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Stay Skeptical

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During the past few months, I’ve been noticing an unusual number of articles and news stories about clinical studies “proving” that a certain alternative therapy (like chiropractic or acupuncture) or nutritional supplement doesn’t really work after all.  Each time a news release like this appears, some people will accept it at face value, canceling their chiropractic appointment or stopping an herb that they actually thought was helping them.

Just to set the record straight on these bits of so-called news:  if you look carefully, you’ll frequently be able to spot a hidden agenda.  Often, the authors of a study “disproving” a supplement are actually receiving research money from the pharmaceutical industry.  In other cases, clinical trials have been performed using inadequate doses of an herb or involving inappropriate patient candidates as a part of the study.  Recent studies bashing saw palmetto, antioxidants, and ginkgo generated angry protests from physicians who not only recommend these supplements regularly to their patients, but take them themselves.

Now a most stunning example comes from the pharmaceutical industry.  Wyeth Labs, stung because women have been abandoning its hormone replacement drug Premarin in droves, is trying to convince the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that compounding pharmacies should be regarded as drug manufacturers and be subjected to the same regulations as the pharmaceutical companies themselves.

Compounding pharmacies are where bioidentical hormones are prepared.  These are the natural hormones, prescribed by physicians and used by hundreds of thousands of women as an alternative to the pharmaceutical industry’s hormone replacement drugs.

From a doctor’s point of view, it’s ridiculous to classify compounding pharmacies as “pharmaceutical manufacturers.”  Pharmacists have been preparing doctors’ prescriptions for centuries, grinding powders and mixing ointments and elixirs.  It’s only during the past few years that pharmacists have essentially become pill dispensers.  Basically, the pharmaceutical industry wants the government to prevent pharmacists from being pharmacists.

If Wyeth’s action is successful, it would simply end women’s access to natural hormones overnight and (again, not surprisingly) force them to consider taking artificial estrogens like Premarin, which is derived from the urine of horses that are deprived of water for days on end in order to intentionally dehydrate them.

So, first: if you read somewhere that an herb allegedly doesn’t work, start up your skeptical radar.  Second: protest this outrageous action by Wyeth at www.womensinternational.com/bhrt.html.

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