Saturday, December 28, 2013

Department of Huh?

Surprising to find this biased conclusion reported on Alternet.
The legitimacy of acupuncture has been widely debated over the past several decades. While many swear by its healing powers, others, most notably medical researchers, say it does not work for anything, period.
A new study published in the journal Cancer confirms the latter view, suggesting that any relief acupuncture may bring, is the result of a placebo effect and no better than ‘sham version’ used in a breast cancer drug study, Health Finder reported.
Conversely see for example Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials (2003; 87 pages)  at Essential Medicines and Health Products Information Portal — A World Health Organization resource, listing:

1) diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved-through controlled trials-to be an effective treatment;

2) diseases, symptoms or conditions for which the therapeutic effect of acupuncture has been shown but for which further proof is needed;

3) diseases, symptoms or conditions for which there are only individual controlled trials reporting some therapeutic effects, but for which acupuncture is worth trying because treatment by conventional and other therapies is difficult, and

4) diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture may be tried provided the practitioner has special modern medical knowledge and adequate monitoring equipment.

Moreover, there are many more listings under categories 1 and 2 than 3 and 4.

Seems to be another instance of orthodoxy marginalizing heterodoxy in the media?

Alternet
New Study Concludes Acupuncture Is Bogus—Sorry
Jodie Gummow


16 comments:

Brendon Wayne said...

Haha great play on words in the title.
-Foreign Earned Income Tax Credit

Dan Kervick said...

They're just reporting the results of a study. Is the study methodologically flawed?

Tom Hickey said...

Not "just reporting the results of a study" but extending the putative implications of a single study with a limited to sample to a whole range beyond the subject of the study, i.e., the effectiveness of the procedure in toto. The article suggests that there is no significant research showing the effectiveness of this type of treatment with there is a whole lot of research that does. The effect on many people would be to dismiss acupuncture as ineffective in toto, when that would be an unwarranted conclusion based on fact, i.e., results of research not reported by this article.

This is typically the way orthodoxy works to discredit heterodoxy. Take one case (apparently) favorable to orthodoxy and use it as a club to beat down the opposition.

Was the study flawed? The study of "effectiveness" was based not on objectively measurable outcomes but similarity of subjective reports. Just what does that "prove"?

For example, a treatment might be effective objectively but there could also be a placebo effect involved. Now if neither group reported any success, then the study might show something useful, but that was not the case.

Matt Franko said...

I dont think anyone ever claimed it could cure cancer in the first place....rsp,

Tom Hickey said...

Right, Matt, it was about "bringing relief," i.e., subjective rather than objective. Acupuncture is frequently used as an analgesic and anesthetic.

Matt Franko said...

I have some friends who have utilized acupuncture quite successfully for those types of reliefs Tom... rsp,

Dan Kervick said...

The study doesn't deny that there are analgesic effects. But it suggests they are indistinguishable from placebo effects.

Matt Franko said...

This may be revealing:

"the study followed 47 female cancer patients who were being treated with a breast cancer medication that caused menopause-like symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and muscle pain.

23 of the women received eight weeks of acupuncture while the rest received eight weeks of “sham acupuncture” using retractable needles that do not pierce the skin, San Francisco Chronicle reported."

So what they were doing with the conductive needles placed at key electrical junctions (ie acupuncture) was trying to somehow counteract the effects of the pharma... This I dont know if the best people in acupuncture would know how to deal with... as these pharma treatments are relatively new and the acupuncture is ancient...

iow, if the problem was flesh specific, like arthritis or something, headaches, etc. then perhaps the acupuncture would help...

but what you have here is like two competing remedies where they are using pharma to combat the cancer and then the acupunture to combat the effects of the pharma and I dont think it would work that way.... or if there is adequate knowledge in the academe of acupuncture to deal with what is really going on within these pharma receiving patients...

if it was like 'run of the mill hot flashes' like females often get as they age, perhaps the acupuncture would help, but that caused by pharma, perhaps not...

rsp,

Matt Franko said...

Trace this back and probably what you will find is a corruption entering into Alternet that is trying to denigrate these alternative medical treatments because "we cant afford it" in the ACA or whatever...

This same thing happened over at NewDeal 2.0 with the Peterson $$ going in there and corrupted the whole thing over there...

These AlterNet people probably got some funds from the Peterson 'fix the debt' moron type people ("We need Death Panels" Rattner, et al) and now they have to run down alternative medicines which are on the cusp of becoming a more accepted form of treatment in the US so we dont have to 'borrow from our grandchildren' in order to pay the practitioners. Seems like a pattern...

rsp,

Roger Erickson said...

Hypnosis apparently works for some people, and is able to induce belief in a placebo effect.

Does that make it fraud?

Why can't people understand the concept of sub-context within every context? There's a reason we invented applications of statistics, not just statistical methods.

The only valid point of any of these studies is that there are groups over-advertising and lying about the general utility of very specific observations.

Why do WE care? It's always because of the lack of adequate regulation.

You know the reason why. We're supposedly running out of fiat. Therefore we must let frauds be frauds. So THEY can make money.

"Damn the Aggregate. Full fraud ahead."

"I have met the macro, and subjugated it to the micro."
[Famous fraud sayings.]



Dan Kervick said...

Look, all of you guys have panned this report, but none of you have yet cited a single methodological flaw in the study.

Tom Hickey said...

The study itself is not the issue. It's the AlterNet article about the study. The study doesn't support the tone of the article.

The article appears to me to be an oblique attack on alternative approaches, and one that actually has been well-researched in the US as well as globally especially in Asia. There is a huge professional literature on this and I am personally acquainted with two physicians with Western MD degrees that use acupuncture in their practice. The suggestion that one rather peripheral study in any way discredits or calls acupuncture into question as an effective treatment in some cases is ridiculous. But that is lede of the article.

I cite this to show that the economic orthodoxy is not alone in using media to discredit or marginalize what is not considered orthodox practice.

Moreover, there is the ethical issue of mainstream professionals receiving compensation or benefits from the interests their work supports and advances.

It's pretty well known that the pharmaceutical industry uses professionals to promote its interest. Diagnosing Conflict-of-Interest Disorder - Big Pharma works in subtle but powerful ways inside the pages of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
by Lisa Cosgrove AAUP, Nov-Dec 2010.

What is less known is how business and finance use academic economists, too. See, for instance, The Scholars Who Shill for Wall Street by Lee Fang November 11, 2013 edition of The Nation.

The Rombach Report said...

Cui Bono? Who benefits from discrediting the ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture? The US medical industrial complex benefits from discrediting acupuncture; that's who.

Acupuncture is successfully used for major surgery in China because it can be used much the same way that analgesics are used in blocking pain. To my knowledge there are no claims that acupuncture can cure cancer.

That said, I have benefitted from acupuncture treatment on two occasions. One treatment was for severe sciatic pain from a skiing accident and the other was for chronic tension knots in my neck and shoulder that made it impossible for me to turn my head. I felt like I had an ice pick stuck in my shoulder. In both cases the sharp prolonged pain I had been feeling melted within seconds after being treated.

Matt Franko said...

Dan,

" using retractable needles that do not pierce the skin,"

The metallic conductors were still in the area of the electrical junction.... this will STILL result in electro-magnetic effects...

Maybe what we can take away from this is that we dont have to actually pierce the skin but just get a short piece of conductor which acts like an antenna on top of the electrical junctions....

And like I described above, they dont have a complete systems perspective as "all hot flashes are not created equal"... you have to trace back the source of the hot flashes...

In typical female menopause, some sort of hormonal changes create the symptom of 'hot flashes'... that was not the case here there was the introduction of pharma that was correlated with the hot flashes so these are TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SYSTEMIC CONDITIONS which in the former case, this ancient art probably has some experience with this symptom of general female aging process which has been going on for thousands of years.... the latter case here is a modern cancer treatment via pharma which needs more investigation by the acupuncture practitioners...

The study is thus manifestly flawed... its 'apples and oranges' at the systemic level...

rsp,

Tom Hickey said...

I brought this up because it seemed to me obvious that essentially the same logic was being marshaled to discredit unorthodox medical approaches as is used to marginalize heterodox economics.

The AlterNet article is based on the orthodox view that medicine is about causal mechanisms and where the causal mechanism is unknown, any result must be the result of "the placebo effect," — the cause of which is also unknown, btw. So the logic is to reject one thing based on unknown causes for something else of unknown cause.

Similarly, the mainstream is now arguing against the criticism that it's model did not predict the crisis but others did based on the premise that no heterodox model predicted the timing of the crisis with precision wrt to timing and even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Their argument is based on the view that if you don't have a mathematically precise model like we do, you aren't in the game, even though their model admittedly ruled out such occurrences other than as a result of unforeseeable shocks while heterodox models issued warnings based on a clearly explained diagnosis, etiology and preventive treatment.

Matt Franko said...

But their models are shit Tom....

rsp,