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Alternative medical diagnoses and treatments are not taught as part of science-based curricula in medical schools, and are not used in any practice where treatment is based on scientific knowledge or proven experience.

Alternative therapies are often based on religion, tradition, superstition, belief in supernatural energies, pseudoscience, errors in reasoning, propaganda, fraud, or lies.

In all of these cases, patients may be seeking out alternative treatments to avoid the adverse effects of conventional treatments.

"Biomedicine" or "medicine" is that part of medical science that applies principles of biology, physiology, molecular biology, biophysics, and other natural sciences to clinical practice, using scientific methods to establish the effectiveness of that practice.

Regulation and licensing of alternative medicine and health care providers varies between and within countries.

Alternative medicine is criticized for being based on misleading statements, quackery, pseudoscience, antiscience, fraud, or poor scientific methodology.

Promoting alternative medicine has been called dangerous and unethical.

Testing alternative medicine that has no scientific basis has been called a waste of scarce research resources.

Treatments for severe diseases such as cancer and HIV infection have well-known, significant side-effects.In addition to the social-cultural underpinnings of the popularity of alternative medicine, there are several psychological issues that are critical to its growth.One of the most critical is the placebo effect—a well-established observation in medicine.While it has extensively rebranded itself: from quackery to complementary or integrative medicine—it promotes essentially the same practices.

Newer proponents often suggest alternative medicine be used together with functional medical treatment, in a belief that it "complements" (improves the effect of, or mitigates the side effects of) the treatment.

They mislead cancer patients, who are encouraged not only to pay their last penny but to be treated with something that shortens their lives. Paul Offit proposed that "alternative medicine becomes quackery" in four ways: by recommending against conventional therapies that are helpful, promoting potentially harmful therapies without adequate warning, draining patients' bank accounts, or by promoting "magical thinking." In a paper published in October 2010 entitled The public's enthusiasm for complementary and alternative medicine amounts to a critique of mainstream medicine, Ernst described these views in greater detail and concluded: [CAM] is popular.