Dubious claims abound on Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy clinic Web sites

Posted 06 March 2017

A survey of 392 naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy clinic Web sites has found that unsupportable claims for the management of asthma and allergy are widespread.
[Murdoch B and others. Selling falsehoods? A cross-sectional study of Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic, and acupuncture clinic website claims relating to allergy and asthma]

The investigators concluded:

  • The majority of the clinics studied claim they can either diagnose or treat both allergy/sensitivity and asthma.
  • Naturopathic clinic websites have the highest rates of advertising at least one of diagnosis, treatment, or efficacy for allergy or sensitivity (85%) and asthma (64%), followed by acupuncturists (68% and 53%, respectively), homeopaths (60% and 54%) and chiropractors (33% and 38%).
  • The majority of the advertised interventions lack evidence of efficacy, and some are potentially harmful.
  • Food-specific IgG testing was commonly advertised, despite the fact that the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has recommended not to use this test due to the absence of a body of research supporting it.
  • Live blood analysisvega/electrodiagnostic testing, intravenous vitamin C, probiotics, homeopathic allergy remedies, and several other tests and treatments offered all lack substantial scientific evidence of efficacy.
  • Some of the proposed treatments—such as ionic foot bath detoxification—are so absurd that they lack even the most basic scientific plausibility.
  • A policy response may be warranted in order to safeguard the public interest.

Studies of this type are important because when legislators consider whether to license nonstandard practitioners, they seldom know what these practitioners claim to do.

Source: Consumer Health Digest #17-10, March 5 2017

The study concludes:

“Increased regulation and government endorsement of CAM disciplines, such as the self-regulation of naturopaths in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, may have contributed to a growth in the perception of their legitimacy and efficacy as healthcare providers.43 44 Unfortunately, many of the interventions advertised by naturopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists and chiropractors lack evidence of efficacy, as we found to be the case for allergy and asthma. In our view, the results speak to the need for a legal and/or policy response in order to prevent potential harm and financial exploitation. One strategy would be to increase the scope of advertising regulations and enforcement, and to explore the potential of applying evidence-based standards and restricting practitioners’ ability to offer unproven tests and treatments. In addition, since allergy and asthma disproportionately affect younger generations,18 22 policymakers should consider strategies that consider parents and guardians who may forego the public healthcare system in favour of using questionable CAM providers, potentially exposing minor children to harm.45 Ultimately, further research is needed to create and implement a new legal framework that will curb the questionable claims made by some CAM practitioners.”

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