I have grumbled about prevalence surveys in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) before, I know. But, as the problem continues to get on my nerves – I estimate that there are about 10 times more surveys in SCAM than in any other field – allow me to do it again. The subject appeared on my screen in the form of a recent article from a minor, not Medline-listed journal. The paper is entitled:
Investigation of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use in Turkish Patients with Epilepsy
This type of prevalence survey is typical of its genre and stands for hundreds – thousands even – like it. Its findings reveal a high prevalence of use. From that result, enthusiasts tend to draw stereotypical conclusions, namely that we need more research and that we ought to consider the integration of SCAM into routine care.
WHAT A WASTE OF TIME AND EFFORT!
Who really needs to know how many epilepsy patients in Turkey use SCAM?
Fine, then tell me: why Turkey and why epilepsy? If such information were important (and the methodology of the survey were perfect [which it hardly ever is]), then we surely need it for all diseases. How many different diseases are there? Let’s make it easy and say 1000. This means we need 1000 surveys to obtain a valuable picture of SCAM use in Turkey.
And if this sort of information is relevant in Turkey, we need to have it also for all other major countries. How many major countries exist? Let’s make it simple again and say 500. This means that we need 500 x 1000 or 500 000 surveys to generate a meaningful picture of SCAM use.
Since SCAM use changes quickly, we require these articles to be updated regularly; let’s say every 3 years. That means we require half a million surveys every 3 years.
What would it tell us?
What would we conclude from this enormous body of research?
Yes, of course, we would conclude that we need more research and we ought to consider the integration of SCAM into routine care!
My point is that if we truly need more research, why not get on with it? Why not finally forget about such useless surveys and do the science? Why not determine which SCAM works for what condition and at what risks? And, in case the findings turn out to be positive [but only then], let’s talk about integration into routine care. To put it even blunter:
The survey mania in SCAM prevents progress.
Purpose: help guide nursing education.
Seems to be important findings
“…the majority (97%) did not discuss the use of these therapies with their primary physicians”
Use of herbals 44.8%