Alternative medicine in question
Here's a really good discussion at Respectful Insolence about research on alternative medicine. I'm on agnostic on what part of NIH should fund this research, but as far as I'm concerned, once studies on a treatment or intervention rises to the level of evidence required for conventional therapies, it's no longer "alternative."
What is the practical difference between alternative and conventional therapies, anyway? I think the main distinction is in how they are treated by our irrational, two-tiered regulatory system, in which once something falls into the category of dietary supplements it's no longer subject to regulation at all, absent herculean efforts to demonstrate their dangers, as we saw with ephedra.
More importantly, how do we get consumers to understand the issue? Many consumers have evolved a similar two-tier response to things we put in our bodies: they assume that if something's natural, or simply a dietary supplement, it must be inherently safe, whereas if it's a prescription drug, some pharmaceutical company is trying to profit, so the standards of proving safety are higher. If they can appreciate that (and I could be overestimating that understanding), why is it so hard to see the profit motives in the supplement and alternative medicine industries? I would love to see data on marketing strategies for alternative medicine, if anyone knows about it. I imagine they involve a certain amount of brainwashing; specifically, they'd like us to think that Western scientific criteria simply don't apply to homeopathy, acupuncture, etc., and if alternative therapies become subject to regulation, big government is trying to take away our access.
I'd love to hear from readers about this.