Weekend Reading – Thanksgiving Edition


It’s Thanksgiving! Here’s a quick list of some links of interest. If this is your long weekend, enjoy!

Science and Medicine

Most Publicly Available Clinical Trial Outcomes Are Incomplete:

As the debate over disclosing clinical trial data intensifies, a new study finds that publicly available sources do not contain the same detailed information about patient outcomes that can be found in the case study reports most drugmakers do not want to disclose.

This is concerning: Science reporter spoofs hundreds of open access journals with fake papers:

The goal was to create a credible but mundane scientific paper, one with such grave errors that a competent peer reviewer should easily identify it as flawed and unpublishable. Submitting identical papers to hundreds of journals would be asking for trouble.

Alternatives to Medicine

This is excellent, my favourite post of the week: The Dangers of Pseudoscience:

Still, one may reasonably object, what’s the harm in believing in Qi and related notions, if in fact the proposed remedies seem to help? Well, setting aside the obvious objections that the slaughtering of turtles might raise on ethical grounds, there are several issues to consider. To begin with, we can incorporate whatever serendipitous discoveries from folk medicine into modern scientific practice, as in the case of the willow bark turned aspirin. In this sense, there is no such thing as “alternative” medicine, there’s only stuff that works and stuff that doesn’t.

That herbal supplement may not be what you think it is, scientists find:

Some products contained fillers like wheat or rice that were not listed on the label. Some were contaminated with other plant species that could have caused toxicity or triggered allergic reactions. And still others contained no trace of the substance the bottle purported to contain.

Acute Hepatitis and Liver Failure Following the Use of a Dietary Supplement Intended for Weight Loss or Muscle Building:

Thus far, clinicians have reported 45 patients to the Hawaii DOH in response to a public health alert. Of those, 29 patients, including the original seven, were confirmed to have acute hepatitis after using a nutritional supplement for weight loss or muscle building.

The End for CCSVI: Research is “Consistent with the null hypothesis”:

The notion that CCSVI causes MS has always been a dubious hypothesis. It seems implausible that decades of research showing MS to be an autoimmune disease would all be wrong, and that a vascular surgeon who is not an MS specialist would discover the true vascular cause of MS. Despite this lack of plausibility, the hypothesis was seriously researched. Early results did not replicate Zamboni’s original claims (calling the quality of the data into question), but did give mixed results with an aggregate small positive correlation. This pattern of results, however, is consistent with the null hypothesis that there is no real phenomenon here.

Horrific, and self-explanatory: Call for age limit after chiropractor breaks baby’s neck

From the awesome Dr. Jen Gunter: Is thermography a valid tool for breast cancer screening or snake oil?

Depressing and not surprising: Canadian municipalities often more likely to listen to activists than scientific facts:

According to Bad Science Watch, a newly formed group devoted to rooting out false science in public policy, the issue is one of scientific literacy. “Smaller communities have little if any scientific staff, beyond the local officer of health, and therefore cannot defer to the consensus on these issues,” said board member Michael Kruse. As a result, councillors “are more easily swayed by the subtle yet specious arguments offered by organized groups of anti-science protesters.”

Statement on chelation therapy: This is excellent, from the Oregon Medical Board. If only these kinds of statements from medical and pharmacy regulators were more common:

Chelation therapy is a proven treatment for heavy metal poisoning, including lead poisoning.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Medicine, the American Medical Association, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Heart Association, there is no scientific evidence that chelation therapy is an effective treatment for any medical condition other than heavy metal toxicity.  In addition, the potential risks are serious, including toxicity, kidney damage, irregular heartbeat, bone damage, loss of vitamins and minerals or death.  Relying on this treatment alone and avoiding or delaying evidence-based medical care for conditions other than heavy metal poisoning may pose serious health risks.

Pharmacy Practice

Is your drug manufactured in India? There is good reason to be concerned: India is flooding the world with tainted drugs — and getting away with it:

After removing falsified samples, which were obviously counterfeited (they had no active ingredients, and the packaging was flawed), just over 5 percent of products failed quality-control tests. There is no evidence to suggest these samples were not made in India by the supposedly reputable firms identified on the labels. (More detailed data analysis can be found here.)  To put this finding in human terms: Given that probably over 100 million people around the world take Indian drugs every week, if one in 20 of those drugs doesn’t work, millions of patients are not taking the medicines they need.

Emphasis added

Also see The Economist’s take on Ranbaxy:

In May the company hoped to put its troubles behind it, by agreeing to a $500m settlement with the US Department of Justice. Ranbaxy admitted that, among other things, it had invented safety data for some of its medicines. The company’s chief executive, Arun Sawhney, declared at the time that “Today’s announcement marks the resolution of this past issue.”But new ones keep arising. America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) imposed the ban on medicines from the firm’s new plant, at Mohali in Punjab, after its inspectors found fault with its manufacturing processes. It is the FDA’s third ban on a Ranbaxy plant in five years.


Idiots believing idiots: Measles makes a comeback in Alberta:

“If you have never seen the destructiveness of polio, or have never heard of a child dying from measles, then it’s easy to believe scare-mongers who fight vaccinations.” “Thanks to idiots believing idiots these diseases have made a come back.”

If You Distrust Vaccines, You’re More Likely to Think NASA Faked the Moon Landings.  A new study finds that conspiracy beliefs tie together those who deny climate change, refuse vaccines, and question GMOs.


Diets and Nutrition

20 points of broad scientific consensus on GE crops

Study: Eating Lots of Plant Foods Lowers Breast Cancer Risk

Dietary supplement industry says “no” to more information for consumers (again):

Once again, the dietary supplement industry is fighting efforts to give consumers more information about the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements. Big Supp is very clever. It sells consumers on the phony idea that they need dietary supplements for good health. Even as the evidence continues to mount that consumers don’t need supplements and shouldn’t take them, the industry continues to convince the public otherwise. And in 2011 they raked in $30 billion.

Paleo has jumped the shark from the excellent James Fell:

Yes, paleo is nothing but a marketing gimmick, and a damn effective one judging by how many it has sucked in. I should mention I have an MBA a dozen years of sales and marketing experience. I know a scam when I see one.

Also from James Fell, a great post where he grades his hate mail:

But that word “holistic.” Damn. It pisses me off that it’s been co-opted by the friggin’ quacks. Did you read the article that prompted such hate? You really should, because it explains my love-hate relationship with this word. I’ve read the work of plenty of holistic nutritionists, and there is a boatload of quackery going on.

Is everything they prescribe crap? Of course not. Focusing on unprocessed food is a great idea. It’s all the fear-mongering and supplement pushing and demonizing of food groups and repudiation of science that annoys me. These guys embrace alternative medicine, and a lot of that stuff is just plain old bullshit. If you disagree, and are a lover of alternative medicine, man are you ever reading the wrong website. Go be gullible some place else.

You don’t really need to click, do you? Is red palm oil as “miraculous” as Dr. Oz says?.  Also see my take on red palm oil.

I really like this post: Fed Up with Food Fear-Mongering, who calls out the MO of the naturopath and the nutritionist:

Vilifying individual foods or nutrients in the name of feigned health promotion, or food fear-mongering as I call it, is a big, big problem. It does NOT make people healthier, nor does it promote the healthy relationship with food that is so crucial for long-term success with dietary health and weight control.

Other stuff

Colour runs are a faux-charity scam. Read it for the comments.

Great profile of the awesome ZDoggMD: The Doctor-Rapper and CEO Who Intend to Fix Healthcare.

Photo via martha_chapa95 used under a CC licence.

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