Joined: Jan. 2006
|Quote (skeptic @ Mar. 29 2008,07:44)|
|as much as it pains me to say, I'm with Louis on this one. It's probably since we come from the same industry but I abhor nutraceuticals and I can't stand that they're not regulated by the FDA. I'm not sure how it stands for you over there, Louis, but here any ingredient designated as a nutritional supplement has no obligation to prove any claims it makes. It's just a hair more idiotic than tobacco not being regulated by the FDA. Anyway, that's the umbrella all the homeopathic remedies hide under in this country and it has resulted in dead people but to no avail. Louis, sounds like your wife and mine can repeat back the same tirade, lol.|
It's okay Skeptic, if it helps I'm in utter agony. ;-)
I think the list Wes gives is a good starting point. But lest we of a scientific bent keep pointing the finger outwards I think, especially in my industry, it's good to have a little perspective and point that finger inwards just as often.
Yes Skeptic, NICE (the UK FDA pseudoequivalent) does give a comparatively free pass to nutraceuticals and the like. The worst things is it also gives a large degree of freedom to "homeopathic" "medicines". The reason there are two sets of quotes is because of two different reasons. "Homeopathic" seems to shift meanings in the pseudoscience promoting community, sometimes it means plant extracts, sometimes it means the uber-diluted dirvel, sometimes both, sometime neither. Like talking about "god", talking about "natural" or talking about "homeopathy" it's a bloody good idea to find out what the other person means by those words when they use them. The reason "medicine" is in quotes is because this stuff rarely has any medicinal value over and above placebo.
BTW, one little bugbear of mine is that people sometimes think that "placebo" is an insult of some kind, that it means the medicine does nothing at all. This simply isn't the case, and I always have to explain this to people. Very simply put: If a medicine/treatment does no better than the background level at which people just simply get better from a disease then it has done no better than a placebo would do. That does not mean it does nothing, it just means it's ineffective as a treatment for that disease.
Trust me when I say you run up against worse pseudoscientific drivel and harsher antiscience attitudes in the "alternative medicine" group/mindset than we ever do in creationists. At least in the US you have the Establishment Clause to protect you from the more egregious instances of religious idiocy, and at least we in the rest of the world have that example to work on (even if we fail to manage it sometimes), but nowhere has got a "Dumb Clause" to protect a nation from the establishment of pseudoscientific quackery. The companies involved (and our dearly beloved and oh so above reproach pharma industry also cashes in on this btw) are peddling sophisticated snake oil at top prices to an ever eagre and extremely confused middle class. As a matter of perspective, national outrage can be caused by mentioning how an immigrant gets well treated or housed at the cost of a few hundred thousand pounds, but nobody bats an eyelid at the billions of pounds frittered away on sugar tablets and expensive consultations.
Lastly, I don't mean to say that the "traditional" medicine lot have nothing to learn from the "alternative" medicine lot. Simply put, there is no "traditional" and "alternative", there is only medicine. If it works, it's medicine, if it doesn't it's expensive wishful thinking. If standing on a moonlit night at a crossroads with your feet in sphagnum moss, a natterjack toad on your head, having a druid perform an intimate personal act upon you whilst washing you with water thawed from an arctic glacier, whilst a Sioux priestess chants healing energies and an aura specialist clears your aura according to the latest results of her trance causes pancreatic cancer to go into remission in a statistically significant manner above placebo (or better, above the current market treatments) then it is medicine. We might not know how it works yet, but that it works is now undeniable. More studies need to be done, can it be accomplished sans druid for example (they are expensive after all).
My serious point possibly clouded by that frivolity is that the claims of conspiracy and persecution (like those of our creationist chums) are false. They are the products of bog standard denialism. Antisemites, climate change deniers, creationists, advocates of alternative medicine, tobacco companies, pharmaceutical company advertising departments (oh yes, they are scum) all use the exact same denialist methodologies.
The second serious point there is that in the alternative medicine world long consultations, easy access to a practitioner, comforting treatments like massage and aromatherapy etc are all useful. They really do seem to help people. Granted, again they have never yet broken the minimum requirement that any valid medicine/treatment would have asked of it but they give us an important pointer and one we ignore at our peril. A GP in the UK has between 8 and 15 minutes on average with each patient (IIRC from a recent Lancet article). The average alternative therapist spends between 45 minutes and 2 hours with each patient. GPs estimate that a huge majority of their time is taken up with palliative care and simple reassurance of patients. We know that stress not only is a disease but that it causes disease. The wealth of anecdotal "data" we get from the alternative medicine court is telling us something very clear "You can improve how your patients feel about their treatments, and this will in turn improve their chances of recovery". Put the pieces together! There is merit in the "holistic approach" even if that merit is only the difference between state and private medicine being able to afford different amounts of time to deal with a patient.
This is why it is vital to separate out what the real issue is. Homeopathy doesn't work, it's obvious bullshit to anyone with a GCSE in chemistry. It's antiscience quackery and dishonest snakeoil salemanship of the first water (pun intended). BUT some people like it, it has some value to some patients and that value is less in the actual treatments and medicines themselves but more in the rituals and environments that those treatments and medicines are delivered. Think how powerful combining the two could be? It's an almost utopian ideal! Medicines/treatments that really work delivered in an environment that panders to the simple human nature of the patient. The private medical sector in the UK has been doing this for years. Lengthy consulations at the drop of a hat, instantaneous treatments, thorough investigations etc. I'm not knocking the NHS (which I think is an excellent system) but the private sector has managed to get rid of a lot of the bureacracy and invest a lot more of its money in the right places. That is sadly not a medical issue but a political and financial one.
This is incidentally, to return to the original topic at little more, why I think that "alternative" remedies of all sorts should be thoroughly investigated and subject to the exact same stringent conditions and testing that any "normal" remedy is. If the goal is to cure people, then our efforts must be aimed at finding the best way of doing that. The fact that these things get a free pass is abhorrent. It's as bad as a pharma company forging trials data, faking claims, using marketing tricks to bend rules etc. In a market worth billions of pounds a year in the UK alone, it's also a market with a surprisingly similar quantity of cash to the people doing REAL science and making REAL medicines that REALLY and uncontroversially work.