The rhetoric in the healthcare reform debate is rising. Much of the, in the trenches, battle is being waged in the blogosphere, but it is spilling out into the mainstream media, and they're behaving, pretty much, true to form. Newspapers are failing left and right. What sustains them is advertising. One business that does continue to spend money advertising is the drug industry. Not biting the hand that feeds you does not make you inherently evil, but it does bring your objectivity into question, and before you go calling for my public execution, yes, I realize that applies to me, as well.
The prize in this fight is over funding of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM. NCCAM is a subset of the Nationl Institute of Health. NIH has a budget of about 29 billion, about 300 million of which goes to alternative medicine.(1) Drug companies routinely invest 100 million to get approval for one blockbuster drug that can return somewhere on the order of 13 billion per year in sales, as Lipitor does. Point being this seems to be much ado over a relatively paltry chunk of change. It's like, a third of a stealth bomber.
So, who's throwing the sand?
There are numerous websites that go by some pretty high sounding names, like sciencebasedmedicine.org, which publish posts by people who can put MD behind their names, and many, lesser lights, like Quackwatch.org and Naturowatch, which are the brainchild of one of the bigger quacks out there, one Stephen Barret.(2) Takes one to know one, I guess.
One of the stars of this group is a fellow by the name of Kimball Atwood IV MD. Dr. Atwood is a board certified Anesthesiologist and a Clinical Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine.
Now, I have no doubt that the good doctor is a bright boy, and genuinely sincere in his beliefs, but he is obsessive in his violent opposition to functional medicine. He's also wrong a lot.
Earlier today he reposted an article he wrote in 2001 on sciencebasedmedicine.org. entitled, Naturopathy and Liberal Politics: Strange Bedfellows. I'll post a link to the entire article at the bottom of this.(3) There are a few excerpts that are kind of intrigueing:
He recalls his undergraduate days in the early 70's as being a time of "intellectual laissez-faire".
He then goes on to state some of the most intellectually laissez-faire ideas imaginable:
1. "Streptococcal pharyngitis is dangerous, and so far we have only one sure way to reduce the danger."
True. The only way to REDUCE THE DANGER, is to have a healthy, functioning immune system. Treating it once we have it has little to do with reducing the danger.
2."Heavy metal toxicity is rare"
The increases in Autism, Alzheimers and Parkinson's alone suggest otherwise. Maybe in 1850, but not today.
3. ..." as are food allergies"...
Food allergies are quite common. Food sensitivities even more so.
4. ..."and chronic yeast infections"...
Also, quite common. The modern diet is grain based, which feeds yeast. Gonna happen.
5. "Sugar in the diet doesn't have anything to do with ear infections."
In small amounts, maybe, but the average diet has a huge excess of it which is inflammatory and does contribute to feeding the bacteria, so, yes, it does have something to do with it.
6. "Childhood immunizations really do, dramatically and safely, prevent terrible diseases."
Depends on your definition of safely. If 90% of kids vaccinated don't have a problem, that might be considered safe, unless your child was one of the ten. they're safe, as long as you test your child to determine if they're good detoxifiers. If they have low levels of glutathione, have had digestive problems, or a hair analysis shows that they aren't excreting mercury efficiently, they're very much not safe.
7. "An acute asthma attack needs to be treated with a bronchodilator."
True. But what does that have to do with interventions in the form of dietary, and environmental changes done before the acute attack that will lessen their frequency?
8. "Goldenseal doesn't act, in any significant, clinical way, as an antibiotic."
Maybe, maybe not, but there is some interesting evidence that it may inhibit tumor growth.(4) We certainly need to study this further.
And, finally, the piece de resistance; "So far, the only way humanity has found to understand the objective world is through scientific research, and the knowledge gained through science is cumulative, even if at some level it remains tentative."
Here, Dr Atwood is hoisted by his own petard. He claims scientific research is needed, yet he petitions to cut funding for that very research.
Our healthcare is at a crossroads. We have to understand these other modalities. Cutting funding for that science makes no sense. Better administration of it makes a lot of sense. Better study design makes even more.
I don't know what the underlying agendas are for people like Kimball Atwood or Stephen Barret. I do know their arguements don't hold up to scrutiny.