Monday, February 19, 2007

CAM “research” often fails the test of plausibility

In his intro to Dr. Wallace Sampson’s video editorial on faulty CAM research, Dr. George Lundberg, Editor in Chief of MedGenMed declares “I like to think an idea should not be preposterous when you start working on it.” (And pouring millions of dollars into it). To bad the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) doesn’t think so.

Dr. Sampson points out that not too many years ago medical scientists relied on plausibility (i.e. consistency with known chemical and physical laws) in deciding what to research. Not anymore. Nowadays they’ll lavishly fund research on an idea “just because it’s there.”

Ironically the CAM explosion and its associated faulty “research” on implausible claims has been driven in part by EBM as Dr. Sampson points out, and as implied in the title of the editorial: “Whatever Happened to Plausibility as the Basis for Clinical Research and Practice After EBM and CAM Rushed in?” Proponents of EBM have popularized the notion that biologic plausibility is not important in evaluating scientific claims and should be de-emphasized. Although this extreme of empiricism distorts EBM it has been widely accepted in the scientific community. I addressed this problem in my recent Medscape Roundtable Discussion on EBM.

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