Archived articles and radio interviews
The articles below have appeared since the beginning of 2015:
Doctors warn against alternative allergy treatments: There are no controls on alternative allergy treatments, and doctors have warned patients to approach unregulated practitioners with caution.
Menopausal women are wasting money on alternative medicines: Up to half a million women seeking relief from menopause symptoms are taking expensive alternative medicines that are useless or potentially even dangerous, new research indicates.
Call to standardise CAM: Complementary and alternative medicines to treat menopausal symptoms must be subject to tighter regulation and more extensive research, according to a leading women’s health expert.
More bad news for homeopaths: First it was the Australians who made life more difficult for homeopaths; then the FDA announced that they plan to have a critical look at homeopathy. Now the Canadians have joined in with the other regulators getting concerned about the most overt abuses of medical evidence and ethics by manufacturers of homeopathic products.
Good Thinking About… Ayurvedic Tradition: Ayurvedic healthcare is a complex system that cannot be easily evaluated. The current evidence suggests that some of its elements are effective while many others are essentially untested, or overtly dangerous.
Calcium supplements: benefits & risks: Calcium supplements appear to have a negative risk-benefit effect, and so should not be used routinely in the prevention or treatment of osteoporosis.
Warning to parents: Chiropractics and babies don’t mix. It’s dangerous and unproven: To date, legitimate properly-controlled studies have failed to support the claims of chiropractors who treat children. The risks of paediatric spinal-adjustment are too frightening to consider, and the benefits? Pure fiction. So why are parents sneaking chiropractors into hospital wards to secretly treat their newborns?
President-elect resigns from peak chiropractors group over 'sneaky' hospital visits: Helen Alevaki, the president-elect of the Chiropractors Association of Australia, has resigned from the board three months after she was reprimanded by the regulator for making unauthorised visits to maternity hospitals.
How do you boost your immune system? It's cold and flu season and you'll do almost anything to avoid getting sick. But is the answer to boost your immune system?
Medical students protest the University of Toronto's anti-vaccine course: For two years, the University of Toronto had been offering an undergraduate course in the anthropology department called "Alternative Health: Practice and Theory." Their medical students are fighting back against quackery being taught.
Doctors worried as more Australians turn to alternative therapies: An ignorance of healthcare, seeking treatment plans on the internet and “hysteria” over pharmaceutical companies is driving Australians to “dangerous” alternative therapies, a senior doctor believes.
Chiropractic fraternity splits over allegations of mismanagement: Disgruntled chiropractors have formed a breakaway group, accusing their peak body, the Chiropractic Association of Australia, of lurching towards the radical over its sympathy for the anti-vaccination movement and the theory of subluxation, which holds that spinal manipulation can treat illnesses from asthma to heart disease.
Sydney naturopath who allegedly advised mother to stop baby's medication is arrested: A Sydney naturopath allegedly told a mother to stop medicating her eight month old boy, leaving him close to death, has been arrested.
Chiro courses to carry on at Macquarie University: Macquarie University may continue to teach chiropractic at degree level after failing to offload its current courses to another eduction provider.
Leave facts out of the 'debate' about homeopathy: Retail pharmacists are scientifically trained and as such they know what they do outside of dispensing prescriptions is akin to selling cosmetics.
The American Medical Association is finally taking a stand on quacks like Dr. Oz: the American Medical Association is finally taking a stand on quack MDs who spread pseudoscience in the media.
Pharmacist puts homeopathic ‘crap’ in bin: a pharmacy owner puts his homeopathic remedies in his bin.
Chinese medicine's mention in free trade deal 'a tragedy for Australian science', critic warns: FSM warns about the inclusion of traditional Chinese medicine in the free trade agreement between Australia and China is a step backwards for the health system and for science.
Time to take homeopathy off the shelves: A clinical pharmacist is calling on the profession’s professional bodies to ban the sale and recommendation of homeopathic products in pharmacies.
After being rubbished by recent Australian study, beleaguered homeopaths look for credibility: An interesting report on the recent World Homeopathic Summit in Mumbai, highlights the concerns of homeopaths that the problem lies in the fact that they do not exactly know how homeopathy works.
Chiropractic Manipulation of the Neck Linked to Stroke in a 6-Year-Old Child… The risk of suffering a stroke when undergoing aggressive chiropractic manipulation of the neck is not a new concern. You should never let a chiropractor, or anyone else for that matter, perform high velocity neck manipulation on yourself or your children.
Do herbal medicines improve our health?: In the UK about a quarter of the population use them and it’s a multimillion-pound market there. But do any of them work? Edzard Ernst says they should be judged in the same way as conventional ones.
Suffering from low back pain? See a physiotherapist and not a chiropractor!: While many chiropractors use physical therapies,they do not have the same training as physiotherapists and they tend to use spinal manipulations far more frequently. As this approach is neither based on sound evidence nor free of risks, according to a recent study, it is better to see a physiotherapist.
Blackmores vitamin manufacturer funds million-dollar complementary medicine chair at University of Sydney: In a deal that is likely to spark controversy, leading Australian vitamin manufacturer Blackmores has donated $1.3 million to the University of Sydney to fund research into the effectiveness of alternative treatments such as acupuncture, herbs and meditation.
RACGP sets out views on homeopathy: With interest in alternative therapies continuing to grow in Australia, the RACGP has developed a position statement on homeopathy. The statement confirms the conclusion of the NH&MRC that there is robust evidence that homeopathy has no effect beyond a placebo.
Time to beef up natural health product regulation for safety's sake: The independent panel that is currently reviewing the regulatory framework of complementary medicines, must consider a labelling system that encourages manufacturers to back their products with clinical evidence and is clear about the level of scrutiny given to products' claims. And TGA surveillance must be beefed up. The vulnerable sick and the worried well alike deserve no less.
Complementary medicines: Testing the claims of the billion-dollar industry isn't easy: Alternative medicine has grown into a $3.5 billion industry, supported by four out of five Australians, who admit to taking anything from vitamin supplements and echinacea to using acupuncture and homeopathy, but these interventions mostly lack evidence of clinical efficacy.
A charlatan’s dictionary of medical research: In alternative medicine, there often seems to be an uneasy uncertainty about research methodology. This can lead to misunderstandings. Ernst discusses, adds humour as he describes the interpretation of some of these terms.
Prince Charles the top lobbyist for bad science: Australia's future head of state, Prince Charles, intervened directly in UK Government affairs to block restrictions on shoddy alternative medicines, according to personal letters released after a long Freedom of Information battle.
Sue Ieraci: Time to move on: Dr Ieraci acknowledges that we don’t know everything about how the human organism works but we have a good enough understanding to know that Hahnemann’s model was wrong. She concludes that while it was considered reasonable for a man of his time, it has since been superseded
Craniosacral therapy: for ‘physical aches and pains, acute and chronic disease, emotional or psychological disturbances’ ? Prof Edzard Ernst concludes that "Craniosacral therapy has not been proven to be effective for anything and, as a therapy, it is therefore not ‘suitable’ for anyone" and that it is almost the definition of quackery.
Belle Gibson cancer lie puts spotlight on unregulated wellness industry: The lies told by Belle Gibson continue to put the risks of relying on complementary & alternative health practitioners in the news.
Call to cull acupuncture from MBS: Acupuncture should be pulled from the Medicare Mebefits Scheme (MBS) as it is a treatment that is "a placebo for the worried well".
Family of young boy found dead in hotel room reportedly treated diabetes with alternative medicine: A seven-year-old boy with type one diabetes has died after being treated with alternative Chinese remedies.
Herbal medicine for insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis: there is insufficient evidence to support the use of herbal medicine for insomnia.
Efficacy of the Alexander Technique in treating chronic non-specific neck pain: A randomized controlled trial: The Alexander Technique was not superior to local heat application in treating chronic non-specific neck pain. The authors conclude that It cannot be recommended as routine intervention at this time.
Ken Harvey: Right touch: Should complementary medicines (CM)s complaints be sent to a strengthened TGA CM branch? Dr Ken Harvey discusses CM regulation.
Sussan Ley's Medicare review could help patients, as well as the budget: The review should included the overuse of X-rays by chiropractors, acupuncture treatments and chiropractic treatment for babies and children. Also ‘integrative medicine’, which is used to increase medical doctors income by pandering to the worried well. These interventions can lead to delays in real diagnosis, which will also increase costs of proven treatments.
Gardasil inventor Ian Frazer and the University of Queensland waive millions of dollars in royalties: GARDASIL inventor Ian Frazer and the University of Queensland have waived millions of dollars in royalties on sales of the cervical cancer vaccine in 72 developing countries to ensure it gets to needy people.
Belle Gibson: ‘No, None of it is true’: Disgraced wellness blogger Belle Gibson has admitted she deceived her followers, friends and family about having cancer and curing her illness with healthy eating and natural therapies.
Co-payment ruled out as Sussan Ley announces wide-ranging Medicare review: Health Minister Sussan Ley is preparing to launch a wide-ranging Medicare review.
Science Babe takedown of Food Babe causes online stir: Known as Science Babe, a 31-year-old chemist from the US, who uses comedy to expose nonsense, has gained international attention, after exposing the misinformation of high profile celebrity ‘Food Babe’.
Celebrity surgeon Dr Oz hits back at group of angry doctors calling for his removal from Ivy League university: He is one of the most famous doctors in the United States but Dr Oz has been forced to defend his credibility this week after a group of his peers labelled him a “fake and a charlatan.”
Health Minister Jillian Skinner takes aim at Paleo Pete Evans for his anti-fluoride message: Health Minister Jillian Skinner has lashed out at celebrity chef Pete Evans for creating a “large threat” to public health by opposing the fluoridation of water.
No Jab, No Pay reforms: Religious exemptions for vaccination dumped: Religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations will be scrapped to toughen Australia’s new “no jab, no pay’’ laws stripping welfare from parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.
Physicians to Columbia University: 'Dismayed' that Dr. Oz is on faculty: A group of 10 physicians from across the country emailed a letter to Columbia University expressing disapproval that Dr Oz, who makes"either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgments about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both" holds a senior administrative position on the faculty of Columbia University.
Ministers to scrutinise AHPRA's performance: The independent review on the national registration and accreditation scheme is expected to be scrutinised by health ministers on Friday.
NHS Homeopathy Legal Challenge: Simon Singh and The Good Thinking Society have welcomed the decision of the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to reconsider spending money on homeopathy. In 2014, the number of prescriptions for homeopathy fell for the eighteenth consecutive year, this time by over 21% — the fourth largest percentage fall since 1995 — continuing the downward spiral.
Abbott government to announce anti-vaccination parents will lose benefits: The Federal Governments will be closing the loophole that enables conscientious objectors to get tax benefits of $2178 intended for vaccinated children. The repeal of this paradoxical handout will have the combined benefit of saving up to $50 million per annum and, perhaps, will encourage more parents to vaccinate their children against potentially fatal illnesses.
CMA calls for light regulatory touch: Complementary Medicine Australia (CMA) claims that excessive regulatory burden was the main complaint of 83% of CM manufacturers, as a barrier to remaining competitive. A recent review by the Therapeutic Goods Administration of over 180 goods found that more than 50% of them were not compliant.
'Food Babe' blogger called out for pseudoscience: A scientist has written a scathing review of the blogger's claims.
Good Thinking Investigates: Osteopathy: Many osteopaths claim to treat colic with cranial osteopathy – a therapy with no evidence of effectiveness.
Galaxy Poll: 86 per cent of Australians want childhood vaccination to be compulsory: Australian’s want Prime Minister Tony Abbott to make childhood vaccination compulsory and close loopholes that allow vaccine refusers to put all children at risk.
The wellness industry on Late Night Live (Radio National): Shunning conventional medicine in favour of mediation, fresh juices and coffee enemas but at what cost?
Detox needed for complementary medicines: Australians are wasting millions of dollars on products that don’t work.
Dear anti-vaxxers, every preventable outbreak is on you: The Queensland town of Kilcoy, with a population of less than 5000, if grappling with a potentially fatal whooping cough outbreak. Those who refuse to vaccinate their children are in the spotlight.
Max Hastings reveals the contents of a Prince Charles letter about homeopathy: Homeopathy is in the news in the UK.
University deregulation: Top-tier institutions call for end to political process, resetting of debate fearing more changes: Australia's leading research universities have called for a "depoliticised process" to reset the higher education debate, fearing talks with the split Senate crossbench will result in too many changes. Australia's Group of Eight universities, including Australian National University, want to "look at what the actual problems are" in the Government's proposed higher education reform.
Herbal doctors will not be regulated, despite pleas from Prince Charles: Despite lobbying from Prince Charles, health officials have decided there is not enough evidence herbal medicines work to justify regulating the ancient practices.
Paleo-pusher Pete Evans’ MKR career is ‘on thin ice’ after the baby diet controversy: Doctors have expressed concern about the various claims regarding the health benefits of paleo, a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, promoted by chef Pete Evans who is claiming that it could help shrink tumours, lead to cancer remissions, assist in treating autism and stop asthma. Evans is a also a vocal opponent of the fluoridation of drinking water.
FDA to evaluate homeopathy regulatory framework: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it would hold a public hearing seeking information and comment on the use of products labelled 'homeopathic', as well as the agency's regulatory framework for such products.
Nine reasons why Australia needs to improve preventive health: Two out of every three Australian adults have at least three or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.
Sue Ieraci: Food fallacies: Doctors can be role models in their own eating habits, in the way they educate others and in the way they use evidence. They should keep abreast of the science on nutrition and expose pseudoscience for what it is.
Consumers squeezed as private health funds cut 'lifestyle' benefits while raising premiums: Two of Australia's biggest health insurers, NIB & Medibank are cutting the amount they will refund patients for alternative therapies and gym memberships at the same time they are raising the cost of insurance.
Vaccination call after baby’s cough death: The vaccination debate has been reignited following the death of a four-week-old baby in Perth from whooping cough.
Reddit users send an image of a grieving doctor in California viral: Doctors and nurses are often not appreciated enough for the work that they do.
Quackdown: war on dodgy health practitioners: The Victorian Government is preparing new legislation to crack down on people who offer questionable and potentially dangerous health services, such as unqualified home birth assistance or alternative cancer treatments.
When will pharmacists finally stop selling homeopathic remedies?: Why do we need to keep reminding pharmacists who sell homeopathic remedies to the unsuspecting public that it is unethical to pretend they are more than placebos?
NHMRC releases statement and advice on homeopathy: The National Health & Medical Research Council review found no good quality, well-designed studies with enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy works better than a placebo, or causes health improvements equal to those of another treatment.
Homeopathy and the ethics of researching magic: With the growth of ‘Integrative Health’ in Universities, is it ethically acceptable to conduct research on pseudo-science based interventions at institutions that are required to follow internationally recognized research ethics standards?
Dr Ginna Mansberg: 'The medical profession has a problem': Patients are tuning out the advice from doctors and tuning into the internet. In their place and displacing science are the “wellness warriors” and paleo celebrities peddling supplements, cleanses and detoxes.
Doctors warning over potentially fatal acupuncture risk: Doctors have called for patients to be made aware of the risks of acupuncture after a case where the alternative therapy caused a potentially fatal lung condition.
What do doctors say to 'alternative therapists' when a patient dies? Nothing. We never talk:The alternative health industry, worth many billions of dollars, marches briskly. It will always attract unguarded patients who will cling to the faintest promise of recovery without associated harm.
Herbal Products and the Liver: A Review of Adverse Effects and Mechanisms: Herbal products are no safer than conventional drugs and have caused liver injury severe enough to require transplantation or cause death. Their efficacy, safety, and claims are not assessed by regulatory agencies, and there is uncertainty about their reported and unreported contents.
Fluoride safe, but final review pending: Australians have been reassured that fluoride in drinking water is effective and safe, despite international studies linked it to lower IQs and thyroid problems.
Defending Science-Based Medicine: 44 Doctor-Bashing Arguments ...and Their Rebuttals: Supporters of alternative medicine and purveyors of quack remedies love to criticize conventional medicine and science. They keep repeating the same tired arguments that are easily rebutted. This handy guide will help skeptics answer common criticisms from doctor-bashers.
A Really Bad Week For The Supplements Industry: Using DNA sequencing to test the ingredients in six types of herbal supplements, looking at different brands from multiple stores, a scientific study found that 79% of the supplements tested did not contain the primary ingredient listed on the label. Many of them contained other plant material, including plants that might cause an allergic reaction in unsuspecting customers.
A Cochrane review of manipulation and mobilization for mechanical neck disorders: Mobilization and/or manipulation for persistent mechanical neck disorders with or without headache is only beneficial when used with exercise. In the absence of compelling evidence for efficacy, any risk of neck manipulation would tilt the risk/benefit balance into the negative.
Chiropractic identity, role and future: a survey of North American chiropractic students: North American chiropractors want evidence based medicine, but on their own terms and without giving up their fundamentalist beliefs, concept and practices.
'Expensive' placebos work better: study: Patients who believe they are taking an expensive drug may derive more benefit than from one they are told is cheaper.
Should vitamin D supplements be recommended to prevent chronic diseases? Because clear evidence of benefit over harm for vitamin D has not been proved, we should not recommend vitamin D supplements for prevention of chronic diseases.
Danger in the Dietary Supplement Aisle. Again: In the US, the best way to ensure that consumers can safely purchase products such as dietary supplements off retailers’ shelves is for Congress to imbue FDA with real authority to properly regulate these products and the necessary funds to make it work.
Krill oil marketing: a case study of Australia’s broken regulations: Complementary medicines such as krill oil don’t always have the science to back up their claims.
Multivitamin use and cardiovascular disease in a prospective study of women: In this study of middle-aged and elderly women, neither baseline nor time-varying multivitamin use was associated with the long-term risk of major CVD events, MI, stroke, cardiac revascularizations, or CVD death.
A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Feasibility Study Evaluating Individualized Homeopathy in Managing Pain of Knee Osteoarthritis. A prospective, parallel-arm, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study was conducted involving 60 patients suffering from acute painful episodes of knee osteoarthritis. Homeopathy did not appear to be superior to placebo.
Advertising Standard’s Authority (UK) complaint against BICOM UK: In the UK, a complaint was upheld against advertising claims made by BICOM UK LLP for live blood analysis and their BICOM electrodermal device promoted as a treatment for a wide range of diseases & disorders including cancer. This device is listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
US anti-vaccination campaigner Dr Sherri Tenpenny cancels tour of Australia: A controversial US anti-vaccination campaigner has cancelled her Australian tour, saying she feels threatened by "pro vaccine extremists" and "anti-free-speech terrorists". However, the only threats made were by an anti-vaccine campaigner who threatened to burn down one property and bomb another if it cancelled her seminars.
Fish oil rules reviewed as study reveals consumers are being hoodwinked: Many fish oil producers have been deceiving the public about the content of their oil. This study drew attention to longstanding deficiencies in Australia’s complementary medicines regulation, which includes no pre-market evaluation of sponsors’ products against compositional quality standards or promotional claims, limited and poorly targeted post-market surveillance, and a lack of effective penalties that would deter sponsors from repeated breaches of TGA regulations.
Whooping cough: Victoria to reintroduce free vaccination for parents: Victoria will reintroduce free whooping cough vaccines for expectant mothers and parents of newborns amid concern about the rise in cases of the disease.
Tired, Sluggish, Bloated? Time to detox? “don’t buy the hype”: ‘Detoxing’ is heavily promoted in magazines, newspapers, television and via the Internet. While most of the products promoted might not be dangerous, they are all a waste of money
Effects of spinal manipulation versus therapeutic exercise on adults with chronic low back pain: a literature review: Chronic low back pain: exercise is better than chiropractic.
Natural therapy cover risk to private health rebate: Unproven natural therapies will be stripped of government subsidies, amid signs private health insurers and their members have embraced the so-called alternatives to traditional medicine and driven up costs.
We know too little about probiotics to proclaim their virtues: That your gut bacteria are critical in maintaining your health is well established. But we don’t know which bacteria are helpful and how they act. Until these questions are answered, probiotics and by extension prebiotics will struggle to fulfil their claimed promises. And manufacturers may need to learn to temper their language.
Taxpayers to fund teaching of 'pseudo-science':Profit-making colleges would receive taxpayer funding to teach students unproven alternative remedies such as homeopathy, flower essence therapy and iridology under the Abbott government's proposed higher education reforms.
Queensland records the nation’s lowest rate of whooping cough infections: Queensland Department of Health is only seven months into the implementation of its immunisation strategy, which has set a target of 95 per cent of all children being fully vaccinated and they are already achieving significant results, recording, in 2014, its lowest rate of whooping cough infections in a decade. Current figures show that around 91 per cent of one-year-olds, 93 per cent of two-year-olds and 92 per cent of five-year-olds are now vaccinated.
Health Department offers hypnotherapy, acupuncture cash to help staff quit smoking: The federal Health Department is paying for unproven therapies to help its employees quit smoking.
Websites closed in battle against illegal trade in medicines: THE UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said it close more than 1,600 websites illegally advertising and selling medicines in 2014. Enforcement officers also seized medicines with a value in excess of £3 million. These included quantities of erectile dysfunction medicines, slimming products, as well as powerful and often misused drugs like sleeping pills and antidepressants.
Allergy Clinic ad complaint upheld: THE New Zealand Allergy Clinic website has been found by the NZ Advertising Standards Authority Complaints Board to be in breach of the Therapeutic Services Advertising Code on a number of counts. The Board found that the site made unsubstantiated therapeutic claims about the efficacy of Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET) and Quantum Reflex Analysis (QRA) and included testimonials which were outside the restrictions placed on them for medical conditions.
Vertebral artery dissection after a chiropractor neck manipulation: This report illustrates the potential hazards associated with neck trauma, including chiropractic manipulation. The vertebral arteries are at risk for aneurysm formation and/or dissection, which can cause acute stroke.
Uproar as US anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny announces trip to Australia: A broad media campaign has begun to stop an American anti-vaccination campaigner running a series of lectures in Australia in March.
Why we need to listen to real experts in science: If we want to use scientific thinking to solve problems, we need people to appreciate evidence and heed expert advice.
Enforceable undertaking: Nutrition Warehouse Pty Limited: Following an investigation by the Therapeutic Goods Administration on goods imported by Nutrition Warehouse Pty Ltd, the company has given an undertaking to engage a qualified compliance professional to ensure it does not commit any future breaches of the Therapeutic Goods Act.
2014, a Bad Year for Homoeopathy: News has ranged from the Draft Information Paper on Homoeopathy from the NHMRC, which concluded there was no reliable evidence for the use of homoeopathy in the treatment of the 61 health conditions, to the Federal Court which found that Homeopathy Plus! was engaged in misleading conduct over its homoeopathic “vaccines”.
Acupuncture for chronic knee pain: a randomized clinical trial: Acupuncture is not effective for patients older than 50 years with moderate to severe chronic knee pain. This trial, involving 282 patients and found that neither laser nor needle acupuncture conferred benefit over sham for pain or function.
Cancer often caused by ‘bad luck’, not genes, say Johns Hopkins researchers: Cancer is often caused by the “bad luck” of random mutations that arise when cells divide, not family history or environmental causes, US researchers say.
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