Monday, 26 January 2009

Government Funded Woo

Here in New Zealand the ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation), which is the government funded accident compensation scheme providing 24-hour no-fault personal injury insurance cover (and yes I lifted that description off their webpage), has for a while now been funding certain "complimentary and alternative" treatments such as chiropractic, acupuncture and osteopathy.

However in The Press on Friday, we hear that the new Minister for ACC (who has been on the job for almost 6 weeks now despite our election happening after that of the US) will be reviewing this policy:

Spiralling public spending on complementary medicine will be reviewed amid concerns about the treatments, ACC Minister Nick Smith says.

The ACC spent $37 million on complementary and alternative medicine (Cam) in the 2007-2008 year up from $18.4 million in 2003-2004.

Smith said Cam expenditure had been growing significantly faster than other parts of accident compensation.

There were "legitimate questions" about the effectiveness of some alternative treatments, and the issue would be looked at as part of a broader ACC review, he said.

This was brought to my attention over the weekend via the NZ Skeptics group, along with the suggestion that we email the minister and show our support for this (and I suggest that any NZ readers here do the same, my email will be reprinted below the fold). I think this is certainly a cause for hope that reality may be setting in here, and at least some in the new government will be on our side, for example Dr Smith who is the ACC minister is also the Minister for Climate Change.

Dear Dr Smith

I wanted to thank you for initiating an investigation into the ACC funding of "CAM" treatments, many of which have been shown to have no medical validity.

I think that you should follow the position of the MoH, in that only those treatments which are shown to be effective should be funded.

Any treatment modality which can be shown to be effective under the standards used to judge modern medicine, is neither complimentary or alternative, it would simply be medicine, and as such your funding model should reflect this.

I feel that this investigation is a good thing for the country and I wish you all the best for it. A good resource to help sift the wheat from the chaff would be the excellent website http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/.

Thank you for your time

6 comments:

Dan The Osteopath said...

As a doctor of physics might I suggest that you concentrate on physics rather than the various modalities of health care? You will not find me postulating the existence of the Higgs boson or fleeting glimpses of alternate dimensions. I personally think maybe we should investigate funding into theoretical physics... Doesn't stop a huge amount of human suffering.

Theres no evidence that parachutes save lives but I'd sure as hell ask for one at the door of the plane!
Cheers.

mc2 said...

There is a reason we teach physics to students who want to be doctors and it isn't just to weed out the not so smart ones.

I am perfectly qualified to make claims into the prior probability of things like homeopathy and "energy medicines" such as chiropractic and acupunture (which supposedly work by unblocking the flow of something or another - none of which can be measured or observed).

As for theoretical physics, I am pretty sure it comes in handy for something. Xrays, MRI, cat scans, radiotherapy all help alleviate suffering directly or indirectly

And as for parachutes, certainly it would be unethical to try a randomised double-blind study, but that does not mean there is no evidence.

Firstly, there is a physical mechanism by which means that parachutes work (unlike homeopathy or chiropractic), and then there are plenty of objective data points that show no parachute generally equals death, whereas parachute does not.

As I said in my letter to the minister:

Any treatment modality which can be shown to be effective under the standards used to judge modern medicine, is neither complimentary or alternative, it would simply be medicine.

Anonymous said...

You need think about it. Despite the emails, the overwhelming evidence showing global warming is happening hasn't changed.
"The e-mails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus . . . that tells us the Earth is warming, that warming is largely a result of human activity," Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told a House committee. She said that the e-mails don't cover data from NOAA and NASA, whose independent climate records show dramatic warming.

Anonymous said...

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Wanna hear your opinion

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