Medical sense reclaiming ground in Australia

I’ve seen a couple of articles recently that give me faith that medical science – and medical sense – are causing a reversal of some worrying trends.

Treatments that don’t work

In 2012 the previous Australian federal government asked the Australian chief medical officer for a review of “natural” therapies that were – and still are – covered by Medicare and many private insurance policies. Those treatments included naturopathy, aromatherapy, ear candling, crystal therapy, flower essences, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, reiki and rolfing.

This was welcomed by anyone who approves of taxpayer money being spent on treatments for which there is clinical evidence.

The Australian newspaper has posted a couple of articles in recent days (which I haven’t linked because they’re behind paywalls) about leaks that that review will be released soon, and it will not be good for those alternative therapies. Homeopathy got an early knocking already last year. Bravo, I say.This letter to the Australian agrees.

It’s a shame that practices like acupuncture, chiropractic, and Chinese medicine were explicitly omitted from the review, but it’s still a very good step.

Homeopathic Literature

Homeopathic Literature

Anti-vaccine movement declines

In other good news, the Guardian reports that “the income and membership of the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVN) has significantly diminished in the past three years”. Both media and governments are treating the AVN appropriately (that is, they’re not pretending that theirs is an informed or balanced view), and people are responding.

Now for immunisation rates to climb back up.

News of the Obvious: Homeopathy is Nonsense

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From Lifehacker:

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released a new draft paper on the effectiveness of homeopathy following an in-depth analysis across 68 different health conditions.Unsurprisingly, the paper concludes that there is no reliable evidence that homoeopathy is effective for treating any ailment. Rather, it’s a potentially dangerous pseudoscience that can dupe patients into rejecting conventional and effective treatments.

The emphasis is mine.

It will take a lot more than this restatement of obvious science before the scores of homeopathic “treatments” disappear from Australian pharmacy shelves, or before the government stops listening to “alternative” medicine lobby groups.

Vaccine for urinary tract infections is one step closer

Urinary tract infections are a major problem for women. Millions of women have to visit the doctor each year for antibiotics to treat these infections. And, as often happens with living, evolving organisms like bacteria, doctors are seeing strains of infection that are becoming resistant to the common antibiotics.

More than 80% of urinary tract infections come from E. coli bacteria. If there were a vaccine that could prevent women from getting these infections it would be a massive health and cost benefit. So of course researchers are looking for a vaccine.

The hunt for vaccines almost always takes place in lab animals first. Researchers at the University of Michigan found last year that a vaccine they tried on mice – and that made them immune to urinary tract infections – seemed, initially, to act the same way in human cell samples. This raised a great deal of hope for a human vaccine.

Further studies the U of M group has done this year, however, show that there are differences in the appearance of how E. coli develop in humans and mice, and therefore differences in how they can be affected by a vaccine.

This isn’t entirely bad news. It does provide a further key that the researchers need to look for differences. It’s a further piece of the puzzle. It tells us that there won’t be a shortcut by using the mouse vaccine, but it also gives us a clue for how to keep looking. This is the way that science works.

Read more about this story in ScienceDaily.