The Magic Feather Effect: Placebos and the Power of Belief in Alternative Medicine

In her book The Magic Feather Effect, journalist Melanie Warner covers placebo research, shows that alternative medicine is placebo medicine, takes a “try it yourself” approach, and gives belief and anecdotes more credit than they deserve. In the movie Dumbo, a little elephant with large ears can fly by flapping them like wings, but he refuses to

Kidney Cancer and Incidentalomas

Kidney cancer diagnoses are increasing but there has been no increase in mortality or rate of metastases. Kidney cancer is most often diagnosed as an incidental finding on a CT scan that was done for unrelated reasons. Treatment may not always be needed. In the February 1, 2019 issue of American Family Physician, there is an

Caffeine Withdrawal Headaches

Caffeine is not addictive. Regular users of caffeine can develop tolerance and mild physical dependence, and sudden withdrawal can cause headaches and other symptoms (but only in half the population). This is does not qualify as addiction. In the Feb/March 2019 issue of Free Inquiry magazine, there was an article by John Frantz, MD, titled “The Biology

Misleading Ad for Apeaz

An ad for Apeaz in Discover Magazine is misleading. Its active ingredient may provide some temporary relief of pain, but the claims in the ad are overblown. It is not a new blockbuster drug or an anesthetic. I saw a full-page ad in Discover Magazine for Apeaz, a “New blockbuster arthritis drug” in the form of a cream. Almost

Just How Addictive Are Opioids?

There is an opioid epidemic, with increasing overdose deaths from both prescription drugs and illegal drugs. Just how addictive are opioids? It appears they are safe when used appropriately, but there is a high risk of abuse, and they are deadly when misused, especially OxyContin.  We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic. Prescription

Critical Thinking in Medicine

Rodin’s Thinker is doing his best to think but if he hasn’t learned critical thinking skills, he is likely to make mistakes. The human brain is prone to a multitude of cognitive errors. Critical thinking in medicine is what the Science-Based Medicine (SBM) blog is all about. Jonathan Howard has written a superb book, Cognitive Errors

Osteopenia: When Does Decreased Bone Density Become a Disease Requiring Treatment?

Osteoporosis is routinely treated with bisphosphonates to prevent fractures. A new study suggests that osteopenia should be treated too. But questions remain.  Bisphosphonate drugs have been shown to increase bone density and prevent fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis (remember Sally Field in those ads for Boniva?) but what about women with milder decreases in

Autism Revisited

Is the autism epidemic due to more awareness and better diagnosis, or to diagnostic substitution? Is it due to something that has changed in our environment? Is there really an autism epidemic? Gil Eyal et al., the authors of the book The Autism Matrix: The Social Origins of the Autism Epidemic wonder if we have been asking

Vertigo Voodoo: A Crazy-Sounding Cure That Actually Works

A sequence of positional changes sounds like voodoo, but is actually an effective way to cure benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This will not be my typical Science-Based Medicine post. What it is not This will not be: About vaccines, diet, pseudoscience, quackery, or alternative medicine A critique of a questionable treatment, claim, or practice