Naturopaths with degrees from naturopathic schools call themselves "naturopathic doctors." They want to be licensed in all states as primary care physicians with the authority to diagnose and treat any patient with any disease or condition. Legislators must learn the facts before voting on naturopathic licensing.
Breaking news: Britt Deegan Hermes, a former naturopathic doctor and Bastyr grad, has a new blog: Naturopathic Diaries. It is a must-read! Britt reveals the pseudoscience and lack of clinical training behind naturopathic education. She documents naturopathic treatments that run the gamut between simply ineffective and downright dangerous. Britt recently posted on Science-Based Medicine. More SBM guest posts are planned.
Breaking news: Of the 10 naturopathic licensing bills introduced in the 2013-2014 state legislative sessions, only one passed, in Maryland. Even there, naturopaths got far less than the scope of practice they wanted, and must practice under the jurisdiction of the state medical board. But naturopaths are at it again. New bills to license naturopaths and to expand their practice are pending in a number of states. For more information, see Legislative Updates on the Society for Science-Based Medicine website.
Breaking news: Pharmacist Scott Gavura, BScPhm, MBA, has a great series on Science-Based Medicine, "Naturopathy vs. Science," about the rejection of evidence-based medicine by naturopaths in favor of unproven treatments and diagnosis of fake diseases and conditions naturopaths simply make up.
Breaking news: In Vermont, where naturopaths are licensed, the legislature enacted a requirement that they pass a test to be able to prescribe drugs. In spite of their claims that their education is the equivalent to that of an MD or DO primary care physician, only 3 naturopaths signed up for the first exam and only one passed.
Breaking news: Yet another study demonstrates how naturopaths oppose vaccination. In a recent survey of students at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, which is accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, only 26% planned on regularly prescribing or recommending vaccinations for their patients; 45 % would recommend vaccination "occasionally." A whopping 96% said they would recommend a schedule different from the Centers for Disease Control despite there being absolutely no evidence in support of an alternative schedule. Ali, et al., Vaccination Attitudes and Education in Naturopathic Medicine Students, J Alter Comp Med (May 2014).
Breaking news: Naturopaths study homeopathy in their naturopathic "medical" schools and homeopathy is a staple of their practice. Yet, basic science tells us that it shouldn't work, and studies show that it doesn't. Homeopathy recently suffered yet another setback with a report of the Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, which joined the chorus of groups condemning homeopathy.
WHAT ARE THE REASONS NATUROPATHS SHOULD NOT BE LICENSED?
There is no public demand for naturopaths
A miniscule one-half of one percent of American adults used naturopathic services in 2012 according to a federal government survey. In Washington State, where naturopathic doctors are licensed to practice as primary care physicians, only a tiny portion of the public uses them. Two studies demonstrated less than two percent of insured patients made a health insurance claim for naturopathic services in Washington even though coverage of their services is mandated by state law. While naturopaths have sought licensing in a number of states for years, only a handful of states license them. Some state legislatures have rejected these attempts almost a dozen times. Florida, Virginia and Texas have rescinded licensing for naturopaths and South Carolina and Tennessee specifically prohibit their practice.
"Naturopathic Doctors" falsely claim the same education and training as Medical Doctors
". . . the proposed licensure of naturopathic physicians would likely increase the risk of harm to the public . . .”
Florida House Committee on Health Care Interim Project Report, January, 2004
Four small naturopathic colleges in the U.S. have misleadingly appropriated the name "medical" for their schools. Although these schools may call themselves "universities" none are a part of any mainstream American university, such as a state public university system. Some of these schools also grant degrees in subjects like acupuncture and massage therapy. Unlike real medical schools (and other professional schools) there is no entrance exam for naturopathic school. They make up their own curriculum, are taught by other naturopaths, and create their own exams for admission to practice. No one outside of naturopathy has ever vetted their course content and few have seen these exams. These schools are accredited by a private agency run by naturopaths. While this agency has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education so that accredited schools can access government money, the Department does not review course content or vouch for the validity of what is taught. Importantly, after medical doctors graduate from school they must complete residencies, an additional 3 to 7 years of hospital-based, supervised training where they diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions. Naturopaths do not have this essential training -- they can go into practice right after graduation and passing their self-created exams.
Naturopaths reject evidence-based medicine as a standard of patient care
"Available scientific evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine is effective for most health problems."
American Cancer Society
" . . . little scientific evidence is currently available on overall effectiveness [of naturopathy]."
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [NCCAM], U.S. National Institutes of Health [NIH]
To improve quality and cost-effectiveness of care, medical doctors, dentists, and other medical professions rely on evidence of safety and effectiveness in evaluating their treatments. This is called "evidence-based medicine." Naturopaths reject evidence-based medicine as a standard for patient care. Their code of ethics requires that they adhere to naturopathic "philosophy" in their practice.
Naturopaths do offer some conventional advice about diet, exercise and stress relief, information widely available from other sources, often at no cost. However, employing buzz words like "natural," "individualized" and "holisitc," they use strange diagnostic methods and treatments that have no evidence of effectiveness. This includes homeopathy (which is just water or sugar pills), glandular therapy (desicated animal organs), hair mineral analysis and applied kinesiology (basically using the body like an Ouija Board). They regularly prescribe and sell dietary supplements, again with no evidence of safety or effectiveness. Naturopaths over treat by diagnosing conditions such as chronic yeast overgrowth, "leaky gut," heavy metal toxicity and near-universal food "sensitivities," and do so in cases where no responsible physician would agree with their diagnosis. The bottom line: there is no evidence that naturopathic care delivers an overall benefit for the health care dollar.
Naturopaths fail to recommend standard public health practices
"Some beliefs and approaches of naturopathic practitioners are not consistent with conventional medicine. . . and their safety may not be supported by scientific evidence. For example, some practitoners may not recommend childhood vaccinations. The benfits of vaccination in preventing illness and death have been repeated proven and greatly outweigh the risks." NCCAM, NIH
"Naturopathy and homeopathy are totally ineffective in preventing vaccine-preventable diseases." Immunization Action Coalition, www.immunize.org
Naturopaths oppose vaccination and public water fluoridation, standard practices that have greatly reduced disease and death, especially among children. Several studies show that naturopathic patients are less likely to be vaccinated and are more likely to contract vaccine-preventable diseases. Another study found that women seeing naturopaths were less likely to have undergone important health care screening tests, such as mammography.
Naturopaths use risky treatments that have no evidence of benefit
"Relying exclusively on naturopathic treatments and avoiding conventional medical care may be harmful, or, in some circumstances . . . have serious health consequences." NCCAM, NIH
"Excessive fasting, dietary restrictions, or use of enemas [colonic irrigation], which are sometimes components of naturopathic treatment, may be dangerous. Naturopathic treatment may involve taking unregulated herbs, some of which may have harmful effects. . . ."
American Cancer Society
"Proponents claim [colonic hydrotherapy or irrigation, a typical naturopathic practice] aids in weight loss, increases energy, boosts immunity, and reduces the risk of colon cancer. Not only is there no evidence to support those claims, but the practice can also be dangerous."
Consumer Reports (on Health), February 2013
"Avoid any practitioner who recommends medications, herbal or homeopathic remedies, or nutritional products that they also sell [a common naturopathic practice.] This is an obvious conflict of interest." Tourette Syndrome Association
Rejection of evidence-based medicine, including standard risk-benefit analysis, leaves naturopaths free to employ useless treatments that are unduly risky and harsh, such as hot peat baths, colonic irrigation, fasting, severely restricted diets, and herbs of unknown quality and effectiveness. All of these are taught in their foundational text, The Textbook of Natural Medicine (2013).
Naturopaths want to force insurance reimbursement for their services
Naturopaths want to cash in on the federal Affordable Care Act. The Act requires reimbursement of care provided by any health care provider licensed by the state. This would be a bonanza to the naturopaths and the multi-billion dollar dietary supplement industry which supports their schools and whose products naturopaths sell. At the state level, naturopaths lobby for laws mandating payment for their services by public and private health insurers.
For information on pending naturopathic licensing and other naturopathic-related bills, click here.
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