Just got a response back from them on the form I filled out (I assume this is something everyone who wrote them will get. If you see something different let us know). It’s from the ‘customer relations department’:
Thank you for taking the time to contact Consumer Reports®. I want to express how much we value your choice of our products and services to help you make informed purchasing decisions.
We appreciate your writing to us regarding our report on alternative therapies. Please be assured that our readers’ feedback plays a strong role in the work that we do. Because of this I have taken the liberty of personally sharing your feedback with the appropriate members of our staff for their review and future consideration.
The “Alternative Therapies” article in the Sept. 2011 edition of Consumer Reports is the third survey-based report on alternative treatments we’ve done. As stated clearly in the article, the evaluation of the helpfulness of these treatments is based on respondents’ personal perceptions, not on clinical trials.
To supplement this information, we also provided background on what good clinical research shows about alternative remedies for various conditions.
We have done similar surveys for other conditions, such as back pain (chiropractors were the best-liked providers in that survey, too), hip and knee replacement, and ADHD treatment. We have learned that patient experience provides valuable information for consumers about matters such as recuperation, pain relief, the ability to set realistic expectations, and the comparison of different treatments (something that is often sadly lacking in clinical trial data).
We clearly pointed out that the study cannot account for the placebo effect, and it’s also important to note that to the extent the placebo effect was in play, it was in play for all the treatments we asked about, and yet some treatments clearly emerged as winners from the patients’ point of view.
Consumer Reports is committed to making your experience positive and informative.
Customer Relations Department
Now, this is a non-response. The argument, such as it is, seems to be:
(1) we’ve this sort of thing before (so much the worse).
(2) it provides “valuable information” (which it demonstrably does not)
(3) it “cannot account for the placebo effect” (which is in play for all therapies anyhow so is irrelevant).
(4) some of the quack therapies were better liked than others (so what if they don’t actually work?)
It strikes me as a response written by a marketing person, perhaps in distant contact with one of the original authors. Having said that, I’m actually surprised I got any response at all, particularly one that was semi-substantive, at least from a marketing perspective. I have to assume that’s because they got rather a lot of high-level feedback and have prepared a general answer.