Jonathan Waxman is professor of oncology at the Imperial College in London. He asks, “Why is it that patients change their diet” after they are diagnosed with cancer? He’s frustrated that his patients trust “snake oil salesman.”

And dietary supplements? Heh, don’t get him started!

He obviously has anger issues.

He also makes a good point.

Although there’s a strong dietary basis for the development of cancer, once cancer has been diagnosed no change in diet will lead to any improvement in cancer outcomes, he writes. And supplements are complementary to allopathic treatments, at best.

Alternative medicine is big business. The market value in the UK was £250m ($480m) in 2005.

Pocket change. The vitamin, herbal, and non-herbal supplements market in the US for 2006 is estimated at $4.7 billion.

Professor Waxman believes, “It’s time for … legislation to … limit the exploitation of our patients. Why not subject the alternative medicines industry to the level of scrutiny that defines pharmaceuticals?”

Perhaps we’re close to the tipping point.

  • It seems that the alternative medicine industry can afford the cost to document the benefits implied in their advertisements.
  • Certification programs are ongoing or being developed by both the supplements industry and independent organizations to document the content of nutritional supplements.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly?

  • A public hearing is scheduled for December to debate what role, if any, the US Food and Drug Administration should play in defining and regulating functional foods.

More people than just Professor Waxman recognize the unmet need in CAM.

Click here for a summary and link to Professor Waxman’s editorial (page 3).

11/24/06 21:03 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.