The coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is scary and, having been in the path of a near-lethal coronavirus, one of the worst parts is wondering, “how much worse can this get?” and suspecting that the answer is “a whole lot.”
I had adult onset chicken pox in the fall of 1997, returning from teaching a class at Arthur Andersen University in Downers’ Grove outside of Chicago. My flight back was the late flight and, when I got to the plane I was feeling odd. By the time my short 1 hr flight to Baltimore was over, I was dizzy and had a splitting headache and felt like I was coming down off of LSD. I went home, went to sleep, and woke up the next day with the feeling that my throat had closed down to about the size of a straw, and my lungs had been replaced with a coke can (it even made a metallic crackling when I breathed). Realizing that something was horribly wrong and it was getting worse was one of the scariest moments of my life. I called my dad, who got me to Greater Baltimore Medical Center and an oxygen tent and some drugs and I was home in 3 days and OK in a few months. My lungs have never been the same but I’m just happy they’re still there, wheezing away loyally for me. You really appreciate them when they’re not there.
So let me send a grumpy “FUCK YOU” to the practitioners of ‘traditional Chinese medicine’ who are coming out of the woodwork to ‘help’ in Wuhan. Fuck you, and fuck your heartless love of bullshit and your greediness that makes you want to go fleece sick, scared people. [nyt]
China is advising doctors to consider mixing Western antiviral drugs with traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of the coronavirus. But experts question the efficacy of Chinese remedies.
Way to soft-soap that, NYT! Experts do not question the efficacy of Chinese remedies. There are a few Chinese remedies that do, actually work: boiling your drinking water to make tea helps if you are wealthy enough to afford tea. Other than that? Acupuncture typically performs about on par with a placebo, which is a nice way of saying “it doesn’t work.” A better way of saying it is “it works about as well as ‘wishing you were better'” or prayer or basically doing anything.
As it races to treat patients infected with the new coronavirus, the Chinese government is seeing potential in a cocktail of antiviral drugs. It is also recommending the Peaceful Palace Bovine Pill, a traditional Chinese medicine made with the gallstone of cattle, buffalo horn, jasmine and pearl.
The Peaceful Palace Bullshit Pill.
Reminds me of a story: a young dot-com billionaire realizes he has everything he has ever wanted except enlightenment. He wants to be an enlightened being like Stephen Seagal or one of those guys, so he asks his majordomo to arrange enlightenment for him. His majordomo does some research and makes calls. “Boss the helicopter’ll be here tomorrow AM.” And off he goes, to Nepal. When the helicopter lands, he is informed that he is going to make the difficult trek up the mountain to the temple at the top where the wise man sits and teaches, perhaps, enlightenment. He is told he must make the hike alone, without help or helicopter, but it’s OK because he’s got great self-warming boots and a navigator app and bluetooth earbuds playing motivational music. So he climbs and climbs and nearly dies a few times and finally gets to a cave and in the cave is an old guy with a macbook who says, “you must be here for enlightenment?” And the billionaire says “I didn’t come all this way to play Magic The Gathering against you. The old guy sighs and puts away his deck, then rummages in his robes and pulls out a small carved ebony box with a glyph on the cover in silver. He opens it and pulls out two pills. He puts them on the table and says, “This is how it works. Every day you must partake of the pearls of enlightenment.” The billionaire is boggled, “couldn’t you just sell these on a website?” and takes one of the pills, puts it in his mouth, and swallows it. Then, he spits it up into his hand and cries, “What a rip! This is just a pellet of rabbit poo!” And the old man says, “It appears the pearls of enlightenment are working unusually fast for you.”
Anyhow, it’s unconscionable for a government, in the middle of a serious medical crisis, to recommend bullshit. They would do just as well if they said they were sending “thoughts and prayers” – i.e.: nothing.
It has been my misfortune to have to study some of “traditional chinese medicine” in the course of arguing against a few of its practitioners, and I used to work for a guy (for 3 years) who thought the stuff was real and wouldn’t shut up about it. When we were in Korea, he smuggled home ginseng and bee pollen. Naturally I asked him if Korean ginseng was better than American ginseng, and why. I also wondered (I still do!) if you could bleach a carrot and sell it in ginger tea as ginseng for an amazing, easy, profit. So, I know, that buffalo horn in traditional chinese medicine is a cure for erectile dysfunction. I guess the pill is multi-purpose, though when I had my lungs full of goo from the pox, I really would have said “no thank you” to anyone who came along offering to fuck. The ginseng and bee pollen was really expensive, too. I could have sold him rabbit poo and he’d have sucked it up.
But the government is also looking at ways to supplement the treatment with remedies that are integral to its national identity – traditional Chinese medicine. It has its supporters.
“I think it is the correct approach,” said Cheng Yung-chi, a professor of pharmacology at Yale University School of Medicine. “The evidence is going to come and we have to give it the benefit of the doubt.”
Uh, no, it doesn’t. Let me share with you a kung fu technique I developed for dealing with acupuncturists and practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. They’re used to arguing that it works because of studies that show that placebos work, but they have not (yet) evolved an effective response to this nasty move. You can begin by explaining a bit about how public health studies work; you know – if you survey smokers and nonsmokers and track lung cancer rates between the two, you can conclude scientifically that smoking causes lung cancer. It may take a while and a lot of deaths but it works; smokers measurably don’t live longer on the average, and they die of lung cancer more often than non-smokers. You don’t need a huge difference if you’re looking at large populations over time – you’re just looking for a departure in the averages in your two data-sets. Then, you explain that, if you look at world populations and life-spans over history you’ll notice that life-spans hung around a pretty low number, globally, for a very long time. Someone in the bronze age didn’t have a much shorter life than a medieval peasant in Europe, etc.
Therefore: traditional Chinese medicine doesn’t work. We are done! “What?!” they wail, “But…” Nope, because if traditional Chinese medicine is considered as a long-term intervention, we’d expect the life expectancy for Chinese people to be different from everyone else. But it’s not, so – game over, man. By the way, the reason it starts to go up in the late 1800s is: Henri Pasteur. That uptick is the effect of global human understanding of bacteriology. And the reason it starts to go up after the 1900s is a mix of two things: virology and the invention of antibiotics. Asia lags, because they were eating ginseng and buffalo horn instead of boiling their water and not fertilizing their paddies with human pathogens.
If you’re talking to an acupuncturist they’re generally so ignorant that the preceding argument has never occurred to them (or they wouldn’t be acupuncturists!) so it usually produces shock and disorientation.
There’s a deeper truth about “Traditional Chinese Medicine” that is, namely, that it’s not really traditional at all. What it should be called is: “Politically Expedient Chinese Medicine” but good luck marketing that one. During the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party purged huge numbers of their social elites – which meant, pretty much, if you were educated you might wind up shot or hanging from a lamp post. After some period of that, Mao realized that they had murdered all their doctors. Oppressive western medicine was probably too expensive, anyhow, because Mao had also bankrupted China. So, “Traditional Chinese Medicine” was born: if you have buffalo horn and ginseng, by all means sell that to your patients, and burn some incense for them, because of Penicillin, we have none. [Mao’s wife on the Long March went to Moscow for medical treatment for combat injuries; she was not stupid]
The use of these ancient Chinese remedies dovetails with a push by Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, to harness them as a source of national pride. He has said that officials should place as much importance on traditional Chinese medicines as they do on Western medicines. His government has called for the remedies to be promoted in its “Belt and Road” trade route, China’s push to build ports, rail lines and other infrastructure around the world.
I wonder if Xi Jinping uses the despot’s favorite hospital – the Mayo Clinic – or if he prefers buffalo horn pellets? The Mayo Clinic has established outreach centers in China. [med] I assume that when an oligarch is wheeled in the door they don’t ask them, “do you want ‘TCM’ or ‘Medicine That Works’?” China’s got a serious problem with the coronavirus health crisis, and it’s pretty shameless that the government is trying to fob off fears of its ineffective handling of the outbreak, by telling people to accept nothing that will help, while presumably the party elite are way the hell away from there.
In turning to traditional medicine, China is relying on past experience. During the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in 2002 and 2003, doctors found that steroids prescribed to reduce inflammation had harmful side effects such as bone destruction. Chinese medicine, they said, would mitigate some of these adverse reactions.
This other bullshit-wad I am quoting from is the failing establishment mouthpiece The New York Times – notice the phraseology they adopt. They leave the door open that, well, some doctors say it might work so they’re not going to publish an article saying “This is a load of bullshit. If steroids didn’t help, then they are contraindicated. Don’t give patients steroids. Hold the buffalo horn, for fuck’s sake.”
Some hospitals are already using a combination of Western and Chinese medicines. In recent weeks, Beijing’s health department reported that two patients who were discharged had been treated with traditional Chinese medicines together with other unspecified drugs. And in Guangzhou, a major city in the south, health officials said 50 patients reported having no more fever and half of them said their coughs went away after using traditional Chinese medicines and other drugs.
If you take Robitussin (active ingredients: alcohol, dextromorpham, acetominophen) it will suppress your cough, and the pains and headaches from the virus. That’s what dextromorpham and acetominophen do. You will experience those effects whether or not you also treat the virus with buffalo horn. If you add, or don’t add, buffalo horn and the “western and traditional medicine” you are taking has the same effect, it’s because dextromorpham and acetominophen are doing the work.
Doctors are conducting clinical trials to test the efficacy of traditional Chinese medicine in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, said Dr. Cheng, the expert at Yale, who is also chairman of the Consortium for the Globalization of Chinese Medicine, a group of academics in the field.
Why more clinical trials? Traditional Chinese Medicine has had (allegedly) thousands of years of clinical trials and a long-term outcome study has conclusively shown that they don’t work. Here’s what’s really going on: the woowoos want to continue to have their nostrums “being researched” because that way they don’t have to cite the conclusion of all the research so far: it doesn’t do anything. It probably doesn’t hurt, but since it costs money and time and doesn’t help, it should be discontinued.
Let’s stop here because this stuff pisses me off so badly I’m afraid it may jar a kidney-stone loose and then I’ll have to re-tune my chakras with oxycodone: (which is so effective it can actually kill you)
Jiang Xianfeng, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner at United Family Health, a top hospital for the affluent in Beijing, said these medicines are safe, effective and easy to get.
At least the Chinese have publicly labeled hospitals for the affluent. I suppose that’s in case they have an outbreak of “affluenza” that can’t be cured with a good old-fashioned kick in the ass.
As Tom Lehrer said, in one of his monologues: “specialize in diseases of the rich.”
Exwife used to take “Bach Flower Remedies” which are some kind of aromatherapy homeopathy stuff that is supposed to help you with sleeping problems. That stuff is just floral extract and water and alcohol. So one night I took her bottle of ‘rescue remedy’, poured it into my glass, and gucked it down. I said, “if that stuff actually works I won’t be on my feet in an hour.” An hour later I challenged her to down an entire bottle of Sominex. (Don’t worry, I wouldn’t have let her, that stuff works)