Call To Action: Homeopathy Early Day Motions


The first half of the year has been a fantastic time for the fight against homeopathy. Aside from our own high-profile demonstration, there’s been significant backing from the Science and Technology Select Committee,calling for an end to homeopathy on the NHS. In addition, the British Medical Association Junior Doctors Committee outed homeopathy as ‘witchcraft’, and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland condemned the pseudomedicine and its sale in pharmacies. This has all been excellent.

However, there are still significant challenges ahead – not least in the form of David Tredinnick MP, recently appointed to the Health Select Committee despite his beliefs that astrology has a role to play in healthcare, and that surgeons won’t operate under a full moon as the lunar cycle has an effect on the clotting of blood. Both of which are, of course, untrue. This isn’t the extent of Mr Tredinnick’s misunderstanding of health advice – he recently tabled 4 Early Day Motions, urging MPs to support homeopathy and to ignore the findings of the Science and Technology Select Committee. These EDMs are based on flawed science and false assertion, and should not be supported by your local MP.

Fortunately, Julian Huppert MP has tabled amendments to each of Mr Tredinnick’s motions, in order to correct the inaccuracies, misunderstandings and misguided support for homeopathy. These amendments are based on clear reviews of the studies in question, and are backed by scientists and experts in the fields – as such, they also have the backing of the Merseyside Skeptics Society, and the 10:23 Campaign.

At the moment, many MPs may not know much about homeopathy, and may not know it is based on quackery and magical thinking; most crucially, they may not know how important an issue it is to you. With this in mind, we urge you to write to your MP to let them know how strongly you feel. The website Write To Them (http://www.writetothem.com/) makes writing to your MP very easy, and for your convenience you can find below a standard letter to copy and paste into the body of your letter.

Please, take 2 minutes to let your MP know that homeopathy is not an effective healthcare option, does not offer value for taxpayer money, and should not be supported. Ask your MP to sign EDM amendments 284A1, 285A1, 286A1 and 287A1. Ask your friends to do the same. Spread the word – together, we can make a difference.

Visit http://www.writetothem.com/ and paste the following into the body of your letter – as Write To Them blocks identical letters, please adjust the wording in the letter as you see fit, to best express your views:

Dear <your MP>

I am writing to you to alert you to an important issue you might not be aware of – while the role of an MP is doubtlessly a busy one, and the challenge to keep on top of all of the various issues put to you is likely significant, I can appreciate that you may not have been made aware of the ongoing debate regarding government funding for homeopathy on the NHS.

At a time when cuts are increasingly likely, it was refreshing to see the Science and Technology Select Committee advise the cutting of homeopathy – a 200-year-old pseudoscience – from NHS funding. I applaud the committee, and their reliance on evidence to come to a solid conclusion. It is, therefore, disappointing in the extreme to see the Early Day Motions EDM284 [Bma Annual Representative Meeting Motions On Homeopathy], EDM285 [Effect Of Homeopathic Remedies On Breast Cancer Cells], EDM286 [Homeopathic Medicines In The Treatment Of Moderate To Severe Depression] and EDM287 [Homeopathy And Chronic Primary Insomnia] call for support for this disproven quackery.

Indeed, it’s further distressing that, upon examination, the studies cited as proof of the effect of homeopathic treatments in EDM284, EDM285 and EDM286 are in fact riddled with deep and significant flaws. Given that EDM285 applauds the use of homeopathic substances to treat breast cancer – a claim which would be illegal if made by a UK practitioner – it’s clear to see how support for this motion could lead to real and significant harm.

I applaud the actions of Julian Huppert MP – who has tabled clear and reasonable amendments to these misguided motions, amendments which correct their inaccuracies and redirect them back in line with real science and evidence. These amendments are titled as follows: EDM284A1 [Bma Annual Representative Meeting Motions On Homeopathy], EDM285A1 [Effect Of Homeopathic Remedies On Breast Cancer Cells], EDM286A1 [Homeopathic Medicines In The Treatment Of Moderate To Severe Depression] and EDM287A1 [Homeopathy And Chronic Primary Insomnia].

I therefore urge you to consider the issues and the serious ramifications to both the taxpayer in funding disproven treatments on the NHS, and to the overall health of the nation in recommending pseudo-medicine for such serious issues as severe depression and breast cancer. If you agree that cancer, depression and other illnesses should only be treated with modalities that have been proven to work, I urge you to sign EDM284A1, EDM285A1, EDM286A1 and EDM287A1.

Thank you for your time

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  1. #1 by Al S on June 25, 2010 - 14:19

    I’d write to my MP, but I live in Cambridge, so there’s little point. Guess there’s little point in the people of Bosworth writing either, those are very deaf ears.

  2. #2 by Elaine on June 25, 2010 - 15:11

    This is an important cause and I will be writing to my MP, but would just point out the following from the Write To Them site: “We want to make the voice of the individual more powerful, so we block “identikit” letters.”

  3. #3 by Emma on June 25, 2010 - 18:58

    Why have you accused David Tredinnick MP of “beliefs in astrology” when his article clearly doesn’t say that? He is simply being open-minded about the many different approaches to medicine that have been around centuries before Western medicine, many of which have fed the medicine we now use (which, incidentally, is ALL natural – everything is) and many more are being proven useful alternatives.

    What evidence do you provide against the anciently held belief that the moon has a direct affect on blood flow?

    I don’t for a moment take any biased view for or against homeopathy – perhaps, granted, it should not be on the NHS. But I have seen a great deal of evidence that natural approaches to health, such as acupuncture and yoga, do help people, and I think it is desperately sad that SOME scientists refuse to accept something just because they didn’t “invent” it or can’t verify its influence. Plenty of drugs only help some of the people some of the time too. Medicine does need to be more open minded – enough to at least look into old ideas and the benefits on patients.

    Homeopathy may be ‘fake’, but do not label everything with the same brush. Else it could all backfire on “science” (a.k.a. natural philosophy…?) one day…

  4. #4 by Mike on June 25, 2010 - 19:04

    Emma :

    What evidence do you provide against the anciently held belief that the moon has a direct affect on blood flow?

    That’s a reversal of the burden of proof. It is not down to us to prove that the full moon does not affect blood flow; it is down to people who claim it does to back up that claim with evidence.

  5. #5 by philby63 on June 25, 2010 - 20:12

    Done and done! Thanks for the good work, Marsh.

  6. #6 by Raphael on June 26, 2010 - 07:52

    In essence, given that recent meta-analyses are consistent in saying that antidepressant medications like fluoxetine are no better than placebo for anything short of very severe depression (reality is a bit more complex, but still …), saying that homeopathy was equivalent to fluoxetine in the cited trial – which was of *moderate* depression, is basically saying that homeopathy was (probably) equivalent to a placebo. See my post here for a bit more: http://www.tsuken.co.nz/homeopathy-equal-to-antidepressants/

    Emma, you might have seen anecdotes about people who felt better with things like acupuncture and yoga, but you most assuredly have not seen any evidence that these so-called treatments have any specific effect – because there is none. Sorry. They do not work. See http://sciencebasedmedicine.org/reference/acupuncture/ for example

  7. #7 by Emma on June 26, 2010 - 08:04

    Emma :
    That’s a reversal of the burden of proof. It is not down to us to prove that the full moon does not affect blood flow; it is down to people who claim it does to back up that claim with evidence.

    But surely it goes to either side to find proof – and would it not be in the ‘scientist’s’ best interest to disprove (since that’s usually what they’re aiming to do with their experiments)? If people have a belief in something – and that’s up to them – then they wouldn’t feel the need to prove it. But as some scientists are so adamantly against the idea of ‘unfounded beliefs’, I would have thought it was in society’s best interests if they were to prove their disbelief – after all, they have the budgets, the know-how (or the equipment, at least) and the determination. At which point I would be happy to accept – but at the moment, you’re suggesting that the claim about the moon is nothing more than an unproven belief from both sides…?

  8. #8 by Dr*T on June 26, 2010 - 08:20

    Hi emma,

    you’ve missed the point a bit. Proving a negative is usually impossible!
    So, the start position for any argument (often called the null hypothesis) is whatever is being discussed doesn’t exist or doesn’t work (e.g. God, homeopathy, pharmaceutical drugs, astrology, Bigfoot, hangovers, pink teapots orbiting the earth)

    It is up to the proponents to show evidence that there *is* an effect/efficacy etc. With hangovers, its easy to show that drinking a skinful leads to a ‘difficult’ morning after.

    By your reasoning, big pharm companies should be able to release a drug saying “this drug works – it’s up to you to prove it doesn’t”.

    It is an argument seen in religious circles (god exists, you must prove he/she/it doesn’t) and is equally invalid.

    Bit rambly, hope it makes sense!

    T

  9. #9 by Kenneth McCargow on June 26, 2010 - 09:21

    The irony is wonderful. Equating homeopathy with witchcraft sounds a teeny bit like a witch hunt.

    From Wikipedia: “In a trial by ordeal, supposed witches were immersed into a vat of water or pond, and taken out after some time, thus and given the opportunity to confess. This process was usually repeated until the victim drowned or gave up and confessed, leading to them being executed in another way, usually hanging or, more rarely, burning. Also, if they had their hands/feet tied, they would be left under water. If they floated they were guilty of witchcraft, if they sank they were innocent but would have usually drowned anyway.”

  10. #10 by Rachel on June 26, 2010 - 12:17

    Aaand done. It’s about time I sent him something anyway, It’s been over 2 months He might think I’ve forgotten he exists.

  11. #11 by Tigana on June 26, 2010 - 14:29

    Done,

    interested if I will get a reply from my new MP- don’t know a lot about her yet!

  12. #12 by Tim McGregor on June 28, 2010 - 11:56

    I have a response from my MP Mike Weatherly of Hove:

    Dear Tim

    Mike is completely with you on this one and your message just strengthens his resolve.

    Many thanks

    ROBERT NEMETH
    Office of Mike Weatherley MP

  13. #13 by Marsh on June 28, 2010 - 12:09

    Hi Tim

    Excellent work! I hope to see Mike’s name on the EDM amendments soon!

    Cheers
    Marsh

  14. #14 by Gareth on June 29, 2010 - 14:45

    Got this responce today

    Dear Mr. X

    Thank you for taking the time to write to Shaun about something that is both very important to yourself and the wider community.

    As a member of the Shadow Cabinet Shaun cannot sign EDMs or other similar Parliamentary petitions I’m afraid. You may find it re-assuring that the Government is unlikely to heed the contents or advice of any EDM and Shaun is as equally curious as you to discover what the Government’s spending plans are when the Comprehensive Spending Review is published in October.

    Regards,

    John Fulham

    Office of The Rt. Hon. Shaun Woodward MP,

  15. #15 by Nick B on June 30, 2010 - 23:57

    Today my MP replied with this:

    Dear Nick,
    Thank you for your letter regarding homeopathy on the NHS.
    I am aware of the ongoing debate surrounding the practicalities and funding of homeopathy in the NHS, and I understand your concerns.
    Given that the Coalition Government has inherited the largest deficit in our peacetime history, we need to take urgent action on deficit reduction reduction. This means making savings in a number of areas, which may include the funding of homeopathic treatments on the NHS.
    As you know, the various issues regarding the use of homeopathy in the NHS was all raises by the Science and Technology Committee’s report Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy. The Government are currently considering the report, including the issue mentioned, and will respond to it in due course.
    Until there is further evidence and greater debate on this issue, I will not be signing EDM284A1, EDM285A1, EDM 286A1 and EDm 287A1 at this time.
    Once again thank you for taking the time to contact me.
    Yours sincerely,
    Esther McVey
    MP for Wirral West

    What a load of bull…

  16. #16 by bicycleclips on July 1, 2010 - 23:29

    Nice work Nick.

    So Esther McVey needs further evidence that water isn’t an effective treatment for breast cancer. Brilliant. I wonder how many doses of Herceptin could have been bought in those early days with the money that goes to fund NHS homeopathy. I do realise that I’m straying into a homeopathic minefield by discussing breast cancer, but it does all rather get my goat.

    PS a homeopathic minefield is just like a normal minefield except it doesn’t blow your leg off so much as spray you with water containing the memory of plastic explosive.

  17. #17 by Fil on July 4, 2010 - 05:59

    Good to see the good work you are doing to fight this homeopathy nonsense. Btw, since PZ Myers highlighted your work on his Pharyngula blog, people from all around the world have been cheering you on…I’m writing from Tasmania, for example.

    Cheers all!

  18. #18 by Rob McD on July 4, 2010 - 23:14

    This weekend I received a reply from my local MP, Julian Sturdy, saying that he was aware of the findings of the evidence check had noted the overwhelming view of the BMA conference that homoeopathy should not be offered on the NHS. He said that he is sure that the Department of Health will take seriously the views of the BMA and that he would continue to respect the view of health experts on these matters.

    He hasn’t signed the amendments, though…

  19. #19 by Dev C on July 5, 2010 - 19:36

    Done. Keep up the good work guys.

  20. #20 by abcd on July 5, 2010 - 23:54

    It would be good if we could create a list of all the MPs contacted and if and how they responded. Will send my letter to my MP tomorrow.

  21. #21 by pj on July 7, 2010 - 13:26

    I’d write to my MP but unfortunately his name is Tredinnick :(

  22. #22 by Dev C on July 8, 2010 - 21:24

    No luck with mine. He’s a minister so can’t sign EDMs (nor, I suppose, amendments to EDMs).

  23. #23 by Sean Ellis on July 19, 2010 - 11:30

    Same here – my local MP is Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

    On a related note, I got a reply from the authors of the study cited in EDM287 – see http://moteprime.org/article.php?id=46 for the full story.

  24. #24 by David Plank on July 20, 2010 - 15:31

    Just got a reply from Nicholas Soames. I am thinking of following this one up, as it appears to be dodging the issue, but not sure how to respond…

    Dear Mr Plank

    Thank you for your email about homeopathy on the NHS

    I am aware that there are differing views on the provisions of homeopathic remedies, with some arguing that there is not enough evidence to support their availability via the NHS, while others argue that greater access to complementary therapies in the NHS might lead to widespread benefits.Homeopathic prescription is a tiny fraction (approx. 0.001%) of the overall drugs bill of £11,378m.

    Decisions regarding treatment are made locally and issues such as safety, clinical and cost effectiveness, and the availability of qualified and regulated practitioners are taken into account by the NHS when making decisions. The various issues regarding the use of homeopathy in the NHS were all raised by the Science and Technology Committee’s recent report Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy. The Government is currently considering the report, including the issues mentioned, and will respond in due course.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

  25. #25 by Colin H on July 20, 2010 - 19:21

    There seems to be a lot of responses from MPs along the lines of Soames’. I wonder whether it’s an issue of political convention rather than dodging the issue. Maybe while the government is officially ‘reviewing’ something, it’s seen as bad form for individual MPs to give statements or get involved? Could be the case, at least.

  26. #26 by Jules on July 23, 2010 - 17:03

    Dear Julie – I agree with you! Thanks for getting in touch.

    All the best

    Stephen Twigg

  27. #27 by thick yoga mat and bag on September 15, 2010 - 10:48

    The man who lacks the third eye of insight Will cling to the measure of the hundred feet.

  28. #28 by foteliki samochodowe on December 22, 2010 - 20:27

    That sounds like a fairy tale, or perhaps cartoon evil … scary information.

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