When western medicine lacks evidence?

health choicesLet me pose you a few questions today – think of it as a little health quiz:

  • Would you knowingly take a pharmaceutical drug that had never been safety tested on humans?
  • Would you accept a vaccination that hadn’t been thoroughly tested from a company exempt from prosecution should you die of its side-effects?
  • Should the NHS pay for a treatment that is less than 25% effective?

Hands up if your answers to all three questions above were a resounding no!

So you might be surprised to learn that penicillin has never been tested on humans – yet it has been one of the most prescribed drugs in the history of modern medicine.  Why?  Well if you talk to your doctor he might well tell you that it has never been tested because it would be unethical to test it.  Unethical? Well to test a drug in the gold-standard randomised-controlled trial type of way, one group would get the drug and one wouldn’t.  And you see, the medical world thinks it would be unethical to withhold a drug “we know works” from people who need it.  Of course everything I’ve said is a very simplified, but nonetheless true, version of the complexities that are inherent in medical research.

Are you aware that the Tamiflu vaccine was not properly tested before it was rolled out, at huge public expense, into the arms of thousands of people in the UK?  And that our government indemnified the pharmaceutical company who produced it – that is to say, had something gone wrong we couldn’t have sued the pharmaceutical company? And when it was eventually tested it was found to be ineffective anyway? Oh yes, and by the way, it contains toxic mercury!

IVF is about 22% effective – yet it is unquestionably provided to many couples at the expense of our taxpayers.

If you still believe that medical care in the UK is evidence-based, then I’m the tooth fairy!

So what happens when western medicine is given out, rushed out, and even pushed upon us without a scrap of robust evidence?  Well not much is the answer!

But what happens to a Health Minister who levels the playing field and suggests that there is a space in our healthcare services for Chinese medicine? Well for one, the right wing newspapers give him a disparaging nick name: Minister for Magic, and cry that this is an irresponsible step too far.  And give voice to a bigot of the pharmacological kind – step up Professor David Colquhoun – ever ready with a damning condemnation of anything not made by his Pharma friends. In this instance he calls Chinese medicine a relatively polite “evidence-lite”.

Well I’ve got news for you – much of the stuff that Colquhoun would have you swallow is also “evidence-lite!”  Jeremy Hunt has made no suggestion that he will include Chinese medicines without evidence into the NHS.  He isn’t at all behaving as the prejudiced Colquhoun would have you believe.

One day I might tell you how Chinese herbal medicines totally obliterated fibroids that caused me sub-haemorrhage level bleeding for 21 days every month – much to the amazement of a western gynaecologist armed with before and after scan pictures, and whose only tool in her Western medicine kit bag was to offer me a hysterectomy!  Oops – I just did tell you after all!  And how glad am I that I didn’t wait for the evidence base?  And how glad am I that we live in a free country where I was able to procure them?  And how great would it be if others didn’t have to pay privately as I did, but could be offered more humane solutions via our NHS?

OK, so maybe we shouldn’t include untested Chinese medicines in the NHS arsenal (not that anyone is actually suggesting we should!). Now – how about we extend the same conditions to including western medicines on the NHS?  Penicillin anyone? Tamiflu? IVF?


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