Anonymous asked in HealthAlternative Medicine · 1 decade ago

Why would some say that Alternative Medicine is not "evidence" based?

The Homeopathy, Naturopathy and Chiropractic practices are within the scope of Alternative Medicine. Logically, there's a school for such health practices like in Canada and it's very legal. There's even an "Alternative Medicine Research Institute Canada". So why the blame for "non-evidence"???

13 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    When I started visiting YA, I noticed "not evidence based" was brought up a lot to attack alternative medicine, and given the context of the term and how it was used, I assumed the term was mostly designed to be an emotional attack phrase lacking substance. So as you would guess, next I went to look it up. I found that even within the circles who use the term, it's not accurately (and consistently) defined, and the "validity" of the mentality isn't agreed upon either.

    To over simplify the term though, you could term it "stuff which does not have repeatedable double blind studies supporting it is not evidence based medicine (and hence bad)."

    I feel there are a couple big holes in this train of logic. The practical/capitalist side of it, and the philosophical half.

    First and foremost, double blind studies are expensive to do, as "honest as the people who carried them out," and subject to being dismissed if their results are not liked, or more are put out which show things differently. A practical consequence of this has been that with various toxic chemicals marketed to consumers, the companies developing them published misleading "objective double blind studies" to get their drugs approved (FDA doesn't test, they just use results given by the producers most of the time), and that when other groups publish studies (due to their being enough of a problem that they can amass the funding) shown proving they are bad (which is the only way this can be awknowldged since anything besides acceptable scientific studies are dismissed), the body with more funds just pumps out a few more to descredit the original party.

    So practicaly, the need for expensive double blind studies to prove matters of health results in their being a massive bias or favoritism to parties with large ammounts of funds. Alternative medicine does not have this, so as a result, they do not have as many studies.

    Secondly, you could say this is a product of the industrial revolution and the western adoption of modern science. Simply put, there was a belief that by studying and analyzing systems and applying the new scientific knowledge, it would become possible to reinivent old processes, and apply a scientific systematization to them to make them more efficient and objectively perfect (aka assembly line production instead of craftsmen producing an item). In my opinion this reductionist (break things, including their creation into their parts, and then pick the best one available) approach initally created great gains, but overtime had many problems manifest as well (this parallel often comes up in environmental science when the green revolution is explained, initially it spiked food production, but now there are lots of problems, and it's considered to be worse than it's predecessor).

    In "scientific medicine" a need exists for something like double blind trials to prove something "objectively works" so that curing a disease can be broken down into a series of things done to a patient based of existing data to cure them.

    Alternative medicine ascribes to a different model, which is much more variable and requires a lot of consideration to be taken about the patient in each case, and hence double blind studies become less central to the concept.

    Additionally, going with this idea, a lot of health practices that alternative people do (especially energy manipulation) cannot really be done in a double blind manner, they require the person doing them to focus on the person.

    Since a lot of what is done in alternative medicine either does not make sense to western medicine or goes against financial interests, it will be slandered, and the term evidence based is just the most commonly chosen one. When studies come along, they are normally dismissed and ignored.

    In short I'd say the term evidence based is just a term which implies the negation is worthless, but doesn't have much actually going for it. When homeopathy was created, conventional medicine was based around swallowing mercury and letting blood out, but when homeopathy provided an alternative that actually worked and cured the disease which only treatments like blood letting had previously existed for, it spread like wildfire, and before long had colleges teaching it based in the US. By the definition of evidence based we are currently using, this result is not evidence based. By the same token, you could say chinese medicine which has existed in china and improved over 1000's of years (since over there, doctors were only payed if they cured their patients, and hence had to actually do the job and gradually improve, whereas over here you pay regardless of it it works) is not "evidence based".

    Lastly, I'd like to leave you with an example that I believe sums a lot of this up. A (very scientifically sound) study was done which showed that if a group of people in one country prayed for a group of people in another country recovering from operations, there was a stastically significant increase in their recovery rate. This study has been mostly ignored, occasionally attacked (although not that much since there was nothing in the procedure it followed that could be pointed out as a flaw, along with it being reproduced), and any treatment involving intention or prayer is still regarded as quackery and evidence based medicine (or possibly placebo...although that counter argument doesn't really adress the people recovering did not even know they were being prayed for).

    Sorry for the long answer, but I hope that answers your question well! I've been meaning to put this into writing for a while, so thank for giving me somewhere to do it :P

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    "Evidenced Based" is a major buzzword in Chiropractic circles these days, and some groups try to claim that everything they do is evidenced based while everybody else is not (with little or no proof) usually due to some further study in neurology they have completed usually through their own organization.

    The fact is there is a large amount of evidence for Chiropractic care (Manga study, Australian, Swedish and British Studies and the Rand Study), so to say Chiropractic is not evidenced based is to ignore, well, the evidence.

    Double blind studies are not always foolproof, as seen by the large amount of medicines that get FDA approval after these studies and then are promptly pulled off the shelves because they turn out not to work as advertised or to harm large numbers of people.

    In my opinion the claims from many alt-med quarters are dubious at best, and the danger is they will distract people from getting the real treatment they actually need.

    People should always look for some sort of evidence for any treatment they are receiving. There are certainly no lack of crackpots and money-grubbers in my profession, and if anybody's recommendations don't seem right to you, or you are being given the hard sell, get another opinion elsewhere, or call the State Chiropractic board to check the status of the office. All the best.

    Source(s): Chiropractor, 11 years.
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Everything everyone said above is true, but I will make a different point. Mainstream medicine really isn't all that evidence based either. Many things they do, they do it because that is how they were taught, they don't know anything better to do, etc. This is why there is a huge push towards "Evidence Based Medicine." Medical doctors recognize that there is a lack of quality evidence in many of the treatments they perform. Chiropractic also is trying to research it's own evidence. The CCGPP is one such group that is going through all of the evidence for what chiropractors treat, and coming up with a "Best Practice"Guideline.

    One thing to remember in Health Care is that if all we did was limited to what there is evidence for, no one would do anything. People would go to there doctor only to be told they were sick. What we are striving for in the chiropractic field is to be Evidence Based, but not Evidence Limited.

    Source(s): Chiropractor
  • 1 decade ago

    I like alternative medicine, but here's why people say that: you have to be able to perform rigorously, scientifically controlled trials in order to say something is evidence-based.

    So, with homeopathy for example, you have to have 100 people with some illness, control the type and amount of remedy they take, and see that they have some degree of improvement over the same period of time. Then you have to repeat this experiment with others in similar conditions and have the same results with them.

    The medial industry doesn't experiment much on these drugs. Acupuncture is somewhat evidence-based; there is research to show that it works. So, they're coming around.

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  • 1 decade ago

    Ignorance is the main issue. Most people who claim these things as not backed by evidence have never read a research paper in their life. Show me someone who has actually read the New England Journal of Medicine or can actually tell you the "evidence" for the efficacy of a drug like Fosamax based on the published data...

    The other issue is political. The AMA was calling Chiropractic "quackery" until the chiros rejected the offer to join the AMA in the late 1800s. Osteopaths do something similar in nature to chiropractic, but they did join the AMA so they're not put in a negative light through the misinformation campaigns.

    Source(s): Certified Nutritional Educator and Wellness Coach, ANA Member of the American International Association of Nutritional Education (AIANE) Member Coalition for Natural Health
  • 1 decade ago

    You have it turned around. The moment there is evidence that something works, it is no longer alternative. Alternative medicine is a wastebasket of things no one could, or bothered to, demonstrate as effective. Duct tape for warts is the latest alternative treatment that crossed over to real medicine, and I don't think Home Depot sponsored that study!

  • 1 decade ago

    Hi Boyet, you are getting a wide range of replies, I think I'll mark this question as "interesting" because of the replies you are getting.

    I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis 10 years ago and prior to my diagnosis I felt comfortable with my health care. That all changed with this diagnosis and the doctors insistance that diet had nothing to do with this illness, which is why no doctor even asked about my diet, exercise or anything that might lead me to recovery.

    After my diagnosis I came to realize how much doctors tend to "keep us ignorant" on anything outside of medication. I was lucky, I had a doctor who, although he believed I was crazy, put up with me and listened. He answered all my questions even when he didn't know the answer, he did research and got back to me. I did what he suggested, it didn't work over a long period of time then I continued, but added things that I wanted and shared with him all that I was doing.

    Over time, and after trying sooo many things I recovered. I say I was lucky because the doctor I had quit telling me that I was wasting my time and started to try to support me in my quest to recover.

    Let's skip 10 years to now, my doctor retired and I have a new doctor who has decided that although I was diagnosed with RA by an Internist, recieved treatment from my Family Doctor and Rheumatologist for 2 years on a regular basis using the MEDS that are generally used for RA and not responding well, then recovering using COMMON SENSE and a healthy lifestyle, this doctor claims my diagnosis must have been incorrect because I'm not "whining" and havent' been in for treatment for over 2 years.

    The internist who diagosed me saw me one night at a party and he commented about how great I looked, what med worked. When I told him what I was doing he asked if my doctors were telling others about this, I replied, well NO, they claim there is no SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE to prove what I'm doing will work.

    His reply........what scientific evidence is there for many of the meds used in RA, most were developed and used for other diseases and patients noticed an improvement in their RA so it became mainstream.

    I'm so tired of hearing there is no scientific evidence.

    The FDA does all they can to keep us just barely alive, as evidenced by the foods that are allowed to be sold, they are poison! Example, anything containing Aspartame.

    The FDA closes down nutritional companies because they make false claims.......generally it's a person who has had a fabulous result that makes the claim, however, just watch the TV ads and look at the false claims made on medication, yet they are allowed.

    Do no harm! That's one of the first rules of medicine, yet it's the first rule that is broken.

    My son, presenting with a Urinary Tract Infection and constipation was told by the above mentioned doctor that there is NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that we should drink 8 ounces of water a day.........So, I realize we can live with less, but shouldn't we be trying to achieve ultimate health.....This is a kid that had a UTI and constipation, both would benefit from more fluid.

    Evidence based is of no value as long as false evidence is being presented, which is obviously the case, all we need to do is look at the number of medications that have just recently had to be pulled from the market........the facts were known all along but the bottom line is there was too much money in these drugs to hold them off the market.

    Sorry for the very long reply, this is an area where I am very passionate because most of what I do is not would be considered, not scientifically tested and yet I am healthy and strong, able to maintain an active lifestyle again without need for all the toxic medications I was previously on.

  • 1 decade ago

    This is coming from people who make lots of money selling drugs that are monstrously more dangerous than herbal medicine. They are simply attacking their competition, it has nothing to do with concern for your health. The hypocrisy is unbelievable. The FDA allows these, proved to be deadly drugs, to be on the market because people in the FDA have stock in the drug companies. That is what is called a conflict of interest.

  • 1 decade ago

    Actually, what I find funny is everyone claiming that they don't do "scientific method" researching on things like this when the Touch Institute out of Miami, FL (I apologize, it could be called the Institite of Touch as well) does do those testing on alternative therapies. They post all of their abstracts online with their control group, their test group, how many people, etc etc etc. So...yeah. The information is out there if people want it. Those who blame it for non-evidence could just not want to accept it and no matter what evidence you provide, they still won't accept it and find something else to blame. Like who was performing the research or something. Sometimes there's just people that won't agree with you, and that goes with anyhing out there. *shrugs* Frustrating, but you can't "make" people believe in something they don't want to. That's just how it goes.

    Source(s): alternative practicioner
  • 1 decade ago

    All the prior answers bring up many excellent points, but the main reason was(emphasis) because most of the treatments were based on trial and error, not on methodical scientific testing, with many of the best having worked for so long, they were accepted as fact. Alternative and allopathic medicine each have their place, but be very well informed on the pros and cons.A placebo(fake) treatment many times brings about the desired results without any explanation.Many of the alternative treatments have now been scientifically verified(i.e.-garlic to fight infections(found to contain sulfur compounds that kill bacteria)). Our mental conditioning alters brain chemistry which often enhances death, healing, or illness.The problem arises when people attempt to create the illusion that one treatment is a cure-all for everything or for conditions where the treatment will not work or delays life-saving procedures. Many conditions often respond to many treatments, alternative or otherwise. Visit, my website.

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