Monday, 10 March 2008
Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Homoeopathy: Just don't dump alternative medicine
March 10, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 9: Complementary and alternative medicine plays its own role in controlling diseases and keeping the nation healthy. One should not dub these alternative systems of medicine as "fake" or "unscientific" without making a proper scientific study and assessment of their role in disease treatment. The importance of complementary and alternative medicine more popularly known as CAM in the West is
growing by the day as more and more patients are showing interest in it.
Health experts in the city are of the view that "when so many people use alternative treatments and derive benefit, it is not correct to lump them all together and throw them out".
But what is needed is that CAM should be studied in a proper scientific manner to know how exactly the alternative system of medicine works. Once such a scientific basis is established no one will ever dare to dub CAM as useless, they point out.
Not only in India but also in the USA and the UK, CAM is increasingly becoming popular. If statistics are to be believed more number of US and UK citizens are adopting CAM than Indians (percentage wise), where the CAM actually had its origin. The more popular CAM systems in India are Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha, besides
On the other hand, CAM in the West parlance comprises acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine and Homoeopathy or any diverse group of treatments, ranging from symptomatic interventions to be used in conjunction with allopathic therapies. Interestingly more and more patients are looking towards CAM to avoid chemotherapy and surgical procedures. Even taking a specific dietary supplement to lower blood
pressure or blood lipid concentrations also forms of CAM.
Studies reveal that nearly 33 per cent of patients in the USA use CAM therapy in conjunction with allopathy. For patients in the West, leading CAM therapies include natural products, meditation, chiropractic and massage.
"Symptoms most commonly treated with CAM therapies are musculoskeletal, respiratory and psychological symptoms," experts say.
Unfortunately, CAM therapies are generally not covered by medical insurance companies. Only a select few CAM treatment procedures fall under the purview of mediclaim policies. Despite being not covered under mediclaim, CAM therapies are increasingly becoming popular as patients are willing to pay from their pocket to keep themselves healthy and sound.
The major problem with CAM, as Dr Douglas Kamerow, former US assistant surgeon-general, says is the nature of CAM treatment. "They can be hard to quantify and hard to specify, and often they do not lend themselves to stand research techniques such a placebo controlled trials. I think a sensible approach is for doctors to inquire of patients what non-traditional treatments they are using, both for conditions that
the doctor knows about and is treating and for others that have not been dealt with. This will at least allow discussion and investigation of possible adverse interactions," he says.
Moreover, doctors should discuss truly complementary symptomatic CAM treatments for chronic pain, allergies or the like so that their scientific basis can be investigated and understood by the patient and the doctor, if possible. Alternative treatments for serious or life threatening diseases such as cancer, doctors should assess the scientific evidence for the treatment and try to understand the range of benefit the patient expects to receive from it, Dr Douglas suggests.
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