The Corpus Callosum

Shark Cartilage In the Water

I just love the title; it’s from a href="http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/extract/333/7578/1129">recent
editorial (link to abstract; subscription required for full
access) in the British Medical Journal.  The author, Jonathan
Waxman, argues that the medical profession should protect patients from
exploitation from the alternative medicine industry.  He
points out the potential down side to some alternative treatment,
particularly in the area of his specialty, oncology:

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. These treatments
may often delay the institution of conventional therapy and may result
from pressure from family and friends to try an alternative approach to
the conventional.

Apparently there is a n effort in the EU to reclassify many alternative
treatments as drugs.  This would lead to a higher level of
restriction on what claims can be made about the products, presumably
leading to greater truth in advertising.

I am skeptical about the potential effectiveness of such restrictions.
 It is sort of like political campaign reform, in that it is
difficult to balance the rights of free speech against the desire to
have people speak only the truth.  Plus, there are so many
purveyors of alternative products, and so many routes of advertising,
that it would be difficult and expensive to enforce. 

Even so, an official action of this sort could help physicians bring
some sort of balance into the discussion, when they discuss alternative
treatments with patients.  From the patient’s perspective, it
is often confusing to sort out all the different recommendations from
traditional and alternative practitioners.  Having the same
kind of restrictions on both traditional and alternative product claims
might make it easier for physicians to help patients sort this out.

Comments

  1. #1 Abel Pharmboy
    November 29, 2006

    I think that Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate is the best international example of attempting to achieve the balance you describe. It creates a separate class of health products for supplements, halfway between drugs and foods, and places some burden of responsibility for proof of efficacy and safety on the manufacturer without the burdensome procedures for patent-protected medications.

  2. #2 quitter
    November 29, 2006

    I am skeptical about the potential effectiveness of such restrictions. It is sort of like political campaign reform, in that it is difficult to balance the rights of free speech against the desire to have people speak only the truth. Plus, there are so many purveyors of alternative products, and so many routes of advertising, that it would be difficult and expensive to enforce.

    Not so, already this rule exists in this country for claims that are actually made on the bottle. Alternative medicine companies cannot promote specific indications without FDA approval, just like anything else, so instead they have to rely on word of mouth, internets, and things like brochures and misinformation separated from the product.

    Further, commercial speech is not the same as political speech. In the US, there are varying degrees of freedom of speech, something people don’t typically recognize. The most protected forms being that of the press and political speech – hence it is not a crime for a politician to say most anything, even lies.

    However, commercial speech is different, and rightly so. Because when you lie to sell a product, you’re not exercising your right to free speech, you’re committing fraud.

    Commercial speech is different legally, and very possible to regulate to prevent fraud, or for public health etc.

  3. #3 k?z oyunlar?
    April 7, 2008

    k?z oyunlar?

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