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From my last SBM post:

Chiropractors are falsely claiming that their spinal “adjustments” can protect people from coronavirus infection, as well as giving other dubious health advice on COVID-19. As they have with other bogus remedies, the media and government authorities should take note.

Thankfully, some have, at least in Canada.

Regulatory authorities in British Columbia are warning both chiropractors and naturopaths not to make false claims about the effectiveness of their therapies in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. According to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news reports, the British Columbia College of Chiropractors and College of Naturopathic Physicians, which regulate these practitioners, are investigating several alleged violations of their policies against health claims that are not evidence-based.

This is in stark contrast to the U.S., where pseudoscience is legalized via state chiropractic and naturopathic practice acts. And, unlike the Canadian media, which has fairly regularly published exposés of charlatans (also here and here), the U.S. media has done nothing (that I can find) to warn the public about practitioners (as opposed to products) touting bogus treatments for COVID-19.

According to the CBC, several B.C. chiropractors are making just the sort of false claims American chiropractors are using in marketing their practices as a COVID-19 preventative. In a website post titled “boost your immune system with chiropractic care”, a B.C. chiropractic clinic suggested that spinal “adjustments”

have shown to improve immune function by correcting spinal misalignment or subluxations that cause neural dysfunction.

Other B.C. chiropractors posted on Facebook that, in the face of COVID-19, regular chiropractic “adjustments” should be part “standard hygiene practice”. Yet another B.C. chiropractor e-mailed patients promising “essential nutrition to protect yourself against coronavirus” with a supplement called “Immunoplex”, at $29.99 for 90 capsules.

However, quite unlike the U.S., the CBC reports that these clinics are facing investigation by College of Chiropractors of B.C. (CCBC). In a public notice, the CCBC said it

has become aware that some registrants are promoting treatment or supplements as a means to boost the immune system and may imply that this will prevent infection from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Any such claims made by registrants are inappropriate. When such claims are brought to the attention of the CCBC they will be forwarded immediately to the Inquiry Committee for investigation.

As stated in part 9.5 of the Professional Conduct Handbook, “The prevention and treatment of infectious disease is not within the scope of chiropractic practice.”

Patients with questions about infectious disease, such as COVID-19, should be advised to contact their medical doctor, nurse practitioner or local public health officials.

The warning is based on recent CCBC policy changes confronting “misleading and unsubstantiated claims” that “are contrary to acceptable evidence”. In 2017, the CCBC’s Professional Conduct Handbook was amended to prohibit chiropractors from advertising “health benefits of their services when there is not acceptable evidence that these benefits can be achieved”. In 2018, the CCBC approved an “Efficacy Claims” policy that, “due to the absence of acceptable evidence”, prohibited chiropractors from telling patients that chiropractic can be used to treat diseases or conditions like Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, infections, infertility, or Tourette’s syndrome, or has any beneficial effect on childhood diseases or conditions like ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, or other developmental or speech disorders. The CBCC made it clear that this list is not exhaustive and that “absent acceptable evidence” chiropractors are “not free to make claims about the effectiveness of chiropractic”.

The CCBC also warned chiropractors that

the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases is not within the scope of chiropractic practice [and] chiropractors must not provide any professional advice or counseling to patients in relation to vaccination issues. Patients with vaccination questions should be advised to contact their local public health officials.

At the time, all chiropractors were directed to review social media and other online materials and to remove offending information. If you don’t, the CCBC said in effect, we’ll do it for you.

Fortunately for American chiropractors, these rules don’t apply. Otherwise, as we’ve documented many times here on SBM, some of them would be out of business, or nearly so.

A naturopath in the regulatory crosshairs

According to the CBC, Allison Patton, a registered naturopath and Surrey, B.C. city councillor, is the subject of an investigation by the B.C. College of Naturopathic Physicians (a misleading name, considering naturopathic education and training), for advertising treatments, together costing more than $600,

including items like an “Immune Supportive Vitamin Boost” for $99 and a $325 “HiDose Ozone/UVBI IV” treatment, in which blood is drawn, injected with ozone and exposed to UV light before being transfused back into the body. Patton wrote that these treatments “could help strengthen our systems so we may stay as healthy as possible.”

Patton attempted to defend herself by telling the CBC that the Facebook post (since deleted) touting this pseudoscience was put up “in response to encouragement from her patients”, inadvertently affirming the disturbing conclusion that patients falsely believe naturopaths are capable of providing competent medical advice on infectious diseases.

The College previously suspended Patton from practice for three days and fined her $500 after she campaigned for public office representing herself as a “community physician” and referring to her “medical practice” without making it clear that she is a naturopath.

Despite its disciplinary action against Patton and its notice to the public (see below), it is worth noting that the College still tolerates plenty of pseudoscience. Quackery like applied kinesiology and iridology, for example, are specifically permitted. And when issuing a ban on further use of IV turmeric/curcumin, in response to a patient’s death after an IV injection of turmeric/curcumin performed by a California-licensed naturopath, current patients already receiving a course IV turmeric/curcumin treatments were excluded, in spite of the fact that there is no reliable evidence that these injections are safe and effective for any condition.

And lest you think Patton is an outlier, claims that patients can “boost their immune systems” (which you can’t do) with all sorts of nonsense (also here) like vitamin injections are common in naturopathy.

Patton’s “ozone therapy” is absolute quackery. Per FDA regulations, ozone is toxic, potentially dangerous, and has no known useful medical application. Yet, “ozone therapy” like that advertised by Patton is used by naturopaths for all sorts of maladies. According to ex-naturopath Britt Hermes,

Licensed naturopaths market ozone gas for just about anything. I have seen ozone advertised by naturopaths for chronic diseases, cancer treatment, Lyme disease, viral infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases, “detoxification,” and to “boost the immune system.”

Despite ozone’s uselessness as a treatment and potential dangers

licensed naturopaths in California were able to earn continuing education credits in a course that taught how to “confidently use ozone therapies in clinical practice with an understanding of the safety concerns.” The class was just two and a half hours and taught by a licensed naturopathic doctor who graduated from Bastyr University. The course is “approved by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and Oregon Board of Naturopathic Medicine.”

In addition to its investigation of Patton, the College issued a notice to the public saying that “any statements by naturopathic doctors about the prevention and/or treatment of COVID-19, beyond the information made available by the public health authorities, are inappropriate, potentially harmful, and likely to violate” its policies on false and misleading advertising. The notice added that any such statements “will be forwarded to the inquiry committee for investigation.”

Other Canadian provinces and the U.S. should follow British Columbia’s lead. For over 100 years, chiropractors and naturopaths have taken advantage of patients with their quack remedies, too often with the government’s blessing. Even a life-threatening global pandemic won’t quell their mendacity.

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Posted by Jann Bellamy

Jann J. Bellamy is a Florida attorney and lives in Tallahassee. She is one of the founders and Board members of the Society for Science-Based Medicine (SfSBM) dedicated to providing accurate information about CAM and advocating for state and federal laws that incorporate a science-based standard for all health care practitioners. She tracks state and federal bills that would allow pseudoscience in health care for the SfSBM website.  Her posts are archived here.