Friday, August 27, 2010

"Quietus" Finally Relief for Tinnitus! Or Is It?

     As far back into the past as I can remember not only was silence illusive for my ears, it would soon become my worst enemy.  A constant low ring just barely audible to me know sings a never ending tune deep inside my ears.  Barely audible so long as the room I'm in is filled with some form of noise.  As the protective blanket of sound is pulled away the chill of my monotone old nemesis becomes stronger.  A silent room leaves me with a constant high pitch ringing that hampers not only my sleep but also my train of thought, and even the small bit of sanity I cling to.  Over the years I have found my own treatments for this odd nuisance.  When lying in bed a radio tuned to my favorite station with the volume turned down so that the music and voices blur into a low murmur.  When that is unavailable a ceiling fan with it's low hum and the"tick, tick, tick" of it's pull chain will do the trick.  Although quite wasteful, a television with an obscure program playing in the background has become a daily necessity.  Such a silly affliction to deal with wouldn't seem as torturous as it is looking in from the outside.  It is.  That is why when I saw an upbeat and exciting commercial for a treatment or even perhaps a cure I was elated and spared little time before investigating.  The following is a narrative of my findings, a skeptical review if you will.

     The miracle "drug" mentioned was called "Quietus".  The name seemed like a fitting and creative label for a treatment designed to help the victims of tinnitus.  Fitting even after a deeper look into the mechanism of it's miracle like effects.  For a low initial cost (the cost of shipping) you enter into a 30 day "free" (you still pay for the shipping) trial.  A comfort to those of us skeptical to the claims of the multitude of Internet snake oil traffickers. If it doesn't work they give back the money.  Some of it, maybe.  Upon reading reviews of the customer service offered by this proprietor it became evident that a full refund would be elusive at best and a partial refund would not come without a fight.  This was fairly unnerving after discovering the total price of one box of Quietus would eventually be $99.95 usd.  Honestly this is a small price to pay if the product does what it claims.  Luckily I was able to obtain the treatment without any cost to myself. (A gift from a friend)  The contents of the box were simple.  A bottle of tablets and another bottle of liquid with a small tip to allow you to place drops of it in your ears.  The dosage was also simple.  Two small drops in each ear and one tablet by mouth per day.  The effects should be felt (or maybe not heard?) within two weeks, but of course everyone is different say individual results will vary.  I followed the instructions with a religious zeal, immersed in joyful anticipation of emancipation from my old nemesis.  Sadly, though, that never came.  I contacted the manufacturer to look for a suggestion to my problem.  A heavily scripted CSR was able to eventually suggest that I double the dosage.  If that didn't work perhaps a triple dose was in order, in which case I would need to order a second unit of Quietus so that I wouldn't run out before I felt the true effects.  Powerful medical advice or just a put'em off until my 30 day trial comes to an end?  I will go with the latter.  How can I say such things just because the product didn't work for me?  Let me explain.

     Homeopathic treatments have been under heavy scrutiny lately.  So far the alternative medicine's rebuttal's have not been very convincing.  Let's take the medical trials mentioned on the Quietus website.  The site sites multiple "studies" each with very similar results.  These studies are also said to be published in peer reviewed journals, a requirement for any serious scientific study.  The studies show that in most cases about a 75% positive result is felt by the subjects.  Especially in children under the age of 16.  I attempted to read these studies using the link to the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" at the bottom of the page but I was taken instead to a page that suggested I also read "The Journal of Medical Acupuncture".  Or perhaps "Botanical Medicine: from bench to bedside".  Well I have to say that I declined their offer but I did find out that the journal I was looking to read was endorsed by the "Society for Acupuncture Research" and the "International Society for Complementary Medicine Research".  Although all these titles sound very scientific they are no more so than the Flat Earth Society.

     I looked deeper at the findings of the studies cited on the Quietus homepage.  To understand why these data are basically useless I needed to look closer at the vocabulary used in the explanations.  First of all the phrase "positive result".  This could mean anything other than say, "my leg has fallen off".  A positive result could be the product of all sorts of stimuli including just a plain ol' good night's sleep.  This wildly vague term is common in homeopathic medicine studies.  Another issue is brought to light with the revelation that children responded even better to treatment than adults.  The most reasonable explanation?  These test do not include any blind tactics.  In other words people receiving treatment know they are and people not receiving treatment know they aren't.  Not only does this allow the placebo monster to show his ugly mug it also causes a psychological need to say yes just to make someone (those conducting the study) happy, someone that according to the studies these subjects spent about six years with.  Why then the unusually higher positive results in subjects under 16 years?  Easy,  if you give a child a tablet and tell him it will make him feel better he is far more inclined to believe you, the figure of authority.  This less inhibited belief would (predictably) cause a more prominent placebo effect amongst those subjects.  I was also unable to find out just what other treatments, if any, were being used.  This could be overshadowed by data showing just how "positive" the effects of the homeopathic treatments were.  The tests noted claimed to be treating a long list of chronic ailments such as asthma, eczema, migraines, depression, etc.  The level of a patient's asthma can easily be shown by the strength of their lungs or perhaps the frequency of attacks.  This type of information is no where to be found in these "studies". 

     The United Kingdom's House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has already put in their opinion of homeopathy and can be read here to sum up their findings I would put it as, "it don't work".  This study criticises homeopathy's highly dilute and dubious proprietary ingredients.  The homeopathic rebuttal?  The more dilute the contents the more powerful the effects.  No really that's what they said.  Using that logic if I had massive headache I could toss an aspirin into a pond, then scoop up a small bit of water and drink that.  Unfortunately I would become violently ill and perhaps even die,  my doctors wondering what kind of fool would take such a powerfully dilute dose of aspirin. 

     In the end I am reminded of the other usages of the name quietus.  One is that of a roman aristocrat Titus Fulvius Lunis Quietus who was elected by his soldier as emperor after the death of Emperor Valerian in 260 ad.  Unfortunately the rightful emperor Gallienus wasn't ready to relinquish his throne.  After the defeat of his brother and father in Thrace in 261 Quietus was forced to flee.  He was later killed by the inhabitants of Emesa, an emperor for less than a year.  Another is from a more recent source.  The movie "Children of Men" featured a widely distributed kit to aid in a painless suicide.  The calming blue sky and white fluffy clouds on the box simply read "Quietus".  Irony exists everywhere in our world, all we need to do is look.  The same rings true for bunk, bunkmedicine, bunkscience, bunkhistory, it's everywhere and I will help you find it!  Quietus definitely falls under bunkmedicine.  Be sure to apply what we learned from it to other claims we come to in our day to day lives.