Thursday, January 08, 2015

Lasers, Smoking, and Why Hospitals Need to be More than Just Landlords

Last month I had a meeting at the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus. On my way through the hospital I passed by something called the Omega Laser Stop Smoking Clinic. According to their literature,
"laser therapy treatment is a non-invasive method used to balance the energy flow between meridians",
and is reported by them to work in a manner comparable to acupuncture on smoking cessation.

Look to the medical literature on both acupuncture and laser therapy for smoking cessation and you'll likely find your way to a 2014 Cochrane review on both which among their findings note that,
"Acupuncture was less effective than nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and not shown to be better than counselling.",
and regarding the use of lasers,
"The evidence from two trials using laser stimulation was inconsistent. The seven trials of electrostimulation do not suggest evidence of benefit compared to sham electrostimulation"
That this clinic operates out of the Ottawa Hospital is especially odd given the adjacent Ottawa Heart Institute is home to Dr. Andrew Pipe, who is justifiably described as one of the world's foremost experts on smoking cessation (and he definitely doesn't advocate for the use of lasers).

But it gets stranger.

According to the literature I picked up in the clinic, for an extra $100 (on top of the $300 treatment cost) Omega Laser,
"will target an extra set of acupuncture points which will boost your metabolism as well as help to suppress your appetite."
and according to their voice message they also provide a bottle of "True Craving" described as
"supplements which will help you to reduce your sugar and carbs in your body".
Which of course is just nonsense.

This all leaves me scratching my head.

Should hospitals be providing a tacit health halo to practices and products that don't have an evidence base to support them? Don't hospitals have a responsibility to the public to be more than just landlords?