When Ron Woodroof, a Texan electrician and rodeo enthusiast was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, he refused to wait for treatments to be developed and approved by the US Food & Drug Administration. (FDA). In fact, he proved the course of drugs being given in trials to HIV patients, AZT, was causing more harm than good. He took charge of his medical care and researched alternative drugs—and found them—readily available in other countries but not approved by the FDA. His story is told in the 2013 movie The Dallas Buyers Club. Given a medical prognosis of 30 days, he lived another 6 years, treating himself and buying and reselling drugs he brought in from other countries.
In Princeton, NJ, an outbreak of the potentially fatal meningitis B disease has afflicted 8 students since March. The Ivy League university is importing Bexsero; a vaccine licensed only in Europe and Australia, and it plans to inoculate its 8,000 students and professors. The meningitis shot currently given to college-bound students doesn’t protect against this strain.
Watching the Dallas Buyers Club and reading about Princeton, I felt my confidence in the FDA diminishing. Charged with protecting what we eat and drink and the drugs we take, I wondered what has been compromised for cost effectiveness in both production and distribution. I’ve trusted the FDA when I shop for food and when I’ve been prescribed drugs. Can I still?
I also considered the pioneers who have advocated for the legalization of marijuana for medical use and thought about alternative medicines often deemed less effective than traditional routes. My son Jacob and his family swear by NAET, Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques. It cured my daughter in-law’s gluten allergy and alleviated kids’ Hand Foot & Mouth symptoms. (One of the treatments called for a series of what my grandson called “silly baths” – tub baths infused with ointments and powders.) They see a NAET practitioner for colds and coughs, rashes and aches.
As health care options continue to be debated, perhaps it’s also time to consider alternatives: vaccines and drugs that are working in other countries, non-Western practices and cures. Let’s educate consumers about what’s available, so they, like Ron Woodroof, can take control of their own health and its care.
Have you tried any alternative medicines? What works for you?