"Am I really going to get a full subscription for this year, or will this magazine fold?" the first paid subscribers to Townsend Letter asked Jonathan Collin, MD, in 1983. They had reason to be skeptical; Collin already carried the responsibility of a full-time medical practice. But he also had experience in writing and editing for medical newsletters and a passion for open discourse and alternative medicine.
Each Monday morning for over 30 years, Dr. Collin has traveled from the Seattle side of Puget Sound to a small house in Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula, home to Townsend Letter. There, he provides adult medical care to patients seeking orthomolecular medicine and chelation therapy during the day, and then turns his attention to editing manuscripts, selling advertising, and magazine layout. By 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Collin and a box full of manuscripts and correspondence are heading back to Kirkland, where he has another part-time medical practice (www.drjonathancollin.com).
Dr. Collin has now published 400 issues, examining all facets of alternative and integrative medicine, with the help of a small, dedicated staff, many contributing writers, and loyal advertisers. Some advertisers, such as Biotics Research, DaVinci Laboratories, Douglas Labs, and Klaire Laboratories, have supported Townsend Letter since its first bound issue, almost three decades ago. A.C. Grace Co., American Biologics, Doctor's Data, J.R. Carlson, Metagenics, Metametrix Laboratory, and Thorne Research were also long-time advertisers. Many others – A4M, Albion Laboratories, Allergy Research, Body Health, College Pharmacy, Emerson Laboratories, Enviromedica, Essential Formulas, Kyowa Hakko, Maplewood Company, McGuff, Mountain Peak Nutritionals, Mushroom Wisdom, Nordic Naturals, NOW Formulas, Progressive Laboratories, Pure Encapsulations, Rx Vitamins, Scandinavian Formulas, Sovereign Laboratories, SYY Integrated Health Systems, and Women's International Pharmacy – have joined TL's advertising list along the way. ProThera and Researched Nutritionals have been particularly strong sponsors of Townsend Letter. Without these advertisers, the subscription rates needed to fund the magazine's production would have been prohibitively high.
Dr. Collin and Townsend Letter have received honors for their roles in supporting the growth of alternative and integrative medicine. In October 2008, the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) presented Townsend Letter with the Legacy Media Award, honoring the magazine's 25 years of reporting and reviewing this growing field of medicine. In September 2014, the law firm Emord & Associates, a fierce proponent of alternative medicine and health-care choice, recognized Dr. Collin for his accomplishments as a physician and as an editor at its Legacy Awards ceremony. At the gala, Collin received awards for "Excellence in Integrative Medicine" and "Excellence in Medical Journalism."
Like the field of alternative medicine, Townsend Letter has evolved over the past 33 years. Since its inception, TL has published letters and articles from practitioners and patients. These contributors have described personal and clinical experiences with diverse therapies and debated treatment risks and benefits. They have shared treatment protocols and insights into underlying causes for many of today's puzzling chronic illnesses, including chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and mitochondrial dysfunction. They have also presented new medical paradigms such as functional medicine, which addresses underlying causes instead of symptoms, and integrative medicine, which incorporates conventional, naturopathic, and alternative therapies. Townsend Letter's biennial Best of Naturopathic Medicine Competition contributes to integrative medicine's growth by publishing top research papers, reviews, and articles, written by naturopathic researchers, doctors, faculty, and students from accredited four-year naturopathic colleges.
Many of the positive anecdotal reports on the use of nutritional supplements, chelation therapy, homeopathy, botanicals, and acupuncture that have appeared in Townsend Letter are now supported by clinical studies; and new research is constantly being added. For example, Jeanne Drisko, MD, director of the Kansas University Integrative Medicine Center, and colleague Qi Chen, PhD, described animal and clinical research involving intravenous vitamin C's use in cancer to writer Nancy Faass for the August/September 2014 issue. Conventional medicine has argued that high-dose vitamin C might diminish the effect of chemotherapy. In fact, their clinical trial showed that 75 or 100 grams of C, given intravenously twice a week for a year, caused no adverse effects and was associated with better tolerance to chemotherapy.
In addition to featured articles, Townsend Letter boasts an eclectic band of regular columnists. In his Literature Review & Commentary column, Townsend's medical editor Alan R. Gaby, MD, comments on the strengths and weaknesses of published studies, particularly ones involving nutritional and alternative treatments. His editorials often point out flaws in medical research and practice. Tori Hudson, ND, presents the latest research on botanicals and other naturopathic treatments for women's health issues. Naturopathic doctors Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman describe homeopathy's use in treating physical illness and behavioral conditions such as ADHD and fear of flying – often with the help of case studies from their own practice. In his War on Cancer column, Ralph W. Moss, PhD, discusses conventional and alternative therapies used all over the world, including targeted chemotherapy, chaga mushroom, hyperthermia, the ONCOblot-test for ENOX2, Coley's toxins, and laetrile. In Pathways to Healing, health-care journalist Elaine Zablocki covers all aspects of integrative care – from health insurance, naturopathic licensing, and health care quality to acupuncture and functional medicine. Jule Klotter digs through research studies and anecdotal reports that highlight alternative treatments and new models for health care and summarizes them in Shorts. Robert Goldman, MD, PhD, and Ronald Klatz, MD, DO, focus on lifestyle and diet changes that increase longevity and health in Anti-Aging Medicine. Ingrid Kohlstadt, MD, MPH, brings a public health viewpoint to her column Optimizing Metabolism and educates readers about preventive medicine and self-care. Marianne Marchese, ND, discusses research into the health effects of environmental pollution and ways to mitigate the hazards. Savely Yurkovsky, MD, presents case reports of patients treated with Field Control Therapy, which involves bioresonance testing and homeopathy. Michael Gerber, MD, HMD, shares case studies, treatment tips, and highlights from his practice and integrative medicine conventions in Monthly Miracles; and Jacob Schor, ND, looks at all sides of an issue or treatment in Curmudgeon's Corner. Many of these columnists have been with TL for years, in some cases decades; but the roll of columnists is not static. New columns, with new perspectives, frequently appear in Townsend Letter's pages.
In addition to presenting the best of alternative and integrative medicine, Townsend Letter has always been in the forefront of warning about iatrogenic hazards, environmental toxins, and threats to health care choice. Readers knew that sugar, not dietary fat, was the real villain in cardiovascular disease decades before mainstream media's recent awakening. The serious side effects of statin drugs have appeared here. In the June 2009 issue, Duane Graveline, MD, MPH, and Jay S. Cohen, MD, wrote that 662 cases of atorvastatin-associated cognitive impairments had been reported to MedWatch. Alan R. Gaby, MD, publicized a meta-analysis that showed a significantly increased risk of diabetes in statin users (June 2010). TL has educated readers about biased research and how designed-to-fail, government-sponsored studies "proved" that laetrile, intravenous vitamin C, and Nick Gonzalez's cancer protocol were ineffective. It has also informed readers about government regulations that threaten health-care choice such as the recent compounding pharmacy guidelines and the recurring threat of overregulation of common nutritional supplements.
Now, 400 issues strong, Townsend Letter continues to build on its long history and well-deserved reputation for cutting-edge information. And, yes, those initial subscribers did get a full subscription.
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