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Testing magic 

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

A lot of dead horses are getting beaten in alternative medicine: pointlessly studying silly treatments like homeopathy and reiki over and over again, as if it’s going to tell us something we don’t already know. This point has been made ad infinitum on Science-Based Medicine since its founding in 2009, but this week Drs. Novella and Gorski make the case against testing “whether magic works” in a high-impact journal, Trends in Molecular Medicine:

[Trials] of highly improbable modalities continue to be funded and performed, not because of any compelling scientific rationale or prescientific evidence but rather because they are popular. Indeed, another key argument used by proponents of … clinical trials is that they should be carried out because these treatments are used by a lot of people … . These trials degrade the scientific basis of medicine by treating modalities where the basis rests in prescientific thinking as though they were well-supported science- and evidence-based modalities, while clinical investigators labor under a seemingly reasonable delusion that negative RCT results will lead to the abandonment of CAM and IM modalities that fail to perform above placebo in RCTs. Unfortunately, this abandonment never seems to occur.