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Is “Alternative Medicine” Messy? Does It Need To Be “Cleaned Up”?


A recent article on MedScape entitled “Cleaning Up Alternative Medicine's Mess” written by a retired endocrinologist, made me bristle, since my medical experience revolves around both conventional “standard of care” and non-conventional medical theories and treatments. I do not consider that my practice needs to be “cleaned up” except in the sense that I do my best on any given day, and tomorrow my best may be different that today’s best, based on what I have learned in the interim.

If we can accept the premise that each of us is doing our best under our circumstances at any given time, then let us explore the premises of this article published on MedScape.

First, the title: “Cleaning Up Alternative Medicine’s Mess”. The author states his position quite clearly in the title. Alternative medicine is dirty, and needs to be straightened out. So we are in no doubt about his position on the subject. Conventional Allopathic medicine is correct, righteous and good. Alternative medicine is messy, probably inaccurate, and by implication unsupported by objective data.

Does anyone remember when we used to treat tertiary syphilis with mercury salts? That was the standard of care by conventional medicine at the time. And sometimes the patients survived both the neurosyphilis AND the treatment. Not always… But they did not survive the neurosyphilis, so we kept plugging away trying to find a cure.

Who knows the story of a military physician in Mexico by the name of Donato Perez Garcia who discovered that if he used insulin (which had just recently been isolated) together with penicillin (which had also just recently been discovered), his patients with neurosyphilis got better and sometimes walked out of the hospital on their own two feet. His accomplishment was touted in the media, both in Mexico and in the United States, but not by most physicians in the United States. To this day, IPT therapy (Insulin-potentiated therapy) remains a therapy used by a few physicians outside the mainstream of medicine but scorned by the majority of conventional oncologists as unproven, if not downright dangerous.

And then for years we did coronary artery bypass graft surgery – touted as the best possible treatment for blocked coronary arteries. Now we are beginning to discover that the CABG procedure may not be the most effective way to treat coronary artery disease. Do we call the thoracic surgeons who did the procedure charlatans? Were they just out for the big bucks? Or were they doing their best for their patients based on their knowledge and their training?

If this article had included mention of any of the literature regarding the treatments discussed, I would have felt much better about it. We all base our opinions on some kind of information. I prefer to base mine on scientific data – literature references – studies – case reports – rather than on emotionality and accusations of greed. Who is to know what is in a man’s heart? All we can hear is what comes out his mouth.

I wish the author of the article well, and hope that he is willing to open his mind to information other than what is espoused by those who choose to scorn rather than to prove or disprove. Life is short, and it does not hurt us to investigate before reacting.