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Regulated out of existence

MagazineFebruary 2001 (Vol. 11 Issue 11)Regulated out of existence

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, it seems to me that we face a deliberate and concerted effort by the pharmaceutical industry all over the world to crush alternative medicine

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, it seems to me that we face a deliberate and concerted effort by the pharmaceutical industry all over the world to crush alternative medicine.

The mildest evidence of this is the recent report in the House of Lords that much of alternative medicine doesn't have enough evidence to justify its use.

Only chiropractic, osteopathy and acupuncture are backed by decent evidence, say the Lords.

This is a very strict interpretation of the evidence. Every month, we come across some excellent, scientific (that is, double blind, placebo controlled) studies supporting the use of virtually all of the more established alternative disciplines for certain indications.

The Lords seemed to be well intentioned in making this first attempt to encourage testing of alternative medicine. However, a number of their proposals for instance, that the NHS only pay for alternative treatment if it has been at the behest of a GP's referral would place alternative medicine a system relying on an entirely different biological paradigm squarely under the thumb of modern medicine.

But, for all its flaws, the Lord's report is only the thin edge of the wedge.

Far more dangerous is the attempt by the European Union and also a UN committee to kill alternative medicine under the gentle guise of international 'harmony'. The EU's directive and a special directive drafted by Codex Alimentarius, the food standards committee in the UN, seeks to put a very low ceiling on the maximum levels of dietary supplements allowed to be sold (see cover story). The net effect would be to eliminate vitamin supplements as a preventative or therapeutic medicine.

Both of these measures are supposedly prompted by concerns about the imminent dangers of an unregulated market of alternative medicine. No doubt the entire industry could use a bit of regulation. A few people do get hurt by herbs. A friend of mine is deaf in one ear as a result of a manipulative therapy gone wrong. A handful of people may limit their chances of survival by opting for alternative remedies that don't work over conventional treatments that might. But these casualties represent exceedingly small potatoes.

As Frank Wiewel, founder of the US's People Against Cancer, put it, "Nobody died of a vitamin overdose. But last year, 192,000 American people died of prescription drugs." It's now been documented in medical journals that drug reactions and doctor induced disease accounts for the fourth leading cause of death in the US. Despite all the regulations and the drug testing, and all the requirements and labelling, the bald fact remains that prescription drugs kill millions of people. By 'harmonising' vitamins, the pharmaceutical industry would attempt to push its highly dangerous products forward as the only therapeutic option, while choking safer options through overly stringent legislation.

Be very clear about one thing. This has nothing to do with concern for your health. This is about money and power and trade by the giant multinationals. This is about creating laws that would allow vitamin companies to manufacture their preparations in huge bulk quantities to sell across the world and reap enormous profits.

When all is said and done, this is about the drug companies finally wresting control of the enormously profitable vitamin market and making it a non threatening adjunct to its own main business peddling drugs. Indeed, many of the big vitamin companies are already owned as the 'nutriceutical' arm of the drug multinationals.

The question all of us have to ask ourselves is how far we are prepared to allow this to go. As consumers, don't underestimate your power of protest. The time to say no to this once and for all is right now.

!ALynne McTaggart


Today europe, tomorrow the world?

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