Is alternative medicine effective?

‘Science-ish’ looks at the evidence surrounding acupuncture and other treatments

by Julia Belluz

Avi Paz/Flickr

The Statement: “Traditional Chinese Medicine plays an important and valuable role in the health and well-being of Ontarians as many are choosing this complementary and alternative approach to health care. It is in this spirit that we are committed to the regulation of this profession,” – Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, 01/09/2011

The field of complementary medicine is huge and growing. In Canada, recent estimates put out-of-pocket spending on alternative-care providers at $5.6 billion—a substantial amount, even when compared to the $31.1 billion spent on pharmaceutical drugs last year.

Governments have been making attempts to rein in the gargantuan industry. As Deb Matthews suggests, since Ontarians are turning to alternative care like Chinese Medicine, and it “plays an important and valuable role in [their] health and well-being,” we should regulate it. The Canadian Medical Association, however, argues that any guidelines for or regulation of alternative medicine “should respect the conviction of many physicians and clinical researchers, that [alternative medicine] has minimal scientific validity and that recommending it to patients achieves no clinical purpose and may be unethical.” In other words, warn the huddled masses about this quackery.

Given the face-off between politicians and the doctors, Science-ish wondered: does alternative medicine—the traditional Chinese variety, in particular—actually work?

If anyone knows about alternative medicine, it’s Dr. Edzard Ernst. He recently retired from his post as the world’s first university chair of complementary medicine in Exeter, England, and has dedicated the better part of the last 20 years to establishing an evidence base for alternative medicine with his colleagues at the Peninsula Medical School.

When I asked him, perhaps naively, about the efficacy of Chinese Medicine—which in the West usually encompasses acupuncture and Chinese herbs—he cautioned me that the field is too big to generalize, and results vary depending on the type of therapy and the disease under treatment.

“I would find it hard to say that this or that treatment has been proven to generate more good than harm for this or that condition,” he said. “I would estimate there are more than 10,000 studies and they are extremely diverse. Much is published in Chinese journals that are inaccessible, much is of poor quality and thus unreliable, Chinese researchers almost never report negative findings, the evidence refers to diverse modalities ranging from acupuncture to Chinese herbs, and it also relates to many, many conditions.”

So Science-ish scaled back and poked around for systematic reviews (the soundest form of evidence) on the effects of alternative Chinese treatments for specific conditions.

First, a popular one: acupuncture for headaches and migraines. A review on acupuncture for headaches found the treatment “could be a valuable option for patients suffering from frequent tension-type headache.” Another study of acupuncture for migraines stated, “migraine patients benefit from acupuncture, although the correct placement of needles seems to be less relevant than is usually thought by acupuncturists.”

The findings seemed positive but not conclusive. So Science-ish reached out to the lead author of the studies, Dr. Klaus Linde, a professor at the Technical University of Munich. He said, “In my view the evidence on acupuncture for various chronic pain conditions—I cannot comment on other conditions—is not inconsistent: it suggests that many patients benefit from acupuncture.”

But there are a few things to take into account. First, while studies show some “point specificity”—ie. the placement of the needles makes a difference—they also suggest that the effect was small, which has led Dr. Linde to believe, “It is likely that complex traditional theories of acupuncture are incomplete or simply wrong.”

There’s also the problem of the placebo effect. “There is increasing evidence that acupuncture and other complex interventions might have more potent placebo effects than other interventions.” He’s referring to the fact more dramatic treatments—being poked with needles, say, instead of passively taking pills—seem to be felt by patients to be more effective, even if the two interventions have the same medicinal value. (See this study comparing salt-water injections with sugar pills for migraines.)

Other critics, such as Dr. Harriet Hall, writing in the journal Pain, have questioned the scientific quality of acupuncture studies: “What constitutes an adequate control [in an acupuncture study]? People can usually tell whether or not you are sticking needles in them. Various controls have been devised, such as comparing ‘true’ acupuncture points to ‘false’ ones. The best control so far is an ingenious retractable needle similar to a stage dagger, where the needle just touches the skin and retracts into a sheath. Unfortunately, there is no way to blind the practitioner, so double blind studies are impossible.”

What about acupuncture for other symptoms? A brand new study published in the British Medical Journal on acupuncture for pain in endometriosis found the evidence to support this treatment was limited and was based on the results of a single study. A review of studies on acupuncture for depression also concluded that the evidence was too sparse to draw any correlations.

So while some studies report positive effects for certain symptoms, others conclude there just isn’t enough good evidence available. Meanwhile, there is one further point to take into account when considering acupuncture: the treatment is not harmless, and as one recent review noted, “serious adverse effects continue to be reported.” In a summary of complications reported since 2000, the study found ninety-five severe cases, including five deaths (four were due to a pneumothorax, or collapsed lung). Infections and organ trauma (pneumothorax, in particular) were the most common side-effects.

Now, what about herbal medicine? The results of systematic reviews also varied depending on the condition under treatment, though they leaned toward the inconclusive. For irritable bowel syndrome, herbal medicine “might be a promising treatment” but “it is premature to recommend herbal medicines for routine use in irritable bowel syndrome. Testing the herbs in larger, well-designed trials is needed in order to establish sound evidence for their use.” For premenstrual syndrome, the results were much the same. “Strong evidence in support of other herbal formulae for the treatment of PMS is currently lacking.” Herbal medicine for esophageal cancer (as an addition to treatment with radiotherapy of chemo) called for more trials since “there is no evidence that herbal medicines are effective or not in this role.”

Alas, if you’re considering an alternative treatment, be sure to check the Cochrane reviews yourself to see what the evidence shows about the therapy you’re considering. Also know that you are wading into still-unregulated territory. In Ontario, the Regulated Health Professions Act was amended in 2007 to include Traditional Chinese Medicine, Naturopathy and other alternative professions, but these new health colleges are still finding their feet.

For now, Dr. Ernst’s contributions to the field may be telling when taken as a whole. He and the researchers in his department at Peninsula turned out more than 1,000 papers and 40 books on the subject and… only 5 per cent of the therapies studied had a benefit that went above and beyond that of a placebo.

Science-ish is a joint project of Maclean’s, The Medical Post, and the McMaster Health Forum. Julia Belluz is the associate editor at The Medical Post. Got a tip? Seen something that’s Science-ish? Message her at julia.belluz@medicalpost.rogers.com or on Twitter @juliaoftoronto




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Is alternative medicine effective?

  1. Big-box industrial medicine, run by the medical industrial complex always challenges anything to its economic turf. Your average Canadian senior citizen takes 10 meds per day and some up to 20 as a form of poly-pharma addicition. 

    This is the real medical malpractice issue, not the ‘usuual suspects’ regualrly trotted out by the ‘quack accusers.’ There are many straw men in this unending “dog chasing its tail” argument from scientific authorities who so glibly discredit against what is deemed acceptable to their own economic and territorial interests. Pharma-medical practice is bankrupting Candians with poor service let alone healing while sucking 150 billion from our collective pockets, while taking seeking to take away the ‘peoples medicine.’
    Western medicine has become a form of secular religion, not much different in that we are expected to have unwavering faith in our western medical gods never doubting their pontifications. We must take obesience at the ‘alter’ of our official and state sanctioned medical clerics.

    Get real. Alternative medicine is used by so many Candian because obviously it is a ready and affordable ‘alternative.’ It is a self modulated option at self healing with natural compounds and a track record of at least a millenia of safe use. You become your own doctor, take better care of yourself without collectively spending bilions because you can get a Doctor’s or specialist’s access. 

    If it didn’t work for Canadians it would’t be economically supported. Also, last time I checked no health food store in recent memory has killed any of its customers, which is not the case with the phramacology cult.The greatest disease in medicine today is systemic arrogance.

      • Emily, that citation refers to people overdosing on pain killers….believe it or not the seniors are not usually a group that is getting drugged up on oxycodone.  There are problems with seniors though.  They tend to be taking drugs that interact poorly – blood thinners like Coumadin which is prescribed,  along with Aspirin over the counter, which is not prescribed but which they take for aches and pains and is contraindicated if you are on Coumadin because it is also a blood thinnner.  Also, some doctors don’t dial down the doses of the prescription meds sufficiently for senior citiziens whose bodies don’t clear the meds as efficiently as younger people’s do and therefore, sometimes they end up ordering too high of doses.

        • I know what I posted….and however it happens prescription drugs kill more people than car accidents.

          Some people are on a dozen or more medications….doctors may not be aware of other things the patient is using, or they may not care.

          • Yes, I know you know what you posted….however, I am just not sure it is a doctor’s fault that oxycodone is a substance abuse drug of choice and people drink alcohol and take it to get loaded and then overdose.  They also sell these drugs.
            I guess physicians could stop treating pain.

          • Sorry Emily, forgot to mention, people “doctor shop”.  Many doctors don’t know that people have a few doctors.  They also try to steal prescription pads, etc.  Not to say there are some dishonest doctors but most don’t want to lose their licenses.

          • I believe I said:

            ‘doctors may not be aware of other things the patient is using, or they may not care.’

    • I noticed that you didn’t actually address any of the points made in the article, specifically that it’s hard to establish if the benefits of many alt-med remedies are even real. When studies of these remedies are controlled for the placebo effect, the measured benefits of such treatments often drop to noise level. 

      No one is arguing that the influence that Big Pharma has on the medical industry is a good thing. But raising the spectre of the “medical industrial complex” when legitimate questions are raised about alt-med is the tactic of a propagandist.

      • That you need to control for “the placebo effect” is interesting in itself to me.

        I think there might be a worthwhile line of research in seeing if we can determine the types of people and diseases susceptible to “placebo effect”, so that we can use that instead of pharmacology with risky side effects.

        It might also be interesting to determine if one sort of placebo is more efficacious than another. Can voodoo cure better than acupuncture or homeopathy?

         

        • There has in fact been enquiry in that direction, Thwim.  See Goldacre’s “Bad Science” for an excellent overview of some of it.  In short, two sugar pills are better than one, and a salt injection’s better than a pill.  The more elaborate the better, and that includes longer contact time with the patient – one way that “alternative medicine” can easily outperform conventional.

          The problem with placebo therapy is the ethical requirement for informed consent.  Once upon a time, giving a sugar pill & a pat on the back was part of conventional therapy, but the pendulum has swing (too far IMHO) to full disclosure.  Some still do it, I suppose.

  2. Conventional medicine.. ergo… western allopathic medicine kills hundreds of thousands of its users every year as is evidenced in the numerous law suits due to debilitating side-effects and attendant wrongful deaths. The paltry 40 or 50 people cited in Wikipedia over the last 25 year attributed directly to bad alternative treatments when compared to the hundreds, no millions of global citizens killed over 25 years from bad pharma … indicate how incredibly safe it is from an actuarial or risk proposition. 

    The USA, being the most litigious nation on earth has exceedingly few lawsuits won against its alternative practitioners or sellers for health supplements/herbals. It is easy to take a single point out of context to defuse an otherwise damning evidence on the dangers of experimental pharmacology sold to the lay person as a health regimen. 

    Western pharmacology is the de facto experiential system, as it has a seemingly eternal progression of unintended side effects of its products.  Recently physicians wanted to slip cholesterol drugs en masse in our water to prevent heart disease in the population. Ignoring the additional findings by public health researchers that long term use of statins used indiscriminately destroys muscle tissue with attendant immune disorders. It is this arrogant “nuke em” philosophy as occurred with fluorides in drinking water, and other toxic additives that are another reason cancer  affects 1 out of 4 Canadians. 

    When you mess indiscriminately with a delicate biological system it is simply not a zero sum game. There is not one drug in the western patent medicine pharmacopeia that grows a new healthy cell, they only ‘hot wire’ the system to react to the drug. Yes, you get disease management, but not true healing. 

    True healing is a function of genetics, excellent nutrition appropriate exercise, an emotionally balanced life and self responsibility.

    • Yeah. You’re a propagandist.

      • Tsk, tsk, tsk. My Dear Mr. Royal, name calling and acidic invective is not a reliable rebutal. It typically indicates an admitted loss on point. 

        • If you’ve survived long enough to need meds, chances are you’ve already benefitted from the dreaded “Western allopathic medecine” system.

          You know, stuff like insulin. Or maybe chemotherapy? Transplantation?

          As far as true healing…it’s a lovely theory, but gravity and age will win out, regardless of whatever you may theorize.

    • I would be very interested to have the citation for the article about the public health researchers who wanted to put cholesterol drugs in the water.  Could you provide it.  Also, I wondered what your opinion is on the plight of people who have drinking water supplies that are “naturally” flouridated.  What to feel is the risk to these people from having flouride in their water?
      Do you have citations for research studies that show a causal relationship between flouride in the drinking water at non-toxic levels and cancer?
      I have one last question of you with regard to a statement you made about “disease management” v. healing.  Surely you must accept that sometimes there is no true cure for certain ailments and management through medication is the only option at this point…..let’s say for a disease such as Schizophrenia……how would you recommend a person with the illness proceed?

    • Of course medicine comes with side effects, including lethal ones sometimes.  Surgery, also, is far more dangerous than waving some chicken bones at someone. That’s the risk of using something that actually DOES something.

      For the most part, the concern with “alternative medicine” is not that it’s dangerous (though sometimes it is), but that it’s ineffective.  Something ineffective and slightly risky is still not necessarily a smart choice, next to something highly effective but moderately risky.

      Do I think some medicine is overprescribed, in cases where the risk/benefit ratio is unfavourable?  Yes.  This is not an argument for any particular unproven therapy, however.  Show that your therapy is effective and safe, and then you’ll have something.  Drumming up business by spreading fear about your competition doesn’t impress.

  3. There’s nothing a good coffee enema won’t cure!

  4. I have no problem with an unproven medical/placebo industry existing in Canada.  People should be free to consume whatever forms of health assistance they want to.

    But trying to regulate alternative medicine is problematic in two respects…

    First; you cant manage what you can’t measure, and any attempt to regulate practices steeped in belief and art will pose insurmountable issues of trying to glean quantitative data from steadfastly non-quantitative and anti-scientific pursuits.  The potential for wasted resources is extreme.

    Second, regulating alternative medicine will inevitably lead to demands for publicly funding it.  We don’t regulate psychics, priests, and fung shui experts, or judge their efficacy for a good reason – their work cannot be subject to rigorous appraisal.  It probably shouldn’t be, either.  We have laws to deal with deliberate harm, misrepresentation, and fraud, which are sufficient to keep them reigned in.  The same laws are sufficient for controlling alternative medicine.  By regulating it, we’ve provided a level of state sanction that it doesn’t deserve, and we’ll create yet one more medical mouth to feed from scare means.  

    Just to be clear, I have no problem with alternative medicine being openly practiced (subject to the existing laws that prevent us from deliberately and/or negligently hurting each other).  But regulation is a whole other kettle of fish, as it lends credibility to an industry that is purposefully based in traditional, non-scientific, and often placebo-based methods.  I don’t want my taxes to pay for it, and I don’t want my state to invest resources that would provide it with more legitimacy than it deserves.

  5. Note that the figure $5.6b (which has actually risen above $7b in the most recent report) defines ‘alternative health care’ pretty broadly.

    It includes things like ‘Yoga’, aromatherapy, and ’Lifestyle diet’, as well as massage and chriropractic. Yoga in particular is at the top. I have to wonder if Lululemon’s profits are included in the figure.

    My favourite – which actually ranks number 3 in terms of popularity – is ‘Prayer’.

    • I think Yoga is great – it definitely relaxes people and reduces stress.

  6. Acupuncture: My sister had needles placed in or behind her earlobes to help her stop smoking. They were covered with a plaster and had to remain in place for a considerable length of time. She continued to smoke for 20-25 years after the treatment, before she finally quit… without acupuncture.

    Herbalism: I use herbs to help with urinary complaints due to an enlarged prostate. When I skip the Saw Palmetto capsules, my urination becomes difficult within about 8 hours of missing a dose. I use Valerian and Hops to help with insomnia. Without, I wake up after 3-4 hours of sleep and cannot resume sleeping; with the herbs, I sleep 6.5-8 hours. I use Holy Basil and St. John’s Wort to deal with stress. When I don’t take them, I can become jumpy and nervous, but with them, I am calm. They also help with sleep. I have some varicose veins in my calves. When I don’t use Horse Chestnut, my legs throb, but when I take it, the purplish veins appear smaller and I don’t have tired, throbbing legs. I use Ginseng and Tongkat ali for male stamina. I feel the effects within hours: increased snake juice, lasting power, drive, etc. When I don’t take them, I am easily tired. Is this all my imagination? I don’t believe so. I certainly wouldn’t risk my life treating serious diseases like cancer with herbs.

    • “I certainly wouldn’t risk my life treating serious diseases like cancer with herbs.”

      Absolutely. And a responsible alternative health practitioner would never undertake treatment for a condition that’s beyond their expertise.

      I have a friend who’s a naturopath. I’ve been impressed with her focus on thorough diagnosis (she uses standard med labs, but orders a broad array of tests) and conditions she can treat effectively. She routinely sends patients to MDs when she isn’t equipped to treat their condition.

    • I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but I know of one herb, which remains illegal in our country, that would likely help with all your ailments.  Moreover, when my 77-year old mother was dying of cancer, and the cocktail of prescription drugs she was given by multiple doctors was wreaking as much havoc on her system as the metastacized cancer was, she agreed to try some of that herb.  I am not kidding when I tell you that within five minutes of her having three tiny puffs from a vapourizer, her stomach pain was alleviated, she slept well that evening, and her bowels actually relaxed enough to work.  I still cry to think that about 50 cents worth gave her some relief in the face of her relatively expensive treatments, and that we keep that from people and would make them criminals.  So while you wouldn’t risk your life and take herbs in the face of cancer, I believe that marijuana has a role to play in providing comfort and dignity in cancer treatment.  I just don’t think people should go to jail for that comfort.

      • “comfort and dignity in cancer treatment. I just don’t think people should go to jail for that comfort.”

        This is correct. When a person’s health is at stake, and particularly with the terminally ill, whatever is necessary must be done to ease their suffering.

    • Just so you know pcoq – that St. John’s Wort you are taking is the same thing as Prozac and I don’t mean a little like it….I mean the EXACT same drug.  Most drugs are manufactured now but they come from a plant base and some of those plants are herbs.   It is not to say that the herbs are dangerous BUT they can interact with other things and you should ask your physician if you are going on any meds and let him/her know what you are taking.

      • Prozac is fluoxetine. St. John’s Wort contains hypericin and small amounts of hyperforin.

        I suggest you inform yourself about fluoxetine. It is quite a scary substance, which includes risk of suicide, sexual dysfunction, discontinuation syndrome, etc.

        I am sure that much study is required to determine the full health supplement profile of St. John’s Wort. Its safe use dating back centuries, if not millennia, has been documented through the ages by historians. It is to be noted that herbs are very weak and do not contain enough active ingredients to treat disease. This is why herbalists use them, as their benefit comes from a negligible dose, maintained over a long duration, without adverse effects. Pharmaceutical drugs, on the other hand, are powerful, and generally one dose will entirely suppress the ailment for a 6-8 hour period, but the consequent risk of side effects is great.

        Also, in Canada, we have strict regulations in effect regarding herbal supplements. St. John’s Wort products are registered with Health Canada NPN numbers.

        • The point is that both “drugs” act as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors….meaning they allow your brain to keep more of the serotonin you make rather than flushing it away.  As a nurse with 4 years of university and specializing in psychiatry, I have “informed” myself about ‘fluoxetine’ which is just the generic name for Prozac.  Prozac does not, as you incorrectly reported have a “discontinuation syndrome” like other SSRI’s tend to have.  There is the risk of suicide with SSRI’s but it is more pronounced in adolescents and the reason for it remains a mystery.  It is known that very depressed people tend to commit suicide when they have more energy.  Yes, it is true that there is “sexual dysfunction” in some people…it is a problem having an organism.  Prozac has been on the market for 2 decades now and actually has an incredibly good safety record.  My point is, and you and can research this is that you cannot take St. John’s Wort at the same time a any other SSRI because it is also an SSRI and you will be at risk for something called “serotonnin syndrome”.   What you are claiming when say that ”herbs are very weak and the doses are negligible” would suggest that they could not be effective, yet according to you they are because they are maintained over a long  duration.  Well, I have news for you, the so-called “powerful pharmaceutical drugs, like Prozac take up to 3 weeks to take effect so your information there is incorrect as well.  I won’t even mention your contention that Canada regulates herbs strictly, I know that is not true.  I do hope they are making sure that substances like melanine are not finding there way into the supplements from China.

  7. Short answer? No. I highly reccommend checking Trick or Treatment by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst out at your public library if you are interested in this topic. It does a great job of breaking down all the existing evidence for and against alternative medicines and therapies, and explains the difference between credible studies and not-so-credible studies in easily understood terms.

  8. I would be interested to know where you got your statistics for “the average Canadian senior”.  I looked up the info and found that the average senior is taking four prescription medications, not ten as you suggested. 
    Also, some of the herbs sold in the healthfood store are actually the exact same “drug” as prescription allternatives – ie St. John’s Wort & all the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (Prozac, etc.).  At least if you have a drug plan, you can get them from the pharmacists for a greatly reduced price.

    • I also found that statistic about the average senior suspect. My parents, for example, each take only a blood-pressure pill.

      As for St. John’s Wort, I would not care to take an SSRI. If St. John’s Wort has a similar effect, then I presume that its worthiness is confirmed. I am paying a fair price.

      St. John’s Wort contains (currently known) hypericin in significant amounts and negligible amounts of hyperforin. If I am not mistaken, hypericin acts primarily as a relaxant to reduce anxiety, while hyperforin has an anti-depressive effect. This would explain its traditional use for anxiety and insomnia, as the hypericin would be most available when using the herb in a traditional context, such as tea or tincture. Hyperforin has only more recently come to be known and it requires standardized extracts to achieve usable dosages, and hence the recent excitement concerning the anti-depressive effects. Capsules standardized to contain significant amounts of hypericin are cheap, while those with hyperforin are relatively expensive.

      I could be wrong.

    • The average frail BC senior, in an extended  care facility, takes an average 10 prescription meds per day. Each patient gets a maximum of about 2.8 hours of direct nursing contact per 24 hours, and limited to one bath per week. Some patients have pharm-regimen as high as 20 meds per day, largely dictated by their family physician. There are only 300 geriatric  physician specialist in all Canada, with under 40 serving in BC. Dr. Sloan well respected geriatric specialist of UBC and the only home visit doctor in urban Vancouver (ref. search for web page “Sunshiners”) covers this problem area well in his book “Bitter Pill” The over medication of seniors in Canada.

      • Thank you for clarifying that it isn’t the average senior citizen you were referring to.

  9. Is alternative medicine effective?  No, because as soon as any particular treatment might be proven effective, it loses the word “alternative.”

    • Reminds me of one of my favourite Dara O’Briain skits.

      “Herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years. Indeed it has. And then we tested it all. And the stuff that works became “medicine.” And the rest of it is just a nice bowl of soup and some potpourri.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMvMb90hem8

  10. If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck…it’s probably a homeopath.

      • Was this reference included as evidence that homeopathy works?  Cause I don’t think that was the conclusion here….

        • Indeed.A rather selective interpretation of a study review. I notice our commenter seemed to miss the 4 of 8 studies that show negative results, and the slighty more serious issue that these studies need to be repeated before being considered as accurate.

          But hey, Homeopaths don’t need to worry about science. Our scientific analysis machines aren’t sophisticated enough yet to find the active ingredients in homeopathic “medicine’. They are, in fact, faith healers, as they have no proof of how or why their potions work.

          • Really, Mostly Civil, who needs science when you can cure yourself with magic water?

  11. That facts are CLEAR:  With advances in modern medicine including the creation of vaccines to prevent viral infections, antibiotics to cure bacterial infections, and methods to speed recovery from even the most serious injury or illness; our life expectancy in the west (and nations which have embraced western philosophies) is the highest in the world and we enjoy being the most healthiest people on Earth. 

    Simply put, we are living longer and better lives than anyone else in any time in history. 

    Yes, much of that good news has to do with our diet, availability of food, water, and advances in  sanitation; but our scientifically-driven medical establishment deserves it’s fair share of praise as well.  Diseases and illnesses that a century ago were often considered death sentences are now routinely treated using various drugs or surgeries.  Know anyone with Smallpox?  Of course not!  It was ERADICATED decades ago with the aid of modern diagnosis and vaccination, not mystical crystals, magnets, and acupuncture.  It was the cold, unemotional application of science and technology that saves countless millions from suffering the fate of so many before.

    The people here advocating scientifically unproven or unrecognized medical products or practices love throwing around conspiracy theories and accusations, but the fact remains that whatever they believe, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support their claims.  That’s all there is to it.  Luckily most intelligent and level-headed people trust in the scientific consensus (like we do for Global Warming, Evolution, etc.) and take their advise from a healthcare professional rather than snake-oil dealers who prey on ignorance.

    And by the way, the argument that the medical establishment wants people to remain sick and therefore dependant on it to supply relief and not a cure makes a great deal of sense.  That is, until you take a minute to realize that no concepts exist in a vacuum in that manner. 

    The fact is there exists an adversarial relationship between the public, the pharmaceutical industry, and the often conveniently-neglected insurance industry.  We all know them, right?  Insurance companies?  They are the people that want you to remain as healthy as possible so they don’t have to pay a dime for you to get better.  If an insurance company ever discovered that a pharmaceutical company was producing a medicine that either didn’t work or actually harmed the patient, their incredibly well-paid  lawyers would be bringing serious litigation to them faster than you can blink. 

    And why is that?  Well, while it would be in the best interest for big pharma to want patients to remain sick and buying their product, it is also in the best interest of big insurance to get you healthy as quickly as possible as for you to stay that way.  This also explains why the majority of health insurers refuse to pay for many alternative treatments or medicines.

  12. Loved your comment, Craig!  Do people really believe “Big Pharma” wants them to be sick so it can make money off them….hahaha…I love it.   Especially when you consider that the big money makers in the last few years have really had not alot to do with “illness” per say….drugs like Viagra & Cialis….men wanting to get their libido back are top sellers and are sold to the aging male who due to benign prostatic disease aren’t able to perform the way they want to…or Ditropan, a drug that helps women who can’t go for a walk without peeing their pants.  How about Champix that this helping people stop smoking (smoking – you know that addiction that kills or mains 1 in 3 who participate in the habit).  Then there are the acid reducing drugs that make life bearable for people with severe gerd and Celebrex, that lets people with arthritis get out of bed in the morning.  Many medications that are invented now are making life liveable for people who were disabled by medical issues.  They are improving people’s quality of life.  I guess there are people who think everyone should just suffer.

  13. It’s unbelievable that there is still such propaganda and misrepresentation spread on the basis of fear and ignorance.  In 2003, WHO already compiled a list of the proven effectiveness of acupuncture: http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js4926e/5.html  and we would do well to open our eyes to other ways of viewing the universe, including how it relates to health care.  Acupuncture has been studied since at least the 1970s in the “western” world.  You’d think they’d have figured something out by now.  It makes me wonder if Aspirin has ever been under such scrutiny.  Also, are the researchers testing the medical theory behind how Chinese medicine works or are they testing the modalities?  If the theory isn’t valid why bother wasting money testing the modalities?  And why are the placebos for acupuncture toothpicks?  When doing a double blind study for a surgical procedure (like the removal of an appendix), do the surgeons use toothpicks instead of scalpels?  And as for the research into Chinese medicine why not clearly define its medical theory and see if it’s valid or not?  This article is fraught with opinions being construed as facts…

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