I'm not going to argue that drug companies are squeaky clean and altruistically motivated. They're not. If you want to learn about some of the medically and scientifically questionable things they're up to, listen to this fantastic TED talk by Ben Goldacre. However, admitting that one player has problems does not mean that the opponent is any better. For example, I don't like many of the Labour Party polices. However, that does not mean I think the answer to all our problems lies with the LNP.
The thing is that despite its quite obvious limitations, medicine still has a huge advantage over alternative medicine. To quote the brilliant Tim Minchin:
By definition, I beginActually, if the above lines are not familiar to you, go and watch Storm now, and then you can come back to reading this post.
Alternative Medicine, I continue
Has either not been proved to work,
Or been proved not to work.
You know what they call alternative medicine
That's been proved to work?
Mainstream medicine actually utilises a lot of "natural and "traditional" remedies. To list a few:
- Aspirin was discovered by studying the pain relieving properties of willow bark
- Quinine is an anti-malarial drug originally derived from the bark of the cinchona tree and used by groups of native Peruvians. It is no longer heavily used as it has unpleasant side-effects, but is still used to treat severe cases.
- Morphine is the most effective pain relief known to modern medicine, originally derived from the opium poppy. Most strong painkillers are opioids .
- Rigorous scientific testing to establish an actual effect, and to check for side-effects
- A study of the chemical structure of the plant/source to establish which chemical(s) have the active effect
- Isolation of that compound, preferably finding a way to artificially synthesise it, to ensure that controlled dosages can be administered.