Hospitals’ dangerous embrace of alt-medicine

Anti-vaccine rant exposes conflict over hospitals’ embrace of alternative medicine

In the span of a few days, the anti-vaccine screed of a Cleveland Clinic doctor prompted a social media firestorm, an apparent retraction from the physician, and promises of disciplinary action by administrators of his prestigious hospital system.

But those reactions will not entirely contain the damage caused by the rant, which has already been picked up by anti-vaccine organizations1, or address a more fundamental question:

Why do hospitals that espouse evidence-based medical care operate alternative medicine institutes that offer treatments with little foundation in science?

This is exactly what has happened to pain care when the CDC promoted “integrated care”, which is actually a collection of unproven alternative medicine treatments, in its 2016 Opioid Prescribing Guideline. 

This is the same unproven and unscientific medicine that was furiously disparaged and ridiculed by doctors for decades until it suddenly became the government’s preferred pain treatment, simply by the virtue of being non-opioid, not because it is particularly effective.

While I know that such remedies can sometimes be almost miraculously helpful (hardly any itch from poison ivy after taking homeopathic pills), only some remedies work for some people some of the time.

Over a couple of decades, I tried various alternative treatments for my pain (before the CDC forced it on us) but found no success, so my real-world experience with alternative medicine was not positive, despite the CDC’s assurances that these treatments are “better” than opioids.

The anti-vaccine column that triggered the weekend’s outcry2 was written by Dr. Daniel Neides, director and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, which advertises homeopathic remedies3 and alternative weight loss and pain management4 treatments with little basis in science.

The clinic, which strongly disavowed Neides’s statements, is far from alone among major US medical centers in operating a wellness institute.

Seeking to broaden their appeal and increase revenue, a flurry of US hospitals have opened alternative and complementary medicine centers in recent years.

Of course, it’s all about profit again. There’s no escaping this ruthless chain of destructive corporate behavior as long as pure unfettered capitalism rules our healthcare.

Top hospitals and academic medical centers, including the Mayo Clinic, University of California, San Francisco, the University of Iowa, and Duke University Medical Center, participate in what has become a multibillion-dollar industry.

Dr. Michael S. Sinha, a physician-attorney and research fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said such institutes can be lucrative because of high patient demand for their services.

Many patients are willing to pay out of pocket for services such as acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, and reiki. Many of the services offered by such institutes can be billed to insurance companies, even if not supported by rigorous clinical studies. 

“Damage to reputation can be significant, as the Cleveland Clinic fallout demonstrates,” Sinha said.

Neides issued an apology9 and apparent retraction on Sunday, saying in a statement released by the Cleveland Clinic:

“I fully support vaccinations and my concern was meant to be positive around the safety of them.”

What the heck does that garbled sentence even mean?

He hasn’t always promoted anti-vaccination ideas.

Two years ago, around the time he began contributing to, he wrote, “Having survived the nightmare of the 2009 flu epidemic, you can bet I am the first in line with my sleeve rolled up. I hope many of you will take advantage of the many flu vaccine clinics that Cleveland Clinic has to offer. With a nod to Benjamin Franklin, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’”

His articles for included the Cleveland Clinic’s official logo next to his name, but the hospital said that it does not approve of that use of its logo. removed his column from its site on Sunday, after the Cleveland Clinic asked it to do so on Neides’s behalf, a spokeswoman for the health system said. But it was re-posted Sunday evening8.

His statements about vaccines prompted some in the medical community to question why Neides was allowed to work as a medical educator.

This is exactly the same circumstances we have with opioids and all the anti-opioid folks out there.

Why are “experts” with a commitment to a “drug-free America” making policy for these opioid drugs?

He has won a number of awards for his role in shaping curricula and teaching at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, where he worked as the associate director of clinical education. Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said by email that Neides’s medical education role “ended a few years ago.”

With the wellness movement more generally, what I find troubling is how much of a business it can be,” he told STAT. “If you look for instance at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute website, they have a shop where you can purchase a homeopathic cleansing regimen of some sort.

That’s clear pseudoscience.

We don’t believe in homeopathy. It bothers me that products are being sold in that fashion to patients.”

He added that this is symptomatic of an entrepreneurial model instead of a professional one: “We see time and time again how the corporatization of medicine produces unfortunate results, when health care becomes a commodity

When healthcare becomes a commodity, only the rich can afford it. Commodity refers to a “thing”, not a person, and healthcare is NOT a purchase of choice, so this becomes a moral issue that cannot be solved by capitalism’s relentless prowl for profits.

Considering the price, very. very few can afford the exorbitant fees that are set to distribute profits among multiple third-party players that have inserted themselves between us and our medical care.

Doctors in integrative medicine institutes sometimes “cross the line into this fuzzy, metaphysical thinking, which is what [Neides] did.”

He said Neides displayed a total lack of knowledge about the preservatives and activating agents used in vaccines, and did not even properly distinguish between them in his column. “It’s the usual bull[expletive],” he said, “which is to say that everything with a chemical name is bad for you.”

Plenty of physicians in the integrative medicine community disagree vehemently with Neides’ questionable views on vaccines.

Dr. Benjamin Mazer, a resident physician in pathology at Yale New Haven Hospital, sees Neides’s statements on vaccines as an example of a dangerous trend in which doctors promote conspiracy theories that try to undermine proven practices.

Here is another article pointing out how “alternative medicine” is taking over our medical system:

The Medical Director of The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute spewed antivaccine misinformation last week. Why is anyone surprised? – Science-Based Medicine

And another:

The Fool At The Cleveland Clinic | American Council on Science and Health

For reasons only they know, the clinic employs a crackpot named Daniel Neides. Worse still, he is a physician. Even worse is that he is given a forum to share his supernaturally inaccurate thoughts with the public. 

He did just this in a new opinion piece called “Make 2017 the year to avoid toxins (good luck) and master your domain: Words on Wellness.”


3 thoughts on “Hospitals’ dangerous embrace of alt-medicine

  1. Kathy C

    Wow! This Article really shows the hypocrisy, greed, and quest for profit are driving this “Alternative Medicine.” Physicians have come out in Local Media now touting Chiropractors and other “Alternative” methods for Pain Control. Apparently the Pseudo Science is catching up with them. This Anti Vacc Rant, illuminates the problem, they start believing their own hype. This “Wellness Business” is just that a business, that is very profitable. The Science is just not there, and as long as there is no way to track the mistakes, injuries, and postponed care, this trend will continue.
    The Health Care Industry is a monster, instead of moving towards Science and evidence based treatments, they have expanded the Industry to include these Alternative treatments. The Healthcare Industry is not capable of curing everyone, and sick people are desperate. Sick people will fall for this false hope and many spend an inordinate amount of money on these Practitioners. This is more than just the more obvious office visits. I knew an older woman with cancer, and money. She spent Hundreds of thousands on “Alternative Care” after the “Traditional” Methods failed. For a couple thousand dollars a visit, an Alternative Practitioner will come to you home and administer herbal IVs. There is no evidence that they work, improve the quality of life or extend ones life. Physicians are now legitimizing these practices, now it is “Wellness.”
    The NIH and other what we once believed were legitimate “evidence based” Scientific organizations are now recommending “Alternative” therapies. The Medical Community embraced the “Alternative Medicine” for pain, which they appear to believe they should not treat anymore. To the gullible it sounds legitimate. The Media has been touting this for a while, as they only show the upside. The Industry is Lobbying some States, to provide care for Veterans, and other attempts to gain legitimacy through offering their services. The self described “beleaguered” healthcare Industry, they have no accountability at all, especially since local media constantly reminds us, the Industry does not make enough money to provide good care.
    They peddle this Snake Oil 24-7, on Cable TV and the Internet. The Industry is even resorting to more insidious Advertising strategies. The big Pharma Ads are nearly constant on Television, implying they have “Cured” some disease as they list the disclaimers and Side effects. The infomercials for “Pain relieving” braces, devices, serums, tonics and vitamin concoctions are non stop. They are trolling for the millions of people left to suffer in silence with their health conditions.
    The Healthcare Industry undermined the “Free Exchange” of ideas on the Internet. They infiltrated Patient groups, and when they could not suppress negative speech, they instead funded the Patient Groups. They also got Congress to either de-fund any conflicting Science, and used their considerable money and control to direct the discussion. They even found that some of the data that Government Agencies collected was inconvenient, so they found way to suppress that or relax reporting requirements.
    As more States faced ‘budget Crisis” they were influenced to protect the Industry. The Industry found that real information was bad for business, so they bought their own “Advocates.” The only “Advocate the Politicians and Policy Makers hear from are the ones funded and approved by the Industry. The Industry has essentially crushed Science and Free Speech. The Non Profits and Politicians both rely on the generosity of the Industry. The Corporate Media has a stake in it too. The Media Conglomerates are invested in the Industry, as they hype it in the Business Pages.
    Journalists are either afraid of the Legal Retaliation by the Industry, (The Industry spares no expense on Lawyers, and any Action, will bring the full force of Industry Lawyers). Journalists are concerned with future earnings, they will move up in the business, if they promote the Industry and disparage and ignore any questions or discussion outside the current narrative. . The mention of a product has to be in a positive light, as they promote the business, in underhanded ways. They have been pushing a false narrative about “Free Market healthcare”, which does not exist. They refer to patients as “Consumers” as if anyone really has a choice and can “Shop around” for the best deal. Only the very wealthy can actually choose their “healthcare.”
    Anyone who follows local Media would not know the CMS Ratings at the local Hospital. These hospitals monitor Social Media to get out in front of any criticism, News or trends. Public Relations and deception are their business. The Spin Doctors counter any negative News with Advertising, or heartwarming stories of one person, in our case a Celebrity who was treated well. These “Anecdotal” stories are now the only information we get about so many things. This is in “Alternative Media” too. Instead of asking real questions about the Industry, or finding Data, they tell the Story of one person who believes they were “helped.” They are even relying on Customer Satisfaction Surveys, the limited questions give the appearance of a positive interaction. The Staff are really nice, as they give the patient the bums rush.
    Pro Publica came out with a serious Investigative piece about healthcare, this information never went to Mainstream Media. After Defense spending healthcare is the biggest chunk of spending in this Country. We have the most expensive and least effective healthcare in the developed world. Yet, most people have no idea, that this will effect them until it does. Medicaid and Medicare just don’t pay enough, or poor people are using resources that make it difficult for the healthcare Industry. The poor and sick people are the reason healthcare is so expensive, and why they can’t hold the Industry accountable. It is now expected that Doctors refer the difficult or unprofitable patients to Alternative Medicine, it is not harming heir bottom line, and it removes any accountability.
    There is no Study done on the effects, they don’t count the postponed cancer diagnosis, and the injuries. There is no Code in the ICD for treating people who were previously treated by an Alternative Physician, who postponed a diagnosis for a serious health issue. .Physicians are no longer accountable. People think that because there are a few high profile Court cases against Physicians, that they are held accountable. The Media often portrays these as spurious, as they retell the Myth of “Tort Reform” they imply that this is one more reason for expensive healthcare, Litigious Patients. These cases are only the most egregious, and clear cut with Evidence. Many of the Adverse events are not “Actionable” since the Evidence must be supplied by another Physician. Physicians monitor their speech very carefully, the Culture of secrecy and gag orders make it impossible for them to speak their minds.
    Even referring to a previous surgery is off limits. They have a lot of practice at changing the subject or deflecting questions. The very minimum of discussion, and a lecture on “Lifestyle” or “Wellness” instead of the health issue the patient came in with. The implication here is that it is the Patients fault that they are sick. They did something to cause their affliction, they did not exercise enough,or they have the wrong attitude. The “Wellness Industry” promotes the Pseudo Science about the “Mind Body” connection after all.
    “The Emperor has no Clothes” we are all being Gas Lighted, the Industry has complete control, and if they find it more profitable to refer people to the “Wellness Industry” than to diagnose and treat them, then we don’t have a choice. The “Opiate Epidemic” was one more justification for Pseudo Science. They are now doing patients a favor, because the horrors of Addiction, even though less than 5% of chronic Pain patients become addicted, are presented by the Media and the Industry to be worse than suffering with intractable Chronic pain.
    The Media Sensationalizes the “Addicts as it deliberately ignores the people who benefit from the Treatment. The Industry found a way to tie the issue of Drug Abuse to Pain Patients, since it is the same type of drugs. They even fined the Company that misled Doctors into believing Oxycontin was not addictive, that should have been an Indictment of the Industry, instead they scapegoated pain patients. Every mainstream media Article repeats the same narrative. This makes it appear they are critical of the Industry, or holding it accountable. The Industry wrote this narrative, as they protect other Pharma companies and market more profitable alternatives, which are not effective or proven. The Industry wins either way. The Politicians who grovel for money from the same Industry can appear to be acting in the public interest as long as they don’t stray from the narrative.
    The deaths are not counted, they are attributed to underlying causes, unless there are Opiates in their system then they attribute it to the Opiates, to add to the “Epidemic.” We are in the “Post Fact World” Science and the truth don’t matter anymore. It is all about following a Media False Narrative. It is about promoting Industry Greed, Corruption, and malfeasance as good business.

    P.S I really should edit this, but I don’t have the energy. Sitting at my computer hurts, and i know it will be worse later. If i go back and edit this, I will postpone it until “Later.” I realized I have been in Limbo since the pain began. I would put things off until i felt better, which never happened. there used to be this idea of “progress” that they would come up with a better treatment, that “Modern Science” would have found a cure, instead we are being forced to pretend that pain does not exist. There has not been any “progress” only the appearance of it. There are no “New” treatments or cures, Instead of acknowledging that ,the Industry is Marketing Folklore and Pseudo Science as “New.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Again, you are so right. I agree that we now have “Alternative Media” as well, and it’s just as free-wheeling with the truth as alternative medicine. I used to be a champion of alternative medicine, but after spending thousands without results, I’m very resentful about all the broken promises to cure me. None of those methods eased my suffering the slightest bit.

      What helps me most (besides opioid pain meds) is what I can do myself: eat well, sleep well, and exercise in a limited fashion.

      As you say, pain now seems to be attributed to the patients themselves through the latest popular theory of “catastrophizing” (as though our lives weren’t a catastrophe these days!). I’ll have more to say on that when I get around to blogging about this perverted concept.

      I like your descriptions of the “Post Fact World” – that’s exactly how I feel these days. It’s a total nightmare and I can only hope that it will get so awfully bad that people will wake up and look for the “real” truth again.

      I have little faith left in the American people and I now feel proud NOT to be a “true American” because I was born in Europe (though I’ve been here for all but my first 2 of my 60 years). My European love for truth and philosophy makes me feel like a foreigner and an unwanted immigrant here.


  2. Pingback: NoL Index Measures Patients’ Pain During Surgery | EDS and Chronic Pain News & Info

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