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How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All

by Rose Shapiro

Reserve your copy now
It will be available in late February 2008

Suckers reveals how alternative medicine can jeopardize the health of those it claims to treat, leaches resources from treatments of proven efficacy and is largely unaccountable and unregulated. In short, it is an industry that preys on human vulnerability and makes fools of us all.

  • Review by Steven Poole in The Guardian
  • The Cure Within
    A History of Mind-Body Medicine

    by Anne Harrington

    Reviewed by Dr. Jerome Groopman

    In “The Cure Within,” her splendid history of mind-body medicine, Anne Harrington tries to explain why we draw connections between emotions and illness, and helps trace how today’s myriad alternative and complementary treatments came to be. A professor and chairman of the history of science department at Harvard, Harrington has produced a book that desperately needed to be written.

    Snake Oil Science:
    The Truth about Complementary
    and Alternative Medicine
    by R. Barker Bausell

    Millions of people worldwide swear by such therapies as acupuncture, herbal cures, and homeopathic remedies. Indeed, complementary and alternative medicine is embraced by a broad spectrum of society, from ordinary people, to scientists and physicians, to celebrities such as Prince Charles and Oprah Winfrey.

    In the tradition of Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things and Robert Parks's Voodoo Science, Barker Bausell provides an engaging look at the scientific evidence for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and at the logical, psychological, and physiological pitfalls that lead otherwise intelligent people--including researchers, physicians, and therapists--to endorse these cures.

    The book's ultimate goal is to reveal not whether these therapies work--as Bausell explains, most do work, although weakly and temporarily--but whether they work for the reasons their proponents believe. Indeed, as Bausell reveals, it is the placebo effect that accounts for most of the positive results.

    He explores this remarkable phenomenon--the biological and chemical evidence for the placebo effect, how it works in the body, and why research on any therapy that does not factor in the placebo effect will inevitably produce false results. By contrast, as Bausell shows in an impressive survey of research from high-quality scientific journals and systematic reviews, studies employing credible placebo controls do not indicate positive effects for CAM therapies over and above those attributable to random chance.

    Here is not only an entertaining critique of the strangely zealous world of CAM belief and practice, but it also a first-rate introduction to how to correctly interpret scientific research of any sort. Readers will come away with a solid understanding of good vs. bad research practice and a healthy skepticism of claims about the latest miracle cure, be it St. John's Wort for depression or acupuncture for chronic pain.


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    combat health and diet fraud
    we make it easy for you to help the cause.


    In his lively debut, health and medical journalist Hurley takes aim at the $21 billion supplement industry and its potentially injurious "natural" products. Hurley maintains that the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 is one of the worst laws on the books. Shielding vitamins and herbal concoctions from FDA testing, it requires only that no curative claims be made for such "dietary supplements." In the prologue, Hurley shows that curative claims are made, anyway, and the users of an herbal salve were able to sue when the stuff ate their flesh.

    Broadway Press


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  • Contact: Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada

    The mailing address is Box 28015 R.P.O. Parkdale, Waterloo, N2L 6J8.
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    Meningitis News

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    • Search News

    • CDC Recommendations for Meningococcal Vaccine "Anyone can get meningococcal disease, but it is most common in infants under 1 year, and people with certain conditions. College freshmen, particularly those who live in dormitories have a slightly increased risk...."

      The CDC also points out that the vaccine only works against two of the three most common forms.

    • Search ABC News

      Young adults are becoming increasingly susceptible to Meningitis, perhaps because of the way they live when they go off to college. For thousands of teens all across the country, it's that long anticipated day leaving the security of the family nest for the uncertainty of college living and dormitory life.

      (Dr. Polevoy's comments: When I put together the Meningitis Outbreak Hotline for the massive oubreak in Kitchener-Waterloo in 1997, I wrote the local newspaper to protest the failure of the local health department to close the bars and nightclubs until after the epidemic that eventually killed two local high school teenagers was over. The impression I got, was that they didn't want to rock the boat which might damage their precarious relationship with the downtown bar owners, who would be hurt by such a massive closure. I regret to this day, and so do many of the citizens of this region, that the massive spread of this indescriminate killer was allowed to cultivate even more victims.)

    Late News - Latest U.S. outbreak

    Search for news Meningitis

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    Canadian Meningitis Outbreaks

  • The K-W Record looks back at the impact of the epidemic of December 1997

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    What does the rash look like?
    Who is really at risk?
    Clubs fuel meningitis fears
    Local press coverage of Waterloo outbreak
    Recent outbreaks beyond K-W
    Recommendations for treatment
    Meningitis search and links
    Vaccine manufacturers
    Up close and personal stories
    Survey - How were you treated?
    How you can reach us for comment?

    Canadian Television coverage for meningitis

    What The Metropolis did during the meningitis outbreak

    Dozens of signs went up all over Waterloo during finals week. They were next to McDonalds, banks, pizza shops, high schools, and just about everywhere you looked. Their presence is just another sign of the deteriorating state of events, and the sleazy nature of the bar and club scene in our region. Instead of helping to control the epidemic bar owners, student promoters, and the university itself did nothing to assist in the control process. In fact, a pub located on the campus of the University of Waterloo, under the blessed guidance of a president who sits on the board of Tennis Canada (an unsworn agent of Imperial Tobacco), hosted a New Year's Eve party for 1200 joyous young people. That's where the last reported case of meningitis occurred. None of their employees had been treated with antibiotics, and I doubt if their employees had even been warned that pubs on college campuses are a major source of outbreaks in North America.

    What you and your families deserve to know

    • What does the rash look like? - Mosby's pediatric encyclopedia - Chances are that your medical doctor has never seen one of these. Ask your MD to visit this sight often. If they find out that you know more than they do about what the meningococcemia rash looks like, they might pay more attention to you, even when the outbreak is over.

    Who is really at risk? Bar and club workers, and those exposed to second hand smoke!

    Clubs and bars and second hand smoke - are they the source of the epidemic?

    Are there reasons to take action against them?

    If you work in a bar or club you may handle thousands of glasses and bottles every night. Do you think that Workman's Compensation covers you if you acquire the meningococcus bacteria as part of your work experience?

    A simple sneeze or cough when someone has a cold can spread droplets over a wide area. Did anyone see the movie Outbreak? If they also carry the meningococcus bacteria in their throat or nose, it can land on your food and drink. It doesn't dry up in just 3-4 minutes like the health department wants you to think.

    Local media coverage and editorial feedback

    Other Ontario Cities - Media coverage

    London Free Press articles

    Some interesting articles about outbreaks in other parts of the world

    School-based clusters of meningococcal clusters Three quarters of the school clusters occurred in secondary schools, with over 70% of subsequent cases occurring within 2 weeks of the index case. Rapid initiation of treatment after 2 cases of meningococcal disease in a school would have potentially prevented 50% of subsequent cases in the clusters described.


    • Georgia outbreak - links and review of cases. Between November, 1992 and January, 1993, an unusual cluster of meningococcus Group C disease occurred in a small area around Carroll County.
    • Two students die in 1997 - Michigan State University


    Penn State University outbreak Search PSU's Daily Collegian for stories on what occured on their main campus when meningococcemia invaded their school

    Major articles from medical organizations

    CDCCDC Meningococcal Disease

    Help is only a click away - for some nice pictures and hot-links

    Personal life and death stories of meningococcal disease victims and their families

    Links to vaccine manufacturers

    • International Vaccine Institute - try their links to Connaught Canada - they make the vaccine used here in Waterloo. Their site is so bad that there is no information, even on their Canadian based server, about the current vaccine being used. Why should Canadian consumers rely on half-baked, illogical, and dangerous propositions by those in the alternative health fields, who know little or nothing about the death and destruction that meningococcal meningitis can inflict on a community.
    • You would think that Connaught, formerly owned by the University of Toronto, and our Provincial government would have taken the bull by the horns and created an information page for consumers and doctors alike. Shame on Connaught. They have emerged as just a small partner of Pasteur-Merrieux, part of an infinitely larger multi-national conglomerate. The funny thing is that the company Rhone Poulenc produces pesticides to help grow tobacco. They were featured in the new best selling novel by Richard Preston called the Cobra Event about biological warfare terrorists.
    • Biochem Pharma Canada - Biochem announces that Canadian researchers discovered a potential vaccine that could prevent all types of Meningococcal Meningitis, including Type B
    • North American Vaccine - excellent web site with information about many vaccines under development, including meningococcal vaccines, for Connaught and others. They have lots of information about meningococcal meningitis on their site.

    How to reach the Meningitis Hotline

    Please let us know if you find this web site helpful or not. If you would like to help spread the word, just give our URL to your friends or doctor.

    If you would like to send us information about any meningitis outbreak just Contact us at: Meningitis Hotline

    Make sure that you have identified yourself. It would also be nice to know your age, whether you are a student, or parent. What is the size of your community, etc.

    Questions for Waterloo area residents during epidemic: You might like to download this and see if anyone in your community is opposed to immunization and how it was handled by your media.

    Please complete this and e-mail it back to us. All results are confidential. Just tell us your age, sex, school, or type of work.

    If you can't use e-mail, just send it by snail mail below:

    1. When and where did you get your meningitis shot?
    2. Did anyone try to talk you out of getting the shot? Who were they?
    3. Did anyone such as a chiropractor, health food store owner, religious leader, or alternative provider contact you and ask you to refrain from participating in the immunization program?
    4. What were these people telling you, or giving you to back up their claims?
    5. Did you see Dr. Jeffrey Winchester's signs on Bridgeport Rd.?
    6. Do you remember what the signs said?
    7. Did you personally see any pickets at a local school?
    8. Did you read The Record's account of Dr. Winchester's activities?
    9. Do you think that Dr. Winchester's tactics were helpful or hurtful to the community?
    10. Did you discuss Dr. Winchester's tactics with anyone?
    11. Did you call Dr. Winchester with your opinion? What was it?
    12. How many of the articles in the Record did you read about the epidemic?
    13. Did you see CKCO, Global, or CBC coverage of the epidemic?
    14. What local radio stations do you listen to? Did they cover the story?
    15. During the epidemic did you hear any broadcasts on CKGL AM-570 that were troubling?
    16. Did you hear Susan Powder's show on CKGL when she said that all antibiotics were dangerous and could hurt people?
    17. Were you afraid to get the shot? If so, why were you afraid?
    18. Did your family restrict your activities because of the outbreak?��B>��LI>
    19. Did you visit a doctor or clinic during the last month?
    20. Did they have signs or information about the epidemic in their office?
    21. Were you able to get through to the health department to ask questions?
    22. Did the epidemic change your behavior, i.e. sharing drinks, smoking, kissing?
    23. Did you go to any downtown clubs or bars during the outbreak?
    24. Do you know which clubs may have been implicated in the outbreak?
    25. Do you work at or know anyone who works at the clubs?
    26. Do you know if anyone who works at those clubs were tested for meningitis?
    27. Did you notice any signs inside or outside the clubs asking if you had received your shot?
    28. Did you know any of the victims of the disease? How close were you?
    29. What were you told by the health department if you were a close contact?
    30. Did you postpone the shot until after Melissa died?
    31. Will you now get your shot?
    32. If not, why not?