3 examples why health professionals should be online

It was an interesting week to say the least. I was so sorry to hear about the death of 21-year Eloise Parru, who accidentally took an overdose of slimming pills she purchased online. The pills contained a dangerous substance, dinitrophenol or DNP.

The amount of online advertising of drugs and medical devices is overwhelming. Unfortunately buying medications over the internet is a risky business. They can be fake, contain too much or too little of the active ingredient, or they may contain toxic chemicals. There is no doctor or pharmacist to give reliable advice on how to take the drugs and what adverse reactions to look out for.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has an excellent website explaining the risks of buying medications on international websites. My advice: never do it.

Health blogger and founder of a best-selling health app Belle Gibson was a very influential woman – but unfortunately she made things up. In a recent interview she confessed that she never had cancer and wasn’t cured by natural remedies. The media are all over her, and so far she has not apologised for misleading her followers. I wonder what is going on here.

Online health scams are numerous. As the wellness industry is largely unregulated, I’m afraid this will not change.

forced penetration
Image: Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian vaccination skeptics network was in the news again after it compared vaccinations to ‘forced penetration’. A shocking image (see above) was posted on the Facebook page of the anti-vaccination group to convey their controversial message. It has caused a public outrage, which is probably a good thing. I don’t think it has done the group any good.

A while ago I blogged about the 6 warning signs that online health information may be unreliable and as I said before: don’t rely on one source of information and always ask a registered doctor or health professional if you’re not sure.

I believe we need more health professionals and health organisations promoting reliable, evidence-based information in the online space – including social media – to counterbalance the many untrustworthy health messages.

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “3 examples why health professionals should be online

  • I thoroughly agree. One largely untapped resource is recently retired doctors of all descriptions. I suspect that a site to make blogging very easy and non technical for the above group, might attract them. I’m still full time and enjoy blogging when there’s something interesting for me to point to. My blogs (see “holistic doc”) are just two or three lines and a link, but I’m sure lots of retired doctors would enjoy waxing lyrical. The medical board ruling that they shouldn’t teach is absolute nonsense.


  • We also need doctors to be honest about what they do and DO NOT know. I was lucky to find such a doctor which is why when I had reservations about his advice one time I trusted his answer and it turned out to be great advice. Doctors simply do not know everything and should not pretend they do when they don’t.
    Perhaps not being automatically condemning of alternative therapies would help. I was very cynical about alternative therapies until my mum pointed out that when I was younger it was alternative therapy that got rid of my three year long lasting cough where four conventional medicine doctors had failed. They were excellent at telling me what was happening just couldn’t treat it. So I was forced to admit that it is not all rubbish. Certainly I would not rely on alternative therapy for things like cancer although may use them to help with side effects but for minor things they can actually be effective and work where conventional things don’t.


    • Hi Andi,
      Fair enough comment for using only “alternative,” but “complementary” Rx using exactly the same modalities is really worth the effort of going into. One such use is of CoQ10 in cancer http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24637217 Minor things get better on their own, but even there one can have dramatic benefits. I keep sodium ascorbate for intravenous use, and have seen several kids with EBV glandular fever start to feel better before the injection is completed.


      • Hi Andi and Jim, thanks for your feedback. Doctors should be honest about what they do and don’t know, that’s very true, and I know many are.

        A while back Complementary Medicines Australia called for doctors to undertake more training in complementary medicine.
        The Royal College of General Practitioners (RACGP) responded in Australian Doctor magazine:

        “The [RACGP] wouldn’t support education in non-evidenced-based areas like homeopathy, but would support evidence-based modalities [such as] mind-body medicine, evidence-based nutritional medicine, evidence-based herbal medicine, acupuncture and musculoskeletal medicine.”

        Associate Professor Vicki Kotsirilos, chair of the RACGP’s integrative medicine working group also said: “GPs should be trained in areas where complementary medicine could be clinically beneficial and where it could be dangerous, along with the risks and potential side effects.”

        I think professor Kotsirilos has a point here.


  • Great article Edwin and I agree with you. All health Professionals have much to offer the community and social media certainly has a role with this. As with the anti vaccination networks recent campaign, these groups will not hold back to create disquiet and release information that is designed to create fear. We can sit back and wait for government responses, but why should we not speak out as individual practitioners, with what we see every single day in our practices. Governments know policy, we know people. And all that we see has equal value as the evidence base that we work from.


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