But first up, some good news for consumer protection in Australia.

Today’s alternative medicine smack-down comes to you courtesy of a sceptical colleague, Michael, who submitted a complaint to our government regulator, The Complaints Resolution Panel, several months ago. Michael’s complaints pertained to a homeopathy website, arnicamontana.com.au which was spruiking all manner of dubious products and making equally dubious claims.

Arnica Montana sell homeopathic first aid kits, homeopathic remedies for emergencies, makes claims that homeopathy is useful for serious health conditions and also tow the anti-vax line, in articles promoting the AVN and bragging about refusing the whooping cough vaccine.

This week Michael was advised that all his complaints were upheld and as a result, Arnica Montana were instructed to comply with the following sanctions: Withdrawal of Advertisement, Withdrawal of Representation and Publication of Retraction.

Regular listeners to the Zone may remember I called these people out back in February, just after the Victorian bush fires, after a listener alerted me to a passage on their website which said the following;

“In the light of recent events in Bali and the bush fires in the Eastern States of Australia information about the use of Homeopathy by the ordinary person is knowledge that should be shared.”

I called this claim offensive, not only to the deceased in Bali and Victoria, but also to the skilled health professionals working tirelessly with the burns victims using medicine and science, not magic water. Indeed, these particular claims were questioned by Michael and upheld by The Panel. You can see the full list below.

Arnica Montana

The advertiser was given an opportunity to respond to the criticisms, and rejected the allegation that there was “anything deceptive or misleading” in the advertisement/website. They claimed that the website was “intended to be an information website to educate the public about the use of homeopathic remedies” but not to the exclusion of any other system of medicine.

But the Panel deemed the website breached sections of the code which prohibit advertisements for products that;

“abuse the trust or exploit the knowledge of consumers” and was “likely to arouse unwarranted and unrealistic expectations of product effectiveness”.

This was based on the panel’s finding that “….no persuasive evidence was provided that the advertised products could have benefits in relation to the wide range of conditions referred to”.

In response the advertiser stated that “controlled trials cannot be used for homeopathy but [that] there is a mass of unpublished evidence”. (Is this because when they are used, they almost always turn up negative?).

In any case, there have testimonials all over the website…isn’t this evidence enough? Not for the Panel, who also called these into question, by stating that the advertiser did not provide evidence that any of the testimonials in the advertisement were genuine.

According to the advertising code; testimonials “must be documented, genuine, not misleading and illustrate typical cases only”. The panel cited this testimonial as an example of a breach;

“the calendula cream I make is specific to cancer skin keratoses and I have successfully treated many of these and established melanonas by using the sage cream at night and the calendula during the day”.

Overall, Michael received 9 pages of correspondence and I waded through all of it, which I’m very glad I did because buried deep in the text was this.

The Panel noted that the advertisement breached section 4(5) of the code; “..by implying that other therapeutic goods (namely vaccines and sunscreens) could be harmful….”

So it is unlawful to imply that other therapeutic goods are harmful, like vaccines? I wonder where this places the AVN? (Although given that they do not sell therapeutic goods, to the best of my knowledge, then I don’t think they are breaching this section of the code). This is a very interesting piece of legislation and one that I will file away for future reference.

One of the big things about the decision was that The Panel deemed the entire website to be an advertisement.

Since it was clear that the website offered a range of products for sale, the Panel was satisfied it constituted an advertisement for therapeutic goods. Interestingly, the complaint summary cites the subject matter of the complaint as “website advertisement” and the sanctions as “withdrawal of advertisement”, thus implying the entire website is to be withdrawn. If you go to the website, you will see the published retraction, but the remainder of the website still functions as normal. I wonder when and if we will see the entire website removed.

Not a very happy UK homeopathy week for some…

The tragic death of a toddler in a freak accident at an alt-med clinic.

What makes this story even more sad is that the death occurred in the Favira clinic in Adelaide, which is the home of Elvira Brunt, an alternative therapist who claims to be able to cure cancer with massage. More on this is a moment, but reports say the 18-month-old girl was crushed to death by a massage table while her mother was being treated.

A police inspector who attended the scene said; “A young, 18-month-old child, a girl, has died as a result of being trapped in a component of a massage table…the child was under the table when it started to be lowered.”

Regular readers might remember the Favira alternative medicine clinic from a previous Dr Rachie when I mentioned that she has advised the father of a young girl with leukemia to feed her KFC to get her kidneys functioning again. A current parliamentary enquiry in South Australia had received several submissions from members of the public about the dubious practices of Ms Brunt. Tragically, the enquiry is ongoing, hence Elvira Brunt is still practicing.

On the same day that the child died the Enquiry into Bogus, Unregistered and Deregistered Health Practitioners report named Elvira Brunt, as a person of interest, for allegedly claiming she could cure cancer through abdominal massage, encouraging patients to stop normal treatment and requiring cash payments for services.

Other alternative therapists to be “named and shamed” were ELIZABETH GOLDWAY, for allegedly saying she could cure cancer, charging thousands of dollars for treatment and not providing receipts. MONICA MILKA, for allegedly claiming she could cure cancer with injections to “kill the worms” that were causing the problem. LUBOMIR BATELKA, who allegedly subjected a patient to “vaginal blowing” with an ozone therapy machine, saying it offered a “50 per cent cure” for cancer.

The member of parliament, Ian Hunter who tabled the report said;

“While some . . . practitioners may be delusional – convinced they are able to cure serious medical conditions – the evidence presented to the committee suggested that others are driven by greed and, in some cases, sexual gratification.” “The committee heard shocking stories from people who said their loved ones had been exploited when they were at their most vulnerable, who were given false hope and who wasted thousands of dollars on bogus treatments,” he said.

The committee stated while most practitioners were ethical, proper regulation, monitoring, and exposure of unethical behaviour was needed. The committee recommended the State Government establish legislation, similar to the code of conduct introduced in New South Wales last year, to regulate health practitioners and mechanisms to monitor them.

Although it seems likely that Elvira Brunt will be banned from practicing eventually, it will be too little too late for many, including now an 18-month-old girl. You can read the full story here.

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  • Vilma

    Mandy, I am so sorry that you didn’t have the same success as us. My father in law had treatment from Elvira for his cancer. Elvira was honest with us and told us she couldn’t help him. I appreciated her honesty. The doctors and specialists made us believe he was fine. Not once did they mention he had little time to live. She was the only one who was honest with us and we treasured every last minute with him.

    You are right, the Government should get rid of the shonky quacks but I honestly believe if they close down Elvira, so many people will be hurt by this. Any natural therapy takes a long time to heal. The Medical Board needs to look at what is causing these diseases especially cancer. Cancer is such a cruel disease. The professionals need to stop thinking about how much money/shares they will lose in regards to drugs. Preventative medicine/therapy is the key here. I am doing my best to keep my children healthy and free from chemicals etc. Society and the government make it very difficult to do this.

    Mandy, I really hope you find the help you are looking for. Some therapies work for some. I will not give up on my son and will keep doing what’s best for him and be open to any help that will help him be the best he can be. We all do the best we can and what we think is right for our family. Wishing you good health.

  • Mandy

    Elvira! – dedicated her life to helping people. More like deidcated to her own ego and lining her purse!!!!I am glad you are having some success with your son Vilma. But please do not be fooled by Elvira and her intentions. She tells people she can cure cancer among many other things. It makes my blood boil to see how she can manipulate others into believing in her quackery. And yes that is what it is – QUACKERY. She outright lied to me and my family and promised a cure for brain cancer. The arrogance of the woman defies belief! I am more sceptical than I ever was before we met her. I am open to alternative medicine but not to blatant lies about ones ability to cure others. People like Elvira need to be stopped. the pain she created for me and my family will be something I will never get over but I hope the Government seriously does something about her and all the other quacks out there!

  • Vilma

    Please stop this ignorance and look around. There are so many children with Autism. Why don’t the Medical Board use their time and money to investigate making Vaccinations safer for our precious children. They say there is no evidence…my son is living proof of Vaccination destroying his immune system which has triggered Autism. Thank you to Elvira from the Fravira Clinic who has dedicated her life to helping people. She has helped my son be the best he can be, I am so thankful for this. Australia is a free country and we should be able to make our own choices for our children especially when it comes down to their health.

    It’s easy to be skeptical if you haven’t been desperate and open enough to try alternative therapies. I am thankful for my beautiful boy who has opened my eyes to alternative medicine.

  • That’s nice. I see you’re advertising a chiropractic business as well suggesting you are in fact one. Please stop with these dishonest comments. It does not look good.

  • I really hate reading about these things and the comments from other posters. I have had great results from chiropractors. I had a motorcycle accident that took some work but today I live drug free and no longer need treatments. One of the things I learned was not to sit on my wallet.

  • Mandy

    I hate to disappoint you Michael but Elvira Brunt told my husband it was not his time to die and that she would cure him of his brain cancer! Yes CURE him. Not ease his journey or help him deal with the fact he was going to die. When his condition deteriorated she refused to see him again. I’m sure you have no idea how heart breaking it is to watch the man you love cry for 4 days because she wouldnt see him. My husband died 2 years ago and I still feel upset and angry over how she treated him. The woman is a charlatan who has no conscience and is in business purely to rob the vulnerable. I would have no anger towards Elvira if she had told my husband she couldn’t cure him but could help ease his journey. Personally I think she should be jailed as a fraud.

  • Michael

    I am the family member of somebody that Elvira has helped as well, a person that had slim chances of survival especially solely with traditional chemo-therapy. With the combination of traditional treatment and Elvira’s massage that person has been cancer free for many years now.

    Mandy: The Fravira Clinic does not claim it can always cure cancer. I am familiar with another case where the patient was too weakened by long-term cancer and told by Elvira that her treatment would probably not help and sent home. No false hope was given.

    Scepdoll: On Elvira’s reccomendation that Martin Eatts stop taking pain-killers. Any doctor will tell you that pain-killers do not have a beneficial effect upon the body, especially morphine-based ones commonly prescribed in painful, advanced cancers. Yes, they help with the suffering, but they do this at the cost of weakening the immune system. Don’t believe me, does the NIDA also constitute a band of quacks? here’s what they say:


    It’s very easy to accuse anybody of being a charlatan, but please get your facts straight before you say that medical advice from any source is incorrect. It seems that you are the one that is biased and clearly uninformed.

    Cheers to James, Steven, and Grace.

    PS Generally in life, I consider myself to be more of a sceptic than a believer. This, however, doesn’t mean that there can’t be things out there that are beyond what I know and understand.

  • Mandy

    The problem with Elvira Brunt is that she tells people she can cure cancer. She cannot cure any cancer particularly brain cancer which my husband died from. Its one thing to say you can help with an alternative therapy its another to say you can cure it.

  • Eda

    The sensationalism of the news report distorts the facts again. It is tragic that a child has died in a workplace incident – and not related to a treatment at Fravira Clinic. But what is bogus? Any treatment not considered mainstream by regular medical professionals is bogus – but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work for some people. It is no different that herbalists, natruopaths, homeopaths, chiropractors – these are all called ‘alternative’ but alterative by whose definition?

    Her treatments are unusual, but if conventional treatments are not providing answers, then do we not have the right to try something else? It tends to be family members that have lost loved ones not those who have been treated by the clinic, and medical professionals who believe their’s is the only option that have complained. How many patients have actually put a complaint into the comission?

    Yes, I have been a patient of Fravira Clinic – I did not get the results that I wanted, but, I had tried conventional treatments to no avai. She actually encouraged me to utilise her treatments in conjunction with conventional treatment. Some of her treatments were unusual, but when she explained why she was using this method, it actually made sense.

    My mother whist dying of cancer many years ago, was told by a ‘priest’ from a breakaway Catholic group to stop taking her pain medication and pray to Jesus – she did this, and swears that when she did pray to Jesus her pain disappeared. She was at peace with this, it was her choice and we had to accept that. Did we agree, no, there was no science behind it, but Faith does something to you which cannot be explained.

    I remember articles on ACA about the ‘Baby Doctor’ in Qld who provided herbal remedies that helped alot of women become pregnant – not a conventional treatment, but I am sure there are truckloads of people singing her praise, and probably just as many who call her a quack because they were not as lucky.

    Keep to the facts, a child died due to a work place accident – it has nothing to do with the treatment that the clinic provided. The Pilgrimages to Lourdes every year, the sale of the holy water are definitely not conventional, but thousands if not millions of people still do it every year – it comes down to what you believe. Do not get rid of what we can’t explain or believe, because for every sad story, there is one of hope.

  • Thanks for the articles, I enjoy reading them.

    I will be sure to pass your site onto my family, friends and patients.

    All the best

    Dr. Brian

  • @Harry


    A registered chiropractor may state his or her chiropractic qualifications after his or her name in any advertising provided that those credentials correspond to qualifications obtained from a chiropractic educational institution recognised for this purpose by the Board.

    A registered chiropractor should, in any advertising including the word ‘Doctor’, qualify that title by:
    a) clearly using the word ‘Chiropractor’, or
    b) using qualifications which include the title ‘Chiropractic’ immediately following his or her name e.g. ‘Doctor of Chiropractic’ (if applicable).

    Chiropractors must be certain that they can substantiate any claims made in advertising material, (which includes media reports, magazine articles or advertorials), particularly in relation to outcomes of treatment.

    According to the code, unacceptable advertising is that which creates unwarranted and unrealistic expectations about the effectiveness of the chiropractic services to be provided.

  • Harry

    This is for Richard. Here’s the chiro I said could ‘help’ with asthma – doesn’t say he can cure it.


    Click on ‘why clients see us’ on the left to see discussions on asthma and colic amongst other ailments.

    PS – Are chiros allowed to call themselves Dr?

  • Pingback: » Australian chiropractor claims to be able to treat colic.()

  • Mutus Bellator

    ‘Major US Hospital adds Kali Bichromicum to its formulary for use in ventilated patients’


    Yep. Homoeopathy entering the mainstream. Again.

  • James

    Matt, I understand what you are saying, but you are missing my point entirely. The terrible accident related to the operation of a massage table – period. The exact same type of table that has been sold in its THOUSANDS to various businesses/persons all around Australia. The accident could have happened in any of these instances.
    Plus, Brunts business is still subject to the occupational health and safety requirements that every business in the state are subject to, and has occupational health and safety visits. As a matter of fact, there is a Health Clinic in North Adelaide that consists of a number of ‘registered’ health professionals (chiropractor, doctor, acupuncturist) of which the exact same beds are used. Absolutely no difference in level of safety there as far as I can see.

  • James,

    It’s naive of you to think this young girl’s tragic death was wholly unrelated to Elvira Brunt’s status as an unregistered practitioner.

    To become registered as Medicare providers in Australia, medical professionals have to prove they’ve undergone appropriate training in their field, as well as meet stringent requirements around workplace health and safety.

    Unregistered practitioners don’t have to worry about any of this, so it’s no surprise at all to find their practices are less safe.

  • James

    Wow – a bot of action on the posts. Thanks Steven and Grace. And thanks scepdoll for your appropriately diplomatic last post.

    I am not an unreasonable person – everyone has the right to their own opinion – however what makes me angry about this situation (hence the original post), is the implication and linking that this tragic child’s death could have been avoided if Ms Brunt was a ‘registered, normal doctor’. This accident could have happened anywhere, to anyone, as is the nature of accidents.
    I agree with Steven, the last paragraph of the above article which implies that if this practice is shut down, it is too late for the little girl, serves no purpose other than to imply the services are linked to the death. That is what makes me angry.

  • Hi Grace,

    Of course it is your choice to see Ms Brunt if you wish. No-one is questioning your right to do so. The problem is that many of Elvira’s treatments and therapies have no evidence for efficacy. It is true that many people who have a terminal or serious illness will seek out therapies that promise cures, purely out of desperation and sometimes these “cures” do no more than provide false hope.

    Chemotherapy does not always work because cancer is a complex disease to treat. There are also many types of cancers, some which are much more difficult to treat than others. Science is working diligently to try to find better ways to treat cancer, but so far, surgery and radio/chemotherapy are the most effective methods.

    This post is simply to make people aware of this, so that they may make up their minds about whether choosing alternative therapies/therapists such as Ms Brunt is best for them.

  • grace piscioneri

    i am an advocate of elvira brunt, get off the womans case not all doctors, and not all legal treatments ie chemo therapy (which makes you ill, keeps you in misery and pain gives most times short hope, but eventually some patients do die as its not a cure) not one medical professional or treatment can save the world, but the media and the government expect this one woman to do that, but in saying that, look at all the people she has helped, and there is no burden to the health system, and we all have freedom of choice if we dont like what she recommends, seek other advise, accidents do happen unfortunate that it was, my heart goes out to that poor mother and father to lose a child is something no parent wants to experience but what is elvira expected to do treat, babysit, i need elvira her treatments and her guidance stop destroying a woman who offers so much, if you dont agree dont go to her, but leave the freedom of choice to those who do!

  • Steven

    Sorry, I just re-read the above article again, and to quote the last paragraph

    Although it seems likely that Elvira Brunt will be banned from practicing eventually, it will be too little too late for many, including now an 18-month-old girl

    That quote is directly linking the ‘quackiness’ of the practitioner to the tragic accident, implying that they are together. Surely you can all see that accidents occur regardless, thousands of times a year – they are not always a reflection on the owner of the business? At the end of the day, an accident is an accident?
    I personally really dislike all people that disagree with my point of view. Do I want tragic accidents to occur around them and their workplace… no. Do I blame them because I dislike them… no.

  • Steven

    I am actually closer to the real events of this stuff, and can sympathise with James here. The statements that you have quoted above are simply not accurate. They were given by family members of people who have unfortunately died due to a horrible disease, and are looking for someone to blame – thats where the bias comes from. I am a patient who has seen her before, and have now moved to North Queensland, so have not seen her in a couple of years. I was battling cancer, and it was a combination of seeing ‘traditional’ doctors, and her that I am now doing ok.
    She never once told me not to follow the other doctors orders, but certainly got me to challenge them when things didn’t make sense. What scared me was the number of times my treating doctor actually changed a course of action simply becuase I challenged it! They just go by the book and don’t ultimately care.
    I actually did have a KFC diagnosis one day as well – I was feeling nautious and she told me to eat some hot chips (from KFC) to settle my stomach. Ironically, the day before Elvira told me this my own grandmother told me to eat some chips as well. Perhaps I should report my grandmother to the enquiry as well.

    Sean, in terms of your comments. ‘unregistered’ – um, where should she register? No-one else does what she does, so there is nowhere to register to? (to my knoledge).
    In terms of the accident itself – you actually imply that becuase she is linked with being a ‘bogus’ doctor that she is therefore an evil and negligent person. My observations were that the place was extremely professional, and I heard someone else quoted on the news last night as saying that the hygiene and safety of the place was better than a hospital. (Not my words, someone else that was on television).
    Anyway, I’m sure that you guys will blast me anyway. James – I hear you.

  • James,

    If there is evidence to show that abdominal massage is beneficial is ridding cancer from the body, I would love to see it. I have nothing against Elvira Brunt personally, but preying on terminally or seriously ill people by offering magical cures is despicable.

    When you say “unhappy people” I assume you mean the likes of Samantha Rice the leukemia victim who was prescribed KFC to restore liver function? This is unadulterated quackery.

    Samantha’s GP, Dr Michael Rice, told the committee the delays had a devastating effect. “. . . the interventions by the bogus practitioner served only to reduce the opportunity of giving the girl the best chance of cure . . . and when cure could not be achieved she was deprived of optimal palliative care.”

    (Source: Adelaide Now)

    Or Martin Eatts, who died of cancer in 2003 after seeing Brunt for about four months and spending hundreds of dollars. According to reports Brunt also allegedly told this patient “to disregard the recommendation of nurses and not have painkillers”.

    I fails to see how this can be construed as biased.

  • Cry me a ….. river James. Talk about being melodramatic.

    The death is a tragic accident and your faux disgust should be directed at the person that had the most to do with this situation, an unregistered alternative health practioner who did not have enough (any?) training or care to monitor a child around a peice of equipment they use everyday.

    The machinery was not faulty, the practitioner was negligent or is the original news report biased as well?

  • James

    I think it is disgusting that your obvious dislike of the practices of Elvira Brunt (which I am sure are fully researched by you having seen for yourself what she does – not just relying on the extremely inaccurate stories of unhappy people – sorry, not sure what font properly shows sarcasm) has to be mixed with what has been reported as a tragic, terrible accident involving a piece of machinery. Shame on you for using the tragic death of a child to further your biased views.

  • I work in internet marketing and I see stuff like that all the time. However I’ve had a look at the complimentary medicine legislation site for Australia and it’s very hard to get a rundown of what a business is/isn’t allowed to do. Does anyone know of any concise and easy to read summary of the relevant law so that others of us who see such things can make the appropriate complaints?