Those of you who have followed this blog for some time, or who receive my DocAltMed Newsletter, know that I frequently point out the failings, follies, and dangers of mainstream medicine. I don't do it out of vindictiveness or spite, or because mainstream medicine is competition for the traditional medicine that I practice. However, I do feel that there is the need for a voice -- even a small one such as my own -- to counterbalance all of the advertising, marketing, and whitewashing that passes for medical "research" and news coverage. That said, I need to periodically point out that I am not fundamentally anti-medicine (though I am fundamentally anti-stupid and anti-greed). There are medicines that work, and there are times that they are appropriately used. That they are used too often, for the wrong reasons, and with little regard for patient safety is my main beef.
This is an issue which came to the fore just the other night, as I was addressing a local MS support group.
Multiple sclerosis (MS), is a chronic, disabling disease which often proceeds in a perplexing course of exacerbation and remission. This characteristic makes it exceedingly difficult for a single doctor, or his patient, to adequately assess whether or not their chosen therapy is working.
As is the case for many chronic, degenerative diseases, mainstream medicine doesn't have very good answers for people with MS. One of the points of my lecture was that alternative medicine offers equally good efficacy, typically at a significantly lower cost and with a greatly reduced risk of painful and dangerous side effects.
At the end of the lecture, one of the attendees asked me if I would be willing to treat someone even if they were taking medications.
My instant response was, "Of course I would!" It wasn't something I have to think twice about.
I frequently manage patients who are taking drugs prescribed by other physicians. They can cause collateral damage in the form of nutritional deficiencies, gastrointestinal dysfunction or organ damage, and I consider it part of my job to respond to those issues, but never would I presume to tell a patient that I could not treat them so long as they were taking a prescription drug.
As good as I am, I don't have all the answers. I never will. The other guys have some pretty good tools, too. But on both sides of the Great Medical Divide, there are doctors who put ideology above practicality, and it is exactly that type of either/or arrogance that has put our health care system in its current sorry state, with the patient often getting the short end of the stick.
Interestingly, after the lecture and the Q&A session, as I was wandering around talking to people, someone else came up to me to tell me that on at least one occasion, she had been told by an acupuncturist that she would have to give up her medications in order to begin acupuncture.
Now that's just wrong. There is no injunction against concurrent forms of treatment with traditional Chinese medicine, and in fact, that's how it is most often practiced these days in Asia, let alone the West.
It's not good science and it's not good protocol. It is just ego. And when ego gets in the way, it is the patient that suffers.
The fact of the matter is that MS is another one of those disorders, like asthma, which is likely best co-treated by both a mainstream physician and an alternative medicine physician such as myself. In this "balance of powers" best-case scenario -- known as "integrative medicine" -- the patient's more frequent contact would be with myself, with the neurologist called in for periodic review or to help manage severe exacerbations. There is no reason for the exclusion of either discipline, and the patient would benefit greatly.