The government’s decision to withdraw financial support for a host of ‘natural’ therapies has been greeted with acclaim by one of the nation’s foremost bodies arguing for an end to government-sponsored pseudoscience.
Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) has campaigned for seven years for the government to stop subsidising supposed health treatments that its own principal advisory body, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), has declared ineffective.
A former report by the NHMRC, commissioned by government itself, found no evidence for clinical effectiveness for any of the 17 most common of these ‘alternative’ treatments (Homeopathy, Reiki, Iridology, Reflexology, etc).
“This move is important in our efforts to use precious health dollars wisely,” said Professor John Dwyer, President of FSM, “but even more important is the clear message to Australians that these modalities will not benefit their health.”
“The decision should also send a message to the private health industry which is struggling to stop Australians deserting their product,” argues Monash’s Professor Ken Harvey. “With Australians burdened with 30 billion dollars a year of out-of-pocket expenses for their health care, the savings that would follow if industry followed the government’s lead could be passed onto consumers as lower premiums.”
FSM argues that, with health literacy in Australia hovering around 40% of the population, it easy for pseudoscientific practitioners to make misleading claims about worthless or even harmful treatments.
“It is concerning that, in this most scientific of ages, consumers are poorly protected from so many ineffective, pseudoscientific and even anti-scientific ‘alternative’ modalities and such misleading information,” said Adelaide’s science communicator, Professor Rob Morrison, Vice-President of FSM. “Government should build on this positive step by asking more from the regulators that they themselves have established to protect consumers from health care fraud.”