The Trojan Horse of “Integrative Medicine” arrives at the University of Toronto

Trojan Rabbit
Medicine is a collaborative practice. Hospitals are the best example, where dozens of different health professionals work cooperatively, sharing responsibilities for patient care. Teamwork is essential, and that’s why health professionals obtain a large part of their education on the job, in teaching (academic) hospitals. The only way that all of these different professions are able to work together effectively is that their foundations are based on an important, yet simple, principle. All of us have education and training grounded in basic scientific principles of medicine. Biochemistry, pharmacology, physiology – we all work from within the same framework. As a pharmacist, my role might include working with physicians and nurses to manage and monitor medication use. A team approach is only possible when you’re working from the same playbook, and with the same aim. And in medicine, that playbook is science.

That’s why “integrative” medicine frightens me so much. Integrative medicine is a tactic embedding complementary and alternative medical practices into conventional medical care. Imagine “integrating” a practitioner into the health system that doesn’t accept germ theory. Or basic disease definitions. Or the effectiveness of vaccines. Or even basic biochemistry – perhaps they believe in treatments that restore the body’s “vital force” or manipulate some sort of “energy fields”. Instead of relying on objective signs and symptoms, they base treatments on pre-scientific beliefs, long discarded from medicine. There may be entirely different treatment goals, which are potentially antagonistic to the scientific standard. Imagine a hospital or academic setting where this occurs, and the potential impact on the quality of care that is delivered. Continue reading

Autism Quackfest Hits the Media

It was bound to happen. And I’m glad to have done my part. I’ve been blogging since August about the questionable judgment of the SickKids Foundation for their support of rank pseudoscience at the upcoming AutismOne Conference, Changing the Course of Autism.

It’s now a national story in Canada. Tom Blackmore, of the National Post, weighs in today: Controversial autism conference got funds from Sick Kids

A branch of Toronto’s renowned Hospital for Sick Children is being criticized for funding an autism conference whose organizers champion the discredited belief that childhood immunization causes the neurological disorder.

The event – to start on Saturday at the University of Toronto medical sciences building – also includes presentations that some experts are calling unproven science, promoting such alternative treatments for autism as homeopathy and hyperbaric oxygen chambers.

Organized by the American group AutismOne and Austism Canada, the meeting has received $5,000 in funding from SickKids Foundation, the hospital’s fundraising wing.

Blogs designed to expose practitioners of dubious science have railed against the event for the past two months, questioning why a respected health-care institution would offer its support to a group that considers vaccination of children a health risk.

“The name of Sick Kids is worth more to them than the money: it is a stamp of legitimacy”

“Sick Kids hospital has some of the world’s most renowned autism researchers. I suspect most of them would not be thrilled by the fact that SickKids Foundation is supporting this conference.”

The full story is here.

As I blogged about this last week over at the Skeptic North blog, with content this dubious,  you’d expect science-based organizations to stay far, far away. Sadly, the SickKids Foundation, with their “neutral stance” towards pseudoscience, is a confirmed sponsor. And now they’re facing well-deserved scrutiny.

The Post also has a nice piece on the role that bloggers played: Blogs raise the alarm on autism conference. Skeptic North, Respectful Insolence, and Sandwalk are all mentioned. Science-Based Pharmacy isn’t mentioned…but that’s OK. I’m happy to see some well-deserved publicity for Skeptic North and its team of writers.  (The Post says I run the Skeptic North blog – that’s incorrect. To be clear, Steve Thoms is Skeptic North’s editor).

I’m pleased to see the media questioning the propagation and sponsorship of pseudoscience. As I blogged about earlier this week, the antivaccination rhetoric is peaking, with the arrival of the H1N1 vaccine. Why the SickKids Foundation would support anti-vaccination organizations, that will only lead to more sick kids, continues to escape me.

What’s Happening to Pharmacy Continuing Education at the University of Toronto?

A few weeks ago I blogged about an upcoming “Natural Health Products” symposium that’s being held at the University of Toronto’s Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.  The agenda raises a number of skeptical red flags, including topics like the efficacy of herbals for H1N1,and natural health products for menopausal symptoms (which I’ve called the power of placebo). The last presentation is the most questionable, with topics like “adrenal fatigue” as a consequence of chronic pain (adrenal fatigue is not an accepted medical condition). The biggest giveaway that this program may not be science-based is the mention of homeopathy as a “treatment option” for chronic pain. Continue reading

When universities sell their name and let the pseudoscience in

One step forward…

Well it seems our feedback to the University of Toronto about the upcoming Autism One conference has had an effect. As I noted earlier, Autism One is hosting a conference on autism in Toronto in October. The original brochure listed boldly that the conference was being presented with the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Understandably concerned, I, along with many of you, contacted the university to register our concerns. Why would a school of public health support a program that touts dubious biomedical treatments for autism, and the ultimate quackery, homeopathy? Continue reading

The University of Toronto Embraces Autism Quackery

U of T

Well, it seems that quackademic medicine is being embraced by my alma mater, the University of Toronto. Yesterday someone tipped me off to a program hosted by the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and sponsored by the SickKids Foundation of the Hospital for Sick Children.

The program is the AutismOne/Autism Canada Conference, “Changing the Course of Autism In Canada” [PDF], October 31/November 1, 2009.  As detailed by blogger Orac at the Respectful Insolence Blog: Continue reading