Anti-vaccine rant fallout: Cleveland Clinic may cut some wellness services

Cleveland Clinic building
Cleveland Clinic has spent months rethinking its alternative medicine focus following its public relations nightmare.

The repercussions of a Cleveland Clinic physician's rant against vaccinations continue, with the organization rethinking its alternative medicine offerings and how they align with evidence-based practices.

Hospital administrators are examining its focus on alternative medicine and may halt some of the products it sells, a Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman told STAT.

Among the items on the chopping block: homeopathy kits sold at the prestigious organization’s wellness center. Instead, she told the publication that the wellness center will focus on general programs that improve diet and lifestyle.

The hospital has apparently spent months rethinking its alternative medicine focus, according to Eileen Shiel, a spokeswoman for Cleveland Clinic in the interview with STAT. But the timing of her announcement comes in the wake of a public relations nightmare this week for the Cleveland Clinic after Daniel Neides, M.D., director and chief operating officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, went on an anti-vaccination rant in a blog post published by Cleveland.com.

RELATED: Cleveland Clinic under fire after doc’s anti-vaccine rant

The backlash was immediate. The medical community denounced the column and Cleveland Clinic said it would take disciplinary action against Neides. He has since apologized.

Meanwhile, the editor of Cleveland.com, publisher of Neides’ column, defended its role in the firestorm, explaining its relationship with the physician and how the piece got published without having direct approval from Cleveland Clinic’s public relations department, or an editor from the publication review it.

Neides has published more than 30 weekly columns for the publication for three years on such topics as stress reduction and diet, according to Chris Quinn, vice president of content. The media outlet had set up a system so Neides could directly publish the columns on the site. The columns are supposed to be reviewed by the Cleveland Clinic’s public relations team in advance but for some unclear reason, the column did not go through the usual channels.

The problems only got worse for Cleveland Clinic when the organization took down the piece on Sunday. The publisher, once it became aware the column was removed from the system, took steps to restore it.

“This column has become the topic of a widespread conversation. At Cleveland.com, we strive to be the center of conversation, so we are loath to remove something that has become central to a debate,” Quinn wrote.

The column stirred up the medical community not only over the fact Neides’ comments contradict evidence-based practices that show the health benefits of vaccinations, but it also raised concerns over the wellness movement in general. “Wellness” has become a big business for healthcare organizations. Some physicians said the homeopathic products sold by the Cleveland Clinic’s wellness center are based on “pseudoscience.”