Reporting Anita Clay to the General Medical Council

 

 

 

Dear Sir

 

Concerns about Dr Anita Clay, GMC registration number 2593137

 

I would like to provide you with some information about a medical doctor called Anita Clay, registration number 2593137.  My concerns relate to a website that has been published by Dr Clay since 2008. The website’s target audience is patients, and it contains material that is factually incorrect and potentially dangerous. The website is about Dr Clay’s practice of herbalism.

 

A copy of Dr Clay's website is here: anita-clay.com/home

 

 

These are my concerns:

 

 

1) False claims

 

Dr Clay makes several claims about her treatments as follows:

 

They are safe

They are effective

They can be used in all age ranges

They can be used alongside conventional medicines

 

As I am sure you know, herbal medicines almost never go through sufficient testing to make claims such as these. In fact for only 16% of herbal medicines are there any publications of human trials(1). For the other 84%, it is impossible to accurately judge the safely or efficacy of these treatments.

 

No pharmaceutical company would be allowed to make these claims without the full set of preclinical and clinical studies. Even then, sweeping statements such as ‘safe’ would usually not be allowed.

 

In other words, Dr Clay is lying to her patients, her motive being to attract customers and make money.

 

 

2) Use during pregnancy

 

There is a claim on Dr Clay’s website that is potentially quite dangerous:

 

‘Herbal medicines are appropriate for any age - from the unborn child to respected elders.’

 

It seems that Dr Clay is prepared to provide these treatments to pregnant women. The lack of data on herbal medicines during human or animal pregnancy means that we don’t know if there are effects on the unborn child.

 

If there is a real clinical need for a treatment during pregnancy, Dr Clay should at least be honest and tell the patient that she doesn’t know if it’s safe or not.

 

3) Inappropriate polypharmacy

 

The website states:

 

‘For example, in the case of a chest infection, not only is the actual infection dealt with by giving an antiseptic herb to cleanse the lungs, but all body systems are utilised to aid restoration of health - herbs are used to stimulate the immune system, others ensure that all the excretory organs (lungs, kidney, liver, skin) are working maximally well to eliminate toxins, and a general tonic for the depleted body.’

 

The more treatments that are given, the greater is the risk of adverse reactions. Here she is routinely giving treatments for fictitious problems such as ‘toxins’ and the ‘depleted body’, so there will be no benefit to the patient, only increased risk of unwanted effects.

 

4) Use of jargon to impress patients

 

She states that she uses:

 

‘fluid extracts in a 1:1 strength, as these are more potent’

 

It is difficult to know what this sentence means, but we know that potency is irrelevant. It is the not the efficacy per milligram that is important but the overall efficacy. In my opinion she is trying to sound knowledgable in order to impress potential customers. A good doctor wouldn’t do this.

 

5) Use of honey for children

 

Children’s medicines should ideally be free of sugars, particularly when there is no evidence that the medicine is going to work. Otherwise there is an increased risk of tooth decay with no benefit for the child.

 

6) The cost of treatment

 

It goes without saying that people are free to spend their money as they wish, but judging by the details on the website, a patient with a chronic condition who is followed up for one year will pay £455 to Dr Clay. It’s a little excessive for a treatment that Dr Clay knows is unlikely to benefit the patient.

 

7) Treating all diseases with a limited number of therapies

 

It would be impossible for a doctor to treat any patient that walks through the door with only a small number of treatments at her disposal.

 

The company that supplies Dr Clay with her herbs is Rutland Biodynamic. Their catalogue shows a list of 190 herbs which are grown at their farm in the UK or likely to be sourced from other UK growers (Dr Clay claims that these are the only herbs she uses). If only 16% of these have clinical trial data to support their use, it brings the number of available treatments down to 30. Assuming (and this is being generous) that 50% of those have an acceptable balance of benefit and risk, Dr Clay would have only 15 herbal medicines that she could justify using.

 

It’s not feasible that she could treat most of the conditions she sees in her practice with just 15 herbs, especially when one considers the polypharmacy.

 

On her website she claims to be capable of treating these 14 conditions:

 

Insomnia

Depression

Snotty nose

Chest infections

Coughs

Colds

Skin complaints (e.g. eczema)

Anxiety

Headaches

Thrush

Irritable bowel

Menopausal symptonm (her spelling)

‘Blood pressure’

‘Acute infection’

 

In theory she should turn away patients with any other conditions, but I doubt if she does.

 

8) Lack of professionalism

 

Her website contains mistakes that you would not expect a doctor to make, for example baby Joshua changing his name to Rebecca a few sentences later.

 

Summary

 

In my view, Dr Clay is taking advantage of vulnerable people - vulnerable not just because they are sick, but also because they don’t understand the science or how to critically assess Dr Clay’s claims. I think Dr Clay is taking advantage of the trust people have for medical doctors.

 

It would not be incorrect to describe this behaviour as charlatanism. In this age of evidence based medicine there is no excuse for doctors advertising their services in such a dishonest manner.

 

I look forward to your reply regarding this matter.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Reference

 

1) Phytotherapeutics: an evaluation of the potential of 1000 plants. Cravotto G et al, J Clin Pharm Ther. 2010 Feb; 35 (1): 11-48.