Monday, April 02, 2007

Medicine: Alternative medicine is just bunk?

In a paper in Nature, University College London Professor David Colquhoun urged British watchdogs to act against alternative medicine because it is "not based on scientific evidence." He particularly cited homeopathy.

Trouble is, homeopathy is number 4 of 13 things that don't make sense, according to a recent article in New Scientist, because there is at least some evidence that it does work, though according to current theory it shouldn't.

According to the BBC,
The Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health, a group set up by Prince Charles to promote complementary therapy, said there was increasing evidence alternative therapies worked and where there was no proof it did not necessarily mean that there would never be.

Foundation chief executive Kim Lavely added: "The enormous demand from the public for complementary treatments means that we need more research into why and how patients are benefiting.

"Scientists should want to explore this rather than make sweeping, absolutist generalisations arising from deeply held prejudice as David Colquhoun does in this article."

One problem is that the placebo effect is such a powerful effect in patients that many alternative therapies would doubtless work simply because the patient believes in them. That suggests a vast, uncharted territory that cannot be spanned simply by dismissal.

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