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TOPIC: medicine


WHO's Evidence Anyway? The Extra Careful Mainstreaming Of Alternative Medicine

The World Health Organization has long walked the uneasy tightrope between evidence-based and traditional medicine. It is time to dismantle this unrealistic balance.


The World Health Organization (WHO) held its First Global Summit on Traditional Medicine in August. The event, held in the city of Gandhinagar, India , was preceded by a social media advertising campaign that left scientists and serious science communicators reeling. It presented in a "friendly" way – equivalent to an implicit endorsement – alternative practices that contradict the best scientific evidence, such as homeopathy and naturopathy, and that are in no way “traditional”: the first was invented in Germany 200 years ago and the other in the U.S., a little over a century ago.

Here's an excerpt from WHO's introduction to the subject on the summit's website:

“For centuries, traditional and complementary medicine has been an integral resource for health in households and communities. It has been at the frontiers of medicine and science , laying the foundation for conventional medical texts. Around 40% of pharmaceutical products today have a natural product basis, and landmark drugs derive from traditional medicine, including aspirin, artemisinin, and childhood cancer treatments. New research, including on genomics and artificial intelligence are entering the field, and there are growing industries for herbal medicines, natural products, health, wellness and related travel. ”

At first glance, this paragraph contains two confusions and a riddle. The first confusion occurs between what some philosophers of science call the “context of discovery” and the “context of justification.” The context of discovery is the one from which scientists get their ideas, where they will find the questions they want to answer and the problems they set out to solve. The “justification context” is where scientists perform the heavy work of testing hypotheses, controlling confounding factors, conducting experiments, and producing or seeking evidence – in short, everything that allows a discovery to be called truly scientific.

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Don't Be Fooled By The Myth Of Venezuelan And Cuban Doctors

Like Cuba, Venezuela churns out doctors who are poorly trained and overworked. Colombia then lets them practice medicine in the country in yet another senseless gesture of political goodwill toward Venezuela.


BOGOTÁ — Venezuela's self-styled Bolivarian Revolution is a big-old scam. A scam in every way that has hoodwinked everyone, friend and foe, workers and employers alike. Lying is the system's very backbone.

Like a sinister fairy tale, thousands of youngsters seeking opportunities have fallen for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's deceptive promises, and none more so than those lured into becoming one of the state's Integrated Community doctors (or MICs). They dreamed of a career in medicine, but all they have had is a big dose of indoctrination from a ruthless system that has trained them not as medics but as party militants.

I say this in response to reports on social media that Venezuelan community doctors might be allowed to work in Colombia . The Colombian College of Medicine has already warned of the risks of certifying medical degrees given by institutions controlled by the Maduro regime. Its recent statement declared that "the academic training — in theoretical, practical and technical terms — of the MICs is highly deficient and precarious, as their trajectories have not regrettably produced the high educational and professional standards required of a health sector professional."

What folks in Colombia might reasonably ask is, what is wrong with doctors trained by the Venezuelan state practicing medicine in their country? More doctors save more lives, right? There is a logic to that, but the warning given by the College of Medicine is much closer to facts on the ground.

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Inside ​The Last Penicillin Factory In The West​

There are currently supply bottlenecks for around 500 medicines, including the antibiotic penicillin. Every second box of the active ingredient in Europe comes directly or indirectly from one place: a factory in the Tyrolean town of Kundl, Austria. Die Welt takes a look at the factory and what's causing the supply problems.

KUNDL — Stephanie Jedner is in a white protective suit, surveying production facilities the size of trucks. She walks past one of the giant tanks at the penicillin plant in the Austrian village of Kundl in Tyrol. "This fermentor has a capacity of 200,000 liters," says Jedner, who heads the plant's active ingredient production.

Everything at the Austrian production site of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Sandoz seems to be XXL-sized. In the plants around Jedner, a bacterial culture is grown using sugar, water and various nutrient solutions, from which the antibiotic penicillin is ultimately extracted. Up to 200,000 metric tons of this fermented slurry are produced at the plant each year. This is equivalent to 20 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

But Jedner's problems are also XXL in scale. The costs of cooking this huge soup have increased. Massively, in fact. The price of sugar has risen sharply since the outbreak of the Ukraine war , and the increase in energy prices is even more serious.

For the plant, which consumes as much energy as the city of Innsbruck, Austria , this is becoming a geographic disadvantage, with consequences for Europe as a whole: the Kundl plant is the last full-scale penicillin factory in the Western world.

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Case Of Fake Brazilian Doctor Sparks Outrage — But Is "Alternative Medicine" Any Safer?

Fear and anger spread in Brazil after a man posing as a doctor was found treating patients. But it raises the question of the dangers of those openly using “alternative medicine.” Who should be regulating these practices?

- OpEd-

SÂO PAULO — Earlier this spring, Thiago Celso Andrade Reges was arrested in the Brazilian state of Ceará for illegal practice of medicine , after having worked in several hospitals in the region.

He had previously gone to court in Brazil to get a validation of his Bolivian diploma, which turned out to be false. The Regional Council of Medicine of Ceará (Cremec) suspended his professional license and opened an internal investigation.

Easy question: why arrest someone who commits fraud by impersonating a doctor? I imagine the answer should not generate great disagreement among readers: it put people's health and lives at risk. Fake doctors don’t have adequate training, and they prescribe medicines and treatments, and issue diagnoses, which are not reliable. There is no reason to assume that their advice is based on a scientific background, or on the best knowledge available in the medical field.

But there's more to it than that. The case raises another intriguing question: would not the practice of “alternative medicine” be just as responsible for putting the lives and health of patients at risk as the practice of medicine without a degree?

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Magdalena Keler

Will This New AI-Driven Technology Revolutionize Breast Cancer Detection?

Developed in Krakow, Poland, the new AILIS detection machine relies on artificial intelligence to detect breast cancer in Stage I, well before it is visible with mammograms or ultrasounds. It is set to undergo clinical trials.

KRAKOW — I’m a huge fan of sci-fi films. I envy their protagonists for two things: their journeys outside of our galaxy, and the ease with which they could monitor their health. I always wanted to see the day where every medical cure, every tedious exam, would fit into a single capsule. One pill and pow! — the technology scans my body and quickly heals me. I don’t think I am the only one who has dreamed of a day where this is true.

When I first saw the AILIS machine, I felt as though this dream had finally come true. It was as if I had stepped onto a movie set. But the AILIS is very much real, and it has the ability to save women's lives. From the outside, the machine looks like a capsule, a safe – yet futuristic – cocoon. Its speakers play electronic music, a blue-green light flashes from underneath its dome, imitating the northern lights.

I sit on a comfortable chair and feel as though I have traveled a few decades into the future. The chair shifts my body into a horizontal position, feeling so relaxed that I almost forget what the AILIS is testing me for.

Lowering a hoop from above, the machine begins its work, without having to make any contact with my body. There is no painful compression or not-so-safe ionizing radiation . And the lights, melody, and gusts of air allow for patients to relax their muscles and their bodies.

The machine also offers nearly total privacy while the exam takes place, as it only requires one trained operator. If there were no legal restrictions, the machine could be operated remotely by any specialist from around the world, with the help of an app.

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Loola Pérez

Parenthood, Redefined: 11 Hard Questions About Surrogacy

Contributing biologically to a child's creation no longer directly implies parenthood. Surrogacy has shaken up traditional ideas and beliefs about sexuality, reproduction and filiation. The author poses key questions that must be answered to ensure that surrogacy is driven by both science and ethics.


MURCIA — We live in a rapidly changing society, particularly when it comes to interpersonal and familial relationships . Assisted reproductive technology (hereafter ART) has shaken traditional ideas about sexuality, reproduction and filiation.

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The act of child creation now goes beyond the sexual encounter between a man and a woman. Not only is reproduction without sex possible, it is also possible that there is no filial relationship between the participants who conceive a baby.

In some cases, those who gestate do not use their own eggs, such as with partner-assisted reproduction (ROPA) for couples who both possess female reproductive organs, often lesbians. In another example, sperm donors renounce their parental rights over the babies conceived.

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Nike Heinen

Why China's COVID Coverup Raises The Risk That New Variants Will Spread

No one knows the true number of coronavirus infections in China, but it could be up to 4 million a day. Experts fear that new variants could emerge undetected that may prove dangerous for the rest of the world. Time is ticking.

Ravindra Gupta, an internationally recognized coronavirus expert from Cambridge, UK, is worried by what he can't see.

“We are unfortunately blind to what is happening there right now.” The what and the there Gupta is referring to is the rapid spread of COVID-19 in China . In his lab, Gupta researches how viruses develop under certain conditions. In order to better understand how new coronavirus variants evolve, he incorporates new mutations into so-called pseudo-viruses, then analyzes what these changes mean from a medical perspective.

In this way, he was able to predict that the dangerous Delta variant that first appeared in India in 2021 would spread across the world so quickly.

And now? “The Chinese government is not only preventing us from knowing the transmission pattern and death rate of the outbreak there.," Gupta says. "We are also not receiving any representative data about the variants in circulation.”

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This Happened

This Happened—December 22:  Bertha Röntgen's Hand Becomes Landmark Of Science

In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen took the first X-ray ever.

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Edzard Ernst

Purge At Your Peril: Too Many Detox Treatments Come With Hidden Dangers

Teas, colon cleansing, and even ear candles… the market for alternative detox solutions has never been more lucrative. But as one expert explains, not only are their reported benefits unproven, the treatments can also be dangerous.


BERLIN — In medicine, the word “detox” means a course of treatment to remove all traces of a drug from an addict’s body. In alternative medicine, however, it refers to any process that is supposed to rid the body of poisons or toxins. Not only is it often ineffective, but it can also even be dangerous.

This definition naturally raises the question: what poisons does a detox target? The answer, ostensibly, is all kinds of toxins that are produced by our own metabolism, or come from the environment, prescription medicines or our diets.

And what kinds of treatments are touted as detoxes? Again, the list is equally expansive : homeopathy and acupuncture, of course, but also various diets, homotoxicology, colon cleansing, ear candles, phytotherapy, cupping, shiatsu, gua sha and tui na.

In practice, it is hard to find any alternative therapy whose proponents don’t believe it rids the body of toxins. The detox myth is now so firmly rooted that even mainstream companies that otherwise have nothing to do with alternative medicine are offering products such as detox teas .

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Hamed Mohammadi

The West Must Face Reality: Iran's Nuclear Program Can't Be Stopped

The West is insisting on reviving a nuclear pact with Iran. However, this will only postpone the inevitable moment when the regime declares it has a nuclear bomb. The only solution is regime change.


Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear inspectorate, declared on Sept. 7 that Iran already had more than enough uranium for an atomic bomb. He said the IAEA could no longer confirm that the Islamic Republic has a strictly peaceful nuclear program as it has always claimed because the agency could not properly inspect sites inside Iran.

The Islamic Republic may have shown flexibility in some of its demands in the talks to renew the 2015 nuclear pact with world powers, a preliminary framework reached between Iran and the P5+1 (the U.S., the U.K., China , Russia, France and Germany). For example, it no longer insists that the West delist its Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. But it has kept its crucial promise that unless Western powers lift all economic sanctions, the regime will boost its uranium reserves and their level of enrichment, as well as restrict the IAEA's access to installations.

Talks to renew the 2015 pact have been going on for 16 months. European diplomacy has resolved most differences between the sides, but some crucial sticking points remain.

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Yann Verdo

Benjamin Button For Real? Scientists Are Close To Cracking The Code To Reverse Aging

The discovery that earned Japan's Shinya Yamanaka the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine has paved the way for new research proving that aging is a reversible process. Currently just being tested on lab mice, will the cellular reprogramming soon offer eternal youth?

PARIS — Barbra Streisand loved her dog Samantha, aka Sammy. The white and fluffy purebred Coton of Tulear was even present on the steps of the Elysée Palace, the French President’s official residence, when Streisand received the Legion of Honor in 2007.

As the singer and actress explained in The New York Times in 2018, she loved Sammy so much that, unable to bring herself to see her pass away, she had the dog cloned by a Texas firm for the modest sum of 50,000 dollars just before she died in 2017, at the age of 14. And that's how Barbra Streisand became the happy owner of Miss Violet and Miss Scarlet, two puppies who are the spitting image of the deceased Samantha.

This may sound like a joke, but there is one deeply disturbing fact that Harvard Medical School genetics professor David A. Sinclair points out in his book Why We Age – And Why We Don’t Have To . It is that the cloning of an old dog has led to two young puppies.

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Beatriz de Vera

Hysterical To Hypersexual: Bogus Female Diseases Have Always Held Women Down

Throughout history, women have been overdiagnosed with mainly psychiatric ailments and syndromes that have already been ruled out, from hysteria to nymphomania. This distorted portrait, which had its golden age in the 19th century, has been questioned in recent decades by the research community.

"Born weak and sensitive, the woman, faithful companion of man, deserves the most lively interest and presents a vast field for the meditations of philosophers and doctors." This is how the Treatise on the Diseases of Women begins, a text from 1844 that aims to be an update of everything known by medicine about women to date.

The "fair sex" or the "angel in the house" were names used by some scientists of the 19th century, who underpinned the notion of the "weaker sex" in the collective imagination to refer to women.

“The physical modifications that constitute the beauties of women are in inverse proportion to those that constitute those of men. The features of her face have fine and pleasant proportions, her feet are smaller and her hands are delicate, her arms, thighs and legs are thicker, the muscles of all her limbs are sweetly demarcated with undulating lines”, writes the doctor Baltasar de Viguera in Female physiology and pathology (1827).

For De Viguera, who recounted the sensitivity and delicacy in forms, senses and character of women, their qualities had to do with "the organs of the womb."

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