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Alternative Medicine

UK - Turmeric eye drops could spice up glaucoma treatment - (16 August 2018)

Turmeric contains the chemical curcumin which has been shown to reduce Glaucoma-related retinal cell loss. Scientists at University College London and Imperial College London have created a liquid medication that delivers the chemical directly to the eye in the form of drops. In lab tests researchers administered the drops twice a day for three weeks to rats suffering from ongoing retinal ganglion cell loss. When compared to untreated rats with the same condition it was found that the treated animals experienced a significant reduction in cell loss and didn't experience side effects such as eye irritation or inflammation."As we live longer diseases such as Glaucoma and Alzheimer's are steadily increasing," said Prof. Francesca Cordeiro, lead author of a paper on the research. "We believe our findings could make a major contribution at helping the lives of people affected by these devastating diseases." The paper was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Australia/New Zealand - Acupuncture no better than placebo for IVF - (01 August 2018)

Acupuncture is no more useful than a placebo at improving chances of conceiving a child through in vitro fertilization, despite claims made by alternative medicine practitioners, a major clinical trial has found. The study involving hundreds of women across 16 IVF centre’s sought to rigorously test the findings of earlier research reporting a 65% increase in conception and birth rates with IVF. It found no significant benefit from IVF when it compared a short course of acupuncture and sessions using dummy needles placed away from “true” acupuncture points. The report comes after experts from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists criticized the industry of non-evidence based add-on treatments that have sprung up around IVF. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

UK - Quantum dots have potential to treat lung cancer - (01 August 2018)

Nanoparticles derived from tea leaves inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells destroying up to 80 percent of them. A team made the discovery while they were testing out a new method of producing a type of nanoparticle called quantum dots. Researchers mixed tea leaf extract with cadmium sulphate and sodium sulphide and allowed the solution to incubate, a process which causes quantum dots to form. They then applied the dots to lung cancer cells. Quantum dots produced from tea leaves inhibits the growth of lung cancer cells. They penetrated into the nanopores of the cancer cells and destroyed up to 80% of them. This was a brand new finding, and came as a surprise to the team. The research, published in Applied Nano Materials, is a collaborative venture between Swansea University experts and colleagues from two Indian universities.

South Africa - Dr. K Traditional Hospital is open for business - (17 July 2018)

A traditional healer from Ingwavuma in northern KwaZulu-Natal has made history by forming a private hospital in Bhambanana area at Mhlabuyalingana reports Health-e News. Dr Mxolisi Nkomonde, known as Dr Mkhulu, has opened a traditional hospital called Dr K Traditional Hospital. The report says he came up with the idea of opening this kind of hospital after seeing many people suffering from diseases caused by witchcraft that were unable to get the correct kind of help and ended up dying. “So many lives have been lost in hospitals. It is not that these hospitals are not working, but the nature of illness is a factor which western doctors do not understand or treat. I heal illnesses like swelling ankles, piles, hallucinations, wounds and many more. The hospital was officially opened in January and is fully operational and growing.

USA - Medical literature not immune to fake science - (21 June 2018)

Fake news has been in the news a lot lately and medical literature is not immune to it. Recent years have seen the appearance of journals from mainstream publishers that are based entirely on pseudoscience such as The Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies by Elsevier, Acupuncture in Medicine by the BMJ and Chinese Medicine by BioMed Central. Academic physician and researcher Prof. Ernst, specializing in the study of complementary and alternative medicine, has pointed out that these journals and others like them, are a farce. Elsevier, BMJ and Biomed Central should be embarrassed to publish these fake medical journals which serve only to promote pseudoscience. Their very existence can confuse medical students, who assume that they are legitimate.

Italy - Animal Assisted Therapy, does it work? - (21 June 2018)

Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a structured form of Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) which specifically adopts animals in healthcare services and education facilities to achieve therapeutic goals. Although such interventions are widely used nowadays evidence supporting them is still largely lacking. Through meta-analyses of over 115 studies and randomized control trials conducted since 2000 involving people affected by mental disorders, AAT seems to improve empathy, socialization and communication and to favour therapeutic alliance among patients who have difficulties with therapeutic programs adherence. AAT appears to be a feasible and well-received intervention, potentially with few or no side effects reported. The findings were published in Minerva Psichiatrica Vol.59-No.1-March 2018.

USA - Alternative Medicines for Alzheimer's are unscientific - (21 June 2018)

The market is flooded with products that claim to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s without any science to back it up. The Alzheimer’s Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research has compiled a list of these alternative medicines and the hard truth behind them. The Alzheimer’s Association contends that, “the rigorous scientific research required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the approval of a prescription drug is not required by law for the marketing of dietary supplements or medical foods". The organization states that although some of these remedies may be valid candidates for treatments there are legitimate concerns about using them as alternatives or even in addition to physician-prescribed therapy. Effectiveness, safety and are purity are unknown and dietary supplements can have serious interactions with prescribed medications.

Spain - Woman dies after 'bee sting' alternative therapy - (06 April 2018)

A 55-year-old was undergoing a session of apitherapy, an acupuncture treatment which uses the sting of live bees instead of needles to treat stiff muscles and stress, when she died from an anaphylactic shock. "To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of death by bee venom apitherapy due to complications of severe anaphylaxis in a confirmed sensitized patient who was previously tolerant," wrote the report's co-authors, Paula Vazquez-Revuelta and Ricardo Madrigal-Burgaleta of the Ramon Cajal University Hospital in Spain.

France - Doctors condemn 'alternative medicines' - (06 April 2018)

A total 124 doctors signed an open letter criticizing alternative medicines such as homeopathy as having 'no scientific basis'. The letter published in Le Figaro with 124 signatories says such 'esoteric disciplines' are 'fed by charlatans' and 'have no scientific basis' but are 'based on beliefs promising miraculous healing'. "We wish to dissociate ourselves completely from practices that are neither scientific nor ethical, but rather irrational and dangerous," the letter reads. They said that alternative medicines promote a 'mistrust' of conventional treatment and can 'delay diagnosis'. The writers demand that the Conseil de l'ordre des médecins et[des] pouvoirs publics stops recognizing alternative treatments as medical, stops teaching them in medical training and call for a halt to covering the costs of such treatments.

India - Medical Association Opposes National Medical Commission Bill - (06 April 2018)

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), the largest body of private doctors in India has opposed a National Medical Commission bill (NMC) which proposes to allow doctors of alternative medicines to practice modern medicine after completing a “bridge course”. Protesting against the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the IMA has called for an indefinite strike. The NMC bill allows practitioners of alternative medicines, such as homeopathy and ayurveda to practice modern medicine. The Bill also proposes that the National Licentiate Examination (NLE) should be made compulsory for any doctor, including a foreign graduate, to make them eligible to practice medicine in India. The parliamentary panel has suggested integrating the NLE with the final year MBBS exam.

New Zealand - Pharmacy Councils’ position on alternative medicines disappointing - (14 March 2018)

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) is disappointed that the Pharmacy Council has weakened its stand on selling non-evidence based products. "The latest version of the Pharmacy Code of Ethics, permits pharmacists to supply complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) that have no current evidence of proven efficacy," says NZMA Chair Dr Kate Baddock. "This is particularly serious given the lack of regulation in this area, now that the Natural Products Bill has been dropped from the Parliamentary agenda.”The proposed Bill was a ‘backstop’, which meant that pharmacists could rely on the regulator to consider evidence and quality. "Evidence-based medicine is a key tenet of the medical profession’s Code of Ethics, maintained by the NZMA. It is most disappointing that our colleagues in the pharmacy profession do not share this."

USA - FDA warns of fraudulent and unapproved flu products - (14 March 2018)

“This year the flu has been widespread, impacting millions of patients across the country, and leading to a new record number of flu-related hospitalizations,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “We understand the toll this year’s flu season has taken on peoples’ lives. As the flu continues to make people sick and even cause deaths, unscrupulous actors may also be taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers by promoting their fraudulent products that have not been reviewed by the FDA to be safe and effective. The FDA is warning consumers to be alert and to try and steer clear of fraudulent flu products, which may be found online or in retail stores. We’re advising consumers on some of the telltale signs to look for when trying to spot flu products that may be fraudulent.

USA - Herbalist who replaced insulin with oils charged with teen’s death - (14 March 2018)

An herbalist who claimed he used alternative medicine to cure his own cancer has been charged with the death of a 13-year-old boy after he allegedly replaced his insulin with herbal oils. Timothy Morrow, 83, was charged with child abuse, causing death and practicing medicine without a license, Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer said in a statement. When the boy became semi-comatose in August 2014 due to complications from his diabetes, Morrow told his parents to treat their son with the herbal oils he sold rather than insulin which was prescribed by qualified medical doctors. Type 1 Diabetes is caused by an autoimmune response which stops the body from making insulin. According to the Centers for Disease Control people with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day in order to survive.

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of Doctors for Life International