A biostatistician, author and Senior Research Methodologist at the University of Maryland, Bausell looks at the alternative methods used by more than 36 percent of Americans to treat pain and illness by posing the question, "Is any complementary and alternative medical therapy more effective than a placebo?" In short, his answer is no; what, then, is actually happening in patients (and professionals) who swear by the medical utility of such complementary and alternative medicines ("CAMs") as acupuncture, deep breathing exercises and megavitamin therapy? Step by step, Bausell builds a rigorous case against CAM, beginning with a look at the history of CAMs and placebos, then the "poorly trained scientists" and flawed studies (among more than 300 analyzed for this book) that have historically supported CAM's efficacy. A breakdown of the placebo effect's hows and whys follows (are people hardwired for susceptibility?), along with a look at "high-quality studies" and "systematic reviews" (including an Italian study that finds natural opioid secretion in the brain responsible for the perceived benefits of placebos) which largely support Bausell's answer. Entertaining and informative, with plenty of diverting anecdotal examples, Bausell offers non-professionals and pros a thorough look at the science on CAM, along with a complementary lesson in the methods of good medical research.
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"Hang up your lantern Diogenes, an honest man has been found. Barker Bausell, a biostatistician, has stepped out of the shadows to give us an insider's look at how clinical evidence is manipulated to package and market the placebo effect. Labeled as "complementary and alternative medicine," the placebo effect is being sold not just to a gullible public, but to an increasing number of health professionals as well. Bausell knows every trick, and explains them in clear language." --Robert L. Park, Ph.D., Professor of Physics, University of Maryland, and author of Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud
"At Skeptic magazine there is no topic for which we receive more requests to comment on than alternative and complementary medicine. It is big business with big claims and big demands on it to produce, but there is very little science behind most of it. Unfortunately, what has long been lacking is a well-written, clear, and concise analysis of its major claims to which we can direct our readers. That problem has now been remedied by R. Barker Bausell's authoritative and highly readable analysis Snake Oil Science, which should be read by anyone contemplating the use of any of the hundreds of alternative and complementary medical treatments out there that promise hope but usually deliver disappointment."--Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and the author of Why People Believe Weird Things
"Anyone who reads Bausell's rigorous scientific analysis of the risks and benefits of complementary and alternative medicine will be left wondering why they are spending so much on so many useless products."--Jerome P. Kassirer, M.D., Tufts University School of Medicine, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, New England Journal of Medicine, and author of On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health
"The book is aimed at the consumer, and it is written in a simple, entertaining style such that the consumer will understand it and enjoy reading it. So the consumer should and, I'm sure, will buy this book. But in addition I would also warmly recommend it to healthcare professionals who work in CAM or have an interest in this area. They will not easily find a harder hitting, more eloquent, or smarter critique of CAM!"--Edzard Ernst, M.D., Ph.D., Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, UK
"Readable, entertaining and immensely educational...[Bausell] writes with a sense of humor and palpable compassion for all involved."--Science Times
"Readable, entertaining and immensely educational...[Bausell] writes with a sense of humor and palpable compassion for all involved."--New York Times
"...An overview of alternative and complementary treatments. [Bausell] explains why most such treatments can't possibly do what their proponents claim, but he rarely takes on the scoffing tone that many skeptics use when discussing these issues."--ScienceNews