Alternative medicine

The French platform Doctolib accused of “promoting alternative medicine”

French online medical platform Doctolib has been accused of promoting alternative medicine and practitioners after users found appointments there for naturopaths offering “leaf extracts” as a remedy.

Doctolib is accessible to health professionals whose activity is governed by the Public Health Code, and is also open to osteopaths and psychologists.

However, the platform can also be used by professionals whose activity falls under the “wellness” category. These practitioners may not be regulated or recognized by the state and may be able to charge a wider range of fees for their care.

This “wellness” category has been disputed.

Tristan Mendès-France, lecturer at the University of Paris, told the Parisian that Doctolib has taken on an “institutional vocation [trustworthy] air” since participating in the Covid-19 vaccination appointment crisis. And yet, some alternative practitioners offer unproven or controversial services.

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For example, users can currently book an appointment for a hypnosis session, a naturopath appointment, a sophrology appointment, a ‘neurofeedback’ session (the latter is described as helping the user to control its neural activity), or a naturopath appointment that invites you to drink your own urine.

In its defense, Doctolib said it is not for it to “decide” or take sides in the debates surrounding alternative medicine.

In a Tweet, it indicates that only “3% of its users practice a ‘well-being’ or ‘medico-social’ activity. Their activity is legal, but they are of course not health professionals. Appointments with these practitioners represent only 0.3% of appointments made with Doctolib.

He added: “Society is changing and… some patient associations promote access to complementary therapies. We consider that it is not the role of Doctolib to settle these debates.

She specifies that the website clearly indicates when “the practitioner exercises an unregulated profession” and when “his diploma is not recognized by the State”.

The platform said it would investigate user reports claiming unscrupulous practitioners were operating on the site, including a Tweet alleging a naturopath offered treatments such as “barley grass juice”. and “leaf extract”.

Suspension of naturopaths

On August 22, Doctolib declared that it had banned from its site the profiles of certain naturopaths who allegedly had links with Irène Grosjean and Thierry Casasnovas, two influential online personalities accused of having “sectarian” and sectarian qualities, and whose practices have been widely discredited.

The platform has confirmed that it has blocked users from booking with 17 of these practitioners, whose training mentions these two very controversial names.

Irène Grosjean has notably been accused of promoting unscientific or even illegal practices, while Thierry Casasnovas is currently the subject of a criminal investigation for “illegal practice of medicine”.

Although he has no recognized medical training, he is said to have pushed some patients to abandon their existing medications for serious illnesses, including some patients who were encouraged to abandon cancer treatment.

Doctolib also invites users to report any profile promoting the illegal practice of medicine.

Controversy over alternative medicine in France

Alternative medicine is controversial in France.

Judges investigated several cases in 2021, including the death of a 44-year-old woman who was paying €1,000 a week for fasting treatment at a Loire chateau. She was found dead in her room after not drinking water for several days.

The prefect ordered the closure of the course and a judge from Tours is investigating a possible manslaughter.

The naturopath who conducted the course denied any involvement in the death and said the only explanation was her vaccination against Covid.

Read more: Alternative medicine alert following two deaths in France

Participants told French media that they drank only water during the fast and that a man was taken to hospital after he stopped taking medication for his diabetes.

In a separate case, the widow of a 41-year-old man who died of testicular cancer has sued a naturopath who advised the man to stop chemotherapy treatments and resort to ‘natural’ treatments such as fasts and purges.

The naturopath faced a Paris court for “illegal practice of medicine and usurpation of the work of a doctor”.

“Charlatans leading a cult”

At the time, Claire Cavelier, spokeswoman for LaFéna, a federation of eight naturopathic training schools that offers its own 1,200-hour training, said that trustworthy and ethical naturopaths would never encourage such practices. .

She said: “There is huge interest in naturopathy at the moment which has unfortunately attracted many charlatans or aspiring gurus into the field as there are no regulations in France. You could buy a plaque in brass with your name and “naturopath” on it today, and be open for business tomorrow.

“Charging €1,000 a week for fasting treatment, or telling people to ignore a doctor’s prescription, is not something a naturopath should do and is an example of the practice of quackery, and could even be classified as leading a cult.”

Naturopathy, which seeks to establish balance in the body through “natural” means, is recognized as traditional medicine by the World Health Organization and is regulated in Germany, Portugal and Switzerland. In France, naturopaths are prohibited from making diagnoses or prescribing medication.

Ms Cavelier said she would like to see similar regulations in France to other European countries, saying ‘cases like the ones we had this summer always slow or reverse the progress we have made’.

Naturopaths say they encourage people to undertake treatments such as diet change, fasting, herbal medicine (using plants, often in herbal teas or tinctures), massage, yoga or exercise to improve health, and say that diseases can only be understood by searching deeply. the root causes and treat them.

Homeopathy was previously reimbursed up to 30% by the French State, but in 2021, this was stopped.

The change was made after the High Authority for Health (HAS) – together with the then Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn – ruled that homeopathic remedies were not effective enough to be eligible for medical reimbursement of the State.

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