Veterinary Medicine is a Business, and that Includes Alternative Medicine

Medicine is a business. That is an often uncomfortable but always unavoidable fact. There is plenty of room for debate about whether or not it should be, but as things currently work, veterinary medicine is a business. It is not only a business, of course. For most of us, medicine is a passion and a vocation. For all the years spent in school, and the money borrowed to pay for those years, most veterinarians could make a lot more money doing something else. So money is not the reason we practice, but nevertheless veterinary medicine is how we make our living, pay our bills, support our families.

The question of whether or not making money from our work as doctors influences the recommendations we give clients is an important and complex one. There’s not much in the way of controlled research on the subject, and studies of this would be difficult to do, so we have little more than speculation and opinion to work with. Having known an awful lot of vets, I am confident that deliberate deception, promoting goods and services that are unnecessary or ineffective simply to make more money, is incredibly rare. As I’ve already pointed out, people with that sort of ethic and drive to make money would be doing something else for a living.

That said, I also know how vulnerable people are to unconscious bias, despite the best of intentions. I have little doubt that in a more subtle way, money does influence veterinary decision making in a variety of ways.  Funding source probably influences research to some extent, and the potential profitability of particular therapies probably influences how likely vets are to offer them. The claim that vets are “just in it for the money” is clearly nonsense, but we shouldn’t be naïve enough to imagine that the fact that we make our living from our work as doctors has no influence on our thinking or behavior.

The question of financial bias often comes up in debates about alternative veterinary medicine, usually in the form of an unsophisticated and self-serving claim that conventional vets are “in it for the money,” whereas “holistic” vets are simply doing what is best for their patients. Here are just a few examples I’ve received personally over the years:

Obviously this website is biased against complementary integrative veterinary medicine….keeping comments and ideas one sided and supported pharmaceutical and commercial pet food monopolies which have been raking in the money for many decades…Threatened financially and ideologically, they must resort to political tactics of attack, shock and awe using headlines inspired by the National Inquirer or some other ladies gossip rag…If you were a legitimate blog looking for the Truth and not a shill for the pharmaceutical companies, you would have researched both sides of any issue.

The old 70 year old urologist told me I was crazy for believing that acupuncture helped my stone. I think he is crazy for thinking I would have let him make another 15 grand off of a surgery that caused me more pain and suffering than I had ever experienced. I wish someone would have told me that I could have just bought a 12 dollar bag of herbs. They don’t taste so great, but hey, it beats the heck out of feeling like the mob got a hold of your kidney with a bat. Or should I say the rich Mob Doctor MD.

I believe that traditional veterinarians are today motivated by GREED and the medicine they practice does as much harm as much as it helps…And how about the local vet’s push for more and more, now found to be harmful, vaccines they are always telling us pet owner are needed- just so they can make more money, not to mention the those oh so toxic flea meds,

it looks like the only faith you have is in your holier than though self. You remind me of our consulting vet. you can show him and show him, but when it comes down to the bottom line what the drug companies will do for him, he will jump on their bandwagon even when it doesn’t work

After reading your “rant” (so accurately described by another reader), I am left feeling like you must have a financial interest in big pharma, for that is the only logical reason I can see that you would put such effort in condemning a product that has successfully treated and prolonged the lives of so many animals… Maybe you should conduct a clinical research study with neo and see the results for yourself? Oh wait, you wouldn’t make the money using neo as you do with chemo and radiation, my bad. It sure does seem like your motives are financial,

You are a skeptic because it could put you out of business.

The FDA is a sub contractor for Monsanto. Come to think, so is this website!

You’re sole reason to exist is to try to hold back the tide that threatens your alternative medicine buddies in big pharma.

It’s all about the bottom line, folks. Now that the pet industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, unfortunately it appears the vets and “pet-care” companies are using our pets in the same way the human medical establishment has done…cause confusion and watch the big bucks roll in!

Huh, sounds a lot like what you say you aren’t – a pet food company lackey. The strong reason in favor of healthy, appropriate, homemade diets is the health of our pets…the strong reason against is two-fold – money and sickness – both of which I am sure you have no problems with. Sick animals are good for business.

What a HORRID article! If everyone in this world was healthy and living without chronic disease, then how would the pharmaceutical companies make money?

Who is paying you to write all this crap? The AMA? Jeez.

Another example of Government out of control serving Big Pharma both in an alliance and both disserving the unknowing blinded public while they RAKE IN $BILLIONS IN PROFITS. It’s the Government and its Agencies like the FDA THAT CANNOT BE TRUSTED! Do we need any more evidence for this? No, it is clear. SkeptVet clearly takes THEIR side.

You are a typical vet who just wants to stand behind the prescriptions that pay for your lifestyle.

I know one thing for sure……Vets scoff because it is about the $$$$…..they focus on keeping us coming back for the prescription food, meds and their $$$’s…….I do not trust doctors for humans let alone for my precious little ones. They are ALL about the money

To all you ignorant people bought off by Big Pharma . It is getting old by now you all not getting it. America is a fat, diseased very sick nation. The irony of thinking we are this Great nation when we are the international laughing stock. Europe has a seperate factory for making send out food to America because the Ingredients we allow are not allowed in their country due to most are toxic. Even the little cashier at World Market know’s this… If people were well and did not need prescription medicine their would be no money to be made in this billion dollar Big Pharma Industry. They want us sick!

Another sellout medical doctor…Medical doctors and mainstream people are so arrogant. They think they know everything, when behind closed doors, the people who fund these foods and treatments are actively trying to harm them.

I think you’d find it more eduational than blindly working for the pharmaceutical industry who are constantly being sued for lying about test results on their products.  Why would they lie if their products have been properly tested and proved to be safe?  I don’t suppose it’s occurred to you that they’re not in the business of healing.  They’re in the business of making as much money as they can… Most vets who switch to a holistic practice earn far less money than you do, so what possible reason could they have for changing?  Has it occurred to you that they have actually bothered to pay attention and have realised that they are hurting our animals with unnecessary medications? That their consciences have stepped in and prevented them from continuing to cause chronic disease in our pets?  Obviously not. Our animals need healers working with us owners, not drug sales people.

Who’s paying you!!?? Talk about biased. I’d like to know the serious side effect of taking cats claw… I always read opposing info when researching but this is so slanted its crazy. So I figure you are either a vet or you are paid/paid off by them. Let’s all feed science diet, shall we!… Seriously, who pays you!!??

If you don’t get a payment from the drug company, it’s not worth recommending.

After reading this blog and these testimonials, I think the skeptics here are for the most part, on someones payroll. Science has been Hijacked long ago, and the truth is being continually sacrificed on the alter of Corporate profits. I dont know what they are paying you to slander this company, too much if you ask me,

The drug industry ARE the quacks. Its a protection racket. This skepvet is a living testament to that. Ignore them and do what works not what their rigged trials tell you should work.

Someone is paying you to discredit vitamins, glandulars and minerals as beneficial remedies. You probably are a stupid medic. Breast feeding at age 80 off the pharmaceutical TIT. Die quickly so u can be reborn and do something to help someone.go pop a pill. You are an idiot.

Another sellout medical doctor…. These people probably promote heavy metal-laden vaccines; liver destroying drugs and toxic foods that contain genetically modified organisms. Go ahead, be ignorant and take the medical industries junk. They will be happy to benefit off of your illnesses. Big pharma and agribusiness work hand-in-hand

These sorts of comments are pretty obviously ridiculous in a lot of ways, but specifically the idea that somehow science-based medicine is more influenced by financial bias that alternative medicine is demonstrable nonsense. I have yet to meet an alternative vet who gives away all of their products and services just to bring healing and expects no payment in return. All of the potential sources of bias that are in play in conventional medicine pertain to alternative therapies as well.

  1. Research on alternative products is often paid for by companies selling those products. That is the case for the majority of products I have reviewed here, and it is a general rule in the business of alternative medicine. The claim that “natural” products can’t be patented and so make nobody any money is nonsense. Herbal remedies and dietary supplements are multi-billion dollar industries (also 1 and 2) involving large corporations, in many cases some of the same companies that make money from the conventional medicines and commercial pet foods “holistic” practitioners complain so much about. And not only do these companies make enormous profits from these supposedly unpatentable “natural” products, because they are minimally regulated they return a far lower proportion of this profit to research than the pharmaceutical industry does.
  2. Similarly, vets make a lot of money selling supposedly “natural” products, include herbal remedies and supplements and raw and other alternative diets. Publications aimed at “holistic” vets actively promote these kinds of products as profit centers. This is as true of alternative practitioners as it is of conventional vets.
  3. Continuing education for alternative vets is itself a profitable business, and also often financially supported by companies selling products and services for these vets. One well-known proponent of so-called Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCMV), Dr. Xie, teaches TCVM, including herbal medicine and even a business management course for integrative veterinary medicine, and he also sells the same herbal medicines he teaches vets to use. How is this any different from Pfizer or Roche teaching doctors to use the conventional medicines they then sell to those doctors?
  4. Continuing education conferences for alternative vets are also sponsored by companies selling them supplements and other products, just as is the case for conventional veterinary conferences. There is a real issue of potential bias in this, but it applies just as much to alternative medicine and conventional medicine and so is not an argument in favor of one over the other.

Bottom Line
The bottom line is that financial bias is a real issue in veterinary medicine at all levels, and it has to be investigated and managed. However, this is not the same as saying there is widespread fraud or a sinister conspiracy involving vets and companies that do business with them. There is no reason to believe that the majority of vets are doing anything other than the best they can to help their patients and clients. And there is absolutely no reason to believe vets offering alternative therapies are any less subject to financial bias or any purer in their motivation or behavior than vets practices science-based medicine.

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One Response to Veterinary Medicine is a Business, and that Includes Alternative Medicine

  1. rita says:

    Recently I have been becoming concerned over the extent to which this “interest” meme is taking over in debates where it is – or should be – only a secondary issue. It seems that one only has to discover a financial interest on one side for the other to be able to discount valid points with no more ado, shouts of “Shill!” and similar epithets filling the air.

    I was brought up in a country with a comprehensive and excellent National health Service: it is notable that those of us who were approach the theme with a different mindset, which I think indicates that the only way to get people thinking straight about money/health care (human or non-) is for it NOT to be privatised, but for it to be a public good paid into by all for all, with health care professionals properly remunerated on scales set down by competent public authorities. I am aware that even this excellent system is being dismantled and losing its immunity to the spectre of health care professionals’ personal interests becoming paramount, but that is precisely because the generally right wing governments we see encroaching on the public good are turning away from proper nationalised systems to privatised ones.

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