Wichita emergency medicine physician Mark Mosley declared that “vitamins, minerals, herbs, massage, chiropractory, homeopathy and other ‘alternative’ approaches” were not legitimate medicine (April 24 Opinion). He admonished “real physicians” to “protect patients from harm.” How? “To say, ‘Prove it first.’”
In the spirit of intelligent debate, let’s take these assertions one at a time, starting with “protect patients from harm.” How do alternative approaches stack up to pharmaceuticals?
Fact: Adverse drug reactions from prescription drugs (supposedly “safe and effective” based upon drug trials) contribute to about 106,000 deaths per year.
What about death from vitamins?
According to a 2009 Poison Control Center report, over the past 27 years – the complete time frame that the data has been available – there have been zero deaths attributable to vitamins.
The word “vitamin” had not even been invented at the time of the infamous Flexner Report in 1910. Nutritional medicine is a relatively young science, poorly represented in pharmaceutically dominated medical education.
Using vitamin C as just one example: Does it come as a surprise to a non-nutritionally trained physician that a PubMed search on “ascorbic acid” yields 32,232 full text journal articles? “Vitamin” yields 143,432 and “herbal” yields 19,060 journal articles. Do these studies have “no value”?
Perhaps Mosley is unaware of the criticisms of “evidence-based medicine” (EBM) coming from his own colleagues: Based only on statistical empiricism, EBM misrepresents the basic philosophy of science; the EBM definition of “evidence” is quite narrow, excluding important clinical information, and is not itself “evidenced-based”; EBM, while seeking to limit bias, has created a “paradigm of bias” replete with expensive data, often of limited use in clinical care; the narrow-minded reliance on EBM threatens the autonomy of the doctor/patient relationship.
Those readers concerned about government intrusion into medical care should take heed: EBM “proof” is a growing subterfuge for powerful lobbies of the food and drug industry to insert this Trojan horse into your lives. If unbridled, it will result in the Food and Drug Administration “declaring unproven” the very treatments that Mosley took aim at in his commentary, thus limiting access to the care of your choice.
If you think the EBM paradigm (first proposed in 1991 and growing) of medical care provides “legitimate proof” of effectiveness and adequately serves the wellness needs of humankind, stop by, day or night, and visit Mosley’s crowded ER waiting room.