Potential Dangers and Dubious History of Alternative Medicine


From MinnPost: Two recent articles have exposed some of the potentially dangerous effects of alternative treatments including homeopathy and acupuncture, as well as corruption in the alternative medicine industry.

“The articles also rip apart the prevalent David-and-Goliath myth regarding alternative therapies: the idea that alternative-medicine manufactures are small, noble companies who only want to bring inexpensive, natural remedies to people in need, but who find themselves battling the big, bad profit-driven pharmaceutical industry.

The truth is much less attractive:  Alternative medicine is now a huge profit-driven, multibillion-dollar industry, too. And parts of it are owned by the pharmaceutical industry.”

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  1. Disappointed. This kind of article is used to regulate against alternative medicines, and restrict patient choice. It presumes that all alternative medicine is quackery. Biased!

    In my own case, after a decade of psych meds and hospitalization, I switched to TCM. 15 years later, and I’m still doing well. The evidence here is not scientific, but I just don’t care. The evidence here is my TCM doctor’s track-record of success. I gave her a chance to prove herself, and she succeeded where the “scientists” had already failed, rescuing me from the nightmare of psychiatry.

    Where science and the mainstream has already failed, my health-choices are always results-based.

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  2. Hmm. I’m glad to see MiA criticizing alternative medicine here — we should debunk all bad medicine, because too often I think we’re seen as pseudoscientific cranks — but I think this article lumps together two very different problems and overstates the influence of homeopathy in the U.S..

    According to Bloomberg, “About 3.3 million Americans spent $2.9 billion on homeopathic treatments in 2007, according to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), though private industry research suggests a smaller market.” That’s not nothing, but it’s maybe one percent of the population spending less than a third of the yearly sales of Abilify. Or the dangerous teething gel they use as an example: only 370 children over ten years. Meanwhile, how big are the sales of prescription drugs? Hundreds of billions a year. How many people do they harm? It’s hard to say, but over one percent of Americans take an ‘antipsychotic’, those weight-gaining-brain-damaging devil’s pills. And prescription opioids have killed enough people in the last few decades to populate a modest-sized city. Is it any surprise people don’t trust pharma and turn to quackery?

    So I think homeopathy is nonsense, but as far as the scale of the problem is concerned, it’s important to not let (valid) criticisms of alternative medicine be used to defend the bigger villains within mainstream pharma.

    Meanwhile, the other story is that traditional Chinese medicine is huge — $114 billion and nearly 29% of the Chinese pharma industry. That’s terrible. China has a big problem, but I really don’t think alternative medicine in the U.S. and TCM are comparable issues.

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