Maintaining as a Unique, Drugless and Non-Surgical Healing Profession

ICA has remained a long-time advocate for a drugless, non-surgical national definition of chiropractic.  Unique among chiropractic organizations, ICA has maintained a no-compromise policy on the issue of drugs in chiropractic and has acted legislatively, legally and in the media, to preserve this unique and highly positive aspect of chiropractic.

ICA has been outspoken about all professions being obliged to qualify to perform any service at the highest standard of education and testing.  It is on this basis, for example, that ICA has challenged the physical therapy profession’s desire to expand their scope in numerous states to include spinal manipulation, with a less than adequate level of education. The authority to prescribe and administer medications has traditionally been understood under the law as the practice of medicine.

ICA believes that the public is entitled to one truly drug-free system of health care and doctors of chiropractic are fully trained and qualified to fill that role with proven clinical and cost effectiveness.  For more than a century, the marketplace has sustained and supported chiropractic on the basis of its unique, drugless approach to health and healing.  This is especially crucial at a time when our society at-large is recognizing the alarming complexities, costs and complications of a drug-based approach to treatment and the trend is strongly in the direction of a minimalist approach regarding drugs, and with good reason.

In a health care system awash with pharmaceuticals, the abuse and side-effects are becoming a major public health issues and the availability of a safe, proven and clinically effective drugless care pathway such as that chiropractic offers takes on a renewed and compelling importance. This is an issue of both cost and of human consequences:

The average cost per patient to correct medication errors in U.S. hospitals is $2,000 to $4,000. According to Jury Verdict Research Group, in 2000, the average jury verdict due to medication errors was $636,844. According to a 2001 report in the Journal of American Pharmaceutical Association, more than $177 billion in excess costs in the health care supply chain can be attributed to medication errors. Sadly, estimates indicate that more than eighty percent of life threatening medication incidents are the result of physician error.[ii] 

There is a growing mountain of evidence to indicate that the drug-based approach to healing, as applied by contemporary medicine in the United States is a failing paradigm.  With half of all emergency room admissions for Medicare beneficiaries from prescription drug-related complications, with the explosion of antibiotic resistant bacteria and other micro-organisms, and with the long-term complications of many pharmaceuticals only now beginning to be understood, this is a powerful argument and one of which chiropractic must be conscious.

Medication errors are among the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people every year, according to a massive and definitive study from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.  The extra medical costs of treating drug-related injuries occurring in hospitals alone conservatively amount to $3.5 billion a year, and this estimate does not take into account lost wages and  productivity or additional health care costs, the report says.

Studies indicate that 400,000 preventable drug-related injuries occur each year in hospitals.  Another 800,000 occur in long-term care settings, and roughly 530,000 occur just among Medicare recipients in outpatient clinics.  The committee noted that these are likely underestimates…None of these figures take into account lost wages and productivity or other costs.

SOURCE:  Arch Intern Med.2002 Sep 9;162(16):1897-903. Medication errors observed in 36 health care facilities.  Barker KN, Flynn EA, Pepper GA, Bates DW, Mikeal RL. Center for Research on Pharmacy Operations and Designs, School of Pharmacy, Auburn University, 128 Miller Hall, Auburn, AL 36849-5506, USA. barkekn@auburn.edu 

Public understanding of chiropractic as a true alternative to medicine is in jeopardy:  At a time when national headlines are filed with stories about medical errors and the popular culture is searching for better, safer and more natural care pathways, the incorporation of drugs into popular understanding of chiropractic is counterproductive and will only serve to undermine the profession-wide efforts underway to break through to the public with a clear understanding of chiropractic as a separate and distinct approach to health and healing, free from the complications and errors of the current medical and drug-based system of health care.

[1]PREVENTING MEDICATION ERRORS, Committee on Identifying and Preventing Medication Errors, Board on Health Care Services, Philip Aspden, Julie A. Wolcott, J. Lyle Bootman, Linda R. Cronenwett, Editors,INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES, THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS, Washington, DC, 2007

[1]Gurwitz, J.H., Field, T.S., Harrold, L.S., et al, “Incidence and preventability of adverse drug events among elderly persons in the ambulatory setting, (JAMA) 2003;289(9) 1107-1116.

Arch Intern Med.2002 Sep 9;162(16):1897-903.Medication errors observed in 36 health care facilities.Barker KN,Flynn EA,Pepper GA,Bates DW,Mikeal RL. Center for Research on Pharmacy Operations and Designs, School of Pharmacy, Auburn University, 128 Miller Hall, Auburn, AL 36849-5506, USA.

J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash).2003 Mar-Apr;43(2):191-200. National observational study of prescription dispensing accuracy and safety in 50 pharmacies. Flynn EA,Barker KN,Carnahan BJ. Center for Pharmacy Operations and Designs, Harrison School of Pharmacy, Auburn University, Ala. 36849-5506, USA.



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