Many consumers view alternative medicine industry as more altruistic and home-spun than Big Pharma. But in his book, Offit paints a picture of an aggressive, $34 billion a year industry whose key players are adept at using lawsuits, lobbyists and legislation to protect their market.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who has long fought for stricter regulation of supplements, says the alternative medicine industry is "as tough as any industry I've seen lobby in Washington. They have a lot of money at stake. They want to maximize their profits and they want as little regulation as possible."
Apple founder Steve Jobs' faith in alternative medicine likely cost him his life, says Barrie Cassileth, chief of integrative medicine at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. But Jobs, revered as one of the brightest minds on the planet, chose to delay surgery, the only treatment that had a chance to save his life, Cassileth says.
For nine months after his diagnosis, Offit writes, Jobs treated his cancer with acupuncture, herbs, bowel cleansings and a special diet of carrots and fruit juices.
Jobs eventually had surgery, and even a liver transplant. But it was too late.
He died in 2011, eight years after diagnosis.
"He had the only kind of pancreatic cancer that is treatable and curable," Cassileth says. "He essentially committed suicide."
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