CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Pharmaceutical advertising and CAM

Those pharmaceutical companies have their advertising hands in complementary medicine research, too, it seems.

Does pharmaceutical advertising affect journal publication about dietary supplements?

It seems so, reports one journal:

Background: Advertising affects consumer and prescriber behaviors. The relationship between pharmaceutical advertising and journals' publication of articles regarding dietary supplements (DS) is unknown.

We reviewed one year of the issues of 11 major medical journals for advertising and content about DS. Advertising was categorized as pharmaceutical versus other. Articles about DS were included if they discussed vitamins, minerals, herbs or similar products. Articles were classified as major (e.g., clinical trials, cohort studies, editorials and reviews) or other (e.g., case reports, letters, news, and others). Articlesa conclusions regarding safety and effectiveness were coded as negative (unsafe or ineffective) or other (safe, effective, unstated, unclear or mixed).

Results: Journals total pages per issue ranged from 56 to 217 while advertising pages ranged from 4 to 88; pharmaceutical advertisements (pharmads) accounted for 1.5% to 76% of ad pages. Journals with the most pharmads published significantly fewer major articles about DS per issue than journals with the fewest pharmads (P (Source: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

Someone writes that the American Cancer Society has been biased against alternative therapies:

The intimate association between the ACS and the cancer drug industry, with cur-rent annual sales of about $12 billion, is further illustrated by the unbridled aggression which the Society has directed at potential competitors of the industry (13). Just as Senator Joseph McCarthy had his "black list" of suspected communists and Richard Nixon his environmental activist "enemies list," so too the ACS maintains a "Committee on Unproven Methods of Cancer Management" which periodically "reviews" unorthodox or alternative therapies. This Committee is comprised of "volunteer health care professionals," carefully selected proponents of orthodox, expensive, and usually toxic drugs patented by major pharmaceutical companies, and opponents of alternative or "unproven" therapies which are generally cheap, nonpatentable, and minimally toxic (13).

Periodically, the Committee updates its statements on "unproven methods," which are then widely disseminated to clinicians, cheerleader science writers, and the public. Once a clinician or oncologist becomes associated with "unproven methods," he or she is blackballed by the cancer establishment. Funding for the
accused "quack" becomes inaccessible, followed by systematic harassment. The highly biased ACS witch-hunts against alternative practitioners is in striking contrast to its extravagant and uncritical endorsement of conventional toxic chemotherapy. This in spite of the absence of any objective evidence of improved survival rates or reduced mortality following chemotherapy for all but some relatively rare cancers.

In response to pressure from People Against Cancer, a grassroots group of cancer patients disillusioned with conventional cancer therapy, in 1986 some 40 members of Congress requested the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), a Congressional think tank, to evaluate available information on alternative innovative therapies. While initially resistant, OTA eventually published a September 1990 report that identified some 200 promising studies on alternative
therapies. OTA concluded that the NCI had "a mandated responsibility to pursue this information and facilitate examination of widely used `unconventional cancer treatments' for therapeutic potential" (14).

Yet the ACS and NCI remain resistant, if not frankly hostile, to OTA's recommendations. In the January 1991 issue of its Cancer Journal for Clinicians ACS referred to the Hoxsey therapy, a nontoxic combination of herb extracts developed in the 1940s by populist Harry Hoxsey, as a "worthless tonic for cancer." However, a detailed critique of Hoxsey's treatment by Dr. Patricia Spain Ward, a leading contributor to the OTA report, concluded just the opposite:" More recent literature leaves no doubt that Hoxsey's formula does indeed contain many plant substances of marked therapeutic activity" (13).

Nor is this the first time that the Society's claims of quackery have been called into question or discredited. A growing number of other innovative therapies originally attacked by the ACS have recently found less disfavor and even acceptance. These include hyperthermia, tumor necrosis factor (originally called Coley's toxin), hydrazine sulfate, and Burzynski's antineoplastons. Well over 100 promising alternative nonpatented and nontoxic therapies have already been identified (15). Clearly, such treatments merit clinical testing and evaluation by the NCI using similar statistical techniques and criteria as established for conventional chemotherapy. However, while the FDA has approved approximately 40 patented drugs for cancer treatment, it has still not approved a single nonpatented alternative drug.

Subsequent events have further isolated the ACS in its fixation on orthodox treatments. Bypassing the ACS and NCI, the National Institutes of Health in June 1992 opened a new Office of Alternative Medicine for the investigation of unconventional treatment of cancer and other diseases. Leading proponents of conventional therapy were invited to participate. The ACS refused and still refuses. The NCI grudgingly and nominally participates while actively attacking
alternative therapy with its widely circulated Cancer Information Services. Meanwhile, the NCI's police partner, the FDA, uses its enforcement authority against distributors and practitioners of innovative and nontoxic therapies. In an interesting recent development, the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D. C., held a two-day conference on Comprehensive Cancer Care: Integrating Complementary and Alternative Medicine. According to Dr. James Gordon, president of the Center and chair of the Program Advisory Council of the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine, the object of the conference was to bring together practitioners of mainstream and alternative medicine, together with cancer patients and high-ranking officials of the ACS and NCI. Dr. Gordon warned alternative practitioners that "they're going to need to get more rigorous
with their work-- to be accepted by the mainstream community" (16). However, no such warning was directed at the highly questionable claims by the NCI and ACS for the efficacy of conventional cancer chemotherapy. As significantly, criticism of the establishment's minimalistic priority for cancer prevention was effectively discouraged.

The launching of the 1971 War Against Cancer provided the ACS with a well-exploited opportunity to pursue it own myopic and self-interested agenda. Its strategies remain based on two myths-- that there has been dramatic progress in the treatment and cure of cancer, and that any increase in the incidence and mortality of cancer is due to aging of the population and smoking, while denying any significant role for involuntary exposures to industrial carcinogens in air, water, consumer products, and the workplace.

As the world's largest nonreligious "charity," with powerful allies in the private and public sectors, ACS policies and priorities remain unchanged. Despite periodic protests, threats of boycotts, and questions on its finances, the Society leadership responds with powerful public relations campaigns reflecting denial and manipulated information and pillorying its opponents with scientific McCarthyism.

The verdict is unassailable. The ACS bears a major responsibility for losing the winnable war against cancer. Reforming the ACS is, in principle, relatively easy and directly achievable. Boycott the ACS. Instead, give your charitable contributions to public interest and environmental groups involved in cancer prevention. Such a boycott is well overdue and will send the only message this "charity" can no longer ignore. The Cancer Prevention Coalition (chaired by the author) in April 1999 formally announced a nationwide campaign for an economic boycott of the ACS (

Published in: International Journal of Health Services Vol. 29, No. 3, 1999.

Hypnosis is a medical intervention, claims one blogger; it is not a matter of belief or faith:

There is much written on belief, religion and hypnosis. But none of it has to do with actually believing 'in' hypnosis. The abstracts and documents written regarding belief and hypnosis speak mostly about different religions and their uses of hypnosis and similar actions. Most Eastern belief systems practice some form of hypnosis or techniques in their rituals. Even the Roman Catholic Church issued statements approving the use of hypnosis in 1847. The Bible refers many places to hypnotic like events. For example, Paul speaks of being in trance while he was praying in the temple (Acts 22:17).

Consulting hypnotists spend a lot of time educating their clients and the public on hypnosis. Media, myths and those that just don't understand have done an injustice to a technique that has proven itself time and time again to help many. Ignorance is either lack of knowledge or just a fear of the unknown. Both do an equal injustice to complementary health fields.

I spend more than half of my client's first visit talking about facts and dispelling hypnosis myths. From movies to cartoons, I have seen hypnosis portrayed as a zombie like act. Even in the children's cartoon, Rugrats, I recently saw an episode where one 4 year old hypnotized the 2 year old to do bad acts. I literally sat back in my living room chair and screeched, "Oh no, more children to set straight after this episode!!" Children are notoriously easy to hypnotize as their brains are in constant trances. This could account for the high success rate in children. But if Angelica is turning Tommy into a zombie through hypnosis, then what's a 5 year old to think when his/her mom suggests he be hypnotized for his fear of dogs. Our job as hypnotists is 24/7 to dispel myths so the mind-body can connect.

Being a hypnotist, daily I see the mind-body connection. I experience it personally and through clients that the mind has a lot to do with health or illness. When people think of mind-body, they sometime think spiritual-religion. Although I do find that many spiritually aware people believe in the mind-body connection. It has nothing to do with religion or belief. For them, it has to do with their experiences and practices with the mind which have allowed their body to make changes. The American Medical Association has stated that up to 75 percent of illness is stress based. If that is not mind-body, then I don't know what is!

Recent studies and diagnostic advances have scientifically proven the mind body connection for those skeptical. A Canadian study tracked patient outcomes for those with breast and prostate cancer and found that mindfulness based meditation "altered cortisol and immune patterns consistent with less stress and mood disturbance, and decreased blood pressure." Brain Behav Immun. 2007 Nov; 21(8):1038-49. Epub 2007 May 22. Recent research has even shown that the mind can change the actual physical structure of the brain. Neuroreport. 2005 November 28; 16(17): 1893-1897.

According to the National Institute of Health, "there is evidence that mind-body interventions can be effective in the treatment of coronary artery disease, enhancing the effect of standard cardiac rehabilitation in reducing all-cause mortality and cardiac event recurrences for up to 2 years. Hypnotists really do not need such proof for ourselves, but the general public needs to be informed and educated about the new discoveries of the mind-body connection."

I made a similar argument in Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion that spiritual healing, done in contexts such as Therapeutic Touch, is not premised on 'faith' or 'belief' (although positive intention always helps, but is intention necessarily a religious attitude? Ask your local neuroscientist).

And finally, here we have the launch of a new complementary health social networking brand -

London, UK - Frontroom, a new breed of integrated agency, today announced that it was the creative driving force behind the positioning and identity of a new digital brand A social networking site for the complementary health community, acts as an advisory point for information on natural and complementary therapies and provides a directory of recommended practitioners, alongside forums and chat rooms where people can discuss their health problems and discover potential solutions.

Selected on the strength of its business reputation and existing client portfolio, Frontroom was hired by the team to design and create a brand identity for the website that would appeal to, and resonate with, the virtual masses. Whilst the number of websites dedicated to complementary and alternative medicine has grown in recent years, the gap in the market was obvious - other websites were lacking an active, close knit community and this needed to be reflected in Frontroom's work.

Frontroom immediately took responsibility for developing the brand positioning and identity. The agency identified the essence of the site concept as being a positive space between 'people and solutions', seeing it as an uplifting and empowering facilitator, whose role was to connect the people with the health problems to the people with the solutions. This insight formed the basis of the brand, which was encapsulated in the name and strap line: - your natural health community. With this in place, Frontroom went on to secure the domain name and design the brand logo and identity for the website.

With a target audience encompassing patients, practitioners and industry gurus, the Frontroom remit also included maximising user generated content opportunities, in order to create a dynamic, bustling community with longevity.

"It was an absolute pleasure working with Frontroom," commented Jonny Synett, Founder of "The team immersed themselves in the project and their enthusiasm was fantastic. I feel they now know as much about the natural therapies space that we are entering as we do! It was the level of personal involvement from the team that was the essential ingredient in making our site a success."

"The Frontroom team was delighted to secure the campaign," commented Lau Glendinning, Managing Partner of Frontroom. "Web 2.0 has quickly become one of the most valuable marketing tools there is. No longer just for teenagers, more and more people, from all parts of society, are joining communities of peers to seek out advice and share experiences. So being a part of a project which is riding the wave of social networking really excited us."

The site is currently in early Beta phase and will launch later in 2008.

About's vision is to create a positive, inspiring and uplifting environment where people connect to not just TALK about health and wellbeing but to DO something about it too. The website aims to create a place where people with health problems, meet people with complementary health solutions and where personalised and relevant health information is available to anyone who needs it.

For more information visit

About Frontroom

Founded in 2004, Frontroom is an integrated agency, committed to trusting partnerships with their clients.

Clients include: SEGA, Konami, Think Bingo, John Frieda and Disney TV Channel.

Press contact for Frontroom:

Clare Shephard
maillot jaune communications
T: +44 (0)7736 793332

Once you've hit social networking, you know the phenomenon is here to stay (at least more than as a passing fad).

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