Merck just pulled its experimental AIDS vaccine because early results show it doesn’t work:
It was a notable failure for the first of a new class of experimental vaccines that were meant to prevent or sharply limit HIV infection by training the body's white blood cells to attack other cells that have been invaded by the virus.
"This study represented an important test of a fundamental concept in this field, and unfortunately the results were not what we had hoped," said Dr. Mark Feinberg, vice president of medical affairs at Merck's vaccine unit.
This is, of course, disappointing. But it’s good that the lack of efficacy of this vaccine has been recognized, and the drug withdrawn.
The difference between this and complementary and alternative "medicine" (CAM) is starkly shown. Real medicine is tested for efficacy, and abandoned if it doesn’t work. When was the last time any CAM treatment was publicly abandoned by its practitioners because they discovered it didn’t work? For example, can you remember any of the following happening, ever:
Reiki practitioners pulling Reiki for treatment of (say) migraines, because they determined it doesn’t work for that.
Therapeutic Touch practitioners pulling TT for treatment of (say) post operative pain, because they determined it doesn’t work for that.
Acupuncturists pulling acupuncture for treatment of (say) arthritis, because they determined it doesn’t work for that.
Homeopaths pulling (say) Belladonna for the treatment of urinary tract infections, because they determined it doesn’t work for that.
Religious authorities pulling prayer for (say) heart problems, because they determined it doesn’t work for that. (Even if the study is replicated and they discover prayer still doesn’t work for that.)
Defeat Autism Now (DAN) doctors pulling one of their pseudoscientific “cures” for autism, because they determined it doesn’t work for that.
Naturopaths pulling (say) detox diets because they determined that detox diets don’t work.
Chiropractors pulling chiropractic treatments for (say) any particular type of cancer, because they determined that treatment of supposed “subluxations” doesn’t work for that.
When did any of those happen? Of course, the answer is “never”. CAM treatments are NEVER pulled by CAM practitioners. So either all CAM treatments must always work, and there are no CAM treatments that don’t work, or CAM treatments are never pulled because CAM treatments are never tested to see if they do work.
That can’t be true though, surely? I mean, if they never test therapies to see if they work, then how were CAM treatments ever determined in the first place? And how are CAM practitioners so sure they work now? Nah – that can’t be the case. If testing CAM treatments to see if they work wasn’t a part of CAM, then no errors in CAM would ever be corrected. If no one ever tested CAM to see if any CAM treatments don’t work, then therapies that don’t work would be a permanent feature of CAM. That can’t be right. CAM must always work all the time then. CAM is quite obviously a miracle.
A final comment from the AIDS vaccine article:
… in another sense, the study was a success - because the goal of research is to find definitive answers, even if they are disappointing ones.
And that would be yet another difference between real medicine and CAM. Real scientists welcome even a negative study, because it tells them something they didn’t know before. By abandoning treatments that don’t work they can focus on determining what does. Of course, if you have absolute certainty that your CAM works whatever the evidence to the contrary, you’ll never discover anything new that does work.