Zaps, climate change, gene-editing, and more…

FSM News and Articles

Can a few zaps a day keep the pain away? It seems like a great idea, but the evidence base for transcutaneous electric neuronal stimulation (TENS) for relief of chronic pain is severely lacking. Complaints made to the TGA that these devices were marketed as ‘fast end effective’ (when the evidence does not demonstrate this) were classified as ‘low-risk’ and a letter was sent to the advertiser without further follow up. By the TGA’s own classification system, the repeated nature of the advertisements and complaints warrants an escalation of this matter to ‘medium risk’ and correction of the advertisements by the seller. A similar device was awarded a 2017 Choice ‘Shonky’ award for similar claims, and investigations of that device showed that the level of energy below that typically used for TENS. “Dr Brad McKay, a Sydney-based GP, says that the Pain Erazor is probably good for lighting your stovetop but unlikely to be beneficial for pain. “Any subjective decrease in pain is more likely to occur from sheer boredom after clicking the device 30 to 40 times, rather than from the device itself,” he adds.”The bar for compliance is already very low, and allowing sellers making false claims to go by virtually unchecked leaves the public unprotected from buying ineffective and potentially dangerous medical products.”

FSM Friends’ News and Articles

AARP report – Insufficient evidence that dietary supplements benefit brain health“Don’t waste your money on dietary supplements claiming they improve brain health. A healthy diet and lifestyle are the best medicine for your brain.”


China pneumonia: SARS ruled out as dozens fall ill in Wuhan: “There are many potential causes of viral pneumonia, many of which are more common than severe acute respiratory syndrome coronovirus,” a spokesman said last week. “WHO is closely monitoring this event and will share more details as we have them.”

Climate change and health: Extreme high air temperatures contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, particularly among elderly people. In the heat wave of summer 2003 in Europe for example, more than 70,000 excess deaths were recorded. High temperatures also raise the levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air that exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Pollen and other aeroallergen levels are also higher in extreme heat. These can trigger asthma, which affects around 300 million people. Ongoing temperature increases are expected to increase this burden.

The bushfires are horrendous, but expect cyclones, floods and heatwaves too: “Public attention on the disastrous bushfire crisis in Australia will rightly continue for weeks to come. But as we direct resources to coping and recovery, we should not forget other weather and climate challenges looming this summer. The peak time for heatwaves in southern Australia has not yet arrived. Many parts of Australia can expect heavy rains and flooding. And northern Australia’s cyclone season is just gearing up.”

Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who ‘gene-edited’ babies, jailed for practising medicine illegally: Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who claimed he made the world’s first “gene-edited” babies by altering human embryos in 2018, has been convicted on charges of practising medicine illegally, according to Chinese state media.

Great Moments in Health and Science

History of the Electron Microscope: Using electrons to visualise structures too small to be seen using light, the electron microscope has helped reveal the inner functions of our cells.

Today’s Abused Health Concept

More evidence that acupuncture doesn’t work for chronic pain: Another systematic review of the evidence of effectiveness for acupuncture has been carried out. Again, acupuncture is highly unimpressive. “Acupuncture is also a treatment with considerable—shall we say?—reinvention throughout history, or even, as I would put it, retconning … acupuncture as practiced now is not even ancient, but rather a practice that reached its current form roughly 90 years ago. Before that, it was a brutal practice, more akin to “ancient Western” medicine involving bloodletting. Well, yes, most acupuncture studies are crap, poorly designed and prone to bias, particularly studies carried out in China, which are never negative. However, one thing we do know: The larger the study, the more well-controlled the study, the more rigorous the design, the less of an effect is seen.”

An interesting point to note is that studies with less 200 participants (or less than 500 for meta-analysis) were found to be highly vulnerable to bias. Also the methodological short coming of many trials was discussed. Many studies lack proper controls, or are setup in such a way that it is impossible to report a negative finding, such as the infamous “A + B vs B” study design. “Acupuncture for chronic pain is, as it is for all conditions for which it’s currently used, theatrical placebo. This systematic review is more evidence supporting that conclusion.”