Snake Oil Science: The Truth About Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Overview

Hailed in the New York Times as "entertaining and immensely educational," Snake Oil Science is not only a brilliant critique of alternative medicine, but also a first-rate introduction to interpreting scientific research of any sort. The book's ultimate goal is to illustrate how the placebo effect conspires to make medical therapies appear to be effective?not just to consumers, but to therapists and poorly trained scientists as well. Bausell explores this remarkable phenomenon and explains why research on any ...

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Overview

Hailed in the New York Times as "entertaining and immensely educational," Snake Oil Science is not only a brilliant critique of alternative medicine, but also a first-rate introduction to interpreting scientific research of any sort. The book's ultimate goal is to illustrate how the placebo effect conspires to make medical therapies appear to be effective—not just to consumers, but to therapists and poorly trained scientists as well. Bausell explores this remarkable phenomenon and explains why research on any therapy that does not factor in the placebo effect (and other placebo-like effects) will inevitably produce false results. Moreover, as the author shows in an impressive survey of research from high-quality scientific journals, studies employing credible placebo controls do not indicate positive effects for alternative therapies beyond those attributable to random chance. Readers will come away from this book with a healthy skepticism of claims about the latest "miracle cure," be it St. John's Wort for depression or acupuncture for chronic pain.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In a much gentler approach than the title would imply, Bausell (senior research methodologist, Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore) takes on the emotional, science-resistant topic of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with cold logic and a sense of humor, drawing on his expertise in constructing and evaluating clinical trials. He briefly traces the history of CAM, introduces the placebo effect, then lays out in some detail the pitfalls faced by even the most conscientious researchers in producing valid, unbiased trials. After a more detailed look at the placebo effect, he lists and analyzes as many "high-quality" trials of CAM therapies as he can identify. The result is what he sees as a clear verdict that any positive results for CAM to this point have been owing to the placebo effect. Bausell's casual writing style and dry wit produce a lively but scientifically sound, well-documented work that objective readers should find informative. A good companion to Robert Park's Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud, it is highly recommended for public and medical libraries.
—Dick Maxwell

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195383423
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/31/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 393,672
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore, was Research Director of a National Institutes of Health-funded Complementary and Alternative Medicine Specialized Research Center.

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Table of Contents


Introduction.

1. The Rise of Complementary and Alternative Therapies

2. A Brief History of Placebos

3. Natural Impediments to Making Valid Inferences

4. Impediments That Prevent our Physicians and Therapists From Making Valid Inferences

5. Impediments that Prevent Poorly Trained Scientists from Making Valid Inferences

6. Why Randomized Placebo Control Groups Are Necessary in CAM Research

7. Judging the Credibility and Plausibility of Scientific Evidence

8. Some Personal Research

9. How We Know that the Placebo Effect Exists

10. A Bio-Chemical Explanation for the Placebo Effect

11. Do CAM Therapies Work Or Are They Placebo Effects?

Evidence From High Quality Randomized Placebo Controlled

Trials

12. Do CAM Therapies Work Or Are They Placebo Effects?

Evidence From High Quality Systematic Reviews

13. How CAM Therapies Are Hypothesized to Work

14. Tying Up a Few Loose Ends

Notes.

Index.

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