Evidence supporting the use of complementary medicine to relieve menopausal symptoms is lacking, with a systematic review finding many beneficial treatment effects were attributable to placebo. The review of 70 studies examined the effect of protein, vitamin, diet and biological treatments, as well as various body therapies, on relief of menopause symptoms and concluded the quality of evidence supporting the treatments was lacking. [...] Leading gynaecological endocrinologist Dr Susan Davis said women were being misled by claims that nutritional supplements relieved menopausal symptoms. Professor Davis, director of the women's health program at the Alfred Hospital in Victoria, said the Therapeutic Goods Administration should review claims about many of the products. [...] "These products are a licence to make money on flimsy evidence and it's not fair because the community is misled," she said.
Is anyone suprised at these findings? It seems the whole of alternative medicine is based on little or no evidence, an over reliance on poor or minimal studies, and a heavy dependence on the placebo effect. Of the menopausal therapies studied, black cohosh showed some effect in improving vasomotor symptoms (in one study, three others found no effect). Therapies such as mind-body, energy, manipulative and Chinese or Ayurvedic medicine "showed little benefit". Other, presumably, than the benefit to the practitioners' income streams.
Regardless of the fact that one study found soy users increased their risk of endometrial hyperplasia, and users of black cohosh is associated with liver toxicity, the alties see no conceivable harm in their treatments.
Sydney Menopause Centre director Associate Professor John Eden said herbal treatments were safer than drugs and should not have to face the same testing.
Far be it from an old stuffed donkey to naysay an Associate Professor, but herbal treatments are drugs. But it's so much easier when you know the result a priori (ie "herbs are safe"). Obviously, you don't need to do the testing under those presumptions. Professor Eden also bemoans the cost of running studies, claiming
"Only the pharmaceutical industry can afford to spend that sort of money."
Strangely, elsewhere in the same issue it is claimed that fish oil supplements alone are worth $40 million a year (and fish oil use is also based on incomplete studies). The rest of altie medicine is a multimillion dollar enterprise.
And the issue also includes a report on a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner in New South Wales who was fined $12,000 for her traditional treatment of a woman's haemorrhoids (she tied silk "soaked in a traditional Chinese preparation" around the haemorrhoid, reassuring her hapless victim that it would drop off in about five days - when the tissue turned necrotic the woman spent 10 days in hospital). So much for "traditional", "gentle", "noninvasive", "safe", and "effective" being synonyms in the altie dictionary. Though at least they saved space by removing the words "gullible" and "study" from the dictionary.