Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

When ARTG and CAM Spell SFA

By Rachael Dunlop

Recent moves to improve the regulation of alternative medicines looked promising until the Therapeutic Goods Administration caved under pressure from the industry.

Rachael Dunlop is a medical researcher focusing on the causes of motor neurone disease. She is a Vice President of Australian Skeptics Inc, blogs at The Skeptics Book of Pooh Pooh, and tweets @DrRachie.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Readers might recall recent moves by the Australian government to remove $30 million in private health insurance subsidies for complementary and alternative medicine (CAMs). On the chopping block were homeopathy, aromatherapy, ear candling, crystal therapy, flower essences, iridology, kinesiology and naturopathy.

The basis for the cuts is that there is scant evidence these remedies are effective beyond placebo, and some are just pure pseudoscience. Indeed Prof Ken Harvey, an outspoken advocate for evidence-base medicine, welcomed the move, saying: “If there is no good evidence that they are better than a placebo, then they should not be funded by the taxpayer”. And I agree.

It’s a breath of fresh air to see the government take affirmative action on subsidising pseudoscience. They have taken their lead (at least in part) from the UK. In 2010, following a thorough assessment of the evidence (or lack thereof) for homeo­pathy, the UK government declared that homeopathy is no more effective than a placebo.

Just over 2 years later, a draft statement from the Australian government stating it was “unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy, for the reason that homeopathy… has been shown not to be efficacious” was leaked. This statement remains in draft form, but it’s a step in the right direction for evidence-based medicine.

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The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.