Naturopaths still making 'unacceptable' number of dubious claims face minimum $500 fines

B.C.'s naturopathic college is promising immediate action against practitioners who make false claims and spread anti-vaccination disinformation after finding an "unacceptable" number of violations of its policies.

College says too many naturopaths are violating advertising policy, putting self-regulation at risk

The College of Naturopathic physicians of B.C. says it's stepping up enforcement action against practitioners who violate advertising policies. (Shutterstock)

B.C.'s naturopathic college is promising immediate action against practitioners who make false claims and spread anti-vaccination disinformation after finding an "unacceptable" number of violations of its policies.

The regulator says it's giving every naturopath in the province until Monday to make sure all public materials comply with college advertising policy and other  bylaws. After that, everyone who is found to be in violation will be referred immediately to the college's inquiry committee for investigation and discipline.

"At minimum, it is expected that the inquiry committee will seek fines of $500 per infraction in addition to other sanctions," the College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. says in a notice posted on its website.

Naturopaths who continue to break the rules are putting self-regulation of their profession at risk, according to the college.

The enforcement drive follows CBC reporting last year on three naturopaths who have offered a homeopathic treatment for autistic children called CEASE therapy — "complete elimination of autism spectrum expression."

In response, the college banned the treatment in May, saying the name alone implied "inaccurate" and "unverifiable" claims. College registrar Howard Greenstein also asked all B.C. naturopaths to immediately review their websites and social media for violations of advertising policies and rules for discussing immunization.

'College staff continue to find advertising infractions'

Since then, the college says many naturopaths have complied and brought themselves in line with provincial law.

"Unfortunately — and with unacceptable frequency — college staff continue to find advertising infractions," the college says in its enforcement notice.

Those violations include advertising services that naturopaths are not certified to provide, false claims about the effects of treatment and claims of specialization. College policy also forbids naturopaths from including patient testimonials on their websites and advising against immunization without a sound, documented medical rationale specific to the patient.

College policy forbids naturopaths from spreading anti-vaccination materials. ( Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The college says it's up to each naturopath to review all its marketing and social media and ignorance is not an acceptable excuse from breaking the rules.

"These registrants are placing self-regulation, a privilege that gives naturopathic physicians direct involvement in how the profession is regulated, at risk," the notice says.

"When naturopathic services are misrepresented and/or professional and ethical standards are disregarded, strong regulatory sanctions are required, if the profession is to maintain self-regulation."

The enforcement drive follows similar action from the B.C. College of Chiropractors, which began a crackdown on misleading claims late last year.

Fifty chiropractors in this province refused to remove unproven claims from their advertising and websites about treating everything from autism to cancer and were referred to the college's inquiry committee for investigation and possible discipline.

Meanwhile, one of the naturopaths who was under investigation for providing CEASE therapy has surrendered her registration. Victoria's Anke Zimmermann gave up her licence in November, pledging to continue working as a homeopath and advising parents against vaccination.

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