Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pushing the Product

Denice Walter commented over at Respectful Insolence:
For years my SO has brought me a local new agey magazine ( actually, it's 75% advert and 25% "info-tisement"- i.e. articles promoting woo or practitioners), called "Inner Realm".

And it got me thinking:

In science, there is a LOT of literature devoted to basic research with no guarantee of a product on the horizon. You have to learn how to crawl before you make promises about your Running Man delivery service. Science isn't like Sid Meier's Civilization. You can't make plans to build a cavalry unit on the expectation that you'll finish research on Horseback Riding in 4 turns. In the real world, we don't know what fruits our research will bear, or even if it will bear anything. Every idea has to be extensively tested to see if it can be used effectively and practically.

This is especially true of medicine. Just because a drug works on a petri dish doesn't mean that it'll perform the same in a living body. It could be neutralized by some normal body process that doesn't occur in the cell culture. It could be absorbed by some filter before it gets to where it needs to go. It could have an unexpected side effect on another part of the body. That's why we demand so many tests before we unleash it on the market, and why we cringe whenever some newspaper cries "Cure!" over and over for everything that shows the slightest bit of promise.

In contrast, quackery seems obsessed with getting a product out as soon as they can. Instead of performing all the extensive tests we demand of any new treatment idea, they push directly to the market, as if their customers were their own guinea pigs. They get an idea and move right to human trials without bothering to keep extensive records. They get antsy whenever we ask basic research questions or show concern for the consumers: The same checks and balances we're in favor of using against "Big Pharma" in the form of watchdog institutions.

And they typically accuse us of being pro-corporate.


Dunc said...

"And they typically accuse us of being pro-corporate."

Yeah - despite the fact that their bullshit is frequently produced by exactly the same corporations. Oh, and globally, the "food supplements" industry alone is worth about $55 billion, not to mention all the other crap... Not exactly "stickin' it to The Man", is it?

Tom Foss said...

And when scientists or science-enthusiasts speculate on technology and knowledge that may/might come out of current research, they typically end up eating crow. We needn't even go to jetpacks and flying cars for this one; just look at the Human Genome Project and the dreams of easy genetic disease cures and the nightmares of Gattaca.

Or, you know, look at Kurzweil's Singularity and the cryogenics crowd. Predicting the future of technology and scientific knowledge is a fool's errand, because you can't predict the game-changers.

Which is why the new Star Trek had to figure out how to make communicators look more hi-tech than cell phones.

Anonymous said...

re: "They get antsy whenever we ask basic research questions or show concern for the consumers: The same checks and balances we're in favor of using against "Big Pharma" in the form of watchdog institutions."

to be fair, western med has it's fair share of problems. the watchdog institution you refer to, the FDA, is now funded partially by Big Pharma. that's right, the government decided that there would be no conflict of interest in having the watchdog regulatory body be paid by the very industry that it's watching.

medical ghost-writing?

iatrogenic disease?

you can go to pubmed and read more:

-Ghostwriting: The Dirty Little Secret of Medical Publishing That Just Got Bigger
-How ghost-writing threatens the credibility of medical knowledge and medical journals
-Ghost Management: How Much of the Medical Literature Is Shaped Behind the Scenes by the Pharmaceutical Industry?

Bronze Dog said...

You speak as if I should be surprised, Anonny. We know about the ghost writing. Other watchdogs have caught it. We are appropriately outraged. The answer to an instance of corruption in one part of the system being caught by another part of the system isn't to dismantle the system.

Another thing: "Western" medicine?


There is nothing inherently "Western" about science-based medicine, and I'm disgusted that anyone still refers to it as if race, nationality, or culture were at the core.

I expect an apology.

Rhoadan said...

Oh, and a lot of iatrogenic disease can be prevented with a simple checklist.