Medical Journal Calls for
Better Testing of Herbal Treatments
By Daniel Q. Haney
AP Medical Editor
Note - How interesting...not a word about how many tens of thousands of Americans are killed each year by 'tested' and 'approved' prescription medications in hospitals and homes. Adverse drug reactions and overmedication are a big, dark secret in modern Western medicine. The fraudulent and corrupt test data used to gain license and approval for many pharmaceutical drugs is legendary. And organized medicine and the pharmaceutical companies are now calling for rigid testing of herbs and supplements claiming 'danger'. Could it possibly have something to do the with the burgeoning amount of money now being spent on 'alternative' therapy by people seeking an option to organized medicine and expensive prescriptions and medical procedures?
BOSTON (Reuters) -- Noting that there can be dangers in using poorly tested herbal remedies, one of the nation's leading medical journals says alternative medicines should be subjected to the same rigorous standards as mainstream treatments.
In an editorial, physicians Marcia Angell and Jerome P. Kassirer of the New England Journal of Medicine argued that testimonials and speculation are no substitute for precise medical evidence that treatments are safe and effective.
"There cannot be two kinds of medicine -- conventional and alternative," they wrote in Thursday's issue. "There is only medicine that has been adequately tested and medicine that has not, medicine that works and medicine that may or may not work."
Herbal remedies sold as dietary supplements have proliferated since 1994, when Congress exempted them from regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.
The same issue of the journal carried these reports on alternative medicine:
Doctors from Alberta Children's Hospital in Canada reported two cases in which parents opted to treat their children's cancer with shark cartilage or the herb astragalus instead of standard medicines. In both cases, the cancers progressed, and one child died.
The California Department of Health Services tested 260 traditional Chinese medicines and found one-third were contaminated with heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic, or pharmaceuticals not listed on the labels.
Doctors from Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey tested a mixture of eight herbs, sold as PC-SPES, on men with prostate cancer. They found it worked like estrogen, decreasing testosterone and cutting sex drive. While not proving whether it relieves cancer, the study shows the herb blend has potent hormonal effects.
The FDA described an episode, publicized last year, in which the herb plantain was contaminated with a naturally occurring form of digitalis, a heart stimulant that can cause cardiac arrest.
A group of doctors from Arizona reported the case of a man found driving erratically after taking a supplement promoted as a way to increase growth hormone. A letter from the manufacturer, RenewTrient Research of Cocoa Beach, Fla., said the man ignored a label warning to take the substance only before sleeping.
"Alternative treatments should be subjected to scientific testing no less rigorous than that required for conventional treatments," the journal editorial said.
At the American Council on Science and Health, associate director Jeff Strier said, "It's good to see that mainstream medicine is coming on board to defend itself" against unproven treatments.
However, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, which represents supplement makers, defended the law that allowed the pills to come into wider use. It said many of the issues raised by the journal, such as contaminated products, are already covered by federal regulations.
"Broadsides such as the NEJM editorial serve only to confuse the issue by intermingling a variety of topics," said a statement by the organization.