WHO endorses traditional Chinese medicine. Expect deaths to increase


A few days ago, a news in the newspaper Nature reported that the World Health Organization, which is said to be dedicated to improving the health and medical care of people around the world, will for the first time endorse a belief system called “traditional Chinese medicine.” I call TCM a belief system because it is, but the WHO will approve it as a set of medical practices.

The Nature writer David Cyranoski presents this short story in a classic two-sided story format, describing the “endless hours” TCM supporters have spent on topics as important as “the correct placement of dots. acupuncture and lesser-known concepts such as “triple energizing meridian syndrome.” Later in the article (but much later), he points out that scientists have argued that qi and meridians simply do not exist. not.

Cyranoski also falls into the trap of using the phrase “Western medicine” as if it were just an alternative point of view. An appropriate answer is this comment from a doctor of biology. student, which goes by @astrelaps on Twitter:

“What a weak and equivocal article from the world’s largest scientific journal.” For those steeped in Western medicine … “is like writing” For those steeped in climate science “or” For those steeped in climate science. ” imbued with evolutionary biology “during a report on climate change denial or creationism.

Well put. On the other hand, Cyranoski points out that the main motivation for TCM is money:

“[China] aggressively promoted TCM internationally both to expand its global influence and for an estimated global market share of $ 50 billion. “

Did you think it was health care? Afraid not. Cyranoski goes on to highlight some serious issues with TCM, for example:

“Critics view TCM practices as unscientific, unsupported by clinical trials and sometimes dangerous: China’s drug regulator receives over 230,000 TCM adverse reaction reports each year. “

In fact, it’s much worse than that. This is what TCM really looks like: the horrific slaughter of the last remaining rhinos in Africa to chop off their horns, which are sold as part of elixirs that some people mistakenly believe confer strength, virility or other health benefits. . Last year, National geography posted a heartbreaking photo essay showing some of the terrible results of rhino poaching in Africa; look at these pictures here.

MTC too looks like this: black bears kept in grotesquely cruel “farms” with a permanent tube inserted into their abdomen so that their bile can be collected. Despite a growing movement to end this inhuman practice (look at this NY Times story) it persists today, with thousands of bears kept in cages so small they can barely move. Nobody can see photos like these and say TCM is a good thing.

And TCM is behind the slaughter of the last remaining wild tigers, which are now virtually extinct in Asia, so men can foolishly eat their bones, claws, and genitals by mistakenly believing that parts of the tiger have them. will make manly. Here too, National geography has details and photographs which are almost too painful to watch.

And don’t get me started on pangolins, this beautiful, peaceful mammal that is now dangerously endangered because TCM practitioners believe its scales have some sort of medicinal value. (They don’t.) To learn more about these sweet creatures, see the article I wrote last year.

I almost hear the counter-argument: but what about artemisinin? It is a plant extract derived from Artimisia annua, a plant traditionally used in China to treat malaria. It turns out that it really works, and artemisinin is now the basis for a number of modern treatments for malaria.

Very large. If a plant has the potential to treat a disease, we should (and can, and do) study it, determine what the active ingredient is, develop a controlled process for delivering effective doses, and use it. This is what happened with the mugwort, and it is also happened with taxol, an effective cancer chemotherapy derived from Pacific yew, and common aspirin, derived from willow.

But success does not excuse hundreds of false claims based on little more than magical thinking.

There is no legitimate reason to use terms such as “Chinese” medicine, or American, Italian, Spanish, Indian or [insert your favorite nationality] Medication. There’s only Medication–If a treatment works, then it is medicine. If something doesn’t work, it’s not a drug and we shouldn’t be selling it to people with false claims. The same goes for alternative, holistic, integrative and functional medicine: these are just marketing terms, with no scientific significance. They simply serve to disguise sloppy, unscientific thinking as well as possible and, in a less charitable interpretation, outright fraud.

As the Nature The article points out that TCM has been a scam for decades: it was revived and heavily promoted in China by former dictator Mao Zedong, who himself did not believe in it, but presented it as a good alternative walked to real medicine. I won’t stay here again, but see these stories by Alan Levinovitz in Slate and David Gorski at Scientific Medicine.

Finally, why would the World Health Organization start promoting a set of unscientific practices that could harm people’s health? Support for TCM increased during the tenure of former WHO director Margaret Chan, who led the WHO until 2017 and had close ties to China. When Nature tried to contact Dr Chan, WHO replied that Chan “does not answer questions on WHO related matters”.

By endorsing TCM, WHO is taking a big step backwards. Hopefully the current WHO leadership will realize that this step undermines their core mission. WHO should not be advocating for treatments that not only have no supporting evidence and can cause real harm to patients, but are also the main reason humans hunt rhinos, tigers, pangolins. and other animals to extinction.


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