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

3.9 out of 5 stars 108 customer reviews

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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 (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 271,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found the treatment very scientific. It changed my opinion about accupuncture. I have had it done a few times as my osteopath recommended it for faster recovery. In retrospect, the recovery was no different. Thouroughly recommended.
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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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11 Comments 68 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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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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5 Comments 66 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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I bought read and highlighted key parts for my grandmother who is a believer in homeopathy as opposed to the placebo effect and power of mental conviction. Well explained, clearly laid out and with summary and review of the most common homeopathic 'medicines'.
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I've recommended this book to all my friends - and indeed bought it for some of them too !

Really intelligent & well-written analysis of what really goes on, and a book that can be referred-back-to over & over.

Highly recommended, and utterly woo-free !
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This is one of the books in a growing movement that is fighting for all that we gained in the Enlightenment, and which in the late twentieth and early twenty first century appears to be slipping away in a cloud of wishful, hazy thinking.

The key is evidence-based medicine. In other words, not wanting or hoping or idly believing a treatment will work, but testing if it is so. There is nothing sinister or 'un-holistic' about a trial - it merely tests if something works against a control or placebo. When most complementary therapies are tested this way, the evidence, for them, is devastating.

This books clearly explains the history of medicine before the evidence-based approach. One word : scary. It explains how trials work and it then tests alternative medicines. It also shows how practitioners try to squirm their way out of begin tested, argued with and ultimately exposed.

An excellent book. I think, however, Ben Goldacre's Bad Science wins over for prose style and entertainment factor, while also being hugely informative.
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