Foreign-born Biomedical Researcher in the United States, a Tale of Woe

Posted 5 November 2015 by Kausik Datta

It has been more than two years since I wrote about a tale of woe, the sad reality of being a non-immigrant biomedical researcher in the US. I chronicled the travails of my wife, who - even with a STEM PhD from a top-tier medical school in New York - was facing the murky uncertainties associated with doing science on a visa in the US. That uneasy disquietude still continues to haunt her; even though her Green Card application has been submitted, nothing is certain... Read more

Sympathetic Practitioner, the Secret Weapon of Homeopathy and Other Alt-Med Modalities

Posted 23 October 2015 by Kausik Datta

Last month, PLOS One published a study which held significant interest for me; as a long time sufferer from acid reflux (which is currently reasonably controlled by regular use of a PPI - Proton-pump inhibitor - class of prescription antacid), I was curious to dive into this Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) study from Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston, in which the investigators observed that Patient-Provider Interactions Affect Symptoms in Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) as well as dyspepsia and other acid-reflux... Read more

Perception of Effectiveness of Homeopathy and Other Alternative Medicine Relies on Placebo Effect

Posted 11 October 2015 by Kausik Datta

The world of alternative medicine - nowadays more fashionably known as complementary and integrative medicine (CIM), replacing the erstwhile CAM (A = alternative) - encompasses a wide range of practices. Some of these practices involve physical motion of parts or whole of the body, such as massage, Yoga, and Tai Chi; if one subtracts the dollops of mysticism, especially of Eastern origin, that have come to be associated with these practices, one finds that they perform much of the same... Read more

2015 Nobel to Traditional Chinese Medicine Expert is a Win for Evidence-based Pharmacognosy

Posted 7 October 2015 by Kausik Datta

Yesterday, on October 5, 2015, one half of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to scientist and pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou (alternatively, Tu Yo Yo, 屠呦呦 in Chinese), for her discovery of the anti-malarial Artemisinin. (The other half went jointly to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura, for their discovery of a novel therapy for roundworm infection.) Professor Tu, 84, has the rare distinction of being the first native Chinese Nobel Laureate in Medicine. She was born... Read more

A Brushiness With Ogdenashiness

Posted 5 October 2015 by Kausik Datta

Frederick Ogden Nash (August 19, 1902 – May 19, 1971), often referred to simply as 'Ogden Nash', was an American poet with a signature style of whimsical light verses replete with puns, deliberate misspellings, strangely irregular meter, but always ending in rhymes. Having read Ogden Nash as a child, I always find his poems delightful and utterly enjoyable. I recently came to know that I have another connection to him; apparently, Ogden Nash, a New Yorker by birth, called Baltimore... Read more

ResearchGate, heal thyself… please? (UPDATED)

Posted 21 September 2015 by Kausik Datta

People reading this blog (I sure hope someone reads it *bites nails*) may be familiar with the name ResearchGate. It was envisaged as a social networking site focused on scientists; founded in 2008 by Ijad Madisch and Sören Hofmayer, both physicians, and Horst Fickenscher, a computer scientist, the site's stated mission statement is: to connect researchers and make it easy for them to share and access scientific output, knowledge, and expertise. Although not unique (or the only player) in this field, ResearchGate offers several features... Read more

A Life Well Lived

Posted 31 August 2015 by Kausik Datta

The dénouement that was inevitable came to pass. I woke up yesterday to the sorrowful news that Professor Sacks, the neurologist and author extraordinaire, had passed away at the age of 82. Of the two obituaries in two leading dailies that I read one after the other, the NY Times Obit seemed more of a commemoration of his life's outstanding work, whereas the Guardian Obit seemed (to me) a celebration of his amazing life, but both were moving in their descriptions... Read more

Weird Lack of Proper Control in an Acupuncture Study Published in PLOS ONE

Posted 7 August 2015 by Kausik Datta

PLOS One seems to have done it again! I wrote a few days ago about how the peer review system at PLOS One seemed to give a free pass to acupuncture studies, when it came to seeking rigorous experimental evidence in support of the claims presented in the paper. I had shared the post via Twitter, and in response, someone from PLOS One had replied: @kausikdatta22 @scilogscom @gorskon @EpiRen Thanks for raising this. We have been looking into this study... Read more

Homeopathy – that “affordable”, “cost-saving” therapy? Not really, as the numbers say.

Posted 5 August 2015 by Kausik Datta

Classical homeopathy is scientifically implausible as a therapy, because there is no substance of any medicinal value left in the functionally-infinitely diluted nostrum. Naturally, there is no hard evidence supporting the therapeutic use of homeopathy, in terms of clinical benefit to the patient. Absent such support, homeopathy-peddlers generally push affordability and low cost as homeopathy's unique selling point (USP). A large retrospective cost-analysis study, based on nearly 45000 individual German patients, gives lie to that myth. In a paper published last week... Read more

Lax standards at PLOS One for peer review of CAM research papers?

Posted 30 July 2015 by Kausik Datta

Serious question: has the peer review system at the PLOS journals been doing a less-than-stellar job when it comes to evaluating complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research for publication? If the answer is 'yes', why? Or if 'no', how does a paper like this go through PLOS ONE without some serious revisions? I refer to the systematic review and meta-analysis on effectiveness of acupuncture for essential hypertension, done by a group of researchers from the Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese... Read more