Acupuncture helps headaches due to the placebo effect

The Swiss government yielded to public pressure and issued a decree according to which from the funds of public health insurance are allowed to pay for the treatment using “additional”, i.e. alternative medicine. However, the permission is granted with several qualifications: approved only five types of alternative therapies and only for the period until 2017. Within six years, the state will conduct independent research, which should reveal the effectiveness or uselessness of these therapies. Based on the results of the study will be a final decision.

Supporters of alternative medicine this decision is made by the liking, and proponents of evidence-based medicine are sounding the alarm. They believe that in this way the state expresses approval of questionable methods of healing.

Now in Switzerland registered activity 17 200 alternative doctors, this is the highest number per capita among all countries of the world. In 2009, 67% of the electorate, taking advantage of the system of dispute settlement through a referendum, voted for the inclusion of five types of alternative treatment in the list approved for state insurance.

It includes homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese herbal practices, Anthroposophical medicine (the famous councils of lecanorae by the mistletoe) and neural therapy (treatment by injection of local anesthetics in areas near nerve centres).


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However, the adoption of such decision on the basis of the results of the referendum, as concluded by the scientific Advisory Council of the government, it would be illegal: the law permitted to use the insurance only to pay for treatment with proven efficacy. None of the above methods of treatment is not known clinical trials that proved their effectiveness.

To resolve this political conflict was made “half-hearted” solution: people temporarily allowed to pay for alternative treatment from insurance, and an independent Commission will undertake a study of its effectiveness.

It is assumed that the statistical data on the effectiveness of treatment will present themselves Swiss experts on alternative medicine, the examination will deal with British national Institute for health and medical care quality.

The alternative trade Union of physicians has said that it has about 2000 studies

however, experts fear that the authors did not observe strict rules of inspection adopted in clinical studies (particularly important is the use of a control group receiving a placebo — a “dummy”).


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Edzard Ernst, Professor of complementary medicine of Exeter University, feared that the research would be a simple waste of time. “For alternative medicine is not suitable research methods effectiveness used to conventional medicines. In addition, when solving such a political issue negative data can be “rigged” in favor of the government”, — said Ernst, as quoted by New Scientist .

On the one hand, state insurance payments generated from tax-paying citizens, so they are free to dispose of them. On the other hand, legislative regulation of services, payment of which is covered by the insurance, is the basic concern about the quality and the effectiveness of treatment. Therefore, the temporal resolution is legally correct method to resolve legal conflicts.

On the other hand, the new situation provides ample opportunities to assess the effectiveness of alternative medicine using an objective statistical research. Their results are, I think, will be of interest not only to Swiss taxpayers, but also to physicians throughout the world. So, most likely,

in the next five years we expect considerable improvements in the evaluation of alternative medicine, which as a minimum needs to conduct proper clinical trials.

Citizens who voted in the referendum, will automatically become a volunteer for such research, which of course is positive from the point of view of science, and from the point of view of improving the quality of medical services.


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However, there is another aspect, which are focused by experts on alternative medicine. The current rules state regulation of production of medical drugs and services extremely hard, especially in developed countries, where science and pharmaceutical companies have enough material and intellectual resources for the development of medical innovations. It’s no secret that the world is a year in clinical practice will not be introduced more than 10 new drugs, despite billions of dollars in investments and thousands and thousands of promising compounds and targets for drugs.

For the introduction of the drug in medical practice it is necessary not only to prove its effectiveness, harmlessness, describe all possible side effects, but also to establish the way by which this drug works.

Thus, perhaps the most famous in the world of medicine — aspirin — under the present conditions in General would not have reached the market: its mechanism of action is not known in detail until now. And this is not the only example of “forbidden” drugs in conventional medical practice and put into circulation prior to the establishment of regulatory restrictions, by the way, objectively necessary for safety (remember the sad story of thalidomide ). However, meeting stringent security requirements, regulatory rules at the same time, may not allow the final consumer to drugs that could really help people. And some types of alternative medicine may fall into this category.

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