Prince Charles should stick to talking to his plants and keep his kooky ideas to himself. A report was released yesterday, commissioned by the Prince, of all things woo woo and written by an economist (because we all know economists are experts in medicine). The report is supposed to investigate the role of complementary medicines in the NHS (the National Health Service in the UK). I’m not going to reproduce much of it here, but if you want to read it, it’s here.
I’ll just reproduce part of the disclaimer though:
The contents of this publication constitute research, the results of which have not undergone clinical trials or any other form of testing or validation for the purposes of any kind of medical treatment, diagnosis, therapy or advice.
Meaning it’s pretty much useless as a scientific document, but no doubt the NHS will act on it to make the Prince happy.
The conclusions are weak. The report claims effectiveness of the “top 5” complementary medicines; acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine and manipulation therapies, but most of the benefits seem to be in cost. The report seems to be suggesting that the NHS could save money if they used complementary medicines instead of conventional medicines. Whether or not the patient benefits seems to be secondary.
Here are some of the conclusions of the report:
Despite the fragmentary nature of the evidence, there seems good reason to believe that a number of CAM treatments offer the possibility of significant savings in direct health costs, while others perhaps just as expensive as their conventional counterparts can nonetheless deliver additional benefits to patients in a cost-effective way. In addition, the benefits to the economy of a wider application of successful complementary therapies in the key areas could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.
Even though they admit that the evidence is fragmentary (and that’s an optimistic definition), it still comes down to the money. Prescribing alternative treatments is cheaper, who cares if it works or not? If the patient is happy with the placebo he’s received then the NHS has made a saving; who cares about the science?
Funds available for research into the cost-effectiveness of CAM treatments should be increased.
Cost-effectiveness? How about effectiveness? Research should be done to show if any of it works at all, and if it does, how it works. GPs should not be prescribing something which is supposed to work on mythical lines of Chi or molecular memory or some other faith based concept.
…generally speaking CAM appears relatively safe compared to conventional drugs.
Safe because it doesn’t do anything, good or bad? Maybe the money would be better spent researching conventional drugs to make them safer and more effective than they already are?
The legal position of doctors making referrals to complementary practitioners needs to be safeguarded.
Because we can’t trust any of the alternative therapies thanks to the “fragmentary” evidence, so expect to have to sign a release so you can’t sue the GP.
The report trots out all the usual excuses for why CAM can’t be tested and validated in the same way as conventional medicines. Some are valid (the inability to do double-blind for something like acupuncture), some are not (CAM being different for every patient).
I’m sure Charlie means well in his own kooky way, but this kind of report just muddies the water and potentially diverts funding away from good, effective science based medicine into the pockets of charlatans and quacks.