Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Dodgy Tests and Dodgy Diagnoses

By Bruce Campbell

Lax regulation of complementary treatments is allowing alternative laboratories to peddle expensive and useless diagnostic tests.

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

Pathology laboratories in Australia that want to be eligible to access the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) must be accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities. NATA accreditation is a rigorous process that assesses laboratory management, quality systems and analytical performance, and also requires the tests performed to have characteristics demonstrating clinical utility. As an example, there must be an association between a genuine clinical condition and the interpretation of the test, and the results of the test must be useful to the individual patient or the broader population.

If laboratories do not access the MBS and bill the full cost of the testing to the client directly, they are not required to be NATA-accredited. Hence none of the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) laboratories in Australia are. In other words, there is no external oversight of what happens in these laboratories, and they offer a variety of tests that don’t meet the clinical utility requirements required by NATA.

This situation allows alternative practitioners and alternative laboratories to use dodgy tests to make dodgy diagnoses. Some examples are:

  • the use of salivary hormone profiles to diagnose “adrenal fatigue”;
  • unvalidated tests to diagnose Lyme disease;
  • IgG antibodies and “cytotoxic” tests to diagnose food and...

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