Dr. Andrew Weil, among the best-known medical doctors practicing alternative and complementary medicine, suggests researchers are ignoring an important endpoint when they evaluate the success or failure of clinical drug trials: how the patient feels about the treatment.
Weil, a longtime leader in alternative -- or integrative -- medicine, is best known today for his books, blog and various products. It's been awhile since he ventured into the serious business of scientific research and medical practice. But in a commentary published Thursday, Weil and two co-authors speak out on drug trials and propose a revised rating scale for evaluating a treatment's effectiveness.
Medicine has become enslaved to "evidence-based" approaches that rely on randomized, clinical trials as the only measure of whether a treatment is valuable, Weil and his co-authors wrote. While these gold-standard studies are vital, they are not the only way to measure worth, they said.
When evaluating a study's outcome, researchers should consider the funding source, study design and other factors, Weil and his co-authors proposed. Safety issues should warrant a separate, detailed grading scale that would heighten their importance. Patient factors - including how patients felt about the treatment, whether they can afford it and any evidence of a placebo response - should be recognized as a crucial factor in a treatment's potential value. Even an ecological rating could be applied to research that addresses whether the treatment would have any detrimental environmental impact (such as contributing to antibiotic resistance).