Saturday, 28 November 2009

Fake Doctors with Real Drugs

This is just plain crazy.

Scott Gavura, a pharmacist, writes:
The other day, I went to a magic show. The magician manipulated energy fields, pulled toxins out of my stomach, and then gave me a remedy - but there was nothing inside. Then he pulled out a prescription pad, prescribed some Tamiflu, and sent me on my way.

Seem unlikely? Well, the Ontario government is poised to give another type of magician -- the naturopath -- prescribing rights, despite the reams of evidence discrediting their approach to patient health. It's a move that legitimizes a well-meaning but baseless profession, and puts patients at significant risk.

The piece was also published -- without linkies -- last week in the National Post (!?), followed this week by a rebuttal from one of the quacks who stand to benefit from the legislation. (The comments on both pieces are mostly reassuringly sensible.)

For background, here are a couple of articles on naturopathy.

And here's a terrifying site documenting the harm these fake doctors cause.

Here's the text of Bill 179.

Similar legislation has been passed in BC. A recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal describes the powers allowed under it:
In British Columbia, the government last April passed legislation allowing naturopathic practitioners to prescribe Schedule I medications, such as basic primary care drugs like antibiotics. In addition, qualified naturopaths will be able to prescribe hormones, botanicals, high-dose vitamins, amino acids and other natural substances they have traditionally used in their practices, but which are increasingly coming under federal control and scheduling limitations. As such, in many provinces such as BC, only medical doctors, dentists and veterinarians could previously prescribe substances such as digitalis and other botanicals and hormones that naturopaths normally used.

Under BC’s legislation and accompanying regulations, naturopaths will not prescribe certain restricted classes of medications, such as antipsychotics and chemotherapy drugs. The regulatory board that governs naturopathic doctors is now finalizing the standards and list of substances that naturopaths will be allowed to prescribe.

Naturopathy is quackery. It is not science-based. In fact, it rejects one of science's bedrock methods -- double-blind tests -- precisely because such tests demonstrate the utter futility of its 'treatments'. It also rejects vaccination.

And here's the call for action. Under the title I snaffled for this piece, Steve Thoms writes:
Defeating a bill in its third reading is rare, but not impossible. I'm asking for all Swift readers (especially the Canadians and Ontarians) to email the Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, and (, as well as the Minister of Long-Term Health and Care, Deb Mattews, ( It would also be wise to CC the same email to Andrea Horwath, leader of the New Democratic Party (ahorwath-qp@ndp. and Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party ( The bill is under review by the Standing Committee on Social Policy (for a complete list of the members of the committee, click here), so Ontario residents would do well to email them as well. Remember to CC all correspondences, so that everyone knows who else is reading what.
. . .
We really need everyone's help defeating this affront to health care standards and patient safety. If we beat them in Ontario, we just might stop them in their tracks.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me directly at

Thanks a million
Steve Thoms
Skeptic North

Let's get those emails flying! Also, please spread the word to your friends, families, and associates of the not-insane type.


CK said...

I wouldn't say naturopathy is all quackery. In fact, it helped my mom where traditional medicine failed. This is also true of a co-worker of mine. Both lived with extreme pain following their respective surgeries. All those doctors did was prescribe pain killers til they developped a tolerance and prescribed even stronger pain killers.

No wonder big pharmaceutical companies make so much money.

My husband's type 2 diabetes is not being controlled through the typical pharmaceuticals, but by diet and excercise. It had brought his numbers down within a year. Even his own doctor was impressed.

Another thing to remember is Big Pharma's interests are to keep us sick. Traditional cancer treatments are an excellent example of that.

There was research and hope for old orphaned drugs that were cheap and minimal side effects in the fight on cancer. Needless to say, due to a lack of patent, those studies stopped mysteriously in their tracks.

Like with anything else, of course you'll find bad naturopaths. You can also find good ones. A matter of research like with doctors.

fern hill said...

No doubt people have been helped by all sorts of alternative healthcare.

But CK, do you think it's OK for people not trained in pharmacy, people, who in fact, are opposed to much of modern medicine, to write prescriptions? I just think it's loony.

deBeauxOs said...

Isn't the major problem with naturopathy, as opposed to current health care professionals in midwifery, allopathic medicine, acupuncture, nursing and so on, that the training and accreditation of its practitioners aren't uniformly regulated.

Sadly, many naturopaths ARE quacks. Others may be held in high regard by conventional health care workers; therapeutic protocols are worked out so that a cancer patient may benefit from complementary naturopathic treatments.

Some physicians, trained in the scientific method, have completed naturopathy training with credible educational organizations and use it in combination with more conventional treatment methods.

Will this law prevent ordinary people from having access to the range of plant-based, health-maintaining supplements that are currently available without a scrip from a naturopath - or a physican?

fern hill said...

My impression, dBO, is that this legislation has to do with prescription drugs. I don't know whether it would have any effect on non-prescription stuff.

And you're right about the training. There are two colleges or whatever they call them in Ontario. Each operating independently, neither affiliated with a university.

And to be clear, I have no problem with trained professionals other than MDs being allowed to prescribe a limited range of meds.

It seems to me that naturopaths got lumped in with other real medical professionals through some kind of lobbying on their part, or inattention on the pols' part, or who knows what.

Mandos said...

Giving naturopaths prescribing power has some pernicious effects. It permits them to take advantage of science-based medical technologies while thereafter assigning "blame" for its successes on their particular unscientific philosophies.

deBeauxOs said...

Blame its (naturopathy) successes - or did you mean failures, Mandos?

CK said...

Nowadays there is training for Naturopaths. Of course there are charlatans like with anything else.

I haven't seen naturopaths that prescribed valium or anything else traditionally big Pharma has to offer. Nor do I think they should. Not just for the reasons you mention, Fern, but also, most folks who seek the services of a naturopath are looking for something other than big pharma.

Speaking of Quacks: Look at it this way: Most of the posters here will Know who I'm talking about.

Who would you rather see: a trained Naturopath or Dr Roy Eappen (or some dr equally as bad; caught his ratings on line).

I believe that we need traditional medicine but I just don't believe anyone should put complete faith in big pharma whose only interest is dollars and cents.

Like you would a doctor or any health care practitioner, one needs to take the time to research a naturopath or anyone else who practises alternative medicine.

Mandos said...

I put "blame" in quotes. The ethical problem lies in the idea that a particular science-based treatment methodology which gets results is dressed up in unscientific distractors. Then the distractors are given credit (which I referred to as "blame" ironically) for something that they didn't accomplish. Alternative medicine proponents refer to this as a "whole systems" approach.

eg Acupuncture may be one of these cases.

Recent studies have show that acupuncture (minus electric stimulation) has no different outcomes from sham acupuncture where no penetration of the skin occurs. But the acupunctural technique is surrounded by astrological ideas...

Mandos said...

I agree that Big Pharma has a lot to answer for. One of these is a misallocation of the world's resources towards creating markets for profitable treatments for things that are of a lower social priority than other potential research targets. However, when the money *is* correctly allocated, the treatments tend to have a measurable success rate in the approval system in place for the US/Canada market, at least.

The problem with naturopathy and other altmed modalities is that they are no different from Big Pharma in that they too are largely money-making endeavours---they have exactly the same incentives. What they tend to lack, however, is science.

That said, if it worked for you, I can hardly disagree with a patient's experiences. However, the government should not be mixing up science with nonscience in such a way as to give nonscientific methods scientific credibility.

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