Exploring the Alternatives

In "What Really Works?" [July 12], we are warned that alternative medicines do not undergo the rigorous testing required for conventional medicine. However, in the 1998 book "Prescription for Health," Thomas Moore tells us that Congress' Office of Technical Assessment reported that only 10 to 20 percent of the medical procedures done by conventional medicine has been proven to be effective, and the editors of the Journal of Medical Ethics writing in the British Medical Journal in 1991 said that 85 percent of all the current treatments have never been subjected to control trials.

A drug manufacturer only needs to submit two studies showing satisfactory results to get a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration, even if there are many more studies that show the drug causes adverse reactions in an acceptable number of cases.

Bernie Siegel, renowned physician and author, says that many of his colleagues don't read the journals that cover the information on alternative therapies, but that this doesn't mean it isn't good science -- many studies in well-known, reputable medical journals are poorly done and poorly controlled. The real distinction should be between good and bad medicine, not between alternative and conventional.

June Russell


It's about time we all looked more closely at alternative methods. I was, however, surprised that you didn't mention clinical hypnotherapy in your article. I have been a clinical hypnotherapist for many years and have seen some remarkable results in stress management, smoking cessation, weight control, etc.

Clifford R. Dunning, PhD

Silver Spring

Stop Dickering Over Ovarian Cancer Tests

The most frustrating and heart-wrenching aspect about the volleyball discussion among clinicians, academics and researchers about an ovarian cancer screening test for high-risk women and the general population is the use of these icy, mind-numbing phrases: a test "isn't worth doing" or has "exaggerated benefits" or "isn't shown to reduce the chance of dying from ovarian cancer."

My God, facing the abysmal odds of surviving this insidious and terrible cancer is burden enough to carry. To face such bleak language from our physicians and researchers is almost beyond comprehension. We need hope for ourselves and our daughters; and we need a fast track now for the potential tests under development.

Annamarie DeCarlo


Firm or Not, Normal Is Beautiful

Thanks for the fair appraisal of Dove's firming products in "Hawking Dove" [July 12]. There is certainly no evidence that the product reduces cellulite and firms skin. I am tempted to buy a case anyway, though, in gratitude for the images of beautiful, normal-sized, ethnically diverse models in Dove's advertisements. These images are a welcome antidote to those that surround young girls with the depressingly consistent message that only starved women can be beautiful.

Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD

Associate Professor

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Master's Program

Georgetown University