Is modern medicine actually "scientific"? The gold standard for modern medicine is the double-blind and placebo-controlled trial. But there are serious problems with these studies, unknown to most, but widely acknowledged by researchers.
Scientists can easily set up a study that shows a drug is effective for a very limited period of time. Most studies of drugs for psychiatric conditions last only six weeks. What happens after that? Do they still work? Do they start to cause terrible side effects?
The studies will not tell you.
Dana Ullman, author of 10 books on homeopathic medicine, writing in the Huffington Post, argues:
“Sadly and strangely, many physicians do not see that there is something fundamentally wrong with the present medical model ... for the large majority of people facing day-to-day chronic illnesses, it provides short-term results, serious side-effects, and stratospherically high costs.”
The modern medical paradigm revolves around two words: scientifically proven.
It is this phrase that public health agencies, physicians, and researchers alike use to pedal their wares, so to speak. These little blue pills are scientifically proven to make you fall asleep, relieve your pain, feel less hungry, or lower your blood pressure, they may say.
But, let me tell you, all is not what it seems on the medical forefront as it pertains to science. You see, those little blue pills, or red ones, or white ones or whatever color or shape they may be, may very well have been the subject of a multi-million-dollar, double-blind, placebo controlled study.
And they may have been proven to be effective within the confines of the study -- but this means very little when transferred within the confines of your body.
I recently discussed this topic at length with Dana Ullman, MPH, who is widely recognized as a prominent spokesperson for homeopathic medicine. Dana has a phenomenal column in the Huffington Post, and as he wrote recently:
“Doctors today commonly assert that they practice "scientific medicine," and patients think that the medical treatments they receive are "scientifically proven." However, this ideal is a dream, not reality, and a clever and profitable marketing ruse, not fact.”
The Perception of Science-Based Medicine is a Ruse
I am a big believer in the scientific method … provided it’s applied appropriately. And that’s the key issue here. If science is applied properly, meaning, it’s unbiased, unprejudiced and free from any significant conflicts of interest.
However, this is not the case with most of modern medicine. Instead, the process has been masterfully orchestrated by the drug companies to create a system that gives the perception of science when really it is a heavily manipulated process designed to manipulate and deceive most to use expensive and potentially toxic drugs that benefit the drug companies.
Across the board, drugmakers do an excellent job of publicizing the findings they want you to know, while keeping very quiet about the rest.
As Ullman said:
“One of the things that have come out recently about some of the antidepressant research is that it’s amazing how many studies had negative results but they are almost never published. Only the ones with the positive results are published and according to the FDA, drug companies only need to have two positive studies.
They can have 18 negative studies but if you have just two positive studies, that’s enough for acceptance. That’s a serious problem.”
So even if you read through recent published medical journal studies to determine what the consensus is on any given medical topic, you’ll see an overwhelming preponderance of data in favor of the drug approach that in no way, shape or form reflects the reality of the true scientific investigation or the inquiry that went on about that specific drug.
Even Published Studies are Likely to be Seriously Flawed
Research published in medical journals gets the golden star of approval in the media, yet many, if not most, of the findings are incredibly misleading. One of the best expos`e's into this muddled system came from none other than Dr. Marcia Angell, who was the former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
In her book The Truth about Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It, she exposed many examples of why medical studies often cannot be trusted, and said flat out:
“Trials can be rigged in a dozen ways, and it happens all the time."
For instance, most medical studies only examine a drug’s effect in isolation and for a very short period of time. Its claims of efficacy or safety are therefore null and void if a person intends to take a drug for a longer period or in combination with other drugs, but this faux pas is ignored by the medical community.
As Ullman states:
“The average American is not taking just one drug. They are often on many drugs and people need to know that there simply is very, very little science-- often no science -- behind the use of multiple drugs used concurrently. I mean not only are there problems in terms of the interactions of the drugs.
Most of the science that has been done is with one drug at one time and in fact in many of the psychiatric medications, they’ve only been tested for six weeks.”
Most Research Claims Cannot be Trusted
Back in 2005, Dr. John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Ioannina School of Medicine, Greece, showed that there is less than a 50 percent chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper will be true.
Then, in 2008, Dr. Ioannidis again showed that much of scientific research being published is highly questionable.
According to his study:
“Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true.”
He noted problems with experimental and statistical methods as the main culprits, including factors such as small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias and selective reporting.
The newer study, meanwhile, suggested that economic conditions, such as oligopolies, artificial scarcities and the winner’s curse, are largely to blame for incorrect research.
Because of the way this system runs, journals may be more likely to publish studies that show dramatic results, positive results, or results from “hot” competitive fields. For instance, a Cochrane Collaboration review and analysis of published flu vaccine studies found that flu vaccine studies sponsored by industry are treated more favorably by medical journals even when the studies are of poor quality.
None of this, of course, has anything to do with scientific merit or accuracy
Most “Scientific” Solutions Cover Up Symptoms
The drug-based solutions that medical research intends to “prove” are flawed also by their very nature. They are solutions that simply cover up symptoms, which not only does nothing to address the cause of the problem, but may actually harm you in doing so.
“I’m thoroughly reminded about how a doctor might treat a car if driving in the car and the oil light came on … you can do a double-blinded placebo control trial and show and prove and scientifically verify that unscrewing the bulb will turn off that signal.
And the bottom line is the word ‘symptom’ ultimately is derived from the word signal and our symptoms are just that. They are signaling us and whether you unplug the bulb or turn off a signal with a drug, that’s not fundamentally changing … [or] improving the quality of life of a person.
So sometimes even the best seemingly high quality studies are asking the wrong question. They should be asking, did the symptom go away? They have to be looking at the whole quality of life of the person and not enough research is doing that.”
A classic example of a symptom that should not be “turned off” is a fever. Ullman says:
“During a fevered state, the body naturally increases its white blood cell count and the white blood cells are part of our immune system. So they’re part of our good guys. And during a fevered state, the body naturally then secretes more interferon, which is an antiviral chemical.
If you take any fever lowering agent, you end up having to fight the fever with two hands behind your back. It’s hard to do that. So, fever in fact is a defense.”
“Ultimately, then I like to think that the problem with “scientific” medicine is that it’s not scientific enough. That it’s only looking at parts of the person rather than the whole …That’s a fundamental difference and further to this point, my website, www.homeopathic.com. In homeopathy like in the broad field of natural medicine, we respect symptoms not as simply the problem but symptoms are actually the defenses.
Symptoms are ways our body-mind is trying to defend itself and try and deal with infection, to deal with environmental assault, to deal with stress. So the symptoms actually have wisdom.”
So defining efficacy as “getting rid of symptoms,” as many studies do, is asking the wrong question entirely, and giving similarly flawed results.
Natural Therapies are at a Disadvantage in this Flawed System
That many natural therapies are not “scientifically proven” is often used to unfairly suggest they are not safe or effective. However, were you aware that 85 percent of therapies currently recommended by conventional medicine have never been formally proven either?
Often, it simply is not possible to confine a treatment, especially a multi-faceted approach that natural medicine practitioners often use, into a conventional study.
As Ullman explains:
“One of the things I made clear in my Huffington Post article, Lies, Damn Lies, and Medical Research, was that there is a difference between science and scientism. Scientism is the point of view that understanding information can only be accepted when it’s double blinded placebo controlled.
The problem with that point of view is virtually no surgery is double blinded placebo controlled.
And many of these natural therapies, you can do some double blinded placebo controlled trials but many people that do for instance naturopathic medicine they give some herbs, they give some vitamins, they give you some homeopathics, they give you some manipulation, you can’t do the whole protocol in a double blinded placebo controlled trial.
So we have to respect some part of what’s called empiricism; the empirical use of therapies just as we have empirical use of surgery. So once we have a certain respect for empiricism, what people and what doctors’ experiences are away from double blind studies, we can also respect double blind studies and empirical practice.”
How to Get Solid Information in an Era of Confusion
Ultimately, the take-home message here is that even if a drug or treatment is scientifically proven, it in no way guarantees it is safe or effective. Likewise, if an alternative treatment has not been published in a medical journal, it does not mean it is unsafe or ineffective.
You’ve got to use all the resources available to you, including your own sense of common sense and reason, true experts’ advice and other’s experiences, to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you in any given situation.
Remain skeptical but open -- even if it is something I am saying, you simply need to realize YOU are responsible for your and your family’s health, not me and certainly not drug companies trying to sell their wares and convince you to take dangerous “symptom-coverups” disguised as solutions.
Since it is very well established that most prescribed drugs do absolutely nothing to treat the cause of disease, it would be prudent to exercise the precautionary principle when evaluating ANY new drug claim, as it will more than likely be seriously flawed or biased -- and is most likely not in your or your family’s best long-term interest to take the drug.
If you’re facing a health challenge it is best to identify a natural health consultant. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an MD, a DO, or a licensed physician, just someone who really understands health at a foundational level and has had extensive experience in helping others resolve their health care challenges.
Just make sure to see a competent regular physician to make certain any serious disorders like cancer are ruled out as well.
One of our goals is to actually develop a database that provides a comprehensive resource to help you do this, but it’s literally a year or two away at best.
In the meantime, I suggest you visit your local health food store, which will likely be an invaluable resource. Get to know the people who work there, the owners, and those who frequent the store, and obtain a consensus as to who the best clinician for you is in your area.
Word travels fast in the natural medical community, so if there’s a knowledgeable practitioner in your area that’s getting awesome results, his or her reputation will be known.