I was having a little packing break last night (as well as watching "Predator"- I cannot believe that I still had not seen this movie through until completion) when I had a bit of a wander through the blogosphere and came across Rae's post on psychotropics, Juice Plus and natural medicine.
At the beginning of February, I wrote a critical post in relation to Juice Plus and how a Juice Plus salesperson claiming to be "Australia's Leading Nutrition Educator" was running seminars which, although spoke of sensible things, like eating more fruits and vegetables, seem to promote Juice Plus as "the missing link". Why I get cranky about these things is that it is obvious that money, not good medicine is driving the bottom line. I get cranky when I see the aggressive marketing, the posts about "I feel so good because I've taken my Juice Plus supplements" - what about all the improvements you've made to your diet and your training making a difference? It's difficult to feel any warm and fuzzy love towards any supplement whose claims are yet to be proven. Plus eating well and training hard without any fancy gimmicks isn't terribly sexy, is it?
And don't think I'm just picking on Juice Plus. I get cranky when I see L-Carnitine being recommended for fat loss (a blatant misportrayal of the Krebs Cycle if ever there was one). I get cranky when I see ads for "Fat Magnet". In fact, when I see people wasting their money on all sorts of unproven stuff, I get mad.
It also makes me angry to see the unregulated sales of natural medicines by people who do not have the knowledge to recognize potential trouble etc. I ask the question to any person peddling supplements - what are you going to do when you recommend your product to someone taking, say blood thinning medications, and they have a life threatening drug interaction and die. Are you insured for that? You may say "what I'm recommending is a whole food supplement" - well, without a standardized list of ingredients, including excipients, that excuse is just not good enough.
I am a health professional - a pharmacist - who also has a strong background in complementary medicine, having done post grad work in this area. You don't have to be blind Freddy to see that the complementary medicines industry has exploded over the last few years. People it seems are drawn to more "natural" alternatives, but what does this mean? The fact is that:
"Any substance (whether it be natural or man made) that exerts a replicable effect on the systems of the body is a drug"
In Australia, our traditional health professions have realised the impact and potential of alternative medicines and these are researched at tertiary institutions - at the University where I did my pharmacy degree, we also have a dedicated centre for the study of complementary medicines. In the light of this, the suggestion in the quote below is just plain dumb.
The fact is that alternative medicine is drawing more and more money away from mainstream medical practice and even more significantly, from pharmaceutical corporations. When people use “natural” remedies instead of high-priced patented drugs, pharmaceutical companies lose money.”
I really believe the natural medicines industry needs to be more tightly regulated for the above reasons. There is a place for natural medicine and alternative medicine - no doubt about it. But who dispenses that medicine should be scrutinized - I wouldn't expect someone to come to me for IT expertise, and I wouldn't expect anyone to go to an IT expert for healthcare advice.