Traditional Chinese medicine: European experts warn against strengthening unfounded claims
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners have a long history of outrageous claims, especially in the case of fertility and virility, where the demand for tiger penis and rhino horn has devastated wild populations.
Quackery and false allegations exist in all branches of medicine, but European doctors fear that unverified claims made under the guise of TCM will be spread around the world through social media, inadvertently aided by the Organization World Health Organization (WHO).
The inclusion of TCM “may lead some to see it as a legitimation of what are in fact unfounded claims,” warned the Scientific Advisory Council of the European Academies (EASAC) and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) in a joint statement this month. .
“There is a risk of misleading patients and doctors and increasing pressure for reimbursement by public health systems at a time when resources are limited,” the statement said.
“Social media is now very easy to get (misleading information),” said George Griffin, professor of infectious diseases and medicine at St. George’s, University of London. “Unscrupulous people who want to sell these products can easily post information on social media without any formal verification.”
One of the basic tenets of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as it’s generally defined, is that life energy, or qi, flows through channels in the body that connect with various organs and functions. TCM therapies, such as cupping, acupuncture, or herbal treatments, seek to activate these channels or balance someone’s qi.
Although the methods have been in use for hundreds of years, critics argue that there is no verifiable scientific evidence that qi actually exists.
However, what worries many scientists and physicians is that instead of those experiences and discoveries that bolster the reputation of an individual drug, they are often presented as proof of the validity of the entire field of medicine. TCM, much of which has no scientific basis. and can be potentially dangerous.
“The treatments included in the broad category of TCM are very different from each other,” European doctors said. “They can only be considered as a group of therapies from the point of view of history / ethnology (” traditional “) and geography (Chinese).”
Griffin, who helped draft the joint European statement, told CNN that “our concern is that by having this in the CDI, people who are not critical, who are not medical or scientific, they can consider this as a sign that the WHO has complete confidence in Traditional Chinese Medicine. “
Despite this, Dan Larhammer, president of EASAC, an umbrella body representing national academies of science in EU member states, as well as Norway and Switzerland, said it was “very likely to be interpreted in this way by supporters of TCM “.
China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency appeared to confirm concerns that the move would be interpreted as approval, saying it was “a major step in the globalization of traditional Chinese medicine.”
“What if effective, proven and inexpensive cancer therapies were available to you? Would you prefer them to toxic chemotherapy and radiation therapy? The Truth About Cancer Says. “There is a lot of evidence to support the claim that the ‘war on cancer’ is largely a fraud and that multinational drug companies are ‘running the show’.”
The Truth About Cancer did not respond to a request for comment. Many other Facebook pages make similar claims, both about the potential effectiveness of TCM and against traditional medical practices.
Tech companies have started cracking down on misleading medical claims. In September, Google announced that it was banning “advertising of unproven or experimental medical techniques such as most stem cell therapies, (non-strain) cell therapy, and gene therapy,” and Facebook also shut down. committed to “minimize health content that is sensational or misleading.”
While many patients may see benefits from using alternative treatments, including TCM, alongside other medications, there are risks when people avoid the procedure because they are treating themselves with unscientific remedies.
“The biggest risk is that people and patients will rely on unproven methods and refrain from using evidence-based methods,” said Larhammer, president of EASAC.
“Patients waste time and money relying on unnecessary methods that can at best provide a placebo response that is usually transient. Some alternative medicine methods, including TCM, involve side effects, in particular plant extracts. ”