Monday, February 11, 2013

Alternative Medicine and Pseudoscience

When they first started National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) as Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine particularly age old traditions of Chinese and Indian herbal medicines in early 90s, it was certainly a right step to find more alternatives to treat diseases worldwide using traditionally available wisdom and resources by validating or disapproving them scientifically. Many such folk medicines turn out to be really effective in treating common diseases/conditions such as traditional use of chicken soup in western world is now even recommended and preferred by many pediatricians to treat common cold than over the counter cold medications. 

However, many proponents of alternative medicine have become too enthusiastic to suggest folk medicine or practices such as acupuncture, herbal concoctions, or even yoga/meditation as "cure" for life threatening diseases including cancers and this trend is really alarming. Hasty conclusions based on incomplete/inconclusive studies especially those coming from places of repute in medicinal research may mislead patients who can in turn end up deviating from otherwise effective standard/conventional therapeutic modalities and by the time they realize the ineffectiveness of such “alternative” medicine, all they are left with is deep regret. Steve Jobs’ unsuccessful fight against pancreatic cancer using herbal medicine is such an example. Here is a very interesting article that summarizes how things can be twisted from “facts” to support their unproven theories/beliefs. Unfortunately, science does not run on beliefs, it needs evidence. Let us save science from pseudoscientists….


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