MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The field of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) has long been actively supported by many celebrities. In 2006, we tried to  study the phenomenon systematically. Here is our abstract:

OBJECTIVE:

To collect contemporary accounts of celebrity use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), to aid clinicians in determining which CAM treatments patients are likely to use.

DESIGN:

Articles published during 2005 and 2006 reporting celebrity use of CAM.

RESULTS:

38 celebrities were found to use a wide range of CAM interventions. Homeopathy, acupuncture and Ayurveda were the most popular modalities.

CONCLUSIONS:

There may be many reasons why consumers use CAM, and wanting to imitate their idols is one of them.

Since then, several celebs have sensed that SCAM offers an opportunity to make money, lots of money. Gwyneth Paltrow and others are earning millions by selling SCAM products to the gullible public. Now it seem that even those areas of SCAM are being targeted by celebs where the sale of SCAM products is not the main focus. This article explains:

Cameron Diaz is taking her passion for fashion health to new heights with her latest investment. The health advocate and Hollywood actress is the latest investor in Arizona-based acupuncture company Modern Acupuncture. Modern Acupuncture has been around for over three years and according to its CEO, Matt Hale, the group aims to provide affordable acupuncture across the United States.

Modern Acupuncture has 60 locations and hopes to double that in the upcoming year, and with an A-lister on the board, they seem to be on the right path…

The star’s investment in the alternative medicine space comes in partnership with Seth Rodsky and his firm Strand Equity, who clearly know what they’re doing. It’s the same firm that brought 50 Cent into Vitamin Water before most of us knew what Vitamin Water was. They also introduced Madonna into Vita Coco Coconut Water back in 2010. Now, Seth stated his team “reached out to Modern Acupuncture in late 2018 after identifying acupuncture as a healthcare and wellness service which we thought to be a large white space.” Bringing Cameron into the mix of investors marks an exciting time for Stand Equity, Cameron and Modern Acupuncture. The CEO explained that Cameron’s addition “amplifies it to an entire different ecosystem.”

MODERN ACUPUNCTURE advertise their services by pointing out that:

• The Mayo Clinic has adopted the practice of acupuncture nationwide.

John Hopkin’s also uses acupuncture for pain and supports many other conditions treated around the world.

• Acupuncture helps reduce use of pain killers in U.S. Army patients. Two-thirds of military hospitals and other treatment centers offer acupuncture.

Cleveland Clinic outlines new government advisory recommended non-addictive options before opioids.  Acupuncture was recommended as a first-line treatment in lower back pain by the American College of Physicians.

• A recent article in the Washington Post highlights Medicare now researching acupuncture for back pain.

• Acupuncture is used in hospitals around the world Acupuncture in hospitals.

___________________________________________________________

I find this most lamentable. It shows two things quite clearly. Firstly, the public is an easy victim of fallacious reasoning; the fact that an reputable institution offers acupuncture (or anything else) is no proof of its efficacy, it merely is an example for the sly use of the ‘appeal to authority’. Secondly, the harm caused by established institutions adopting dubious treatments is not confined to those institutions; its effects are being felt nationally and even internationally. This, I think, should make these institutions think twice before they continue with their short-sighted adoption of SCAM.

15 Responses to Celebrity-based acupuncture: fallacious logic in practice

  • So instead of appeal to authority of people whom actually work in the field and have studied and researched. One should instead appeal to Google doctors and mums whom have done a few Google searches. Given the choice I listen to those with authority.

  • Will be interesting to see the results of these Mayo Clinic listed studies currently enrolling.

    My guess is that it will reinforce the totality of evidence which says there is no convincing evidence for the efficacy of acupuncture, for any health condition.

  • How did Johns Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic and others come to offer this nonsense and lend credibility to these celebs?

    Mayo website: “At Mayo Clinic, acupuncture is done only by doctors trained in acupuncture and by licensed acupuncturists trained in traditional Chinese medicine.”

    Johns Hopkins website: “Studies have shown that acupuncture is effective for a variety of conditions.”

    There is so much wrong with these statements. Are these institutions (and many others) simply taking advantage of gullible people so they can add another revenue stream?

    Appealing to authority? With statements like this, these clinics are not authorities at all. Their credibility goes up in smoke. I mean, if they will fabricate this, what else will they fabricate? Is that chemo really the right mix of drugs—or just the most profitable? Is that invasive test necessary—or just funded without question by the insurers?

    Do they not have an obligation to do only things that are proven to work? Is it not an insult to funders that they carry out this silliness?

    Maybe I will write them and ask.

    • Its all about income and accreditation, Ron, which among other things depends heavily on PSP – patient satisfaction points.
      Too many patients want something more than the health care system can offer, not the least due to the power of marketing and free flow of fake information.
      Therefore the health care system happily provides them with illusions, smoke and mirrors, to keep the audience happy and impressed so they will press the green button on the PSP-meters.

    • It most definitely is about revenue and it’s not just gullibility, it’s also popularity. Feel good, fashion “treatments” for a society where money is the whole deal. Medicine is huge business in the USA. Buy some real but unfortunately unpleasant medicine but make sure to pick up some comfort “medicine” to soothe away your bad. You can get whatever you will pay for in the land where reason is the servant of wealth, power and vanity.

  • Modern Acupuncture links to Acupuncture Now Foundation.

    Acunow quote “two recent studies found acupuncture to be twice as effective as conventional care.”
    https://www.acunow.org/twice-as-effective-and-safer.html

    “Recent” being 2007 and 2009. Recent by comparison with 1997 and 1999, I suppose.

    The studies in question are well known.

    The German Acupuncture Trials, trial for chronic low backpain: Haake et aal 2007.

    Three groups of patients were randomised to acupuncture, or sham acupuncture or conventional therapy.

    The trial was advertised in newspapers/magazines, radio and television.

    Inclusion criteria for the trial included chronic low back pain for 6 months or longer and no previous acupuncture treatment of chronic low backpain; but not no previous conventional therapy.

    Problems.

    The trial was a clarion call for CLBP sufferers for whom conventional therapy was ineffective to try acupuncture. Disappointment for those assigned to conventional therapy was predictable.

    Acupuncture and sham acupuncture were found to be twice as effective as conventional treatment.

    The combined placebo/nocebo effect might be the explanation, methinks.

    The famous Cherkin et al (2009) toothpick trial.

    Random pricking of the surface of the skin was found to be as effective as deep needling at acupuncture points; both being twice as effective as usual care.

    Once again patients were drawn from a population of long term CLBP sufferers. Patients who might just have been very glad to try something different to their usual care. CLBP being notoriously immune to every treatment under the sun.

    But not to the placebo effect. No study can eliminate this effect. Acunow think that animal studies are immune to placebo effects. Acunow do not know.

    Acunow say: “If acupuncture is done to its best level, it would be closer to three times more effective than conventional care.”

    Not twice as effective, as studies may appear to show, but thrice! They don’t quote any study to back this up. But hey, who needs a study when you just know something is so good it must be even better than too good to be true?

    Nothing modern about Modern Acupuncture.

    It refers to the ancient (circa 2001) disgraced acupuncture report by Xiaorui Zhang, bearing the imprimatur of the WHO. That’s the one which excluded negative resulting placebo controlled trials because positive resulting placebo controlled trials show that acupuncture works. That’s one way to ensure that an acupuncture review reaches a foregone conclusion.

    https://www.modernacupuncture.com/acupuncture

  • You are right Bjorn it does depend on PSP and many want more than what the sometimes shite UK NHS can offer. Get your EB medicine in better order and you won’t get so many looking elsewhere.
    How about that for a way forward?

    • Of course I am right – but you are wrong, Dendra. We are not discussing the UK subsidiary of Mayo Clinic. If you want to take part in a discussion, try to find a blog that deals with subjects you have some insight into. Your insight and knowledge of health care is sadly wanting.

  • For me the most egregious member of Modern Acupuncture’s list of shame is the American College of Physicians.

    Orac has debunked them all, but I single out ACP for a dose of his inimitable “medicine”.

    https://respectfulinsolence.com/2017/02/14/the-american-college-of-physicians-integrates-quackery-with-medicine-in-its-recommendations-for-managing-back-pain/

  • My insight into my own health care and that of immediate family is very good Bjorn. My scientific training must help with this.
    Try putting yourself in the position of the patient who reacts badly to many treatments or who finds many treatments ineffective. Then goes to ‘SCAM ‘and finds some answers.

    • @Dendre

      I always love the advice doctors are given by, well, us ordinary folk. (In the absence of a real name and photo, I have to assume Dendra is one of us. There is no evidence to the contrary.)

      Among my favourites is advice that begins, “Try putting yourself in the position of the patient. . .” like doctors have never done that. And I’m not talking about the odd psychopath.

      Is that how health care appears to you, Dendra? Is it just a bunch of people who deal with the frailties of the human condition every day totally disregarding how their treatment affects their patients? That worldview explains a lot.

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