One-Minute Book Reviews

August 15, 2007

Self-Help Books by Quacks, Frauds and Incompetents: Why Don’t They Get the Kinds of Clinical Trials That Drugs Get? (Quote of the Day)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:02 am
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How many times have you read or heard about a self-help book that struck you as pure quackery? Probably a lot. Some publishers make preposterous claims for how their books will improve your physical or mental health, or claims that the Food and Drug Administration would never allow other kinds of companies to make without proof that they were true. But publishers are rarely held accountable for false advertising.

Should some of this snake-oil-in-print be subjected to the kinds of clinical trials that drugs get? The Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating article recently suggesting that this is starting to happen. Here’s part of what it said about health-related how-to books:

” … this category is reminiscent of the market for elixirs, oils and pills before the advent of federal regulation. Despite the growth in research, fewer than 5% of the tens of thousands of self-help books on the market have been subjected to randomized clinical trials. And authors with no scientific credentials are just as likely to hit the jackpot as are renowned physicians. ‘When the book cover announces that it’s a bestseller, that means nothing,’ says John Norcross, a University of Scranton professor of psychology and researcher on the effectiveness of self-help books.

“Now, mental-health professionals in the U.K., the U.S. and elsewhere are determined to distinguish the most proven offerings. The aim is to recommend books that have been shown to be successful in published trials conducted by reputable, independent researchers.”

Kevin Helliker in “Bibliotherapy: Reading Your Way to Mental Health,” the Wall Street Journal, July 31, 2007, page D1. I couldn’t link to the article from this site but could find the story by cutting and pasting the following link into the address bar in my browser, so you might try that it if you want to know more: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB118583572352482728.html. You can also find this article easily by Googling “helliker + bibliotherapy.”

Comment by Janice Harayda:

I’m all for the kind of testing the Journal described. I’d also favor stricter regulation of advertising by book publishers, whether or not clinical trials were conducted. How about you?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

2 Comments »

  1. [...] 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom wrote a fantastic post today on “Self-Help Books by Quacks, Frauds and Incompetents: Why Donât They …”Here’s ONLY a quick extractHow many times have you read or heard about a self-help book that struck you as pure quackery? Probably a lot. some publishers make preposterous claims about how their books will improve your physical or mental health, or claims that … [...]

    Pingback by www.learnhypnosiseasily.info » Self-Help Books by Quacks, Frauds and Incompetents: Why Don’t They … — October 9, 2007 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  2. “Freedom of speech” makes it difficult to regulate dishonest claims. It is completely legal to write a book whose content is untrue, unless it is libelous.

    It is the “false advertising” angle that has made the most headway. While it is perfectly legal to write a book whose contents are untrue, it is not legal to make false claims about the book in advertising. If you do a web search on “Kevin Trudeau and FTC” you will see an example where the Federal Trade Commission has used this approach.

    These books are successful because they tell people what they want to hear. If I have a health problem, I desperately want to believe that there is an easy solution. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

    “Navigating the Medical Maze” is a book that I wrote to try to help people distinguish between good and bad information. Check it out on Amazon.

    Comment by realitydoctor — January 25, 2008 @ 11:41 pm | Reply


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