By most metrics, those of us at Terra Sig World Headquarters are liberals. Nevertheless, we often enjoy reading conservative writer, attorney, and American Enterprise Institute fellow, David Frum. Perhaps I have a soft spot for him because he’s Canadian and he also writes for my favorite print newsmagazine, The Week.
Well, Frum chose this week to write, “Herbal remedies need real scrutiny,” at his FrumForum and the post was subsequently published as a special commentary at CNN.com. The latter version has accumulated about ten times as many comments. The thesis of his essay is that the differential regulation of drugs and dietary supplements is flawed and ends with this paragraph:
Improving and rationalizing this costly and dysfunctional system is a gigantic, maybe impossible, task. But one small reform could strike a meaningful blow for reason and cost-effectiveness: Apply the rules governing the advertising of aspirin to the advertising of oregano tablets. Repeal the DSHEA law and give the Food and Drug Administration full authority over every manufactured substance that purports to promote health or relieve illness.
DSHEA is the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act of 1994 that governs, among other things, the claims that may be made for herbal and non-botanical products not subjected to conventional and rigorous preclinical and clinical studies.
Individual choice certainly sounds like the American way. But the fact is that most of us are not well positioned to make intelligent health choices. If we try to play our own doctor, we are going to expose our health — and our money — to risk and exploitation.
As individuals, we have trouble distinguishing between anecdotes: “My neighbor took zinc for her cold and she said it really helped,” and data: Most colds last four days, so you could smoke yak-dung cigarettes on day three and feel better on day four.
But this was my favorite line:
It’s not that science has all the answers. It doesn’t. It’s just that astrologers, shamans, and natural healers have none of them.
Of course, the first commenter at his forum spouts the timeworn retort, “How much are the pharmaceutical companies paying you to write this article?”
Go forth and read – it’s quite a good essay.