Anything to do with pseudo scientific woo quackery
The phrase Humpty Dumpty chiropractic cropped up in a Google Alert a few days ago. It was the fitting title of an editorial (cached) in the December 2010 issue of Clinical Chiropractic, which discussed the slippery and nebulous meaning of vertebral subluxation complex (VSC).
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
Such equivocation is typical of on-line conversations with chiropractic supporters discussing the VSC, but it applies elsewhere as well.
Google Alerts is a very useful tool for skeptics. It sends you an email whenever the word or phrase you’ve asked for crops up in their searches of news, blogs or other websites. They are excellent for keeping tabs on what’s going on by helping you track new stories and hits.
Naturally, I have one set up for the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), just to see where they crop up on web sites and in the news.
A few days ago, I received a Google Alert about a page that had been recently updated, although the mention of the GCC was from some time ago. It linked to a decision by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about complaints made by the GCC against the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Guardian about articles published on 9 November 2007.
According to the GCC, the articles said:
- Chiropractors ‘are waste [sic] of money’, Daily Telegraph, Rebecca Smith
- Chiropractors ‘are a waste of time’, Daily Mail, Jenny Hope
- ‘Chiropractors may be no use in treating back pain, study says’, The Guardian, Alok Jha
Nothing new there, then.
I’m insulted. I’m miffed. My good name…
How could anyone possibly think that I would complain to the Advertising Standards Authority about misleading claims for AltMed?
Someone objected to claims being made by the Craniosacral Therapy Association (CSTA) in one of their leaflets.
It wasn’t me!
- 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.
When the British Chiropractic Association published its ‘plethora‘ of 29 references they thought supported chiropractic for childhood conditions, it took just 24 hours for it to be utterly demolished by scientists and skeptics. Only 18 of these were relevant to chiropractic and childhood conditions.
Shortly after that, Fiona Godlee, Editor on the BMJ, commenting on an article by Prof Edzard Ernst, said:
But in response to our recent editorial by Evan Harris (doi:10.1136/bmj.b2254), the vice president of the BCA, Richard Brown, has now presented the evidence (doi:10.1136/bmj.b2782). He writes, “There is in fact substantial evidence for the BCA to have made claims that chiropractic can help various childhood conditions” and lists 18 references. Readers can decide for themselves whether or not they are convinced. Edzard Ernst is not (doi:10.1136/bmj.b2766). His demolition of the 18 references is, to my mind, complete.
This, presumably, was the best evidence the BCA could muster and it was left in tatters by those more knowledgeable about science and robust trials.
It’s only taken 433 days to get this far.
On Saturday, I received three batches of letters from the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), sent Recorded Delivery.
These letters are the formal notices that a complaint against a chiropractor has been considered by the Investigating Committee, that they have decided that there is a case to answer and that the complaint will go before their Professional Conduct Committee (PCC).
The letters consist of the formal notice, the Notice of Allegation and some of the website pages that contained the claims I complained of and where they were using the title ‘Dr’. The Notices of Allegation are all very similar to this redacted one; straight and to the point. (There’s lots to be said about the documents and I’ll cover that in a separate blog post.)
I have so far received these formal notices for 93 chiropractors.
There will be far more to follow.
Ever anxious to ensure the taxpayer isn’t paying for bogus therapies, I though it was about time I asked my local NHS trust.
I duly sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the North West London Hospitals NHS Trust. I wanted to get a comprehensive understanding of what AltMed therapies they indulged in. Their responses are in italics:
In The beginning of the end? Part two, I mentioned there was going to be more on sciatica.
I have already described how the GCC have dealt with chiropractors making claims about sciatica, even though the GCC admits that:
…there is no high or moderate positive evidence from randomised controlled trials that would support an advertised claim regarding sciatica using manual therapy. In the light of this, the Investigating Committee concluded that it could be inappropriate for you to make such an advertised claim.
Despite this damning statement, the chiropractors I’ve been told about so far have all been let off for making claims about sciatica.
However, it appears that there is more to this than first meets the eye.