Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bad Science

I frequently share in the "shared items" section over there ----> Ben Goldacre's "Bad Science" column. It's unfailingly interesting, frequently funny, and often features some jaw-droppingly appalling manipulation of science by self-declared experts who are exposed by Ben as complete charlatans. The equally admirable David Colquhoun does a similar job on his website. On World Aids day, I thought a proper post might be in order to highlight two instances of pseudo-scientific quackery, as reported by Ben today. Both are about treatment for Aids.
The antagonism of the South African government to properly researched Aids treatments is well-known. What I didn't know was this:
"(President) Mbeki pursued his own investigations on Aids therapies, resulting in government endorsement of Virodene, a home grown South African drug. Medical treatment for Aids cost $1,200 a month, but Virodene cost $6, “medicine developed in Africa for Africa”. Virodene was in fact based on the industrial solvent dimethylformamide, which is toxic, potentially lethal, and with - bizarrely - no proof of efficacy against HIV." Unbelievable! But then, the crazy world of homoeopathy can trump that. The Society of Homoeopaths are having a conference. One of the presenters has a novel way of dealing with Aids. Here's Ben's report:
'Before you feel smug and superior, the Society of Homoeopaths are holding a conference in London today featuring the work of Peter Chappell, who also claims he can make an immediate impact on the Aids epidemic using music encoded with his Aids remedies.
“Right now,” he says, “Aids in Africa could be significantly ameliorated by a simple tune played on the radio.” Damningly, contemptibly, not one single person from the homeopathy community has spoken out to criticise this lunacy.'
Well, yes. Just remind me which century we are in, please.