The Hippocrates Health Institute: Cancer quackery finally under the spotlight, but will it matter? (David Gorski) Brian Clement, the proprietor of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, has been preying on desperate cancer patients for nearly three decades, most recently on Makayla Sault, the aboriginal girl from Canada who died last month from a cancer that could have been cured with conventional treatment. Clement’s hodgepodge of arrant quackery is now getting media attention and a former employee is suing him. He is practicing medicine without a license. Florida law has failed to protect its citizens, allowing Clement to offer false hope at a high price with impunity.
Placebo, Are You There? (Harriet Hall) A translation of an article in French by Jean Brissonnet that offers the best explanation of placebo ever. Placebo controls are essential to clinical research, but the “effect of the placebo” in clinical practice doesn’t exist. What has been called the placebo effect is really a combination of contextual effects that can occur even if no placebo is given; placebo mechanisms are inherent in routine clinical care.
Psychology Journal Bans Significance Testing (Steven Novella) The journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology has banned the use of the null hypothesis significance testing procedure, often called frequentist analysis, where the iconic p-value <0.05 is considered to be the measure of statistical significance. The p-value was never meant to measure of the truth of a hypothesis, only whether the data should be taken seriously. It has been widely misunderstood, is not highly replicable, and is often misused.
Pseudoscience North: What’s happening to the University of Toronto? (Scott Gavura) The U of T is arguably the new pseudoscience leader among large universities. It has endorsed the study of homeopathy for treating ADHD, established a new Centre for Integrative Medicine, announced a collaboration with a chiropractic college, and provided a platform for promotion of pseudoscientific ideas about health and medicine.
The Straw Protocol: A Chiropractor’s Aggressively Promoted Neuropathy Treatment (William London) A chiropractor is aggressively advertising his neuropathy treatments via free dinner seminars and misleading newspaper ads. He uses an un-named electrical device, light emitting diodes, vibration treatments, nutritional education, and supplements. There is no evidence that his protocol works, and he has been fined for false advertising in the past. Consumers should file complaints and let legislators know they object to practitioners who deceptively advertise health services for financial gain and to licensing boards that fail to protect the public.
SSPE: A Deadly and Not-That-Rare Complication of Measles (Clay Jones) Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis is a horrific inflammatory brain complication of measles, a delayed reaction that typically occurs 6 to 8 years after an apparently benign case of measles. Death within 1 to 3 years of diagnosis is almost certain. It is more common than previously thought, affecting 1-2 per 10,000 cases of measles. There is no effective cure, but there is a highly safe and effective vaccine that can prevent it.
NECSS and SfSBM: A weekend of science and skepticism (Mark Crislip) A reminder of the upcoming conference in New York City featuring the SBM crew and Bill Nye the Science Guy.