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Alternative vs Evidence-Based Medicine

Introduction

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the term for medical products and practices that are not part of standard care provided in conventional doctor's surgeries and hospitals. There is much debate about whether such treatments are genuinely effective, no better than placebo or downright harmful. The following videos and articles provide some background for discussion of the issue.

Example of a non-scientific treatment

Discussion of Homeopathy

The placebo effect

A placebo (Latin for 'I shall please') is a pharmacologically inert substance (such as saline solution or a starch tablet) that seems to produce an effect similar to what would be expected of a pharmacologically active substance.

Ear candeling

This is my favourite snake-oil remedy and is included here as a good example of a completely bogus treatment. It involves paying someone to place a lighted candle in your ear which is supposed to extract toxins from your body. Scientific research has shown that it is at best ineffective and at worse positively dangerous.

Evidence-based medicine

Evidence-based medicine (EBM) has been defined as "the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients." Essentially, evidence based medicine entails evaluating the efficacy of treatments using double-blind testing and rejecting simple anecdotal evidence. As Goldacre says in his book "Data is not the plural of anecdote". Defenders of alternative medicine tend to argue that the methodology used in clinical trials is not appropriate to their practice as they treat "the whole person" and not just a disease.

Clinical Trials

Anti-CAM

Pro-CAM pressure

National CAM organisations

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