There can be an odd popularity to medicine. I see this in antibiotics usage. When a patient is admitted to the ICU with sepsis, while awaiting cultures you try and kill all the likely bacteria that may be trying to kill the patient. At any given time most doctors can only remember two antibiotics and the current popular duo is vancomycin and pipericillin/tazobactam. It is a reasonable choice, one of many combinations that would treat most patients with sepsis. I am not certain how this combination became so popular, although I have been told that the pip/tazo reps have been very active at the Universities with medical students and residents. As the adage goes, "Give me a student until he is seven and I will give you the doctor".

There are also apparently popular tends in alternative medicine as well. Every now and then there is a flurry of mentions on interwebs suggesting that a pseudo-medicine has become all the rage.

This week it is Oil Pulling Might Be The Next Big Thing -- Or Not and What is cupping? Lena Dunham the latest celeb to try the ancient Chinese remedy for pain relief.

If it hit the Huffington Post it must popular, although Dr. Novella is skeptical as to its efficacy.

Cupping is a technique where a vacuum in made in container and applied to the skin, and the vacuum sucks on the skin to create a welt. There are a variety of forms of the technique and it is used for a wide variety of illnesses. Basically cupping gives the patient a hickey without, usually, the rest of making out. There is no reason cupping should have any effect on any disease beyond the usual placebo effect. Like most pseudo-medicine, cupping only shows efficacy in poorly controlled trials and anecdotes.

I love the purported mechanism:

The mechanism of cupping therapy is not clear, but some researchers suggest that placement of cups on selected acupoints on the skin produces hyperemia or hemostasis, which results in a therapeutic effect.

When you look at the ginormous welts (not for the squeamish) on cupping patients you have to wonder just how select these points are. They must activate half a dozen acupoints with each cupping.

I can see how cupping would be popular since it leaves a tell tale mark that lets those around you know that you are one of the cognoscenti without the permanence of a tattoo. No one knows if you are getting acupuncture or reiki unless you announce it, but the hickey on the back is an instant attention getter, the perfect pseudo-medical 'look at me' sign that advertises your subtle understanding of ancient Chinese wisdom.

Or it might suggest you woud be interested in helping move some money from Nigeria to the US to help out a poor widow.

Points of Interest 3/13/2015
Points of Interest: 3/12/2014