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From the Townsend Letter
April 2008


Letter from the Publisher
by Jonathan Collin, MD

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Well, we finally achieved that important milestone – 25 years of publishing the Townsend Letter! I would like to say that we had champagne-toasting and caviar canapés with pâté de foie gras, but that gala has not yet taken place. For one thing, I don't own a tuxedo, and I really don't care for doing the rental thing. For another, the exciting events we hold in this tiny out-of-the-way paper-mill and tourist-catering Victorian seaport tend to be rough-edged, lacking the blow-out venues of L.A. or the Four Season splendor of New York. We still might get together for "steak night" at the nearby Valley Tavern, relishing the "chef's" bugle call. That being said, 25 years of publishing first a newsletter, then a "zine," and then a magazine has not only been an accomplishment for our editors and writers and advertisers, but it has also been a tribute to our faithful readers who have supported, advocated, and championed us.

We have been titled
Townsend Letter for Doctors, then Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, and now we have settled on simply the Townsend Letter. Our subtitle, The Examiner of Alternative Medicine, is probably the best description of what we do. But perhaps an even better description would be A Magazine Forum Examining Alternative Medicine. We strive to publish and print what goes on in alternative medicine and healing. While "what goes on" is not always scientific or medically acceptable, it is the work of healers and patients here and abroad. As much as one would prefer to categorize the Townsend Letter as a popular magazine or a medical journal, it is probably neither. We "bulletin board" what docs and healers do with patients, and much of it has not undergone rigorous study or been based on scientific proof. Despite all the efforts to legitimize alternative medicine practices by using labels such as complementary and alternative medicine, functional medicine, and integrative medicine, at some point, a treatment is either medically proven and becomes a part of conventional scientific medicine or is unproven, but still practiced, and remains a part of alternative medicine.

Our mission at the
Townsend Letter is to study and examine such unproven treatments; to consider what science may be available for their acceptance; and to report on those therapies that are in use yet fail to have scientific support. We are a voice for the commercial parties who vend products and services used in the alternative medical community and for practitioners who advocate "pet" therapies. We also provide a forum for the voices of consumers who seek alternative medicine treatments, having found that their treatment choices have come to an end in the conventional medical setting, as well as a forum for those who seek "natural," non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical options for treatment. Yes, there is a need for a forum for alternative medicine discussion, and we have been honored to have been able to offer such a forum for the past quarter-century!

Dr. Dan Labriola
At a recent medical symposium put on by Seattle's Swedish Hospital, I had been forewarned by the lecturer that he intended to mention the Townsend Letter. The doctor is an individual I have known for many years who has contributed a number of articles to Townsend Letter. I was expecting a casual reference during his talk, nothing too major, given that he was discussing complementary medical perspectives with an audience of family practitioners and cardiologists. The morning talks were centered on sleep apnea diagnostics, bariatric surgery results, and pharmacologic treatment of hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, and the audience and the faculty had been predicating nearly every point with demand for scientific proof and rigorous studies demonstrating clinical outcomes. In this arena, I did not think the Townsend Letter would be given a fair shake. So I awaited the moment with some trepidation when Dr. Dan Labriola would cite our publication in his discussion. Sure enough, the moment arrived, and the power-point slide displayed an older cover of the Townsend Letter while Dr. Labriola offered commentary on how the magazine provides diverse and important information about alternative medicine that the alternative medical community follows. Dr. Labriola allowed that it was a forum, not a scientific journal, and he critiqued that patients often are unable to sort out science from the unproven in alternative medicine. The cover illustration had been nicely done, and it remained on center stage for over one minute – a nice tribute in the hospital medical setting!

Dr. Labriola, ND, is the founder of the Northwest Health Specialty Care Clinic, which is associated with Seattle's Swedish Hospital. During his talk, he discussed his concerns about the lack of quality control and consistency in nutritional supplement products. Labriola expressed his concern that many clinical failures in alternative medicine treatment are the result of patients using mislabeled products that do not contain the vitamin, mineral, and herbal contents cited on the label.

Over the past decade, Dr. Labriola has required vendors to provide assays of each and every supplement product sold. He has requested independent laboratory assays that not only check for ingredient concentrations, but also check for adulteration with chemicals, toxic elements, and biological contamination. When he first demanded these assays from his vendors, he was informed that such assays had been done, but many failed to send him a copy of the actual assay by lot number. Having found that a great many companies did not provide him with written assays, he quit stocking his dispensary with numerous proprietary formulas. Labriola states that now he does get a lab assay for every supplement he purchases from each supplying vendor who wishes to maintain his clinic's business. He recommends that all clinics offering supplements for sale from a dispensary require the manufacturer to provide a written assay of each supplement lot. Labriola was willing to provide information to health practitioners of the supplements he now stocks in his dispensary and offers written reports of laboratory testing for each individual supplement ordered by lot number.

The Townsend Letter intends to celebrate our 25th year of publication by reprinting articles from past issues throughout the year. In this issue, we will begin by reprinting Dr. Labriola's editorial from November 1999 on the use of antioxidants during the chemotherapy process.

Prof. Garth Nicolson
In the early 1990s, Professor Garth Nicolson wrote one of the earliest reports on a condition that would later confound the US Veterans Administration – Gulf War Illness. The Defense Department was well acquainted with treating the injuries of the wounded, but they were utterly unprepared for dealing with G.I.'s coming home with chronic illness predicated on biological and chemical exposures. In this issue, Prof. Nicolson reports that a diverse group of bacterial organisms play a major role in the etiology of neurologic disorders, including autism. Nicolson's Gulf War Illness work focused on mycoplasma as a major infective agent in the 1990s. His current work examines mycoplasma's role in multiple sclerosis, ALS, and Alzheimer's disease. The role of Borrelia burgdoferi (Lyme Disease) in these disorders as a co-infection with mycoplasma may ultimately transform neurology into an infectious disease specialty.

Dr. John Cannell, MD, has devoted most of his energies to studying and reviewing the role vitamin D deficiency has played on human health. In this issue, he makes the case that autism may be related to fetal and post-pregnancy vitamin D deficiency. Nenah Sylver, PhD's two-part article on electromedicine reviews the devices in use from the work of Rife to the use of low-intensity laser to work on pain, muscle, and bone injury and healing.

Jonathan Collin, MD

Daniel Labriola, ND
Northwest Natural Health Specialty Care Clinic




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April 27, 2008

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