Well-known cardiologist and author Dr Ross Walker hits back against “attack on complementary medicines”
In an article for Healthcare in America, the Sydney-based Dr Walker says of the Four Corners episode on complementary medicines:
We will hear the usual nonsense from conservative scientists and doctors, who do not work in the area, nor have any understanding or desire to learn how complementary medicines actually work and the real, evidence-base behind a variety of different therapies.
We will hear all the usual claims from these conservative clones (or possibly clowns) suggesting there is no evidence for the benefits of supplementation; “if you follow a standard diet, you are obtaining all of the micronutrients necessary without supplementation, and that complementary medicine is useless or in some cases may even cause harm.” There is always the demeaning comments that all vitamins do is give you expensive urine, and that they are recommended by charlatans.
His article is in response to the Four Corners investigation into CMs that aired on Monday night, as well as a segment on Channel 9 that slammed pharmacy for complementary medicine “kickbacks”.
Dr Walker says the Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) group’s suggestion that there absolutely no evidence for the benefits of many complementary medicines, and sometimes harm, is “blatantly untrue”.
He presents examples from a Harvard University study, a Mayo Clinic meta-analysis, and his own research into the juice of bergamot oranges, which he says has shown positive results in the reduction of cholesterol, blood sugar, improvements in liver function, and benefits when combined with statin therapy.
Regarding CMs, FSM has said: “This is a $1.3b industry in Australia with an estimated 75% of our population using some form of complementary medicines.
“These include vitamins, minerals, herbs, probiotics, aromatherapy, homeopathic and ‘natural’ weight loss products, even though there is no evidence of clinical efficacy for the majority of them and some can cause harm, either directly through liver damage or indirectly, with a recent study finding that users of complementary and alternative medicines are more likely to skip chemotherapy.”
FSM member and pharmacist Ian Carr has told the AJP that there is little long-term evidence to support the use of CMs, many of which become the subject of fads and thus aren’t taken long-term anyway.
“Every time one of these fads comes along, whether it’s Vitamin E or spirulina or chlorophyll, it’s marketed well before there’s any good clinical evidence – and that makes them, in effect, an experiment on yourself. Aside from the placebo effect, you don’t have an endpoint for your experiment. You basically stop that experiment, as most people do, when the next fad comes along,” Carr has told AJP.
“Because if we’re talking about a clinical trial, we’re talking about giving 10,000 people this stuff, blinding it, and then 10 years down the track we’ll find out whether or not it does any good. Someone might claim Vitamin E is great for your heart health and will extend your life by 20 years, but nobody stays on the damn stuff long enough to find out. That was a fad from the 70s and 80s, and it’s still on the shelf but it’s probably taken by less than 1% of the people who were taking it way back then.”
Dr Walker says “the FSM and other conservative researchers, not in the field of Complementary Medicine research do not know the difference between synthetic and natural vitamin E … Synthetic vitamin E has been shown in a number of trials to be of no benefit, and in some cases, possibly even harmful. Vitamin E does not work without Vitamin C and the only two trials in the history of evidence-based medicine where natural vitamin E was combined with vitamin C both showed an average 25% reduction in the progression of coronary and carotid atherosclerosis.”
“It is my opinion that complementary medicine keeps healthy people healthier and also makes orthodox therapies work so much better. Until a government body foolishly legislates to have complementary medicine on a medical prescription, I believe this still should be an individual choice. Also, it is unbelievably hypocritical of the gatekeepers of so-called scientific information, the FSM to criticise a field they have little or no understanding about without even bothering to clean up their extremely flawed backyard,” he concludes.
See Dr Walker’s full article here