Research and Regulation
Editors of the New England Journal of Medicine (September 1998) and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)(November 1998) have both proclaimed that there cannot be two kinds of medicine–conventional and alternative, that there is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not been tested. The imminent physicians argue, in effect, that only orthodox medicine has been tested and proven effective.
In reality, only an estimated 10 to 20 percent of all conventional medical intervention have been proven empirically according to reports of the US Office of Technology Assessment in 1978, again in 1990, and it is true today. 1 The editor of the British Medical Journal also found about 15 percent of medical interventions to be supported by solid scientific evidence. The only known controlled test of the effectiveness of surgery was recently done by a Houston surgeon who “pretended” to perform knee surgery on a number of patients; the outcome was that there was no difference in satisfaction (patient reports of improvement) whether knee surgery had actually been performed or not. 2
Threatened by a proposed law to make vitamins and supplements controlled by prescription in the early 1990s, an outraged American public pushed Congress to pass the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, which essentially eliminated the FDA from regulating herbs and vitamins. While we do not need the government (i.e., the FDA, AMA and pharma companies) granting us permission to take care of our own health, this law abdicated all responsibility from the FDA for the public’s health regarding actual product ingredients. The law prohibits medicinal claims not approved by the FDA and bans warnings about possible side effects. The result has been in the US “no rules, no standards, no analyses, and no oversight”. 3
Other Countries’ Approach
Other countries, such as Germany, Australia, and Canada, treat healing herbs differently. In Germany, the production of herbs is standardized and regulated by the government. The German government accepts traditional medicinal claims of herbs and requires only cautionary labeling about potential side effects. As a result mainstream German physicians are as likely to prescribe valerian-based sleep aids as pharmaceutical sleeping pills. Canada has established a Natural Health Products Directorate; over 50 percent of Canadians consume traditional herbal products, vitamins and mineral supplements, traditional Chinese, Ayurvedic and other medicines, and homeopathic preparations.
The sum results of this strangle hold by the medical establishment in the U.S.– consisting of the FDA, pharmaceutical and insurance industries, and the AMA– is exclusion–and a medical system that ranks 15th among industrial nations, costs far more than any other nation’s, and, unlike every other industrialized nation, doesn’t protect one in six of the citizens. Excluded are medical practitioners, particularly individual MDs who have successfully treated “incurable” cancers, and whole classes of practitioners, especially midwives, which amounts to a modern day witch hunt.4 Also excluded is research not sponsored by “recognized” organizations, in other words, already a part of the medical establishment. Neither is medical literature outside of the United States considered legitimate and sound. U.S. government offices pay attention to how other nations plan their cities, build their structures, and educate their populace, but medical knowledge and practices outside the US are summarily dismissed.
The most effective and immediate response that we as women and the family’s healthcare providers can take is to become familiar with nutrition, medicinal herbs, and therapies, the methods of Natural Healing, and to avoid using pharmaceutical drugs. Women’s Medicine Bowl serves to gather and share our collective knowledge.
1. Kenneth R. Pelletier, MD, The Best Alternative Medicine, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000
2. Washington Post, Knee Surgery for Arthritis is Ineffective, Study Finds,July 11, 2002, A1
3. Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,, The People’s Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies, 1999
4. John Robbins, Reclaiming Our Health