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: Maryland governor signs naturopathic licensing bill, but with significant limitations on their practice, plus oversight by the Maryland Board of Physicians. See below for more details.
Breaking news: New organization formed to fight pseudo-medicine! The Society for Science-Based Medicine. Please click here to visit their website. Join today!
Breaking news: Prominent scientific organizations warn public against treatments and diagnostic tests that are a standard part of naturopathic practice. Click here for more information.
There is no public demand for naturopaths
A miniscule 3/10 of one percent of American adults used naturopathic services in 2007 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 Florida, Virginia and Texas have rescinded licensing for naturopaths and South Carolina and Texas specifically prohibit their practice.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-effectetiveness 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.
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
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
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.
Naturopath licensing legislation is pending in Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey (new 2014 bill), New York (passed Senate, now before Assembly) Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania (passed House, now before Senate).
An important bill to curb naturopathic prescribing authority and increase oversight is pending in Hawaii. Bills to expand naturopathic practice by expanding prescribing privileges are pending in Alaska and Utah. A bill to lift limitations on naturopaths' treating children is pending in Colorado. In Arizona, a bill to permit naturopaths to practice "telemedicine" is pending.
VICTORY in 2013! In Arkansas and Maryland, Naturopathic Licensing Bills were withdrawn, and in Rhode Island, North Carolina, and New Jersey, bills never made it out of committee. In Oregon and Montana, bills to force insurance coverage were defeated, and in Hawaii, a bill to expand prescribing privileges failed. In addition, Alaska recently took away naturopaths' authority to use "prescriptive nutrients" but a bill to expand prescribing privileges is still pending.
Maryland's Governor recently signed into law a naturopathic licensing bill. Fortunately, naturopaths did not get nearly the scope of practice they wanted. Significantly, they must collaborate with an MD or DO, let patients know the limitations of their practice, cannot prescribe or use colonic irrigation, and are under the jurisdiction of the Maryland Board of Physicians. The Board will be advised by a naturopathic advisory committee, but the committee has two MDs/DOs as members in addition to two NDs and a public member. There is a significant opportunity to limit naturopath's use of pseudoscientific diagnoses and treatments via the Board's authority to enact rules and discipline naturopaths. As well, the Board can mandate an informed consent requirement that will force naturopaths to tell patients the truth about the lack of effectiveness of some of their standard treatments, such as homeopathy. The Board will also control their continuing education requirements and can implement more stringent licensing requirements than graduation from naturopathic school and passing their self-created and self-administered exam.
In Colorado, a naturopathic licensing bill and a "Health Freedom" bill allowing traditional naturopaths and other practitioners who reject evidence-based healthcare to practice were signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper in 2013. Fortunately, naturopathic doctors failed to get the scope of practice they wanted.
Click here to find out more about all bills.
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