Regardless of any other components you choose to include in your plan, use the best tests and diagnostics that western medicine has to offer.
The majority of people in the United States receive most of their healthcare from medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathy (DOs). MDs practice “allopathic” medicine, the most common form of healthcare in the United States and the western world. Allopathic medicine is more commonly called western medicine. When selecting your own approach to maintaining health and treating disease, it is important to understand the basic concepts and philosophy that underlie the western medical approach to treating long-term disease.
Three basic concepts guide the western medical approach to the treatment of disease:
- To understand and eliminate the cause of the disease
- To treat the disease with medicines that have been shown to be effective in controlled, scientific studies and have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- To improve the patient’s quality of life by relieving their symptoms, even if the disease is resistant to therapy
The Goal of Western Medicine
stop disease progression,
relieve the symptoms associated with the disease,
prevent the spread of the disease, and
improve quality of life.
Allopathic medicine is based on an understanding of the causes of disease and eliminating those causes.
Western Medicine excels in the area of testing and diagnostics. The vast majority of individuals in this country who are living with long-term illness received their diagnosis from a doctor practicing western medicine. Regardless of any other components you choose to include in your plan, use the best tests and diagnostics that western medicine has to offer.
Western physicians make decisions about which treatment will be most helpful to their patients based on controlled, scientific studies. This approach is known as evidence-based medicine.
The studies used to gather evidence about what is and is not effective are called clinical trials. In clinical trials, a new drug or treatment is compared to a placebo (an inactive pill or treatment) or to the best currently available therapy. These trials are conducted to avoid the possibility of misinterpreting a patient’s improvement as resulting from a particular treatment when it was actually due to the natural course of the disease, spontaneous improvement, or coincidence.
Most western doctors have had the experience of a new drug or therapy producing almost miraculous results in one person, only to find it to be a total disappointment in many other people. While it is possible that the treatment was the cause of the improvement in these cases, it is more likely that the improvement would have occurred without any therapy. The apparent benefit was a coincidence of timing, that is, the treatment was started just before the person was about to improve on his or her own.
Regardless of who recommends them, we strongly advise our patients to be wary of therapies for which fantastic claims are made if there is no scientific evidence to support the claims.
The Placebo Effect
The placebo effect has many therapeutic implications. Researchers are actively exploring the complexes relationships between the mind and the body in illness and healing. The strength of placebo effect is one of the fundamental reasons western doctors insist on specifically measurable results and carefully controlled trials when evaluating a new therapy.
There is a saying in western medicine that states, “The degree of enthusiasm for a treatment is inversely proportional to the degree to which it has been studied.”
In other words, once new treatments have been studied in a controlled, scientific way, many initially exciting new approaches prove to be ineffective or no better than safer, less expensive therapies.
In these clinical trials, neither the participants nor their doctors know who is taking placebo and who is taking active drug. This is done to eliminate even unintentional bias on the part of the participants or the healthcare providers.
Phase I Trials are essential to determine if a new drug or treatment is safe at the most basic level. In Phase I Trials, researchers test a new drug or treatment in a small group of people for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range, and identify side effects. If a new drug or treatment passes Phase I and is determined to be safe and show some promise, it moves on to a Phase II Trial.
In a Phase II Trial, the drug or treatment is given to a larger group of people to see if it is effective and to further evaluate its safety. If the new drug or treatment is still considered to be safe and has shown evidence that it is effective in treating disease, it will be moved forward to a Phase III trial.
In a Phase III Trial, the drug or treatment is given to an even larger group of individuals to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, and compare it to other commonly used drugs or treatments. If a new drug or treatment successfully passes its Phase III Trial, it can be moved to market and sold to the public. However, studies of the new drug or treatment may be ongoing.
Phase IV Studies are done after the drug or treatment has been marketed to gather information on the drug’s effect in various populations and to determine any side effects associated with long-term use.
(Additional Resource Information on clinical trials can be found at http://clinicaltrials.gov/)
Necessary Caution for all Compounds
The distinction between so-called natural compounds and those that are manufactured is often an artificial one.
Many manufactured drugs are derived from natural sources by taking extracts from plants, living organisms, or other naturally occurring materials. Other manufactured drugs are exact copies of naturally occurring compounds.
Any manufactured drug can have uncomfortable, even sometimes dangerous, side effects. The same holds true for natural drugs. Western doctors consider it wise to regard anything we take into our bodies as potentially dangerous. They look for evidence-based proof not only that a drug is effective, but also that it has been adequately studied to be certain that it is not harmful.
The FDA requires documentation of both safety and usefulness for each newly approved drug. However, the FDA does not evaluate or regulate natural additives, herbal therapies, or dietary supplements. Therefore, you must read the advertisements for such products carefully.
The phrase, “meets all FDA guidelines” does not mean a substance is FDA approved. In fact, the FDA has no guidelines for the use of natural additives, herbal therapies, or dietary supplements.