Time to protect patients from exploitation by alternative medicines industry

27 11 2006

That’s what Dr. Jonathan Waxman says in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal. Waxman is a professor of oncology in the Imperial College of London.
He says that it is estimated that up to 80% of all patients with cancer take a complementary treatment or follow a dietary programme to help treat their cancer, yet the rationale for the use of many of these approaches is obtuse.

The reason that these products are accessible to patients is that they are not subject to the testing of pharmaceuticals because they are classified as food supplements. Waxman believes that patients take alternative mediciness because the complementary therapists offer something that doctors cannot offer – hope. “If you eat this, take that, avoid this, and really believe this then we can promise you sincerely that you will be cured. And if the patient is not cured, it is the patient who has failed, not the alternative therapy. The patient has let down the alternative practitioner and disappointed his family who have encouraged his “treatment”.”

“As well as the complementary medicines they take, many patients will have changed their diets in order to cure their cancers”, says the author. “But although there is a strong dietary basis to the development of cancer, once cancer has been diagnosed no change in diet will lead to any improvement in cancer outcomes.”

“It’s time for legislation to focus on a particularly vulnerable section of our society and do something to limit the exploitation of our patients,” he says. Why not subject the alternative medicines industry to the level of scrutiny that defines pharmaceuticals. Reclassify these agents as drugs – for this is after all how they are marketed – and protect our patients from vile and cynical exploitation whose intellectual basis, at best, might be viewed as delusional”.

I couldn’t agree more with this words.

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