Medical fraternity warns Barbadians about some traditional medicines

by Emmanuel Joseph

Caduceus with First-aid KitThe medical fraternity in Barbados is warning citizens to steer clear of traditional medicines of “dubious” medicinal benefits.

Describing such medicines as a scourge, the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners is equally worried that some “doctors” were showing “complete disregard” for the laws governing the advertisement for sale of these substances through the print and electronic media. “But the plot thickens with the flagrant flouting of the law with apparent impunity,” said BAMP’s mouthpiece in its latest publication.

More recently, the attention of the Pharmacy Council was drawn to an advertisement for Beta Human Chronic Gonadotropin (bHCG), in one of the advertisement columns of a local newspaper. It said that the compound was being promoted for use in “weight reduction.” “Such an ad did exist and readers were advised to make contact by telephone,” added the BAMP Bulletin’s editorial.

“The phone was answered by someone indicating that she was “the nurse,” and the caller was advised that “the doctor” was resident abroad,” the doctors’ umbrella body noted. A senior medical consultant, who preferred to remain anonymous told Barbados TODAY, the recent closure of a clinic in Worthing, Christ Church, was one example of the controversy surrounding the efficacy of the medications being complained of.

The doctor also drew reference to a number of calypsonians who “went on the weight loss regime,” in which a hormone, said to cost as much as $2,000, was injected, even though the individuals also had to go on a 500 calories cutting programme.

“The cutting of calories is how you reduce weight. The question is if these hormones are doing anything and you have to pay so much money for the injection. It is also suggested that they (hormones) have adverse effects,” pointed out the medical consultant.

The BAMP Bulletin editorial also recalled that instructions were provided to the “nurse,” who carried out her employer’s instructions in the absence of the employer being in the jurisdiction,” it continued.

“The drug,” the publication observed, “is not without side-effects and these have been categorised as follows: In men: marked gynaecomastia and prostatic hypertrophy; in women: increased chance of multiple and ectopic pregnancies; in both: nausea, acne, hair loss, fatigue and mood changes.” The BAMP Bulletin also cautioned that “injections must be made into muscle and not into fatty tissue or veins – the latter for fear of the causation of painful abscesses at the injection site.”  In presenting evidence that questions the effectiveness of the traditional medications, the editorial said that in 1995, meta-analysis examined the effect of bHCG in the treatment of obesity.  This, it stated, included 14 random, controlled trials in which all patients were given a very low-calorie diet.

“The intervention groups received the bHCG regime, while the control groups received no further treatment or placebo. The authors concluded that there was no effect of bHCG on weight loss. Additionally, there was no evidence to suggest that bHCG suppresses hunger or maintains long term weight loss, these being common claims made by those who advocate the use of bHCG.”

However, the medical organisation’s organ argued that significant short-term weight loss was demonstrated in both intervention and control groups and was explained by the diet. It said that given these adverse effects of bHCG, “it can only be deemed unethical and potentially harmful to administer this therapy. Physicians who continue to do so, are either negligent in failing to practise evidence-based medicine or prescribe this therapy with malicious intent,” the medical bulletin submitted.


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