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Headline writers do it again-Acupuncture cuts dry mouth in cancer patients

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 22, 2009

Actually, I cannot fault the journalists too much on this one. While their headline is highly misleading, given that the pilot study was done on 19 subjects, with no blinding or placebo control or anything of the sort, the fault rests more on the study’s authors, one of which apparently is a certain Mark S. Chambers, a professor in the dental oncology department at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, who was the Senior Author. According to these guys:

CONCLUSIONS: Acupuncture was effective for radiation-induced xerostomia in this small pilot study. Further research is needed.

I call bullshit. Why a professor in the dental oncology department of the University of Texas would make this sort of conclusion, based on such a poorly designed study, baffles me. You’d expect him to be much more careful with his wording and load his conclusion with words like “it appears”, “it suggests”, but no, not Marky. He is positively sure that in “this small study” acupuncture was effective. Not even the slightest hesitation that maybe the result was an artifact of the way he ran the study, not even the slightest worry that his study would score a big fat 0 on a simple Jadad Scale. Nope, in his study acupuncture worked and he’ll tell the world goddamit.

Another thing that baffles me is that there would be an actual press release about this. A press release about a 19 patient, not randomized, not controlled, unblinded study. Wow, here is a real scientists doing exactly what we acuse the quacks of doing, highly sensationalized claims about some highly implausible CAM modality based on a highly badly designed study. I guess this is how you find scientists that will sign Intelligent Design petitions and stuff right?

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