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Selling falsehoods? A cross-sectional study of Canadian naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture clinic website claims relating to allergy and asthma
  1. Blake Murdoch1,
  2. Stuart Carr2,
  3. Timothy Caulfield1,3
  1. 1Health Law Institute, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3Law Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Timothy Caulfield; caulfield{at}ualberta.ca

Abstract

Objective To identify the frequency and qualitative characteristics of marketing claims made by Canadian chiropractors, naturopaths, homeopaths and acupuncturists relating to the diagnosis and treatment of allergy and asthma.

Design Cross-sectional study.

Setting Canada.

Data set 392 chiropractic, naturopathic, homeopathic and acupuncture clinic websites located in 10 of the largest metropolitan areas in Canada, as identified using 400 Google search results. Duplicates were not excluded from data analysis.

Main outcome measures Mention of allergy, sensitivity or asthma, claim of ability to diagnose allergy, sensitivity or asthma, claim of ability to treat allergy, sensitivity or asthma, and claim of allergy, sensitivity or asthma treatment efficacy. Tests and treatments promoted were noted as qualitative examples.

Results Naturopath clinic websites have the highest rates of advertising at least one of diagnosis, treatment or efficacy for allergy or sensitivity (85%) and asthma (64%), followed by acupuncturists (68% and 53%, respectively), homeopaths (60% and 54%) and chiropractors (33% and 38%). Search results from Vancouver, British Columbia were most likely to advertise at least one of diagnosis, treatment or efficacy for allergy or sensitivity (72.5%) and asthma (62.5%), and results from London, Ontario were least likely (50% and 40%, respectively). Of the interventions advertised, few are scientifically supported; the majority lack evidence of efficacy, and some are potentially harmful.

Conclusions The majority of alternative healthcare clinics studied advertised interventions for allergy and asthma. Many offerings are unproven. A policy response may be warranted in order to safeguard the public interest.

  • naturopathy
  • acupuncture
  • homeopathy
  • chiropractic

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

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Footnotes

  • Contributors TC and BM conceived the study, designed the methods and coordinated data collection. BM and TC wrote the first draft of the paper. SC contributed to the writing of the paper. All authors critically revised the manuscript and approved the final version.

  • Funding The authors thank AllerGen NCE (the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network), a member of the Networks of Centres of Excellence Canada programme, as well as the Trudeau Foundation for funding this research.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The Excel data set is available from corresponding author on request.

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