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What could be the death toll of alternative medicine?

While no accurate figures are generally kept, one country’s unfortunate public health policy could give us an insight into the level of unnecessary deaths attributable to alternative medicine.
Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the former South African health minister whose AIDS denial and insistence in using an alternative ‘remedy’ to treat patients, while delaying the distribution of retrovirals, is blamed for the unnecessary deaths of over 300,000 people in one country alone.
If your country adopted alternative medicine to treat a major illness or illnesses, what do you think the death toll could be?
Have any other countries adopted any alternative medicines as a public health policy? If not, why not?,0,3893206.story
Yes Dr Frank, I hadn’t thought of that.

dbobo: Please try and reference your claims or I’ll assume you invented them.
Truthseeker: No attempt at answering the question. Given your previous email to me:
“From: Truthseeker
Subject: You low-life Facker.
Message: You just crossed the line you motherfuging son of Jackal.”

…your spelling seems to be improving.

Dr SK: You’d think ayurveda would be taken up by the whole world if it’s so good? Please none of this Big Pharma conspiracy rubbish, that’s a cop out.

DrDan: Yep, I kinda do have an issue with unnecessary deaths. I try to stop caring about people I really do, but it just keeps happening!

William T: Good point, “seriously ill people die even after taking drugs”, though it’d still be good to put a figure on deaths from alt med due to neglect, adverse reactions or Dr Frank’s point of misallocation of funding.
Lightning: Links not working (or relevant to the question) I think if Mbeki wanted to target a minority, there’d be more effective ways? Rather far-fetched theory.
Truthseeker: I’m not sending you emails because after you sent the one above you blocked me, remember?

Lightning: Thanks for the link. So, 100,000 out of a population of 300 million compared to 300,000 out of a population of 50 million? I make that a death rate of 18 times more with alt med. Certainly the closest to an answer so far!

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18 Responses to “What could be the death toll of alternative medicine?”

  1. Dr Frank said :

    I am afraid the numbers are incalculable. Unfortunately even in the UK homeopathy is included in the NHS portfolio and in its budget. So in addition it wastes scarce resources that could be used to provide managements that actually work.

  2. dbobo said :

    according to the ama over 110,000 people a year die from prescription medicine, some years back Ralph Nader read into the congressional record that hospitals kill (his word, not mine) over 250,000 people a year. their are some, including md’s, that say conventional medicine kills 750,000 people a year. hmmm 300,000 vs. 750,000 tough choice.

  3. Gary Y said :

    In Australia (population 22 million) we currently have 17,500 people receiving HIV/AIDS treatment. 100,000 new cancer cases each year. We spent $103.6 billion, or 9.1% of GDP on health care in 2007-08.

    I don’t want to even think about the consequences of abolishing proper medicine.

    EDIT: Truthseeker – doctors going on strike is different to the availability of medicine. And you haven’t answered the question.

  4. saved1986 said :

    Orthodox medicine kills many people, especially with cancer treatment and it is of little use for many auto immune disease. It is great for trauma, bacterial infections, and managing a couple diseases like diabetes and asthma (to some extent), but drugs kill many people and it does not make the news.

  5. wmayers99 said :

    We know that too many people die despite the successes of conventional, or as one twit called it, “orthodox” medicine. More by far have died while using alternatives, often due to unexpected interactions between their alternative medicine and orthodox medicine.
    The real answer, in my humble opinion, to people who rant about how many have died while undergoing conventional therapies is that should they find themselves fighting a serious illness, they should decide then whether to accept conventional therapies or go to one of the many charlatans, quacks and plain old knotheads out there who’re peddling the latest snake oil…and if they choose the latter, at least they won’t be contaminating the gene pool any more!

  6. Jello F said :

    If you find out how many people die each year because they eat too much fruits and vegetables, please tell the world ASAP or else we’re all doomed!

  7. Truthseeker said :

    “In Australia (population 22 million) we currently have 17,500 people receiving HIV/AIDS treatment. 100,000 new cancer cases each year. We spent $103.6 billion, or 9.1% of GDP on health care in 2007-08.
    I don’t want to even think about the consequences of abolishing proper medicine”.

    I am not sharing your opinion. Just look what happened in Israel.
    In 1983, a lengthy strike by physicians took place in Israel which ended only after both sides agreed to submit disagreements on salaries and other unresolved issues to binding arbitration.

    At first physicians reported for duty as usual at government hospitals but charged fees for patients who sought care at hospital clinics. Stage two was a partial strike of doctors at hospital and the establishment by physicians of their own clinic where they treated patients on a fee-for-service basis. Stage three was the refusal of nearly all physicians throughout the country (except for military doctors) to report for duty at government hospitals and clinics. Doctors simply went on vacation or did not appear. This went on for three days at which time partial services were resorted (stage four). The fifth stage consisted of a hunger strike by physicians, beginning at Soroka hospital in Beersheba and spreading to most hospital throughout the country.

    The overall health and mortality rate of Israeli citizens did actually improved during this shameful episode.

    It is below my standards to show the world the e-mails you are sending.
    Hold your Chocobos and be a nice boy. I could be your father.
    I did answer the question and if you don’t like it or understand it – bad luck.
    It shows that during the strike the whole country was adopting the Alt/Med to the great benefit of its citizens.
    Is is that difficult for you and Gary to swallow it.

  8. Flizbap said :

    The reason that actual medicine will always have a higher death toll then alternative medicines is because conventional medicine actually DOES something.

    Hard to kill someone with water, vitamins, sugar pills, silver water, chanting, back rubs, and smoky quartz crystal…

    Scratch that last one actually; depending upon the weight of the crystal it would be really easy to kill someone with it.

  9. Dr. Suniel Kaushal said :

    I do not know about other aternative therapies bu in my 23 years experience i have not seen a single patient died after taking Ayurvedic medicine, my patient or any other.
    With my medicine i have not seen any side effects more that just lose motion for 1 or 2 days.
    But yes every body knows that conventional medicines even chemically made vitamin c has side effects but still people run after that.
    I ask all my fellow doctors and patients that don’t be rigid every medicine system may be having good or bad points, like modern medicine system has best diagnostics and research on each and every subject however they lack in producing medicine even after good knowledge & research, they are good in orthopedics and surgeries however injection systen (Suchi vedh) and cosmetic surgery given to the world by Ayurveda.
    And your next question asking why the other countries are not adopting alternative medicines as national/official is the big pharma gients who do not wish even a single penny lose to alternative medicines and spend anything to deface alternative medicine, paid articles in newspapers, pay doctors commissions, gifts, parties and other incentives.
    Who cares for patients when billions are made after spreding the rumar that you have to take the pill for rest of your life so that they are every day creating permanent customers.
    I can’t say about other alternative therapies but after 23 years experience i have learnt that one life is very short to learn Ayurveda, its very difficult to understand i.e. some Japanies scientists conducted study on sulfur they tested purified sulfer by Ayurveda safe for human consumption and on even those who are not suitable for allopathic sulfa drugs, purified by cow’s milk and cow’s milk fat several times, but could not understand the purification way. It is very difficult to understand Ayurveda to adopt in NHS system for those who are not qualified & experienced in Ayurveda.
    And it is very easy to abuse Ayurveda. Never evaluate any pathy unless you have good knowledge of the pathy.

  10. DrDan said :

    You really have a bur up your butt about this subject. You had to know the freaky freakies would come out of the woodwork citing study after study showing th dangers of properly prescribed medicine. The leading nature of your question also detracts from its objectivity. I expect more from you Dave, don’t get dragged into this alties vs mainstream stuff. Keep providing rational discourse on questions asked.

  11. William T said :

    One problem that skews statistics is how the deaths of people are recorded. If a person is in the hospital and dies from a doctor error, it is recorded as such. If a person gets cancer and tries to treat it with herbs and as a result dies we record it as a death from cancer, not a death from herbs. I’m sure that even if all deaths by alt med were recorded as such there would still be more deaths by doctor mistakes, but at least then the comparisons would be more meaningful.

  12. Mr E said :

    prescription drugs appear to be the number one cause of death in the united states. drugs cause disease, and sometimes kill. they heal nothing, only nature can do that.

  13. Lightning said :

    In my training we were taught contra-indications to treatment and there are techniques that can kill or maim patients in rare cases. However, although these are possibilities I am not expected to do so in my whole practice life. If I do I will be very unlucky.
    Osteopaths and Chiropractors are are regulated by the government or self regulated under endorsement of the government in Australia, France, Great Britain, New Zealand and the USA. Deaths and serious injuries are noted and reported and you can find these statistics if you ask.
    The rates of death and serious injury are very low…..
    ….Far lower than the rates of death from adverse drug reactions.

    Quote from BMJ

    “When a drug is marketed little is known about its safety in clinical use because only about 1500 patients are likely to have been exposed to it. Thus drug safety assessment should be considered an integral part of everyday clinical practice since detection and diagnosis often depend on clinical acumen.”

    From JAMA

    “Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions
    in Hospitalized Patients:
    Showed over 2 million hospital admissions and over 100000 deaths from adverse drug reactions.

    This makes ADR’s the 6th – 4th biggest killer in the USA”

    Conventional medicine kills and maimes more people in the western world than all the other systems of medicine yet we are under much more pressure to prove safety.

    I’m not suggesting that we should ban conventional medicine because of this but I think you have a lot of front asking questions like this when you know as well as anyone how many people are killed by conventional medicine.

    Did you know that the original recommendation for Statins was that they should be taken in conjunction with Enzyme Q10 because it was found to intefere with this enzyme in patients who took it? That got lost because this adds significantly to the cost of prescribing. What effect has that had on patients? I don’t know if the results will surprise you when you look it up but it ain’t positive.

    As for the South African Health minister, do you really think the denial has anything to do with belief about what causes HIV?

    When Mbeki was in power he was rival to the Zulu’s. Africa in general is very tribal and his aim was to wipe the Zulu tribe out. The Zulu’s are in the Lower social strata thus more affected by HIV as they are more inclined to be un-educated and live in abject poverty which is a major factor to spreading this disease In Africa (although it does affect people in all levels of society there). He knew that if people weren’t treated they would die and more Zulu’s would die than anyone else.
    Read between the lines Dave.

    Let me ask you something else Dave, If you had too groups of people, randomised them and made them similar, You then assigned them to groups.
    1 group would have to live in the squalor and filth and living conditions of 19th century working class britain but have access to as much western medicine as they like.
    The other group has no medicine but lives in a clean dry environment, has nutritious food clean air and clean water.
    Which group would have a higher mortality rate?

    Medicine does save lives Dave but sometimes it does more harm then good and sometimes medicine just isn’t enough and common sense has to prevail.

    Edit: Ok try this link:

    I don’t know where the other link has gone. It was from a question more than 12 months ago.

    Here is a nice one about Q10 and Statins:

    What other ways could Mbeki use Dave?
    What better way to get rid of an uneducated, unemployable, unskilled people than let disease kill them.

    Not only are they out of the system once they are dead but there is no longer a cost to educate them and provide services for them.

    Of my 2 groups which do you think would do better Dave?

  14. Tink said :

    I take a couple days off here because I break my butt and a really good question almost slipped by me. Pfft! just my luck 😉

    Considering that in much of the world “alternative” stuff IS the only treatment for known killers – and those known killers don’t seem to be slowing down (AIDS, TB, Malaria, et al.) and because I officially need to answer….I’m going to go with one hecka lot – many of which are inexcusable due to various economic and political reasons.

  15. Dave the Ayurvedic Remedies guy said :

    It sounds to me, Dr. Frank, as if you suggest that alternative medicine and herbal remedies are to blame for the death of 300.000 aids patients in South Africa. With all due respect, I beg to differ – the blame should be put on Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the former South African health minister. It is utter his ignorance, perhaps madness, that allowed this to happen.
    Some alternative medicines, like Ayurvedic Medicine, have been around for thousands of years.

    I cannot talk about other Alternative Medicine, but I know that any responsible doctor who practices Ayurvedic Medicine knows the limits of Ayurvedic Remedies – what it can and what it cannot do. And in the case of Aids – I would surely leave the treatment to Modern Medicine, as it is the only branch of medicine with a proven track record of arresting the multiplication of the HI virus.

    Moreover, and as you must know, there are many doctors and hospitals around the world that use Ayurvedic Medicine as a supplement to Modern Medicine.

    Ayurvedic Medicine has been around for at least 3,500 years. I would like to think that it must be must have been doing some good for it to survive all this time.

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