The Dirty Little Secret Behind Health Care Research Funding in the U.S.

The Dirty Little Secret Behind Health Care Research Funding in the U.S.

Story at-a-glance -

  • Allergies are a good example of a chronic, widespread disease that causes enormous suffering for both people and pets – yet scientific research into allergic conditions is focused on symptom management, not curing the disease.
  • Much of the funding for health-related research in the U.S. originates from a desire to develop therapies that can be patented and sold over long periods of time for a profit. Finding cures is not a priority.
  • Even the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has as its goal to, “Advance the science and practice of symptom management."
  • Pet owners, however, aren’t content to simply manage symptoms. They are looking for cures for the diseases their animals suffer from. Thanks to websites like this one and social media, users are able to talk and share information more easily. People are seeking holistic and integrative therapies in larger numbers for allergies and other disorders.
  • If you’d like to lend your support to wellness-focused veterinary medicine research, we hope you’ll join the AHVMA Foundation’s “One in a Million” fund raising effort. Between now and July 2, 2012, every $1 donated to the AHVMA Foundation toward the “One in a Million” campaign will be automatically doubled. That’s right – will contribute $2 for every $1 donation to the foundation from June 25th through July 2nd.

By Dr. Richard Palmquist, Co-Director of the AHVMA Foundation

Pets and people suffer endlessly from allergies and the complications that arise from them. Consumers spend millions of dollars each year addressing the problem with antihistamines, nutritional supplements, vitamins, and pharmaceutical drugs like cortisone and cyclosporine.

Pet owners are increasingly aware that commonly prescribed medications can and do help manage symptoms, but at a price. Drugs can cause adverse effects including immune suppression, hormonal imbalances, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, cellular energy production damage, increased urination, excessive panting and a host of other undesirable reactions.

Recent improvements in our understanding of allergic conditions have given veterinarians new tools to treat patients, but the majority of owners aren’t content to simply manage their pet's allergies. They want to solve the problem, not just suppress the symptoms of the problem.

A recent survey of pet owners who visited veterinary dermatologists revealed that dietary therapies can assist about one third of allergy suffers. By contrast, allergy shots given to improve tolerance of allergens helped resolve less than 4 percent of cases responding to the survey.

Most Medical Research Isn’t Looking for Cures

With the massive amount of money spent each year treating allergy-related disease, you would expect equally large amounts of research dollars are being spent to find real solutions to the problem. And when a small study shows that properly prescribed homeopathic agents can improve or even resolve allergies in dogs, wouldn't you expect that to excite and stimulate further studies?

Sadly, this is not the case.

And pet owners are often surprised to learn this. They may think scientists are working hard to find real cures – especially comparatively safe, non-toxic remedies -- but science is dependent upon funding. And much of the funding for health-related research in the U.S. originates from a desire to develop therapies that can be patented and sold over long periods of time for a profit. Most research funding is directly related to potential future profitability.

But what about taxpayer funded research? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) gives grants for research into a wide variety of health concerns. Drug companies often use this scientific research to mine for potential new therapies. When one appears, they capitalize on taxpayer funded research to generate new drugs or approaches that can be patented and sold for profit.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) only funds research with human health in mind. This means veterinary medicine has little public funding available to advance complementary and alternative veterinary medicine (CAVM). It may be possible to arrange grants for specific uses like pain management, but that funding is becoming scarce due to federal budget constraints.

NCCAM’s primary goal is to, "Advance the science and practice of symptom management." That may not be the best goal for researchers to pursue. Don't we want to advance science and practice to obtain real healing? Why focus on symptom management to the exclusion of resolving the condition?

Most pet owners would prefer to eliminate their animal’s allergies than treat them for life. It only makes sense. But as things stand now, DVM’s realize far more allergy cases will be managed, but not fixed. Promising a cure is considered unethical because traditional medicine’s focus has always been on symptom management, not disease resolution.

But we know that cures do occur in both people and pets. Those of us in integrative veterinary practice have had experience curing diseases in animals. And we feel veterinary medicine research should be centered on finding ways to resolve illness – not just manage symptoms.

Pet Owners Are Looking for Real Solutions

Websites like Mercola Healthy Pets are helping pet owners expand their awareness of integrative approaches to healing companion animals.

Visitors to these sites are talking with one another, and thanks to social media, they are sharing information. Consumers are seeking holistic and integrative therapies in larger numbers for allergies and other disorders. They are finding help not only in managing symptoms safely and more effectively, they are also experiencing cures for themselves and their pets.

But since veterinary school curriculums and most conventional veterinary journals lack information in CAVM and integrative techniques, traditional veterinarians may not be aware of alternative therapies for allergies. This knowledge gap can limit treatment options and negatively affect patient care.

How can we change this? How can we improve the evidence and knowledge available to consumers and their veterinary medical professionals? How can we address difficult problems and improve outcomes?

The answer is fairly simple.

How You Can Help Make Wellness-Focused Research a Reality

The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Foundation is a private, nonprofit, 501(c)3 corporation dedicated to supporting improved research into integrative and holistic therapies in veterinary medicine.

At the foundation we are working to raise $10 million dollars to fund studies that could radically alter how we address diseases like allergies and other chronic conditions. We are also working to generate another $10 million dollars for use in enhancing existing veterinary school programs with integrative veterinary medical departments. Once these departments are established, we can get on with doing legitimate research, but only if funding is made available.

While we will accept contributions of any size and welcome large donations, our current fund raising effort is called "One In A Million." We are seeking one million angels who will donate $1 a month for 12 months to generate a $12 million dollar fund.

These funds will be free of corporate influence and designated to be used for projects that benefit the health and well-being of animals without regard to developing products that could be patented and sold for profit.

The foundation’s goal is to fund research for the people, by the people. It is our fervent desire to bring better integrative healing techniques to the veterinary profession to enhance the lives of both pets and their human families.

The AHVMA Foundation is grateful to the Mercola group for supporting our efforts. We want to thank Dr. Mercola and Dr. Becker for helping us spread the word.

You Can Make a Difference

I’m tremendously excited to announce that now through July 2, 2012, all donations will be automatically doubled. That’s right! For every $1 donated, will donate an additional $2. So please, take a moment right now to make a donation to the AHVMA Foundation.

Donate Today!