Reviews of chiropractic and homeopathy; germ theory; science journalism; and more

FSM Friends news & articles:

Chiropractic and Spinal Manipulation Red Flags: A Comprehensive Review: An in-depth review of the efficacy, lack of efficacy and myths of chiropractic by a second-generation chiropractor who has been expressing his views about the benefits of appropriate use of spinal manipulation (as opposed to use of such treatment based on chiropractic subluxation theory) for over half a century.

Australian review: Get homeopathy out of pharmacies: An independent review of Australian pharmacy practice has recommended that homeopathic products be kept out of pharmacies.


Medical Facts and Figures in History:

Germ theory: the idea that microscopic organisms performed many roles in the world, all unseen, from fermenting grapes into wine to causing and spreading disease. But even as nineteenth century minds slowly accepted these new ideas, they still remained mired in the past. The germs may be fermenting wine, but they simply appeared from nowhere. This is the theory of spontaneous generation, an idea harking back to Aristotle.

It took the work of Louis Pasteur to disprove spontaneous generation by clever experimentation. Robert Koch furthered this work, isolating the bacteria that caused anthrax in cattle and formulating Koch’s postulates for proving disease causation.

These discoveries not only established bacteria as disease-causing agents, but opened the door for the formulation of vaccines against these diseases, thereby changing the impact of infectious diseases on humanity.


General News:

As doctors we must get better at asking questions about sexuality: “In atonement, I can only say that when considering the relationships of my patients, I ask more and assume less. But I also hope that patients will not be afraid to hold the healthcare profession to a higher standard. Doctors must improve at asking questions about sexuality, and patients should feel comfortable answering them. This is not just nice etiquette but good medicine. In the quest to achieve healthcare equality, it’s important we remember this facet we rarely discuss.”

TGA to take on Ad complaints single-handed: It is hoped the reforms will simplify the complaints process for consumers and allow for more effective policing of advertisements for medicines and medical devices.

Science journalism is in Australia’s interest, but needs support to thrive: Journalism has the ability to filter good information, to inform the public, and even to drive policy change. But what happens as fewer and fewer journalist have a science expertise or specialisation?

Consider the enthusiastic reporting on the Wakefield autism scare. “Had the journalists at that initial press conference been equipped to appraise the findings critically, the poor science may have been revealed from the start. Specialist correspondents develop a deep and complex understanding of their round over time, and carry a knowledge of what’s gone before that surpasses a quick internet search. They might, for instance, recognise that a particular “breakthrough” is simply an old study repackaged, that a study is very small, or that its promises have been made before … The disappearance of the specialists means a loss of personnel with the time and the expertise to probe deeply and to ask uncomfortable questions… the opportunities for genuine investigation are slim. This loss of specialist reporters means that there is no one to fight for good science in editorial meetings or look for science angles in everyday news stories.”

The question is, what can we do to support good science reporting?


Abused Health Concepts:

“Medical Marijuana” Time to unmuddy the cannabis waters: Studies in to cannabis or cannabinoids tend to be used as spin to promote pro-cannabis politics/memes.When interesting science is used to further political agendas, it tends to leave a great many people misinformed, and actually makes it more difficult to push the science through to useful conclusions.

“Findings like these have fueled the community campaign for “medicinal cannabis”, with proponents frequently campaigning for the use of the whole plant, homegrown, as “herbal medicine”. Outrageous claims have been made – well beyond the plant’s pharmacological potential – for cures for everything from cancer to Alzheimer disease… emphasising the “natural”, “herbal” aspects of the whole plant, invoking conspiracies about Big Pharma. This is a thinly-disguised bid for liberalisation of recreational use.”

“As experts in therapeutics, it is essential that we are familiar with the evidence – what is known, what is plausible and what is not. In that way, we can make good use of the evidence-based effects, anticipate and manage side effects and debunk the multitude of myths.”


Great Moments in Health and Science:

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR): Despite being invented only as recently as 1983, our current understanding of and use of genetic testing would be nearly impossible if not for this brilliant method of copying DNA which can produce billions of copies of DNA from a single strand in mere hours.


Health Promotion and Disease Prevention:

Shingles increase heart attacks – time for the vaccine:

“This large sized study gives us robust evidence that shingles can substantially increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It’s a good thing that we have the technology to prevent shingles. First, we can prevent the original chickenpox infection with the chickenpox vaccine. Second, if you contracted chickenpox, we can prevent shingles with the shingles vaccine. Here are your choices – prevent the virus from attacking you in either form. Or let shingles increase heart attacks and strokes later on. The decision is easy – vaccines.”