Tag Archives: Alternative Medicine

Homeopathy Not Effective for Treating Any Condition, Australian Report Finds

Melissa Davey reports in The Guardian on the results of an extensive review of existing studies on homeopathy:

Homeopaths believe that illness-causing substances can, in minute doses, treat people who are unwell.

By diluting these substances in water or alcohol, homeopaths claim the resulting mixture retains a “memory” of the original substance that triggers a healing response in the body.

These claims have been widely disproven by multiple studies, but the NationalHealth and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has for the first time thoroughly reviewed 225 research papers on homeopathy to come up with its position statement, released on Wednesday.

“Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective,” the report concluded.

“People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.”

An independent company also reviewed the studies and appraised the evidence to prevent bias.

Keep reading here.

Why Media Coverage of Alternative Cancer Cures is Dangerous

In The Guardian, Michael Marshall discusses a new report from Mirror Online that focuses on a breast cancer patient who has refused the surgery and chemotherapy her doctors advised, electing instead to try and treat her condition with an intense regime of raw food and supplements:

… there’s no shortage of voices within the the so-called alternative movement advising seriously ill cancer patients to abandon proven medicine for the latest rumoured natural cancer cure.

Although most of the treatments promoted by well-meaning but ultimately ill-informed alternative cancer activists merely offer no benefit, some can be actively dangerous in their own right.

You can read the full article here.

Chiropractors, Naturopaths, and Acupuncturists Lose in State Legislatures

Over at Science Based Medicine, Jan Bellamy reviews 2013-2014’s state-by-state battles against quackery in public policy.

Though the year was “a bust for chiropractors, naturopaths, acupuncturists and assorted other practitioners of pseudo-medicine,” some ground was lost to them. Likewise, 2014 offers a model for what to possibly expect in 2015, especially as health insurance reform continues to play out across the United States.

Click here to read Jan Bellamy’s 2013-2014 legislative review.


Australian Court to Penalize Homeopaths for Claiming Vaccine Alternative

From Ars Technica:

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has convinced a court that a company that offers homeopathic remedies was “misleading and deceptive” when it tried to argue that said remedies provide a viable alternative to the pertussis vaccine.

The case dates back to early 2013. The company, Homeopathy Plus, posted a series of three articles that claimed (among other things) that the vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough) is unreliable and ineffective. Literature currently at the site criticizes vaccines more generally, while promoting homeopathy as effective in preventing “malaria, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leptospirosis, and meningococcal disease.”

But the court ruled that these claims were unsupported by evidence.

Now, long after the original articles have been pulled, a court has ruled that the claims of the articles were bogus: “In fact, the Vaccine is effective in protecting a significant majority of people who are exposed to the whooping cough infection from contracting whooping cough.” In addition, the claims that homeopathic remedies could help in this area also came in for criticism, with the court finding the articles “made false or misleading representations that Homeopathic Treatments have a use or benefit” in preventing pertussis infection.

Keep reading here.

New York Is About to Change Its Medical Misconduct Law to Protect Quacks

Slate‘s Brian Palmer writes about a disturbing piece of legislation moving through the New York state legislature:

How can you tell whether a doctor has screwed up? You use other doctors as a measuring stick. That’s why our tort law defines medical malpractice as an act that “deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community.” Now the New York State Legislature wants to substitute its own judgment for that of medical scientists. If it succeeds, rogue doctors will be able to shill their non-evidence-based treatments without worrying about intervention.

In May and June, the two houses of the New York State Legislature unanimously passed a bill prohibiting the state’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct—the agency that disciplines doctors who put their patients in danger—from so much as investigating a claim of medical misconduct that is “based solely on treatment that is not universally accepted by the medical profession.” The bill’s wording is strange—after all, very few practices are “universally accepted” in medicine. And why would the state want to protect practitioners who use unaccepted treatments? Drill down into the text and you’ll see that this is yet another attempt to promote acceptance of chronic Lyme disease.

Keep reading here.

Inside The Sleazy Business Of Cashing In On Americans’ Ebola Fears

ThinkProgress examines the commercial response to the ebola outbreak, and finds not just profiteering, but rank pseudoscience:

While a government-approved Ebola vaccine hasn’t been released as of yet, some pharmaceutical companies say that approved drugs could enter the market in the beginning of 2015. However, that hasn’t stopped companies from selling products they claim will cure or treat the disease.

In August, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings to three companies selling Ebola medications after consumers complained about the misleading claims that the manufacturers made, some of which included assertions like “viruses, including Ebola, are no match for our products” and “the Ebola virus cannot live in the presence of cinnamon bark.”

“This is an area where there’s little regulatory oversight unless the manufacturers suggest — which they don’t — that their merchandise has been reviewed by the government,” Dr. William A. Carter, Chairman & CEO of Hemispherx Biopharma, told ThinkProgress. Carter said that these companies have profited because Americans often let fear take precedence over logic, especially in cases of the unknown.

Cover My (Ineffective) Care: Homeopaths Demand Insurance Coverage of Disproven Methods

In a blog post late last month, the National Center for Homeopathy (NCH) detailed their efforts to guarantee insurance companies are required to cover their disproven methods. Along with acupuncturists, chiropractors, assorted naturopaths, and other alternative medicine providers, the NCH is hoping to exploit language that was inserted into the Affordable Care Act by alt-med supporter Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), following the efforts of the American Chiropractic Association and the Integrative Healthcare Policy Consortium (IHPC), of which NCH is a member. Among others, IHPC partners include the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, the American Massage Therapy Association, International Chiropractic Pediatric Association.

The alt-med coddling language, tracked doggedly by Jan Bellamy at Science Based Medicine (see here, here, here, here, and here), is found in the Affordable Care Act’s Section 2706:

“…a group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall not discriminate with respect to participation under the plan or coverage against any healthcare provider who is acting within the scope of that provider’s license or certification under applicable State law.”

Enforcement of Section 2706 is left up to the states, with their somewhat diverse licensing and certification regimes for alt-med practitioners. Given those often lax and frankly unscientific standards, it is in the states where NCH, the IHPC, and other alternative medicine providers hope to make their stand—and spectacular profits.

The amount of money at play is staggering, and is quite certainly why these alternative medicine providers have been so eager for the Affordable Care Act’s protection. Each year, Americans spend $32 billion on alternative medicine. One of the more commonly-covered alternative methods, chiropracticcost Medicare nearly half a billion dollars in 2012 alone. That’s an incredible waste of Americans’ tax dollars—dollars that could have been spent on treatments proven to work, for the patients who desperately need them.

This month, to bolster their efforts the IHPC is launching the “Cover My Care” campaign “designed to educate the public and state officials about non-discrimination in healthcare.” Behind that seemingly noble guise of “non-discrimination,” these groups are working to erode the standard of scientific evidence in medicine itself, a situation that would leave insurance companies unable to refuse coverage for unproven, disproven, patently unscientific, and sometimes dangerous treatments that waste both money and time. In the face of those shoddy state regulations that are themselves the product of lobbying by the alternative medicine industry, insurance companies will be forced to treat homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, and other alt-med procedures with the same regard they do evidence-based, scientifically proven medicine.

Indeed, insurance companies won’t be able to discriminate—between what works and what doesn’t. Every snake-oil salesman with a slip from their particular state will be the equivalent of a surgeon with an M.D. The madness will know no bounds except for the bank accounts of patients, whose premiums will be driven higher by these wasteful insurance requirements.

By every measure of sound medical science, the methods the NCH and IHPC advocate for are simply not medical care. And if we are to achieve a truly affordable, truly effective, and truly safe health care system—the very goals of the Affordable Care Act—they simply should not be covered.