A few years back, I got to spend a few minutes with Earl Bakken after a conference. The guy exudes vision… There are certain execs that have this amazing vision. Earl’s vision since he retired was one of hi-touch medicine. A concept that one would think odd coming from the founder of a biomedical company. Yet the one thing that shown through was a commitment to the patient beyond a commitment to the quarterly report.
There is much to be said about alternative medicine, my traditional stance has been a high degree of skepticism. There is little regulation, and much snake oil. Otoh, there is anecdotal evidence of success in some areas. To a skeptic such as myself, that presents a problem. However, 50 years ago, decisions were based upon anecdotal evidence rather than tightly controlled double blind studies. Even today, when its easy to do more detailed and comphrehensive methods, the double blind is the most common, slowest, and most expensive method, yet its paradigm of being the only trusted solution keeps it around. Anecdotal evidence is not the answer either. The gaps are just too large.
If we take a look at the TENS, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators had they not been developed years ago and created a track record of success, there is no way they would make it through the FDA today. There is still much to be understood, and thats an issue the FDA has a problem with. Sure, no one wants to harm a patient, otoh, the lack of progress is frightening as our population ages.
I’d hate to see it happen in alternative medicine to the degree the FDA controls things. Yet, with all the snake oil, and even inept salespeople at mall stores selling serious drugs without any license, it does make me wonder. Unlike Earl’s early days, where they went from testing on a dog, to human application in 24 hours in order to possibly save a life, the profit motive in alternative medicine is often times the driving force rather than the health of the patient.
A few simple questions on basic physiology, and treatment methodology are quick ways to determine if a company, product, or salesman has a profit or patient motive. The BS answer makes it profit, the no problem its natural makes it profit. The correct answer, and screening questions upfront create a great deal of credibility, and may indicate that its the patient rather than the profit.
A supplement salesman tried to sell an herbal concoction to a friend of mine… they got an earful for giving unqualified, and incorrect medical advice. Obviously profit was the motive, not the patient. Had he taken the concoction, it may well have meant a trip to the ER. Thats a little scary.
Some folks believe if something is natural its safe… Hmmm, tobacco comes to mind. Then again, tobacco is an amazing tool for transgenic manipulation. It may well become the wonder of manufacturing for pharmaceutical processes in the future.
Its too bad, the legitmate practices of alternative medicine will get seriously regulated when people die from poorly controlled supplement manufacuring processes, or end up having pregnancy complications from natural herbs. It will be interesting to see how things shake out.