cover image Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine

Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine

Paul A. Offit. Harper, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-222296-1

According to infectious disease specialist Offit (Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure), half of Americans believe in the “magic” of alternative medicine, fueling a $34 billion-a-year business that offers treatments that are at best placebos, and at worst deadly. He blasts untested, unregulated, overhyped remedies—like anti-autism creams and bogus cancer cures using “antineoplastons”—and dares to berate celebs like “America’s Doctor,” Mehmet Oz, who “believes that modern medicine isn’t to be trusted”; alternative treatment superstars Andrew Weil and Deepak Chopra, proponents of the natural world and wisdom of the ancients; and former Three’s Company star Suzanne Somers, who crusades for unproven menopause treatments, including her daunting regimen of “bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.” “There’s a name for alternative medicines that work,” one McGill professor notes: “It’s called medicine.” Offit insists that “making decisions about our health is an awesome responsibility. If we’re going to do it, we need to take it seriously.” With a fascinating history of hucksters, and a critical chronology of how supplements escaped regulation, Offit cautions consumers not to “give alternative medicine a free pass because we’re fed up with conventional medicine.” His is a bravely unsentimental and dutifully researched guide for consumers to distinguish between quacks and a cure. Agent: Gail Ross, the Ross Yoon Agency. (June)