Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Australia: Alarm bells sound on registration of Chinese medicine

I am a great believer that all therapeutic claims should be thoroughly investigated on an equal basis but the proposals below are not too bad.  There is no doubt that there is some therapeutic value in Chinese medicine.  I once resorted to it myself with beneficial results.  Where I grew up you went to a doctor when you were sick  -- but if you were REALLY sick you went to a Chinese herbalist

THE federal government's decision to register Chinese medical practitioners in the same way as other health professionals is a potentially dangerous endorsement of unproven treatments, doctors say.

From July 1, it will be mandatory for practitioners and students to be registered with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, which will also manage complaints and disciplinary processes as well as assessing practitioners trained overseas who wish to practice in Australia.

Registered individuals must commit to maintaining and developing their skills and spending at least 20 hours a year in training, according to standards agreed in January. They must also meet a minimum English language requirement and have professional indemnity cover to the value of at least $5 million in liability.

But a respiratory medicine specialist, Hubertus Jersmann, said it risked misleading patients, who were likely to believe that practitioners' registration was comparable to that of doctors.

"Registration gives people legitimacy," said Associate Professor Jersmann, of Royal Adelaide Hospital. "In the eyes of the public they sound exactly like a GP" who had undertaken 11 years of general and specialist training.

Regulation could help to weed out unacceptable practices, said Professor Jersmann, who has co-authored an article on the issue in today's Medical Journal of Australia.

But this had to be balanced against the risk of giving tacit government support to a field that was not supported by scientific evidence gained through rigorously controlled clinical trials.

"If research is conducted that shows it works, we'd welcome that. We're not emotionally opposed to it," said Professor Jersmann, who wrote the article with a neurophysiologist, Marcello Costa.

Chinese medicine practitioners often argue their therapies have the virtue of a long history of accepted use. But, Professor Jersmann said, "the length of time is immaterial. Where is the evidence people haven't died? We want certainty whether it works or not."

The chairman of the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia, Charlie Xue, has previously defended the new standards, saying they were set "following extensive consultation with practitioners and other stakeholders". The board has called on practitioners to apply promptly for registration to meet the deadline.

Mandatory registration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners, medical radiation practitioners and occupational therapists will also start from July, through boards established under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.


Fat can PREVENT diabetes: Gene found in cells that could protect against the condition


A gene that could help protect against diabetes has been found in fat cells, scientists say.  It shows that the body's ability to regulate blood sugar can actually be improved by the presence of body fat, according to U.S. researchers.

Professor Ulf Smith, president of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, called the finding 'really exciting'.

The gene resists type 2 diabetes by converting glucose sugar into fatty acids and boosting sensitivity to insulin, which regulates the blood sugar.

For most obese people, levels of sugar rise too much because it is prevented from entering fat cells.  But a team from Boston in the U.S. found that if they increased levels of a 'glucose transporter' gene in obese mice, it allowed more sugar into their fat cells and protected against the condition.

Sugar in fat cells triggered a response from the gene - called ChREBP - that regulated insulin sensitivity throughout the body, according to the Daily Express.

Nearly three million people in the UK suffer from diabetes, and a further 850,000 have it without knowing.  Most have type 2 diabetes, with around 2.5million suffering from the illness, which can cause strokes, heart attacks and blindness.  It normally develops during middle age from obesity or an unhealthy lifestyle.

'The general concept that all fat is bad is not true,' said lead researcher at Harvard Medical School, Dr Mark Herman.

'Obesity is commonly associated with metabolic dysfunction that puts people at higher risk for diabetes, stroke and heart disease, but there is a large percentage of obese people who are metabolically healthy.'

The scientists, whose findings were published in the journal Nature, found that - conversely - normal weight mice missing the transporter gene developed diabetic symptoms.

Previous research has shown that the gene is more active in those whose bodies had a better sugar balance.


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