Consumer protection and advocacy in health and wellness goods-services - reference information

Alternative and Complementary Therapies for Health and Wellness

Knowledge · Communications · Health Services · Security · Person Centered Care

Safety and Effectiveness Issues Raised by "Tradtional Western Mainstream Medical Therapy"

| Definitions  | Medical Issues-Concerns  | Consumer Protection  | Reference Publications & Sites

Editorial Comments:  As consumers of a wide range of wellness / therapeutic goods and services, we are obliged to exercise due diligence.  We deal with an ever growing media barrage of advertisements about the effectiveness of a wide range of alternative and complementary therapies. Here we provide you with some definitions and comments from the view of traditional western medicine practitioners e.g. medical associations.  Other resources to help make health care-enhancement choices range from:

  • consulting your personal-family medical doctor or medical clinic;
  • consulting your pharmacist, in terms of drugs and health food / diet-nutrition supplements/
  • reviewing reference/research information available online on the web or by consulting your local public library reference librarian for information in the library collection.

Acknowledgements  Much of the following information is taken from "Alternative and Complementary Therapies" brochure seen in many doctors offices and published by the British Columbia Medial Association.  The use of this information in no way implies the BC Medical Assoc.'s support or endorsement of this web site. It is meant to provide reference information to our viewers as a public service.

Definitions from BC Medical Association

"Alternative" ..."usually means a treatment that is substituted for regular Western mainstream therapy.  Examples of alternative practices are iridology and reflexology.  These may not be effective or safe, so they are difficult for doctors to support."

"Complementary" means an ... "additional therapy, such as massage or nutritional therapy, which may be easy to include in your care plan if it is both safe and effective.  Sometimes, the person who advises the therapy also sells a product that is part of the therapy; in such cases, your best interests may not be considered."

Issues and Concerns - or - working with western medicine

"The major concern doctors have about alternative therapies is that many of them have not been scientifically tested for safety and effectiveness.  so far, the few studies that have been done show little or no benefit.  More thorough testing, similar to that being demanded of mainstream medical treatments, is needed and is beginning to take place."

" Doctors are also concerned that the alternative or complementary therapy may conflict with other treatments or medications you are already taking.  This is why it is so important for you to tell your family doctor about any alternative or complementary therapy you are using, no matter how routine or insignificant it may seem to you."

Quality Assurance | Standards | Certification | Licensing

Herbs & Diet Supplements

One question many ask is:  "If so much of these herbs or diet supplements are possibly harmful, how can they be bought and sold so easily in so many different types stores?"

Backgrounder:  It has only been within the past 2 years in Canada that the Federal Government has formally started to review many diet supplements as potential  "pharmaceutical drugs i.e. possible prescription drugs". This is a much more rigorous screening of many items and their bio-chemical ingredients than in the past when most items were imported or produced under the category of a "food product".

In the Asian community there are anecdotal stories have been told of people taking various herbs/diet supplements to "help their hearts and blood circulation" [without telling their doctors] then finding that they have experienced clotting problems resulting from an accident or even during scheduled surgery.  Not surprisingly the BC Medical Association states

"Remember that the words "natural", "herbal", and "organic" do not mean 'safe.'  Many natural products--such as ginkgo extracts, lobelia, and St. John's Wort--can have serious side effects or interactions with other drugs.  Some supposedly herbal products have been found to contain potent Western medicines.  Others have been contaminated with poisons such as lead."

"Try to determine the safety and effectiveness of the therapy.  Ask the practitioner [of the alternative / complementary therapy ] for printed information about the therapy and take it to your doctor to discuss whether the evidence is reliable.  The fact that other patients believed the therapy helped them does not mean it will be safe and effective for you."

"Ask your doctor or pharmacist how the alternative treatment might interact with any other treatment , prescription, or over-the-counter drugs you are taking.  Some combinations may be dangerous."

Useful Reference Information Websites and Print Publications Related to Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Doing your homework - Recommended Reading & Information Sources

Books · Reports · Articles - recommended by Medical Association

The list of books below is unless otherwise noted, taken from the Alternative and Complementary Therapies brochure mentioned above, published by the B.C.Medical Association, picked up on our family doctor's office and put on this web site 2004.05.29   Note, the comments on the books are direct quotes from the brochure.

  • Consumer's Guide to Alternative Medicine. By Kurt Butler.  ISBN 0879757337. Prometheus Books, 1992. Paperback, 299 pages. Readable and cheap.
  • Tyler's Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the use of Herbs and Related Remedies. By Steven Foster and Varro E. Tyler. ISBN 0789007053. Haworth Press, 1999.
  • Consumer Reports on Health. All-around health newsletter featuring practical advice on a wide range of topics.
    Subscriptions: 1-800-234-1645 or [contact] Consumer Reports on Health, PO Box 56360, Boulder, C0 80323, USA.
  • Dictionary on Medical Folklore. Fact & Fiction in traditional Remedies.  ISBN 1853263230. Wordsworth Editions Ltd., 1994.
  • Herbs:  Everyday Reference for Health Professionals.  Edited by Frank Chandler, PhD. ISBN 0920169-41-4.  Canadian Medical Association publication.  Call 1-888-855-2555 to order.
  • Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide.  ISBN 1573926981.  Prometheus Books. Hardcover, 220 pages.  An Incisive guide to chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings.
  • Magic or Medicine.  By Dr Robert Buckman.   ISBN 1550134817.  Key Porter Books, Ltd., 1994.  Hardcover.
  • Power of Hope:  A Doctor's Perspective.  By Howard Spiro.  ISBN 0300078320.  Yale University Press, 1998.  Paperback, 320 pages.  Good referenced discussion of the art and science of medicine and the placebo effect.

Health Information Websites

The following is by not means a comprehensive list of health information resourcs on the web, just a few places to consider.

  • Canada Institute of Health Research
    CIHR Funding database of information on currently funded researchers including: names, institutions,
  • Rare Disease Database
    from the National Organization for Rare Disorders .... the database has abstracts on more than 1,100 diseases - full text is on a subscription fee basis
  • Clinical Trials in the USA
    The U.S. National Inssitutes of Health, through its National Library of Medicine, has developed ClinicalTrials.cov to provide current information about clinical research studies
  • Canadian Health network from the Government of Canada
  • Health Canada
    reference resources from the Government of Canada
  • Mediresource®
    "MediResource™ provides credible, physician and pharmacist reviewed health information. MediResource™ adheres to Health on the Net Foundation Code of Conduct (HONcode) for health web sites"[web site quote 08/13/2002]
  • Drugs, medications & prescription reference
    Pharmasave Pharmacy sponsored health library
  • Information site from a professional trained as a lawyer and pharmacist

Sometimes "things don't work out" and the consumer has spent time and money for some service or product that has either not been effective or in a worse case scenario, caused significant physical-mental pain and suffering.  What do you do now? see Consumer Protection & Advocacy section.

N.B. the mention of different web sites above in no way implies their endorsement of this web site -- nor does it imply the publishers of this web site formally supporting the sites mentioned above.
- Y.Orosa, social work & music therapy consultant for 040522

About Us -

This web site is project of a group of health care and health promotion professionals.  The site has a volunteer reference group, including:  a medical doctor, nurse, long-term-care facility director, music therapy, social work and rehabilitation consultants and lawyers

The providers of this site's information reference materials, including links to other resources on the Internet's Web, or organizations / agencies / facilities - do not accept responsibility for the accuracy - dependability of the information sources.  By use of this site you as the viewer must make your own informed decision as to the information given and or linked to or referred to. 

If you do not wish to accept responsibility for being a consumer of the information or references on this site, please do not go further into the site.

Thank you for visiting this "work in process"
On behalf of the participating professionals that are contributing to this web site's development

Yoying Orosa,
Music Therapy and Social Work Consultant
OnWellness Inc. Vancouver, BC

Photo Credits

The photo collage-banner at the top of this page is intended to give viewers an idea of the conceptualization behind this web project.  The concepts of "health and wellness / well-being" include KNOWLEDGE, having access to reference information; COMMUNICATION, through various medium (as in music therapy); and SECURITY, the sense of safety provided by social-political structures and systems to help experience one's well-being e.g. private and public personal-care / long term care facilities.

The provenance of the photos on this page include:

  • Photo of music therapists at work in a residential long term care facility in downtown Vancouver, BC, collection of Y.Orosa, Music Therapy and Social Work Consultant, recently returned from London, UK work with the British health care system.
  • Elementary school children participate in a demonstration of music therapy activities by Vancouver long term care facility, directed by Y.Orosa, MT.
  • Book shelf photo from Public Library, Reference Department, section on introductory texts on traditional and alternative medicine, drug dictionaries, treatment guides, taken by N.Chan
  • Cartoon character, Anjolico the wireless cat, is provided by Tony Yau, B.F.A, M.V.A, graphic designer and illustrator, with training from York University in Toronto and the University of Alberta in Visual Arts... This cartoon character is a regular feature in a number of China web sites as well as Hong Kong print newspapers e.g. the Sing Tao Resources-Components of a lifestyle that promotes, strengthens and maintains health and wellness.

© 2002-2004, OnWellness Inc., Vancouver, BC Canada

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