The random thoughts of a sceptical activist

Simon Singh

Spot the difference

The first photo was taken in East Kilbride shopping centre on 16 August 2009. The second was taken this morning.

Spot the difference:

Answer: Today’s advert has the claims for “Children with colic & ear infections” covered up.

The removal of these claims may have been due to the GCC’s recently released Bronfort report, or perhaps they’ve now read the ASA guidance they’re supposed to follow. Who knows.

The claims left are for: “headaches and migraines, neck, back and shoulder pains, sciatica or disc injuries, sports or accident injuries, pins and needles in arms and legs”.

A step in the right direction, but a long way to go yet.

What’s Polish for ‘chiropractor’?

Czego mogę się spodziewać podczas wizyty u kręgarza?

If your Polish isn’t up to scratch, this roughly translates as: What can I expect when visiting a chiropractor?

Ah! I hear you say. Is it just a coincidence that this is suspiciously close to What can I expect when I see a chiropractor?

No, of course it isn’t. That was the title of the GCC’s leaflet that Simon Perry (Adventures in Nonsense, Leicester Skeptics in the Pub and skeptical columnist for the Leicester Mercury) complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about last year. Continue reading

The GCC’s Plethora

Well. The GCC’s ‘independent’ review of the effectiveness of chiropractic has finally been published: Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report (although not yet on the GCC’s website).

Paid for by the GCC (see page 77), this document runs to 113 pages and there is additional commentary by two others, adding a further 13 pages.

It’ll take time to read through and digest fully, but here’s a handy summary of what they did — and didn’t — find evidence for. They have listed conditions in three categories: effective, inconclusive and ineffective. Continue reading

Discover Chiropractic

No. I’ve not been converted and I’m not urging you all to realise that the future of humanity and an end to all pain, suffering and diseases known to man lies in the chiropractic way.

It’s the name of a chiropractic clinic in Edinburgh. They wanted to spread the word about the benefits of chiropractic and decided to advertise.

Oops! You’d have thought… No. I won’t say it again.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading


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