Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I wish to register a complaint....

...about the new Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, or Ofquack, as it is becoming known, first coined by The Quackometer many moons ago.

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From the fat fingers of Dr* T
Thinking is Dangerous Cottage
Skeptic's Lane
New Reason
Englandshire
RCT 0BS
3rd February 2009

Dear Mr Ben Bradshaw MP,

I am writing to you to communicate my concern over the newly-formed Complementary and Natural Healthcare council (CNHC), which you recently oversaw the opening of, in your role as Health Minister.

The CNHC gives its key purpose as the following:
CNHC key purpose is to protect the public by means of regulating practitioners on a voluntary register for complementary and natural healthcare practitioners.

I would very much like you to explain how the CNHC can provide any protection when it has no input or interest as to the efficacy or otherwise of these treatments. Given the wealth of information available in the form of research on these treatments, it is fair to say that the majority of them have no effect more than a placebo or similar administered sham treatment. However, some of these treatments have active ingredients which can enhance or detract from real medicine being taken by the patient. How can the CNHC provide protection without knowledge of efficacy?

On a slightly grander scale, the legitimising of these treatments tacitly disregards the wealth of scientific information available which demonstrably shows their inefficacy in the main. It also gives a governmental rubber stamp to purveyors of anti-scientific hand-waving, which I believe is disempowering to people trying to elucidate real effective treatments from invented theatre. It is comparable to ensuring a CORGI-registered tradesmen is of good character, but having no evidence as to his ability to fix a gas boiler.

The CNHC claims to be a regulatory body, stating on its FAQ:
The CNHC is a regulatory body, whose main function is public protection by setting standards for safe practice.

Why then is it acting as a lobbying group to further and promote the businesses associated with these treatments?

I note from the Minutes of a meeting of the Federal Regulatory Board of the CNHC held on Thursday 20 November 2008 at 10.30 at the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health, that Jenny Gordon suggested the possible use of patients with ‘good news’ regarding complementary therapies on http://www.patientvoices.co.uk in a PR role.

I find this suggestion appalling. It is a huckster PR trick that some pharmaceutical companies have in the past used, which I find despicable. Trying to infiltrate forums where people are writing their genuine experiences with the posts of those with a financial interest at the behest of a Government-funded organisation is a notion I find disturbing. I would be interested in your view on this matter - regulatory groups should not be promoting business interests, are we to see the Financial Services Authority lobbying on behalf of beleagured Royal Bank of Scotland?

The CNHC claims its mission is to provide a:
uniquely positive, safe and effective experience

"Uniquely" suggests that other (i.e experimentally proven and useful) treatments are not positive, safe or effective. Incredibly, the CNHC is on a mission to provide 'effective' experiences without even commenting on the efficacy! Surely you agree with me that this is an embarrassing situation to be in?

I understand there may be a need to distinguish between unscrupulous and well-meaning practitioners in the alternative therapy field - if people want to pay for these evidence-free therapies they should be able to do so, but I as a taxpayer do not want to pay for a Council which will promote complementary and alternative treatments as being positive, safe and effective, without requiring any evidence that they are positive, safe, or effective!

I look forward to hearing your response.

Many thanks,

Dr* T

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Hat tips to Allo v Psycho and MOJO on the BadScience forum for some of the, er, wording of the above :)
BPSDB

20 comments:

  1. Brilliant, Dr* T!

    Now don't you forget to let us know what reply you get, will you?

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  2. absolutely brilliant letter Dr*T, a tour de force!

    as zeno said, keep us posted once the MP in question has recovered from this heavyweight battering and replied :-)

    btw if i get some time today i'll mention this letter in a blog post i'm thinking of putting together...!

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  3. regulatory groups should not be promoting business interests

    Oh, such wide-eyed naivety... ;)

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  4. Well done indeed, Dr*T! I'd already written to him also, on much the same lines, but less eloquently. I copied it to my MP too, because he has proved helpful/rational on previous occasions. I've put a further comment on the forum.

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  5. That postcode had me in stiches. Excellent posting, sir!

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  6. Damn! Missed the brilliant postcode.

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  7. You are all much too kind and your postcode praise will only encourage more of this childish behaviour :)

    T

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  8. Once again, here's a link to the Number 10 petition requiring evidence of efficacy and safety be made a requirement for CNHC approval.

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  9. Hi Sean,

    Sorry - should have included the linky in the post

    T

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  10. But it's only a voluntary code, yes? Why would you join a body that would put you out of business? It's a dog's breakfast.

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  11. hj

    I thought the OfQuack website said something about registering being 'good for business', but I can't find that now. Did I imagine it?

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  12. you do make a few good points. But without any form of regulation the widespread practice of dubious therapies will continue. Compulsory regulation would be better. Also what's good for the goose....let's remove from medical practice all products and procedures for which there is no reliable evidence of efficacy. Considering recent revelations about the uselessness of anti-depressants, and the lack of benefit of 'new' anti-psychotics, and many more, where would this leave the average GP?

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  13. let's remove from medical practice all products and procedures for which there is no reliable evidence of efficacy. Considering recent revelations about the uselessness of anti-depressants, and the lack of benefit of 'new' anti-psychotics, and many more, where would this leave the average GP

    Thanks Anonymous. I don't remember any "uselessness of anti-depressants" - I remember that antidepressants are less useful than other forms of therapy for mild depression, but these are very different things.

    Sorry to labour the point, but can you provide some reference to your claims?

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  14. Just how many complementary therapists miss diagnose, kill or maim the public??? Prescribe strong anti psychotic drugs to elderly people over the age of 65 when it is not licensed for them??? Cut people open and make a mess of their operation so that their quality of life is silch?

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  15. Ha....... by all means check out the so called 'quacks' but.... lets first make the 'Orthodox medicine wo/men' apply the very same rules and regulations to them selves - get your own house in order 1st and foremost!

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  16. I can't help wondering why so much energy is being put into this continual denigration of so-called complementary medicine. Why bother? there are as many queestionable practices in the orthodox healthcare industry we should be putting those right first. In 13 years in the industry I've done ghost-writing for doctors, lobbied for clinical guidelines based on less than robust efficacy data, written trial designs that we knew would get us the result we needed etc. Slagging off a few cranks with vitamin pills seems hardly worth the effort.

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  17. Anonymous 4.27pm:

    You have presented an odd argument:

    You perceive there to be problems in orthodox healthcare - I agree.

    Why does that mean we can't stop *more* nonsense getting into proper healthcare and making it worse? Why can't we rail against quacks as well as trying to continually strive to improve healthcare?
    Unlike you, I'd like to try and improve the healthcare, rather than decide not to do anything.

    In fact, this reply goes to all the anonymi who posted this afternoon (same person? don't know).

    It is childish to say that we shouldn't question quackery until we have a perfect health system.

    And not very progressive.

    T

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  18. 'Shipman'! Say no more.

    the only reason so called orthodox medical people are really worried for, is their pockets. Drug companies peddling drugs that many serious side affects.

    How many medical people really, really care about their patients. Old people left without proper medical care, because they are old. Elderly people left in hospitals to starve because no one can be bothered to feed them..... 'not my job brigade'. I did'nt join and take so called certificates to 'feed people'!!

    A lot of people get benefits from complimentary therapy, caring, listening TIME........ REMEMBER you lot...... you are the Alternative... herbal medicine, aromatherapy, acupuncture, ALL has been around before you!

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  19. 'Shipman'! Say no more.

    Eh?

    only reason so called orthodox medical people are really worried for, is their pockets. Drug companies peddling drugs that many serious side affects.
    How many medical people really, really care about their patients. Old people left without proper medical care, because they are old. Elderly people left in hospitals to starve because no one can be bothered to feed them..... 'not my job brigade'. I did'nt join and take so called certificates to 'feed people'!!


    I'm not sure what experience you've had, but every nurse I know is on a crappy wage, with difficult hours and if it wasn't for their desire to help people and make a difference they wouldn't do the job. i.e you're talking nonsense.

    you lot...... you are the Alternative... herbal medicine, aromatherapy, acupuncture, ALL has been around before you!

    I'm not sure who you're talking to - I have no connection with the medical establishment. And despite being wrong, this statement adds no weight to your argument!

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