In January 2018 the osteopath Mark Mathews was removed from the register of practicing osteopaths for unacceptable professional conduct. However, he continues to run his practice Reve Pavilion where he works as a “Natural Health Practitioner”. He is also the president of the charity The Sunflower Trust which makes wildly misleading claims about the suitability of their treatments for children. I’ve written about that previously here and here. On the Reve Pavilion website there are a number of misleading claims including:
- Misleading information about other evidence-based treatments and doctors including the claim that “doctors know very little about health”
- Treatment of conditions for which it is highly implausible that osteopathy could be of any benefit
- Use of cranial osteopathy
Let’s look into each of these in a little more detail.
Misleading information about other evidence-based treatments and doctors
In the “Mark’s blog” section of the Reve Pavilion website it suggests that anti-inflammatory drugs, antacids and anti-histamines are harmful and that taking anti-depressants is not helpful for depression. This is misleading, doesn’t present a balanced view of the evidence and could discourage someone from taking appropriate evidence-based medical treatments. There is also a post entitled “medical doctors know very little about health”. That post is full of conspiracy theories and makes several false claims. For instance, it says that “Nearly all the background research papers that are published are sponsored by the drug industry”. Whilst it is true that pharmaceutical companies undertake a significant amount of research, there is also research that is funded by governments and charities and carried out by universities and other research organisations. He also goes on to say “The normal state of all living things is to be well given the right environment”. Is it the case that people won’t get cancer if they are “given the right environment”? Of course not! This is complete nonsense but it is perhaps not a large stretch from the beliefs of many osteopaths who claim to “restore the body to a state of balance”. It is clear that someone with such extreme views presents a risk to the public.
I should state at this point that I don’t think that Mark Mathews unreasonable criticism of doctors is representative of the osteopathic profession as a whole. He is clearly at a fairly extreme end of the spectrum in terms of his beliefs and approaches. Misleading claims and use of unsuitable treatments are widespread within the osteopathy profession but it is quite unusual for osteopaths to publically criticise doctors in such an extreme manner.
Treatment of conditions for which it is highly implausible that osteopathy could be of any benefit
In the common conditions section of the Reve Pavilion website it claims that they are able to treat a wide range of conditions including allergies, anxiety, stress, depression, insomnia and menopausal symptoms. In the “Mark’s blog” section of the website it is suggested that “functional neurology”, “natural medicine” and osteopathy treatments available at Reve Pavilion are beneficial for urinary incontinence, depression, menopausal symptoms, asthma, menstrual pain and diet problems. In reality, none of the treatments offered at Reve Pavilion have been shown to be effective for any of these conditions. There is simply no plausible mechanism by which osteopathy or any similar treatment could possibly provide any benefit for these conditions. The section on migraines and headaches suggests that the treatments on offer are suitable for all types of headaches. Osteopathy has actually not been shown to be effective for headaches in general or for migraines specifically.
There are two sections of the Reve Pavilion website that focus on cranial osteopathy: here and here. It claims that it is effective for a wide range of conditions including anxiety, depression, insomnia, feeling run down, sports injuries, whiplash, headaches, musculoskeletal pain, learning difficulties and behavioural difficulties. The website also suggests that “abnormal births” may cause problems that can be treated by cranial osteopathy. Finally, it claims that cranial osteopaths can feel the involuntary motion. In reality, cranial osteopathy is a fanciful concept based on something that doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as a cranial rhythm. Unsurprisingly, it has not been shown to provide any benefit for any health condition.
Complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority
I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the many misleading advertising claims made by Reve Pavilion. The response from the ASA was to refer this to their compliance team. They do this when they have already seen plenty of misleading adverts about a particular issue and have established a standard position on it. The ASA said “your complaint raises an issue which we know is a clear problem under the rules”. Although the Compliance team will not report to me directly, it will be interesting to see what happens to the advertising on the Reve Pavilion website.
Here is a former osteopath who continues to make wildly misleading claims about the suitability of the treatments he has to offer as well undermining doctors and evidence-based treatments. He clearly represents a significant risk to the public. The General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) have already removed him from their register for unacceptable professional conduct and so he no longer falls under their remit. There appears to be a significant regulatory problem here because he no longer falls under the GOsC as he is not an osteopath but there is no other organisation that then picks up responsibility for regulating him. He therefore seems to be able to continue to practice uncontrolled in spite of the risk he presents to the public. Any suggestions on where he could be reported to would be welcomed.