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- Herbal doctors will not be regulated, despite pleas from Prince Charles Sunday March 29th, 2015
The practice of alternative medicine will not be regulated, after health officials concluded there is insufficient evidence that it works.
The Government U-turn, in a ruling from the country’s deputy chief medical officer, comes despite lobbying from the Prince of Wales.
Proponents of complementary medicine last night accused health officials of “putting public safety at risk,” by recommending against setting up a statutory register of herbal practitioners.
Prof David Walker, deputy chief medical officer, said he had taken the decision because there was insufficient evidence that the alternative therapy works, making it impossible to set standards of good practice.
Three years ago ministers had pledged to bring in an official register of practitioners of herbal and Chinese medicines, which would see therapists regulated alongside other health workers, such as physiotherapists and speech therapists.
It followed two public consultations which found overwhelming support for the proposals.
But ministers blocked the proposals, instead setting up a new committee, led by the NHS deputy chief medical officer – which has now ruled against statutory regulation.
The decision came despite lobbying from Prince Charles, a keen advocate of complementary medicines, and a supporter of regulation, who held a meeting with Jeremy Hunt in 2013 in which his concerns were raised.
Labour ministers have disclosed that the Prince has discussed other areas of alternative medicine, such as homeopathy, in meetings with Andy Burnham, when he was Health Secretary.
There has been speculation that alternative medicine is likely to be among the topics discussed in private correspondence between the Prince and government ministers.
Earlier this week, Britain’s highest court ruled that the “black spider memos” sent by the Prince to seven departments in Tony Blair’s Labour government will be made public within weeks. The Prince expressed “disappointment” at the decision, although aides insisted he was “relaxed” about light being shed on his lobbying.
The new ruling on herbal medicine comes 15 years after regulation of herbal practitioners was first recommended to the Department of Health (DoH) by the House of Lords Science and Technology committee.
Two DoH working groups backed the idea, and in 2011 then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley pledged to introduce a statutory register.
However, health ministers later decided to set up the working party, led by England’s deputy chief medical officer – which in a new report, has recommended against regulation.
Prof Walker said that although most herbal practitioners were in favour of regulation, those opposed to it feared it would “confer an inappropriate level of legitimacy on herbal practice which was poorly supported by scientific evidence.”
He said the decision to rule against regulation was “undoubtedly the most contentious area” addressed by the working party, which also looked at the safety of herbal medicine products.
Instead, the report calls for a review of all ingredients sold in such medicines, to check their safety, with a “voluntary register” for practitioners who use them.
It says there is too little evidence to show that herbal medicines improve health outcomes, making it “difficult to establish the boundaries of good practice” in regulating practitioners.
It also says there is very little understanding of the risks posed to patients from current practices in herbal medicine.
Although manufactured herbal products such as St John’s wort, echinacea and black cohosh are registered by medicine regulators, individual practitioners can prepare treatments on their premises, as long as they do not contain restricted substances.
The Prince has long campaigned for regulation of the complementary health profession, which will prompt speculation he may be disappointed by the Government decision.
He set up a charity which in 2006 called for better research and regulation of complementary medicine so “patients can be confident of its safety and effectiveness.”
Yesterday Clarence House declined to comment. The Prince of Wales is understood to favour a more holistic approach to healthcare, combining conventional and complementary therapies.
Prof Walker’s recommendation has triggered an immediate rift among the 26 members of his working party.
Twelve members of the working party have written to Dr Dan Poulter, health minister, alleging that the decision will put the safety of the public at risk, because anyone will be able to promote themselves as an expert in herbal medicine, without any training.
Research suggests around three million Britons a year consult herbal practitioners, operating in shops, online and in private clinics, with up to one in 12 of all adults using a herbal medicine at some stage.
Michael McIntyre, chairman of the European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association, said the decision not to regulate practitioners could put the public at risk from rogue operators, with no training.
The herbal practitioner, who was a member of the DoH working party, said: “We are deeply disappointed by this. We feared this issue was going to be kicked into the long grass, by quietly putting something out just before the election – and that is exactly what has happened.”
He said the public needed the reassurance of statutory regulation, to know that any herbal doctor who is practising had received some training.
The association disputed claims there was insufficient evidence to show that herbal medicines worked, saying that several trials had shown its impact for a number of conditions, but that the sector had less money than the pharmaceutical industry had to undertake mass research.
The report says that although ministers promised “some form of regulation of herbal practitioners” this only committed the working party to consider the options, and that the introduction of regulation would require the sector to be “more science and evidence-based”.
Source: The Telegraph
- Vitamin D Won’t Help Fight High Blood Pressure Tuesday March 17th, 2015
(HealthDay News) — Vitamin D may help the body in many ways, but a new data review suggests it won’t do much to lower high blood pressure.
Vitamin D is nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin,” because the body produces the nutrient when skin is exposed to sunlight. People can also get vitamin D through such foods as eggs, milk, yogurt, tuna, salmon, cereal and orange juice.
In the new study, a team led by Dr. Miles Witham of the University of Dundee in Scotland reviewed data from 46 clinical trials involving more than 4,500 participants. The researchers also looked at 27 other studies involving almost 3,100 participants.
Wearable, Doc-Prescribed Monitors May Help Spot High Blood Pressure
Reporting March 16 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Witham’s group found no sign that boosting vitamin D levels had any effect on either the upper or lower numbers in a blood pressure reading.
“The results of this analysis do not support the use of vitamin D as an individual patient treatment for hypertension,” the researchers write.
Two experts in the United States said studies like these are important.
“Health claims related to vitamins and nutritional supplements need to be validated in prospective, randomized clinical trials,” said Dr. Robert Rosenson, director of the Cardiometabolic Unit at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
“Currently, there is a false public perception that certain vitamins or supplement therapies work…costing the public unnecessary costs, without the necessary scientific evidence supporting their health claims,” he said.
Dr. Stacey Rosen is vice president of Women’s Health at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y. She said that, “the question of optimal vitamin D levels and the impact on supplementing ‘low’ levels remains an important area of study; however, this well-performed meta-analysis shows a lack of effectiveness for the use of vitamin D to treat high blood pressure.”
SOURCES: Robert S. Rosenson, M.D., professor of medicine (cardiology), Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and director, Cardiometabolic Unit, The Mount Sinai Hospital, New York City; Stacey E. Rosen, M.D., vice president, Women’s Health, Katz Institute for Women’s Health, New Hyde, Park, N.Y.; news release, JAMA Internal Medicine, March 16, 2015
- Thai monastery detoxifies drug addicts with herbal medicine Tuesday March 17th, 2015
(Xinhua) — More than 100,000 drug addicts from across the world have managed to get clean through herbal treatment unique to a decades-old detoxification center situated in a mountainous monastery in central Thailand.
Since 1959, Thamkrabok Monastery in Lopburi province has started to use a strong herbal medicine and vomiting to detoxify drug addicts free of charge, with a success rate of as high as 80 percent, according to Sasha, a Russian monk at the monastery.
The physical detoxification takes place every afternoon. Some patients sit in a row, take a herbal potion and then vomit into the gutter in front of them. Meanwhile, fellow addicts standing behind pep them up by beating drums, clapping their hands and singing.
The potion is made from around 100 types of herbs, some grown by the monks and others gathered from the mountain. Every patient will have to take the potion daily for at least five days during their detoxification process.
During the process, no other kind of medicine is allowed, as it is considered disturbing to the procedure of detoxification.
“It feels like getting all bad things out. Heal your body. It is like a beginning of a new life, being a better person,” said Jose Abraham Martinez Sulazar, a patient from Costa Rica.
Having used drugs for more than 10 years, he failed several times to get clean before coming to the monastery. He said he was convinced of success this time.
The physical treatment also includes herbal tea and steam bath.
“The tea you get before the steam bath has a purifying effect and can be taken all day long… The herbs that are added to the steam are exceptionally good for the skin, the lungs and the eyes, ” said a statement posted on the monastery’s website.
Patients have to go through the ceremony of Sajja, like taking a vow, before starting the physical purification, which is aimed to empower them.
Patients are also welcome to attend meditation and chanting activities to help with their cure.
“I must soldier on. It depends on my inner strength,” said Piano, nickname of a 19-year-old Thai patient.
The minimum stay in Thamkrabok is seven nights and eight days, said Sasha, who got clean about two years ago, but decided to stay.
More than 90 percent of the patients here are Thais, and mostly are male, figures from the monasteries show.
The treatment and the accommodation in the monastery, which lives on donations only, are free. Patients have to pay about 200 baht (6.1 U.S. dollars) per day for their food.
“(Once the treatment is over,) I will go back to start my life again… I lost everything to do drugs. Now I feel great, and my mind feels very clear,” Tuan from Vietnam said.
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