A Rose By Any Other Name

A Rose By Any Other Name

Language is important as is choosing words.

What is alternative medicine? Alternative can span the spectrum from the truly wackaloon like homeopathy, reflexology and therapeutic touch through the potentially efficacious like herbs to the tried and true that really isn’t alternative.

As has been so repeated noted, what do you call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.

Diet and exercise are not alternative, although they can be covered with a patina of meta-physics and woo, as commonly happens when they need to be integrated into a CAM clinic. Diet and exercise are perhaps gateway woo, the poster boy that allows more disreputable and suspect therapies in the door.

Take Complementary Therapies Can Boost Survival in Cancer Patients on Medscape  (Two warnings. I am a paid Medscape ID blogger and my library does not carry the journal, so I rely on the Medscape article and the abstract).


I suspect that the lead author, Moshe Frenkel, and I do not have the same understanding of reality.  He calls homeopathy a “controversial system” and suggests that

it seems that there are clues that homeopathy might play a role in cancer care in both symptom control as well as in disease progression, but in order to substantiate these clues there is a need for appropriate clinical trials that will support this use.

and is the author of a mostly favorable review Homeopathy in Cancer Care. He also suggests reflexology and healing touch on his web site.  In my opinion Dr. Frenkle is not a good source for critical thinking about pseudo-medical interventions.

But this article doesn’t even touch on ‘alternative’ medicines.

Here is a typical quote from the Medscape article:

A number of studies have demonstrated that a combination of alternative therapies could even have greater effect on survival. For example, the combined effect of stress reduction, improved nutrition, physical activity, and smoking-cessation instruction was shown to have a significant effect on survival in women with localized breast cancer.

Really? Are any of these interventions alternative? Any? They are what our residents are being taught to provide patients in their internal medicine clinic.

It is the ongoing disingenuous re-branding of standard medical interventions as ‘alternative’ or ‘integrative’ to give respectability to clinics that then offer other useless pseudo-medical interventions like acupuncture or craniosacral therapy.

And Medscape fell for it.

Points of Interest 03/21/2015
Points of Interest 03/20/2015

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