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Tags alternative medicine , cam , swift

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Old 11th June 2009, 11:38 AM   #1
mazyloron
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Refuting: "CAM might be bad, but big pharma is worse"

Ok, so an article that was posted on SWIFT today prompted a rather heated discussion between myself and a friend. And I'm wondering what's the best way to respond.

This is the article: $2.5 billion spent, no alternative cures found

Basically, he has a few main points:
  1. CAM isn't all bad, therefore we shouldn't be so harsh towards it.
  2. "Big pharma" produces products that are far more harmful than CAM. Many more people die from "big pharma," so we should ignore CAM and focus on big pharma because it's more harmful.
  3. There's nothing wrong with offering false hope to people, if they want to believe it, then they deserve what they get.
  4. CAM challenges the status quo and that's why it's rejected, because "big pharma" doesn't want to give up their power.
  5. "Big pharma" doesn't want to cure you, they want to keep you addicted to their drugs, that's why they don't research cures, just medicine.
And, a little more info on his points, or my responses to them so far:

1. He's diabetic and his mother is hard-core into CAM (sells it on the side, like Avon or something) and got him taking cinnamon and bitter melon, which he said does cause his blood sugar to drop. I honestly don't know what to say to that one - and he likes to do the "you don't know what it's like" argument. I am not ruling out that there are some things in CAM that do genuinely work (not many), but likewise there are plenty that seem to work, but are doing something else (my thought there might be that it's causing a false reading, though it could very well be working). I don't know enough about his example specifically to say anything, nor am I ruling out that it may work.

2. "I'm highly critical of both sides, but who kills more people? big pharm or nutty herbalists?" He likes to use this one a lot. He also turns to this if I make a valid point about #1. I'm not personally aware of how many people "big pharma" kills. I'm sure some people die, but is it a lot? How about compared to the good they do? He doesn't like that response.

3. I'm not sure that he and I can do more than agree to disagree on this one. Of course, I know him well enough that I'm pretty sure he doesn't really beleive this, he's just saying it for shock value, or to look tough, or something equally ego-driven.

4. This is the typical "all big companies are evil" argument. And I'll admit, I do agree that there are big companies in any industry that wield too much power thanks to how much money they put into lobbyists, and they're sometimes motivated by profit over the public good. But that doesn't mean a wholesale rejection of "big pharma" and embracing CAM is the right reaction.

5. This one doesn't need too much more explanation. It's a common argument.

I'm not trying to convince my friend that all CAM is automatically useless or harmful, nor that all "big pharma" products are automatically perfect. I'm just trying to make the point that most here would probably agree with: CAM is not a valid alternative to modern, "Western" treatments, and it should not be assumed to be safe or harmless. Plus, given his diabetes, I'd hate to see him get carried away with treating it holistically and wind up having to take insulin shots all the time (he's not at that point yet).

But, he's a belligerent SOB who likes to move goalposts and confuse issues, and refuses to ever be wrong. (Great guy, right? This is why he's not a close friend anymore, but he's still a friend.) I'm just trying to figure out how to answer some of these claims. I know there are doctors and sceintists and all sorts of smarter-than-me people on here who have probably heard all of this before and can either explain why my friend is right, or give some pointers on how to better make my point to him.
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Old 11th June 2009, 12:12 PM   #2
dahduh
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Originally Posted by mazyloron View Post
1. CAM isn't all bad, therefore we shouldn't be so harsh towards it.
Granted. But to know if something is good or bad, you need to have systematic clinical trials to find that out. What evidence is he offering that a particular CAM "isn't all that bad"?
Quote:
2. "Big pharma" produces products that are far more harmful than CAM. Many more people die from "big pharma," so we should ignore CAM and focus on big pharma because it's more harmful.
True. Real drugs have real effects and those effects have the potential to be harmful. But to say "more people die from 'big pharma'", what statistics does he have to offer? To what does he attribute the steady increase in lifespan over the past 100 years? And if CAM remedies are truly efficacious, why should they not too be dangerous?
Quote:
3. There's nothing wrong with offering false hope to people, if they want to believe it, then they deserve what they get.
That's the ethics of a charlatan. Is he really serious??
Quote:
4. CAM challenges the status quo and that's why it's rejected, because "big pharma" doesn't want to give up their power.
This is possibly true, in the same way that any industry defends its turf against others. But exactly the same objection can be applied to CAM, which is a big industry in itself. Why wouldn't a chiropractor be tempted to recommend 'regular treatments' even if they are not needed, or a seller of supplements exaggerate their usefulness?
Quote:
5. "Big pharma" doesn't want to cure you, they want to keep you addicted to their drugs, that's why they don't research cures, just medicine.
Exactly the same objection applies to CAM. The difference is that conventional drugs do have to jump through regulatory hoops, and reports of efficacy does usually have to appear in peer-reviewed journals before being considered acceptable. Most CAM remedies are not regulated at all. So it is more likely conventional medicine is genuinely efficacious than CAM.

The above is just how conventional medicine compares to CAM: challenge him to explain why he considers CAM to be immune to all the objections he levels against conventional medicine. I would further argue that he is just wrong on all points, but then you've got to do hard work like real research.

I suppose challenging him to stop being hypocritical, chuck insulin and suck on lemons instead, would just be too harsh...
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Old 11th June 2009, 12:40 PM   #3
mazyloron
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Originally Posted by dahduh View Post
Granted. But to know if something is good or bad, you need to have systematic clinical trials to find that out. What evidence is he offering that a particular CAM "isn't all that bad"?
Sadly, he's not a fan of specifics. Conveniently, this allows him to dismiss anything I offer up as "just one case," though he'll sometimes offer examples for his points. So far, he's only offered the cinnamon & bitter melon thing for controlling blood sugar. And, he says that homeopathy is ok because it's harmless, and "they're just a small group."

Quote:
True. Real drugs have real effects and those effects have the potential to be harmful. But to say "more people die from 'big pharma'", what statistics does he have to offer?
None so far. I'm trying to get some out of him.

Quote:
To what does he attribute the steady increase in lifespan over the past 100 years?
My guess is medical advances. Though I'll doubt he'll see the hypocrisy/cognitive dissonance in that one.

Quote:
And if CAM remedies are truly efficacious, why should they not too be dangerous?
I forgot about that argument. I'll have to try that

Quote:
That's the ethics of a charlatan. Is he really serious??
Like I said, I think deep down he's not, but he's got a real ego problem, he does things just to get a rise out of people, or to make himself feel tough. He says stuff like this to bait you into calling him on it, and I've learned not to give him the satisfaction.

Quote:
This is possibly true, in the same way that any industry defends its turf against others. But exactly the same objection can be applied to CAM, which is a big industry in itself. Why wouldn't a chiropractor be tempted to recommend 'regular treatments' even if they are not needed, or a seller of supplements exaggerate their usefulness?

Exactly the same objection applies to CAM. The difference is that conventional drugs do have to jump through regulatory hoops, and reports of efficacy does usually have to appear in peer-reviewed journals before being considered acceptable. Most CAM remedies are not regulated at all. So it is more likely conventional medicine is genuinely efficacious than CAM.

The above is just how conventional medicine compares to CAM: challenge him to explain why he considers CAM to be immune to all the objections he levels against conventional medicine.
I've tried, so far his response is something to the effect of: "they're both just as bad, but big pharma is bigger, so we should worry about that first." And then he makes me out to be either an idiot or heartless for bothering with CAM when big pharma is doing the same exact thing on a bigger scale. This one is infuriating, I'm not entirely clear how to respond to it.

Quote:
I would further argue that he is just wrong on all points, but then you've got to do hard work like real research.
I'm not against that, but I am fairly certain it will fall on deaf ears unless I at least get him to the point where he's open to it. He tends to dismiss things that look like they'll disagree with him without really reading them. (He did this most notably a few weeks ago, when I posted a link to a YouTube spoof of Mythbusters testing the myth of God. He saw the title and the thumbnail and immediately attacked Mythbusters. It was actually pretty funny.)

Quote:
I suppose challenging him to stop being hypocritical, chuck insulin and suck on lemons instead, would just be too harsh...
Not really, if you knew him. It also wouldn't work. All of his close friends have been calling him hypocritical for years, and he just thinks we're "haters."

Sometimes I do wonder why I bother. But he's friends with a lot of my friends, so I can't even ignore him and his nonsense (tried for a couple of years, didn't work) and I'm tired of hearing it.
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Last edited by mazyloron; 11th June 2009 at 12:48 PM.
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Old 11th June 2009, 12:48 PM   #4
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Good OP, mazyloron, and good response, dahduh!

The questions I would have for you (not for your friend) are these:
How likely is your friend to be open to actually listening, considering, evaluating what you say? Not that he needs to have a smack-his-forehead-I-get-it-now moment, but just to consider your points, such that logic may sink in and work over time... I know in this type of disagreement, I tend to keep thinking about things for a while, and sometimes *eventually* change my mind long after the initial discussion. Not that it brings any satisfaction to the person I was initially arguing with... The point is, is he really listening, or just blowing you off?

How much are you emotionally invested in the discussion?

If your answers are "yes" and/or "a lot", then I can't really add to what dahduh said. However, if your answers are "no" and "not much", then I recommend you say "Ok, whatever, I hope it works for you. How 'bout them O's?"
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Old 11th June 2009, 01:14 PM   #5
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First, delink the two subjects. Pharmaceutical companies and their ethical lapses do not in any way make CAM more valid, nor does CAM's ethical lapses (one might argue that CAM is a big ethical lapse in and of itself) do not make pharmaceudicals more effective. Herbs and leeches might both have been suggested as a cure for gout, but the lack of effectiveness of the herb does not make the leeches a good idea.

Now that he's entirely focused on CAM, he has to defend CAM on its own. This kills two and five.

Okay, point 1: First, you have to differentiate sCAM from legitimate, non-drug based methods. There is such a thing as a diabetic diet. Type II diabetes often can be controlled solely through diet, with drugs on hand for emergency situations, instead of constantly using drugs. Both type 1 and type 2 can radically benefit from a diabetic diet.

There has been a tendency to lump treatments that don't rely on taking colorful pills in with treatments that revolve around magical properties of water. They're not at all the same thing.

Point 3: Actually, there's a lot wrong in offering false hope. A realistic view of the situation is required for intelligent treatment. Offer him the following situation: A diabetic imagines that fish extract and breathing techniques can control diabetes, so he eats a tub of ice cream then does his breathing exercises.

Point 5: Yeah, this one is basically true. Pharmaceutical companies always advertise their drugs as a 'cure for depression' instead of a 'tool that helps you cure your depression.' Doesn't make the homeopathic Reiki master crystal therapists any more legit.
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Old 11th June 2009, 01:15 PM   #6
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First, one point I like to make is that if there are no side-effects, there is no effect. For virtually everything we come in contact with, we make a judgment based on risk. Every time you drive a car there is a chance you will die. Every drug you take carries with it risks of ill-effects or even death (overdoses can be a real problem). People have the unfortunate job of evaluating that risk and saying, "Yes, we know X people will get very sick and Y people will die, but we believe the benefits of having the drug available outweigh the costs of not having it." The so-called harmless remedies don't do anything, so they carry very little risk.

Another point is that big pharma is big because they are required to prove efficacy as well as safety via stringent and costly methods. These alternative treatments don't have that burden. If they did, their treatments would cost more, and they would be "big cam." Of course, looking at the number of supplements at my local drug store, I would say they are already Big Cam. I would also argue that they do *not* want studies done because they don't want the risk of their remedies being shown to be useless.

I would put the onus back on him. Would he want Big Pharma to release drugs without proving efficacy or safety?
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Old 11th June 2009, 01:39 PM   #7
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Point out that big pharma is already reguated and has to prove efficacy (and advise all side-effects).

Now lets do the same for CAM. It works doesn't it? Why not test it to silence the critics?
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Old 11th June 2009, 03:26 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by mazyloron View Post
1, CAM isn't all bad, therefore we shouldn't be so harsh towards it.
Depends on what you want to call bad. In my book, a scam is bad as such. But I'll get to the real harm at point 3 anyway.

Quote:
2. "Big pharma" produces products that are far more harmful than CAM. Many more people die from "big pharma," so we should ignore CAM and focus on big pharma because it's more harmful.
Again, while this is technically true (most of the SCAM medicines don't do anything good _or_ bad), it's also mis-representing the problem. It's one of those cases where a carefully selected half of the truth is worse than an outright lie.

That said, "big pharma" medicines are also tested so they at least don't do more harm than the disease they're treating. With SCAM you don't get any testing at all. If it turns out that your holistic medicine destroys the liver or kidneys (see a sample of such remedies here: http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/...ed_and_to.html) well, tough luck, you got the shaft and no benefit to show for it.

But the real problem is here:

Quote:
3. There's nothing wrong with offering false hope to people, if they want to believe it, then they deserve what they get.
The problem is that that false hope too often comes _instead_ of a treatment which would actually work. In fact, a lot of the SCAM practitioners _demand_ that people throw away their normal medicines. People are routinely told to interrupt their normal treatments even for stuff like _cancer_ and die a horribly painful death as a result. Because, see, the painkillers have to go too.

This is why I've said that claiming that the SCAM medicines don't do as much harm, is actually a carefully constructed lie.

Getting water for cancer doesn't just give you false hope, it removes any real possibility of surviving. It's a false hope at the expense of getting a horrible death sentence instead.

Heck, even for diabetes, since he mentions that, if you have a bad enough case, you either use that insulin or you _will_ die. Maybe his mother isn't too bad a case, but other people are, and they do die when they throw away their normal medication and go on woowoo pills instead.

Even when the SCAM practitioner doesn't tell you to throw away the normal pills, just going to him first for everything and spending some months of woowoo medication, can mean that the real disease isn't discovered until too late. Cancer, for example, is one thing where early detection makes most of the difference between life and death. If you spend some months or years taking herbal pills or homeopathic water for that lump in the breast or for that funny black thing on your skin, instead of going to a real doctor, it can mean _death_.

Yes, the death wasn't by the bullcrap pseudo-medicine, and yes technically it did do less harm by itself than chemotherapy, but it didn't help remove or contain the real harm: the actual disease.

So the whole thing "it does less harm" is just bullcrap semantics games. It's like locking someone who's having an heart attack in his room instead of calling an ambulance, and then claiming that being locked in his room didn't kill him. Yes, but the resulting lack of proper medical attention did.

Quote:
4. CAM challenges the status quo and that's why it's rejected, because "big pharma" doesn't want to give up their power.
This is the standard non-sequitur, the Argumentum Ad Lazarum that's so dear to conmen and scammers everywhere. In reality all that matters is whether the treatment works or not, i.e., whether there's any scientific testing that proved so. Wishful thinking about who's big, who's the underdog, and who benefits from the status quo, or any other such handwaving, don't address that single crucial point.


Quote:
5. "Big pharma" doesn't want to cure you, they want to keep you addicted to their drugs, that's why they don't research cures, just medicine.
Ah, _that_ retarded conspiracy theory. Never mind that the same big pharma and medical establishment created _lots_ of cures (e.g., antibiotics actually cure bacterial infections), and is researching new ones as we speak.

Also never mind that the poster children for the "but they don't cure X" idiocy, are stuff that's just impossible to cure for the SCAM practitioners too. E.g., curing diabetes would involve growing back some tissue which got destroyed and no longer exists. _And_ in the auto-immune case, somehow stopping the body from destroying it again, but without needing immunosuppressants for the rest of your life. (Which would kill you in the same way AIDS does.) If he thinks that taking some herbal pills or some homeopathic water is a _cure_ for that, he's at best delluded.
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Old 11th June 2009, 05:08 PM   #9
mazyloron
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Originally Posted by maddog View Post
Good OP, mazyloron, and good response, dahduh!

The questions I would have for you (not for your friend) are these:
How likely is your friend to be open to actually listening, considering, evaluating what you say?
Normally I'd say not very, but he did monopolize my morning on IM trying to get me to see it his way, which is a little out of character for him. And he made a point of wanting to continue the discussion, which is extremely out of character - he's more of a "make a few outrageous claims and never talk of it again" kind of guy.

Quote:
Not that he needs to have a smack-his-forehead-I-get-it-now moment, but just to consider your points, such that logic may sink in and work over time... I know in this type of disagreement, I tend to keep thinking about things for a while, and sometimes *eventually* change my mind long after the initial discussion. Not that it brings any satisfaction to the person I was initially arguing with... The point is, is he really listening, or just blowing you off?
Hard to say with him. This is a guy who pretended to support Nader for a full year just so he could see the look on his friends faces when he nonchalantly said: "Nader? No, I voted for Bush."
So, yeah, he's definitely somewhat of a [Rule10]. He could just be messing with me.

Quote:
How much are you emotionally invested in the discussion?
Eh...normally I just let his BS go, but he gets a lot of my other friends worked up about things, some of which are patently false, and he has a history of finding something people actually care about and championing the opposite, to turn all of their friends against them so he can laugh at them.

So, I don't really care, his opinion means little to me...but, at the same time, it would probably give me a certain level of satisfaction to shut him up for once. Which, of course is not the right motivation...

Quote:
If your answers are "yes" and/or "a lot", then I can't really add to what dahduh said. However, if your answers are "no" and "not much", then I recommend you say "Ok, whatever, I hope it works for you. How 'bout them O's?"
Heh, now that would piss him off. He's decided to be a Nats fan...simply because everyone else we know is an O's fan.

Oh, and really, writing all of this out makes me think I should have changed my wording from "my friend" to "this jerk I know but have to interact with socially far more than I'd care to."
(where "jerk" is a substitution for several words that would probably get me suspended if I were to use them here)

I'm remembering why I didn't talk to him for nearly two years. Those were good times.

Also: I really didn't mean for this to turn into a "complain about this guy" thread. I would much rather debate him rationally, or at the very least be able to have sane, rational responses to his vitriolic blather. But he does come up with some weird stuff that I have a hard time responding to rationally (which is probably on purpose, on his part).
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Old 11th June 2009, 05:24 PM   #10
athon
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Others have covered these well, however I have five minutes so figured I'd offer my own two cents.

Originally Posted by mazyloron View Post
CAM isn't all bad, therefore we shouldn't be so harsh towards it.
Technically, there is no such thing as 'CAM'. Think of medicine as a giant tool box. You display certain symptoms, which indicates that your functioning as an organism is impeded. A medical practitioner has to use what diagnostic tools they have available to work out what is most likely to be wrong, and then has to make a decision as to what tools they can use in their tool box to fix it.

Not all tools are the same. Some will certainly address the problem, but will do so at the expense of other functions. Others may cause few problems but will only work in very particular situations.

So, the practitioner needs to make a decision based on the chances of successfully diagnosing the problem, chances of their choice of solution working, and the risk of creating other problems for the patient.

There is no alternative to doing this, as much as people would like to hope. The problem is knowing with some precision the limitations of those tools. The problem with CAM is not always that the methods have zero effect on biological systems - it is that the philosophy surrounding it makes it exempt from the same parameters that makes medicine so useful.

Quote:
"Big pharma" produces products that are far more harmful than CAM. Many more people die from "big pharma," so we should ignore CAM and focus on big pharma because it's more harmful.
Well, there's so many problems with this statement I'm not sure where to start.

What, exactly, constitutes 'Big Pharma'. Are we talking select companies? Some other features of pharmaceutical producers? All producers of pharmaceuticals? What distinguishes a pharmaceutical from a CAM remedy that has been artificially produced? What are the facts of numbers of deaths? How do we know it was due solely to the pharmaceutical and not due to the poor decision making of the doctor, such as prescribing a contraindicative to another medication the patient is on? Or the patient had an unusual reaction?

By no means am I say that the pharamceutical industry is above and beyond reproach. Yet to say we should focus on it rather than CAM is like saying we should let people rape because murder is worse, and we should focus on it more.

Quote:
There's nothing wrong with offering false hope to people, if they want to believe it, then they deserve what they get.
Yeah, I hear this one a lot.

Hope is free. It comes with any situation where the patient feels that they can deal with their future.

I agree that strength of mind is important and patients need to be councilled so they can deal with the uncertainty of their fate. Yet this should not be dependent solely on a view that their medication will be their salvation, but rather a realistic outlook that helps them appreciate the risk they currently face.

Hope for an improvement in health is certainly better than fear and despair. Yet acceptance of possibility provides a far better peace of mind.

Quote:
CAM challenges the status quo and that's why it's rejected, because "big pharma" doesn't want to give up their power.
Haha, I love this one. It's insane when you think about it.

If CAM worked, it would be built upon and improved. We wouldn't have 200 year old witchdoctory - we'd have methods that relied on those principles yet modified to provide far more benefits. We'd have found other uses for it, such as in diagnostics or in forensics. And so-called 'Big Pharma' wouldn't bother competing. It would buy it up and sell it.

Quote:
"Big pharma" doesn't want to cure you, they want to keep you addicted to their drugs, that's why they don't research cures, just medicine.
Yet oddly, when pressed, advocates of CAM claim their methods can't 'cure'. Just 'treat'. Black, meet kettle.

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Old 11th June 2009, 05:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
But the real problem is here:
Quote:
3. There's nothing wrong with offering false hope to people, if they want to believe it, then they deserve what they get.
Agreed. And this one stems from his ego, where he's decided it's cool to say things like "they deserve to die...social darwinism...blah blah blah." It's hard to tell if he really means it, because he's made that sort of thing his go-to-shocker for so long, he sounds like he means it.

Quote:
The problem is that that false hope too often comes _instead_ of a treatment which would actually work. In fact, a lot of the SCAM practitioners _demand_ that people throw away their normal medicines. People are routinely told to interrupt their normal treatments even for stuff like _cancer_ and die a horribly painful death as a result. Because, see, the painkillers have to go too.

This is why I've said that claiming that the SCAM medicines don't do as much harm, is actually a carefully constructed lie.

Getting water for cancer doesn't just give you false hope, it removes any real possibility of surviving. It's a false hope at the expense of getting a horrible death sentence instead.

Heck, even for diabetes, since he mentions that, if you have a bad enough case, you either use that insulin or you _will_ die. Maybe his mother isn't too bad a case, but other people are, and they do die when they throw away their normal medication and go on woowoo pills instead.
Clarification: He has diabetes. His mother sells woowoo pills, but is not diabetic.
Not that this diminishes your point in any way.

Quote:
Even when the SCAM practitioner doesn't tell you to throw away the normal pills, just going to him first for everything and spending some months of woowoo medication, can mean that the real disease isn't discovered until too late. Cancer, for example, is one thing where early detection makes most of the difference between life and death. If you spend some months or years taking herbal pills or homeopathic water for that lump in the breast or for that funny black thing on your skin, instead of going to a real doctor, it can mean _death_.

Yes, the death wasn't by the bullcrap pseudo-medicine, and yes technically it did do less harm by itself than chemotherapy, but it didn't help remove or contain the real harm: the actual disease.

So the whole thing "it does less harm" is just bullcrap semantics games. It's like locking someone who's having an heart attack in his room instead of calling an ambulance, and then claiming that being locked in his room didn't kill him. Yes, but the resulting lack of proper medical attention did.
Another clarification: he's far from a hard-core wooster. He doesn't go around pushing CAM on people, nor does he generally put down "conventional" (a.k.a. effective) medicine. I'd be floored if I ever saw him do anything with crystals or reiki or even acupuncture. He does have insulin for emergencies (he's not at the daily shot stage yet). He doesn't seem to condone things like holistic cancer treatment - he says people stupid enough to use it deserve to die, and he says the only reason I'm against it is because people who refuse modern medical treatment are doing it on religious grounds (I wouldn't agree that it's the only reason, this is what he thinks I think), and thus I'm against it because I'm so rabidly anti-religion (which is not exactly the case, though I am an atheist).

He's more of the type who thinks most herbal/natural remedies should be considered to be just as useful in treating anything that doesn't require a trip to the hospital. Which, I guess, is better than some woosters, but still leaves him wide open to tons of bogus and unhealthy treatment options.

Quote:
This is the standard non-sequitur, the Argumentum Ad Lazarum that's so dear to conmen and scammers everywhere. In reality all that matters is whether the treatment works or not, i.e., whether there's any scientific testing that proved so. Wishful thinking about who's big, who's the underdog, and who benefits from the status quo, or any other such handwaving, don't address that single crucial point.
Yeah, I've tried similar arguments. I'm hoping rephrasing that properly might actually work.

ETA: I didn't mean that you didn't phrase it properly, just that it needs to be phrased in such a way as to get through to him.

Quote:
Ah, _that_ retarded conspiracy theory. Never mind that the same big pharma and medical establishment created _lots_ of cures (e.g., antibiotics actually cure bacterial infections), and is researching new ones as we speak.
Yeah, I'll be bringing that up next time we talk about this.

Quote:
Also never mind that the poster children for the "but they don't cure X" idiocy, are stuff that's just impossible to cure for the SCAM practitioners too. E.g., curing diabetes would involve growing back some tissue which got destroyed and no longer exists. _And_ in the auto-immune case, somehow stopping the body from destroying it again, but without needing immunosuppressants for the rest of your life. (Which would kill you in the same way AIDS does.) If he thinks that taking some herbal pills or some homeopathic water is a _cure_ for that, he's at best delluded.
So he's homeopathic?
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Old 11th June 2009, 05:38 PM   #12
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I just wanted to link the SWIFT article too. Our own Jeff Wagg was essentially pointing out the article, but added some choice points.
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Old 11th June 2009, 05:39 PM   #13
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Thanks to the rest of you for the responses, I don't have time to reply to all of them.

Athon - I had actually thought of the murder analogy also, good one. I was figuring I'd use something similar.
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Old 11th June 2009, 05:47 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Tricky View Post
I just wanted to link the SWIFT article too. Our own Jeff Wagg was essentially pointing out the article, but added some choice points.
Yeah, SWIFT is what got me to that article. Jeff had a good writeup.

I was also surprised by the (unfortunately named) "Alternative Medicine" site on MSNBC. They have quite a few other articles saying similar things to this one, and they seem to take a very skeptical, evidence-based approach to their topics. In particular, they have an article on contaminants, and a rather good one on dubious claims made by "natural" products.
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Old 11th June 2009, 05:56 PM   #15
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This knee-jerk anti-big-pharma thing has really gotten out of control; it seems to be all too prevalent. Lots of good points made here, I'd just like to add a couple things...

Western vs. Eastern medicine, alternative vs. mainstream, pharma vs. "natural"--these are false dichotomies. There's proven and unproven medicine. Science is widely misunderstood and under-appreciated. I remember a recent Chicago Tribune article about an "alternative treatment" that was "not yet proven by mainstream science." As if the scientific method wouldn't apply to anything new or unusual.

People need to learn how to use critical thinking and understand what the scientific method is all about. If you ask folks how to discriminate between treatments that actually work and ones that only seem to work, I think many would say that they go with their "gut feeling." I don't think they're equipped to compare health treatments in a critical way.

Who cares if a remedy is Western or Eastern or alternative or mainstream or old or new or normal or strange. We all want the same thing: treatment that is truly efficacious and relatively safe (and hopefully affordable). Isn't that all that really matters to all of us?

eta: Here's what I want to ask all proponents of "alternative medicine:" name the strongest example of an alternative remedy/treatment/whatever that is definitely safe and effective, and that is shunned or ignored my "Western medicine." I'd be surprised if there was one true example of this.
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Old 11th June 2009, 06:25 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by jimtron View Post
Western vs. Eastern medicine, alternative vs. mainstream, pharma vs. "natural"--these are false dichotomies. There's proven and unproven medicine. Science is widely misunderstood and under-appreciated. I remember a recent Chicago Tribune article about an "alternative treatment" that was "not yet proven by mainstream science." As if the scientific method wouldn't apply to anything new or unusual.
Slight digression: my pet hate is 'western science'. Ugh!

But, yeah, the 'not yet proven by science' line is another one that gets brought out often. It's plainly presuming the conclusion, as if we have the answer and science is used just to prove it.

A horse with a wheelbarrow if ever there was one.

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Old 11th June 2009, 06:33 PM   #17
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I like what Tim Minchin said in Storm (and I've been riffing on this for a number of days now):

You know what they call alternative medicine that's been demonstrated to work?

Medicine.
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Old 11th June 2009, 06:50 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I like what Tim Minchin said in Storm (and I've been riffing on this for a number of days now):

You know what they call alternative medicine that's been demonstrated to work?

Medicine.
Yeah, that was a very amusing poem. I've heard the line a few places before, I think. But he put it well.

I used that on my "friend", he didn't seem impressed.
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Old 11th June 2009, 07:42 PM   #19
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[quote=mazyloron;4803106]Ok, so an article that was posted on SWIFT today prompted a rather heated discussion between myself and a friend. And I'm wondering what's the best way to respond.... [*]"Big pharma" produces products that are far more harmful than CAM. Many more people die from "big pharma," so we should ignore CAM and focus on big pharma because it's more harmful.

Human bodies differ. Drugs are made for the general population and warnings are given to those populations which are known to suffer adverse side effects.

By contrast CAM makes no distinctions. Their products are for "everyone"
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Old 11th June 2009, 10:23 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I like what Tim Minchin said in Storm (and I've been riffing on this for a number of days now):

You know what they call alternative medicine that's been demonstrated to work?

Medicine.
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Old 11th June 2009, 11:32 PM   #21
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Quote:
eta: Here's what I want to ask all proponents of "alternative medicine:" name the strongest example of an alternative remedy/treatment/whatever that is definitely safe and effective, and that is shunned or ignored my "Western medicine." I'd be surprised if there was one true example of this.
It only took a while...

Quote:
The Artemisia Annua herb is found in China where it is commonly known as Qing Hao Tsu. Although this herb has been in use in traditional Chinese medicine for the last couple of centuries, its usage in the treatment of malaria, in the form of injections and tablets, is a relatively new development. Chinese researchers found mention of the usage of this herb to treat malaria like symptoms in the Handbook of Physicians for Emergencies, written by Ye Hong six hundred years ago.Scientists at the Chinese Institute of Traditional Medicine collected the herb and carried out a slow temperature extraction procedure. They then isolated the principle anti-malarial agent found in the herb and synthesized it in the form of a drug for human consumption. After almost twenty years of trials and testing, it was conclusively determined that this drug successfully cured malaria.
do recall in this "First do no harm".......

Big Pharma has a problem in that regard......can we suggest a thalidomide version of gingseng???....

I'm a proponent of NEITHER an observer of both and there are serious issues with both.
Hippocrates had the right of it........

Both genres have their share of quacks and charlatans and totally useless garbage

One costs a lots and kills a lot and also does much good.

One costs not a lot, kills very little and does some good.

Pick your poison...

For many anti-emetic situations the 1/4 ginger pill is as effective as the $15 a pop anti-nausea

Anything that is effective but cannot be patented proves a problem for the drug industry.
It's one reason Cuba has done well searching out alternatives ( snake venom for arthritis for instance ) - they had no choice.

How long was iodine overlooked in relation to gout....a condition that is outside the lexicon of the modern world yet a plague previously and "cured" by iodine being added to all table salt.

Do we suffer from scurvy anymore??

The role of sulphur in human health is poorly understood.....why?? no money in it.

Vitamin D has many still unknown impacts on human health and both communities cross in this particular area.
http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/short/357/3/266

and an almost hilarious pair of conflicting viewpoints both with some truth....what's a layman to conclude....
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0526140747.htm
and
http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/vitam...ase-20157.html

Yet drug companies scour the planet for effective biologicals.

Even chimps and elephants self medicate to a degree without the benefits of Big Pharma....

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/..._10010205.html

Quote:
Self medication

Further information: Zoopharmacognosy
Elephants in Africa will self-medicate by chewing on the leaves of a tree from the Boraginaceae family, which induces labor. Kenyans also use this tree for the same purpose[20].
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_intelligence

So be careful in getting in bed too exclusively with either worldview......it might be bad for your health....

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Old 11th June 2009, 11:32 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by mazyloron View Post
Another clarification: he's far from a hard-core wooster. He doesn't go around pushing CAM on people, nor does he generally put down "conventional" (a.k.a. effective) medicine. I'd be floored if I ever saw him do anything with crystals or reiki or even acupuncture. He does have insulin for emergencies (he's not at the daily shot stage yet). He doesn't seem to condone things like holistic cancer treatment - he says people stupid enough to use it deserve to die, and he says the only reason I'm against it is because people who refuse modern medical treatment are doing it on religious grounds (I wouldn't agree that it's the only reason, this is what he thinks I think), and thus I'm against it because I'm so rabidly anti-religion (which is not exactly the case, though I am an atheist).

He's more of the type who thinks most herbal/natural remedies should be considered to be just as useful in treating anything that doesn't require a trip to the hospital. Which, I guess, is better than some woosters, but still leaves him wide open to tons of bogus and unhealthy treatment options.
Yes, well, my point there was what happens when you don't yet know it's a cancer. E.g., you just feel something funny in the liver area, a bit of nausea, things like that. What do you do?

Spoiler: it _could_ be a form of cancer which is usually discovered too late as it is.

So the scenario can go sorta like this:

1. You go to a real doctor, he does some ultrasound imaging, tells you to get an endoscopy ASAP. If you're lucky, you end up on the operating table before it's too late and live.

2. You go to a quack, he gives you some useless herbal pills or homeopathic water or sticks needles in you or whatever other useless woowoo. You keep doing it for some weeks, maybe months, until it starts to really hurt.

Even if you now go to a real doctor, that extra time spent doing woowoo first is probably the death sentence there. After that time, you have metastases all over the place. Pretty much, now you might as well put your head between your legs and kiss your dumb a** good bye.
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Old 11th June 2009, 11:46 PM   #23
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Something else has occurred to me:

In many ways, we're mixing philosophies. Pharmacology is not the same as the pharmaceutical industry. The former is the search and evaluation of biologically active chemicals, the latter is the politics and commercialisation of the products of pharmacology.

While there is obviously a CAM industry, the criticism is cast at its fundamental philosophy rather than at its politics or administration.

In that way, it's virtually comparing apples with, well, apple pies.

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Old 11th June 2009, 11:53 PM   #24
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Hans
You are a medical technician
You go to a doctor with anemia due to post traumatic stress after a life threatening attack by a guard dog
You dutifully get shot up by iron injections until your ass is black and blue
your anemia does not budge.

after a . from the mainstream you go against your better judgement to an ND who immediately treats you with Vitamin B which dumbbass doctor did not know was required for iron uptake.
Pink cheeks and energy and quality of life return.

Medical technician with science degree then takes 4 years to become an ND which is a primary care physician in Canada where the strengths of midwives are finally being utilized after being tossed to the gutter for decades.

They have to deal with as much woo from alternative community as mainstream has to sort out from big pharma.

The story is true, it's my ex-wife's story and I was as skeptical or more so until I saw the results. ( I paid for ND medical school as part of separation agreement so it kinda sticks in my memory )

The take away is have a good deal of skeptic for both and look for qualified in both.
ANY trained ND would send a potential cancer situation to mainstream.

SOME knowledgeable MDs send the other way when appropriate.

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Old 12th June 2009, 01:54 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by MattusMaximus View Post
Wins thread
20,047 posts and I finally win a thread.
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Old 12th June 2009, 05:00 AM   #26
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and not even an original quote

No brain cells were harmed during this event.......
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Old 12th June 2009, 05:07 AM   #27
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Artemisinin is a good example of how the philosophy of SCAM fails compared to that of Big Pharma.

Yes, Artemisia was one of the drugs listed to treat some of the features of malaria, but so were about 200 others. Chairman Mau started a research program to find a new cure for malaria by combing through traditional Chinese medicines. After being subject to "western science" none of those 200 traditional medicines were found to have any effect on malaria. The researchers searched for additional herbs to try based on ancient writings. One of those was a tea made from Artemisia, which again, only after being subject to "western science" was discovered to be effective.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/prog...ia_trans.shtml

This perfectly illustrates the failure of using SCAM methods in order to search for effective treatments. Not only did this show that there were hundreds of 'medicines' identified as effective when they actually had no effect, they failed to distinguish the one medicine that was effective from the hundreds that weren't, relegating it to the fringes when it came to its use.

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Old 12th June 2009, 05:28 AM   #28
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It was always effective and mostly ignored. The information was there -

Even AFTER clinical trials numerous mainstream drugs are marginal in their effectiveness, misprescribed, over hyped etc

You are far too worshipful of Big Pharma which is the OP.

Many of the effective, but none too profitable come from gov labs that are looking for effectiveness rather than profit first.

There is more than enough woo to go around on both sides and one kills.....as well as cures.

How well is maggot therapy accepted??
Bacteriophages??

Do you think Big Pharma is going out promoting these at the local golf with the doctors day??

Just recall this is about Big Pharma which is locked in a long tongue kiss with mainstream medicine while picking the wallets.

Gov sponsored research is somewhat immune - tho not always - to the pressures Big Pharma likes to bring to bear.

Quote:
Dr. Nancy Olivieri, a scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children and clinical ... evidence suggesting that a drug she was testing might be life threatening. ...
Quote:
Wrongful firing in violation of public policy: Who gets fired and why

For instance, a California court recently awarded $3.6 million to a scientist ... Administration about potential dangers of his employer's new ulcer drug ...
You just need to google
Quote:
scientist fired for whistle blowing on drug tests
for a long list....

Perhaps you in Europe are unaware of the level of advertising directly to the public by Big Pharma in the US

It's obscene to the point that the US government was trying to prosecute it's own citizens for coming to Canada to buy the same drug for less......

There is woo
Then there is killer woo.......

Quote:
The Case for Another Drug War, Against Pharmaceutical Marketers’ Dirty Tactics

Published: March 17, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/17/books/17masl.html

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Old 12th June 2009, 05:55 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by mazyloron View Post
"Big pharma" doesn't want to cure you, they want to keep you addicted to their drugs, that's why they don't research cures, just medicine.
Originally Posted by GreyICE View Post
Point 5: Yeah, this one is basically true. Pharmaceutical companies always advertise their drugs as a 'cure for depression' instead of a 'tool that helps you cure your depression.'

While this happens, the suggestion that it is intentional relies on the pharmaceutical industry being monolithic, and concerned only with long-term profits.* In fact it consists of a number of competing corporations, and as far as current investors and board members are concerned, this year's profits are pretty important. Any pharmaceutical company that manages to patent a drug that cures a condition that its competitors' products can merely alleviate will have a large advantage over its competitors, at leas tin the short to medium term.

If your friend thinks the approach of keeping customers dependent isn't used in CAM, ask him to check out chiropractic "maintenance adjustments", or homoeopathic constitutional remedies:
Quote:
Many people find that it is useful to get a "constitutional tune-up" once a year or at the change of the seasons.
Or, indeed, the dietary supplements industry, which relies on convincing its customers that they are dependent on its products to maintain a healthy diet.


*It also relies on assumptions that doctors are not interested in curing their patients, and that doctors, people who work in the pharmaceutical industry, their families, and their friends never get ill. You're looking at a pretty vast conspiracy, concealed in the long term, in a world where the US government was unable to hush up a simple burglary.
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Old 12th June 2009, 05:57 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by macdoc View Post
after a . from the mainstream you go against your better judgement to an ND who immediately treats you with Vitamin B which dumbbass doctor did not know was required for iron uptake.

What if the dumbbass ND doesn't know that either? Or what if the doctor does? The suggestion that some doctors don't know what they should is not an argument in favour of CAM - it's merely an argument for more effective education of doctors.

Or what if you go to a homoeopath?
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Old 12th June 2009, 06:03 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by mazyloron View Post
"Big pharma" doesn't want to cure you, they want to keep you addicted to their drugs, that's why they don't research cures, just medicine.
Everyone has to die of something eventually. By curing you, big pharma is simply ensuring they have customers in the future.
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Old 12th June 2009, 06:09 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
While this happens, the suggestion that it is intentional relies on the pharmaceutical industry being monolithic, and concerned only with long-term profits.* In fact it consists of a number of competing corporations, and as far as current investors and board members are concerned, this year's profits are pretty important. Any pharmaceutical company that manages to patent a drug that cures a condition that its competitors' products can merely alleviate will have a large advantage over its competitors, at leas tin the short to medium term.

If your friend thinks the approach of keeping customers dependent isn't used in CAM, ask him to check out chiropractic "maintenance adjustments", or homoeopathic constitutional remedies:

Or, indeed, the dietary supplements industry, which relies on convincing its customers that they are dependent on its products to maintain a healthy diet.


*It also relies on assumptions that doctors are not interested in curing their patients, and that doctors, people who work in the pharmaceutical industry, their families, and their friends never get ill. You're looking at a pretty vast conspiracy, concealed in the long term, in a world where the US government was unable to hush up a simple burglary.
When someone's selling a health cure, the consumer should be skeptical. That's true with the pharma industry, and it's true with CAM as well. Why people think greed and bad ethics is unique to big pharma I'll never understand.
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Old 12th June 2009, 06:53 AM   #33
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Quote:
Or what if you go to a homoeopath?
then you deserve what you get....

The point is to have healthy skepticism on both sides and don't assume that an MD has, can have or even should have the education in all areas of human health.
Newly minted MDs should stay far away from newly minted mothers.

NDs generally treat the patient not the disease and not the symptom and take far longer with patients.
This is especially critical for chronic conditions where indeed lifestyle may be the ONLY thing that is off kilter.

Again there is difference between qualified that are funded under UHC and the shingle charlatans. ( and there are private MD clinics for stuff like cosmetic surgery that kill many )

If you have a lump and go to an unqualified alternative you are stoooopid.

If you have chronic back back and DON'T consider an ND you are equally dumb and at risk...there are surgeons that like to operate.

One client of mine ended up committing suicide after 3 surgeries made merely painful..... into unbearable.

Now maybe an ND could not have made it better - but the ND would do no harm.....that was not true of the surgery.

NOW... surgery for back painhas generally fallen out of favour....oh realllllly and TENS s a mainstream approach.

The caution is be skeptical and don't buy in to any one source of treatment for all aliments.

Your sore joints could be lifestyle or RA.

Your broken leg is obvious.

Your chronic pain, fatigue etc may not be at all.

••

Quote:
When someone's selling a health cure, the consumer should be skeptical. That's true with the pharma industry, and it's true with CAM as well. Why people think greed and bad ethics is unique to big pharma I'll never understand.



•••

Quote:
What if the dumbbass ND doesn't know that either?
They would never pass the boards.
NDs have to pass the same medical boards ( sans prescription ) PLUS their own drugless practitioner hurdles.
They are far and away under pressure to know their stuff and even more so Do no harm.

There are few arrogant NDs....on the other hand......

Last edited by macdoc; 12th June 2009 at 07:00 AM.
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Old 12th June 2009, 07:01 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by macdoc View Post
[hilite]You are far too worshipful of Big Pharma which is the OP.
That wasn't my intent, sorry if it came out that way.

As I stated in my response to #4, I'm wary of any big company with the level of influence that big US pharmaceuticals wield. I'm not trying to convince my friend that everything "big pharma" puts out is 100% perfect, harmless and always better than any other option. (For the record, I don't even like the term "big pharma," it's too...conspiracy nutty for me.)

I know pharmaceutical companies can sometimes lose sight of the overall goal of improving public health, in favor of the bottom line. Maybe I'm naive, but I think that's more a problem with them being so big and thus having management and boards who are too distant from the work being done - they view it as just another company and lose sight of the harm that can be done when worrying about costs over results. Though, of course they have to make enough money to keep in business, or they do no good at all...it's a tough balancing act, and I'm sure it's plenty easy to err on either side of the line.

I would say, if I had to categorize my point, it would be a sort of reversal of the thread title: "I know 'big pharma' isn't always good, but CAM is worse."

Also, to clarify: I'm not saying that anything not produced by "big pharma" is therefore useless and should be discarded. I'm saying, like someone pointed out earlier, that pharmacology is something we should get behind, and things that failed testing by, or cannot be tested by it should be discarded. Things that haven't yet been tested by pharmacology should be explored in a thorough and rigorous manner (that is how we developed medicines in the first place, after all), but until they've been tested and proven, their claims do not, and cannot, hold the same weight as those made about products that have gone through rigorous testing.

It's the basic mindset that's at issue, I think.

Some people look at it like: if it was "discovered" hundreds or thousands of years ago, and has been used since, then it is likely to be true.
Others look at it like: hundreds or thousands of years ago, people believed a lot of weird things, including magic, and thus, it's pretty likely that they could have just been mistaken.

I'm more of the second. However, anything that makes a testable, falsifiable claim can and should be tested, and if it works as it claims, then it should be used. Likewise, if it fails, it should be discarded - but many CAM woosters will just move the goalposts to make a slightly different claim for their thing, or claim it's not their thing that failed, it was the test (much like people failing the MDC).

"Try our Brand NEW Ancient* Miracle Pill, guaranteed to cure X!"
"Ok, so maybe it doesn't cure X, but it can help relieve some symptoms of it."
"Alright, it doesn't treat X, but it sure does treat Y!"
Etc.

Likewise, when something claims to cure everything all at once, some people immediately view it as "the miracle cure science doesn't want you to know about," (how very Trudeau), where others tend to ask why one little root can manage to cure 73 different things, and no one's noticed until now. Usually, those turn out to be an amalgamation of dubious and untested claims jumbled together from different regions that all have the same plant, and all think it cures something different. Which, again, sets off my woo-dar, yet so many people see that as insta-proof of its efficacy.

Anyway, that turned into long rant. But that's the position I'm trying to argue here, where my friend is more of the "if it's been around so long and in so many places, how come you think it doesn't work?" sort of mindset


*That's always my favorite slogan to see. SkyMall had something recently that was advertising "the latest in ancient technology", some sort of a hand-held digital acupuncture device for use on your own hand, based on ancient Chinese techniques confirmed by Otzi the ice man. ...I couldn't make this up if I tried.
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Old 12th June 2009, 07:04 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by jimtron View Post
When someone's selling a health cure, the consumer should be skeptical. That's true with the pharma industry, and it's true with CAM as well. Why people think greed and bad ethics is unique to big pharma I'll never understand.
Very true.
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Old 12th June 2009, 07:17 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by jimtron View Post
When someone's selling a health cure, the consumer should be skeptical. That's true with the pharma industry, and it's true with CAM as well. Why people think greed and bad ethics is unique to big pharma I'll never understand.
Quite. That's why I prefer the one with tight regulation around any claims of efficacy.
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Old 12th June 2009, 08:57 AM   #37
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and you would bet your life on "claims"?

a lot of mothers did in the thalidomide era - their baby's

•••

Have a look at Vioxx history......many lost that bet

Recall you highest goal is First do no harm....most alternatives do well in that regard even if effectiveness might be weak

Pharma not well at all....

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Old 12th June 2009, 09:08 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by macdoc View Post
and you would bet your life on "claims"?
Whose claims? Products that have been tested, or products that have never been tested? Sure, the tests might not always be perfect, but not testing something is a guaranteed way to not know anything about its side effects.

Natural and herbal "alternatives" are just as capable of ruining and ending lives.

If it's doing something, it can (and almost always will) have side effects. If it doesn't have side effects, it's probably not doing anything, or not much.
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Old 12th June 2009, 09:21 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by macdoc View Post
Recall you highest goal is First do no harm....most alternatives do well in that regard even if effectiveness might be weak

Indeed:

First: do no harm.
Second: ?
Third: profit!
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Old 12th June 2009, 09:21 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by macdoc
Quote:
Or what if you go to a homoeopath?
then you deserve what you get....
Are you implying that homeopathy is quackery? Because the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, which is the accrediting agency for Naturopathic schools in the US and Canada includes homeopathy in its curriculum requirements (http://www.cnme.org/resources/2007_hoa.pdf - page 46). Are you implying that at least some of what naturopaths are taught is quackery? What else are they taught that is quackery and how do you know?

Linda
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Last edited by fls; 12th June 2009 at 09:43 AM. Reason: Spelling
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