Letter: Alternative health

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Marcia Angell and Jerome Kassirer choose two categories of medicine: that which has been adequately tested and that which has not .

But for those of us on the non-expert receiving end, there are two far more important categories - that which works and that which does not, or, if it does work, goes on to produce side-effects more grisly than the original condition for which it was prescribed.

It has to be said that many people turn to alternatives after conventional medicine has failed them, particularly in the notoriously difficult areas of asthma, eczema, arthritis and compromise of the auto-immune system.

Before we consign alternative therapies to the trash can, perhaps we should ask the New England Journal of Medicine, to carry out two further investigations.

Bearing in mind that a GP prescribes powerful drugs every day, how long on average does an undergraduate doctor spend learning about pharmaceuticals and the skills of drug prescription? As a result, how much power do drug companies subsequently wield over the prescription pad?


Thriplow, Cambridge