Got a stuffy nose and want your naturopath to prescribe a tincture of cayenne to clear you out? A growing reluctance by medical suppliers to supply naturopathic doctors in Alaska might put the kibosh on your capsicum.
C.W. Jasper, a naturopathic doctor for 30 years and a member of the Legislative Committee of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, told the House Labor and Commerce Committee that, starting about a year ago, the state of Alaska Department of Professional Licensing began to advise medical and herbal remedy suppliers in the Lower 48 to refrain from selling naturopathic supplies to Alaska NDs.
He said he is confused by the sudden change in practice that he said went back at least 18 years.
“Patients in the state of Alaska ... are suffering as a result of this,” Jasper said.
Juneau’s Legislative Reps. Cathy Munoz and Beth Kerttula have sponsored a bill to clarify the rights of naturopaths in Alaska and hopefully ease the minds of U.S. medical suppliers. House Bill 266 would move language defining the types of remedies and medicines licensed naturopathic doctors can prescribe to their patients. Currently the definition of what is a drug as opposed to an herbal remedy is a regulation and not codified in statute.
“We want to simply take this regulation, that has been on the books for a number of years, and move this regulation into statute so that we can continue to do what we have done for the last 18 years,” Jasper said. “That will help [medical suppliers] to understand that it is indeed valid.”
Alaska is one of 16 states that license naturopathic doctors, Jasper said. Some states allow naturopaths to prescribe drugs and a few allow controlled substances, Jasper said. Alaska allows the use of herbal remedies.
In the 1980s Jasper said the state of Alaska agreed on regulations controlling naturopathic practices.
“We agreed to no prescription drugs as long as we could continue to use prescription medicine,” Jasper said.
Alaska has a definition describing the difference between a drug and medicine — the main difference being drugs are derived from a chemical process. Prohibited drugs include Valium, Albuterol and Lipitor. Naturopathic doctors are allowed to prescribe B12 shots, injectable vitamin C and capsicum tincture (cayenne pepper and alcohol), Jasper said.
“A drug was a chemical, man made, not natural medicine,” Jasper said. An herbal remedy is “derived from or is a concentrate of or is an extract of a plant, tree, root, moss, fungus, or other natural substance if the medicine is not a controlled substance,” according to Alaska regulations.
He said naturopathic doctors were left with two choices, sue or seek redress through legislation.
“We are here through necessity, the state of Alaska put us in this position,” Jasper said in an interview after the committee meeting. However, he said, the state has been helpful so far.
“We want to be able to continue using natural medicines even if they have a prescription status,” Jasper said. “We’re going to take it from a regulation which is disrespected into a statute which commands respect.”
Naturopathic Family Doctor Mary Minor said her practice is being affected by a lack of access to medicines.
“I have to say to my patient, ‘yes I know this is the only thing they works for you, but I’m sorry there is nothing I can do,’” Minor said.
“We don’t hold the suppliers at fault here,” they’ve been told their pharmacy license is a stake, she said.
The bill was held in the House Labor and Commerce Committee.
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.