Snake Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Every year millions of people flock to complementary and alternative therapists offering a vast array of treatments ranging from acupuncture to biofeedback to urine injections. Millions more purchase over-the-counter alternative medications, such as glucosamine, herbs, and homeopathic remedies. While consumer motivations for turning to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) vary, there is one common element among them all: a belief in their effectiveness. This belief appears to be prevalent among all elements of society, from scientists and physicians to celebrities such as Prince Charles and Oprah Winfrey to clerical workers and senior citizens.

On Sunday House Call we focus on the scientific evidence to help us understand whether a treatment claim, be it for medications or alternative therapies, do what they purport. And if they do, what is the true mechanism of action behind it?

  • Barker Bausell, PhD, biostatistician and author, Senior Research Methodologist in the Office of Research and Professor, University of Maryland, Baltimore. He was Research Director of a National Institutes of Health-funded Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Specialized Research Center.

    Author of Snake Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the science of complementary and alternative medicine.


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