Dubious claims abound on Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and homeopathy clinic Web sites-Consumer Health Digest

The little regulated world of ‘natural healing’ runs the gamut from sincere and useful low tech solutions to health problems to a wide range of dubious if not downright fraudulent claims and practices. While the study was Canadian in scope, it can be assumed that these same findings would be replicated in the US. This wide ranging study of 10 major Canadian cities found the following.

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.

Reported on Consumer Health Digest. Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

The study itself can be found at: Murdoch B, Carr S, Caulfield T. Selling falsehoods? A crosssectional study of Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture clinic website claims relating to allergy and asthma. BMJ Open 2016;6:e014028. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016- 014028

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