By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
A group of more than 400 doctors, medical researchers and scientists are urging universities to close down alternative medicine degrees.
Almost one in three Australian universities now offer courses in some form of alternative therapy or complementary medicine, including traditional Chinese herbal medicine, chiropractics, homeopathy, naturopathy, reflexology and aromatherapy.
The new group called “Friends of Science in Medicine” has written to vice-chancellors last week, warning that by giving “undeserved credibility to what in many cases would be better described as quackery” and by “failing to champion evidence-based science and medicine”, the universities are trashing their reputation as bastions of scientific rigor.
The group consists of world-renowned biologist Sir Gustav Nossal and the creator of the cervical cancer vaccine Professor Ian Frazer among its members. It is also campaigning for private health insurance providers to stop providing rebates for alternative medical treatments.
A co-founder of the group, Emeritus Professor John Dwyer, of the University of NSW, who is also a government adviser on consumer health fraud, said it was distressing that 19 universities were now offering “degrees in pseudo science”. “It's deplorable, but we didn't realize how much concern there was out there for universities' reputations until we tapped into it,” Professor Dwyer said. “We're saying enough is enough. Taxpayers' money should not be wasted on funding [these courses] … nor should government health insurance rebates be wasted on this nonsense.”