life as I experience it

Thoughts on the business of alternative medicine

I’ve never been a fan of alternative medicine, but when, while browsing at the local library, I saw a book called “Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All“, I took it off the shelf and borrowed it. I didn’t need to be convinced of the inefficiency homeopathy or magnet therapy, but I was curious what I would learn from this book. I have now reached page 43 and it is too early to talk more about this book, but I read some mind blowing information so far and I felt the need to share it here.

The author writes that “the total UK annual spend for Complementary and Alternative Medicine” [CAM*] are of £4.5 billion. £191 milion is spent on alternative remedies. £22 milion is spent on complementary practitioners consultations every year. And the numbers are increasing as the number of practitioners is increasing: in the UK in 2005 “they were thought to number around 47,000”. GPs were only around 35,000.

Reading further, I reached page 20 and I found out something I never knew nor thought about: [in UK] “only osteopaths and chiropractors are legally obligated to have undertaken approved training courses and to be registered with a professional body. Outside these two disciplines, CAM is unregulated.” This means that if one decides to set oneself up as a practitioner offering Reiki or acupuncture, one is free to do so overnight, without any training or anything else. I also learned that the professional bodies for herbal medicine and homeopathy “have no power to regulate what their members actually do” and the initials IACBP after a practitioner’s name “have no legal or regulatory status”.

The book continues with a short guide on “how to spot a quack” and this is the chapter I have reached so far. I am not sure this book can convince those who believe in CAM and I am not sure it is written for those who don’t believe in CAM. But it surely is interesting to read and to find out about the CAM business. Unfortunately, this is a big business that sometimes costs lives…

* CAM includes: acupuncture, aromatherapy, astrological medicine, Bach flower remedies, bioresonance therapy, chiropractic, colonic irrigation, colour therapy, cranial osteopathy, crystal healing, ear acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki, vibrational healing and more [the complete list can be found in the book, page 2, or on wikipedia].


Last photo: reddit (quote by Tim Minchin)

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