In the wake of the green-lipped mussel debacle, the Australian Menopause Society (AMS) convened an expert panel of doctors to discuss controversial areas of menopausal medicine. Alternative therapies are a boom industry in Australia and New Zealand (worth in excess of $1 billion in Australia) with menopausal women the highest users.
There have been few randomised trials examining the impact of those medicines. Evening primrose oil and Dong Quai have both been shown to be ineffectual. Women should be warned that no alternative therapy has been shown to provide any protection against osteoporosis (thinning of bone), and women using it should be encouraged to have regular bone density testing.
The AMS says that many alternative therapies claiming to offer benefits to menopausal women contain extracts of isoflavone, found in soy beans and red clover. The argument in favour of this is that in Asia, India and South America, where soy products are the main protein source, women experience fewer menopausal symptoms. However, the link remains unproven, and no clinical trials have shown beneficial effect.
Finally the AMS condemns the extensive promotion of progesterone and Wild Yam creams for menopause symptoms. Again there is lack of proof of efficacy.
In fact, Dr Barbara Gross, principal scientist at the Sydney Menopause Centre goes further. She says “given the present state of knowledge…it is unethical to promote the use of a progesterone cream alone for treatment of a serious disorder such as osteoporosis”.
Strong stuff. It’s a pity the New Zealand Medical Council doesn’t take a similar, public stand against quackery. Their president, Dr Tony Baird, said in GP on 16 June, “Alternative treatments should be subject to scientific testing no less rigorous than that required for conventional treatments.”
I wrote in the same publication on 14 July that these brave words are useless without action, and that the council has done nothing to stop the awful proliferation of quackery.
It was quite worrying to see another letter on this by respected Hamilton GP Bill Reeder on 11 August calling my letter “emotional outpouring” saying that present conventional methods were once unconventional. Presumably he thinks that all present quackeries will one day become conventional. And that from a GP of 30 years’ experience. Is there any hope for any of us?
Quack Of The Month
This issue’s shining heroine exposed herself in NZ Doctor magazine on 21 July 1999. She is one Monika Clark-Grill, whose Nelson practice sign reads “general practice and homeopathy”. It’s like someone claiming to be an astrophysicist and astrologer, and is quite ridiculous. Like many of her ilk, she felt as a student that “traditional medicine never had all the answers”. This implies that conventional doctors believe it has. More nonsense.
She says she took postgraduate training in Austria in homeopathy. This lends her some assumed specialist status. Nonsense again, no such training is recognised here. “I’m a doctor foremost,” she says. This is dangerous. It is the perfect deception for a vulnerable public. “She must know what she’s doing, she’s a doctor,” many will think.
She actually concedes that some of her patients think homeopathy is absolute quackery. At least she’s honest about that. She says homeopathy works by “stimulating the organism to bring it into balance but what actually happens is not known…it doesn’t make sense scientifically but it might make sense in quantum theory thinking”.
What utter bunkum! She then describes the way sick organisms recognise the infinitely diluted ingredients of homeopathic medicine. Hopefully her patients will recognise a sick doctor when they see one.