More from a local “alternatician”

I recently posted an article on a particular “holistic” doctor’s take on salt–the bottom line is the bottom line; more expensive is better. You’d think I’d call it a day.

However, if someone is going to advertise widely, he’s leaving himself open for criticism. How can one family physician have so many answers? He sells books and DVDs purporting to cure and treat a remarkable number of diseases from arthritis to thyroid disorders to fibromyalgia. These works are not available for free, so I can’t evaluate their validity. They may contain harmful advice, helpful advice, or none at all. The hype, though, is pretty remarkable.

For example, he sells a book called “Overcoming Thyroid Disorders”. This book:

provides information on safe and effective natural therapies to help the body heal itself. Dr. Brownstein provides over 30 actual case studies of his success in treating thyroid disorders.

I’m not sure what the big deal is. Medical science has been successfully treating thyroid disease for decades. It’s offering a service that, well, isn’t really needed. I’m also not so sure what is so exciting about offering “30 actual case studies” except that the rest of the sentence says “of his success in treating” these problems. He seems to be saying that, at least in 30 of his patients, he’s done a decent job treating thyroid disease.

My God! I hope so! Treating thyroid disease is basic to the practice of primary care medicine, and when it gets too complicated, endocrinologists can help out. I have also successfully treated dozens (more, really) of people with thyroid disease. I don’t brag about it because it’s part of my job (and I’m not selling anything).

People have every right to write books, sell them, and profit from them. People should just be aware of what they are buying.

Richard Dawkins said, ” If you are in possession of this revolutionary secret of science, why not prove it and be hailed as the new Newton? Of course, we know the answer. You can’t do it. You are a fake.” This was meant to make the point that those who offer up miracles are usually unable to deliver. If this guy knows so may remarkable things about medicine that no one else does, why isn’t he more widely known? Why hasn’t he published his results in peer-reviewed journals? I doubt he’s “a fake”. But what makes him think he has a special insight that the rest of the medical community missed out on?

The answer is probably that his books bring comfort and control to people dealing with frustrating health problems. A person buys a book like this because they feel bad, and they want to feel better. Some books on health contain useful advice, some don’t. Perhaps the advertised tomes give good advice…I don’t know. But hyping a problem (the difficulty of treating thyroid disorders) and selling a solution (the book) seems a little icky too me. It just doesn’t seem to mesh well with my duty to help those in need with proven techniques, without selling them something they probably don’t need. Perhaps I’m being too critical. If I have a patient with simple hypothyroidism, I do an evaluation, and I can often treat them with a medication that costs pennies a day. I rely on the medical literature and my relationship with the patient to make a treatment plan. I don’t rely on charisma (I just don’t have that much) and I don’t rely on extravagant promises (seems too much like lying).

Well, to each his own.