It is Homeopathy Awareness Week. Has been since Saturday. That’s right, the week starts on a Saturday if you’re a homeopath. I am, as ever, happy to do my bit for this kind of cause, so here are a couple of articles I saw this week with misconceptions about homeopathy I’d like to clear up. The first is from the Telegraph, which contains this fantastic but only tangentially relevant passage:
A Government report yesterday called for “urgent” controls on herbalists, acupuncturists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, amid fears over patient safety. Its recommendations, to be considered by ministers, include a proposal that new practitioners would have to study for a degree in their field before they could practise.
Yes, that will help a lot. Can’t have people doing acupuncture wrong, can we? (Answer to rhetorical question: yes.)
These are the homeopathy mistakes:
A £40’‰million industry in the UK, homoeopathic remedies claim to be able to prevent yellow fever, typhoid, polio and even leukaemia, as well as cure symptoms ranging from toothache to hearing loss. But there are growing concerns over whether the homoeopathic remedies have any effect.
No, there aren’t. There is a total consensus that homeopathic remedies are nothing more than placebo. (Obviously I’m aware that there are people who dispute this consensus, but those people are cranks, or ignorant, and in any case too few in number to count — remember, there are those who dispute the holocaust.)
Homoeopathists differ from herbalists, who use a variety of plants to combat diseases, because their treatments are heavily diluted. There can often be as little as one millionth of the original ingredient in a homoeopathic remedy.
Setting aside that this last sentence doesn’t actually mean anything, the fact is that most homeopathic remedies do not contain even one molecule of the original ingredient. None at all. That’s not the same as “heavily diluted” or “one millionth”. That’s the same as a nice glass of water.
Then the Telegraph invite readers to “Have Your Say: Do you believe in homeopathy?” Because what we need to settle this one isn’t evidence, my word no. It’s the ill-informed rants of internet cranks such as Mike Abrahams, who says (all links and emphasis in these are mine; I’m sure you’d have worked that out soon enough):
At the moment, “properly applied/prescribed” medical intervention “accidentally” kills over 250,000 people a year in the USA alone (Journal of American Medical Association)…
I didn’t know it was possible to commit libel using only punctuation marks.
…So let’s get a perspective on this. Just how many people are killed by homoeopathy – last year? – in the last 50 years? …
(Answer to rhetorical question: lots, and here are 8 that even Dave Hitt can’t argue with.)
…Even if Homoeopathy used just the placebo effect it is much safer than orthodox drug treatment.
…because it doesn’t do anything. Or Graham, who says:
i think that you can apply the one rule for all principle here, that is when doctors have their medicines and procedures, in all combinations tested with randomised control trials and they are proven to be safe, then perhaps other CAM therapies would do the same. … i thought the idea was to heal people, this homeopathy does with out a doubt, or it would have died out years ago. i gave my son a remedy for a croup attack when he was about 14 months old. within 30seconds he was calm and breathing normally, from being blue and gasping for breath. i don’t really give a flying fig how it worked, i just know that it did, its called imperical evidence its what doctors use when they give new mixes of medicines that have not been tested together. the difference is i saved a life doctors are often just trying to clear up their own drug induced side effects…
Or “Cured!”, who says:
Perhaps the medical profession is sceptical of hoemopathic remedies because they are not patented, can’t be licensed and can’t be used to derive monopoly profits.
No, but these would be the same homeopathic remedies that are made out of pure water and sell as a “£40’‰million industry in the UK” according to the article Cured! just commented on, yes? Yes. Yes, they would.
Lucy Puglia says:
MY DOG HAD SKIN CANCER ON HER PAW,IT WAS MALIGNANT,AFTER IT WAS REMOVED ,WE CHOSE TO GIVE HER VITAMINS AND HOMOEOPHATIC REMEDIES,SHE LIVED A FULL LIFE ,RUNNING AND HAPPY, … .HAD WE CHOSEN ANOTHER TREATMENT ,SHE WOULD HAVE SUFFERED SIDE EFFECTS.WE HAVE SEEN A HOMOEOPHATIC DOCTOR FOR OVER 20 YEARS,AND IT WORKS FOR MY FAMILY,INDIVIDUALS SHOULD HAVE A CHOICE,ON THE TREATMENT THEY WISH TO HAVE ,AFTER ALL DOCTORS ARE NOT ”GODS”,PEOPLE ARE DYING IN HOSPITAL FROM ALLERGIC REACTION TO DRUGS EVERYDAY,I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW HOW MANY ARE DYING FROM ”HOMOEOPHATIC REMEDIES SIDE EFFECTS”.I AM ALLERGIC TO GRASS POLLEN,THERE IS NO MEDICATION THAT HELPS,IN 32 YEARS OF SUFFERING ,THE ONLY MEDICATION THAT HELP ME ,IS HOMEOPATIC,THE NOSESPRAY,EYEDROPS,DROPS TO KEEP MY NOSE CLEAR,PILLULE .I TOOK ANTIHISTAMIN TABLETS FOR YEARS,AND HAD 2 CAR ACCIDENTS ,BECOUSE OF THE SIDE EFFECTS,AND NEARLY FELL OFF THE BUS,MISSED THE STEP.WE SHOULD HAVE MORE HOMEOPHATIC HOSPITALS ,AND CHOICE,INSTEAD ,THE HOSPITALS ARE BEING CLOSED BY THE TRUSTS,LIVING PATIENTS WITH NO CHOICE…AFTER ALL THIS IS A DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY…LUCY,ISLINGTON..
How great is she!? Peter Walton says:
Homeopathy does work, which is exactly what the major pharmaceutical companies are fearful about. They put their money into supporting those who outwardly conduct research supposedly disproving the efficacy of homeopathy. Most of this research is based upon double blind tests which may have some value, were it not for the fact that homeopathic treatment, unlike allopathic, uses individualised remedies. …
(Double-blind trials can account for this. Many do. Homeopathy still doesn’t work.)
…The ï¿½researchersï¿½ carrying out double blind testing on homeopathic remedies of course must know this, and therefore one may conclude that they have alternative agendas.
One other point; arguments are put forward that there is no scientific evidence for homeopathy. May I suggest that science will one day be able to provide that evidence, it is for ever amending its theories to explain the observed, unlike homeopathy which has essentially remained unchanged for 200 years. There is no need to change that which is correct!
Let’s not mention the inconvenient advent of Avogadro and germ theory during those 200 years, though, eh? Or the countless other wrong ideas science has failed to eventually prove. Or…
G Payne says:
Just because, like all remedies, it is not and does not clainm to be a panacea, is not a reason for the attacks upon it by allopathic doctors and chemists – except for their inbuilt self interest. The point is, that the proof lies in the fact that, in so many instances – called “anecdotal” homoeopathy does work.
Steve Scrutton (which is a name I recognise from other homeopathy rants) says this:
It is remarkable that spokesmen for conventional medicinem, and ConMed drugs, like Ernst, can still believe that seeing a doctor, and taking ConMed drugs, is safer than seeing a homeopath. What they consistently deny is that ConMed is killing more people year on year, and that the more drugs we take, year on year, the greater the rise of disease epidemics (Alzheimer’s, Autism, et el) -
Can you have an epidemic of a non-infectious disease? I suspect you can’t.
- many of them diseases that were unknown prior to drug taking becoming ‘free’ on the NHS…
The prevalence of a disease which predominately affects the elderly rose sharply when medical care became free? Clearly medical care causes Alzheimer’s. There’s no other explanation!
…He also ignores another undeniable fact – that tens of thousands of people have been treated successfully by homeopath, many after failing to get better with ConMed. When they hear Ernst, and others telling them that homeopathy is ineffective, they yawn, wonder why he should consistently come out with such nonsence, ponder who is speaking for, and tell their friends.
The drug companies are under pressure as more of their drugs are being withdrawn, and they face an increasing number of law suits in the USA.
Keep your campaign going, Professor Ernst – perhaps one day you will actually be able to convince us that ConMed is safe too!
I think these attacks on homeopathy are just providing a smoke screen to take the emphasis off the 40,000+ deaths that occur each year due to totally avoidable medical blunders (quoted in the BMJ.) Close to 1 million people are injured by conventional medicine too – every year. Agsin this is a matter of public record . There is only one record of a homeopath being linked to a person dying – this was a doctor who told her patient that she should stop takng her heart medication. This doctor is now being investigated by the GMC.
in my shortlife i saw various patients who got remedy by homoeo,while modern medicine said goodbye in such cases. many many examples can be given. but iam not a homoeopathistic.
No. No, you are not. And lastly, a homeopath speaks. Francis Treuherz says:
How do I prove that my work as a homeopath is successful? I suggest just as hard with my wrong remedy as my right one in almost 25 years of practice my patients know when they receive the right remedy…
Well, yes, because you define “the right remedy” as “whichever one you’re doling out when the patient happens to get better on their own”.
…The way we decide what makes a remedy is known as a proving. We test potential medicines on healthy humans and the symptoms and signs which appear are then used to inform treatment. I suggest that Professor Ernst, or any one else who does not think that homeopathy works, undertakes a proving of Aesculus hippocastanum and observes the effects. This is a remedy used in painful haemorrhoids.
This is a common brain-failure experienced by homeopaths: they refer to something as “a proving” and assume that therefore it proves something.
This was rather longer than I expected, because I hadn’t planned to do the comments, so I shall post the second article I want to criticise some other time. If I remember. Hopefully, I’ll get it out within the Awareness Week.
Also, look out for another bit of Homeopathy Awareness Week fun that I’ll show you when it’s finished.