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Letters to the Editor Issue 68

by Letters(more info)

listed in letters to the editor, originally published in issue 68 - September 2001

The Ethics of Plant vs Petrochemical Medicine

by Jane Buckle PhD, RN

The Ethics of Medical Procedures

Many medical procedures have never been tested scientifically (Eabry, 1996) and only 15% of medical procedures have any scientific basis (Smith, 1992). Despite the double-blind, randomized, controlled study being the golden rule of modern science, there are no double blind studies carried out for surgery for obvious reasons. Some surgical procedures such as tonsillectomy and appendectomy have decreased in popularity over time. Others have become more popular despite the lack of evidence. Radical mastectomy was the operation of choice for breast cancer for nearly half a decade. This highly invasive surgery involves removing a woman's lymph glands as well as the entire breast tissue. The result is reduced (or no) lymph drainage from the arm. Lymphoedema often results in causing the arm to swell to huge proportions. This frequently can result in the skin splitting and skin infections are common. The woman also often loses movement and sensation in what may be her dominant arm. This can have disastrous effects on her earning capacity. Today, radical mastectomy has been replaced by lumpectomy.

Bone-marrow transplants received a setback in May 1998 when the results of five studies on this painful and expensive technique were presented at Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta (Kolata & Eichenwald, 1999). A total of 2000 women had been randomly assigned to have the experimental procedure or conventional chemotherapy. In four of the five trials there was no difference in the survival rate between the two groups. No one on the podium claimed that the studies showed that bone transplants were effective. The National Breast Cancer Coalition that represents cancer patients felt the technique had been tested scientifically and 'had failed'.

However, the American Society of Clinical Oncologists put out a press release stating that 'the meeting mixed early results and more studies were needed' (Kolata & Eichenwald, 1999). Today, oncologists and companies continue to sell bone transplants knowing that they may be no more effective than regular chemotherapy. Bone-marrow transplants are invasive and expensive, and produce a high profit. Bone transplants are mainly offered in the treatment of leukaemia. The annual cost of leukaemia treatment is $1 billion in the USA. There are large profits to be made in the 'malignancy market'. For terminal cases of breast cancer, Medicare payments average between $50,000 and $70,000 (Riley, 1995).

The failure of conventional oncology is well documented in the medical literature. One study reported on 78 patients who had undergone surgery for colorectal cancer. It was a randomized, controlled study. The results indicated that patients who had survived 5 years after the surgery had a better chance of survival if they had not received chemotherapy (Chleowski, 1994). These results were not publicized in mainstream press, but the studies that suggested that chemotherapy might work were well covered (Moertal, 1992).

The Ethics Of Withholding Information From The Public

Such is the stranglehold of the FDA that it is possible for them to withhold any information from the public information. That includes information that plant medicines can:
a. be more effective than pharmaceutical drugs
b. have fewer side effects.

An example of this was the use of saw palmetto (Serenoa serrulata) berries for prostate disease. An extract of these berries was found to be three times more effective than the Merck drug Proscar in three separate studies (Yarnell, 1999). The drug Proscar had side effects of impotence, ejaculation dysfunction, decreased libido and was teratogenic (causes birth defects), but saw palmetto berries had no observed toxicity. However, in the single study funded by Merck, the standardized saw palmetto extract was found not to be as effective as the drug Proscar (Straunch et al., 1994).

Extract of reishi mushrooms has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat debility, fatigue and leukaemia (Hobbs, 1995). In a comparative clinical study in Moscow, 48 cancer patients were treated with reishi extract. Blood samples of the patients (who all had advanced tumours) showed the immune-cell counts were returned to normal. In immuno-compromised patients, reishi extract increased both the CD4/CD8 cell-count ration and the T-cell count. Reishi also lowered the levels of T-suppressor cells (Kupin, 1992). Numerous clinical studies have shown reishi mushrooms improve white blood cell count, and some put cancers into remission (Jones, 1999), yet this potent plant medicine is not offered in conventional oncology departments.

Perhaps the most damning of all was the suppression of hydrazine sulphate – an experimental synthetic chemical developed by Joseph Gold MD that appeared to retard or inhibit the loss of protein or body mass caused by cancer. Hydrazine sulphate has since been described by one of the world's greatest biochemists, Dr Dean Burk, as the 'most remarkable anticancer agent I have come across in my 45 years of experience with cancer'. At this time, Burk was head of cell chemistry research at NCI (National Cancer Institute), USA (Diamond & Cowden, 1997). Preliminary animal studies supported the hypothesis that this was a remarkable anti-cancer drug and by 1973, almost 1000 people were using it. Research carried out at St Petersburg's Research Institute in Russia produced positive research findings – it could stop the growth of animal cancers, was relatively non-toxic and, most importantly, it appeared to be able to control cancer growth in human studies. There were improvements in 58% of patients. So convinced were the Russians that the Pharmacological Committee – the equivalent to the FDA – fully approved hydrazine sulphate for adult cancer patients.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, New York began clinical studies on hydrazine sulphate, but despite Dr Burk's instructions on giving specific dosages of the test substance, substantially higher doses were given. In fact, the doses given were so high, they were considered by Dr Gold (the inventor of the treatment) to be unsafe. Thus, it was hardly surprising that the results of this study showed hydrazine sulphate failed to work and produced dangerous negative side effects. It was put on the 'unproven list'. However, another US-based medical doctor was also interested in the Russian discovery. Rowan Chlebowski MD of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center organized a research program on hydrazine sulphate and conducted four double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. Each demonstrated the efficacy of the hydrazine sulphate against lung cancer.

In June 1989, FDA agents raided the offices of the two US distributors of hydrazine sulphate and seized their supplies and documents. Chlebowski published his results in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 1990. Each study clearly demonstrated that hydrazine sulphate had extended the survival time of lung cancer patients. Steven Piantodosi MD of John Hopkins Medical Center, who claimed that studies with only 65 patients were not valid science, ridiculed the results. Several drugs (such as Halcyon) have been marketed following research on only 20 human subjects. Data from the UCLA-Harbor Hospital trials indicate that 50% of the 1 million expected new cancer patients a year would be helped with hydrazine sulphate. The Russian data agree with this estimate (Diamond et al., 1997).

Reprinted by permission of the publisher Churchill Livingstone from The International Journal of Aromatherapy 11(1): 8-17. Jane Buckle Ph.D., RN. The Ethics of Plant vs Petrochemical Medicine© Harcourt Publishers Ltd. 2001.

Media Reporting of Complementary Medicine

Just to remind us of what we are up against. It seems the Observer printed a 24 page so called Guide to Complementary Therapies on 8th July 2001 and I wonder if you had also seen it. I have written to the editor expressing my disgust.

Contained within this supplement was 'The Alternative A-Z' which, at first, I was pleased to see but as I read further I became incensed by the incorrect statements of the majority of the therapies listed. I quote below some of the info from the 'guide' so that your readers can make up their minds:

Acupuncture: … "The few serious scientific papers that exist offer a certain amount of evidence but not a lot".
Aromatherapy: … "Other research has found it to be nothing more than a placebo".
Colonic Irrigation: "There is, moreover, a risk with colonic irrigation of perforating the colon wall, of electrolyte depletion, and of death".
Ear-candling: "Evidence indicates it's both ineffective and dangerous"
Nutritional Therapy: "Not to be confused with the science-based work and advice of properly qualified dietitians".
Reflexology: "Practitioners believe that by, say, hitting the kidney spot on the foot, you get the kidneys' energy to flow freely, thereby fixing the problem".
TCM: "… for example, in Asia black bears have been hunted to near extinction for their gallbladders. Even some sceptics concede that it achieves good results with eczema. Nonetheless, it was condemned in the House of Lords report.

And so on.

Basically, I would say that Peter Silverton who wrote the article is a sceptic whose condescending attitude ruined what could have been useful information but was totally misleading to the public and a waste of the paper it was written on.

In fact, again, it smacked of propaganda from the orthodox medical profession, aimed at putting the general public off alternative therapies.

Yours sincerely,
Terri Perry (Qualified Reflexologist & Reiki Practitioner)

The Editor Replies

Yes, I did in fact see this derisory attempt in The Observer to describe entire world bodies of disciplines in one or two sentences.

What enrages me even more is to see repeated, over and over, in the print and broadcast media, the assertion that there is no evidence for the clinical efficacy of Complementary Medicine. Every single issue of Positive Health and the thousands of pages on our internet site, particularly the research summaries, put the lie to this assertion. Perhaps the most galling of all is to see much of the published evidence set aside (apart from the randomized controlled trial data) as though it doesn't exist, by the very Institution which is supposed to be the flag-bearer for complementary medicine (see also book review, pages 6-7).

Sandra Goodman, Ph.D.

More about Perceptual Enrichment Programme

I am responding to an article that was printed in your publication written by Jeffry and Pamela Sharp called Perceptual Enhancement Programme by Inside-Out Learning.

I am the researcher and creator of the Perceptual Enrichment Program and have trained facilitators around the world. As a result of my research the program began in 1982 and expanded while I was working as a Perceptual Specialist with an Occupational Therapy background at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. The first people in the UK were trained and have been facilitating PEP since 1996. The two main area PEP Associations exist in Copenhagen, Denmark and San Francisco. USA. The PEP program is currently being studied in Boston MA,. USA, with MRIs taken before and after PEP treatment by qualified facilitators.

Authorized training programs are scheduled in Denmark and several places in USA in 2002. Prerequisites for all future facilitators are qualified teachers, counsellors, medical and psychological personnel. Any further questions can be directed to me at

Patricia Theisen
Creator and founder of PEP
Head of the International PEP Association


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