P. Joseph Lisa

The Assault on Medical Freedom by P. Joseph Lisa, 1994 ISBN 1-57174-003-1 Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc. ...



Health Freedom Issues


False Cry of Quackery
"Since the early 60's, organized groups have worked overtly and covertly to unfairly destroy beneficial alternative practices."


By Martha Kent

Quackery is a word that immediately attracts attention. It implies medical fraud that may harm us or at least waste our money. All of us need to know when it is applied justly and when it is a false cry. It has also happened that some alternatives once labeled as quackery are now mainstream medical practices. Chiropractic was once targeted by the AMA for containment and eventual elimination, yet has grown more popular in this era of sports medicine and is even approved for Medicare payments. Other changes in acceptance have involved folic acid, vitamin C, other anti-oxidants, and nutritional supplements.

The AMA first launched a campaign to rid the country of quack remedies at the turn of the century. At that time there were no controls for fraudulent labeling and deceptive ads. We need to know, however, that since the early 60's organized groups have worked overtly and covertly to unfairly destroy beneficial alternative practices. This has been documented by P. Joseph Lisa in his book, The Assault on Medical Freedom (1994). He describes the pervasiveness of an ongoing campaign which began in 1963, when the AMA's Board of Trustees established the Committee on Quackery, headed by Doyle Taylor. He details the formation and functions of the Coordinating Conference on Health Information which paralleled the AMA group. The participants in this group were the AMA, American Cancer Society, American Pharmaceutical Association, Arthritis Foundation, Council of Better Business Bureaus, National Health Council, FDA, Federal Trade Commission, US Postal Service, and Office of Consumer Affairs.

These two groups acted as a task force on quackery. Minutes of meetings over subsequent years revealed interest in targeting vitamins, homeopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, all alternative cancer treatments and other practices which compete with the drug sales of pharmaceutical companies. In 1972, the illegal anti-competitive activities of the AMA were exposed to the public. Eventually the AMA had to pay the US Postal Service $1 million and owed the IRS $15 million.

According to Lisa, in 1984, the Pharmaceutical Advertising Council and the FDA entered a joint campaign called the Public Service Anti-Quackery Campaign. They targeted entities in economic competition with the pharmaceutical and medical industries calling them "quacks" or "health frauds". The FDA at the same time focused its attack against alternative manufacturers of vitamins, supplements, and herbs. Various groups had differing target priorities in the war but the targets had two things in common: they did not use pharmaceuticals in healing and they were in direct competition with conventional medical practices. This campaign was waged in three ways: attempting to identify supplements as "quack products" which alternative medicine uses in place of drugs, investigation and seizure by the FDA using the Task Force once the items were identified, holding congressional hearings attacking supplements and making it easier to pass laws against their use.

A recent organized effort to suppress alternative medicine occurred in February 1997 when the Federation of State Medical Boards adopted the recommendations of the Special Committee on Health Care Fraud. To the naive eye, this report appeared to protect the public from medical fraud. However, the wording throughout had the far reaching purpose to eliminate all alternative practices. The FSMB included among its strategies the intent to strengthen the power of the State Medical Boards to monitor questionable medical practices, to work with state prosecutors on disciplinary action, and to oppose state legislative initiatives which might diminish the ability of State Medical Boards to regulate questionable health practices. The complete text of the FSMB Report has been reprinted in the Aug/Sept 1997 issue of the Townsend Letter for Doctor and Patients.

In the face of popular support of alternative therapies, usually paid for by the patient, it appears that the public is increasingly turning a deaf ear to these false cries of quackery. Supplements and other practices once labeled as quackery are gaining acceptance by mainstream doctors. Interest in homeopathy and naturopathy are undergoing revivals. There is great interest in alternative cancer and arthritis treatments. Therapeutic touch, a type of energy healing, is offered in schools of nursing.

We can't foresee whether any of those who cry quackery today will avail themselves of alternative therapy when degenerative disease strikes home. Our own best protection is to stay healthy and to find doctors experienced in both conventional and holistic methods. As more of us are willing to pay for effective treatments that cost less and are non-toxic, the health insurers take increasing notice. On our part, we need to support state groups which are trying to protect our medical rights. We can also support state and federal bills that preserve the patients freedom of choice by phoning legislators at their home offices or the Capitol Switchboard, (202) 224-3121.

Submitted by Martha Kent, editor Health Freedom Issues page