The random thoughts of a sceptical activist

Chiropractic

Another weapon in the skeptic’s arsenal

Mooted nearly a year ago, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have today announced that their digital remit is to be extended to cover:

  • Advertisers’ own marketing communications on their own websites and;
  • Marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under their control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Starting on 1 March 2011, this landmark agreement means that claims made on a seller’s website will be subject to the ASA’s Committee of Advertising Practice Code (the CAP Code), just like adverts in newspapers, magazines, and paid-for online advertising.

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The Long and Winding Road

It’s been a while since I blogged about the progress of my complaints to the GCC and it’s time for an update.

In fact, it’s been a full 12 months — to the day — since I submitted my complaints. How time flies.

I’m sure no one is interested in all the minutiae of this, so here’s a brief summary:

  • Hundreds of emails and letters have been received and sent;
  • I’ve had two meetings with GCC’s two firms of lawyers;
  • I’ve received 11 lever arch files of paper copies of chiropractors’ websites;
  • I’ve been sent 290 sets of chiropractors’ observations on my complaints, sometimes at the rate of 40 a day: the postie complained.

Meantime, the GCC:

  • have had to get their rules changed by the Privy Council to allow them to survive financially;
  • have had to employ six new staff (admins and paralegals) to cope with the workload;
  • have commissioned a review into the evidence for chiropractic — the Bronfort report;
  • have held lots of meetings with the Department of Health, a QC and their lawyers.

But they have barely started to even consider the first of my complaints.

So, what’s taken all this time, what are the 290 envelopes all about and when will it all be over and done with?

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Washing dirty linen in public

The General Chiropractic Council publishes annual Fitness to Practice reports, which contain summaries of all complaints dealt with over the year and useful advice and guidance for chiropractors on topics like:

1. Professional boundaries
2. Abuse of trust or exploitation of lack of knowledge
3. Communication with patients and obtaining consent
4. Record keeping
5. Management and care: initial examination and review of treatment
6. Use of X-rays
7. Local complaints procedure
8. Treatment prescribed by another health professional
9. Protecting patients and colleagues from risk of harm
10. Honesty, integrity and trustworthiness
11. Politeness and consideration towards patients
12. Respecting confidentiality

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Chiropractic evidence mashup

Some light relief.

Genius! Sheer genius.

And another one, found by Dr Aust: Chiropraktischer Untergang – updated with added Sturm und Drang. See his excellent blog for several more.

Shedding more light on acceptable evidence

Pharmacies are in the news again this week. Not Boots this time, but that other well-known high street chemist, Lloyds Pharmacy.

An ASA adjudication, published today, upheld a complaint against a TV advert about their ‘light therapy device‘.  The advert claimed:

Hay fever seasons [sic] here again.  But heres [sic] something you might not have tried before, the Lloyds Pharmacy hay fever reliever.  Its [sic] been shown to help reduce symptoms like your runny nose and itchy eyes … Just pop it up your nose for a couple of minutes two or three times a day and start making the most of your summer.

Although I wouldn’t be entirely keen on sticking anything up my nose, I don’t suffer from hay fever. However, I do know it can be a miserable condition and anything that might help would be worth a try. But you’d want something for which there was good evidence for efficacy before you splashed out your hard-earned cash, wouldn’t you? And you’d want the seller to be able to provide that good evidence when asked?

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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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Profit and loss: addendum

My last post ended:

In the light of this, why are so many BCA members still making such claims?

Oh dear.

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