The Shoddy Science Behind Vaccination

Vaccine Illusion: How Vaccination Compromises our Natural Immunity and What We Can Do to Regain Our Health

Tetyana Obukhanych PhD


Available free from

Book Review

Trained immunologist Tetyana Obukhanych offers an excellent summary of the major flaws in the current body of vaccination research. I wasn’t terribly surprised to learn the field of immunological research is contaminated by the same unscientific dogma and bias as the fields of water fluoridation and nutrition research (see The Role of Western Medicine in the Epidemic of Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease)

Immunological research, like these other areas, is limited by what drug companies and government agencies, such as National Institutes of Mental Health, are willing to fund. At the moment, they refuse to fund experiments that test the current theory of how vaccines work. They also refuse to fund studies on adverse vaccine effects beyond two to three weeks of administration or in the area of naturally acquired immunity.

According to Obukhanych, the limited research evidence that exists suggests that quarantine is probably more effective than vaccination and, along with improved nutrition, is likely responsible for the overall decrease in deadly infectious diseases.

No Double Blind Studies

Her book begins by explaining how tetanus vaccine works – it actually immunizes patients against the toxin produced by Clostridium tetani, rather than the infectious agent itself. The effectiveness of tetanus toxoid has never been subjective to randomized controlled trial (ie double blind study). This would be viewed as unethical as it would leave the control group unprotected against tetanus. Obukhanych mentions a 1984 study revealing Vitamin C to be an effective alternative treatment of tetanus. Vitamin C treatment could be subjected to a randomized controlled trial, but it would be unlikely to receive funding.

Despite the strong pro-vaccine bias in the research community, Obukhanych offers up a number of laboratory and animal studies that challenge the concept of “immunological memory” and other dogma doctors and public health official disseminate about vaccines. She also examines some of the research pointing to the role “adjuvants” (mostly aluminum salts) play in dangerous allergic and autoimmune responses to vaccines.

Debunking Herd Immunity

She goes on to challenge the notion (with research evidence) that vaccinating children at age one and five with the MMR offers them “herd immunity” against measles, mumps and rubella. By definition, heard immunity only exists when 68% of the population has active antibodies against a specific infection. Most serological tests show that the virus neutralizing capacity that develops in response to MMR only lasts 2-5 years. This means the vast majority of adolescents and adults are unprotected.

Even more concerning, women vaccinated against measles at age five no longer pass protection against measles through their breast milk. Obukhanych believes this explains a significant increase in measles encephalitis in infants since 1990.

Obukhanych also devotes a chapter to a detailed scientific explanation of why flu vaccine is no longer protecting patients against influenza.

Trump: Expanding the Parameters of Permissible Debate

Lies Wars and Empire

By Michael Parenti (2007)

In this presentation, Michael Parenti focuses on the science of media manipulation and mass indoctrination. He makes his most important point at the end: mass indoctrination never works perfectly. Spontaneous skepticism tends to be a natural outcome of a steady diet of media propaganda. I suspect this healthy skepticism is a major reason why Trump’s attacks on the corporate media have been so popular – and why counterattacks by US intelligence and the mainstream media have been so savage.

Trump is the highest profile politician to ever publicly challenge the official version of 9-11, the job-killing effects of free trade treaties such as TPP and NAFTA, the threats to democratic process posed by investing power in a private central bank (the Federal Reserve) and the long term safety of America’s multiple vaccination regime in children.

Parenti begins with an explanation why, in most cases, peoples’ beliefs are totally impervious to facts. He reminds us that our perceptions are shaped by a number of factors beyond our control, particularly income, status, background assumptions and disinformation.

He maintains that what passes for objectivity in the mainstream media is really conformity of bias – nearly always in favor of corporate capitalism and the status quo. Owing to this emphasis on conformity, expressing a dissenting viewpoint viewed as a radical activity, mainly because it helps expose and expands the boundaries of permissible debate. Because the corporate media only allows an extremely narrow range of debate, you will never see a open discussion of evidence implicating the government in 9-11 or  the JFK, Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King assassinations.

This lecture examines numerous world events deliberately censored or distorted by the corporate media:

  • The war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic (who died under suspicious circumstances in prison in 2006).
  • The stolen 2004 election (in which election fraud in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida and Arizona wrongly awarded the electoral vote to Bush).*
  • The repeated claim that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 – the Afghan government requested assistance from the Soviets to restore order in the face of a major CIA destablization campaign.
  • Saddam Hussein’s 40-year role as a CIA asset in the coup overthrowing Iraqi prime minister Abd al-Karim Qasim and declaring war on Iran.

*See Stolen Elections

Another Book on the Perils of Corporate Science

hidden half of nature

The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Death

David R Montgomery and Anne Bikle

Book Review

The Hidden Half of Nature explores parallels between the microbiome* (see The Care and Feeding of Gut Bacteria) that inhabits the human intestine and the microbiome surrounding the roots of healthy plants. As in humans, the plant microbiom (aka the rhizosphere) co-evolved with higher plants to perform functions they couldn’t perform for themselves. In other words, the rhizosphere is just essential to plant health and growth as our microbiome is to our own health. Sadly industrial agriculture (particularly synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides) have been just as harmful to the rhizosphere and plant health as the corporatization of food production and medicine has been to the human microbiome and human health.

Montgomery and Bikle describe in elegant detail the research into the rich exudates plants secrete into the soil to attract helpful bacteria and fungi. In turn, the latter produce a broad range of chemicals that promote plant growth, as well as forming a defensive wall of antimicrobial compounds (most antibiotics used in western medicine are derived from these compounds) that protect the plant against pathogens.

This book also traces the history of our scientific understanding of microbes in the development of early vaccines, antibiotics and synthetic fertilizers. Like many important scientific discoveries, the process for manufacturing synthetic nitrogen fertilizer grew out of the war industry. The production of dynamite (ie nitroglycerine) employs the same chemical pathways as the production of synthetic fertilizer. Thus in the lead up to World War II, both the British and the US government required farmers to switch from organic to synthetic fertilizers due to the easy conversion of fertilizer factories to munitions factories and vice versa.

After the war, the heavy use of synthetic fertilizers would lead to the systematic destruction of healthy soil on western farms. As they gradually lost the friendly bacteria that protected them, they because increasingly susceptible to pests and required heavier and heavier use of synthetic pesticides that totally wiped out the rhizosphere.

I was very surprised to learn the basic principles of organic farming were identified in the late 19th century and abandoned due to government and corporate pressure.

The role of probiotics in human health was identified even earlier – when Turkish visitors to the court of France’s Francis I cured him of life threatening diarrhea by offering him some yogurt.

Envoys from the Ottoman Empire were also the first to introduce inoculation to Europe in 1716. Inoculation against infectious diseases was first introduced in the US by African slaves.

How Our Food and Health Systems Are Killing Us

Mask of Deception

Directed by Phillip Rainford and Gail Blundell (2013)

Film Review

Mask of Deception, whose title is somewhat misleading, is best described as an Australian public service documentary about ways our food and health system are killing us. Overall I think viewers will find it useful to have all the major health risks covered in one place.

Unfortunately the film finishes a bit raggedly, with a diffuse attack on the Australian health care system and its long waiting lists, shortage of nurses, and efforts to suppress natural food supplements. The call for civil disobedience at the end seems to come out of nowhere.

Sadly western medicine has grown into an industry dedicated to marketing pharmaceuticals. In a a health system geared towards health promotion and disease prevention, our doctors would be warning us about these health risks instead of handing us prescriptions.

Some of the specific risks (gluten, fluoride, mercury-laden dental amalgam, white sugar, artificial sweeteners, transfats, liquid vegetable oils, vaccinations, mammograms, statins and chemical food additives) mentioned are fairly well covered by Natural News, Dr Mercola and similar natural health sites.

Others are less well known. For example, I was totally unaware of the link between high soy diets (especially for infants on soy formula) and hypothyroidism and type I diabetes.*

*The soy common in Asian diets has been heavily fermented, in some cases 5-7 years, to make it more digestible.

The Anti-Tuberculosis Vaccine Americans Never Heard Of

TV ward

TB Ward

One side of the vaccine controversy Americans are extremely unlikely to hear about concerns the safest, cheapest and most widely used vaccine in the world – against tuberculosis (TB). Every country in the world, except the US and the Netherlands (where TB is extremely rare), uses or has used the TB vaccine (known as Bacillus Calmette Guerin or BCG) in public vaccination programs. The BCG controversy was my first introduction (in 1971) to the US government propensity to engage in conspiracies and cover-ups. This happened during my second year of medical school, in the TB module taught by University of Wisconsin infectious disease researcher Dr Donald Smith. Smith had grave concerns about disadvantaged US communities with high rates of tuberculosis infection, as well as the nurses and doctors who looked after them.

Prior to World War II, TB epidemics infected industrialized countries at levels comparable to the current rate of clinical depression. Roughly one out of three families had at least one family member who had died of TB or been sent to a TB sanatorium. Once a leading cause of death in the US, TB is very much a disease of poverty. Healthy subjects can carry the tubercular bacillus for years and only develop active illness if poor nutrition – or stress – lowers their natural immune state (see

With the post World War II boom and vastly improved nutrition and living standards, the incidence of TB declined drastically in industrialized countries. However in the large disadvantaged urban centers that characterize US society, rates of TB infection continue at pre-World War II rates. This is of particular concern with the emergence of “drug resistant” TB, related to a surge of new cases in AIDS and other immune-compromised patients.

History of the BCG

Albert Calmette and Camille Guerin first began work on the BCG vaccine at the Pasteur Institute in 1908. They developed their vaccine from the bacillus that produces bovine tuberculosis, based on Edward Jenner’s discovery that vaccinating people with “cowpox” produced immunity against smallpox, a far more virulent disease. The BCG was first used in humans in 1921. In 1928 the Health Committee of the League of Nations (precursor to WHO) recommended its use in mass immunization campaigns to prevent TB.

There was strong opposition to the vaccine, particularly in the US and Britain, which delayed global acceptance till after World War II. It was first widely used in Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1948. The vaccination of eight million babies with BCG prevented the anticipated TB epidemic, which always accompanies the massive poverty and deprivation that occurs when a society’s economic and social infrastructure is destroyed by war. The BCG’s success in war torn Eastern Europe led Britain to begin using it in 1953. Between 1956-63, they enrolled 54,239 children in a randomized controlled study, in which BCG proved 84% effective in preventing TB.

More recent studies show that BCG is much less effective in preventing pulmonary (lung) tuberculosis in the third world, where patients are often too malnourished to develop sufficient antibodies to give them full protection. However the BCG is still widely used in India and other third world countries, owing to its efficacy in preventing fatal complications of TB, when it spreads to the brain, liver, spleen and other vital organs

How the US “Prevents” TB

Sadly the vast majority of Americans – including many doctors – are unaware there is a safe, effective and inexpensive vaccine, called BCG, that greatly reduces the rate and severity of new tuberculosis cases. Unlike most other countries in the world, the US continues to resist the use of BCG to check spread of TB in our inner cities. Instead the CDC recommends routine skin testing (known as the Mantoux or PPD) of high risk groups. A patient who has been exposed to the tubercular bacillus (mycobacterium tuberculosis) has a positive reaction. They are then given four to nine months of drug treatment.

Most African American health providers over fifty are well aware of the benefits BCG. TB, more than any other chronic illness, is linked with poverty and poor nutrition. African American nurses I worked with in Seattle community clinics used to bootleg BCG from Canada to immunize high risk African American children.

As I mention above, I first learned about BCG at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, from infectious disease researcher, Dr Donald Smith.. Owing to massive bureaucratic bungling (combined with an unclear amount of sleaze, graft and cover-up), American health professionals have always had great difficulty accessing effective BCG vaccine. As of 1971, the only really effective vaccines were made in Denmark and Prague and had to be imported. Smith was so concerned about our risk of contracting TB from patients that he ordered BCG from Denmark, offering it to all 107 of us for $2 apiece.

According to Smith, the American vaccine, known as BCG-Tice, was notoriously ineffective in preventing TB in both animals and humans (see Why Not Vaccinate, Three Different BCGs, Differences in Biological Activity, and Efficacy and Applicability). It was a story I was to hear often about researchers and drug company CEOs with powerful friends in Washington. Rather than acknowledging the Tice vaccine was useless and importing Danish or Prague BCG, the Centers for Disease Control gave their blessing to the use of Tice in their two largest American trials (in Georgia and Alabama), trumpeting the abysmal results as “proof” that BCG is useless in preventing tuberculosis.

The Influence of Big Pharma

In The People’s Health: Public Health in Australia, 1950 to the Present, Milton James Lewis (The Peoples’ Health) also blames the growing influence of powerful pharmaceutical companies in US resistance to BCG. Thanks to Big Pharma’s aggressive marketing efforts, the US saw a major shift in the mid-1950s away from public health to “curative” medicine based on drug treatment.

As a long time single payer advocate, I also see a more sinister racial and class bias underlying this shift. In the US, which has consistently opposed publicly funded medical care, curative medicine is only an option for patients with the financial means to pay for it. Meanwhile public (i.e. government-funded) health measures, aimed at the poor and disadvantaged, are always the first on the chopping block at budget cutting time.

The CIA’s Medical Manhattan Project

dr mary's monkey

Dr. Mary’s Monkey

Edward T. Haslam (2007 TrineDay)

Book Review

How the unsolved murder of a doctor, a secret laboratory in New Orleans and cancer-causing monkey viruses are linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK assassination and an emerging cancer epidemic

Dr Mary’s Monkey provides a detailed history of how the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines administered to three million baby boomers were accidentally contaminated with a cancer causing monkey virus known as Simian Virus 40 (SV-40). It also describes the massive cover-up initiated by the American Cancer Society and National Institutes of Health (NIH), which encouraged doctors to continue administering the contaminated vaccine.

The book skillfully interweaves the history of SV-40 with new information about Lee Harvey Oswald’s intelligence career released under the 1992 JFK Records Collection Act. Haslam focuses considerable attention on David Ferrie, a CIA pilot and Oswald’s long time friend and mentor. It’s believed that Ferrie first recruited Oswald to the CIA when he joined Ferrie’s Civil Air Patrol troop as a high school student.

Why Did Ferrie Keep Hundreds of Mice?

Haslam’s memoir clears up a mystery that has troubled assassination researchers for nearly 40 years – namely the discovery, by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, that Ferrie was performing medical research on hundreds of mice in his apartment

Dr Mary’s Monkey also relies on police reports, Freedom of Information Act records and the secret files of ex-FBI agent Guy Bannister (who played a key role with Oswald and Ferrie in a secret CIA program involving anti-Castro emigres), as well interviews with scientific and medical experts and acquaintances of orthopedist Dr Mary Sherman*, who was conducting secret SV-40 research at Tulane at the time of her apparent murder.

SV-40**  and the Current Cancer Epidemic

SV-40, the monkey virus Dr. Mary Sherman and Ferrie were experimenting with, was first discovered in 1957. Originally known as “polyoma virus” (referring to its ability to cause multiple of tumors in mice), it was first identified by Drs Bernice Eddy and Sarah Stuart at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 1960 Eddy discovered that the monkey kidney cells used to prepare the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines were contaminated with SV-40.

Instead of withdrawing the vaccine, the NIH destroyed Eddy’s career. A year later two other virologists replicated Eddy’s findings, and two polio vaccine manufacturers voluntarily withdrew their vaccine. Although NIH reportedly took steps to ensure that batches coming to market after 1963 were SV-40-free, they allowed doctors to inoculate a million more children (worldwide) with contaminated vaccine.

The New Orleans Medical “Manhattan Project”

Haslam believes the top secret experiments Sherman, Ferrie and Baker conducted in 1963 involved irradiating SV-40 virus with a linear accelerator, with the intention of a creating a biological warfare agent. Their hope was to create a mutated virus that would cause a “galloping cancer” that would kill its victim within weeks. It was Ferrie’s job to sacrifice the mice, dissect the tumors and identify and extract viruses that seemed the most virulent.

Sherman was working under the direction of Dr Alton Ochsner, a staunch anticommunist and known FBI and CIA asset. Freedom of Information act records reveal the FBI released him in 1959 to take a “sensitive position” at Tulane. The position, Haslam believes, involved running a kind of medical Manhattan Project to create cancer causing viruses. Ochsner’s stated mission was to find a vaccine against SV-40, presumably to prevent an epidemic of soft tissue cancers in children exposed to SV-40 via the polio vaccine. Numerous documents and witness statements suggest the true intention was to create a cancer causing virus for use in the assassination of Fidel Castro.

Oswald (on both the CIA and FBI payroll in 1963) comes into the story as a chaperone for Judyth Baker, a 19 year old girl genius who was assisting Sherman and Ferrie in their experiments. According to Haslam, Oswald was also the courier assigned to smuggle the fatal virus into Cuba. This meant Baker had to train him to look after the special culture medium that kept it alive.

Although Haslam’s original intention was to identify Dr Mary Sherman’s killer, in the end he concludes she most likely died from accidental electrocution while operating the high voltage linear accelerator. The top secret nature of her biological warfare research made it essential to conceal the circumstances of her death. Thus her body was massively mutilated (to make it look like a sex crime) secretly removed to her apartment.

*A Farewell to Justice by Joan Mellen confirms Sherman’s role in secretive experiments at Tulane, in which viruses were bombarded with a linear accelerator.

**Haslam devotes an entire chapter to the likely role SV-40 exposure, via the polio vaccine, has likely played in the current epidemic of soft tissue cancers. He cites National Cancer Institute Data showing a 50% increase between 1973 and 1988 in skin, lymphoma, prostate and breast cancer.

The SV-49 Foundation maintains a website devoted to the collation of SV-40 research. Except for a rare cancer known mesothelioma and a type of brain cancer, the official position of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is “more research is needed” to establish a definitive link between SV-40 and human cancers.


Mainstreaming Natural Health Care

health care

(This is the 3rd of four posts on the effectiveness of “natural” or “alternative” health care.)

Third Party Coverage

Presently Germany, which has publicly guaranteed health care for all its citizens, is the only country to offer “natural” health care on a par with western medicine. However even in the US, where most health care funding is private, an increasing number of insurance companies offer coverage for “natural” or “alternative” health care. There is usually a requirement these services be offered in conjunction with traditional or “allopathic” care. The jargon used for these mixed mainstream-alternative health models is “complementary” or “integrative” medicine. Most insurance companies require that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers be represented by a professional body with a formal accreditation process. There is also an expectation 1) that the accreditation body will establish clear treatment standards and 2) that all funding will be evidence and outcome-based. In other words, CAM providers must demonstrate a treatment actually works to be eligible for funding.

Some analysts are projecting that insurance coverage for natural health care will be even easier to access under Obamacare – at least for patients who can afford the higher premiums of silver, gold, and platinum plans. The uninsured and patients locked into Medicaid or bare bones bronze plans will be out of luck.

Natural Health Databases

The requirement for natural health services to be “evidence based” has led to the creation of a number of natural health research databases. Three of the most popular are the Mayo Clinic Alternative Medicine database, the NIH Complementary and Alternative Medicine database, and the Cochrane Complementary Medicine database.

The Mayo Clinic is a world famous “mainstream” medical center in Minnesota. Their database is by far the most comprehensive and user-friendly. The following statement on their home page summarises their philosophy:

“Exactly what’s considered complementary and alternative changes constantly as treatments undergo testing and move into the mainstream.”

The site provides up-to-date research summaries on a broad range of alternative treatment approaches. For example, here is what they have to say about aromatherapy:

Research on the effectiveness of aromatherapy — the therapeutic use of essential oils extracted from plants — is limited. However, some studies have shown that aromatherapy might have health benefits, including:

  • Relief from anxiety and depression
  • Improved quality of life, particularly for people who have chronic health conditions

Essential oils used in aromatherapy are typically extracted from various parts of plants and then distilled. The highly concentrated oils may be inhaled directly or indirectly or applied to the skin through massage, lotions or bath salts. Aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system — the part of the brain that controls emotions.

Many essential oils have been shown to be safe when used as directed. However, essential oils used in aromatherapy aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. When applied to the skin, side effects may include allergic reactions, skin irritation and sun sensitivity. In addition, further research is needed to determine how essential oils might affect children and how the oils might affect women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, as well as how the oils might interact with medications and other treatments.

I find the NIH and Cochrane databases less helpful. Both seem quite biased towards mainstream medicine and randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Many alternative treatment methods don’t lend themselves to RCTs because it’s virtually impossible to provide “sham” treatment (e.g. sham acupuncture, cupping, or aromotherapy) for the placebo group. Both NIH and Cochrane ignore the abundance of crossover design CAM studies in which the patient serves as their own control. In these studies, treatment is withdrawn once a clear response is established. It’s then reintroduced when symptoms recur.

photo credit: thetexastribune via photopin cc

How Natural Health Care Affects Genes

yoga yoga

 (This is the 2nd of 4 posts regarding the effectiveness of “natural” or “alternative” health care.)

The Wall Street Journal article I mentioned in my last post also mentions other research into the mechanism by which plant-based diets, yoga, and meditation halt or even reverse the progression of prostate cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and other chronic conditions. One study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, provides evidence that only a few months of similar “natural” treatments permanently alters gene expression. It describes how genes associated with cancer, heart disease, and inflammation were downregulated or “turned off,” while protective genes were upregulated or “turned on.” Another study published in The Lancet Oncology reported that these changes also increased telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens the telomeres at the ends of our chromosomes. Telomeres control how long we live. No prescription medication has ever been shown to do this.

Popularity of Natural Health Care

A recent Discovery Channel special revealed that 40% of Americans employ use some form of “natural” medicine. At their website, they list the ten most common, in order of popularity, along with general comments about documented benefits and potential risks:

1. Natural supplements and herbal medicines – benefits best supported by research evidence include omega 3 for heart disease, arthritis, and depression; garlic for cholesterol reduction; and ginseng for heart disease. In the US, quality control can be a major issue with natural and herbal supplements, as they aren’t regulated and may contain heavy metals and other toxins. In New Zealand, the Natural Health and Supplementary Products Bill (awaiting its third reading) would establish standards for quality, strength, and purity.

2. Acupuncture – has the strongest evidence base, not only for pain relief, but to improve immunity and alleviate a range of chronic conditions. These are summarised in a recent  World Health Organisation report. Some of the most common conditions that respond to acupuncture include rhinitis* (works better than antihistamines), sinusitis, asthma, irritable syndrome, hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol, menstrual cramps, migraine, menopausal symptoms, and stroke recovery (restores limb function).

3. Spinal manipulation (chiropractic) – also has a growing evidence base of effectiveness in chronic pain and other chronic illnesses.

4. Meditation – research supports effectiveness in treatment of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.

5. Therapeutic massage – strong evidence base for therapeutic benefit in cancer, HIV, fibromyalgia, and other chronic pain conditions.

6. Ayurveda – an ancient Indian method of healing which shows promise as a way to boost memory and focus, though research into this approach is extremely limited. Some supplements used in this approach can contain heavy metals or cause dangerous interactions with prescription medication.

7. Guided imagery – demonstrated effectiveness in depression, anxiety, and pain.

8. Yoga – studies show that regular yoga practice reduces stress, eases depression, helps control high blood pressure and diabetes symptoms, helps reduce inflammation and asthma symptoms, reduce back pain, and improve heart function.

9. Hypnosis –  shows promise for stress relief, pain management, headaches, dental pain and childbirth.

10. Homeopathy – very limited research base because the individualized treatments used make it hard to generate meaningful statistics.

*runny nose

To be continued.

photo credit: asterix611 via photopin

Natural Health Care: the Research Evidence


Politics Masquerading as Science

(This is the 1st of four posts on the effectiveness of “natural” or “alternative” health care.)

I find it ironic how eager mainstream doctors are to condemn natural health treatments for not being “evidence-based.” Especially when Western medicine can produce little or no scientific evidence regarding the long term effectiveness and safety of many of their treatments. This is particularly true of heart surgery and immunization protocols. We operate on hearts and vaccinate kids for reasons that have nothing to do with scientific evidence. At the same time, we hold “natural” or “alternative” health providers to a much higher standard of proof. This is for complex political reasons that have given organized medicine and Big Pharma a virtual monopoly over health and healing. It has nothing to do with science.

The Myth of Evidence-Based Medicine

Doctors seem to forget that most common Western remedies were incorporated into the medical armamentarium centuries ago without any “proof” whatsoever of their effectiveness or safety. There were no randomized controlled trials when doctors began using digitalis for heart failure, morphine for pain, or sudafed for nasal congestion. All, like many other drugs, are plant-based treatments* originally used by midwives and herbalists (women the Catholic Church condemned as “witches”).

It was only when pharmaceutical companies began to develop synthetics substitutes that drugs were subjected to randomized control trials. Likewise, the long term outcome of many surgical interventions is never studied before they are rushed into the marketplace. A recent Wall Street Journal article examines the cost effectiveness of two common cardiac procedures – coronary angioplasty and coronary bypass surgery.

According to the article, in 2006 American surgeons performed 1.3 million coronary angioplasties at an average cost of $48,399 each – at a total cost of more than $60 billion. The same year they performed 448,000 coronary bypass operations at a cost of $99,743 each – at a total of more than $44 billion.

Despite these costs, a randomized controlled trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that angioplasties and stents don’t prolong life or even prevent heart attacks in stable patients (i.e. 95% of patients who receive them). Likewise coronary bypass surgery prolongs life in less than 3% of cases.

The Bias Against Natural Health Care

The authors ask:  Why do Medicare and health insurance companies pay billions of dollars for dangerous, expensive, and largely ineffective heart surgeries – yet balk at paying for “natural” approaches that have proven to reverse and prevent the chronic diseases that account for at least 75% of health care costs (INTERHEART study, The Lancet, Sept 2004)?

Good question.

*Below are just a few common medicines based on ancient plant-based treatments:

  • Aspirin
  • Atropine
  • Curare
  • Theobromine
  • Taxo
  • Scopolamine
  • Reserpine
  • Quinjidine
  • Quinine
  • Papavarine
  • Physostigmine
  • Papain
  • L-dopa
  • Hyoscyamine

(To be continued.)


photo credit: SuperFantastic via photopin cc