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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 16045

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.

 

Publication type: news

Cresswell A.
GPs anti-ageing 'academy' attacked
The Australian 2009 Jul 21
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,25811718-23289,00.html


Full text:

AUSTRALIA’S biggest doctors college is under fire for its decision to endorse an anti-ageing “academy” that promises doctors they can boost their incomes by more than $100,000 a year if they adopt its techniques.

The move by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners to appoint the AustralAsian Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine as an “accredited provider” of education sessions for doctors has been slammed by some GPs and health experts, who claim it represents a creeping commercialisation of medical teaching.

The academy defines anti-ageing medicine as being about the “early detection, prevention and treatment of age-related dysfunction and disease”, and includes among its “five pillars” widely accepted approaches such as the encouragement of better exercise habits, improved diet and the avoidance of stress.

But its website promotes some techniques that many doctors regard with scepticism, such as dietary supplements, “cosmeceuticals” to repair DNA in skin cells and “detox solutions”.

The academy’s website also has a strong commercial focus, promising doctors they can “inject new life into your business” by making a “small investment” of $15,000 to switch to anti-ageing medicine, which in turn “could result in increased gross income (of) $115,000”.

The RACGP oversees the ongoing education system for GPs, called continuing professional development. The college’s decision to make the academy an accredited provider for CPD means GPs attending the academy’s education events will earn CPD points, which count towards the target GPs need to amass every three years to remain eligible for higher Medicare rebates.

The RACGP charges fees that can exceed $5000 for each education provider it accredits in this way, although the college could not confirm what fee was charged to the academy.

Jon Jureidini, chairman of the Healthy Skepticism group that aims to monitor and challenge questionable health marketing practices, said the college’s decision to award accreditation to the academy “seems bizarre”.

“It seems they haven’t even had a cursory look at the organisation … there’s no pretence here (on the academy’s website) of providing independent scientific information,” he said.

A Perth GP said the CPD system had been “corrupted” by commercial interests and the RACGP “should tidy up their game”.

Some GPs defended the college, saying much of the academy’s approach was uncontroversial, and that anti-ageing medicine was a popular topic that GPs needed to understand.

RACGP president Chris Mitchell said the college had strict rules banning commercial influences in education, and it “can and has withdrawn” CPD accreditation from organisations where these rules were found to have been broken.

“The RACGP has not received any complaints about the program offered by the AustralAsian Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine,” he said.

The academy’s president, Sydney cosmetic surgeon Michael Zacharia, said all the academy’s teachings were backed up by science and defended the organisation’s commmercial focus: “If I can show people that there’s a way of making a bit of extra money out of your profession, I don’t see any problem with that.”

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said she supported the CPD program, adding she “would expect that our professional bodies would ensure that this is a high standard and not influenced by commercial considerations of organisations”.

 

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There is no sin in being wrong. The sin is in our unwillingness to examine our own beliefs, and in believing that our authorities cannot be wrong. Far from creating cynics, such a story is likely to foster a healthy and creative skepticism, which is something quite different from cynicism.”
- Neil Postman in The End of Education