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The Bitter Pill


FSM has a column in Australasian Science (AS) Magazine: here are the articles that have been published:

May/June 2017: Prevention or Pretension? By Benson Riddle

When the great Dutch scholar Erasmus famously wrote that “prevention is better than cure” around 500 years ago, he didn’t exactly have orthomolecular medicine and high colonics in mind.

March/April 2017: Protecting your health in a post-truth world By Rob Morrison

As scientific literacy declines and “post-truth” and “alternative facts” take centre stage, how can you ensure that you get proper health treatments that will actually do some good?

January/February 2017: US Mandates “No Evidence” Labels for Homeopathic Products By Justin Coleman

Before advocates of science get too excited, though, a number of caveats may limit its effect

December 2016: Why Acupuncture Misses the Point By Marcello Costa

History reveals the sociopolitical factors behind the rise and fall of acupuncture

** The below articles can be viewed without subscription to AS Magazine **

November 2016: Anti-Vaccination and CAM Reflect a Common Worldview By Matt Browne

A study has explored the psychosocial factors driving anti-vaccination attitudes.

October 2016: Australian Chiropractors Manipulate the Evidence By Ken Harvey

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is dealing with more than 600 complaints about chiropractors. The majority of these cases involve caring practitioners who genuinely believe that their interventions are effective. The problem is their interpretation of evidence.

September 2016: The Ultimate Placebo By Ian Harris

The placebo effect is usually invoked with pharmaceutical treatments, but why not surgery?

July/August 2016: Is Saturated Fat Good or Bad? By Rosemary Stanton

Populist TV, blogs and publications have portrayed saturated fats as healthy rather than dietary villains, but this is an oversimplification as it’s not valid to judge our complex dietary intake by only one component.

June 2016 : Dodgy Tests and Dodgy Diagnoses By Bruce Campbell

Lax regulation of complementary treatments is allowing alternative laboratories to peddle expensive and useless diagnostic tests.

May 2016 : An EEG Only Scratches the Surface of the Brain By Marko Petrovic

Chiropractors claim that “functional neurology” can treat conditions ranging from epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease to autism and stroke, but the technology they use isn’t up to the task.

April 2016 : Is Chemmart’s myDNA Test Right for You? By Ken Harvey

The promises of genetic tests and treatments may be outstripping the science.

March 2016 : What The Egg Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know By David Spence

The health claims of the egg industry rely on a red herring and a half-truth.

January/February 2016: Smoke, Mirrors and Nanotechnology By Andrew Stapleton

Alternative health practitioners are quick to offer a variety of untested therapies. Nanotechnology is yet another in the list.

December 2015: The Needles Are as Thin as the Evidence By Marko Petrovic

Practitioners of dry-needling swear by it, yet there is no evidence it will relieve your muscular aches and pains.

November 2015: Why People Believe Weird Things 101 By Mark Carter

A new university course is teaching students why normally sensible people believe weird things, and some of the tricks used by pseudoscientific practitioners.

October 2015: Does Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have a Neurological Origin? By Leighton Barnden

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may result from damage to a small but critical brain structure.

September 2015: Pseudoscience in Sport: If it's Legal It Probably Doesn't Work By Marko Petrovic

Elite athletes are prime targets for emerging sham products that promise make-believe effects.

July/August 2015: "Integrative Medicine" Has No Place in Universities By Loretta Marron

With their financial resources under threat, Australia’s universities need to resist the temptation of offering lucrative courses that rebadge complementary therapies as “integrative medicine”.

June 2015: "Alternative" Is Not A Compliment By Sue Ierac

There is no such thing as "CAM", only medicine, complementary therapy and scam.

May 2015: Stepping out of the Dental Dark Ages By Michael Foley

Water fluoridation has been one of the country’s most effective public health measures, but parts of Australia don’t have that benefit and may even strongly resist it. Why?

April 2015: What's the Evidence, Ms Kardashian? By Lauren Giorgio

It is disturbingly common to find celebrities paid to spruik alternative treatments, medicines and practices that science has already shown are ineffective - or worse.

March 2015: Why do we pay parents who won't vaccinate their kids? By Peter Speck

The federal government wrestles with the cost of health care for Australians, so isn't it time they stopped paying parents not to vaccinate their children?

January/February 2015: Evidence for Acupuncture: What Do Scientific Studies Show? By Harriet Hall

Advocates of acupuncture claim that it has been proven effective by scientific studies. Critics claim that it is only a placebo. They can’t both be right.

December 2014: Everything You've Heard about Acupuncture is Wrong By Harriet Hall

Acupuncture is often cited as an effective alternative method of treating a range of ailments, but few people are aware of the origins, philosophies and contractions involved.

November 2014: Is Evidence-based Medicine in Palliative Care Doing More Harm than Good? By Natalie Cutri

Stringent regulations govern what is administered to us in the prime of our lives, but different values seem to apply when it comes to the terminally ill and dying.

October 2014: Vitamins: Perception versus Reality By Louis Roller

Which vitamins are backed by scientific evidence and which don't live up to the hype?

September 2014The “Natural” Route to Health: A Pharmacist’s View By Ian Carr

A growing tendency to sell and even promote alternative remedies and “natural” supplements is putting the reputation of pharmacists at risk, and adding to the burgeoning health costs of the nation.

July/August 2014: Needless Treatment of Pets By Tanya Stephens

The emergence of complementary and alternative medicine in veterinary clinics is a serious threat to animal welfare and the reputation of veterinarians.

June 2014: Homeopathy Fails the Test – Again By Loretta Marron

The National Health and Medical Research Council has found that homeopathy is no better than a placebo. It is one of many such findings around the world, but will it change anything?

May 2014: Balancing Returning to Vaccination Information By Rachael Dunlop

Colonic cleansing has persisted as an alternative therapy for centuries despite a lack of evidence.

April 2014: Seeking the Evidence for Chinese Medicine By Dave Hawkes

By looking for active ingredients in traditional Chinese medicines, ethnopharmacologists are finding evidence for their efficacy.

March 2014: Getting to the Bottom of Colon Cleansing By Joanne Benhamu

Colonic cleansing has persisted as an alternative therapy for centuries despite a lack of evidence.

January & February 2014: A Catalyst for Better Science Journalism By Rob Morrison

In the wake of the controversial Catalyst reports on cholesterol and statins, Rob Morrison provides a checklist for good science journalism.

December 2013: How Charles Darwin Was Cured by Water By John Hayman

The “water cure” relieved Charles Darwin of periods of nausea, but why didn’t it work at home?

November 2013: Darwin’s Diagnoses By John Hayman

The father of modern biology suffered much at the hands of alternative medical practitioners.

October 2013: The Natural Logic of Health Care By Wendy Daniels

It’s time to debunk the “natural is healthy and good and non-natural is unhealthy and bad” myth.

September 2013: Call Out the Quacks By Tory Shepherd

Scientists often complain about the way the media treat their message, but journalists have reason to complain as well, since many scientists don’t help to get that message straight.

July & August 2013: Too Open to Ideas? By Matthew Browne

Why do intelligent people believe incredible things? Psychological studies suggest that the answer may lie in personality type rather than any measure of intelligence.

June 2013: Is Complementary Medicine a Valid Alternative? By Marcello Costa

How can we compare the evidence base behind conventional and complementary medicine?

May 2013: When “Healing Hands” Start Grasping By John Dwyer

Esoteric breast massage claims “to heal many issues such as painful periods, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, bloating/water retention, and pre-menstrual and menopausal symptoms”.

April 2013: What’s the Evidence? By Sue Ieraci

The terms “evidence-based” and “peer-reviewed” have become touchstones for reliability, but why should the views of peers count so much and what does “evidence-based” medicine really mean?

March 2013: Science Advocacy and Social Media By Campbell Phillips

The ever-changing media landscape is continuing to affect the role of science communication. How can scientists and medical practitioners be expected to respond to social media?

January/February 2013: Cap, Gown and Wand By Michael Vagg

Are there any good arguments for teaching complementary medicines in tertiary institutions?

December 2012: When ARTG and CAM Spell SFA By Rachael Dunlop

Recent moves to improve the regulation of alternative medicines looked promising until the Therapeutic Goods Administration caved under pressure from the industry.

November 2012: Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog by John Dwyer

Modern pharmacology is among the most rigorous of sciences. After all, the health of millions depends on pharmacologists getting it right, but what has happened to those who dispense those products – the men and woman of modern pharma

October 2012: A Dose of Science by Rob Morrison

Alternative health practices pirate the terminology and titles of real science to gain credibility, but it is what their practitioners do, not what they say, that gives the game away.



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