Sense About Science launches guide to challenge ‘miracle cures’

Posted on September 16, 2013 by


A new guide I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it launches today to help people weigh up claims about bogus treatments and ‘miracle cures’. Sarah Mehta from Sense About Science tell us how medical research charities fed into the guide.

Sense About Science has collaborated with medical charities, patients, carers and doctors on the guide, as a new tool for exploring the pitfalls and dangers of unproven treatments.

Medical research charities who supported the project, including the MS Society and Cancer Research UK, wanted to have something to help with the challenge of ‘bogus therapies’ and misinformation. They were worried about the consequences of patients with long-term or chronic conditions chasing ‘false hope’, being exposed to crippling financial and emotional costs, and potentially risking serious harm  to their health by trying unproven treatments.

Julia Wilson, Director of Research, explains why the guide is a useful for her team at Breakthrough Breast Cancer:

There’s a lot of health information out there, but not all of it useful, helpful or safe, so this unique guide will navigate patients and their families through the wealth of complimentary therapies, and enable them to sort the sensible from the spurious.

We know that many women with breast cancer try complementary therapies to help with the side effects of their treatment; it’s important that they are able to make informed choices about treatments they know to be safe and effective, and make decisions that are right for them, which is where this guide will prove invaluable.

The guide has been designed to explore some of the common challenges faced by people with conditions such as diabetes, asthma and motor neurone disease. Many clinics use aggressive marketing to sell false hope to people at their most vulnerable – selecting the best testimonials, using pseudo-science, and even posing as patients in online forums – making costly unfounded treatment claims. People can spend as much as tens of thousands of pounds for unproven treatments.

With so many press articles and web pages about dementia, it can be difficult for people to understand what has good evidence behind it and what doesn’t,

says Jess Smith, Research communications officer at the Alzheimer’s Society.

This guide is a great way to help people to assess the benefits of what they read about.

The guide addresses the difficulty of how hard it can be to say ‘no’ when family and friends with the best of intentions are pressuring you to try things despite a lack of evidence. People with conditions like Parkinson’s and epilepsy explain in their own words the risks of stepping into the unknown, and encourage other people to ask questions about the evidence behind claims.

Download the guide

Sense About Science is a UK charity that equips people to make sense of evidence and campaigns for sound science and evidence in public life.




Posted in: Policy