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 million is spent on alternative remedies. £22 million 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 the 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 or that it is written for those who don’t believe in CAM. But it sure 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)