Suffering from a chronic ailment?
I am sure you must have come across numerous ‘magic cure’ claims.
Here are a few examples—
1) Herbal medicines – specially brought form the Himalayas & the Alps & can cure arthritis.
2) Massage beds – claimed to cure every disease under the sun! One has to sleep on the bed for 30 minutes. It does not matter whether you have arthritis/ kidney ailment/ cardiac ailment/ deviated nasal septum. The bed cures all! I wonder why we need so many specialist doctors, MRI, blood tests. We could have done better with a hospital with these beds everywhere. No consultation with a Doctor, no scans, no blood tests. Just come to the hospital, lie down on the bed & you will be cured of all diseases!!
3) Herbal oils – celebrities hosting TV shows that have people claiming that these oils cure all arthritic ailments! Not just arthritis, they can (as per the claim) even prevent surgeries after trauma!
4) Toxin removal therapies- Proponents of this therapy feel that one gets various diseases due to toxins & the therapy is to rid the body of these toxins. But then, can one measure these toxins? – oh no, they are invisible…no blood tests to measure these toxins are available. How can one be sure that the toxins are removed? Oh sorry, paying the fees is the guarantee enough that toxins are removed from the body. This reminds me of one of my patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She was on herbal medicines & did not improve. She was started on DMARDs & improved significantly. She happened to meet the earlier herbal medicine person, as he was her family friend. She was told that she has improved but her body was full of toxins associated with allopathic arthritis medicines (DMARDs) & should undergo a course with him to remove the toxins! That means; going by his logic, what helps the body is a toxin!
4) Magnets – they can cure everything. I wonder how on earth; the biggest magnet can’t cure people’s ailments.
May be a few of these claims are true. Let me not be biased. In that case, how do you & I decide whether these claims are true?
Let us understand how ‘evidence based medicine’ works to understand this better.
This is exactly how a new drug, technique & even a treatment strategy is scientifically approved.
So, then in that case, when we see such magic claims, why not ask ourselves a few questions?
1) Is there any study comparing the magic claim with standard practice medicines? In the absence of such a study, it is impossible to conclude which one is better.
2) If there is a study, is it published in a reputed medical journal? If it is published, this would be a robust proof of its authenticity. A study published in a journal is reviewed by experts & can be relied upon. You can check if the journal is reputed by its impact factor (http://impactfactor.weebly.com/) .
3) Please note that awards & celebrity endorsements cannot replace published studies. It is an attempt to say ‘ I do not have studies to back my claims, this award/ celebrity is a gimmick you will surely fall prey to’.
4) There is hardly any reputed Physician who will claim ‘guaranteed cure’, ‘advance payment of entire course fees’.
5) Testimonials – useless unless backed by proper study. In scientific language these are called anecdotal reports & do not amount to hard evidence. For eg, stem cell therapy for Rheumatoid Arthritis. A few patients had dramatic improvement & were reported (anecdotal reports). However, many more had no improvement or probably had side effects. For obvious reasons, they were not reported in journals. We can conclude about the efficacy only when many patients are recruited in a study & compared with patients receiving standard treatment.
6) Are the contents of the medicines clearly mentioned & is a prescription provided? We come across patients taking unknown herbal powders for Arthritis. Chemical analysis reveals the presence of steroids & analgesics in many of them. As a patient you surely have a right to know the contents & the reason why they are prescribed.
So, the next time you come across magic claims & cures; make sure that you answer these questions yourself before taking a decision.