Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Columnist's selective view [Acupuncture]

Feb 23, 2011

AS A champion of evidence-based medicine, Dr Andy Ho never fails to highlight little molehills of evidence that cast the slightest doubts on the efficacy and safety of complementary and alternative medicine such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and bioresonance ("Pinning down acupuncture: It's a placebo", Feb 12; "Indefensible ideas behind homeopathy", Jan 22; "Perils of chiropractic neck manipulation", Jan 21; "Sending out the wrong signals", Nov 6, 2010).
Yet he turns a blind eye to the huge mountains of scientific evidence that point to the harm and/or ineffectiveness of medical treatments and procedures, including:
- arthritis drugs, cholesterol-lowering drugs, diabetes drugs, anti-depressants, anti-viral drugs for flu and other drugs;
- medical tests such as magnetic resonance imaging;
- chemotherapy;
- vaccination;
- unnecessary surgery; and
- dental amalgams that contain toxic mercury.
Iatrogenic disease - which refers to illness caused by medical treatment, including medical errors, infections picked up at hospitals and "acceptable" drug side effects - has become a serious problem. Some medical commentators have statistics to show that it is now the third-leading cause of death in medically advanced countries like the United States.
Dr Ho is also largely silent about the many scandals involving fraudulent medical research, data cover-ups, negative studies that go unreported when they fail to prove a drug's safety or effectiveness, and other unethical practices of the pharmaceutical industry, all of which cast serious doubt on the validity of the "evidence" that support drug-based medicine.

Richard Seah

[There is a difference between saying that western medical science has errors and scandals and saying that acupuncture in theory and practice is based on erroneous assumptions, and unsupported beliefs, and has no efficacy beyond that of a placebo effect.

Western medicine is not perfect. Drugs have side effects, precisely because it has effects. (Viagra's efficacy as an impotence cure was originally a side effect.) The difference is between having a falsifiable, testable hypothesis to gather evidence for one or another conclusion. Western medicine continues to test and retest hypotheses. Sometimes human failings short cut the process and drugs or treatment are approved when they should not. But there are remedies and channels to correct these mistakes.

There are no such peer review or scientific approach to alternative medicine. If such review exists there is no rigour to the review. Unlike western medicine which has competing opinions and testing of hypothesis, alternate medicine practitioners all have a vested interest in an autistic conspiracy to prove their practices' efficacy.

Studies published by China's TCM show only half a bell curve in terms of the efficacy of acupunture. The believer will say that this shows that acupuncture works because even the least effective treatment showed positive effect. The skeptic will suspect that the authorities only publish positive supportive studies.

You never hear of side effects or overdose by homeopathy. There are no reports of misapplication of acupuncture resulting in an inadvertent result or side effect. You never hear of a misapplied needle leading to some unintended side effect.

Either every acupuncturist is so well-trained and so experienced that there is no misdiagnosis, no misapplication of the needles, and no side effect, or very simply, nothing is happening.

Similarly, you can't overdose on homeopathy cos there's nothing there.]

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