We’re pleased to re-post, with the kind permission of the authors, the following letter. It was published in The Australian newspaper on 18/12/15.
[We note with interest that at the time of posting The Australian is running with this issue on the front page.]
The government is struggling to find savings and about to make real inroads into pathology services, prescriptions and other valuable medical benefits of proven effectiveness. The Treasurer asks for suggestions as to where alternative savings might be made, so here are three.
First, remove pseudoscientific, mystical, ineffective ‘alternative treatments’ from those which can claim a health fund rebate or any other government subsidies using taxpayers’ money.
The government’s own top research body, the NHMRC, has just produced a major report showing that 19 common alternative therapies, from naturopathy to homeopathy, have inadequate evidence of efficacy. What more do you need?
Second, stop wasting any more taxpayers’ money in subsidising the teaching of these spurious treatments, which can now be pursued in a variety of organisations from fly-by-night operations to universities.
And, third, stop wasting yet more taxpayer’s money in loans to students who study these ‘courses’, few of whom will ever earn enough to repay them.
These simple measures will save many millions of dollars. The UK took these steps years ago; why don’t we? Are the political donations from the alternative medicine and pharmaceutical quarters just too big to lose?
Prof Rob Morrison OAM Bridgewater, SA
Prof Alastair MacLennan AO St Georges, SA
Vice Presidents, Friends of Science in Medicine.