How will we afford ear candling now?

In the aftermath of the budget, one set of cuts may have been missed. The government is looking to remove the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate for some “alternative” medicines and therapies that have no evidential support.

In the list are ear candling, Reiki, homoeopathy and aromatherapy. The government has appointed Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Baggoley to review the evidence for these therapies. He’s not going to find much, what evidence there is all suggest these therapies are ineffective.

Interestingly, this announcement seems to preempt the National Health and Medical Research Councils review of homoeopathic therapy.

The announcement coincided with an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association by internationally renowned vaccine expert Dr. Paul Offit on the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (the full article is here and requires a subscription, but there is a free interview and podcast available). Specifically set up by CAM enthusiasts to test CAM, it has singularly failed to find effective CAM therapies. As Dr. Offit says:

“NCCAM officials have spent $374 000 to find that inhaling lemon and lavender scents does not promote wound healing; $750 000 to find that prayer does not cure AIDS or hasten recovery from breast-reconstruction surgery; $390 000 to find that ancient Indian remedies do not control type 2 diabetes; $700 000 to find that magnets do not treat arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or migraine headaches; and $406 000 to find that coffee enemas do not cure pancreatic cancer”.

If even an institute specifically set up to find effective CAM therapies can’t find them, the Australian Governments' review will be relentlessly negative.

Unfortunately, other CAM therapies such as acupuncture are exempted from the review.

For aficionados of ear candling, none of these therapies will be banned, you just have to pay for them yourself without getting an insurance rebate from the government.