From Ronald Hoffman, MD.
In keeping with an Intelligent Medicine tradition, as the year draws to a close, I offer you a compendium of the worst health news stories of 2022. It’s kind of like the late Mr. Blackwell’s list of the year’s Worst-Dressed Women. These stories distinguish themselves by their preposterousness, their unabashed ignorance of the true principles of science, by the damage they inflict on the public’s well-being, and/or by their conformity to a pre-determined false narrative. And yes, it’s been a bad year for health journalism. Can’t mainstream media do its homework for a change?
I’ve been kept really busy in 2022 trying to set the record straight on these and other misleading stories; following are but some of the most egregious examples:
1. Nose Picking Could Increase Risk for Alzheimer’s and Dementia: (Neuroscience News) This click-bait headline was generated after a mouse study showed that inoculating Chlamydia pneumoniae bacteria into the noses of mice could increase their risk of amyloid deposits in their brains. C. pneumoniae is a common pathogen in humans—the majority of people have acquired it by the time they reach 60. And there’s scant evidence that nose-picking causes it to travel up the olfactory nerve to affect human brains. There are better reasons to eschew nose-picking—like avoidance of flu and Covid.
2. “Breakthrough” Alzheimer’s drugs: Headlines were abuzz this year over potential Alzheimer’s “cures”. A drug called aducanumab was approved despite concerns over its effectiveness, its tendency to cause brain bleeding and swelling, and its astronomical cost ($56,000/year). A second drug, lecanemab, is being fast-tracked for approval after it showed modest protection against progressive cognitive decline, but also with scary side effects. This despite evidence that the “amyloid hypothesis” on which the success of this category of drugs is predicated, is deeply flawed.