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At the heart of general practice since 1960

The General Chiropractic Council and its retracted claim

Simon Perry is a well-known and relentless campaigner against pseudo-science.

Simon Perry is a well-known and relentless campaigner against pseudo-science.

Recently he complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about claims made in a patient information leaflet published by the UK General Chiropractic Council (GCC). The passage in question read as follows:

There is some evidence, though more research is needed, that you may see an improvement in some types of:

• asthma

• headaches, including migraine and

• infant colic

As a result of Perry's action, the GCC withdrew the leaflet. It was amended and has been republished with the following wording.

A review is being carried out of the evidence as to whether chiropractic may ease some of the symptoms of some types of:

  • asthma
  • headaches, including migraine and
  • infant colic

This move seems important in several ways. It means that the GCC probably realized that the original claims were not based on sound data – if not they would only had to provide the evidence and the ASA could have evaluated it. This tacit admission might now influence several current disputes around chiropractic.

The GCC is presently dealing with about 600 complaints against chiropractors making claims of the types listed above. Having more or less admitted that they are not supported by evidence, the GCC could have to discipline all of these 600 individuals. Similarly, it may well impact on the high-profile Simon Singh case.

I think there might be a lesson in all this. The best advice for the future is, I think, to abstain from making unsubstantiated claims in the first place. This saves all the legal hassle and – crucially – does not put patients at risk.

Editor's note

Pulse contacted the General Chiropractic Council for its response to this column.

Margaret Coats, chief executive, confirmed that the council had 'amended the wording [of the patient information leaflet] in consultation with the ASA'.

She declined to make any comment on the council's 'regulatory business'.

Professor Edzard Ernst Professor Edzard Ernst

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