety in favor of profitability — and Big Pharma’s corresponding efforts to force people to become their customers — is being totally snowed under by all the unfounded freaking out over autism by the Jenny McCarthy crowd.

  5. Y’know what really burns my toast about these woo-woos? It’s the fact that their “movement” is doing irreparable damage to the efforts of people — at least here in the States — who are concerned about the pharmaceutical industry rushing products to market without sufficient FDA testing (while, of course, the FDA — or the “Failure to Do Anything”, as I call ‘em — looks the other way) and, upon finding insufficient uptake to enhance their profits, decides to bum-rush city and state governments into mandating vaccinations with insufficiently-tested products (witness the explosion in direct marking to consumers of prescription drugs — and the attendant blitz of “ask your doctor” ads with acres of “fine print” about possible side effect — in the past decade or so).

    In Georgia (iirc) and here in DC, there’s been considerable controversy over a vaginal-infection vaccine — can’t remember what it’s called — that its manufacturer tried to stampede legislators and city councils into making mandatory for young girls, except that as the news started leaking out about the side effects of the vaccine, which was apparently hustled through inadequate testing, people started raising hell, and the plan was scuttled here in DC (don’t recall about elsewhere).

    Sadly, I didn’t bookmark the links to press reports at the time, so I don’t have all the gory details. What really gripes my ass here is that legitimate concerns about Big Pharma’s disregard for safety in favor of profitability — and Big Pharma’s corresponding efforts to force people to become their customers — is being totally snowed under by all the unfounded freaking out over autism by the Jenny McCarthy crowd.

  6. Here’s something mighty as well.

    California is likely axing their Naturopathy board:

    http://naturocrit.blogspot.com/2009/07/ca-likely-eliminating-their-gov.html

    Would be nice to see that go.

    -r.c.

  7. I, like Phil, truly feel the number 4 is underutilized.

    4 4 4 4 4

    See how it makes you happy to use it? Try it, bretheren, become 1 with 4.

  8. Alan

    Phil, thanks for bringing this up about Autism Speaks…they were the “please donate to us at the checkout” charity at a local grocery store (QFC), and I’ve probably donated to them a couple of times. Now at least I know to send my money somewhere else, so it might actually help somebody.

  9. Brian

    I think all of your good-news roundup posts should finish with a link to the Onion from now on.

  10. You don’t need 4…

    if you are using the “holy hand grenade”,

    “four shall thou NOT count.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOrgLj9lOwk

    -r.c.

  11. Ick of the East

    This will make your day:
    Mitchell & Webb Homeopath A&E
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0

  12. It’s amazing. I read the articles you linked to, Phil, and the first one I looked at (the Eagle-Gazette) has an A-Ver who states no facts, but calls the good Dr. Pope disingenuous, among other things.

    Why do people believe this stuff with such fervor? All the information they need is available to them. Do they just want to distrust science and scientists?

    Or are we, as a race, just too scared these days to believe anything based on facts?

  13. Mike Wagner

    Interesting bit about homeopathy…
    It doesn’t seem to work on dogs: http://bit.ly/MwL1a

    Maybe someone should explain to them that they’re supposed to get better first.

  14. Amber

    One of the things that always gets me about these controversies is how vile the rumors can be. Truly, nothing puts the most toxic and horrid aspects of human nature on display than emotionally charged subject matter. (statement in response to all of the foul lies and accusations the McCaffery’s have had to endure concerning the death of their baby.)

    Basically it goes like this: You disagree with me or display evidence not in a agreement with my dearly held ideals, therefore I have the right to vomit forth the most noxious untruths about you, your ordeals, your friends, your family, your livelihood, etc. When your brain operates that far removed from reality, I guess it knows no shame either.

  15. ccpetersen

    Amber — it’s not just anti-vaxxers. Right-wingers and fundy evangelists are the same way — essentially their attitude is “believe as we do” or “vote as we do” (or “love the way we do”) or we’ll tell horrible things about you in the name of our god/political leader/cult leader… it really gets old after awhile.

    Spare me from “one-true-wayism”…

  16. JB of Brisbane

    @daijiyobu -

    Five… IS RIGHT OUT!!!

  17. For an example just how despicable, obnoxious and lacking in compassion some of these antivaxxers are wander over to Dr Rachies blog

    http://www.scepticsbook.com/2009/06/18/toni-mccaffery-has-had-enough/

    and check out the comments from Bernice L.

    http://www.scepticsbook.com/2009/06/18/toni-mccaffery-has-had-enough/#comment-2926

  18. Gonzo

    That third guy (Dan Cummings) in The Onion article looks suspiciously like John Bolton. Heehee. Wouldn’t surprise me at all, actually. I love The Onion so much, it makes funny cool again.

  19. LukeL

    Call me crazy, but I only trust medications that have been on the market for decades. I trust my beta blocker because there are literally millions of patient years of data to look at, where as with new classes of drugs it can take ten or more years to notice any dangerous trends.

    Big drug companies aren’t all evil but because a couple of their products (vaccines included) are rushed through clinical trials, it makes people think all drugs are bad.

    The polio, mmr, dpt, and other generations old vaccines are safe and effective. This new swine flu one may be dangerous, we will just have to wait and see.

  20. SamC

    Here’s a London based Australian musician/comedian talking about alt-med.
    It’s pretty funny.
    WARNING: Strong language

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujUQn0HhGEk

  21. Stone Age Scientist

    Warning: The following content has not been appoved! 通知:以下內容未收到批准

    But of course. Hahahahaha!!

  22. Lawrence

    Wow – and I thought some of our drive-by anti-vax’ers were nutjobs.

  23. Bob

    As the parent of two autistic children, I was very happy when someone with clout and the ability to get a message out founded Autism Speaks. But I can’t have anything to do with them, unfortunately, because of this stupid anti-vax viewpoint.

    They went from potentially helpful, to harmful that fast.

  24. I need some help, please, oh fabulous BA commenters!

    I’m an English teacher with an interest in science, although I have no actual science CREDENTIALS. At a workshop this past summer, I met a very nice woman who was a labor and delivery nurse instructor (so she taught other people to be labor and delivery nurses and was also one herself).

    The only problem I had with this person that she was an antivaxxer, which just burned my butt, but since we weren’t there to discuss those issues and I didn’t ever talk to her outside of class, I kept my comments to myself, not wanting to derail excellent discussions about teaching writing.

    During a five-minute break, I overheard her talking to some of the other participants about childhood vaccinations, and I was appalled to discover that she was an antivaxxer. She expressed her opinions to the others with energy and conviction, and I could see that she had changed or informed their opinions, as I later heard comments like, “I’m agreeing with her; she’s a nurse, so she MUST know what she’s talking about.”

    As an English teacher, I had no rebuttal for this argument from authority, and would like to have something intelligent to say the next time I encounter such silliness – any advice?

  25. @CelticGoddess1326,

    There are several ways to deal with an antivaxxer in a crowd. Arm yourself with solid, factual information. Todd W. (one of the regulars here) has a website that is a great place to start: antiantivax.flurf.net (or click my name for the link.)

    Secondly, prepare yourself for the ugly truth that some people cannot be persuaded by calm, logical discussion. They think the louder they are, the more right they are. If you can maintain your composure, you will come across as the more intellectual one, and you will more likely get those who are undecided to listen.

    Ask for specific details, and continue to ask if they try to avoid the question or change to another topic. Ask for real clinical studies or articles from a peer-reviewed journal that back up the person’s claims. You will find that most of the anti-vax crowd rely heavily on anecdotal stories instead of actual physical evidence.

    And don’t let a person’s job or position have any bearing whatsoever on their claims. Make them back it up with fact.

    You say you are an English teacher. If you were to tell me the proper parts of speech in this sentence, should I believe you just because you’re a teacher? Or rather, should I believe you because you have facts to back it up? My BS detectors went off the minute you said she was a labor and delivery nurse. What does childbirth have to do with clinical testing of vaccines? Has she performed medical studies on the polio vaccine, or measles, or small pox? Is she stating information she learned in medical school, or did she participate in one of the hundreds of studies you can find on the CDC’s website regarding vaccine safety and efficacy?

    More than likely, she is well practiced in preaching her personal beliefs to those who are most likely to agree with her, and has rarely been challenged to provide actual proof of her claims. The more people she tells, and the more they agree with her, the more right she believes she is. What scares the bejeebus out of me, is that in her position, she could be teaching others to teach others that vaccines are more harmful to children that NOT vaccinating them.

    Good luck!

    8)

  26. Mike Wagner

    Sam Harriss on the appointment of Francis Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health:

    http://bit.ly/enNZH

  27. I'd rather be fishin'

    @20
    A very funny and well-spoken guy.

  28. Another (most-likely-a) setback – the current issue of a magazine called Mothering has a lengthy (cover) article on the “vaccine debate.” I work at a public library and happened to notice it while checking in periodicals last week. I didn’t have time to read, but flipping through quickly, based on the embiggened quotes from the article, my sense is that, at minimum, it gave a wide-open forum to the anti-vax nonsense…Also, IIRC, the mag’s tagline says something about “natural parenting”…

  29. @SamC
    When you brought it up I thought it would be Tim Minchin. He has become a bit of a legend. Very very funny guy.
    BTW, the SGU have interviewed him.

  30. @Greg in Austin

    Thanks for the shout out!

    @CelticGoddess1326

    In addition to the info on my site, visit the ones I’ve listed under Additional Resources. The CDC and FDA have a lot of good info on vaccines, as does the AAP. Science-Based Medicine and Respectful Insolence are blogs that have been fighting the anti-vax woo far longer than myself and have lots of great info.

  31. HCN

    unquiet_mind said “Another (most-likely-a) setback – the current issue of a magazine called Mothering has a lengthy (cover) article on the “vaccine debate.” ”

    Actually, that is nothing new. That particular rag has been putting out anti-vaccine articles for years. About sixteen years ago I bought a copy of sMothering and noticed the woo, plus the stupid anti-science in it, including an article on “are vaccines safe”. Ugh. Into the recycle bin it went.

    sMothering is also the same rag that had a photo of HIV-positive Christine Maggiore with a big circle with a slash through “AZT” on her belly, a very pregnant belly waiting the birth of her daughter Eliza Jane, who would die a few years later of AIDS.

    I noticed that my local public library has cut back some of its magazine subscriptions, which happens in this economy. If your library finds it has to save money, suggest they drop sMothering before they drop other more useful magazines like Discover, Scientific American and the Martha Stewart magazine.

  32. Thanks for the link love Phil! My blog hits went through the roof :)

  33. @31 HCN:

    Good to know re the NON-mothering mag. If I had a say, it would be 1st to go.
    (Of course, if I had a say, I wouldn’t still be fuming they cut Ms. last year…)

    Thankfully, we do have Discover and SA, as well as Science News, Popular Science, Sky & Telescope…all which get enough circulation by me alone, they should be safe for now ;-)

    (Erm…Martha Stewart? lol)

    Just for the record, your library may or may not be cutting back voluntarily–magazines are going under by the galaxies. The ‘Magazine Death Pool’ blog (click on my name) is the bomb if you are interested in such things.

  34. HCN

    The Magazine Death Pool does look cool.

    To get a hint on my hobbies, the magazine my local library stopped getting was “Threads”, a Taunton publication. I have to see if they still have “Fine Gardening” and the wood working magazine.

    Oh, and there is a reason I spell that rag “sMothering” … my younger son went to freshman orientation at the university. I went to the one day parent sessions where we were told about the health, finance, housing and counseling programs available to the students. There was more than once where I “voiced” my reaction to a question/comment from a parent by signing “helicopter” and “mother” (especially to the mother who asked why her son needed his own bank account — my son has had a checking account since getting his first real job when he was sixteen). Yep, the sMothers turn into “helicopter parents.”

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