Vaccines, Vitalism and Vacillation – 2019


What I said last year holds: In approving this webinar for CEUs, the AANP handcuffs current naturopathic practice to the errors of the past. The question from last year remains: why?

I have not been blogging for a while due to other priorities. I found this draft, which I originally wrote in September 2019 ready to go, but not published. Better late than never.

In August 2018 I wrote an article discussing how the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) chose to offer a webinar discussing vaccinations from a decidedly non-pro-vaccination stance, and the problematic implications of that decision. Among those implications were that naturopathic medicine was refusing to critically evaluate the approaches handed down to it from its founders a century ago.

Unfortunately, via Twitter I discovered that it appears that the AANP continues to promote material that is neither supported by evidence nor solidly based in science. This year, their annual convention offered a Friday breakaway session with Sharum Sarif, ND speaking on “Homeopathic Prophylaxis and Treatment of Epidemics and Pandemics”. Per the website description:

“In the absence of highly effective treatments for the management of epidemics and/or pandemics, as alternative health care providers, we have the social responsibility of offering the world an innovative epidemic and/or pandemic response plan. Homeopathy has had an extremely impressive documented historical record of effectiveness in treating life-threatening diseases. During this presentation, Dr. Sharif will discuss the homeopathic prophylaxis and treatment of many potentially deadly epidemics including, most importantly, the feared pandemic influenza. ”

listing for the homeopathic prophylaxis event at the AANP 2019 Conference.

A quick look at Sharif’s website shows handouts for using homeopathy in response to flu [1] as well as a blog statement where he wrote, in February 2019.

[Dr. Sharif is] presently gathering data on various past and present epidemics and pandemics (such as the flu, anthrax, Ebola, polio, TB, malaria, etc.), and am researching the medical literature on possible homeopathic treatments for such conditions in case of any major outbreaks.

Now, modern medicine does have effective means of preventing, managing and treating infectious diseases and epidemics. This doesn’t mean those approaches can’t be improved. But surely, homeopathy is not the road forward for infectious disease management. It’s been shown, time and again, that homeopathy is no more effective than placebo and indeed appears to be a placebo as discussed in numerous works. [3]

Now, as one attendee noted, many NDs see embracing different approaches as simply making them stronger. But it’s one thing to embrace diverse approaches when there is reasonable evidence supporting their effectiveness. It’s another to embrace therapies that are proven to be ineffective. As licensed healthcare professionals, NDs have a responsibility to promote individual and public health through research-supported, science-based practices and therapies. A discussion of potential epidemics and a review of how to address them in the primary care practice would be appropriate, including diagnosis, initial management, and reporting requirements. A thorough review of the role of vaccination in preventing infectious disease from spreading would be welcome. Instead, attendees were offered a session on how to use sugar pills to counteract deadly illnesses – by someone who has dug into this for a mere few months.

The rest of the convention was a mix: Some reasonable-sounding sessions ( “Do Diabetes Drugs Reduce Heart Risks and Improve Mortality?”), some on timely social concerns that impact care (e.g. dealing with sexual assault and LGBTQ patients). And then there were some that were head-scratching, e.g. ” The Gift of Tick-Borne Disease in Healing Trauma: The psycho-spiritual complexity of these misunderstood microbes” and “Gemstones for NonNeedle Acupuncture”. Some of the latter were sponsored by the NMSA, the Naturopathic Medical Students’ Association, but the AANP still has to take responsibility for allowing them to be offered for CEUs. There were at least two presentations on vitalism, and and per The Natural Medicine Journal, a keynote speaker’s speech

highlighted vitalism as a guiding principle of naturopathic practice. “Vitalism is part of your DNA,” [Ian] Coulter said to a packed room. “To throw it away would be a downright shame.” [4]

This, from the professional organization that represents the licensed NDs, who have received …” a rigorous, four-year, in-residence, science-based, post-graduate medical education”[5]. Homeopathy is not science-based. Vitalism is not science-based. Gemstone acupuncture is not science-based.

What I said last year holds: In approving this webinar for CUs, the AANP handcuffs current naturopathic practice to the errors of the past. The question from last year remains: why?

  3. See: Ernst, Edzard’s works including Homeopathy: The Undiluted Truth; Grams, Natalie Homeopathy Reconsidered; and numerous reviews and metareviews.
  5. and Licensed

By Les Witherspoon

Formerly practicing naturopathic doctor. Views are my own and do not speak for any employers or clients, nor for the profession at large.