Letter: Trendy but untested

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The Independent Online
EDWARD PLATT ("The dreaming", Review, 28 March) correctly reported my scepticism about Ibogaine in addiction treatment. This is partly because as a medical student, I was encouraged to be sceptical about all new treatments until there was good evidence for their effectiveness from researchers with no vested interests. This hasn't yet happened with Ibogaine. The late Dr Richard Asher wrote that if you want to create a medical fashion, you should find a drug that has an intriguing name, comes from an exotic region and is expensive. Ibogaine qualifies on all three counts and could be this year's Heanthos. (Heanthos was a sort of Vietnamese Ibogaine and made headlines in 1997. Its "inventor" was later imprisoned by the authorities for fraud.) Even if it were shown to have useful treatment effects, Ibogaine's possible side effects might outweigh the benefits.

The history of medicine is often the history of great ideas that don't work but if good research backs it, we would certainly consider adding Ibogaine to our wide range of evidence-based addiction treatments.

DR COLIN BREWER

Stapleford Centre, London SW1

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