Opposition to Natural Medicine – Part 2
Colleen Huber, NMD
May 4, 2017
JS: Let’s continue our interview from last week. We were talking about the political opposition to natural medicine. I would like to focus more specifically on naturopathic physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and the health food store and supplement industry. What are your thoughts in general about that?
CH: When you consider all those groups together, taken as a whole, we are met with resentment and anxiety from the pharmaceutical industry and the doctors who are most aligned with them – which is most of MDs and DOs. However, there are definitely MDs and DOs who think like we do.
I just want to mention a very notable example: Alan Gaby MD is definitely a leader in alternative / natural medicine in the US. His book Nutritional Medicine is a 1300 page monster, took him 30 years to write, and is a wonderfully useful compendium of data regarding nutritional aspects of disease, symptoms and finally good health.
Yet Pharma, and the doctors and hospitals and insurance companies all tied in with Pharma, would rather that none of that information – and none of us – exist, because we are the obstacle to the monopoly that they would have over human health. Actually, the free will of individuals is the ultimate obstacle to full pharmaceutical control of human health.
So I think those are the major actors in the drama. And there is soapboxing and drama in these discussions.
JS: Do you want to talk about that drama, such as when emotions run high between pro-Pharma and anti-Pharma? Or I guess we could say between pro-natural medicine and anti-natural medicine.
CH: I suppose the most virulent word bandied about is “quack,” usually with the implications of duck sounds. However, the word “quack” has an interesting history: It comes from the German “quecksilber,” originally from Old High German, and means mercury. Well, the interesting thing is that it was the conventional allopathic physicians who trafficked in mercury, not the natural practitioners, because mercury has long been known to be highly toxic – which is not so interesting or useful to those of us in the healing arts.
Ironically, these days the term “quack” or “quackery” is used dismissively against naturopathic physicians and similar practitioners, with no explanation or particular reason for its use, other than a lazy pejorative that the “skeptic” likes to hurl, similar to other unwarranted expletives.
However, it was the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) who embraced and defended the use of mercury, even as it fell into wide disfavor among the public by the mid-nineteenth century.
Mats Hanson writes an interesting article about this, in which he points out that then, as now, many conventional doctors used “powerful” treatments in order to try to impress patients, and when they appeared to have symptoms of poisoning, that could always be blamed on worsening of the original disease.
As someone who works with cancer patients, I can tell you that our era is rife with such antics. Cancer is not nearly so deadly as chemotherapy. Yet when a chemotherapy patient dies, the death certificate lists cancer rather than chemo as the cause of death.
JS: What other points of contention exist between Pharma and natural medicine?
CH: “Science-based medicine” has become a buzzword to indicate synthetic chemicals that are patented. With the patent, these substances can bring a lot of revenue to a company. Now to pass a Phase IV clinical trial, it takes a lot of money changing hands, and Pharma is the only player rich enough to cough up the massive users’ fees that are paid to the FDA. The whole arrangement is broken and irreparably corrupt. There is little that can be done to change it, because Pharma has over 1500 full-time lobbyists in Congress, which is more than 3 times as many as the number of representatives. That number is also more than the next two biggest industries’ lobbyists combined. Now each US representative in Congress faces this problem: It takes massive money to purchase enough advertising to actually win an election; it takes more money than each representative has. Therefore, they want to take Pharma’s money. So then they end up voting for legislation that is favorable to Pharma. This of course is frustrating to the public as well as to those of us who practice natural medicine. Because what happens is we tend to get crowded out of legislation, and find ourselves on the short end of the stick – not adequately reimbursed by health insurance, not reimbursed at all by Medicare.
So then when Pharma talks about “Science-based medicine,” what they mean is the medicine that they have paid high prices to run through certain pedigrees. However, they are not referring to medicine that is developed in a scientific way, that is with careful observation of patient response and reactions.
Herbal medicine is much more based in science, because we have the benefit of studying patient responses over time. The herbal monographs let us know in great detail what the observed effects are in patients. This is in contrast to a hastily prepared clinical trial that cuts short careful observation in order to try to rush the latest blockbuster drug to market.
Sometimes this process is very sloppy. For example, I was recently waiting in line to board a flight that was delayed. A doctor was speaking nearby on a cell phone, so I heard this half of a conversation:
Hi, this is Dr——— from ——– Hospital ——— Research ……….
Oh, hi……………Okay, I need to figure out if Group —- is on the placebo or on the [medication]………..
So did we get a delivery of the [medication]?……………. Okay, then in that case, I’m going to assume that group is on the placebo…………….Right…………… No, I’m not sure. Did any of them report any symptoms?……….. Yeah, I wish we could know what they’re on. That’s the problem, I just don’t know…………… Well, that’s okay, I think they must be on the placebo, so just mark them down as placebo………….. Right, no, I think it’ll work out okay. . . .
I thought, wow, I think we naturopaths must be doing pretty well when we are compared to that phone dialogue (the half-dialogue that I heard). At least we don’t use placebos, unless it seems to be in the patient’s best interests. And I would think we’d get straight who has which medication!
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A hundred and fifty years of misuse of mercury and dental amalgam – still a lesson to learn
By Mats Hanson