Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Micronutrient Treatment"

There are examples of "micronutrient treatments" being marketed to help various mental health problems.

These treatments may be marketed aggressively: there may be slick internet sites, perhaps with an enthusiastic following of people who believe strongly in the product.

If the manufacturer of such a product is quoting "research studies," I encourage you to look carefully at the studies referred to. If you are seriously considering products of this type, I would suggest looking at the articles in their entirety at a library.

I encourage anyone interested in pursuing treatments of this sort to ask the following questions:

1) What type of evidence exists regarding effectiveness & safety? Is the evidence from large, double-blinded, randomized, controlled studies conducted by researchers who do not have financial connections with the manufacturer?

2) Is the research pertaining to the product published in a journal with high scientific standards? (In order to answer this question for yourself, I would invite you to leaf through numerous issues of the journal, and compare this with an independent, peer-reviewed journal such as Lancet or The New England Journal of Medicine).

2) Is the evidence mainly from enthusiastic testimonial accounts or case studies? Is this type of evidence reliable enough for you?

3) How much money is required to purchase the treatment? Does the manufacturer encourage you to involve yourself in a long-term financial commitment?

4) After acquainting yourself with common sales and marketing tactics (for a primer on this subject, see Robert Cialdini's book, The Psychology of Persuasion), do you see evidence of highly persuasive or biased sales tactics being used in the marketing of the product? Are vulnerable people being taken advantage of in the marketing of the product?

Have a look at this link, which gives a brief history and overview of charlatanism--being familiar with this history may allow you to make more informed choices about your own medical care:

I do not mean to single out alternative remedies in this post--I encourage the same critical standards to be applied regarding all types of therapy. Mainstream pharmaceutical manufacturers and other providers of mainstream therapies may often be guilty of devious marketing behaviours. In my opinion, though, mainstream pharmaceutical manufacturers have a much harder time getting away with overt charlatanism at this point, compared to many manufacturers of alternative remedies.

Also, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that there can be alternative remedies which are helpful, and which are marketed ethically.

Here in Canada, we live in a free society, with a strong emphasis on freedom of speech. Imposing more strict legal restrictions or regulations upon health choices would limit freedom. I support maintaining a free society, but the presence of charlatanism is one of the costs of this freedom.

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