The random thoughts of a sceptical activist

Monthly Archives: November 2009

What a week for quackery!

Phew! This has been a spectacular week or so for alternative medicine.

Firstly, we had the Landmark ASA ruling on asthma and colic. Then we have the spectacle of some of its major proponents being tortured and exposed before the House of Commons Science and Technology Sub-committee looking into the evidence (or lack of it) for homeopathy. Skepticat tells it far better than I could, but the admission by Boots of the absence of evidence for homeopathy and that they just sell the stuff  ‘cos their customers want to buy it has been described as a Ratner moment.

That was Wednesday; but today was another significant day for the regulation of quackery.

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Landmark ASA ruling on asthma and colic

The Code of Practice for chiropractors clearly states that claims made by chiropractors have to be:

…consistent with the law and the guidance issued by the Advertising Standards Authority.

There have been several cases where the ASA have found chiropractors to be in breach of this guidance by making claims for all sorts of medical conditions, some serious. Since the adjudications form part of the ASA guidance, you’d have thought that chiropractors would be somewhat cautious about making claims that the ASA either have already rejected or ones not on the list of conditions they will allow (providing the advertiser provides convincing evidence, of course). The only condition the ASA will allow without asking for evidence is migraines (not headaches). Not even lower back pain.

And now there’s another one.

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Regulating nonsense: my response

The deadline was today, and I only just managed to get my response in to the Department of Health consultation (take a deep breath):

A joint consultation on the Report to Ministers from the DH Steering Group on the Statutory Regulation of Practitioners of Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Other Traditional Medicine Systems Practised in the UK

…otherwise known as the Pittilo consultation.

I covered the launch of this consultation in August (see Regulating nonsense). Since then, Professor David Colquhoun has blogged his response and urged everyone to respond to this consultation to ‘help to stop Department of Health making fool of itself‘.

David also published the excellent response by someone known as Allo V Psycho. David correctly summarised this response:

‘The document is a model of clarity, and it ends with constructive suggestions for forms of regulation that will, unlike the Pittilo proposals, really protect patients.

I have taken my lead from these responses and concentrated on my unique view of current statutory regulation: that of chiropractors.

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New ASA remit?

There has been a lot of speculation today after some media reports about Google and the ASA.

One article was in Revolution magazine: ASA imposes paid search tax to police websites and another in the Guardian: Google deal with Advertising Standards Authority will fund regulation.

It is not clear from either of these articles exactly what has been proposed or whether the ASA’s remit is to be extended.

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