Docs Think About Alternatives
North Americans visit alternative medicine practitioners more
often than primary care physicians, suggesting widespread faith
in alternative remedies. But what do doctors think about alternative
medicine? Surprisingly, an analysis in the December '00 Archives
of Internal Medicine finds that, on average, physicians in
Europe, New Zealand, and Israelparticularly younger doctorsrate
alternative approaches as "moderately effective."
three most prevalent alternative approaches acupuncture,
homeopathy, and spinal manipulation have not been proven
effective, some physicians still incorporate them into practice
because they think they might be, either directly or through
a placebo effect. Doctors sometimes turn to alternative therapies
when standard approaches fail. "A number of my colleagues
recommend that patients with frustrating problems try alternative
therapies," says Joseph Alpert, MD, head of the department
of medicine at Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson. "For
a patient with intractable arthritis, they might say, 'Let's try
acupuncture and see how it works.'"
work even better is when patients suggest an alternative
approach, says HealthNews associate editor Harry Greene,
since that involves them in the healing process.
approaches may be helpful, Alpert warns that they can also be
dangerous, either because they cause direct harmas in the
case of the herbal "remedies" ma huang and chaparralor
because users place undue faith in them and delay seeking proven
treatments. For those who want to experiment with alternative
therapies, Alpert advises discussing these plans with a physician
so he or she can monitor any benefits or side effects and help
you steer clear of therapies that are known to be dangerous.