Thursday, November 09, 2006

Woo pitching med students say they’re evidence based

AMSA is kicking off its annual PharmFree Day with much fanfare and this statement: “AMSA members believe in providing the highest quality care through evidence-based medicine.”

Really? What about their belief that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has “proven helpful” for cancer, infectious disease, heart disease and AIDS (Complementary Therapies Primer, page 5)? Or that “By activating the electrical circuitry of the body which conduct qi along the meridians, qigong is able to harness the body’s own healing powers (page 7)? And does therapeutic touch really help asthma (page 9)?

While AMSA wants a rigorous evidentiary standard for the products of Evil Pharma the herbs seem to get a free pass (pp 12, 13). Thus cayenne is good for “strengthening metabolism” (were these kids sleeping through biochem?) and preventing colds. Echinacea is recommended for respiratory infections, connective tissue diseases and multiple sclerosis and ephedra “must be used with caution.” (How does one use ephedra with caution, exactly?).

And how about that four day fast? Seems it thins blood, leads to better oxygenation and improves immunity (page 18). Finally, don’t forget good old chelation for everything from cancer to spider bites (page 20).

So, on November 16, go PharmFree and consider the alternatives.


Anonymous said...


I've been a reader of your blog for sometime, and agree with your criticsm regarding CAM. But why is AMSA being singled out for your condemnation? I'm not a medical student, but a 3rd year resident. I also don't understand your continual linking of Pharmfree and CAM.

These are two different issues. While AMSA's position on CAM is controversial to say the least, the Pharmfree initiative is based on well established evidence. While you may not agree with limiting access to pharmaceutical reps and thier free lunches, lumping these issues together really does no service to third parties. Rather than a reasoned debate on pharma's promotion strategies, and their impact on cost of care, just plain ridicule really does no service to an important issue.

Just my 2 cents, for what they are worth.


Anonymous said...

I'm with Syed--AMSA's PharmFree work doesn't say that pharmaceuticals are ineffective, or work better than CAM, it objects to the peddling of Pharma merchandise on physicians.

Robert W Donnell said...

You raise a valid point. I don't have a problem with them arguing from *evidence* about PharmFree. If that was all they did I would respond in kind---based on evidence. But they're doing much more. They're claiming the causes of scientific integrity and ethics to bolster their position. If you then promote quackery out of the other side of your mouth you come across as hypocritical. That deserves exposure, in my view.

Anonymous said...

AMSA has been taken over by idiot liberals for several years now, they are by far the most leftist medical organization in the USA.

Anonymous said...

Syed wrote “AMSA's position on CAM is controversial to say the least …”

No, AMSA’s position is wrong. Quacks would have you think there is a controversy, there is none.

“There cannot be two kinds of medicine -- conventional and alternative. There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work. ... [A]ssertions, speculation, and testimonials do not substitute for evidence." [Philip B. Fontanarosa M.D., George D. Lundberg, M.D., . Alternative medicine meets science. JAMA 280:1618-1619, 1998]

That about sums it up.


Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree with Joe on that one. Most of CAM is quackery preying on the gullible. Finally, I'm not even sure of the appropriateness of the term "alternative" medicine, since even the most die-hard CAM advocate, would not want people to drop thier anti-hypertensive meds for some "chinese" herb, but would promote it as an adjunct. So I'd favor the term adjunctive rather than alternative, for remedies with some evidence such as St. John's wort. But I digress.


Anonymous said...

There are a lot of quasi-medical institutions that deal in CAM. Where I am from our local pediatric hospital has embraced CAM under the auspices of proving or disproving its merits. So while they are busy doing experiments, parents will be fleeced as they convince themselves that their child will benefit from Reiki, acupuncture and herbs.

My personal experience with this movement came when a few years ago I was told that one had the power to heal warts AND cancer with their mind. Mind over matter, essentially. If I had been stupid about it I would have blindly allowed myself to be led into this dark and horrible place of faith based medicine.

Instead I went to the internet to verify or villify this statement. The last few years have been a odyssey of sorts as I have learned a million things about the human body that I never knew. I also learned about human nature. People are cruel opportunists. If they can make a buck by telling you lies--OR save a buck--- they certainly will. I found out that nerve pain really is a bugger, and CAM therapy is of absolutely no use when treating it. I found that medicine and Big Pharma have few options when treating it as well, but those do work to a much greater extent than sitting in a circle singing Kumbaya, and listening to wind sounds and a patronizing voice tell you that if you just relax and go to your safe place you can conquer what ails you. Acupuncture did not work. Neither did some of the drugs recommended to doctors by Big Pharma, but those instances have been dealt with by the courts in the US so there is some justice.

The problem here is that there are a lot of people who blatantly LIE to others in order to take their money. This is not what science and medicine should be about. There is a lot to be said for exposing the liars. But, there are a lot of people willing to turn their life over to the liars as well, and unless stupidity and laziness can be legislated against, these idiots will continue to talk with silver tongues and finagle their way into places they don't belong, simply because they have made an untruth palatable to others- even others that SHOULD know better.

This stuff infuriates me, and I really do wish that there was a way to prosecute for this deceit. I just don't see it happening. It is academic fraud IMHO when done at teaching hospitals, but unless there is a real backlash by scientists and doctors who follow science rigorously--- there is no hope in hell of combatting it.