By VINCENT RASALAN
Some general details before we proceed with this week’s column.
A medical center practicing alternative medicine was enacted with a closure order by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), on the premise of prescribing and selling concoctions/medicines that are not FDA approved. The said concoctions are in the market since the early 1980’s and it has run into three generations of development, Bostons A thru C. Its efficacy is claimed to come from the coconut oil which is the primary base of the concoction. Acetic Acid as claimed acts as a detoxifying agent and teaches the immune system to battle cancer cells. From their website, they published an article from St. Luke’s Medical Center attesting its therapeutic claims in vitro. Laboratory outcomes are yet to be corroborated by in vivo or live subject studies or research, lest the testimonies of course are from their social media page and website.
Twenty thousand patients every year claims remissions as well as a number of documents including an abstract from a surgeon ascertaining the decrease in size of a particular nasopharyngeal tumor after an intensive treatment protocol with the good doctor. Unfortunately, the “ultimate cure for cancer” is not approved by the FDA. It has not run tests necessary for the approval and no after market research has been conducted either. It lacks the Certificate of Product Registration in pursuance of the Republic Act 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009. So on the first few days of August this year, a closure order was enforced to the Natural Medical Center.
This naturally disappoints many of the natural medical center’s patients who basically depended on the concoction for cure if not for their lives. How inhuman would it be for the state to withhold the care these terminally ill patients need? But begging away with the details and legal nitty gritty of the closure what really are the essential questions we need to ask?
Foremost, aren’t physicians or groups of people who believe and practice in alternative medicine protected by the law? In 1997, through the advocacy of then Senator, Dr. Juan Flavier the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA) was enacted as a law. The objectives of the law are as follows,
The objectives of the law encompass the enhancement, promotion, advocacy, research and development of alternative medicine. Supposedly, policies should have been in place strengthening the role of traditional and alternative health care delivery system.
Dr. Farah’s treatment protocol falls under the realm of alternative medicine as defined by the law – “sum total of knowledge, skills and practices on health care, OTHER THAN THOSE EMBODIED IN BIOMEDICINE, used in the prevention, diagnosis, and elimination of physical and mental disorders.” If the good doctor so admits to deviate from the usual protocols of different societies of Western Medicine, isn’t her medical center supposed to be protected by the TAMA of 1997?
For the whole period of its existence, 3 generations of her concoctions have passed, why only now has she been put into scrutiny by the medical societies and big pharmaceuticals? Are the complaints borne out of patient safety? Or a declining belief and trust in the Western Practice, and ergo, profit?
On the account of patient safety, Dr. Farrah and her father would have gathered enough evidences to prove their inventions’ efficacy. Her medical center apparently is a host to 20,000 patients for the whole year(?) and this is a good number from which strong statistics can be defined. So we can pretty much understand why her overwhelming success is easily dismissed as anecdotal, hearsay and just a matter of luck. Many of my colleagues, including me can site cases of worsening condition and infer fatal side effects of her treatment protocol, but they hold no greater weight as her anecdotal success. The correlations in both accounts are just plain weak and poor, OR unproven. The efficacy and the lack thereof of her medicines are all hypothetical.
How could we prove that then? Only when Dr. Farrah submits its treatment protocol to a comprehensive study to be done by either a neutral party or a multi-sectoral health organization can we truly know that. By virtue of the law, we should know that the government should promote this research and if the concoction is proven effective, her family deserves to be given absolute control to it and be protected of her medical practice as any licensed Filipino physician is entitled to.
But now, that would be very hard in an anarchic health delivery system controlled by monopoly. We can only remind our good doctors, “First, do no harm.” # nordis.net