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Friends of Science in Medicine


11 January 2016

One of Australia’s foremost champions of public health has been appointed to the executive of Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM).

FSM campaigns to ensure that health care strategies in Australia are supported by credible scientific evidence of their effectiveness. Established in 2011, FSM is supported by nearly 1200 leading Australian scientists and clinicians who appreciate the importance of scientific evidence-based medicine.

“The FSM executive team members have for many years championed the importance of credible scientific evidence underpinning clinical care,” said Professor John Dwyer AO, FSM president. “Understandably we are delighted that Ken Harvey, an outstanding ‘fellow traveller’, has accepted our invitation to join us.”

Dr Ken Harvey is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at Monash University. He has been an influential member of the Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Health and Rational use of Medicines Committee and most recently served on the Federal Government’s ‘Natural Therapies Review Committee’ which found no evidence for effectiveness for any of the 18 common tax-payer supported alternative treatments reviewed.

Dr Harvey has made outstanding international contributions to the development of sensible drug policies throughout Asia and the Pacific and played a pivotal role in the establishment of ‘Therapeutic Guidelines Limited’, an independent invaluable resource for clinicians and consumers looking for the evidence base that supports the use of specific therapies.

Dr Harvey was a member of the expert group that drafted the World Health Organisation’s ‘Ethical Criteria for Medicinal Drug Promotion’ and has been awarded life membership of Choice (the Australia Consumer’s Association) for services to the consumer movement.

“No one has done more to protect consumers from the unethical marketing of prescription and ‘alternative’ medicines in our country,” said Professor Dwyer.

Professor Harvey said “My work supporting an evidence base for clinical care and the ethical promotion of therapeutic goods has been closely aligned with similar advocacy from FSM. I’m delighted to accept the invitation to work more closely with them. I also hope to use my links with other civil society organisations to strengthen our advocacy for improved regulation of therapeutic goods, especially their promotion to consumers. A recent letter to the TGA and MMD Review Task Force about homeopathic products, supported by FSM, the Consumers Health Forum, Choice, Australian Skeptics and the Doctors Reform Society is a nice example of this approach.



Dear Visitor,

Welcome to our website. We hope you visit often. Our Association, Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) was formed at the end of 2011 to emphasise the importance of having health care in Australia based upon evidence, scientifically sound research and established scientific knowledge.

The founders of FSM were and are concerned about the increasing number of health courses and interventions on offer to Australians that fall far short of this standard, as well as the inadequacy of the measures that are supposed to protect students and consumers from such practices.

This is no alarmist statement. Many supposed health treatments have no scientific evidence of their effectiveness, some have been shown to cause harm, while many could not possibly work as they are incompatible with well-established principles of physics, chemistry, physiology and pharmacology. Many are pseudoscientific; assuming the trappings of scientifically sound practices in order to gain the credibility of these without subjecting themselves to the well understood tests of scientific examination that have proved so effective in giving us medical procedures and medicines that really work.

We were particularly concerned that some of our universities were allowing pseudoscientific approaches to health education to be presented in health science courses without critical analysis of the principles behind them or of the claims of efficacy made for these procedures and treatments, including such practices as Homeopathy, Energy Medicine, Kinesiology, Chiropractic “subluxation” theory, Cranial Sacral therapy and more. All of these approaches lack scientific credibility, but apparent endorsement of them by our universities can confer undeserved credibility on useless and sometimes dangerous approaches to healthcare.

While suspect university courses provided the impetus for the creation of FSM, all aspects of the penetration of pseudoscience into our healthcare system concerns us. Many, such as Iridology, Reflexology, Rolfing, Homeopathy, much of traditional Chinese and Indian medicines, etc, are an affront to our knowledge of physiology and pathology and, relying as so many of them do on mysterious, undefinable, undetectable “energy”, could never be validated by scientific investigations as, virtually by definition, they have made themselves impossible to test.

We would emphasise, however, that FSM strongly supports the need to conduct independent and disinterested scientific evaluations of those “Alternative and/or Complementary” therapies where the anecdotal evidence for benefit is strong and the underlying explanations are not incompatible with modern biological and physical sciences. Much that is of current therapeutic benefit was developed by such an approach.

As Friends of Science in Medicine, we are also aware of and concerned by the discovery of cases where poor scientific methodology and the fraudulent manipulation of data have occurred within the medical/scientific establishment. Some individual researchers and some of the major pharmaceutical companies have been involved in these unacceptable practices. While FSM deplores such activities, it recognizes that there are already many and increasing checks and balances within Medicine that aim to minimise such incidents.The same cannot be said for Alternative and/or Complementary medicine, which is why FSM is concentrating its efforts in this area.

Valid scientific and medical research must adhere to well-established and widely recognized “best practice” protocols. FSM wants the evaluation of all potential health treatments to be subjected to similar standards for validation.

When we informed the scientific and clinical communities of the establishment of FSM and sought support, we were overwhelmed with encouragement from home and abroad. As of January 2014 we have over 1000 leading scientists, clinicians, lawyers and consumer advocates, (listed herein), as supporters.

FSM has no formal links to any industry or organisation and its executive members serve in a voluntary capacity.

Speaking with a strong voice provided by our constituency we will make every effort to ensure that Australians have access to interventions and medicines backed by science-based tertiary education and scientific evidence of their clinical effectiveness. FSM will work towards ensuring that precious public health dollars are not wasted funding spurious treatments, many of which have actually been proven to be ineffective and thus dangerous, despite their small direct risk.

With the efforts of hundreds of like-minded and knowledgeable Friends, we will strive to help the public understand the importance of a good evidence base for any treatment they are offered. We will advocate for regulatory changes that better protect the public from misleading, even fraudulent, health-related claims.

You will find much more about us, and the outcomes we seek, in the pages that follow. We issue a regular online newsletter to our Friends to keep them informed of our activities. We will keep the content fresh and would welcome your feedback about our work as well as about the effectiveness of this site.

Professor John Dwyer AO

Founding President FSM








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