Recent news of the UK McTimoney Association (MCA) for chiropractors letter to members, urging them to take down their websites has brought the reputation of the industry into question.
The story was broken by Andy Lewis from Quackometer, who published the letter in full on his website. An article, written by Chris French, detailing the events, was published today in the Guardian. You can read the full article here, but, briefly it says;
On May 20, 2009, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published its adjudication on whether chiropractors Dr Carl Irwin and Associates “could substantiate the implied claim that their therapies could successfully treat some of the conditions mentioned, in particular IBS, colic and learning difficulties”. The relevant part of the adjudication reads as follows:
We considered that, whilst some of the studies indicated that further research was worth pursuing, in particular in relation to the chiropractic relief of colic, we had not seen robust clinical evidence to support the claim that chiropractic could treat IBS, colic and learning difficulties.
On these points the ad breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health and Beauty Products and Therapies).
Simon Perry, the founder of Skeptics in the Pub, Leicester, was so incensed by the British Chiropractic Association’s libel case against Simon Singh, he decided to do something about making sure this legislation was enforced. He searched chiropractic websites, collating those that claimed to treat colic or else implied that chiropractic was an effective treatment for this condition and reported 174 for breaching the advertising standards code. In response, the MCA sent a letter to their members advising them to do the following;
“If you have a website, take it down NOW. REMOVE all the blue MCA patient information leaflets, or any patient information leaflets of your own that state you treat whiplash, colic or other childhood problems in your clinic”
“If you use business cards or other stationery using the ‘doctor’ title and it does not clearly state that you are a doctor of chiropractic or that you are not a registered medical practitioner, STOP USING THEM immediately.
“Be wary of ‘mystery shopper’ phone calls and ‘drop ins’ to your practice, especially if they start asking about your care of children, or whiplash, or your evidence base for practices.
“Finally, we strongly suggest you do NOT discuss this with others, especially patients, Firstly it would not be ethical to burden patients with this, though if they ask we hope you now have information with which you can respond.
Most importantly, this email and all correspondence from the MCA is confidential advice to MCA members alone, and should not be shared with anyone else.”
One would have thought it would be more responsible to advise members to simply not use therapies for which there is no evidence, particularly when it comes to treating children. But then quacks will be quacks…
And now it appears we have the same problem in Australia. The article below appeared in a regional newspaper this week and was sent to me by a reader;
The text says;
“Chiropractic treatment has also been shown to provide significant benefits for the treatment of colic. Research from the University of Southern Denmark found that spinal manipulation is effective in relieving infantile colic. Chiropractors use safe and gentle procedures to correct spinal misalignments affecting the nervous system. Chiropractors believe that trauma during the birth process can be a factor in the development of colic”.
I don’t know the laws in Australia regarding this, but given the smackdown the Arnica Montana website received this week from the Complaints Resolution Panel, this looks like a potential breach of the code.
In any case I plan to write a letter to the editior about this, citing the fact that there is no evidence for chiropractic being beneficial in colic. You should too; letters should be less than 250 words. Name, address, and phone number is required (can be withheld on request). Email firstname.lastname@example.org, snail mail, PO Box 714 Torquay VIC 3228, fax 5264 8413.
Thanks @eemyoo for the tip-off.
UPDATE: Thanks to eemyoo for sourcing the CHIROPRACTORS REGISTRATION BOARD OF VICTORIA STANDARDS OF PRACTICE GUIDELINES for ADVERTISING.
The sections this advertorial appear to breach appear below;
For the purpose of these Guidelines, advertising…..includes situations where practitioners make themselves available for, or provide information to, media reports, magazine articles or advertorials.
Advertising general guidelines; Chiropractors must be certain that they can substantiate any claims made in advertising material, particularly in relation to outcomes of treatment, whether implied or explicitly stated.
5.2 What is unacceptable advertising? a) create or be likely to create unwarranted and unrealistic expectations about the effectiveness of the chiropractic services to be provided