Buyer Beware

These days it seems to me that many people believe there are two broad categories of medicine, “conventional” (the kind of medicine practiced by most medical doctors) and “alternative “(everything else including traditional Chinese, homeopathic, naturopathic, complementary and so on). Those who disdain “conventional” medicine with its drugs and surgery will be attracted to the use of the word “alternative” because that is what they are seeking – an alternative to western medicine. People selling products of any kind know this and will use this to market their wares.

It might be worth mentioning that the ‘alternative’ health care industry in Canada sells billions of dollars of products and services annually. They have a powerful and effective political lobby that has kept them free from many of the constraints placed on medical doctors and the pharmaceutical industry with respect to marketing and product testing.

A business that produces “natural” herbs or supplements is free to make claims about its product without having to test it anywhere nearly as rigorously as a drug company does for a new medication. I’ve seen all kinds of ads from a variety of alternative practitioners who make claims of curing all kinds of conditions. If I did that, I might lose my medical license.

You may want to consider this before you decide to pay for “alternative” treatments. I’m not saying “conventional” medicine has all the answers. It obviously fails pain patients every day. Furthermore, the scientific medical literature acknowledges this, as do many physicians. Can the same be said of “alternative” journals and practitioners? Read and listen carefully to what they say. Are they simply making claims or are they offering real evidence?