As I am often reminded when discussing treatment options with patients, there are plenty of good alternative and complementary treatments available for many diseases and disorders. Lots of good preventive CAM remedies, too….
One of the frustrations for many patients is the emphasis placed by their allopathic (mainstream, western) physicians on using “evidence based” medicine; that is, those treatments that have undergone research and testing to prove they work in the majority of patient cases. In too many cases, that eliminates choices the many believers in CAM therapies can make. They are further frustrated because their doctors won’t discuss anything that isn’t evidence-based.
In most cases, I’ll agree, that evidence-based is the way to go. Studies have been done, trials have been run, and the evidence is there that they will work.
But when it comes to how that evidence is discovered, there are some real questions we patients need to ask, and those go to the very basic core of American healthcare, which is about money and sickness, and not health or care.
I ask these questions today after finding an article from Bottom Line about recent “evidence” that antioxidants don’t work, and in fact, might be dangerous. The point to the article is that it’s not that there’s a problem with antioxidants; instead there’s a problem with how the studies were run. And, in fact, the people doing the research have much to gain by proving there may be problems with antioxidants.
This question is not new. For years, questions about how research studies are conducted have been asked, and often those studies have been found to be bogus. Unfortunately, they are still “out there” to be found by unsuspecting patients who are trying to find options for their treatment. It all adds up to bad — and therefore potentially dangerous — information.
Why are they bogus? A variety of reasons, but usually associated with (you guessed it) money. In the case of CAM therapies, the basis often begins with the fact that businesses can’t figure out how to make enough money from something that isn’t regulated (most herbal remedies don’t have to pass through the FDA) — OR — that they manufacture an FDA approved drug that will lose marketshare if an herbal remedy is found to be just as effective.
Too often, the relationship between the findings and the money is hidden. These studies are released in peer-reviewed journals, and that’s how we hear about them – the mainstream press picks them up and publishes the basics. The researchers themselves are required in most cases to make statements about their possible financial relationships with the parties to the study. BUT the “peers” are not. So sometimes the problems with the study’s findings go to the relationship to the unnamed and unpaid peers, and not to the study itself.
As patients, we need to know the truth — and not the truth as seen through the eyes of someone with a financial stake in the outcome of a study. So to that end, if you are using a medical study to make a decision about treatment, you’ll want to look into the details of the study, ask your own questions, then seek the advice of a professional you trust.
It’s defensive medicine, and it’s unfortunately necessary.
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