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Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All [Paperback]

Rose Shapiro
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Feb 2009 0099522861 978-0099522867 1

'Alternative' medicine is now used by one in three of us. In the UK we spend an estimated £4.5 billion a year on it and its practitioners are now insinuating themselves into the mainstream. There are methods based on ancient or far-eastern medicine, as well as ones invented in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many are promoted as natural treatments. What they have in common is that there is no hard evidence that any of them work.

Treatments like homeopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic are widely available and considered reputable by many. Ever more bizarre therapies, from naturopathy to nutraceuticals, ear candling to ergogenics, are increasingly favoured. Endorsed by celebrities and embraced by the middle classes, alternative medicine's appeal is based on the spurious rediscovery of ancient wisdom and the supposedly benign quality of nature. Surrounded by an aura of unquestioning respect and promoted through uncritical airtime and column inches, alternative medicine has become a lifestyle choice. Its global market is predicted to be worth $5 trillion by 2050.

Suckers reveals how alternative medicine can jeopardise 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.

Suckers is a calling to account of a social and intellectual fraud; a bracing, funny and popular take on a global delusion.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (5 Feb 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099522861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099522867
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 318,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Recommended treatment: another dose of Shapiro" (Daily Mail)

"If you already buy into CAM, Shapiro's trade is going to make you feel angry and / or stupid. Which is sad, because you are exactly the kind of person who should digest it carefully before reaching for the arnica" (The Times)

"This trenchant polemic against every form of quackery from crystal healing to colonic irrigation is brilliant, necessary stuff" (Scotland on Sunday)

"Very readable book...clear and bracing" (Evening Standard)

"This book... may change your life for the better" (Sunday Business Post)

Book Description

In the tradition of Fast Food Nation, an entertaining, well-argued and very provocative calling to account of a huge and rapidly-expanding industry.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant and revealing book 15 Aug 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Suckers is an easy read and very well researched. I must admit that I rarely read "popular science" books, since I find them brushing over details and ultimately getting facts wrong. This book however, has the facts and backgrounds of a whole host of "alternative" "treatments" down to a T, teaches you how to recognise a quack by the language they use and will ultimately save you money, because you will not fall for their promises. I just got a copy for my mum.

Did you know that "Traditional Chinese Medicine" is barely over 50 years old?

Did you know the origins of chiropractise and osteopathy?

This book is an essential read for the parent who constantly needs to defend their decision not to use a naturopath and for the health professional who has preserved their ethics and is not offering unproven treatments to satisfy the modern trend for supposedly ancient healing methods.
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67 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clarity 10 May 2008
Initially dismayed that two incisive analyses of the current state of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) should be almost simultaneously published (Rose Shapiro's "Suckers" and Singh and Ernst's "Trick or Treatment"), I was delighted to read both and to find them truly complementary, although drawing identical conclusions: CAM acts through the placebo response alone. For example, randomised trials prove acupuncture, homeopathy and chiropractic and to some extent, herbalist medicine to show no benefit above and beyond the placebo response. Worryingly, some claims, such as open heart surgery performed in China with acupuncture anaesthesia alone, are shown to be fraudulent. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a post-revolutionary ragbag and does not represent 5,000 uninterrupted years of medical practice as claimed, although the pharmaceutical industry is exploring the efficacy of some of the traditional herbs used both in China and in India. If they work and survive phase I and II clinical trials, no international conspiracy will prevent their development: the paranoia in CAM about the "Cancer Industry" imagines that any herb or practice curing cancer would be suppressed to protect profits. This is absurd - cynically, the rewards would be too great.

The approaches of the two books are different, though both add enormously to CAM understanding. I couldn't pick out one over the other: Shapiro is perhaps the more entertaining - and Singh and Ernst perhaps the more comprehensive, with a useful postscript analysis of many different CAM practices. Both are eminently readable; both expose the serious lack of evidence that CAM works above and beyond the placebo response, which nevertheless can relieve some symptoms in up to 32% of sufferers.
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39 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dose of salts 29 Feb 2008
Rose Shapiro's book denounces and exposes the mad and the bad in Complementary and Alternative Medicine with searing and compelling evidence and argument. This book could save many people from the agony and delusion of quackery. Save time and money - if you think you are suffering from blocked Qi, buy this book, it will work like a dose of salts.
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34 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gullible or vulnerable? 16 Feb 2008
This is a 'must-read' for all of us who have dabbled in alternative medicines and therapies on the off-chance that they might work. I now feel like a complete idiot, but an impowered one.
Rose, there's another book to be written here on the health claims made by branded food stuffs and other goods.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moneysaving guide to healthcare 14 Aug 2009
By Peter Piper TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having experienced Complimentary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) myself in the form of osteopathy, I was interested to read about it and the other CAM treatments in this book. Shapiro shines a bright light on the twightlight world of alternative medicine and therapies.
What is most compelling is the lack of evidence that the treatments applied are of any benefit whatsoever. In fact there's good evidence to show Chiropractors are very dangerous!
All the CAM methodologies investigated appear to have some originating dogma, akin to the origin of a cult or religion. Lots of baseless claims an lots of wide-eyed enthusiasts preaching the benefits.
I went to an osteopath and had the party-trick of him clicking my neck. My back did improve, but I was also doing regular stretching exercises in accordance with a properly qualified physiotherapist, so who's to say what fixed my back. What IS in line with the book was the ostepath's zeal to get my wife and son to also visit (35 a visit). This desire to sign up the whole family is documented in Suckers and also highlights the religious parallels.
Ultimately CAM is CAM because it makes claims it can't prove. Otherwise it would be conventional medicine. Most telling, there are no CAM treatments for conditions that can be clearly measured. Where's the CAM contraceptive, for example?
A great book! :)
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41 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars witty and intelligent analysis of a major issue 20 April 2008
This is the first time I have ever been compelled to write a review and it is because this book is funny, well written and questions something which lots of people use without ever asking any questions. The analysis is compelling and thoroughly researched.
I am sure that pro CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) fans will find the book one sided and far too "western & science" based but that is the whole point - we need to apply an objective standard to CAM and not just use it because "it makes us feel better".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A real eye-opener!
Save yourself money! Before you're tempted to shell out on alternative medicines or complementary therapies, spend a few pounds on buying this book, and a few hours reading it.
Published 10 months ago by mags14208
3.0 out of 5 stars From a complementary health therapists view
I am a health therapist qualified in Pro-active K (kinesiology), herbal medicine, massage and Cranial Laser Reflex technique (CLRT). Read more
Published 11 months ago by C. C. Chivers
5.0 out of 5 stars Just read it instead of
.. taking your homeopathic water. Will definitely help you more.
If you need to feel that you are taking some medicine, even so, lick the inside of
the last cover page,... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Kromm
1.0 out of 5 stars ignorance is bliss - oh wait, it's not
Clearly the writer doesn't suffer from a chronic ailment or incurable condition, what can I say, I wish her to experience first hand what that means, and see what "official"... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Babylon2012
1.0 out of 5 stars modern medicine V. natural medicine
my mother died last year , showing serious and common side effects of the medical drug Avandia , given to her for 5 years by her Doctor . Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2011 by littlebunny
1.0 out of 5 stars When sucking up to pharma Shapiro, be careful, you might an overdose...
Ernst a homeopath????? Ask him or anyone where he did his training to become a homeopath, and you won't get an answer. Read more
Published on 26 Sep 2011 by Trevor Jago
5.0 out of 5 stars The best such book on the market
This is more complete and more compelling than either Bad Science or Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial. They are both good, but Suckers is in a league of its own. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2011 by SAP
5.0 out of 5 stars Unlike most alternative medicine, it does what it says on the label
I bought this for a friend, having read and passed on my own copy.

The book is a delightful breath of fresh air and a tonic for those addicted to the unscientific and... Read more
Published on 24 Sep 2010 by Mr. G. W. Purnell
1.0 out of 5 stars Spreading Poison!
To debate what is not understood; to attempt to convince that alternative therapy is not worth trying, that it does not work! Employed by a Pharmaceutical Company maybe?
Published on 19 Sep 2010 by Emily-Kate Milham
5.0 out of 5 stars Leeches on society
Rose Shapiro illustrates her well-researched descriptions, explanations and analysis with real life examples of how complementary and alternative 'medicines' have affected people's... Read more
Published on 26 April 2009 by Pete Moss
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