End alternative medicine degrees say scientists

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.”

Professor Dwyer said it was particularly galling that such courses were growing in popularity while, at the same time, the federal government was looking at ways to get the Therapeutic Goods Administration to enforce tougher proof-of-efficacy criteria for complementary medicines, following the release of a highly critical review by the Australian National Audit Office last September. Of particular concern to the group is the increase in chiropractic courses, following the recent announcement of a new chiropractic science degree by Central Queensland University.

German and British medical insurance providers are also in the process of removing alternative therapies from the list of treatments they will cover. Australia's vice-chancellors will meet in March and Professor Dwyer said his group was aiming to get a commitment from them to endorse health courses only with evidence-based science.

The spokesman for Universities Australia said tertiary institutions were self-accrediting. “[They have] the autonomy … to ensure the quality and relevance of the courses they offer,” he said. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, a government body set up to regulate higher education, refused to comment.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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  1. James James United States says:

    Evidence-based medical research is manipulated. Poor quality research does not make for good medical practice. Expert opinions of current research is only as good as the methodology and conclusions. Both of which are subject to human bias, error and lack of will to design studies which test CAM realistically.

    James Geiger MD

  2. jon jon Australia says:

    I was diagnosed with very high blood pressure, so i went to my doctor and he put me on coversil blood pressure pills, the ones you have to take for the rest of your life( i'm 50 years old ). Not wanting to do this for life i came across EDTA an artery cleaner and 8 months later i have normal blood pressure and good circulation. It's all natural, so no more chemicals.

    • mommo mommo United States says:

      Placebo effect is amazing. You proved that.

      Not one single time in history has 'woohoo' medicine been the reason for a cure. It is either your body doing its job or your wishful thinking that helped.

  3. Heather Toth Heather Toth South Africa says:

    Ask yourself why is so called "Quackery" becoming so popular.
    A shift in human consciousness to the awareness of a God whom has provided us with all the tools in nature at our disposal and the human beings to produce the natural remedies from them. Why did we think we could do better than God to produce artificial chemicals as our medicine which has done more damage to us and our environment.There is just as much quackery within the medical fraternity mis-diagnosing and prescribing medication which do more harm than good. Accept and learn from each other as each has its place in the care of humanity

  4. Craig Stone Craig Stone South Africa says:

    The only quackery going on here is coming from the big pharma-backed establishment, doing everything it can to protect its precious profits. These people are apparently the award-winning "authorities" on medicine, and yet they apparently don't have an understanding of some of the most elementary medical concepts, namely that vaccines are, by definition, used to stimulate an immune response to pathogenic diseases by introducing small parts of the pathogen into the body. Since cancer is not pathogenic (ie. not caused by bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms), and is characterized by an excessive production of otherwise normal cells, the whole idea of producing a "vaccine for cancer" is simply absurd.

    What are these lauded geniuses doing? Injecting cancerous cells into cancer patients to stop the cancer? Who are the real quacks in this story, I wonder.

  5. Bronwyn Walker Bronwyn Walker Australia says:

    I agree James, research is manipulated and what comes to mind is profit, money and multi-national companies.

    Wow, what a step back this would be for an industy that is growing in Australia in its thousands.

    Alternative and complementary health has a place in the modern world, the results speak for themselves.

    There is room in the 'health' world for all options to be accessed by people, their choice, their health.

  6. Kate Klemr Kate Klemr United States says:

    First of all the type of treatments that people choose, and study is their god given right. Secondly I cannot help but think that this is coming from insurance companies and drug companies that pay these Doctors that are in the group for research. If the Doctor that is in this group invented the vaccine I am sure he is a millionaire from doing that work, and has made millions for the drug companies. When you look deeper, and go beyond what what is being written, you will see that it is all about money. There is not a lot of capitalist profit in alternative medicine. It is a fact that there is a financial connection with doctors that research, drug companies, and insurance companies. Lets be honest doctors, why else would you make a big deal of the small minority of professionals that teach, learn, and practice alternative health...that has worked for 5000 years. The reason is that the companies funding your vested interested have urged you to do so because alternative healthcare puts the onerous on lifestyle rather than drugs that profit companies.

  7. Jayd Layton Jayd Layton United States says:

    I suggest looking to your own practices before belittling and discrediting holistic medicines.

    It is because of doctors such as yourselves that people are misdiagnosed and that the symptom is treated instead of the cause.

    I suggest that you look at your patient as a whole as natural therapist do.  Also if you were at all good at research which obviosuly you are not due to the biased nature of almost all of your supposed 'evidence based practices' than you would know that natural therapies are efficient in the treatment of many ailments and they do not use drugs which attack the system of the patient.

    Antibiotics are extremely bad for the immune system yet you proceed to prescribe drugs without thinking of the implication for the patient.

    If you feel that natural therapist are 'quaks' and it's therapies are fake than i suggest you get your extremely arrogant, ignorant and over confident noses out from your very narrow minded books and prescription pads.  

  8. Arun Mohan Arun Mohan India says:

    I do not understand the concept. If anything that the scientists are unable to prove by their hypothesis is considered miracle, superstitious etc.

    Alternative therapy has been in use even before modern medicine had ever been in existence. Why gulp in Metformin when a simple breathing exercise in yoga can help diabetes?? Why dependent too much on chemicals with lot of adverse events on trials and not to forget the money minded business men.

    when millions of people are getting benefit out of alternative therapy how come they demand such a ban for it??

  9. danielle danielle United States says:

    Let's be real here people... the only reason these doctors are saying this is because they are losing money left and right... they want everyone to be healthy and eat right, don't they? Well we are starting to realize and use the natural medicine that wont do more harm than good. I don't care what you professional say. Id rather be putting and using natural herbs in my body than putting the toxins that can be come highly addictive and destroy many lives in my body and my family.. just because some of you are pissed that were finding ways to be healthier without artificial drugs, don't stop others from learning how use whats been growing since the beginning of time!

  10. Judy Bloom Judy Bloom United States says:

    It's really unfortunate to hear that science believes
    There is only one way to heal. The biggest problem
    most of these people who make these decisions
    Have not really gotten sick yet nor do they care to test
    out  these alternative therapies to see if they work.
    Well I have definitely experienced both sides, as a patient and I
    also worked in mediicine for twelve years.

    The huge problem I see in conventional medicine are
    Lots of mistakes. I have never encountered so much
    Miscommunication between doctors and nurses who
    Consistently make mistakes, at the expense of the patient.
    Just in the last two months my mother who was hospitalized had
    3 severe allergic reactions, because of wrong drugs
    Being mixed. The sad thing is there are no repercussions
    On the doctors that made these mistakes unless the patient dies.

    As a patient myself, I had no other choice than to seek out
    Alternative medicine, as conventional medicine failed me.
    I had Lyme disease for twelve years and not one
    Specialist could diagnose my illness. I didn't get treated
    Until just two years ago. Fortunately, through word of mouth
    By another Lyme patient I found an infectious
    Disease doctor who treated Lyme and offered alternative
    Medicine. It was the combination of Chinese Medicine, acupuncture,
    and IV Rocephin that saved me.

    The right meds and strengthening the immune system
    Via Chinese medicine is what cured me of Lyme disease. The Chinese medicine was key in
    Helping the Overall weaknesses endured by the medication and dieff
    Reactions of the Lyme.

    Overall, I  can't imagine tossing alternative medicine out of the loop. If only
    These scientists need to wake up and smell the roses and not be so
    Closed minded as to believe that alternative medicine is not quackery. It's what
    Is needed to fill in the missing pieces to the puzzle and are crucial to completely
    Healing the human body of illness. Like it or not there are plenty of patients, including
    Physicians that can Confirm the benefits and great results of these therapies, especially when combined together.

  11. Karen Whitmarsh Karen Whitmarsh United States says:

    I understand why some doctors would want to end holistic medicine but after 6 months of being in pain and having doctors refuse to do surgery and want to keep me on narcotics until I am 40, I would welcome any alternative.

    • Maresa Walsh Maresa Walsh Ireland says:

      Very common situations that drive people to seek something else; you're not old enough or bad enough to treat, and so frustrating. If you find an answer elsewhere, who are these doctors to take it away. I hope you did find an answer, by the way

  12. Maresa Walsh Maresa Walsh Ireland says:

    Interesting how the medical field goes straight for removing holistic therapies. why dont they seek reform? The holistic field is often under-regulated and some therapists give everyone a bad name. It would be better to ensure the practitioners out there are qualified and professional, than stamping out useful therapies altogether!

    They think its the mark of stupidity to trust natural therapies, while I think depending on antibiotics is reckless. I wont beat them over the head with my opinion, and they neednt beat me over the head with theirs.

  13. Sherry Wozniak Sherry Wozniak United States says:

    I was diagnosed with hashimoto back in 2011.  It is a disease where your antibodies destroy your thyroid for no good reason, and your thyroid gets noduals on it.  The docs said there is no cure, and wanted me to go on thyroid medicine for the rest of my life.  I researched alternative ways, and cut out gluten, dairy and soy out of my diet.  I also take anti inflammatory herbs for my condition.  Results - No thyroid medicine and my thyroid numbers are normal.  My antibodies have stopped attacking my thyroid and all my noduals are gone.  If I were to stick to the docs approach, they simply would have let my antibodies continue to destroy my thyroid until it was gone, and let meds keep my thyroid balanced forever.  There is nothing quacky about the natural approach.  In my opinion, there is MUCH MORE QUACK to what the doctors wanted to originally do with me.  It is high time Americans research and learn about their own health and conditions and take control over their own bodies.  Stop simply believing everything the medical field tells you, and use judgment.

  14. Carole Vick Carole Vick United States says:

    The best possible medical treatment would be to draw from conventional and alternative medicine; emphasizing which ever provides the best results for the patient. Both fields of medicine have a tremendous amount to contribute; but neither approach should be discounted.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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