The Associated Press recently betrayed its bias in a series denouncing CAM/integrative medicine. Many who value integrated medicine were outraged by the following comment, which preceded each of four articles about complementary and alternative medicine published by AP: “EDITOR'S NOTE: Ten years and $2.5 billion in research have found no cures from alternative medicine. Yet these mostly unproven treatments are now mainstream and used by more than a third of all Americans. This is one in an occasional Associated Press series on their use and potential risks”. Likewise, Dr. Jerome Kassirer — distinguished professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and author of On the Take — has written: “People using alternative medicines are wasting their money and are being fooled into thinking they are getting something that is beneficial for them”.
The truth is, millions of American use integrative medicine and are generally satisfied with the results. Most pay out-of-pocket for these services. If it works for them, what more could taxpayer dollars do to ascertain the effectiveness of integrative medicine?
Americans vote daily with their pocketbooks by buying and using integrative therapies, therapies that are the basis of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines, disciplines with more than 5,000 years of recorded success. Consumers also know that conventional medicine comes with a significant risk of errors, side effects (even resulting from correctly prescribed drugs), contraindications and hospital-acquired infections. For example, consumers understand that chemotherapy may help their cancer but its risks could outweigh the benefits.
Knowing this, Mimi Guarneri, M.D., medical director of Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla, Calif., has said: “It’s … unreasonable to argue that alternative therapies must be studied as thoroughly as a lot of mainstream medical practices. The research should be as strong as a therapy's potential for risks.” In other words: Conventional medicine may, in fact, require more research than CAM, as its potential for risk can be much greater than that of integrative therapies.