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Defining The Label: What Is An Antivaxer?

Labels are a cognitive double-edged sword. We need to categorize the world in order to mentally capture it – labels help us organize our mental maps of the overwhelming complexity of things and to communicate with each other. But labels can also be mental prisons, when they substitute for a thorough, nuanced, or individualized assessment – when categorization becomes pigeon-holing.

We use many labels in our writings here, out of necessity, and we try to be consistent and thoughtful in how we define the labels that we use, recognizing that any sufficiently complex category will be necessarily fuzzy around the edges. We have certainly used a great deal of electrons discussing what exactly is science-based medicine, and that the label of so-called alternative medicine is really a false category, used mainly for marketing and lobbying (hence the caveat of “so-called”).

We get accused of using some labels for propaganda purposes, particularly “antivaccinationist” (often shortened to “antivaxer”). Also “denier” or “denialist”, as in germ-theory denier. Even though we often apply labels to ourselves, no one likes having an unflattering label applied to them, and so we have frequent push-back against our use of the above terms.

As with many such terms, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Article Questions The Effectiveness Of Antioxidant Supplements During Training

I have skeptical confession to make. I was once a panacea-seeking antioxidant-taker. As background, I’m a marathon runner and occasional triathlete. Several years ago, I was training for an Ironman triathlon, and banking 20+ hours of intense exercise per week. That may sound absurd to many (it does to me, now that I have kids) but that kind of training is necessary for the long races. So what did this pharmacist-wannabe-triathlete with access to discount vitamins do? He stocked up on the fancy bottles of multivitamins, the “endurance” version, of course — with extra antioxidants. Why did I supplement? I wanted to maximize my workouts, speed recovery, and minimize downtime and the risk of injury. Oxidation sounds bad — like a rusting car. Anti-oxidants sounded like the ultimate in preventative medicine. My workouts may have been more extreme, but the practice of supplementing if you exercise is common among athletes.

As it turns out, not only were the antioxidants likely ineffective, they may have compromised some of the gains I was seeking with all that training. That I didn’t evaluate the evidence at the time was my critical-thinking blind spot. Over the the past several years, more data on antioxidants and exercise have emerged. A recent review article, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Skeptic North*

Physician Learns A Lot Doing AFib Research With No Funding

I learned a lot from putting together an abstract for a national heart meeting.

  • More than just learning how to e-submit, e-upload and e-print a large poster;
  • More than what t-tests and chi-squares measure;
  • More than learning that females respond differently to AF ablation;
  • And surely more than which coffee shop offers the best work place.

Putting this thing together showed me stuff: the process of discovery, it’s role in helping us be better doctors and the difficulties inherent in doing this kind of valuable research in our current system.

So of course…bloggers blog.

First: Many have asked why we bothered doing research? What’s the motivation? Money? Fame? A greater purpose?

It was none of these. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Many Smokers Just Need That Extra Push To Help Them Quit

Researchers found that while the vast majority of smokers want to stop, the vast majority who wanted to got little support from their health care providers. Not that they’d approached their provider, either.

68.8% of current cigarette smokers said they would like to completely stop smoking, and 52.4% had tried to quit smoking in the past year. However, 68.3% of the smokers who tried to quit did so without using evidence-based cessation counseling or medications, and only 48.3% of those who had visited a health-care provider in the past year reported receiving advice to quit smoking.

Little overall change has been observed in these measures in the past decade. However, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Leader In The Field Discusses Pharmaceutical Industry

Dr. Jerry Avorn

Americans spend more than $300 billion a year on prescription drugs. How we use these drugs, and how effective they are, have become important subjects for public health researchers. A leader in this area is Dr. Jerry Avorn, chief of the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Avorn is the author of numerous articles and the book Powerful Medicines.

For an article in the Harvard Health Letter, editor Peter Wehrwein spoke with Avorn about generic drugs, the pharmaceutical industry, the high cost of cancer drugs, and more. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation; you can read the complete interview at www.health.harvard.edu. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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