ACCC Needles Homeopathy Website For Anti-Vaccine Claims

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking a homeopathy website to court for claiming that the whooping cough vaccine is dangerous and ineffective. The consumer watchdog accuses Homeopathy Plus! of making misleading and deceptive statements that could lead to serious health risks for consumers.

Vaccine picture from Shutterstock

The ACCC was originally directed to the website by the medical profession, which objected to claims that homeopathic remedies are a proven and safe alternative to the current whooping cough vaccine. The ACCC is seeking an injunction to have the claims removed, as well as penalties against the company and individuals.

The ACCC claims that the material on the website could influence consumers to avoid the whooping cough vaccine and rely solely on a homeopathic approach for treatment. This is strongly discouraged by medical professionals.

“The combination of claims that the vaccine was ineffective and that the homeopathic remedies listed on the page were an alternative prevention and treatment regime elevated this matter to one of extreme concern,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in an earlier statement.

This is the second time Homeopathy Plus! has come under the ire of the ACCC. In 2012, the organisation was forced to remove similar statements about the whooping cough vaccine from its website.

The "alternative medicine" industry has been a regular target of the Australian health sector — in March 2012, the Medical Journal of Australia published a paper calling on universities to be more stringent about the kinds of medicinal courses they offer.

"Subjects such as acupuncture and chiropractic are claimed to treat a broad array of afflictions and are taught as such. The levels of evidence supporting these alternative beliefs are weak at best," the paper argued.


Comments

    Glad to see action being taken against this kind of misleading statements. I'd like to see further action against homeopathy given it has absolutely no medical value and is scamming people out of their money.

    For those not familiar homeopathy involves diluting an ingredient by as much as 1 in a billion or trillion. From Wiki

    The list of ingredients seen on remedies may confuse consumers into believing the product actually contains those ingredients. According to normal homeopathic practice, remedies are prepared starting with active ingredients that are often serially diluted to the point where the finished product no longer contains any biologically "active ingredients" as that term is normally defined.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy

      +1
      At best, homeopathic remedies are placebos. What's alarming is that people will use homeopathy rather than seeing a doctor, risking the ailment progressing.

        +2 maybe they should just shut down the whole site for making misleading statements.

      The only problem with the title is calling it "censoring", when they're really just forcing the correction of a factual error.

        Exactly. People have died because of homeopathy being pushed on them instead of traditional medical treatment. Chances are Steve Jobs would still be here today if he hadn't used natural therapies etc and gone to a real doctor for treatment sooner.

        And people wonder why children are suddenly dying of whooping cough again. If vaccination in the community falls too low it effects everyone not just those not being vaccinated.

    Watch as the homeoquack who runs the site, Francine, does absolutely nothing that has been ordered of her and in fact makes much worse claims than those that got her in trouble. That's all she has ever done when given orders by the TGA. Australian regulatory authorities are completely toothless and she knows it.

      The article does make the following claim;

      "The company has since removed the offending sections from its website."

      Can anyone provide linkage to counter this claim?

        I searched http://homeopathyplus.com.au/ for 'whooping cough vaccine' and found this:

        Oops! This Content is Members Only
        Looking for this content?
        It’s now in our free member’s area – just follow the link.
        Why has it been moved there?
        Some people think you shouldn’t know about homeopathy – especially in relation to this particular problem.
        They have lodged complaints with various government departments against Homeopathy Plus! and this website to stop the information entering the public domain.
        We think this behaviour is silly, short-sighted and against the public interest.
        It also makes it difficult for you to research potentially valuable information on homeopathy.
        So, to reduce the complaints and protect your access to information we have moved this “shocking” content to a free member’s area where you can still read it and form your own opinion.

        Proof that you can't keep a dumb-ass down. It's not actually removed, it's just been pay-walled.

        Last edited 21/02/13 6:32 pm

    Obviously bastardsheep is correct as the ACCC claimed a 'win' against the same site almost 12 months ago for the same issue, see http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1049609
    What pathetic toothless tigers Sims and the ACCC are that the same site can just go on and on peddling these lies and witchcraft that put people at serious health risk. What are you doing about it Gillard???

      exactly. It's a good start, but it;s not enough. If the demons (AFL) can be fined $500,000 for allegedly nothing surely this website can be fined a few hundred for placing lives in danger

      and yes, i know that the AFL doesn't have the power to fine random homeopathy websites.

    I like how if 'new wonder drugs' (think p#nis enlargement pills or erectile dysfunction sparys) are falsely advertised as a medical breakthrough then people rightly get upset and target the company/website as being fraudulent, not the entire medical industry.

    However whenever a company/website that has 'homeopathic, nauturopahthic, alternative prevention' in the title clearly does the wrong thing (suggesting a homeopathic treatment is a REPLACEMENT for immunisation...so very wrong) everyone jumps on the industry as a whole.

    This case is just another charlatan business/website owner people. Direct your anger at the website or the toothless ACCC. While 'natural remedies' cant solve all the worlds problems (neither can traditional medicine), they sure can help with prevention at times.

    As with any treatments YMMV.

      I direct my anger at the whole community of homeopathy practitioners because they will, in some cases, prevent or delay actual treatments from being pursued.

      Someone who claims homeopathy works? Or at least makes a claim it may.. Well those people do exist, but so do paid pr shrills too... This I think says everything that needs to be said..

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Homeopath

    Cue "it's a conspiracy! I know someone who got vaccinated and ... " in 3.. 2.. 1..

      I know someone who got vaccinated and never got polio, tuberculosis, measles, mumps, or rubella. It was awesome.

      Three cheers for herd immunity.

        Yay herd immunity! Keeping people too stupid to get immunised alive!

        This graphic shows it nicely:

        http://blogs-images.forbes.com/matthewherper/files/2013/02/c6fb5feb7f1ee71b7e725277d3099916.jpg

    I think if you perhaps take the time to read both articles, the one from 12 months ago did not state any penalties were being applied, only that the claims were removed. This time around it's different as the company has put the same claims back up. Now they will have to go to court and potentially receive heavy fines.

    Medical officials have already acknowledged that the current whooping cough vaccine is completely ineffective, not only in Australia but worldwide. Nobody has proved that the homeopathic alternative is ineffective, so the proper action would be to test it.
    Consumers are entitled to make their own choices, and in light of the failure of the vaccine, their other options are to try alternatives or do nothing. But it's their choice.
    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. No trial data does not equal "ineffective". It means no data.

      dude are you seriously suggesting that homeopathy is a valid alternative treatment? Can you provide examples of large scale clinical studies or systematic reviews/meta-analysis published in peer reviewed journals to back this statement? Cos Ive got quite a few examples of large scale articles which prove homeopathy rates of effectiveness are similar to placebos. Some examples below

      Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy. Linde K, Scholz M, Ramirez G, Clausius N, Melchart D, Jonas WB. J Clin Epidemiol. 1999;52(7):631

      A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. Ernst E. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2002;54(6):577.

      Randomized controlled trials of individualized homeopathy: a state-of-the-art review. Linde K, Melchart D. J Altern Complement Med. 1998;4(4):371

      Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy.
      Shang A, Huwiler-Müntener K, Nartey L, Jüni P, Dörig S, Sterne JA, Pewsner D, Egger M
      Lancet. 2005;366(9487):726.

      I've got another dozen or so large-scale studies which have been published in the past 10-15 years that I can list. But this should be a good read to start off with

        +1 Thank you for that comment, was about to blow my own brains out over the stupidity of the earlier comment.

        Anybody can cherry pick a few studies to support a claim of ineffectiveness. The largest meta-analysis to date was a health technology assessment for the Swiss government that concluded that homeopathy was not only effective but cost effective. Homeopathy is a covered service in Switzerland.
        Again it's a matter of personal choice.

          Why do you make it so easy for me to dissect and rebut your arguments.
          @ whatsamttayu I'm not cherry picking a 'few studies'. As I stated I have over a dozen large-scale studies (both RCTs and systematic reviews) which I can provide.

          There is a BIG difference between effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. A investigation which has generally speaking has a low specificity (e.g. ultrasound) may be cost-effective because it is cheap, not because it is the best investigation/test out there. An alternative investigation such as MRI would be far superior, but we don't do it for every single patient because of the costs and logistics. That does not mean it is effective. This is why have population based screening strategies to pick up any 'potential' patients, who undergo more thorough testing to exclude/diagnose disease with more sensitive tests. Homeopathy might be cost-effective because it is cheaper to tell people to drink sugar water (which is what basically homeopathy uses) than to get actual drugs which work.

          It can be a matter of personal choice, but when your 'choice' endangers the life of a child for whose welfare you are responsible for it becomes a matter of neglect, even abuse.

          What you also failed to mention is that the service in Switzerland is currently only on trial, with a further review to be done in 2017. Additionally, you also failed to mention that the first author on that report is Gudrun Bornhöft, a well-known advocate of homeopathy who is also the Chair in Medical Theory and Complementary Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany and PanMedion Foundation, Zurich. I'm sure the other authors have similar 'expertise' in the field of homeopathy. Conflict of interest much?

          Let me be clear on one thing, I'm not dissing alternative and complementary medicine as a whole. I think it is an emerging field of medicine that with better regulation and control shows promise. What I have a problem with is homeopathy, which cannot be explained scientifically or otherwise.

      Medical officials have already acknowledged that the current whooping cough vaccine is completely ineffective, not only in Australia but worldwide.
      No, they haven't. A quick search provides honest results of it not being 100% effective, which is expected. The only sites I can find that back your claim are scaremongering alt-med sites.
      Nobody has proved that the homeopathic alternative is ineffective, so the proper action would be to test it.
      Correct. If you knew anything about the scientific method you'd know that absolute statements like that are incredibly rarely used. As the post by @holdup shows though, there is so much quality evidence that they're no better than a similarly administered placebo that for all intents and purposes the layman can realisticly make the claim that they are ineffective.
      Consumers are entitled to make their own choices, and in light of the failure of the vaccine, their other options are to try alternatives or do nothing. But it's their choice.
      Correct. But Homeopathy Plus (and the industry in general) refuse to accept the facts and regularly put out misinformation to further their own agenda. If Homeopathy Plus was putting out factual information they would not be in this position.
      Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. No trial data does not equal "ineffective". It means no data.
      "No trial data"... So what you're saying is that homeopathic treatments are untested? Because that's where the trial data comes from. The testing.

      Can you not see the problem here?

      Homeopaths are peddling untested "treatments" using an ignorant public as unwilling test subjects.

      I'm sensing an ethics enquiry...

        The medical literature for the past 6 months has been full of acknowledgments that the whooping cough vaccine is a huge failure and health officials are at a loss to solve the problem. You obviously haven't been following this issue.
        Homeopathy is growing at a rate of over 20 per cent a year and is used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. It's the second largest medical system in existence worldwide.
        Homeopathic patients tend to be in the upper income and educational bracket -- "ignorant public" they're not. They obviously know something you don't.
        I'm sensing a propaganda campaign.

          "I'm sensing a propaganda campaign."
          better get that tin foil hat ready

          The medical literature for the past 6 months has been full of acknowledgments that the whooping cough vaccine is a huge failure and health officials are at a loss to solve the problem. You obviously haven't been following this issue.

          Citations needed. Specifically;
          * Citations from respected literature (because a quick search turned up what I described and didn't support your claim at all)
          * Citations that back up a claim of it being a "huge failure"
          * Citations from the actual health officials that support your claim that "health officials are at a loss to solve the problem"

          If "the medical literature for the past 6 months has been full of acknowledgments", as you claim, these citations should be easy for you to locate and link to. After all, to assert this position with such certainty, you must have read these yourself. Correct?

          Homeopathy is growing at a rate of over 20 per cent a year and is used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. It's the second largest medical system in existence worldwide.

          Again, citations needed. Please see the qualifiers above.

          Even if these statistics are true, an argument from popularity says nothing about whether it actually works.

          Homeopathic patients tend to be in the upper income and educational bracket -- "ignorant public" they're not. They obviously know something you don't.

          Again, citations needed. Please see the qualifiers above.

          To assert income and education is enough to remove you from the "ignorant public" shows a certain lack of understanding. I'd like to direct you to "Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time" by Michael Shermer.

          http://www.amazon.com/People-Believe-Weird-Things-Pseudoscience/dp/0805070893

          I'm sensing a propaganda campaign.

          Damnit. Need to retune the orbital mind control lasers...

          Hmm... You make the claims that this info is out there but when asked to prove it we're met with silence. Why is that not surprising?

    Scientific plausible mechanism of action of 'potentised high dilutions' in homeopathy
    They are able to stimulate the biological activity and restore the homeostatic mechanism
    http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/article/how-homeopathy-works/

      Wow... It took ages for the NancyBot to arrive.

      To the moderators: If you search for the entirety of Malik's post you'll find it all over the place. There's a large number of us that believe that this account is actually a bot that posts based of search engine hits.

      For everyone: Dave Briggs has taken the time to examine one of the NancyBots knowl posts (which looks similar to this one). It's and incredibly long slog but it is a really good single point of reference for many (the majority?) of the studies that she promotes.

      http://xtaldave.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/scientific-evidence-for-homeopathy-2/

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