walk a-musing

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trick or Treatment

I just finished reading Trick or treatment? by Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh. it is a book about alternative medicine 'put on trial'. Based on the results of various rigorous tests the authors show that practically every alternative medicine is hocus pocus. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.

Alternative medicine, particularly homeopathy, is of great interest to me - mainly because I have seen too many near and dear ones suffer because of a blind faith in it. Whenever there are discussions/arguments with friends about the subject, I bring in chemistry, Avogadro number, homeopathic superdilution, and insist that no active ingredient would be left in the so called medicine. Does not impress anyone. The argument is always, "I have personally seen it work". My counter argument that there is no evidence that the result was due to the medicine alone, it could be the placebo effect, or the body healing itself, and that I not only have seen it not work but have seen it actually cause harm because of delay in seeking conventional medicine, always falls on deaf ears. Now I can quote the huge body of evidence from this book and talk about evidence based medicine, randomised controlled trials and even Cochrane Collaboration (about which I only heard from this book) and see how it goes. I will pass the book to friends and ask them to read it.

I love coincidences. The day after reading the book I received an invitation to participate in just such a randomised controlled trial conducted by a nearby university. I immediately accepted it. If Barry Marshall could get himself infected to prove that stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria, the least I could do is participate in a trial to prove or disprove the efficacy of some treatment.

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