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Shadow MedicineThe Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies$
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John Haller

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169042

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169042.001.0001

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(p.153) 6 Reassessment
Shadow Medicine

John S. Haller

Columbia University Press

This chapter concludes that most complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies have failed to meet the standards demanded by the evidence-based pyramid. Those few that have succeeded in achieving some degree of efficacy have done so with results that prompt questions of whether they are equal to or more than what might be expected from the placebo effect alone. Given that poor evidence is often worse than no evidence at all, CAM continues to fight a constant battle due to weak methodologies, small trials, and the lack of predetermined criteria for evaluating claims. It counters criticism by claiming to be a holistic, consumer-driven phenomenon whose therapeutic benefits occur at levels not always quantitatively measurable, setting it directly opposite evidence-based medicine (EBM) with its quantifiable, reproducible outcomes. Nevertheless, only those CAM therapies that reach beyond their rhetorical defenses are likely to achieve the same degree of legitimacy as conventional practice.

Keywords:   complementary and alternative medicine, CAM therapies, placebo effect, evidence-based medicine, conventional medicine

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