how alt med protects its lucrative business

Alternative medicine makers are happy to bash Big Pharma for poor testing and failed drugs, but not testing their own wares is the key to their profitability.
happy piggy bank

You all know about the Big Pharma conspiracy to maliciously discredit alternative medicine to guard their vast profits against humble alternative medicine practitioners who’s wares could never possibly make any money for the likes of Pfizer and Merck. Really, how much could herbs, plants and water cost? Americans couldn’t be spending all that much money on alternative treatments, right? Well, according to a recent NIH report, alt med took in $34 billion in revenue for 2007 and was projected to keep growing. To put the number in perspective, consider that this is about 3.5 times NASA’s annual budget and almost a third of a major drug maker’s worth.

So let’s think about this. You’re an executive of a major drug maker and you’re dealing with product that could take several decades to reach the market after extensive trials, reviews and an average investment of around $800 million. Oh and your potential product might never reach the market or make it into final trials and end up as nothing more than a very expensive waste of time. After trying to figure out what markets you could possibly target with your R&D program, you get word that there’s magical water or miraculous plants and juices able to cure everything from the common cold to an advanced case of Ebola. What’s more, you can find all the basics for making these treatments in the produce section of a local supermarket and that people are already going out and spending between 33 and 50% of your total market value on this stuff already.

Of course, before you hear the chime of the cash register in your head and greedily rub your hands together as your pupils turn into dollar signs, there’s a snag to consider. None of this stuff is proven to work. While all your medications are sold only after stringent due diligence and an approval by a government agency, all these alt med remedies are sold as food, exempt from the same standards as you by a special law. Granted, approval by the FDA doesn’t mean your drug is perfect or that everyone who takes it will benefit. But at least you have to prove that it’s better than a placebo and doesn’t pose any immediate danger to those who will take it. No such reviews apply to homeopaths or naturists who freely sell their wears under the protection of the DHSEA. And when their treatments are actually analyzed by researchers and pitted against conventional medicine, they’re shown as no better than a placebo time and time again, miserably failing the standards for drug efficacy.

This is why over the same year as alt med spending was tracked in the report, Americans spent $287 billion on drugs that actually do more than make them feel hopeful that it’s working. While drug companies could be making a good deal of money by legitimizing and popularizing alternative medicine, they can’t sell treatments that do nothing. Even though they could save hundreds of millions in R&D by piggybacking on reports from alt med practitioners and going straight to manufacturing the products, they would never get FDA approval if they intend to sell them as genuine, legitimate treatments for a particular disease. Why do you think homeopaths and naturists like to talk about “holistic health” and “treating the person rather than the symptoms?” Because the minute they claim to treat a specific disease, the FDA will demand proof, their lucrative loophole vanishes, and they’re left to the mercy of doctors, medical bureaucrats and scientists just like any drug maker.

# health // alternative medicine / big pharma / pharmocology / quackery

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