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Australian Government supports pseudoscience.

March 8, 2013

According to a story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Medical Association has called for an end to government funding of chiropractors. As the doctors point out, taxpayers funds are being used to encourage people to use treatments which, according to the scientific evidence, are ineffective. The story explains that Medicare claims for chiropractic treatment of children are increasing rapidly. It tells of a mother who takes her children to a chiropractor for treatment of food allergies and behaviour problems.

The scientific evidence on whether spinal manipulation has any use in treatment of neck and back pain is not conclusive (here, here, here, here), and there are risks (here, here). And when it comes to other conditions, there is no evidence that it has any effect at all. This includes non-spinal pain (here), asthma (here, here), infant colic (here), insomnia (here) or ADHD (here). In general, the indications are that chiropractors should not treat children (here, here).

It’s time we ensured that our health funds are used only on treatments that are backed up by evidence.

Update: The Australian Government has established a review of the private health insurance rebate on “natural” therapies. The advisory committee includes several representatives of the “natural” therapies community. More from a member of the committee at The Conversation (here).

From → Science

4 Comments
  1. Pior permalink

    I don’t think it helps that Australian Universities have “Chiropratic Science” degree’s available. http://www.murdoch.edu.au/Courses/Chiropractic-Science/

    Combining the two words does not seem right, if there is science behind this course as the blurb says on the website should it not just be a form of Physiotherapy?

    • Chiropractors appear to be trying to clean up their profession.See this SMH story about their stance on vaccination. I think I would trust universities like Murdoch to maintain a fairly strict evidence-based curriculum, but I agree with you, Pior – if you remove everything that’s not evidence-based from chiropractic, what would remain that isn’t already offered by conventional treatments?
      Update: Chiropractors in the US don’t seem to be as keen on legitimizing their status. See this post from Orac: Chiropractic and antivax: Two quacky tastes that taste quacky together.

  2. As a chiropractic physician and scientist in the United States, I can absolutely state that your opinions are ridiculous. Even so, you’re allowed to opine regardless of how foolishly you chose to do so. Chiropractic – as a profession – doesn’t opine on vaccination. However, many chiropractors are skeptical on vaccinations. Vaccination skepticism isn’t uncommon in the medical community nor is it uncommon in the scientific community. Lay people also question the safety and efficacy of vaccines (vaccines in general as well as individual vaccines). It is not unwise to question; contrarily, questioning what we have trusted to be true has advanced us as a species and is within the very nature of science. It is the stance of the American Chiropractic Association and MOST chiropractic organizations within the United States that as chiropractic is a drug-free and surgery-free study of medicine, there is no reason that chiropractic physicians should advise on their administration. The Association does, however, support the right of individual consumers to educate themselves as fully as possible on the subject and as informed consumers to then conclude what is best for themselves and their family. The Association – in accordance with the best interest of optimum human health – politically opine that the right of all people to choose which vaccinations they allow to have administered on their body should be safeguarded. As a chiropractor, I am often asked about vaccinations. My response is generally: “All pharmaceuticals – vaccinations included – carry potential risks and benefits. You can receive a lot of information on the topic from reputable online sources such as PubMed, WebMD and others. It is likely that you’ll learn that there is much information disputed by several of the resources. I can’t help you to make a decision but I would advise that you educate yourself. If you deduce that you would like to refrain from any or all vaccines, talk to your doctor. Many doctors will discuss this openly and even offer alternative schedules. Some, unfortunately, will discontinue service. If that is the case, I can refer you to another primary care physician.” It is not my job to brainwash a person. I see that my policy is not yours – as is evident in your ramblings herein.

    • I’m afraid I can’t see how your tirade about vaccination shows that my “ramblings” are “ridiculous”, Robert. Would you care to address my comments about the effectiveness of chiropractic directly?

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