Healthcare Reform is in the air. Tom Daschle’s “house parties” have met, and people are posting their ideas all over the Internet. There’s lots of discussion on websites such as www.change.org and www.health.org. And on www.change.org, people are voting for their favorite issues; several relate to healthcare.
Many of us are very hopeful that, when all is said and done, we will finally have Integrative Healthcare, with a combination of conventional medicine and so-called “alternative” medicine – what Dr. Ronald Hoffman has called “Intelligent Medicine.”
In her December 31st Huffington Post column, “Resolving to Care: Integrative Health Care Reform,” health writer/advocate Alison Rose Levy wrote that hopefully, “the coming healthcare reform under the Obama administration will improve quality and lower costs by accessing a wide range of Integrative Healthcare modalities,” and that adopting Integrative Healthcare would signal “an end to the long gravy train ride for pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and conventional practices based more on the profit motive than on caring.”
On the same day, integrative physician Deepak Chopra -- with input from fellow-integrative-doctor Andrew Weil and scientist Rustum Roy -- wrote another Huffington Post column, titled “Leaving the Sinking Ship,” also advocating Integrative Healthcare. (The “sinking ship,” by the way, refers to our deeply troubled, financially tied medical system.)
And while many books in past years have advocated Integrative Healthcare, one book has been recently published, with the express purpose of influencing those in charge of healthcare reform to include Alternative Medicine in the mix. In Health for Us All, integrative physician Mary Zennett, MD puts forth an articulate, impassioned argument, stating that, if we don’t add sensible, cost-effective alternative treatments to healthcare reform, any plan we get will be doomed.
The truth is that there are lots of non-toxic, less expensive, often non-pharmaceutically based treatments (both nutritional and non-nutritional) that have helped hundreds, even thousands, of people. Unfortunately, most of them are not being prescribed by conventional doctors, because they are NOT considered to be “standard of care.” In fact, because lots of these treatments are NOT "standard of care," doctors often call them -- derisively, of course -- "anecdotal." (Please see my article, "Four Lifesaving Treatments: Not So 'Anecdotal,' After All!")
What most people don’t realize, however, is that being “standard of care” does NOT mean that a treatment is necessarily better; it just means that most doctors use it to treat specific conditions. And often these “standard of care” treatments do not work well – especially for chronic conditions. But – and here's the tricky part: Most “standard of care” treatments have the financial backing of (and have been “studied” by) Big Pharma. Most doctors have been trained to trust these treatments because of that backing.
It’s all very confusing -- and, as several critics (including John Abramson, Marcia Angell, Shannon Brownlee, Melodie Petersen, and scores of others) have written, this way of thinking has led to a healthcare system that is bloated, industry-driven and frankly, not very good.
Tom Daschle’s Criticism of Big Pharma and Big Industry
I believe that “healthcare czar” Tom Daschle really understands all this. In his book, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis, he writes about Big Pharma’s and Big Industry’s duplicity. For instance:
(a) Invented conditions like “restless leg syndrome”
(b) How new technology sometimes detects suspicious, NON-cancerous lumps, “leading to unnecessary biopsies”
(c) How doctors often “order tests, perform procedures, and prescribe drugs because they have a financial stake in doing so”
(d) How a study showed that angioplasties, which “can save the lives of people who are in the midst of a heart attack,” have “dubious value to patients who aren’t in imminent danger of dying.” (It almost seems as if Tom Daschle has read Dr. Michael Ozner’s The Great American Heart Hoax, which was published around the same time as Critical, and exposes many of the overused practices of interventional cardiology. For my review of Dr. Ozner’s book, see Part 2 of this article.)
(e) Daschle even exposes Amgen, a company his wife’s lobbying firm has represented, when he discloses the fact that Amgen and Johnson & Johnson “had been paying hundreds of millions of dollars to doctors every year in return for prescribing anemia drugs which might be unsafe" -- anemia drugs which “might even shorten lives when used at high doses.”
(Except for the “restless leg syndrome” example, which appears on page 9, all other examples cited above appear on pp 121-124.)
And, in his book, Tom Daschle cites the work of Shannon Brownlee, Marcia Angell and John Abramson – healthcare critics, all.
Tom Daschle’s Support of Integrative Healthcare
I recently decided to do some research into Tom Daschle’s background, and discovered several other hopeful signs:
♣ In the past, Mr. Daschle has advocated research into the value of “Alternative Medicine.” He supported BOTH Health Freedom AND Alternative Medicine, when he introduced the Access to Medical Treatment Act in the mid-1990s! (Read his pro-alternative-medicine stand here.)
In his speech reintroducing the Access to Medical Treatment Act, Mr. Daschle called it “a bill to permit an individual to be treated by a health care practitioner with any method of medical treatment such individual requests.” He described how he became aware of alternative medicine through his friend and colleague, Berkley Bedell (former Congressman from Iowa’s 6th District), when Congressman Bedell became ill with Lyme disease. After trying -- to quote Mr. Daschle -- “several unsuccessful rounds of conventional treatment consisting of heavy doses of antibiotics over approximately 4 years, he [Bedell] turned to an alternative treatment that he believes cured his disease” – a treatment that Daschle pointed out “can no longer be administered because it has not gone through the FDA approval process.”
Daschle went on to say: “As I looked into the potential of alternative therapies, I was struck by what appears to be a deep-seated skepticism of alternative treatments within the medical establishment that may be impeding their use. It is clear to me that the public would benefit by greater debate about the value of alternative medical treatments, and it is to stimulate that debate and ultimately remove barriers to potentially effective treatments that I have reintroduced the Access to Medical Treatment Act. This legislation would allow individual patients and their physicians to use certain alternative and complementary therapies not approved by the FDA.”
♣ Tom Daschle has taken other potentially anti-Big Pharma/anti-Big Industry stands, too. As David Kirby pointed out, in his Huffington Post column of November 19, 2008, titled “Tom Daschle: Friend to Many Autism Families,” Mr. Daschle has actively questioned the safety of childhood vaccinations. As Kirby describes it, “Senator Daschle is not anti-vaccine, but his record shows his determination to question - and even oppose - vaccine makers and big pharmaceutical interests when it comes to protecting the rights of American medical consumers.” (This column is a really good read.)
♣ In addition, Tom Daschle was an early advocate of chiropractic, introducing (in 1991) the legislation that that would cause chiropractic care to be covered by Medicare.
In Part 2, I’ll share with you seven of Honest Medicine’s articles (and audios) in which I have advocated Integrative Healthcare.