Posts Tagged “pseudomedicine”
Three years ago, I blogged about a California woman who went to court because, she claims, municipal wifi devices made her sick. Well, it seems a family in Massachusetts is playing the same game. As the Worcester Telgram & Gazette reports, they’re suing a private school because its wifi service afflicted their child (WebCite cached article):
The family of a student at the Fay School in Southboro has filed a lawsuit claiming the school’s strong Wi-Fi signal caused the boy to become ill.
The unidentified plaintiffs, referred to as “Mother” and “Father” in the complaint, said their 12-year-old son, “G,” suffers from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome, a condition that is aggravated by electromagnetic radiation. The boy was diagnosed after he frequently experienced headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, and other symptoms while sitting in class after the school installed a new, more powerful wireless Internet system in 2013, the suit says.…
Along with the complaint, the plaintiffs submitted to the court several letters from doctors confirming the adverse health effects the school’s Wi-Fi, which the family says “emits substantially greater radiofrequency/microwave emissions than … more low-grade systems used in most homes,” could be causing illness in a sufferer of EHS.
It’s true that wifi systems intended to service the public, especially on school campuses, are more powerful than home-grade wifi equipment. It has to be, because it needs to reach over a much larger space and accommodate many more devices. To think wifi at a private school can’t be any more powerful than what’s found in homes, is asinine and ridiculous.
As I blogged previously, though, and as the T&G story explains, electrosensivity is not a recognized medical condition. But that’s not for a lack of examination of “EHS,” as the WHO explains:
A number of studies have been conducted where EHS individuals were exposed to EMF similar to those that they attributed to the cause of their symptoms. The aim was to elicit symptoms under controlled laboratory conditions.
The majority of studies indicate that EHS individuals cannot detect EMF exposure any more accurately than non-EHS individuals. Well controlled and conducted double-blind studies have shown that symptoms were not correlated with EMF exposure.
That this family could find “doctors” willing to write letters to the court supporting their EHS claim, doesn’t mean much. If one is willing to pay enough, one can usually find “experts” in almost any field willing to say almost anything about it.
The question isn’t whether one or two — or even 10 or 20 — individual doctors say EHS is real: Rather, it’s whether the medical community as a whole, which is quite large, says it is. At the moment, given the studies done to date, the vast majority of medicine has determined electrosensitivity is pseudoscience — i.e. non-existent and a lie. And that remains true no matter how fervently this family believes otherwise or how many doctors their lawyer can convince to line up behind them.
P.S. None of this means there can’t be any drama associated with electrosensitivity. Michael McKean is great fun to watch as Chuck McGill on Better Call Saul, perhaps the most famous electrosensitive in the country … even if he’s purely fictional.
Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, based on originals by shokunin & johnny_automatic, both via Open Clip Art Library.
Hat tip: Rational Wiki.
, fay school
, southboro MA
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Not that the sanctimonious mommies who make up the rank and file of the antivax movement will give a shit about this, but yet another study has been done on the putative connection between vaccines and autism. And, as CNN reports, once again, the evidence shows there is no connection at all (WebCite cached article):
The vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella doesn’t bring an increased risk of autism, according to a new study of more than 95,000 children.
The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association [cached], is the latest piece of research to debunk the myth associating the MMR vaccine with autism.…
“We found that there was no harmful association between the receipt of the MMR vaccine and the development of an autism spectrum disorder,” said Anjali Jain, a pediatrician at the Lewin Group, a health care consulting firm in Virginia, who worked on the study.
As I said, previously-committed antivaxers won’t accept a word of this. They’ll just whine and wail about how “Big Pharma” did this study because they make billions of dollars forcing dangerous vaccines on tiny children. For the record, “Big Pharma” wasn’t behind this study — the federal government funded it — but I suppose that won’t make a difference for those who already believe there’s an insidious government/corporate conspiracy afoot to make American kids autistic. For committed antivaxxers, there really is no amount of contrary evidence that will dislodge that idea from their heads. That’s because of something known as the backfire effect, a psychological phenomenon in which people actually latch harder onto ideas, once they’ve been shown those ideas are wrong.
It’s unfortunate that all this study will do is simply add to an already-tall pile of evidence that vaccines don’t cause autism. It just means those who lie about vaccines being dangerous, are even worse liars than they were previously. Despite this, we’re likely to have more, not less, outbreaks of measles and other easily-preventable childhood illnesses like the one we had earlier this year (cached). Yes, folks … ignorance, stupidity, and immaturity can, indeed, harm and even kill people needlessly. Sigh.
Hat tip: Skeptic’s Dictionary.
Photo credit: Joe Amon/The Denver Post, via Getty Images via Time.
, autism and vaccines
, childhood diseases
, journal of the american medical association
, mmr vaccine
, vaccines and autism
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I’ve blogged a couple times about the woo and nonsense spewed by the famous “Friend of Oprah” Dr Mehmet Oz. The insipid nonsense he reels off has been questioned both by journalists and by US Senators. But he’s been able to keep his TV show and his jobs at Columbia University … feathers in his cap which grant him more apparent credibility than he deserves (WebCite cached article). The Associated Press reports a number of physicians have petitioned Columbia to remove him due to his pseudomedical advice (cached):
Columbia University has not removed TV celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz from his faculty position as a group of top doctors has demanded, citing his “egregious lack of integrity” for promoting what they call “quack treatments.”
“Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine,” said a letter the 10 physicians sent to a Columbia dean earlier this week. They say he’s pushing “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work.…
The doctors wrote that Oz, for years a world-class Columbia cardiothoracic surgeon, “has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.” They said he has “misled and endangered” the public.
But Columbia clearly has no problem with one of its faculty peddling pseudoscience and gibberish, and refuse to heed this petition:
The New York Ivy League school responded Thursday, issuing a statement to The Associated Press saying only that the school “is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”
Yes, Columbia University thinks “academic freedom” is a license to dole out lies and misinformation. I don’t see those in any definition of the phrase that I’ve been able to find, but they’re the ones who run an ivory tower, so I have to assume they know more about it than I — or the doctors who signed the petition — do.
Let’s face it, the man makes a shitload of money and has a daily nationally-syndicated TV show; he probably attracts a lot of attention for the college. That must be a lot more important than valid science.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: columbia university
, columbia university medical center
, dr mehmet
, dr oz
, mehmet oz
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I’ve blogged a few times about former pastor, Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He’s said some pretty wild and fiercely Christianist things over the years. Until recently his pulpit had been a show of his own on Fox News, but he quit that lucrative job that in order to run for president again.
I guess the guy must now be really hard up for money. As the New York Times reports, this has caused him to remake himself into a snake-oil salesman (WebCite cached article):
In a wood-paneled study lined with books and framed family photos, the prospective presidential candidate looks into the camera. “I’m Mike Huckabee,” he says with all the folksy charm that propelled a career as a preacher, politician and broadcaster.
But this is no campaign ad. It is an Internet infomercial for a dubious diabetes treatment, in which Mr. Huckabee, who is contemplating a run for the Republican nomination in 2016, tells viewers to ignore “Big Pharma” and instead points them to a “weird spice, kitchen-cabinet cure,” consisting of dietary supplements.
“Let me tell you, diabetes can be reversed,” Mr. Huckabee says. “I should know because I did it. Today you can, too.”
The American Diabetes Association and the Canadian Diabetes Association caution against treatments like the one peddled by the company Mr. Huckabee represents.
Most medicos — as well as those with the illness — understand that diabetes is almost always a perpetual illness. If you have it, then you have it; for the most part it can’t be gotten rid of, only controlled. So Shucksabee is promising something that ostensibly he can’t deliver. As the Times explains, his putative remedy for diabetes is a combination of cinnamon (of all things) and chromium picolinate:
In his diabetes video, Mr. Huckabee promotes the “Diabetes Solution Kit,” a $19.95 booklet with advice on eating, exercise and dietary supplements. “Just sit tight,” he says in the two-minute, 40-second pitch, “because in a moment, a free presentation is coming up.” He promises it will reveal “all the natural secrets that are backed by real science that really work.”
But rather than science, the second, lengthier video peddles a diabetes “cure” consisting of cinnamon and chromium picolinate. Both the American Diabetes Association and the Canadian Diabetes Association warn that dietary and herbal supplements are ineffective for treating diabetes, which is an epidemic in the United States and is tied to obesity.
Yeah, I know what the quacks and their apologists will say: That the ADA is shilling for “Big Pharma” and is conspiring with greedy multinational corporations to make people sick in order to make a profit. Shucksabee is something of a medical-informational “freedom fighter” letting people they don’t have to be reeled in by pharmaceutical fraud and disclosing the “secret” to ending their diabetes. (Remarkably, these people screech and rail against “Big Pharma’s” profit motive, yet they happily and eagerly turn a blind eye to sale of these booklets at $19.95 each, not to mention the cinnamon and chromium supplements, which I’m sure are not dispensed for free, either.)
Among the most remarkable revelations in the Times article, is that Shucksabee himself never used the remedy he’s promoting:
Asked this month at an appearance in Iowa if he had used cinnamon and chromium picolinate to reverse his diabetes, he said he had not. “No, I reversed it by taking better care of my health,” he said.
Talk about “things that make you go, ‘hmmmmm’!”
Huckabee’s people claim his contract to peddle pseudomedicine has already concluded, but it’s curious that he was still contracted to do so at the very same time he’d started exploring another presidential run. Why would someone aspiring for such a high office stoop to selling snake-oil booklets? Why would he not have severed that contract at the same time he quit Fox News? It’s positively mind-blowing that he only just got around to ending his snake-oil gig.
In any case, Shucksabee hit the trifecta for suspicious characters: First, he’s a former pastor; second, he’s a former and possibly future politician; third, he’s selling snake-oil. About the only thing that could make this any
better worse would be if he were to start selling used cars.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: 2016 gop primary
, 2016 presidential election
, 2016 republican primary
, chromium picolinate
, diabetes cure
, mike huckabee
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OK, let’s get this out of the way, right from the start: NJ governor Chris Christie and KY Senator Rand Paul are both running for president in 2016. Yeah, I know neither has formally announced it, but clearly both plan to do so, and both are getting all their ducks in a row, doing all the things they need to do in order to get the Republican nomination. So I’m not going to call them “potential candidates” or “presumed candidates” or include any other weasel words or caveats. I’m going to call them “candidates,” because that’s precisely what they are.
Their candidacies probably explain why, as the Washington Post reports, they’ve both veered into antivax territory (WebCite cached article):
Medical experts reacted with alarm Monday as two top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination appeared to question whether child vaccinations should be mandatory — injecting politics into an emotional issue that has taken on new resonance with a recent outbreak of measles in the United States.
First, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, while visiting a vaccine laboratory here, called for “some measure of choice” on whether shots guarding against measles and other diseases should be required for children.
Then, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), an ophthalmologist who is also readying a 2016 campaign, said in two U.S. television interviews that he thinks most vaccines should be voluntary, citing “many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.”
“The state doesn’t own your children,” Paul said on CNBC, praising vaccines for their health benefits but insisting that the government should not mandate their use in most cases. “Parents own the children. And it is an issue of freedom and public health.”
Both used clearly flawed reasoning. First, Christie employed a fallacy:
Christie, however, said Monday that “there has to be a balance, and it depends on what the vaccine is, what the disease type is, and all the rest.”
His appeal to “false balance” — a variety of the more general invalid appeal to moderation — is fallacious because not every issue has two equally valid “sides.” In fact, sometimes, there really is only one “side” to an issue, and all other positions are just flat-out absofuckinglutely wrong — period.
Second, of Sen. Paul’s “parents own the children,” I can only groan. I assume he’s speaking metaphorically and not actually saying parents “own” children, as southern plantation owners once “owned” slaves … but he’s overdramatizing the situation. Parents should rationally be looking out for the welfare of their children. Vaccinating according to prescribed schedules will do that. Refusing to vaccinate kids will not help them. The ability to claim “ownership” of one’s children doesn’t absolve one of the obligation to act in their best interests.
Look, I understand the politics of this. Right now, there’s a large number of Republican voters for whom vaccine opposition has some appeal. They object to “big government” telling them they have to vaccinate their kids, even though it’s usually local school districts telling them to do so. They think, since vaccines are the purview of the CDC, an arm of the federal government, that they’re a tool Barack Hussein Obama is using to implement mind-control over their kids, even though widespread vaccinations predated Obama by decades. Really, I get the appeal to the paranoid wing of the Republican party. But with that said … there’s still no excuse for either of these guys indulging the paranoia. Much better that they just tell people to fucking grow the hell up already and get their kids vaccinated, fercyinoutloud.
Tags: 2016 presidential election
, 2016 republican primary
, anti-vax movement
, antivaccine movement
, antivax movement
, chris christie
, false balance
, rand paul
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I’ve blogged a time or two about Dr Mehmet Oz, aka “Dr Oz.” His friendship with Oprah Winfrey has given him his own TV show and small media empire. Some of his medical advice is fine, however, he occasionally waxes rhapsodic over spurious remedies which — as a physician who heads a program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and who’s on the faculty of Columbia University — he has to know have no meaningful scientific support.
What Dr Oz doesn’t seem to have been aware of previously, and which was the subject of a Senate hearing yesterday, is that his words are grist for the mills of scammers, liars, cheats and con artists. As NBC News reports, Sen. Claire McCaskill in particular confronted him about this problem (WebCite cached article):
Dr. Mehmet Oz, a celebrity doctor who frequently extols weight-loss products on his syndicated television show, got a harsh scolding from several senators on Tuesday at a hearing about bogus diet product ads.
Oz was held up as the power driving many of the fraudulent ads, even as he argued he was himself the victim of the scammers. The hearing is a follow-up to the Federal Trade Commission’s crackdown last January against fake diet products.
“I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true,” Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who chairs a Senate subcommittee on consumer protection, said at the hearing. “So why, when you have this amazing megaphone…why would you cheapen your show by saying things like that?”
Dr Oz’s defense is that he’s giving people “hope”:
Oz, a frequent guest on NBC’s TODAY show, admitted he uses “flowery” language on his shows, and said he realizes that the moment he recommends a product, the scammers use his words to sell spurious products. “I concede to my colleagues at the FTC that I am making their job more difficult,” he said.
But he said he has to be “passionate” to engage his audience. “When we write a script, we need to generate enthusiasm and engage the viewer,” Oz said.…
Oz said the products give people hope to keep trying to lose weight — something almost all experts agree is a very difficult thing to do. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.
Ah. So that makes it all better, I guess. Somehow. The Senator hit back on this point:
McCaskill asked why Oz didn’t use his show to promote what actually has been proven to help people lose weight — careful eating and exercise. “I want to see all that floweriness, all that passion, about the beauty of a walk at sunset,” she said.
“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of a few products that you have called miracles,” she added. “I just don’t understand why you need to go there … You are being made an example of today because of the power you have in this space.”
Of course, it’s not just green coffee bean extract which Dr Oz has touted. He’s pumped other things, too, such as magical pajamas. Yes, you read that right: Pajamas. Note, this recommendation wasn’t a general or generic one, like, “avoid salt” or “eat oranges.” It was a specific recommendation for a single, proprietary product known as “Goodnighties” (cached). Dr Oz also cooked up a weird, pseudo-scientific justification for believing in the claimed magical powers of Theresa Caputo, the so-called Long Island Medium. Pardon me while I laugh at the famed towering intellect of this academic-physician. I’m neither an academic nor a physician, yet I know there are no magical health-granting pajamas, and I also know that no one can talk with the dead.
Having said all of this, Dr Oz wasn’t the only one criticized at this Senate hearing, according to NBC News:
McCaskill also rebuked media companies that run the ads. “I find it troubling that broadcast and satellite radio witnesses who were asked to be here today were unwilling to appear. To me, this indicates that either there is something to hide or they don’t have a good story to tell,” she said.
The Senator has a good point. Media companies happily carry ads and promote shows that they, also, must know promote useless products. But they didn’t have the courage to appear before Congress and defend that practice. Hmm.
Although I’m gratified that the Senate held a hearing to expose this problem, I’d much rather they took meaningful action that would truly make things better. Perhaps the most important of those would be to repeal the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (aka the DSHEA). This act removed “dietary supplements” … which would include things like green coffee bean extract … from FDA oversight, thus creating a vast market for bogus products that are peddled behind cowardly little legalistic caveats like “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” If any of these things actually did what their makers imply they do, it ought to be possible — if not trivial — to demonstrate it using the same sorts of studies which the FDA requires for pharmaceuticals. Sure, it’d cost money … but so what? We’re talking about people’s health here! Why is it so onerous or unreasonable to expect the makers of “herbal remedies” provide medical evidence for their claims, when we have no qualms about demanding the same in the case of pharmaceuticals? I don’t see how or why there should be any difference.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: claire mccaskill
, congressional hearing
, dr mehmet oz
, dr oz
, green coffee
, green coffee bean extract
, green coffee beans
, herbal remedies
, herbal remedy
, mehmet oz
, mehmet oz md
, senate hearing
, us senate
, washington DC
, weight loss
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Even though the current anti-vax movement has been constructed upon a single demonstrably-fraudulent study (WebCite cached article) by Dr Andrew Wakefield — which he’d intended as the basis for a franchise selling “remedies” for something he called “austistic enterocolitis” (cached), it’s taken on a life of its own. It morphed originally from Wakefield’s (false) contention that the MMR vaccine causes autism, to the assumption that all vaccines, of any type, are toxic.
The mass media have done more than their share to perpetuate the lie that vaccines are dangerous, including this past December when Katie Couric spent an entire show parading sanctimonious mommies on her stage (cached) telling everyone that the HPV vaccine is lethal. Ms Couric later sort-of conceded she might have gone too far with that one (cached).
The truth of the anti-vax movement is much worse than just that it’s a big fat fucking lie with a fraudulent genesis; it’s actually hurting people in very real — and measurable — ways. The Council on Foreign Relations released a map showing the incidence of vaccine-preventable outbreaks around the world (cached). And the picture isn’t pretty:One expects to see such illnesses in developing countries, but as is evident in the map, even in highly industrialized nations, preventable childhood illnesses are also occurring in large numbers. Europe is plastered with measles, for instance, and the U.S. is spawning whooping cough from sea to sea.
I know I’ll be accused of having been paid by “Big Pharma” to point this out and condemn the anti-vax movement … but no matter how fervently the anti-vax crowd may believe otherwise, I haven’t. “Big Pharma” doesn’t even know who I am. I also don’t know anyone who works for, or who’s ever been paid any amount, by a “Big Pharma” firm. I’m just a guy who objects to irrationality and lies, and doesn’t think it’s a good idea for people to he harmed or killed by irrationality and lies. Call me crazy if you want — and many have! — but that’s just how I roll. <shrug>
Photo credit: CFR map screen-shot.
Tags: andrew wakefield
, anti-vax movement
, antivax movement
, austistic enterocolitis
, childhood disease
, dr andrew wakefield
, mmr and autism
, mmr vaccine
, preventable disease
, vaccines and autism
, whopping cough
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