Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Alternative Medicine Studies and False Positives

Today is Tuesday so that means it's Science Times day. The article of note today is on one of my favorite topics and is titled: Applying Science to Alternative Medicine. The article is about the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, and the vigorous research they are conducting on alternative medicine "cures and treatments".

Unfortunately, I'm not too certain whether the article is well researched. Here's an example:
Another large study enrolled 570 participants to see if acupuncture provided pain relief and improved function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee. In 2004, it reported positive results. Dr. Brian M. Berman, the study’s director and a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, said the inquiry “establishes that acupuncture is an effective complement to conventional arthritis treatment.”

True, studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in relieving some sorts of pain. However, it's important to note that research has shown that sham accupuncture (a needle placed anywhere in the body) is as effective as needles placed along mapped "meridians" in treating pain of migraine headaches. This implies that the effectiveness of acupuncture is due to the well described placebo effect.

Many scientists (including and ex-director) feel that the $121 million dollars spent at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine could be put to better use elsewhere.

No comments: