When is Alternative Medicine, Medicine?

My Facebook friends are going a bit crazy over this one:

UT MD Anderson Study Finds Acupuncture Can Prevent Radiation-Induced Chronic Dry Mouth

When given alongside radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, acupuncture has shown for the first time to reduce the debilitating side effect of xerostomia, according to new research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center.

The study, published in the journal Cancer, reported findings from the first randomized controlled trial of acupuncture for the prevention of xerostomia.

Xerostomia, or severe dry mouth, is characterized by reduced salivary flow, which commonly affects patients receiving radiotherapy for head and neck cancer. Most current treatments are palliative and offer limited benefit, according to Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor in MD Anderson’s Departments of General Oncology and Behavioral Science and director of the Integrative Medicine Program.

Read the rest of the article
I simply wished to participate, so I commented that leeches have be proven to cure depression. We know this because patients rarely come back for follow-up treatments! Leeches are even approved by the FDA.

If you have never heard Tim Minchin’s beat poem “Storm” this is a good time.  (There are a couple of naughty words mixed in with a lot of good wisdom, so you be the judge if you want the kiddos to listen).

When is alternative medicine, medicine?  Do you agree with Tim Minchin or Storm?


About Anne Crumpacker

I like to read. I also like science, art and drama. I like really big numbers, but I don’t understand them. I like kids and being silly, but sometimes I feel serious and that’s when I like thinking BIG THOUGHTS. You can visit me @ SocraticMama.com
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4 Responses to When is Alternative Medicine, Medicine?

  1. Randolf-Carter says:

    It is highly suspicious that the word “placebo” appears no where in the article. Both the authors of the study and the author of the press release are obliged to point out that, whatever the mechanism of action, xerostomia is not caused by decreased chi flow, anymore than it’s caused by an imbalance of humors. A properly controlled follow up study will need to have a group with a similarly administered placebo (Stick the pins randomly? Reiki? Massage? Hypnosis? I’m open to suggestions here.)
    To answer the question, there is no alternative to medicine. If it works, it’s medicine. Whether or not acupuncture should be considered medicine (and maybe it should be) depends entirely on it’s performance in scientific studies.

  2. Michael Fisher says:

    Article quote:

    Support for the study was provided, in part, through grants from the National Cancer Institute and the Chinese Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality. 11/10/11


  3. ftfkdad says:

    i love bit in Storm, something along the lines of “by definition, alternative medicine is medicine that is either proven not to work, or not yet proven to work. What do you call alternative medicine when it works? … Medicine!”. and when Storm asks : “don’t you believe in natural remedies?” Tim responds “Why yes … only this morning I took a pill made from the bark of a willow tree. What was it called? ah yes, I remember … aspirin!”. Hilarious!

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