Per my two last posts, the CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) community is under attack on at least two fronts. First, several CAM professional or issue related organizations have recently been subjected to corrective action regarding their CME accreditation for their annual conferences. Some of their last year’s conference CME’s have been retroactively rescinded, they have had their future conference CME accreditation withdrawn, and/or the groups have been warned to conform to “evidence based medicine,” code for conventional medical practice. See my post:
This is significant because these organizations depend on physician seminar income to sustain them, and practitioners depend on these seminars to learn the latest research and best practices involving CAM therapies. My prediction is that more CAM related organizations will be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny and corrective action by the ACCME. My hunch is that some entity other than the ACCME is calling the shots on this.
The second shot across-the-bow comes from a medical board in a state law that has incorporated the AMA’s “ethical standards.” These standards render unethical the sale of health related products. This board has initially determined that this ethical prohibition applies to a physician prescribing and selling active CAM therapy, which can only be obtained from the physician, after the physician receives training. See my post:
This has been a mostly dormant issue despite the AMA ethical rule, since countless CAM physicians sell supplements or prescribe food, herbals or dietary supplements as primary or secondary therapy without incident. I’m thinking this new case may be a foreshadowing of more to come.
These two fronts are interrelated because a part of the ACCME’s stated concerns is the financial connection between the lecturers and their sponsoring companies. However, I think the ACCME’s concerns are pretextual because this issue has been successfully dealt with for decades by CAM and mainstream groups, through disclosure of conflicts and prohibitions from mentioning specific products. Do you think Paul Offit and folks like him never lecture about their vaccine research and products which they’ve patented or in which they have a financial stake?
But there are other assaults on people who hold beliefs skeptical of some mainstream medical or public health modalities and who have a preference for more natural or less invasive modalities. For example, if you are concerned about the safety or number of vaccines which your children are getting, well you’ve had some tough times lately.
More states are eliminating the personal belief exemption (PBE), and in California, which is perhaps the epicenter of the vaccine concerned movement, the last year was really bad: SB 277 which eliminated the PBE kicked-in. The people who brought you SB 277 are upping their game with SB 18, which over time will likely force home-schoolers and other exempt children to be fully vaccinated, on pain of having the state sue their parents for violating their constitutional rights to “proper medical care.” See my post on SB 18:
Plus, the California Medical Board has brought a case against one of the most high profile vaccine concerned docs, Bob Sears. See my post:
Tough times indeed
So a couple weeks ago I participated in PIC’s (Physicians for Informed Consent) initial meeting for vaccine concerned docs and interested laymen. For me, the most emotionally moving and enlightening speaker was Candace Lightner, the founder of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers). Like many movement founders, a horrendous personal tragedy transformed an apolitical stay-at-home mom named Candy into the political and organizational super human, Candace Lightner. In the 30 plus years since she founded MADD, her group has passed something like 1500 laws against drunk drivers. It has been estimated that her organization has saved over 400,000 lives. Now that my friends is a huge positive societal impact.
Meeting and listening to Candace got me thinking about other people and groups who have had a transformational political or societal/health impact with whom I have worked with over the years.
Remember Act-Up, the 1980’s and 90’s AIDs activist group? This group had major impact in forcing the federal government to focus on AIDS research. I recall one of its early techniques. There was this new high-tech communications tool which had taken the business world and the government by storm. You could actually send documents over the telephone lines. It was like magic and was called a facsimile machine, later shortened to fax. Act-Up was the first group to make an effective use of the fax blast. It inundated the FDA with something like 300,000 faxes in support of faster drug approval and allowing the personal use exemption for imported foreign drugs. These folks tied up the FDA’s fax lines for days. And it worked!
In the 90’s I did a lot of work for chiropractor groups. The Chiros don’t take any crap from anyone, not even the AMA, as proven by their successful antitrust lawsuit against the AMA in the 1970’s. I got into the mix with my federal racketeering lawsuit against the New Jersey Department of Insurance Fraud for trying to illegally extort fines from New Jersey Chiropractors. See chapter 6 in Galileo’s Lawyer
In the ensuring years, I’ve had some interesting battles for other groups fighting the mainstream and specialty practitioners in fields like environmental medicine, cancer, chelation, bioidentical hormone therapy, herbal treatments, homeopathy and many, many other CAM treatments.
I’ve also encountered some of the high profile medical gurus and thought-leaders. Back in the late 1980’s, my New York law firm represented Bob Atkins, who started or foreshadowed the entire paleo and low carb movement. He was a character and a strong voice in the nascent CAM community. He would have really enjoyed seeing how much his ideas have been embraced of late.
More recently, I’ve encountered best-selling doctor-authors like David Permutter and Steve Sinatra. I even helped edit Suzanne Somer’s cancer book, Knockout. Her books about bioidentical hormones have been transformational for women around the world (and their husbands or partners are pretty happy about that too, I suspect). I think she’s sold over 25 million books, (and many thigh masters too). She is surely one of the most influential voices in the CAM health field in the modern era.
I have also encountered some of the important health media types like Jonathan Colin of the Townsend Letter and Don Peterson, the Publisher of Dynamic Chiropractor, and more recently Del Big Tree, a Vaxxed producer (whom I’ve joked about in public that when I come back, I want to come back as him).
And then there are the health freedom fighters and groups who fight against all manner of attacks on health freedom; people like Diane Miller who runs the National Health Freedom Coalition which is connected to dozens of groups on all kinds of issues from organic farming, to GMO labeling, to access to unlicensed health practitioners.
And then there are all the schools which teach all this stuff. Places like University of Bridgeport and Bastyr.
After meeting Candace at the PIC conference, I started thinking about how many people around the country these medical media gurus, the CAM medical groups, disease groups, and the activists have influenced. It strikes me that it’s a very, very big number, surely in the millions, if not in the tens of millions.
Think not? Consider the size of just the nutritional supplement industry. I’ve heard estimates of almost 20 billion dollars a year. Add to that other products and visits to CAM practitioners, the millions of books sold by the health media gurus, the zillions of clicks on the mega popular health web sites. I’m telling you, it’s a really big number.
So I got to thinking …
There are all kinds of established groups representing specific constituencies, like AARP. Many are not tied to one political party, but exercise influence on the political process. There are many, many disease groups which organize and lobby, some CAM oriented, most not and some are just shills for Pharma’s interest.
What there doesn’t seem to be is a highly visible and effective group/coalition that looks after the interests of all the health concerned, CAM oriented, CAM practitioners, CAM oriented chronic disease patient groups, and the health freedom groups. And yes, I know that there are some groups which are trying to do this, but I don’t think any of them has been effective. As far as I’ve seen, none has been able to bring together all the CAM professional, disease and grass roots organizations.
What could a congress/coalition of such groups expect to achieve? For starters, information exchange amongst the groups would be a good thing and would be easy to accomplish. A resulting coalition might even have some influence in the current national debate about health care.
Apart from the ACCME accreditation problem and the AMA ethics prohibition on the sale of supplements, there are many other big and little things which a congress and coalition could address. Making real progress on these issues would take the action of the entire CAM community. Here are a couple of my biggies, which I think are the key to changing the health world view:
1. Pharma advertising
Did you know that the US and New Zealand are the only two industrialized countries which allow direct-to-consumer TV advertising about drugs? Pharma’s advertising money buys too much influence on the media, most of it unhelpful from a societal point of view. I think we could make some real progress in public health if Pharma was banned from the TV media, the way cigarettes were banned a few decades ago. It might also help with the black hole and extreme negative outlook the media has towards all things CAM. I think the entire CAM community/industry needs to take this on as one of the top two action items.
2. Helping to Bury The Evidence Based Medicine Medico/Religious Paradigm
I think we are at the very beginning of the end of the dominance of the “evidence based medicine” thing. (I’ve discussed how that paradigm arose in Chapter 7 of my book.)
In cancer, because of tumor testing and targeted agents, the whole protocol/cookbook/prior clinical trials/regional clinical study group approach is starting to die out, at least for tough multiple gene cancers. Although I had been involved in this battle for a dozen years, mostly via Dr. Burzynski, my realization that we’re at the beginning of the end of the evidence-based medicine era hit me after reading Siddhartha Mukherjee (the author of the stunning book on cancer called The Emperor of All Maladies), New York Times article last year. The title says it all (or a lot of it anyway): “The Improvisational Oncologist: In an era of rapidly proliferating, precisely targeted treatments, every cancer case has to be played by ear.”
In the article, he says that all oncologists are or will become empiricists, meaning they will create individualized treatment plans based on the specific markers and tumor testing results, and that the days of cookbook/protocol driven cancer treatments are numbered. I suspect that the same thing is going to happen in various other medical specialties involving heretofore incurable chronic conditions. (An aside, the medical establishment came down hard on this guy for his article, big surprise.)
The above two issues seem core, and a solution to both would go a long way to undoing the stranglehold which conventional medicine has over policy makers and the body politic.
Here are a couple more issues:
3. Limiting the Government’s role in medical decision-making by eliminating the federal government’s jurisdiction over a person’s own body parts
It drives me nuts that the federal government interferes with my ability to use my own stem cells and other body parts. I mean it’s my body. If I want to hire a doctor to remove, my body parts, grow them and put them back inside me, why the hell should the federal government be involved? If the doc is screwing up, or has an unsanitary facility, let the state medical board or the state department health go after the doc. But the notion that the federal government gets involved in this kind of treatment just galls me. I’m hoping that the new FDA commission might help out on this one, and he’s more apt to do so if a few million people give him a piece of their mind. This will be necessary to counter the stem cell institutional-based Mafiosi who want to control my body parts until they are satisfied that my body parts are safe and effective for me to use for an intractable and incurable disease. Just stating the problem shows how overreaching the FDA’s current position is.
Of course, every disease and interest group thinks that their issue is the most important, and it absolutely is to them and those affected by their issue or disease.
But in the end, I’m thinking we have to go big and broad, at first, at least, and let the powers-that-be know that we’re here and a force to be reckoned with. But there is one more issue which should be addressed.
Vaccine issues have an element of complexity different from other health issues for the simple reason that the so-called “established science” has concluded that the lack of community vaccination adversely affects other people and public health. (Yes, the vaccine-concerned vehemently disagree with the established view). This is unlike other CAM or health freedom issues which only affect the individual, like the right to take an unproven treatment, the right to be informed if a product is GMO, or the ability of a physician to receive CMEs for learning new CAM methods.
One result of this difference is that many reasonable people, and even some CAM inclined people think the vaccine-concerned, (or at least the hard-core anti-vaxers) are unreasonable and dangerous. I’m sorry, but that’s just a fact. So care is needed, at least on an all-CAM level. As a litigator, I focus on the weakest part of an adversary’s position. Here are two of the weakest pasts of the mainstream’s vaccination argument:
a. Vaccine testing, (or the lack thereof) especially in pregnant women
Pregnant women appear to be Pharma’s next big vaccine marketing push. I think that is going to scare the bejesus out of many reasonable people, and open up the issue of the lack of adequate testing in general. I’d like to see some serious national public advocacy on this issue.
b. Finally, Get William Thompson on the Record!
This might be the most immediately impactful and most feasible action item. If reports are true, that a key CDC study which supposedly proved no connection between vaccines and autism was intentionally manipulated by the authors, that would be huge, and impactful well beyond vaccination and autism.
The most important thing I’ve learned in all the years doing what I do is that science isn’t nearly as neat, clean and objective as the high priests of the church of medical orthodoxy would have us believe. Showing that the government manipulated data and findings to achieve a predetermined result, if that’s in fact what Thompson’s testimony would show, would be… Well let’s just try to get him on the record and see what develops.
The bottom line (finally!)
I’m no Candace Lightner, but I do know how to raise a call-to-arms, and start the ball rolling. I’d like to see as many CAM professional groups, disease groups, issue groups, freedom groups, and even a few media and thought leaders sitting down in one place at a congress of groups. The purpose would be to establish some core common principles, concerns and action items, and identify resources and funding sources for continued efforts on areas of mutual concern.
I’m thinking end of May might be the time for the first congressional pan CAM conference.
Any thought leaders, media luminaries or future Candace Lightners interested?
Rick Jaffe, Esq.