I read Paul A. Offit M.D.’s book, Do You Believe In Magic? in which he takes on Dr. Oz and Andrew Weil among others. Dr. Offit argues that alternative medicine is fine until it crosses certain lines. If a practitioner advises against a conventional medicine treatment that might save a life such as chemotherapy for cancer or insulin for diabetes then that is wrong. Another example of alternative medicine gone wrong is when the cost is astronomical. Patients and their families are very vulnerable when they receive a devastating diagnosis. They will pay anything for unproven therapies that offer some hope. Examples of less expensive alternative treatments are amber necklaces for teething and plastic bracelets (with metal discs) to improve coordination. Any benefit from these is due the placebo effect.
I have noticed a lot of families buy expensive vitamin supplements for their children. It seems that their money would be better spent on a gym membership, college savings or a nice vacation. But that is a personal decision.
Vaccines have been under attack ever since I started practicing pediatrics in 2000. First it was the MMR accused of causing autism. Next it was the preservative thimerosol which was supposedly to blame. Oprah, Jenny McCarthy and others helped to frighten millions of new parents about vaccines. Fortunately it seems most families recognize that those earlier claims are false; however many still think that we give too many vaccines to our children. I worry when parents choose not give certain vaccines or “miss” appointments for their well child visits thus falling behind on their vaccines.
Doctors, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, nurses and scientists need to do a better job of promoting rational medical treatments. If history has taught us anything it is that careful reasoning and science are our hope for the future.
P.S. Buy Dr Paul A. Offit’s book. It will cost you less than a bottle of magic pills.