REVIEW: Fake Medicine by Brad McKay

In brief: Fake medicine is everywhere these days – what is it and how can you help fight it? Dr Brad McKay has the answers.

The good: I really liked the personal stories interwoven with examples of fake medicine.

The not-so-good: I devoured this far too quickly!

Why I chose it: Sounded interesting and informative. Thanks to Hachette for the copy.

Year: 2021

Pages: 290

Publisher: Hachette

Rating: 9 out of 10

Fake medicine is everywhere you look these days, from social media to television to life-changing stories from your cousin’s neighbour’s best friend’s uncle. It’s difficult to separate fact from fiction or hype if you’re not an expert, and if you are a healthcare professional it’s hard to keep up with the latest fad as rumours spread like wildfire. Dr Brad McKay, a GP, tackles fake medicine head on in this non-fiction book from acupuncture, to colon cleanses and anti-vaxxers. It’s a broad subject to tackle, but he does it with interesting anecdotes and facts to show the reader why fake medicine is just that – fake.

The book opens with Dr McKay’s own experiences with misinformation, a wrong diagnosis and alternative treatments that didn’t work – and likely made his health worse. It’s a jaw-dropping way to start the discussion and it’s incredibly powerful. I gasped and shook my head several times at what this poor kid had to put up with. The narrative then moves to other topics, such as self-proclaimed wellness warriors, spruiking their own concoctions and ways to wellness – without any science (but maybe a #sponsored or two). McKay looks into the psychology of these social media influencers and the way they hook you in with promises of a perfect life. He also explores the claims they make against evidence-based medicine with nothing but a disclaimer of ‘personal experience, I had to share’. At this point I was pretty riled up and looked at some of these influencers (who I had never heard of). As the band Arctic Monkeys say, don’t believe the hype! Dr McKay provides a balanced, scientific look at why you shouldn’t follow any old random for health advice. He stresses (and I do too) that health professionals are the ones with the knowledge so please ask us your questions. (And we don’t take as beautiful selfies because we’ve been reading the studies and science in order to better inform you – they don’t make the prettiest backdrop).

At other times while reading Fake Medicine, I laughed and I squirmed at the things that people would put themselves through without a shred of evidence to back it up. Detoxing, coffee enemas, 5G conspiracies…yet we’ve all heard of them thanks to the power of social media. Dr McKay’s book is an important reminder to step away from your phone and consider who is telling you that injected bleach is a good idea and what their expertise is. The book ends with how to fight fake medicine – how to call it out and share the science, which is even more important given the current landscape as COVID-19 vaccines rollout across Australia. This is a great book to educate yourself on fake medicine in a fun and entertaining way. For health professionals, it’s a fun read that never talks down to the reader and gives an insight into how your patients are being exposed to fake medicine.

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