Memo to the Health minister

The effectiveness of any “new and innovative treatments and medicines” should be proven to work beyond the placebo before being publicly funded. Otherwise it’s funding based on a super-natural belief. Health minister Michael McGimpsey attended a complementary and alternative therapies and medicines conference at Belfast City Hospital today. And he’s released a short statement. On which I have a few points to make, some of which I may have made before – see below the fold.From the Health minister’s statement

“We have a wonderfully diverse health and social care system here, not least because of our patient-centred approach to meeting need. This diversity is one of its main strengths, and CAM has a role to play.”

A diversity of treatments is only a strength if those treatments work beyond the placebo – otherwise, just stick to the sugar pills.

He said: “The CAM pilot is unique within the UK, in that it provides some GPs with the opportunity and support to refer patients directly to a range of complementary therapists to treat ailments such as back pain and depression, stress and anxiety.”

Great. A burgeoning publicly funded sugar pill industry. Ever wondered why that pilot is unique within the UK? Partly because Peter Hain was a believer.

Meanwhile, elsewhere within the UK, those alternative treatments face having NHS funding for them withdrawn – Because they can’t provide evidence of effectiveness beyond the placebo.

And if anyone thinks that this report on acupuncture if evidence to the contrary.. think again – Bad Science’s Ben Goldacre dismantles that claim here. And he tackles herbalists here.

Finally on the current ‘pilot’ scheme

According to the notes to today’s statement

The CAM pilot project will run until March 2008 and will be independently evaluated by Social Market Research (SMR).

Great… [off sarcasm]