Does alternative medicine work? Or does it harm patients?

In a scathing review, the Associated Press reports that $2.5 billion in federal funding has been spent on researching alternative therapies.

None have been conclusively shown to work.

Despite this, more medical schools and hospitals are embracing alternative medicine, and in some cases, offering them to patients who are gravely ill. Also, health insurers are making deals to provide alternative services, as well as nutritional supplements, to their members.

The main reason why patients are flocking to alternative medicine is their current disenchantment with traditional, allopathic medicine. And I can’t say I blame them. The current health system forces doctors and hospitals to see and treat as many patients as possible, so they can stay financially viable. With shorter appointment times, it’s no wonder why both patients and physicians are dissatisfied with conventional health care.

But that’s not a reason to embrace alternative care. Not only have they been shown not to work, the lack of FDA regulation surrounding supplements means that some of them may actually harm patients, or are laced with prescription drugs. In fact, the president of an independent lab that tests such products says, “one out of four supplements has a problem.”

And worse, those who shun traditional medicine may be missing their last chance at treatment. For instance, “Cancer patients can lose their only chance of beating the disease by gambling on unproven treatments. People with clogged arteries can suffer a heart attack. Children can be harmed by unproven therapies forced on them by parents who distrust conventional medicine.”

This is a pretty important investigative report, one I recommend everyone to read.

And if there’s a bottom line to remember, it’s this: “When it says ‘natural,’ the perception is there is no harm. And that is just not true.”