Dear Guardian, Osteopathy is not an effective treatment for asthma or pneumonia

This Monday, the Guardian published an article regarding the supposed benefits of osteopathy for treating asthma and pneumonia. Although I know other people have complained about this (see here and here), I was genuinely appalled and felt I should put in complaints of my own. (Though I must also point out that in between my complaints being sent and me posting this, the Guardian have published this informative (online) take-down.)

I believe Monday’s article was inaccurate, misleading and a blatant piece of advertising. I have therefore complained to the Advertising Standards Authority and the Press Complaints Commission.

I also wrote to lifeandstyle.editor@guardianunlimited.co.uk and reader@guardian.co.uk to say:

I write to express concern at an article published in yesterday’s Guardian entitled ‘The inside track on osteopathy’, which strongly implied that osteopathy may be used as an effective treatment for asthma and pneumonia. Since this is not the case, I find the article of great concern.

As far as I’m aware, there is no robust scientific evidence to demonstrate the benefit of osteopathy in treating either asthma or pneumonia. A Cochrane review of manual forms of therapy (eg osteopathy) as a treatment for asthma concluded that ‘there is insufficient evidence to support the use of manual therapies for patients with asthma’.

Yesterday’s article mentions a study where ‘elderly patients who received osteopathic treatment after being admitted to hospital with pneumonia needed less antibiotics and recovered more quickly’. After having read this study, I do not believe this is true. The paper shows that patients who received osteopathic treatment did not recover any more quickly or receive ‘less antibiotics’ than the control group. Both (osteopathy & control) groups fared very slightly better (in terms of length of hospital stay and duration of antibiotic treatment) than those receiving only conventional care. This could have been down to either the placebo effect or to the expectations of hospital staff (who would have been making decisions regarding length of stay and antibiotic treatment).

Osteopathy has been shown to be effective for some conditions (such as back pain). It is therefore sometimes used within conventional medicine and has a better reputation that most other complementary therapies. It is therefore likely that someone reading an article such as this in a reputable newspaper such as the Guardian would be inclined to believe it. To many readers, this lends undeserved credibility to osteopaths such as Ben Katz. To sceptical readers such as myself, I feel this is article is damaging to the reputation of the Guardian.

Asthma and pneumonia are both serious conditions which require conventional medical treatment. Although I do not believe the article was suggesting otherwise, I feel the Guardian should take seriously any article regarding them and do some simple fact-checking before running a story. It was not difficult for me to find the papers showing a lack of evidence for osteopathy as a suitable treatment for either of the conditions mentioned.

As the article was clearly and uncritically promoting Ben Katz, I believe it was a form of advertising. I also believe the article was making misleading and unsubstantiated claims. I have therefore complained to the Advertising Standards Authority.

Since I do not think you have taken adequate care not to publish inaccurate and misleading information, I therefore believe the article was in breach of the Press Complaints Commission Editors’ Codes for Accuracy. I will be submitting a complaint to the PCC shortly.

I have provided links below to the article itself and the papers I have mentioned.

I look forward to your response.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jun/13/health-and-wellbeing

http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab001002.html

http://www.om-pc.com/content/pdf/1750-4732-4-2.pdf

18 responses to “Dear Guardian, Osteopathy is not an effective treatment for asthma or pneumonia

  1. Excellent and carefully worded response.

    You’ll be amused to know Google shows me an ad for an osteopath underneath it🙂

  2. Fantastically well written piece Josephine!

  3. Pingback: Dear Trading Standards, I think colloidal silver is being sold illegally all over the place. Please help. | Josephine Jones

  4. If any ads for osteopaths appear alongside this blog, I suggest you check them for misleading and unsubstantiated claims and report them to the ASA!

  5. Excellent letter, hope it gets good response

  6. Tim Lusher, Deputy Features Editor of the Guardian posted a comment about the Osteopathy article on Wednesday under the follow up article written by Martin Robbins. His comment annoyed me (and others), prompting more criticism. His initial response to this was to direct complainants to the Readers Editor. I tweeted him again last night (expecting a similar, professional response) and his reply angered and upset me.

    I have since posted comments on the Guardian site (http://lay.si/80) and on the Bad Science forum (http://www.badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=24127).

    My latest comment on the Guardian (which to my surprise has not been deleted):

    “Since Tim Lusher had replied to me on Twitter on Wednesday night, I decided that perhaps if I tweeted him, I might get an answer about why he hasn’t responded to criticisms of his comment above. So I sent him the following messages:

    “@timlusher People are wondering why you are not responding to their comments on @mjrobbins osteo/asthma piece…”

    “http://lay.si/80 @timlusher People have been very critical of your comment & are wondering why you haven’t responded..?”

    He replied:

    “@DrDaddyDolphin We publish about 4000 articles a day on the Guardian website This was one tiny 260-word column. I have commented.”

    I did not believe this had answered my question so I replied:

    “.@timlusher The article prompted several complaints & PCC involvement. You commented, people were unhappy with the comment. Your response..?”

    To which he responded:

    “@DrDaddyDolphin I object to your bullying, self-righteous melisramatic tone, so I don’t intend to respond further. Get perspective.””

  7. Pingback: Dear Guardian, I am hugely disappointed in you | Josephine Jones

  8. Pingback: Guardian not speaking to me due to PCC Protocol. PCC contact away until 27th June. Offending article still online. | Josephine Jones

  9. Well done, tell the nasty man to piss off and go and get a flu jab. These responses are magic JJ, has it occurred to you that you might not be as right as you think you are.

  10. Sorry man should have been woman, unless you are a lady boy then that makes it more complicated, nothing at all wrong with either option but it is not clear that JJ is in fact a lady.

  11. Nothing shows the shallowness of your side better than good ol’ fashioned misogyny. We can see right through you, little troll. Go and have your stupid giggles elsewhere.

  12. Nah seriously sometimes people pretend to alter their gender so it looks more softy/hard. So Matt do you think JJ should be telling WHS what they can sell or do you think the public are so shit witted they musn’t see writing that shows up scams like swine flu, vaccinations per se and a whole host of modern medical woo that needs shooting down.

    What’s the up Matt?

    I mean seriously in this modern age you don’t believe all that flu vaccine/pandemic crap do you?

  13. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIjm9w_-tNY
    Naughty, removing related links. So matt did you have a flu jab and ignore the EBM for it’s non existent efficacy or are you a vaccine believer?

    • For the record, I haven’t edited or deleted any comments. I haven’t removed any links, nor have I found any in my spam.

      I would be happy to take part in reasoned debate but I do not intend to engage with trolls.

  14. come on JJ let’s hear some feedback, you’ve gone all quiet in your crisis meeting are you checking out pubmed for some orthomantra, bit lost for words aren’t we, not very good at blogging either.

    Did you have a flu jab out of interest?

  15. Well done JJ the church of science silences the critics, it’s the only way you can survive. Flu jab lol at least you guys are ramping up the mercury. So did you have a flu jab and if so what was your EBM rational for making this woo decision when the evidence says absolutely no.

  16. One always knows that when the moderation option kicks in that the septics are running round like headless chickens trying to keep the PR going. I love you guys, it’s like hassling the JW but more fun cos you take the bait everytime and run and run.

    So don’t avoid the question JJ, did you have a flu jab, you have a duty to tell us.

    YOur moderation is awaiting comment so get your finger out and stop playing chicken. Did you see the case against Burzyski got dropped a couple of days ago.

  17. This i snot a matter of opinion and your allegations against the efficacy of Osteopathy in treating asthma and pneumonia just witness the extent of your ignorance on the matter. If you’d like scientific evidence, you could have looked, for example, at this:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11213665

    Or are you more interested in denigrating a valuable form of healthcare of which you know nothing?

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