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

integrative medicine

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A recent post of mine started an interesting discussion about the research of the NCCIH. Richard Rasker made the following comment:

The NCCIH was initially established as the Office for Alternative Medicine (OAM) for mostly the same reason that Edzard’s department at Exeter was founded, i.e. to study alternative modalities, and determine once and for all which ones were effective and which ones weren’t. Unfortunately, OAM and its subsequent incarnations were taken over by SCAM proponents almost right away, with its core mission changed into validating (NOT ‘studying’) SCAM modalities – a small but crucial difference that will all but guarantee that even long-obsolete and totally ineffective quackery will continue to be ‘researched’ and promoted.

So what’s the score now, after more than 30 years and well over 4 billion dollars in taxpayers’ money? How many SCAM modalities have they managed to ‘validate’, i.e. definitively proven to be effective? The answer is: none, for all intents and purposes. Even their research into herbal medicine – one of the most effective (or should I say: least ineffective) SCAMs out there – is best described as woefully lacking. Their list of herbs and plants names just 55 species of plants, and the individual descriptions are mostly to the tune of ‘a lot of research was done, but we can’t say anything definite’.

I think I can contribute meaningfully to this important comment and topic. Several years ago, my Exeter team – together with several other researches – systematically reviewed the NCCIH (formerly NCCAM)-sponsored clinical trials. Specifically, we focussed on 4 different subject areas. Here are the conclusions of our articles reporting the findings:

      1. ACUPUNCTURE

Seven RCTs had a low risk of bias. Numerous methodological shortcomings were identified. Many NCCAM-funded RCTs of acupuncture have important limitations. These findings might improve future studies of acupuncture and could be considered in the ongoing debate regarding NCCAM-funding. [Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies Volume 17(1) March 2012 15–21]

       2. HERBAL MEDICINE

This independent assessment revealed a plethora of serious concerns related to NCCAM studies of herbal medicine. [Perfusion 2011; 24: 89-102]

       3. ENERGY MEDICINE

In conclusion, the NCCAM-funded RCTs of energy medicine are prime examples of misguided investments into research. In our opinion, NCCAM should not be funding poor-quality studies of implausible practices. The impact of any future studies of energy medicine would be negligible or even detrimental. [Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies Volume 16(2) June 2011 106–109 ]

       4. CHIROPRACTIC

In conclusion, our review demonstrates that several RCTs of chiropractic have been funded by the NCCAM. It raises numerous concerns in relation to these studies; in particular, it suggests that many of these studies are seriously flawed. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21207089]

The overall conclusion that comes to my mind is this:

The NCCIH has managed to spend more money on SCAM research than any other institution in the world (in the 20 years that I ran the Exeter research unit, we spent around £2 million in total). The NCCIH has wasted precious funds on plenty of dubious studies; arguably, this is unethical. It has misappropriated its role from testing to validating SCAMs. And it has validated none.

PS

As some of the above-cited papers are not easily accessible, I offer to send copies to interested individuals on request.

Millions of US adults use so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). In 2012, 55 million adults spent $28.3 billion on SCAMs, comparable to 9% of total out-of-pocket health care expenditures. A recent analysis conducted by the US National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) suggests a substantial increase in the overall use of SCAM by American adults from 2002 to 2022. The paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, highlights a surge in the use of SCAM particularly for pain management.

Data from the 2002, 2012, and 2022 National Health Interview Surveys (NHISs) were employed to evaluate changes in the use of 7 SCAMs:

  1. yoga,
  2. meditation,
  3. massage therapy,
  4. chiropractic,
  5. acupuncture,
  6. naturopathy,
  7. guided imagery/progressive muscle relaxation.

The key findings include:

  • The percentage of individuals who reported using at least one of the SCAMs increased from 19.2% in 2002 to 36.7% in 2022.
  • The use of yoga, meditation, and massage therapy experienced the most significant growth.
  • Use of yoga increased from 5% in 2002 to 16% in 2022.
  • Meditation became the most popular SCAM in 2022, with an increase from 7.5% in 2002 to 17.3% in 2022.
  • Acupuncture saw an increase from 1% in 2002 to 2.2% in 2022.
  • The smallest rise was noted for chiropractic, from 79 to 86%

The analyses also suggested a rise in the proportion of US adults using SCAMs specifically for pain management. Among participants using any SCAM, the percentage reporting use for pain management increased from 42% in 2002 to 49% in 2022.

Limitations of the survey include:

  • decreasing NHIS response rates over time,
  • possible recall bias,
  • cross-sectional data,
  • differences in the wording of the surveys.

The NCCIH researchers like such surveys and tend to put a positive spin on them, i.e. SCAM is becoming more and more popular because it is supported by better and better evidence. Therefore, SCAM should be available to everyone who wants is.

But, of course, the spin could also turn in the opposite direction, i.e. the risk/benefit balance for most SCAMs is either negative or uncertain, and their cost-benefit remains unclear – as seen regularly on this blog. Therefore, the fact that SCAM seems to be getting more popular is of increasing concern. In particular, more consideration ought to be given to the indirect risks of SCAM (think, for instance, only of the influence SCAM practitioners have on the vaccination rates) that we often discuss here but that the NCCIH conveniently tends to ignore.

If I had a £ for each time I was asked during the last few days whether King Charles is going to treat his cancer with homeopathy, I would have my pockets full of cash. The question seems reasonable because he has been singing the praise of homeopathy for decades. But, as I have pointed out previously, he is unlikely to use homeopathy or any other unproven cancer cure; on the contrary he will certainly receive the most effective therapies available today.

In any case, the homeopathic treatment of cancer is currently a most popular topic. As if on command, an article appeared on my screen that promises to address the subject:

“Homoeopathy and Cancer – An Alternative Approach towards the path of Healing”

Here is the abstract of this remarkable paper:

Homoeopathy is a holistic system of medicine rooted on the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur”. It has gained attention for its potential therapeutic benefits. It offers a holistic approach that addresses both the physical symptoms and emotional well-being of individuals. While this alternative approach of healing has been explored in various health contexts, a notable gap remains in understanding its application in the realm of cancer care. This review seeks to fill this void by exploring the broader landscape of homoeopathy’s principles and applications. Through a critical examination of existing research and evidence, it aims to offer valuable insights into the potential role of homoeopathy as a complementary approach in cancer care and symptomatic relief. This review underscores the need for further research and a more nuanced understanding of homoeopathy’s place in healthcare, particularly in the context of cancer patients and their well-being.

I am sure you are as impressed as I am and keen to learn more. In the article itself, the authors offer some brand-new, cutting-edge science to back up their views:

According to Samuel Hahnemann, “When a person is ill, it is originally merely the spirit-like, autonomic life force (life principle), which is always there in the organism, that is mistuned by the dynamic effect of a morbific agent inimical to life.Only the life principle, tuned incorrectly to such an anomalyis capable of causing irregular functions the body. Cancer may initially be treated as a one-sided disease because the expanded pathology weakens the Vital Force. According to Hahnemann, “Diseases that seem to have just a few symptoms are called one-sided because only one or two prominent symptoms are indicated. This makes these diseases, which primarily fall under the category of chronic diseases, harder to cure. According to Arthur Hill Grimmer, the biggest challenge in treating advanced cancer cases is getting therapeutic individualization of symptoms. Even with all the typical symptoms, it is quite difficult to create a potent homoeopathic prescription. Burnett considered both the characteristic aspects of the patient as well as the ‘action’ or‘organ affinity’ of the remedy he prescribed.

Eventually, the authors (who are affiliated with prestigeous institutions: Rajasthan Ayurved University, Jodhpur; Swasthya Kalyan Homoeopathic Medical College & Research Centre, Jaipur) arrive at the following conclusion:

In the scientific literature, homoeopathy’s use in the treatment of cancer is still largely unexplored. Pioneers have offered intriguing perspectives on disease origins and treatment challenges. The miasmatic perspective offers a distinctive approach that emphasises individualised strategies based on symptoms and characteristics. Some studies suggest an improvement in quality of life of the individuals suffering from cancer. In the dynamic landscape of cancer treatment, more studies are warranted to enhance the scope of holistic, patient-centered care through homoeopathy.

Yes, homeopathy is a joke. This paper (and the many similar publications out there) could thus be intensely funny – except for the fact that these charlatans are playing with the lives of many vulnerable and desperate patients. I sincerely hope Charles manages to stay well clear of homeopathy and its irresponsible practitioners which clearly is one precondition for making a full recovery.

Yestderday, it was announced that King Charles has cancer. He had been in hospital for surgery for his enlarged prostate. Initially, the news was positive, as it was confirmed not to be prostate cancer. However, during the investigations, a cancer was discovered that apparently is unrelated to the prostate. Since the announcement, many journalists and other people have written to me asking what I think about it and what treatment Charles is likely to receive. I therefore decided to write a short post about the matter.

As a physician and human being I am very sorry whenever I hear that anyone has fallen ill, particularly if the condition is serious and potentially life-threatening. That this includes Charles goes without saying. Equally it is self-evident that I wish that all goes well for him, that the treatment he reportedly has already started is not too arduous, that he keeps in good spirit, that he has empathetic support from all his family and recovers quickly and fully.

Charles will, I am sure, have the best treatment anyone could wish for. Will he use so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), for example, the Gerson therapy, one of the SCAMs he once promoted as a cure of cancer? Of course not! He will receive the most effective, evidence-based care that is currently available. Will he thus not try any SCAM at all? I am confident that he will use SCAM wisely, namely not as a cure but as a supportive measure. In my book on this very subject, I go through all the relevant evidence and conclude that, while SCAM is most certainly not a cancer cure, it can have a place in supportive cancer care. Depending on the symptoms that develop during and after the conventional treatments, certain SCAMs can, according to fairly sound evidence, be helpful in improving wellness and quality of life.

Going through a battle against cancer is often a most humbling experience. Therefore, I am hopeful that, as he recovers from his ordeal, Charles will see that modern medicine – he once described it as being out of balance like the leaning tower of Pisa – is not just effective, empathetic and caring but also not nearly as unbalanced and unholistic as he often proclaimed it to be. In that sense, the experience might reform our king, and – who knows? – he might, after all, turn out to be not the self-proclaimed enemy but a true friend of the Enlightenment.

After the nationwide huha created by the BBC’s promotion of auriculotherapy and AcuSeeds, it comes as a surprise to learn that, in Kent (UK), the NHS seems to advocate and provide this form of quackery. Here is the text of the patient leaflet:

Kent Community Health, NHS Foundation Trust

Auriculotherapy

This section provides information to patients who might benefit from auriculotherapy, to complement their acupuncture treatment, as part of their chronic pain management plan.

What is auriculotherapy?

In traditional Chinese medicine, the ear is seen as a microsystem representing the entire body. Auricular acupuncture focuses on ear points that may help a wide variety of conditions including pain. Acupuncture points on the ear are stimulated with fine needles or with earseeds and massage (acupressure).

How does it work?

Recent research has shown that auriculotherapy stimulates the release of natural endorphins, the body’s own feel good chemicals, which may help some patients as part of their chronic pain management plan.

What are earseeds?

Earseeds are traditionally small seeds from the Vaccaria plant, but they can also be made from different types of metal or ceramic. Vaccaria earseeds are held in place over auricular points by a small piece of adhesive tape, or plaster. Applying these small and barely noticeable earseeds between acupuncture treatments allows for patient massage of the auricular points. Earseeds may be left in place for up to a week.

Who can use earseeds?

Earseeds are sometimes used by our Chronic Pain Service to prolong the effects of standard acupuncture treatments and may help some patients to self manage their chronic pain.

How can I get the most out my treatment with earseeds?

It is recommended that the earseeds are massaged two to three times a day or when symptoms occur by applying gentle pressure to the earseeds and massaging in small circles.

Will using earseeds cure my chronic pain?

As with any treatment, earseeds are not a cure but they can reduce pain levels for some patients as part of their chronic pain management programme.

________________________

What the authors of the leaflet forgot to tell the reader is this:

  • Auriculotherapy is based on ideas that fly in the face of science.
  • The evidence that auriculotherapy works is flimsy, to say the least.
  • The evidence earseeds work is even worse.
  • To arrive at a positive recommendation, the NHS had to heavily indulge in the pseudo-scientific art of cherry-picking.
  • The positive experience that some patients report is due to a placebo response.
  • For whichever condition auriculotherapy is used, there are treatments that are much more adequate.
  • Advocating auriculotherapy is therefore not in the best interest of the patient.
  • Arguably, it is unethical.
  • Definitely, it is not what the NHS should be doing.

The Austrian ‘Initiative für Wissenschaftliche Medizin‘ (Initiative for Scientific Medicine) did a great job by summarizing the non-scientific training events dedicated to pseudomedicine organized, supported or promoted by the ‘Österreichische Akademie der Ärzte‘ (Austrian Academy of Physicians), a partner of the Austrian Medical Association. They sorted them by date in descending order, listing the DFP points (points required for postgraduate education) awarded and the link to each specific event. The content of the programme of such events, if available, is also often “interesting”. The pseudomedicine methods are provided with links to psiram.com, where these methods are described in more detail.

So, restricting ourselves to the period of 20 years (2003-2023) and merely looking at a selection of all possible so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), we find in this treasure trove of quackery the following:

  • Anthroposophic medicine – 218 events
  • Homeopathy – 1 708 events
  • Orthomolecular medicine – 645 events
  • Neural therapy – 864 events
  • TCM diagnostics – 1214 events

In total, thousands SCAM events were organized, supported or promoted by the Academy, and I am not aware of any national physicians’ organization that has done anywhere near as much for quackery.

On their website, the Austrian Academy of Physicians state that they were founded by the Austrian Medical Association as a non-profit organisation with the aim of promoting and further developing medical education in Austria… The aim is to lead the way in medical education issues in order to achieve continuous improvement in the medical profession. For the Academy, continuing medical education is an essential component of medical quality improvement…

This may sound alright but, in my view, it raises several questions, e,g,:

  • Does the Academy believe that continuous improvement in the medical profession can be achieved by promoting, organizing or conducting such a huge amount of courses in quackery?
  • Do they not know that this is the exact opposite of medical quality improvement?
  • Are they aware of their ethical responsibility?
  • Do they know that the promotion of quackery puts patients at risk?
  • Have they heard of evidence-based education?

It is easy to criticize but less obvious to improve. In case the people responsible for postgraduate education at the Academy want to discuss these issues with me, I would therefore be delighted to do so, for instance, via a series of evidence-based lectures on SCAM.

 

 

Patients are increasingly using and requesting so-called alternative medicine Medicine (SCAM), especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it remains unclear whether they use SCAMs in conjunction with conventional medicine or to replace vaccination or other approaches and whether they discuss them with their physicians as part of shared decision-making. This study aimed to evaluate the use and initiation of SCAM during the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the association between SCAM-use and COVID-19 vaccination status.

It was a part of the longitudinal cohort of the CoviCare program, which follows all outpatients tested for COVID-19 at the Geneva University Hospitals. Outpatients tested for COVID-19 were contacted 12 months after their positive or negative test between April and December 2021. Participants were asked about their vaccination status and if they had used SCAM in the past 12 months. SCAM-use was defined based on a list of specific therapies from which participants could choose the options they had used. Logistic regression models adjusting for age, sex, education, profession, severe acute respiratory system coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, and pre-existing conditions were used to evaluate the association between being unvaccinated and complementary medicine use. SARS-CoV-2 infection status was evaluated for effect modification in the association between being unvaccinated and complementary medicine use.

This study enrolled 12,246 individuals (participation proportion = 17.7%). Their mean age was 42.8 years, 59.4% were women, and 63.7% used SCAM. SCAM-use was higher in women, the middle-aged, and those with a higher education level, a SARS-CoV-2 infection, or pre-existing co-morbidities. A third of cases initiated SCAM as prevention against COVID-19. Being unvaccinated was associated with higher levels of SCAM-use (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.22 [1.09–1.37]). SCAMs were frequently used for COVID-19 prevention (aOR 1.61 [1.22–2.12]). Being unvaccinated was associated with the use of several specific SCAMs:

  • zinc (OR 2.25 [1.98–2.55]),
  • vitamin D (OR 1.45 [1.30–1.62]),
  • vitamin C (OR 1.59 [1.42–1.78]).

Only 4% of participants discussed using SCAM with their primary care physicians.

The authors concluded that, while SCAM is increasingly used, it is rarely discussed with primary care physicians. SCAM-use, especially for COVID-19 prevention, is associated with COVID-19 vaccination status. Communication between physicians, patients, and SCAM therapists is encouraged to facilitate a truly holistic approach to making a shared decision based on the best available information.

This survey confirmed the findings of several previous investigations. It also shows that the terminologies often employed are inadequate:

  • alternative medicine: as it does not work, it cannot be an alternative;
  • complementary medicine: many patients do not use it to complement real medicine.

As I have explained many times, I thus find SCAM a much more appropriate term.

The last sentence of the authors conclusion is puzzeling. What can SCAM pratitioners contribute to a ‘truly holistic approach’ to decisions about vaccinations? I feel this sentence should be changed into something like the following:

Communication between physicians and patients should be encouraged.  To facilitate an effective approach to making shared decisions on vaccinations, SCAM practitioners should be excluded until they are able to convincingly demonstrate that their advice is based on sound evidence.

he German press reported yesterday that the country’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach plans  to remove homeopathic treatments from the benefits catalog of statutory health insurance companies. “Services that have no medically verifiable benefit should not be financed from contribution funds,” states a recommendation paper by the minister. “For this reason, we will remove the option for health insurance companies to include homeopathic and anthroposophic services in their statutes, thereby avoiding unnecessary expenditure by health insurance companies.” However, private supplementary insurance should still be possible.

Lauterbach had already announced last year that he would review the funding of homeopathic treatments. “Although homeopathy is not significant in terms of expenditure, it has no place in a science-based healthcare policy,” the SPD politician told “Der Spiegel” last October. The measure would save merely a maximum of ten million Euros. This is because firstly not all health insurance companies offer the option to reimburse homeopathy, and secondly, because not that many Germans use homeopathy.

____________________________

Before I was joined about a decade ago by a group of excellent and effective skeptics, I seemed to be a lone, lost voice in Germany cautioning against the misunderstanding that homeopathy and anthroposophical medicine were backed by evidence. Thus, you probably think that I am rejoicing at this spectacular success. At first glance, it does indeed seem to be great news for those who support evidence-based medicine. But sadly, I also have second thoughts.

We should, I think, be concerned that Lauterbach intends to leave homeopathic and anthroposophical remedies reimbursible via private supplementary insurance. Most Germans have such insurance which means that, despite Lauterbach’s grand announcement, very little will probably change. Homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine, both pure placebo therapies, will still be able to pretend to be real medicine.

Moreover, we should be concerned about Lauterbach’s reasoning. It is, of course, laudable to point out that homeopathic and anthroposophic remedies are not demonstrably effective. But clearly, this is only half of the truth. The full truth is that they are based on totally ridiculous assumptions, that, in other words, they fly in the face of science. Only if we manage to get this message across, will we inform the public responsibly, in my view.

A total ban then? No, personally, I don’t want to ban homeopathic or anthroposophical remedies. If someone loves esoteric nonsense or placebos, he/she should, in my view, be able to buy them. But he/she should use their own money for the purchase. We should remember that wasting notoriously scarce public funds from either statutory or private health insurances is not just uneconomical but foremost unethical.

 

 

On this blog, I have often been highly critical of integrative (or integrated) medicine (IM) – see, for instance:

Recently, I began to realize that my previously critical stance has been largely due to the fact that 1) a plethora of definitions of IM exist causing endless confusion, 2) most, if not all, of the definitions of IM are vague and insufficient. At the same time, IM is making more and more inroads which makes it imprudent to ignore it.

I therefore decided it is time to change my view on IM and think more constructively. The first step on this new journey is to define IM in such a way that all interested parties can come on board. So, please allow me to present to you a definition of IM that is constructive and in the interest of progress:

IM is defined as the form of healthcare that employs the best available research to clinical care integrating evidence on all types of interventions with clinical expertise and patient values. By best available research, I mean clinically relevant (i.e., patient oriented) research that:

  • establishes the efficacy and safety of all types of therapeutic, rehabilitative, or preventive healthcare strategies and
  • seeks to understand the patient experience.

Healthcare practitioners who are dedicated to IM use their clinical skills and prior experience to identify each patient’s unique clinical situation, applying the evidence tailored to the individual’s risks versus benefits of potential interventions. Ultimately, the goal of IM is to support the patient by contextualising the evidence with their preferences, concerns, and expectations. This results in a process of shared decision making, in which the patient’s values, circumstances, and setting dictate the best care.

If applied appropriately, IM has the potential to be a great equaliser – striving for equitable care for patients in disparate parts of the world. Furthermore, IM can play a role in policy making; politicians are increasingly speaking to their use of research evidence to inform their decision making as a declaration of legitimacy. IM reflects the work of countless people who have improved the process of generating clinical evidence over several decades, and that it continues to evolve.

Developing the skills to practise IM requires access to evidence, opportunities to practise, and time. IM proponents strive to find novel ways to integrate evidence into personal holistic health in the best interest of our patients.

_________________________

I feel confident that this could create a basis for a fresh start in the dabate about the merits of IM. I for one am all for it!

In case some of my readers thought that the wording of my definition sounded somewhat familiar, I should perhaps tell you that it is my adaptation of the definition of evidence-based medicine (EBM) as published in ‘BMJ Best Practice‘.

What does that mean?

The points I am trying to make are the ones that I have tried to get across many times before:

  1. IM is a flawed, unethical, superflous and counter-productive concept.
  2. It is flawed because it is aimed at smuggling unproven or disproven treatments into routine care which can only render healthcare less safe and less effective.
  3. It is unethical because it cannot provide the best possible healthcare and thus is not in the best interest of patients.
  4. It is superflous because the aspects of IM that might seem valuable to proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) are already part of EBM.
  5. It is counter-productive because it distracts from the laudable efforts of EBM.

 

As regulars on this blog know, I am very sceptical about the plethora of nonsensical surveys published in the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and thus rarely refer to them here. Today, however, I will make an exception. This international online-survey assessed the demographical data, clinical practice, and sources of information used by SCAM practitioners in Austria, Germany, United States of America, Australia, and New Zealand.

In total, 404 respondents completed the survey, of which 254 (62.9%) treated cancer patients. Most practitioners were acupuncturists and herbalists (57.1%), had (16.8 ± 9.9) years of clinical experience and see a median of 2 (1, 4) cancer patients per week. Breast cancer (61.8%) is the most common cancer type seen in SCAM clinics. Adjunctive SCAM treatments are frequently concurrent with the patient’s cancer specific treatment (39.9%), which is also reflected by the main goal of a SCAM treatment to alleviate side effects (52.4%). However, only 28.0% of the respondents are in contact with the treating oncologist. According to the respondents, pain is most effectively treated using acupuncture, while herbal medicine is best for cancer-related fatigue. SCAM practitioners mostly use certified courses (33.1%) or online databases (28.3%) but often believe that experts are more reliable to inform their practice (37.0%) than research publications (32.7%).

The authors concluded that acupuncturists and herbalists commonly treat cancer patients. Most practitioners use SCAM as an adjunct to biomedicine as supportive care and use it largely in accordance with current oncological guidelines.

You would think that the combined expertise of these institutions are capable of producing a decent survey:

  • Palliative Care Unit, Division of Oncology, Department of Internal Medicine, Medical University of Graz, 8036 Graz, Austria
  • Northern College of Acupuncture, York YO1 6LJ, United Kingdom
  • School of Health and Society, Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton WV1 1LY, United Kingdom
  • National Institute of Complementary Medicine Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, Penrith NSW 2751, Australia
  • Translational Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, Penrith NSW 2751, Australia
  • Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, Wellington 6021, New Zealand
  • Translational Oncology, University Hospital of Augsburg, 86156 Augsburg, Germany

Well, you would have been mistaken! This surely is one of the worst investigations I have seen for a while. Here are just three reasons why:

  • The researchers designed an anonymous self-completion questionnaire collecting data about the participating practitioners’ demographics and clinical practice of integrative oncology. Someone should tell them that one ought to validate questionnairs before using them and that validated questionnairs exist. Unvalidated questionnairs cannot tell us much of value.
  • The researchers  invited SCAM practitioners in Austria, Germany, USA, Australia, and New Zealand to participate in this study. Invitations were distributed through social media and emails between October 2022 and December 2022 by professional organizations. Someone should tell them that research needs to be reproducible and surveys need to cover a representative population – both criteria that are not met here.
  • The survey participants had to hold a valid license to perform acupuncture, herbal medicine, or both. That excludes all other SCAM practitioners.

Despite these serious flaws, the survey shows two findings that might be worth mentioning:

  • only 28.0% of the SCAM practitioners were in contact with the treating oncologist;
  • SCAM practitioners believe that “experts” are more reliable to inform their practice than research publications.

For me, these two points alone would be sufficient reason to run a mile!

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