Monday, 3 March 2014

What has gone wrong?

Evidence Based Medicine is the current mantra of pharmaceutical medicine but there are problems when all of the evidence is created by industry. Natural medicines are held to the spotlight because of lack of a scientific evidence base, but the safety issues are of herbal medicines pale into insignificance compared with chemicals in drugs. By design the drugs block or overwhelm our normal body chemistry. By definition, there is no history of previous exposure to new drugs, and they are designed to have a big impact because too small an impact will not be clinically significant on a short trial typical for Randomised Controlled Clinical trials.

There are systematic problems with using the results of drug company research as a sole basis for making decisions about drugs as presented by Peter Doshi as he outline the Tamiflu story in this video. The Cochrane Database is recognized for its rigour as an independent assessments of evidence, but as you can see that is only an independent assessment of ‘available’ evidence:

We have stockpiled billions of Euros/Dollars on this product, how many Stroke Rehab facilities, or Community nurses could have been funded by this tax payers contribution to drug company profits.

There are clinical trials validating the use of herbal remedies for influenza, particularly Elderberries.
‘Symptoms were relieved on average 4 days earlier and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo. Elderberry extract seems to offer an efficient, safe and cost-effective treatment for influenza. These findings need to be confirmed in a larger study’[1].

‘In conclusion, elderberry juice (CJ+E) had a favorable effect on the control of influenza virus infection, the fraction containing high molecular weigh compounds seemed to play an important role in the anti-influenza effect’.[2]

Now we know that elderberries have been part of the human diet for thousands of years, that is no guarantee that rare unpredictable allergic responses are not possible or that it is certain not to affect modern drugs, but the chances of the first is rare and most interactions are somewhat predictable on evaluation of the known constituents of elderberries.

Herbs can only be recommended on the basis of modern research. The budget for this research is minimal and the premise is often one of exaggerated danger rather than open minded consolidation of existing empirical or observed benefit (often over thousands of years).

[1] Journal of International Medical Research April 2004 vol. 32 no. 2 132-140
[2] International Medical Research April 2004 vol. 32 no. 2 132-140

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