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Alternative therapies in the news

An interview on Radio National discussing alternative therapies is worth a listen. You can download it here.

Trying to compare the dangers of herbs and natural therapies with that of pharmaceuticals beggars belief. A study published in JAMA in 1998 found that in 1994, an estimated 2,216,000 hospitalised patients had serious adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and 106,000 had fatal ADRs, making these reactions between the fourth and sixth leading cause of death in the US. Closer to home, here in Australia this article in The Age refers to a recent report that put the annual deaths from hospital errors at 4550 per year and one is six patients experience an adverse event such as hospital-borne infections, medication mix-ups, drug side-effects and patient falls.  You could rest assured that if there was one death from alternative or complimentary therapy, which would be a tragedy, it would be front page news and the lead story on every media outlet in the country.

Why are alternative therapies growing?
Well one reason is more of the educated public are growing weary of the side effects of drugs and that in general they only address the symptoms and rarely the cause. Pharmaceutical companies put their research dollars into products that need to be consumed regularly for the rest of your life to receive a health benefit rather than looking for a cure or to address the cause, statin drugs are a case in point.  
Another reason is that there are times when evidence based practice simply does not work. This is when skilled practitioners who think outside the square are called upon and while their remedies might not work all the time, they work enough to make the associated costs, inconveniences, effort and harms worthwhile.

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