A group of scientists and doctors who call themselves the “Friends of Science in Medicine” (FSM) are relaunching an attack on complementary medicine. During last week, there was a segment on Channel 9 News in Australia suggesting pharmacies are receiving kickbacks from complementary medicine companies for selling their supplements.
The Monday 13th edition of Four Corners on the ABC will present an exposé on Australian complementary medical companies and services. This will be a damning segment presenting complementary medicine in a very bad light. 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.
Last year, Four Corners presented a segment on US complementary medicine companies which show very clearly that (most importantly, US) complementary medicines are made to food standard and not pharmaceutical grade. A study of 300 different products demonstrated the vast majority had contaminants and the ingredients written on the bottle were not actually in the tablets or capsules.
Australian supplements, however, are made to pharmaceutical grade and are under strict regulation. There are no contaminants and the ingredients written on the bottle are actually what you get.
The FSM suggest there is absolutely no evidence for the benefits of a variety of Complementary Medicine and sometimes there is harm. This is blatantly untrue and the evidence is clearly being ignored by FSM.
Let me give you some examples: one of the greatest learning and medical institutions in the world, Harvard University in the United States, has been running, for the last 30 years, the Nurses Health Study and the Male Physicians Trial in around 180,000 people. To use the example of a standard multivitamin, when you examine the randomised controlled trial in the doctors up to 10 years, there was no clinical benefit from taking a multivitamin every day. When the data was analysed at 10 years, however, there was a statistically significant 8% reduction in cataracts and common cancers. You may well say, 8% isn’t that much but we’re talking about something that the FSM argues has no benefit whatsoever. When you look that the observational study in the women at 15 years, there was a 75% reduction in Bowel cancer, a 25% reduction breast cancer and a 23% reduction in cardiovascular disease. Possibly even more striking, because it was a randomised controlled clinical trial, is the twenty-year data in men which showed a 44% reduction in cardiovascular disease, purely by taking a good quality multivitamin on a daily basis.
A recent meta-analysis published in Mayo Clinic proceedings showed an 18% reduction in cardiovascular events in people who consumed high-dose fish oil supplementation or regularly consumed fish over a long period of time. The GISSI trial in Italy performed, in a uniform group of patients with acute myocardial infarction given 1 gm a day Omega3 fatty acids in supplement form for 12 months had a 28% reduction in overall death and a 47% reduction in sudden cardiac death. Again, hardly no evidence for benefit…?
The last six years, I have been involved in research on the natural juice from bergamot oranges grown on the southern iconic coast of Italy. We have published a number of trials in well respected medical journals showing clear reductions in cholesterol, blood sugar, improvements in liver function and profound benefits when combined with statin therapy. There are a number of ongoing trials which will be published over the next few years showing even greater benefit for the regular supplementation with Bergamot polyphenolic fraction.
The list goes on, but I should also mention the supplement Ubiquinol, the active component of CoenzymeQ10. Ubiquinol has been shown to reduce statin induced muscle pain along with improved cardiac function, not to mention general improvements in stress levels, sports performance and general energy levels.
One of the “new kids on the block” is vitamin K2, which has some very promising data around arterial decalcification and improvement in bone strength. Late last year on my radio show I interviewed Prof Matthew Budoff from UCLA Harbor Medical School. Professor Budoff has performed evidence-based studies clearly showing Kyolic aged garlic extract reverses cardiovascular disease over a 12 month period in patients with proven disease, utilising coronary angiography.
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.
I have shown above just a few studies from many that show the significant benefit of many aspects of complementary medicine, conveniently ignored by the FSM and other orthodox researchers who promote the benefits of pharmaceutical therapy and medical interventions at the same time weaken and downplay any contribution from complementary medicine.
But, I’m a proud member of the medical profession and feel many of our achievements do go unnoticed and are not recognised by the general public. That doesn’t mean, however, that doctors should be universally proud of the service they provide. Before the FSM continue their onslaught against their poorer cousins, shouldn’t we start to try and clean up our own backyard first?
The commonest cause of death and disability across the world is cardiovascular disease. This is closely followed by cancer. The third commonest cause of death and disability in developed countries is Western healthcare, the so-called by the FSM, true evidence-based medicine. In the US alone there are an estimated 780,000 deaths on a yearly basis, caused by the intervention of orthodox doctors. This does not include any disability caused by the medical profession. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 deaths a year from the appropriate prescription of pharmaceutical preparations; two thirds of which comes from blood thinners and diabetic treatments. A study was done on coronary angiography in the New York area and an independent body assessed that 65% of angiograms performed were unnecessary. It is estimated that every year in the US there are 20 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions written. We hear often of significant side-effects from the long-term use of commonly prescribed pharmaceutical preparation such a statin drugs, peptic ulcer preparations and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, to name a few.
We also hear of pharmaceutical companies making false claims about the benefits, whilst playing down the potential side effects of drugs. There was an excellent opinion piece written in the Medical Journal of Australia in 2012. The lead author, Prof Paul Komesaroff, he himself an orthodox professor, suggesting clearly the approach by the FSM is belligerent and wrong. In the same year, another article published by Elshaug suggesting 150 potentially ineffective and unsafe services were provided by orthodox doctors. Again the Medical Journal of Australia 2015 published by Stephen Duckett et al, suggesting there are a number of inappropriate procedures which are typically unnecessary and may cause harm performed by orthodox medicine.
I have said on numerous occasions that I see orthodox medicine like a high-performance motorcar. You get from A to B very quickly but with the potential of crashing and killing yourself if you’re not careful, whereas, complementary medicine in my view is like a bicycle. It will get you from A to B much slower but you also get some exercise along the way. Clearly the rules for the high-performance motor have to be completely different than the rules for the bicycle.
There is no doubt that well designed, randomised controlled clinical trials over a few years should be seen as the gold standard for the evaluation of orthodox therapies. These are vitally important to ensure firstly that strong, synthetic pharmaceutical agents are effective but secondly that they do no harm. As most complementary medicines are closer to food in their safety, it is important researchers who understand complementary medicine scientifically evaluate these therapies but we must realise that to get an answer we need to follow many more people than the sickest of the sick who are typically used for clinical trials of pharmaceutical therapies and also take the much longer time-frame as demonstrated, for example, in the Harvard trials that I mentioned previously.
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.