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Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial Hardcover – 21 Apr 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press (21 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593061292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593061299
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 454,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Simon Singh is a science journalist and TV producer. Having completed his PhD at Cambridge he worked from 1991 to 1997 at the BBC producing Tomorrow's World and co-directing the BAFTA award-winning documentary Fermat's Last Theorem for the Horizon series. He is the author of Fermat's Last Theorem, which was a no 1 bestseller in Britain and translated into 22 languages. In 1999, he wrote The Code Book which was also an international bestseller and the basis for the Channel 4 series The Science of Secrecy.

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Review

Fearless, intelligent and remorselessly rational. -- Sunday Times, April 20th 2008

"a definitive - if controversial - guide to what works, and what doesn't. It makes indispensable, if sometimes alarming, reading"
-- Daily Mail, April 8, 2008

Book Description

The ultimate verdict on alternative medicine.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on 22 Dec 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Trick or Treatment is a very interesting read about the evidence that exists for the effectiveness (or not) of various complementary and alternative therapies (CAM). The book focuses especially on acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic and herbal medicine, with an appendix covering many more treatments in brief. I enjoyed reading the anecdotes on the history of CAM and conventional medicine, and there was a lot of useful information in there, but the authors' tone and approach left me questioning whether they were as unbiased as they claimed to be. Incidentally, I'm a big believer in the principles of evidence-based medicine (EBM), and I'm sceptical about many alternative therapies, so I didn't expect to have a problem with this book.

The main reasons I found myself distrusting Singh and Ernst are as follows:

1. Trick or Treatment claims to be a neutral presentation of the facts, but it is written in a very persuasive tone, with disparaging language used for anything the authors disapprove of. I really felt they were giving me the 'hard sell', which seems at odds with the concept of EBM. Much is made of the fact that Ernst used to be a homeopath, which supposedly makes him less biased, but to me the book seemed to have been written by someone who had become disillusioned by his former profession and therefore had strong feelings about it. On its own, this is not necessarily a problem, but in comparison with the points below it made me wary.

2. Throughout the book, the authors imply that modern conventional medicine is always better than CAM and that it always it has better evidence. They do not acknowledge any of the problems with research in conventional medicine, such as publication bias, or the fact that poor-quality trials exist here too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Aug 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book takes an objective look at alternative medicine. The outcome is electrifying to everyone who thinks and has used or considered using anything like homeopathy or acupuncture. Singh and Ernst don’t set out with any malice – Ernst has worked for many years in alternative medicine – but they show devastatingly how proper trials have shown these alternative treatments to rarely be better than a placebo, and often to have negative or even life-threatening consequences.

It really is striking – the vast majority of alternative medical treatments are proved to be on a par with snake oil. Apart from anything else, this ought to be required reading for doctors -a surprising number encourage alternative treatment – for celebrities who endorse this kind of medication and particularly the media which all too often is wide-eyed and idiotic on the subject of alternative treatments. In the UK, Prince Charles who has bumbled on about the subject for many years, ought to be forced to copy this book out by hand until he gets the point.

All in all, a really important book which wasn't given the coverage it deserved when it came out, and what’s more it’s very readable too. By combining Ernst’s expertise on the subject and Singh’s superb science writing we have a book that is as entertaining as it is informative, and the emphasis on real testing will be a delight to anyone who enjoys the saying ‘data is not the plural of anecdote.’ More than recommended – essential.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This should be essential reading alongside Ben Goldacre's Bad Science. Both books serve a vitally important role. Where Goldacre's book is a little more chatty, it's author being the 'David Brent' of the popular science writers world (I'm cool, you'd love to have a drink with me, and yeah, I can drink loads, while leading two double-blind trials, writing newspaper columns, participating in amateur dramatics (yes, really!) and being the funniest guy you've ever met... I'm cool, I swear, particularly if it impresses the kids and ...), Ernst and Singh's book is a little more sober, the authors being less desperate to impress. The books compliment each other well. If you come away, as some readers have, unconvinced,claiming the authors to be part of some conspiracy, or accusing them of blind prejudice against CAM then you have simply failed to understand the basic points they're making, and those points are not difficult to understand. This book and Goldacre's explain with admirable clarity the placebo effect and the way a double blind trial works and why they're important. Not difficult notions to understand in any case, but, just in case, here they are explained clearly, so all can grasp them. All treatments should undergo rigorous testing, much of the stuff on your health food shops' shelves hasn't, and when it has it has been shown (with very very few exceptions)to have all the healing qualities of a sugar pill, which in the case of homeopathy isn't surprising since that's what they generally are.
Now, to the KINDLE edition. 1 month into my Kindle ownership and I'm now getting pretty irritated by the shoddy quality of many of the Kindle editions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kpopeye on 22 Feb 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Informative and a good read. Sensible and logical and now feel more informed and happy to ignore friends who think alternative medicine a good thing.
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