The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

$2.5 Billion Spent, No Alternative Cures Found

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 11, 2009

Well, since I’ve been bagging on the alt-med nonsense lately, I simply couldn’t pass up this headline.  And folks… the headline says it all… “No Alternative Cures Found”… Zilch… Nada… Zip… Zero!  Despite their inability to understand the most basic aspects of science and the associated math, I think that zero is a number that even alt-med woo-meisters can grasp 🙂

$2.5 billion spent, no alternative cures found

Big, government-funded studies show most work no better than placebos

Ten years ago the government set out to test herbal and other alternative health remedies to find the ones that work. After spending $2.5 billion, the disappointing answer seems to be that almost none of them do.

Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.

As for therapies, acupuncture has been shown to help certain conditions, and yoga, massage, meditation and other relaxation methods may relieve symptoms like pain, anxiety and fatigue.

However, the government also is funding studies of purported energy fields, distance healing and other approaches that have little if any biological plausibility or scientific evidence.

Taxpayers are bankrolling studies of whether pressing various spots on your head can help with weight loss, whether brain waves emitted from a special “master” can help break cocaine addiction, and whether wearing magnets can help the painful wrist problem, carpal tunnel syndrome.

The acupressure weight-loss technique won a $2 million grant even though a small trial of it on 60 people found no statistically significant benefit — only an encouraging trend that could have occurred by chance. The researcher says the pilot study was just to see if the technique was feasible.

“You expect scientific thinking” at a federal science agency, said R. Barker Bausell, author of “Snake Oil Science” and a research methods expert at the University of Maryland, one of the agency’s top-funded research sites. “It’s become politically correct to investigate nonsense.”

I really like that quote: “It’s become politically correct to investigate nonsense.” And it is happening with our tax dollars, folks – to the tune of $2.5 billion dollars!  That’s $2,500,000,000 that could be better spent on… on… well, on just about any damn thing except a bunch of pseudoscientific woo that was pretty much invalidated by modern 20th century science decades ago!

And some of these alt-med idiots are seriously trying to make the argument that we should continue to fund these studies, even though the people in charge of evaluating them are not serious scientists (that’s right – half of the people on the board of the federal group in charge of this stupidity are themselves deep into the woo-woo and probably wouldn’t know the words “double blind test” if they bit them in the ass) and despite years and years of worthless results.

Talk about throwing good money after bad… of course, we all know this is probably just part of some big government conspiracy to hide the Truth of Alt-Med from the people, right?  Puh-leeeze!

Of course, there is a silver lining here: hopefully this news, coupled with an expressed desire by the Obama administration to make the medical process more accountable, transparent, and efficient, will result in the all-too-overdue death of our tax dollars going to support this balderdash.

Lastly, I think it is worth sharing with you probably the most pithy & snappy quote on this issue I’ve ever seen.  It’s from skeptical artist Tim Minchin who said:

You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been demonstrated to work?


One Response to “$2.5 Billion Spent, No Alternative Cures Found”

  1. […] Posted by mattusmaximus on July 29, 2009 Sometimes I just want to bash my head into a wall… remember how recently the results of a massive federal study were published, showing conclusively that over the last decade $2.5 billion was spent studying so-called alternative medicine (i.e. quackery) with the punchline th…? […]

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