Minnesota may have a reputation as a politically conservative, middle of the road state. But when it comes to public policy on holistic medicine, it is among the most progressive states in the Union. In 2000, Minnesota legislators passed the Complementary and Alternative Health Care Freedom of Access Act, which allows natural medicine practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds, even those without prior licensure, to practice freely.
The Federal Trade Commission, which regulates dietary supplement claims, has established a number of phony supplement websites featuring appealing but implausible health claims, in an effort to raise consumer awareness about the dangers of false claims, and push the industry to clean up its marketing act.
Supplement marketing language, as regulated by the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, is supposed to help consumers and make them aware that the FDA has not validated supplement claims. Consumer surveys show, however, that DSHEA-speak ends up confusing consumers more times than not.
Despite the fact that carotenoids in fruits and vegetables are not converted to vitamin A in nearly the amounts previously thought, a panel convened by the Institute of Medicine recently lowered the recommended daily allowance for this key vitamin and held back on recommending vitamin A supplementation.
Pulling a page from the pharmaceutical company marketing playbook, some supplement manufacturers are sending sales reps out to meet physicians in their offices. But this new breed of holistically minded "detail" man is meeting with mixed response from the medical community.
In 1996, Washington became the first state to mandate that health care insurers cover services provided by naturopaths and other alternative health care professionals. The so-called "Every Category of Provider," mandate was controversial when passed, and five years later, the arguments for and against the law continue.
Under a federal mandate, the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy was charged with the task of setting a national agenda for holistic health care. In a series of public meetings, Commission members had the opportunity to gather input from the general public. Freedom of choice in health care was the core theme emerging from the New York City meeting.
Dietary supplements are regulated as foods in the US, but in many cases, they are used like drugs, creating a difficult regulatory conundrum. Many thought leaders in the field believe the problem could be solved by creating a third regulatory category that recognizes the ways in which supplements are different from both drugs and foods.
Dr. William Fair was as old-school and conventional as any oncologic surgeon could get. His faith in the power of the scalpel was nearly unshakeable, until he himself was diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer. That diagnosis prompted him on a quest into the worlds of nutrition, yoga, meditation, botanical medicine and touch therapy. He devoted the last years of his distinguished life to creation of Haelth, a New York City integrative health center bringing together the best of natural medicine with conventional allopathic care.
The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine released its final policy report and called on the Department of Health and Human Services to create a permanent, federally funded office for scientific research, education, and public policy on holistic health care.