Share The Wealth by Chris Gupta
January 27, 2005

Alternative Medicine Unwittingly Being Used In The Battle To Restrict Access To Nutrients

..."Many licensed naturopaths in both the U.S. and Canada have recently been contributing, wittingly or otherwise, to the effort by conventional medicine to shift health care options away from low cost self-care and personal freedom and responsibility on the part of the patient-consumer (such as in choosing and obtaining nutritional and herbal supplements) to the licensed health care professional. For a discussion of this disturbing trend, see the 2003 article " Are Naturopaths Targeting Health Food Stores?"...

....Joe Pizzorno, N.D., one of the most visible proponents of naturopathic medicine and widely acknowledged as one of the leaders of alternative medicine, a founder and past president of Bastyr University in Bothell, WA (which has received millions of dollars of federal research grants), for example, commented at a March 26, 2001 WHCCAMP meeting in Washington, D.C. that nutritional supplement companies should be taxed in order to give the FDA more power to regulate the supplement industry."...

This is a good demonstration that shows how greed and corruption have no allegiances - be it mainstream medicine or the alternative variety. As usual, "follow the money" is all that is needed to see the picture. Predictably, it is turning out that all those at the trough don't give a tinker's hoot about health but are only interested in getting an edge over their competition and/or maximizing profits.

These shenanigans are what makes this fight so insidious. Except for ourselves, health freedom is just not profitable enough. Extraordinary profits come mostly form cheating through pretence, and hence, abuse of the trusting people, who of course are dispensable as there are so many of us... The big boys, with governments in tow, understand this all to well and exploit it to the hilt.

Not surprisingly it is turning out that those we think are on our side are really not, but are rapidly becoming a liability. We really need to educate them, in that, they are next in line in this profit gravy train. It reminds me of the supervisors, who so obediently followed orders to fire their subordinates knowing all to well that they were next in line! Easter Island anybody?

Our major weakness is that, most who are generally healthy and/or not effected by medical injuries are very hard to mobilize to demand accountability from the government and the medical system. Hence the masses unwittingly end up being used as the silent partners in these on going atrocities. Sadly only, after the fact, Vioxx size fiascoes seem to be the things that temporarily wake up the masses. If there is a golden lining, it is this: as the big boys get more smug more injuries will come to surface. Hopefully enabling us to put a kink their armour. Unfortunately, they are not going to go away, and eternal vigilance will have to be maintained.

Chris Gupta

As you probably know, there is strong pressure from the pharmaceutical industry to bring all vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc., under the strict control of the Food and Drug Administration, with limits on the size of pills, quantity per package, etc., as has recently been done in many places in Europe and Australia. This will dramatically increase the price and availability of common supplements and remedies, and benefit the drug companies.

Please go to the following address and easily send letters to the Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies and politicians, asking them to support the freedom to manufacture, purchase and use food supplements without further restrictions. There are four letters to different agencies. It takes about 30 seconds to send each.


Dick Rochon

Alternative Medicine and Nutritional Supplements In the Crosshairs

The Institute of Medicine Releases New Report on Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Reporting and Commentary © By Peter Barry Chowka

(January 15, 2005) If the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has its way, alternative therapies will soon be subjected to more rigorous government regulation and oversight. Complementary alternative medicine (CAM) and alternative therapies will have to be proven to work according to allopathic medical models. The result, of course, will be that they will be less widely available, and they will be more expensive. The IOM also wants the federal law exempting nutritional supplements from being treated like prescription drugs to be changed so that, in the future, vitamins and herbal supplements will have to be proven safe and effective according to conventional criteria before they can be sold to the public. Much like the situation now facing consumers in Western Europe and Canada, supplements, especially in their current high concentration or mega-dose form, will be severely restricted, unavailable in many cases, and prohibitively expensive.

On January 12, the Institute of Medicine, part of the sprawling quasi-government National Academy of Sciences (NAS), released a 300-plus page report, Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States, that advances and expands the ongoing mainstream critique of alternative medicine. The IOM and NAS are the highest level and most prestigious science and medical public policy think tanks that advise the U.S. government. Their membership is made up of several thousand conventional experts mostly drawn from academia. Annually, the NAS, which was formed in the 1860s during the Civil War, issues over 350 book-length reports on a wide variety of subjects. [see note 1 below] NAS and IOM reports are generally accorded the highest credibility by the mainstream media and science and medical Establishments. Many of the NAS and IOM reports are soon forgotten but some, touching on hot button issues, are widely read and extremely influential as they serve as the basis for changes in public policy and legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Cause for extreme concern

Anyone interested in alternative medicine, in particular freedom of medical choice without unnecessary government interference, should be concerned about the IOM's Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States.

The titles of the many mainstream news stories generated by the report point to some disturbing implications, for example: "Popular remedies need closer study, report urges"; "Tougher rules urged for dietary supplements"; "Report Calls for Tougher Oversight of Alternative Medicine."

The IOM CAM report took two years to research and write, with the process overseen by an elite panel of mostly conventional medical authorities. A number of alt med "leaders" contributed to it. The IOM report follows earlier, similar, years-long studies by other official agencies, including the Office of Alternative Medicine (1995), the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy or WHCCAMP (2002), and the Office of Technology Assessment (1990). All of these earlier efforts explored similar, if not quite identical, themes. There have also been scores, if not hundreds or even thousands, of similar studies and articles published in the medical and scientific literature during the past 10-15 years. (On January 14, a search of keywords "alternative medicine" at the National Library of Medicine's PubMed returned over 96,000 abstracts of studies published in the MEDLINE-indexed scientific literature.)

The IOM's 2005 CAM report apparently pleased Stephen E. Straus, M.D., director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the National Institutes of Health entity that originally commissioned the IOM CAM study. According to a statement by Straus, requiring the same research standards [for supplements and CAM therapies that conventional therapies supposedly have to meet, as the IOM recommends] "will further the scientific investigation of this new field, increase its legitimacy as a research area and ultimately improve public health."

Targeting nutritional supplements

In its new CAM report, the IOM singled out dietary supplements as culprits worthy of expanded federal regulation and control. (This follows up on a 2004 IOM report [see below].) In the face of massive evidence to the contrary, the 2005 IOM report expressed concern about the quality of herbal and nutritional supplements, asserting ''there is little product reliability." The IOM recommended that Congress take steps to require improved quality control of supplements and to provide incentives to study the efficacy [emphasis added] of supplements, as well. ''Reliable and standardized products are needed," Stuart Bondurant, M.D., Interim Executive Vice President and Executive Dean, Georgetown University Medical Center and the chair of the committee that prepared the IOM CAM report, said at a press briefing on January 12. Bondurant also mentioned "evidence based medicine" in his opening statement. (As noted in an article on December 15, 2004, a new study by the Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC) in Minnesota criticizes evidence based medicine. According to CCHC report author Twila Brase, R.N., "Evidence-based medicine [EBM] is an attack on the patient-doctor relationship. EBM is not individualized care. It is group-think medicine. . .Control over medical decisions is being shifted from doctors to data crunchers; from professionals at the bedside to bureaucrats in big offices. . .The public should not be fooled by the nifty-sounding names. Evidence-based medicine is managed care masquerading as science.")

The only critical response to the IOM CAM report that could be found online on January 14 was by Annette Dickinson, Ph.D., president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a dietary supplement industry trade association. She said in a statement: "The [IOM] dietary supplement chapter is an unwarranted hatchet job."

In fact, a powerful new campaign to marshal public and government support for regulating alt med is being developed by anti-alt med forces (or at least by players who are not sympathetic to primary alternative medicine) with the complicity of many in the CAM community itself. This effort entails the allegation that supplements, especially herbs, have unknown synergistic effects when taken with prescription drugs and that these "herb-drug interactions" might possibly harm patients. Further, it is claimed that many if not most of the scores of millions of Americans who regularly use supplements and herbs do not tell their doctors what they are doing. The solution, according to the IOM and others in sync with this way of thinking (including, perhaps surprisingly, many licensed naturopaths), is to make nutritional supplements and herbs prescription-only, or at least government-approved, items.

The IOM CAM report also urges that the federal government require that complementary and alternative medical therapies, including herbal remedies and acupuncture, meet the same standards of effectiveness as conventional medical treatments, before they are allowed to be used clinically. This scenario is exactly opposite to the way alt med has evolved and grown to this point.

In light of the widely reported failures of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the leading government agency that oversees and regulates conventional drugs and medical treatments, to do its job (witness the recent recall of the prescription pain drug Vioxx, alleged to have caused more than 100,000 deaths and serious injuries despite being approved by the FDA) [see note 2 below], the recommendations of the IOM CAM report seem ludicrous in the extreme. Yet, incredibly, they are championed not only by conventional medical experts but by many leaders in the alt med field (some of whom contributed to the IOM CAM report).

Joe Pizzorno, N.D., one of the most visible proponents of naturopathic medicine and widely acknowledged as one of the leaders of alternative medicine, a founder and past president of Bastyr University in Bothell, WA (which has received millions of dollars of federal research grants), for example, commented at a March 26, 2001 WHCCAMP meeting in Washington, D.C. that nutritional supplement companies should be taxed in order to give the FDA more power to regulate the supplement industry.

Many licensed naturopaths in both the U.S. and Canada have recently been contributing, wittingly or otherwise, to the effort by conventional medicine to shift health care options away from low cost self-care and personal freedom and responsibility on the part of the patient-consumer (such as in choosing and obtaining nutritional and herbal supplements) to the licensed health care professional. For a discussion of this disturbing trend, see the 2003 article " Are Naturopaths Targeting Health Food Stores?"

Coincidence or ...?

The issuance of the IOM CAM report at this time is not an isolated event. Among other coordinated developments, there are efforts underway in Congress, particularly among Democrats, to overturn the 1994 law (the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act or DSHEA) that has continued to exempt nutritional supplements from being treated like drugs.

As the Institute for Health Freedom reported in its January e-mail newsletter, "The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) announced (on January 10!) that it will hold a conference January 13 and 14, 2005 to evaluate the risks of interactions between dietary supplements and prescription blood-thinning medications. The NHLBI notes that up to 52 percent of the population reports using dietary supplements and that four million Americans use blood-thinning medications."

Another study by researchers at Harvard including David Eisenberg, M.D. (who was also a member of the IOM panel that wrote the CAM report), supporting the IOM's recommendations, was also published on January 12 in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. According to an article in USA Today, that study "found that about 35% of Americans have used some form of alternative medicine. Dr. Hilary Tindle, lead author of that report, said such widespread use shows the necessity of studying the safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of these approaches. The biggest change was an increase in use of herbal supplements over the five years, the study said. Both the Harvard and IOM reports cited a failure of a majority of consumers using supplements to tell their doctors. 'This is especially critical as more becomes known about the adverse effects associated with individual dietary supplements as well as their interactions with prescription drugs,' said Harvard's Tindle."

Alternative medicine is being blamed for its success. More people are using alternative therapies, truly adverse reports of patient harm are miniscule, but leaders of conventional medicine insist that alt med needs to be regulated.

One study that purports to establish potential harm was published on December 15, 2004 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The study is "Heavy Metal Content of Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Products" and one of its authors is Eisenberg. The JAMA study asserts that one in five Ayurvedic medical products sold in Boston-area South Asian grocery stores contains a potentially harmful level of lead, mercury or arsenic. According to an article published by India New England on January 1, the study's lead author, Robert B. Saper, M.D., M.P.H., director of integrative medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, and his study co-authors "are calling on U.S. Congress to reform regulations of Ayurvedic medicines so the products are tested for safety." Eisenberg, director of the Harvard Medical School Division of Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, is quoted as saying: "In order to investigate the efficacy of commonly used dietary supplements - including Ayurvedic remedies - we need to test high-quality standardized products free of contaminants and dangerous toxins. This study reminds us of the need for regulatory reform involving dietary supplements used by the American public." But the India New England article noted, "Ayurvedic textbooks describe a therapeutic role for heavy metals such as mercury and lead. 'It's possible that some of these products, perhaps those with concentrations of metals that are extremely high, may have had metals intentionally included,' [Saper] said."

One wonders, too, if it was a coincidence that on the evening of January 12, the same day the IOM CAM report was released, the lead story on CBS TV's 60 Minutes (Wednesday) (a segment titled "A Prescription for Death?") bashed James Shortt, M.D., described as "a physician on the cutting edge of alternative treatments."

A looming deadline

In e-mail and Web alerts, Citizens for Health notes:

"FDA is reviewing portions of DSHEA, the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act. The agency may propose new and overly burdensome regulations that could restrict your access to new dietary ingredients and dietary supplements that were not on the market prior to 1994 when DSHEA was passed.

Recall that 2.5 million concerned consumers contacted Congress between 1992 and 1994 to support DSHEA and assure access to their supplements. In response to the overwhelming consumer support, Congress passed DSHEA and deliberately created new and different regulations for dietary supplements. Congress enacted DSHEA to stop the FDA from treating dietary supplements like food additives or drugs and to protect consumer's rights to purchase these products.

We need to make our voices heard once again!

The deadline is February 1, 2005. Send YOUR Letter [to the FDA] NOW."

The IOM 2004 Report

On April 1, 2004, the Institute of Medicine released a 370-page report titled Dietary Supplements: A Framework for Evaluating Safety. Commissioned by the FDA, it was the result of three years' worth of work by a list of experts in the field and, like the IOM's January 12, 2005 CAM report, it received extensive national media attention.

The 2004 IOM report, in plain English (according to the headline of one press account), says the "FDA Can Pull Supplements Without Proof." Another story highlights the report's conclusions: 'The Food and Drug Administration doesn't need direct evidence of human harm before taking steps to curb sales of a dietary supplement. . .Data from animals, test-tube studies, even similar products can suffice. . .The report promises to bolster new FDA efforts to crack down on risky supplements -- and challenges long-held assumptions that the agency must prove an ingredient unsafe before pulling it off the market."

Among its many recommendations, the 2004 report calls on the Congress to increase funding for the FDA to oversee the supplement industry, including requiring manufacturers to report customers' side effects to the FDA. To do that, manufacturers would have to establish toll-free hot lines and publish the contact information on supplement bottle labels.

Even more problematic and expensive for the industry would be a new requirement that manufacturers would need to provide the FDA with all information about a supplement before it is marketed. That data would include animal studies, laboratory tests, and other scientific information including data about products similar to the new supplement.

The chairwoman of the committee that wrote the 2004 IOM report, Barbara O. Schneeman, a professor of nutrition at the University of California-Davis, was quoted widely in the media in support of the study and of the need for regulation. In a reverse of the usual revolving door in which a top bureaucrat goes from a job in a federal agency to one in a related industry, less than two weeks after the 2004 report was published, Schneeman was appointed to head the FDA's Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements. The office is a component of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

The Bigger Picture

The freedom of citizens and consumers in countries of the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom to buy and use nutritional supplements is under siege and that may soon be the case in the United States. According to the Alliance for Natural Health or ANH (UK) and other consumer interest groups, "proposals for EU, US and Codex regulation could destroy natural healthcare."

In a presentation (downloadable in MS Word format) at the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) Conference, in San Diego last November, Robert Verkerk Ph.D., the ANH's executive director, said: "Many argue that the period between 2004-6 is likely to be the most critical yet faced by the natural products industry with regard to regulation. Regulation has the potential to more or less emasculate the innovative sector of the natural products industry."

According to a message on the Internet,

"In August 2005 everything in Europe is about to change due to the EU Food Supplements Directive (FSD). Banned items will include natural vitamins such as mixed tocopherols (natural vitamin E), carotenoids and b-12 methylcobalamin, all forms of sulphur, boron, vanadium, silicon and most trace elements, the most readily absorbed and safest forms of calcium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, chromium and molybdenum. It will severely limit the doses of vitamins and will remove all high-dose products from the market. It will include future restrictions on nutrients such as fatty acids, amino acids, enzymes, probiotics, phytonutrients, etc. The directive will dramatically limit future innovation in the supplements industry, and seriously impact retail outlets, complementary practitioners and consumers who choose to take responsibility for their own health and let food be their medicine."

In light of the news detailed above and other developments, alternative medicine as we know it is in serious jeopardy. Increasingly, according to a harmonized chorus of conventional and CAM mouthpieces, united by mutual self-interest, ego, and the search for power and economic advantage, alt med is being presented as dangerous, and people and policy makers are being warned that alternative therapies, and especially nutritional and herbal supplements, require major new study (on top of the thousands of studies already being funded by the NCCAM) as well as drastic new federal regulation, oversight, and control. People are being told, in effect, that they are too stupid to take responsibility for their own health and to make informed decisions without the aid of the federal government or a licensed medical or health specialist ("CAM" or conventional). It seems safe to say at this point, Caveat emptor or "alt med consumer beware."


1. The National Academy of Sciences 2003 Annual Report to Congress provides interesting insights into its work. In the health area, as they conduct research and mobilize support for conventional approaches to vaccinations, mass screening of the population, drugs for HIV/AIDS, etc., the NAS and IOM show themselves to be the ultimate politically correct arbiters of national science and medical thinking.

2. On January 2, 2005, the Financial Times reported that David Graham, the FDA employee who blew the whistle on Vioxx (which resulted in its being taken off the market by its manufacturer last September), "has vowed to publish research [in the UK medical journal The Lancet] that suggests up to 139,000 Americans have died or have been seriously injured as a result of taking the drug [Vioxx]."


posted by Chris Gupta on Thursday January 27 2005
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

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