In case you missed the rumor going around, Dr. Sanjay Gupta – the high-profile television personality – may become the next U.S. Surgeon General.
The SG no longer actually performs any military-like duties – he’s more like a figurehead who promotes general health programs. So with Dr. Gupta’s handsome mug (he was once named one of People Magazine’s sexiest men alive), he seems like a perfect choice to play a celebrity spokesmodel role in Barack Obama’s administration. The problem: Dr. Gupta is a seriously mainstream guy who will most likely not be inclined to speak well of CAM therapies.
In the e-Alert "Treating the Treatments" (6/14/07), I told you about one of Dr. Gupta’s Time columns in which he actually made this outrageous comment: "Researchers found that the most common mistake users of herbal remedies make is believing that the substances they take actually work."
In Dr. Gupta’s view, herbal supplement users are "putting themselves at risk." Why? Because most herbal remedies have not been clinically proven. That is, they haven’t received randomized, controlled trials, which Dr. Gupta calls "the gold standard for establishing a drug’s usefulness and safety."
But as Dr. Gupta surely knows, there have been many randomized, controlled trials that demonstrate the usefulness of ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, echinachea, etc. It’s not like these trials are hidden away somewhere.
If Dr. Gupta does take on the Surgeon General position, I hope he’ll come around and realize he’s no longer just a Time columnist and CNN talking head – he’ll be representing all of us, and there’s a vast nation of serious CAM users whose needs deserve to be treated with respect.
"Herbal Remedies’ Potential Dangers" Sanjay Gupta, M.D., Time Magazine, 5/24/07, time.com
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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