Homeopathy Plus, Radiation Poisoning and Japan (Yes, You Guessed Correctly)


Having written about and campaigned against homeopathy extensively in the past, I’ve seen a number of counter-arguments and issues raised by people who either disagree with the 10:23 Campaign (primarily homeopaths, admittedly). The one which crops up most regularly and seem to have, at least on the surface, the most sway is: if homeopathy IS just a placebo, is that so bad? Placebos, after all, can be shown to have an effect, and if judicially used could form a perfectly legitimate part of mainstream healthcare.

Persuasive as this sounds, the answer is actually pretty simple – leaving aside the implications for doctor-patient trust (handing out pills known to be ineffective and claiming they’re medicine definitely doesn’t gel with the important notion of informed consent), incorporating homeopathy into proven medicine lends the modality legitimacy, which can lead to things like this (screencapped from an email):

Homeopathy Plus

Even after all this time, homeopathy still leaves me speechless sometimes.

Following the link from that alert takes you to the Homeopathy Plus website, with their advice on how to deal with the side effects of Chemotherapy – advice they believe to be equally applicable to radiation poisoning. Just to make it absolutely clear, as if I even needed to, there is a HUGE difference between the side-effects experienced after having a well-controlled, targeted and managed dose of chemotherapy to fight cancer, and being randomly exposed to an uncontrolled amount radiation following a damaged nuclear power plant. It goes without saying that this is irresponsible and dangerous advice, and by all means it should be ignored.

This advice from Homeopathy Plus is a clear demonstration of one of the hardest to grasp issues surrounding homeopathy – almost overwhelmingly, homeopaths aren’t conmen, aren’t charlatans and aren’t frauds. I absolutely believe that the majority – the vast majority – of homeopaths and proponents of homeopathy are utterly sincere and well-meaning. They genuinely think homeopathic preparations work, they absolutely believe the remedies are effective – this is why they turn up to Haiti to give away their pills, and it’s why they advise potentially-radiation-poisoned people to take homeopathy as a cure. It’s an act of kindness – albeit a tragically misguided one. Keeping this fact in mind is the hardest thing to do, especially at a time of overwhelming tragedy such as in the wake of events in Japan.

I’d be fascinated to see if any homeopaths are brave enough to speak out against the advice from Homeopathy Plus – particularly the Society of Homeopaths and British Homeopathic Association. When individual groups or practitioners offer dangerous or irresponsible advice, it’s rare in the extreme that the rest of the homeopathic community condemn their actions – often they instead choose to stay silent, and let the dangerous advice continue to be spread in favour of presenting a united front. At such a time of extreme tragedy I’d like to believe there are homeopaths out there responsible enough to break this policy and speak out against this utterly dangerous advice. Any homeopath willing to do so will have the respect of the 10:23 Campaign in this instance.

In the mean time, if you do want to do something genuinely useful to help in Japan, Phil Plait has collected together links to organisations who could use your money to do some genuine good.

(Hat Tip to Richard Saunders for alerting me to this – check out The Skeptic Zone for more of his excellent work).

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  1. #1 by Peter Bowditch on March 12, 2011 - 22:33

    Fran Sheffield, the person who runs Homeopathy Plus, flatly refused to display a notice on her web site that had been requested by a regulatory authority. She is a regular speaker at anti-vaccination seminars. In a television program about her she is shown bottling homeopathic “medicines” and distinguishing one from another by using different words on the labels. She sells nonpareil sweets for 15 cents each, and there is no way that she can have gone through the steps necessary to turn them into homeopathic pillules.

    She does not fit the category of “sincere and well-meaning”. I am not in the least surprised at her latest blatant attempt to exploit a tragedy for profit.

    http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/homeopathyplus.htm

  2. #2 by Tony Terry on March 13, 2011 - 09:42

    ….!!!
    (stunned slack jawed silence – no words available)

  3. #3 by Blake Drayson on March 13, 2011 - 10:29

    I don’t know where to start I think I agree with your image tag line of being speechless, it not even anger at this point, even if this is a position that Homeopathy Plus truly believes will help it is still bordering on insane.

    Thanks for bring this the attention it deserves its a shocking testament to how far homeopathy will go and smashes the ‘its fine its just placebo’ efficacy myth.

  4. #4 by Eamon GS on March 14, 2011 - 03:52

    I’m just trying to work out how to prepare a homeopathic X-ray medicine! Do I take a radiograph of a vial of water and start succussing……..?

  5. #5 by Les Heelam on March 14, 2011 - 14:26

    An amazing article!
    Below, are a chemist’s idle thoughts on this topic:

    If you open up the Homeopathy Plus webpage, you find some “remedies” for use in cases of “Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy Side-Effects”. The use of Cadmium Iodide is one such remedy. Now, which ion of this salt is meant to be doing the business? In times of radionuclide emergencies, I believe Potassium Iodide (KI) is distributed to those persons potentially exposed to Iodine-131
    (I-131). This is a specific action meant to protect against this radionuclide only. KI works by “saturating” the thyroid gland with normal (non-radionuclide) iodide. Thus, when exposed to I-131, the thyroid is already saturated and this radionuclide is not absorbed (or absorbed poorly) by the thyroid gland. This will minimise exposure of the gland to ionising radiations! Conversely, Iodine -131 may be deliberately administered in cases of hyperthyroidism, where the intention is to destroy some of the overactive thyroid tissue. So, I guess that if there is not involvement of Iodine-131, administration of “normal” iodide would have no effect?

    Now to Cadmium, an extremely toxic metal. Depending upon which Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) you consult, you will find references to its divalent ion being a suspected human carcinogen, to be toxic by inhalation, skin contact and ingestion. I can only assume that its toxic properties don’t matter in homeopathy, and that its potential as a carcinogen is what is actively sought by the homeopathic practitioner – on the basis of the Laws of Similars!

    Bottom line: bad news is that Cadmium is nasty stuff. Good news is that under homeopathic dilution conditions, there will be none left in the remedy anyway!

    Another remedy that caught my attention was the use of X-rays. Of course, X-rays are an example of ionising radiations, with the attendant potential for damage to structures such as DNA and what may follow from that. X-rays can clearly cause “cancer”, so this must be the basis for homeopathic use? So, what is the equivalent of a 30C dose of X-rays? My suggestion would be to place the patient in from of the X-ray generator, but not to actually energise it! The patient would receive no dose of ionising radiation (analogous to what Skeptics believe is the situation with homeopathic dilutions), but probably would benefit from a large dose of placebo, assuming that the patient didn’t realise that X-rays had not been produced.

    Finally, the website has some fascinating incites into the use of Calendula officinalsi – see below

    Calendula officinalis ointment reduced the incidence of pain and dermatitis in women receiving radiation for breast cancer. It was more effective than placebo and the recommended conventional medicine.[3] (Note: The ointment contained Calendula in herbal form but its effect was homoeopathic due to symptom similarity. Potentisation is not a requirement for homeopathy, just a way of introducing other benefits).

    It would seem that the line between herbalism (which at least has some scientific validity) and homeopathy has become distinctly blurred. Is it now just sufficient that symptom similarity is present, and potensisation is not a requirement for homeopathy?

  6. #6 by Les Heelam on March 14, 2011 - 18:40

    Author’s correction to his comment at 14:26 on 14Mar11

    Try “insights” instead of “incites” in the sentence prior to the para on Calendula officianalis. I put this error down to the excitement of discovering the homeopathic X-ray technique. Ben, consider this as a pre-emptive correction – before you draw my attention to it!.

    Maybe In the context of homoepathy, “incites” has some merit!

  7. #7 by Rob on March 17, 2011 - 20:13

    The Homeopathy Plus Facebook page links to this article:
    http://homeopathyworks.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/homeopathy-and-radioactivity/

    It lists most of the “remedies” from the e-mail you screencapped, and adds this little gem:

    “Here’s a tip from my friend and colleague, Dr. Kaayla Daniel. She suggests that as soon as radioactive exposure is apparent, pour one cup each of baking soda and salt into a hot bath. Submerge and soak for as long as the water stays warm. Don’t add more warm or hot water to the bath unless all of the water is drained and then begin again if the exposure is particularly high.”

    If only someone had told the victims of Chernobyl to take a hot, salty bath!

    The stupidity of this would be funny if it wasn’t so horribly, horribly evil. Can you imagine someone watching the news after the earthquake and thinking: “This is my cue! Time to fire up the e-mail machine and rake in some buyers for my 18 Au$ bottles of tap water!”. Yuck.

  8. #8 by Bob M on March 18, 2011 - 13:58

    You might be interested to know that this article is linked to from Spain:

    http://blogs.elcorreo.com/magonia/2011/3/17/los-homeopatas-quieren-sacar-tajada-la-crisis-radiactiva-de

    Cheers.

    Bob

  9. #9 by skepticarla on March 21, 2011 - 11:23

    Hi,

    Since I read Ben Radford’s article on this I had a look at some of the tests Homeopathy plus cite on their website as proof of the efficacy of homeopathy on radiation. most are claims from homeopaths (biased) and a test that was done on ‘albino guinea pigs’ was a test of the effects of UV radiation (they effectively ‘sunburned’ the guineas)! I am currently in a dialogue wuth them via e-mail trying to get them to change their references that seem to back up claims they are making, when in reality the results are skewed or downright lies. At the moment, they’re replying politely but with confusing and obfuscating info. No surprise there… The result I’m expecting? Sweet FA, but I’m giving it a go anyway…

  10. #10 by G Wiz on March 26, 2011 - 20:48

    This is their latest email:

    Kali-iodatum MAY NOT Protect Against Radiation Poisoning

    Question: I am a southern Californian resident nursing a 3-month-old baby.

    What is the proper dosage for my baby and me when taking kali iodatum 30c to protect the thyroid from radiation? Can you please help? -Kate

    Answer: Hi Kate, we can’t recommend the use of Kali-iodatum (homeopathic potassium iodide) for radiation protection, as is commonly being advised, as there are no clinical records or research to show that it will help.

    While potassium iodide, in crude (chemical) form, does offer some protection for the thyroid gland, it won’t necessarily do so once potentised (turned into a homeopathic remedy).

    The reason for this is that homeopathy works by the ‘like treats like’ effect – ie, a substance will treat or prevent symptoms similar to those it produces. More information on this effect can be read in Tutorial 1: Law of Similars and Tutorial 6: Provings.

    Potassium iodide (either in its crude or homeopathic form) has not been shown to do this – it has not been shown to produce thyroid gland symptoms similar to those produced from radiation poisoning and so in its homeopathic form cannot be recommended at this stage for this purpose. Advice to the contrary is not based on firm homeopathic principles.

    This remedy, if being taken, will not poison or harm you or your baby but may produce what is known as an aggravation if taken repeatedly when not needed. This aggravating effect is non-toxic and will settle as soon as the remedy stopped. More information on this can be obtained in Tutorial 15: What to Expect.

    A list of remedies that are supported by either research or clinical usage can be found in Radiation Sickness and Poisoning: Guidelines for Homeopathic Treatment and Prevention. Several of these remedies should be readily obtainable from your existing dispensaries within the United States.

    If your baby is being fully nursed, he or she will receive the benefits of any remedy through your breast milk. If bottle fed, an adult dose or slightly smaller is still safe to give. More information about dosing babies and infants with homoeopathy can be read at Doses for Babies, Doses for Adults – Is There a Difference?

    As a final point, do remember that the information provided in these articles is not intended to replace information given by your public health officials, but to supplement it.

  11. #11 by Michael on March 26, 2011 - 21:57

    What an amazing article? Below are a few musings from a professional NUCLEAR PHYSICIST with ten years experience working in radiological safety at BNFL and Rolls Royce Associates (and another place I can’t possibly comment on). My jobs? radiological protection, criticality, shielding, reactor design and weapon design. Is that enough to make me qualified??? At last a blog that I don’t have to bullshit on. (that will please Marsh) Oh shit I’ve run out of space.
    Only kidding.

    The first problem (even if we said homeopathy were true, which it isn’t) is that the major radiation by-products are cesium 135 and 137 and cobalt 60. Only two of these have very short half lives Cs137 and Co60 with 30 and 5 years respectively. The shorter the half life the more radiation is emitted. Radon 226 has a half life of 55 seconds and I have a jar of that in my bedside table. Its an alpha emitter, so who cares?
    Alpha emitters can be shielded by a Weetabix box. It is only when they are gaseous that they are damaging. They are highly ionizing because of their immediacy to interact. In fact they can only get around 5 cm distance through air because of their large mass and positive charge, they are a helium nucleus.
    Cs137 is a beta minus emitter, which means it emits electrons which are mildly ionizing, these ones have an energy 1.33 MeV (2.2 x 10^-12 J ) which is very high for an electron so they are only mildly ionizing.
    Co 60 is a gamma emitter, these are very weakly ionizing, it takes around 5 cm of lead to stop half of them. (called the mean free path) so most of these would pass straight through the human body without any interaction.
    Iodine 131 is also a beta emitter. However when ingested it is absorbed into the thyroid gland where it can cause trouble however cadmium-iodine cannot. Are these fuckers stupid?
    If homeopathy worked (which it doesn’t) they would give diluted (ha ha ha ha haaaa) Co60, Cs137 and I131 but they don’t. That is the problem with actual science, facts, they are a fucker.,

    What are the dangers at Fuku

  12. #12 by Michael on March 27, 2011 - 15:48

    I know how the x-ray homeopathy may work. Place sticky tape in a bucket of water and then peel the tape at 3 cm per second, peel about 10 to 23 cm of the tape then remove from the water. Take one ml of the water in the bucket and dilute into a further 99 ml and you will have a 1C solution of x-rays. Ta-raa!

  13. #13 by L.Marsh on April 13, 2011 - 05:26

    Sirs of the “Sceptics Society”

    As a classical homeopath that has spent 7 years studying homeopathy (4 years for a diploma and a further 3 for an Advanced diploma) and as a full time homeopath, I take offence at the rubbish that you say about the subject. You are probably totally unaware of how it works as you probably have never really researched the subject properly at all. You may merely think that it is a bit of diluted herb water that just works by placebo or just a good bedside manner. There are millions of case histories to prove you wrong and this includes animals that have been tested under double blind / control test procedures, as well as humans. The proof that Homeopathy works is well and truly tested in just about every country in the world. Currently Scientists are studying highly diluted medicines (that have been serially succussed) to determine once and for all how they work and not if they work. Just because it may fly in the face of current scientific thinking does not mean that it doesn’t work, we once thought that the earth was flat and the sceptics society of the day took great delight in ridiculing those that proved that it was indeed round much to the embarrassment of the sceptics society of the day. One thing I have learned in life is that “To Be Different Isn’t To Be Wrong” regardless of what some may think, even if politicians and wealthy Industrialist’s that pay to discredit those that work for the truth rather than for money, being different is what has made our society evolve. Rubbishing something over a pint or three of beers is no way to scientifically evaluate anything seriously, whether it be scientific or not. If you want to serve as the watch dogs of alternative medicines then do so from an educated and thoroughly researched platform and not from the musings and ravings of an alcohol induced stupor. You are clearly out of your depth on this subject.

    Kind regards.

    L. Marsh.

  14. #14 by Johan Strandberg on April 16, 2011 - 06:20

    L.Marsh :
    [...] You are clearly out of your depth on this subject.
    Kind regards.
    L. Marsh.

    “out of your depth” vs. “lot’s of water” Very funny.

    Anyway. Ad Hominem aside. Do you have references to these “double blind / control test procedures”? If you want to change minds, you have to provide evidence. Do you at least have references to the “millions of case histories” or are they just billing records?

    Looking forward you your response Sir.

    –j

  15. #15 by L. Marsh. on April 19, 2011 - 22:35

    Yes Johan Strandberg I have sent a few samples of double blind trials that I had in my files to Mike Hall no doubt you could co-ordinate with him. However I have been warned by others not to argue with the “Sceptics Society” as they say you will argue about things that you know little about. Do your research Mr Strandberg. How many case histories do you want? Go to any one of your Homeopathic Hospitals in the UK and ask to see some, then go to Europe and do the same then go to India and then Mexico and America then Australia then New Zealand then South Africa, then when you’ve finished doing your research with an open mind then get back to me.

  16. #16 by Mike on April 19, 2011 - 22:49

    I’m afraid I have to take issue with the implication that we a) haven’t done the research and b) don’t have open minds.

    Skeptics are, in fact, very open-minded – and are the easiest people in the world to convince. You just need to have some good evidence. We have also spent a lot of time familiarising ourselves with the scientific literature on the subject.

    The fact is, skeptics are interested in exactly one thing: what can be shown to be true. If the claims you are making are true, they have nothing to fear from investigation. The truth never does.

  17. #17 by L. Marsh. on April 20, 2011 - 02:17

    Mike, If you had done your research you would have found double blind tests and research relating to homeopathy. Tell me at what point of the dilution rate do you believe that homeopathy doesn’t work? Or does work, or doesn’t it matter to you at the potency level at all? I’m pleased that you say that sceptics are very open-minded and what can be shown to be true. Do you believe in the meridian lines that go through our bodies that acupuncturists use? If so how do you account for that? Because they can’t be seen with an x-ray or a scan. Western Doctors have witnessed open heart surgery under the influence of acupuncture whilst the patient is still conscious….Meridian lines – surely that can’t be right because you can’t see them but then a mere 1,341,000,000 Chinese can’t be wrong? Not to say I am an expert on Acupuncture but I do know a lot about Homeopathy despite the fact that we are not certain how exactly it works but then drug companies don’t know how all their drugs work either.

  18. #18 by Mike on April 20, 2011 - 07:52

    I have read numerous double blind trials and other papers relating to homeopathy – and found most of them wanting. Either they have poor methodology, poor controls, inadequate sample size or the effects are clinically insignificant or indistinguishable from noise.

    My claim that homeopathy is not effective is not based upon the dilution, it is based on the data. Yes, the dilution problem also makes homeopathy implausible because dilutions past around 12C/24X will no longer contain any of the supposed active ingredient. But that would simply be an interesting mystery if the intervention could be reliably shown to work. However, when we look at the systematic reviews and meta analyses which qualitatively examine the available data (e.g. Shang, Linde) we see that the data do not support the claim that homeopathy is an efficacious intervention for any condition.

    I do not believe that “meridian lines” can be shown to exist – and open heart surgery you refer to was, in fact, a hoax. The patient was using acupuncture, yes, along with several powerful analgesic drugs.

    Your appeal to “1,341,000,000 Chinese can’t be wrong” is an argument from popularity, and will hold no sway with anyone here. The number of people who accept a claim has no bearing on the truth of that claim. For example, at one time the majority of people believed the Earth was at the centre of the universe and the sun moved around us. No matter how many people believed that, it still was not true.

  19. #19 by L. Marsh. on April 20, 2011 - 10:41

    Well you have me there, I can’t argue with you any longer as it seems not matter how much information would be given to you you would never see a point of view of truth. By the way Ritalin works in the same way that homeopathy does on ADDHD children and in many cases just by a placebo effect. Signing off.

  20. #20 by Mike on April 20, 2011 - 12:15

    I’m sorry – are you conceding that homeopathy is only a placebo? That seems to be the implication of your last statements.

    “Ritalin works in the same way that homeopathy does”
    “[Ritalin works] in many cases just by a placebo effect”

    I’m sure this isn’t what you meant to say. Would you like to clarify what you meant?

    Also, as I said above, I’m very easy to convince – all I need is good evidence. Appeals to popularity are not evidence, and your references to acupuncture and Ritalin are red herrings.

    I have no horse in this race, I don’t care if homeopathy works or not. I only care about what we can show to be true. If the data were to show homeopathy to be effective, I would be delighted. Cheap, safe, effective medicine. Fantastic. Unfortunately, this it not the case.

  21. #21 by L. Marsh. on April 20, 2011 - 22:23

    No it is not what I meant. The argument that is always put up is that homeopathy works as a placebo and in “some” cases you would be right but so does modern drugs they also can have a placebo effect. I’m not trying to put red herrings to you at all I am trying to identify where you are coming from because the way I see it is that there is so much evidence throughout the world that homeopathy works and you are not able to see it and I hate to say it but I have to wonder if you have some vested interest somewhere or something against homeopathy that you are not sharing with us. The old saying “there is non so blind as them that cannot see”. You seem to be an intelligent man but you clearly have a blockage when it comes to homeopathy. You must surely be aware that there are scientists that are currently working on how it works and not if it works. Just because the dilutions are great and it goes against what science understands at present doesn’t mean that we stop trying to understand what we don’t know and until we understand these phenomenon’s I guess we will always have doubters. For me I find it exciting to see new events and discoveries that science comes up with. For instance they have started trialling dogs to detect cancer on people by sniffing them, which sounds way out but lets see where it leads to, I will at least keep my mind open on this. I respect that you have a view point and I guess no matter what I say would even change that.

  22. #22 by Mike on April 20, 2011 - 23:36

    If there are pharmaceuticals which have no action beyond placebo, then I would be not be in favour of their use in a clinical setting either. I’m not concerned with the background of a modality, I’m only concerned with efficacy. I don’t care if it’s TCM, or acupuncture, or chiropractic, or homeopathy, or pharmaceuticals, or whatever. If you can’t show it works, it shouldn’t be used to treat the sick and injured.

    As I’ve already told you, I have no horse in this race. I’ve also told you that the dilution problem is not the reason that I, or medical science, rejects homeopathy. It all comes down to the fact that the data does not support the claims made for homeopathy.

    You keep talking about the evidence in favour of homeopathy, but I’ve yet to see any. And again, as I keep telling you, evidence is all it takes to change my mind. You keep asserting that I won’t change my position, but I am very happy to change it if you can show me that I’m wrong.

    I suspect where the disconnect happens is our standards for what is considered good evidence. For example, you cited the Jacobs study on infant diarrhea to me over email. However, this data is of limited value because of the small sample size. Were you aware that Dr Jacobs repeated her study some years later, with a larger sample size and tighter controls, and found that homeopathy had no effect? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17034278

  23. #23 by L. Marsh. on April 21, 2011 - 11:11

    And what about the other double blind test from Glasgow hospital and the centre for rheumatoid arthritis. What about the leptospirosis trial they did on 2.4 million Cuban’s compared to the rest of Cuba that had conventional treatment. I have hundreds of patient files in my clinic of cured cases with 98% of them having been under previous medical care and found their drugs either ineffective or didn’t work or had side effects – this would go for all the other homeopaths around the world too but I add I am not and repeat not against modern medicine but there is room for both of us. I’m not sure how much more you want convincing. As I said before go to the Homeopathic hospital in London and ask for case studies and tests etc. etc. and see what they come up with and get back to me. Like I said in my e-mail if you want convincing about double blind tests and the efficacy of homeopathy I have supplied some to you and I have asked you to supply the double blind tests that were performed on pregnant women with the drug Thalidomide and lets then compare efficacy of the double blind tests that you put so much store in. I also wonder do you as a sceptics group ever question the drug companies in the same light as you do us homeopaths? And do you keep asking for proof that their drugs work (with certain drugs that are questionable)?

  24. #24 by Mike on April 21, 2011 - 17:10

    I haven’t looked through all the material you’ve sent me yet, but I recognised Dr Jacobs trial off-hand as I had read it before. I’ll let you know what I make of the rest of it when I have time to sit down and read through it.

    As I’ve said to you before, patient files and case studies are not designed to, nor are they capable of, demonstrating efficacy. They are, by their nature, uncontrolled. And so we can never be sure where the effect is coming from.

    I’m unsure why you keep bringing up thalidomide though? What does that have to do with the efficacy of homeopathy? And why is it my responsibility to provide any supporting data for a drug I do not support the use of?

    There are skeptics (for example, Ben Goldacre) who are very vocal about the way pharmaceutical companies abuse science to sell their wares. Although pharmaceutical companies are required demonstrate, to the satisfaction of an independent authority, that their product works before they are able to sell it. Homeopathy is not held to this same standard. If it were, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

  25. #25 by L. Marsh. on April 22, 2011 - 00:17

    My argument is that you keep demanding proof of efficacy (you have not mentioned safety). I am simply saying that Thalidomide has not proven either and if they had done double blind tests on pregnant women they probably would have found that the women on a placebo would have had babies born healthy and with arms and legs. If the drug (like many others) had been proven safe on humans which they must have thought at the time and was given out to the wider public which would have had the effects contained in patient files and case studies that in your words “are not designed to nor capable of demonstrating efficacy” (or safety). So seeing that in your opinion the safety or efficacy of the drug could not be demonstrated then why would the drug be stopped at all? Because it must have passed the criteria of the day (surely) to be given to pregnant women. So the point I am making if you can’t take field trials and case histories into account then you might as well just let everything out into the market place without any idea of what is happening as a result of any medication. The only way you can truly trust the efficacy or safety of a product is by trials and the taking of case histories into account and once again homeopathy has been trialling its products for over two hundred years with millions of case histories and accounts of its efficacy and safety and that is why many doctors are either training in homeopathy or refer their patients to homeopaths because I believe that doctors have a genuine desire to heal and help their patients get well either through the use of safe drugs or natural remedies. Surely you can’t honestly believe that all these millions of people taking homeopathy and getting well are just by the placebo effect and to even infer that they are stupid would discredit you because they are people like the German soccer teams, English football stars, Presidents of America, Olympic athletes, Members of The Royal Family (with the Queens own doctor being homeopathically trained), Politicians, even doctors themselves given homeopathics to their families and children. Even if as you say that homeopathy works only on a placebo effect then okay which would you prefer (a) a well tried drug that no case histories were taken into account of like thalidomide or (b) a homeopathic remedy (that works like a placebo in your view) where no case histories were taken into account of either, that would be given to your pregnant wife or daughter to stop morning sickness – even if it was a placebo. Which would you prefer? As I have said earlier I have many case histories of giving a homeopathic remedies for morning sickness to pregnant women and their babies have born healthy but then you don’t beleive in case histories do you? So without case histories why would the drug companies and doctors stop producing or giving thalidomide to pregnant women if in your words it couldn’t be proven just by the case histories that any harm (or good) was being done?
    There was no human trials done on Thalidomide (or many other drugs) was there? The only trials were on rabbits and guinea pigs weren’t they? And the rest of the knowledge came from case histories of foetal abnormalities didn’t it?

  26. #26 by Mike on April 22, 2011 - 01:48

    You’re right, I haven’t mentioned safety. In this conversation, I’m only concerned with efficacy. If an intervention cannot show efficacy, its safety is irrelevant.

    I’m still totally confused by your constant references to thalidomide. I don’t know anything about the history of the drug, how it came to market, what trial data – if any – was available. I’m not advocating the use of thalidomide, I’m not suggesting the data for thalidomide is good, or valid, or even interesting. My position on thalidomide is no different to my position on any other intervention – unless it is safe and effective, it should not be used.

    I totally reject your assertion that case histories can show efficacy. This is foundational in epidemiology. You show efficacy through double-blind RCTs.

    Case histories are useless to show efficacy. They have many interesting uses in themselves, but they cannot show efficacy because they are uncontrolled. For example, when you give homeopathy to treat morning sickness, how do you know it is the homeopathy which is making your patient better?

  27. #27 by L. Marsh. on April 22, 2011 - 04:55

    Thalidomide…….it was a drug that was not given to show its efficacy or safety by the double blind tests on humans that you keep banging on about. It was only by case histories that they discovered it was bad news…..can’t you see the point. The point is, in case its not clear, is that case histories are important. I do fully understand that double blind controlled tests are important too and that is how we “prove” our remedies but you may want to discredit that also!! When a person is given an anti-biotic how do you know if it is the anti-biotic that is working or just the persons natural defences healing that person? As far as double blind tests go if you want to take penicillin as an example – Penicillin type moulds were first discovered in the mid 1800′s by a number of physicians and was discovered through observation and trials (not double blind) to eradicate purulent processes, this was before Fleming stumbled on it again in his grubby laboratory in 1928, those physicians didn’t know how it worked then back in the 1800′s because germs hadn’t been discovered then but with their knowledge of observations they healed people. So double blind tests are good yes but they were not heard of when medicine first began way before modern medicine was ever thought of and of course is still not used with every drug is it? So why pick on homeopathy when it has been shown in double blind tests and case histories whether you believe us or not. I still think you must have vested interests in denigration of homeopathic practices as it is perfectly clear to those that take homeopathy including the Queen and half a billion others, that it does work, or would you suggest that the Queen is stupid too?

  28. #28 by Mike on April 22, 2011 - 09:06

    I still don’t see the relevance of thalidomide. You’re saying that thalidomide was dangerous, and that case histories were used to show it was dangerous? And therefore – case histories can be used to show homeopathy works? That is a total non-sequitur.

    Method X can show intervention Y is dangerous in situation Z.
    Therefore Method X can also show intervention A is effective for indication B.

    I’m sorry, that doesn’t fly. Once again, your invocation of thalidomide is a red herring.

    When you give someone an anti-biotic, you can know that it is the anti-biotic making them better – because someone has done a good quality blinded trial which shows that the anti-biotic works! Before doctors were allowed to prescribe that anti-biotic, someone got 1000 people with a condition, split them into two groups gave half of them the anti-biotic, half of them a placebo. And then looked to see how many got better. When more people get better in the anti-biotic group, and we can reproduce this effect over multiple studies, we know the anti-biotic works for that indication. This is basic epidemiology 101.

    When you do this kind of test on homeopathy, there is no difference between the two groups. The homeopathy doesn’t impact on the recovery of the patients. This is why skeptics say that homeopathy should not be used to treat the sick – because when you test the effect, using reliable controlled tests, it is not really there.

    The reason case histories are not capable of proving efficacy is because they are uncontrolled, observational studies. You take patient X and give them intervention Y, and they feel better. You have no way of knowing if Y is responsible for the recovery, or if it was the placebo effect, regression to the mean, bias, natural history of the disease, something else the patient took and didn’t tell you, something that changed in the patients life, spontaneous recovery, etc. You can’t tell those factors apart, because it is an uncontrolled observational study of one patient. That is why case histories cannot show efficacy – you can never know where the effect is coming from.

    I’m not especially interested in how they did medicine in the 1800s and early 1900s. Medicine was crap back then, and often did more harm than good. Part of the reason it was crap is that doctors were not routinely testing interventions for efficacy before using them. So some interventions worked, others did not, and we had no reliable way of telling the two apart.

    As I’ve already told you, your appeal to popularity will hold no sway here. And nor will your argument from authority, invoking the Queen.

    I would also appreciate it if you would stop suggesting that I have a vested interest in this. I have already told you twice that I do not and to continue to insist that I do is to call me a liar. That is an ad-hominem attack, an attempt at poisoning the well, and is not relevant to the issue.

    If you want to have this conversation, please stick to the facts, not making personal slights.

  29. #29 by L. Marsh. on April 23, 2011 - 05:45

    Okay – You have had time to read and write diversions of the truth (in my opinion).but you haven’t had time to read about the double blind controlled study from the Glasgow Hospital re rheumatoid arthritis using homeopathy, and to get back to me, or even to comment on the study of 2.4 million Cuban’s in reference to leptospirosis. I went to the trouble to send you this information a few days back. I must ask of you (and this is not an attack), to be so sceptical on so many things, to become a member of the sceptics society and to be so blindly adamant on so many issues must make you lead such a sad life. Don’t you think you should get out more? You say I am trying to appeal popularity by evoking the Queen which I deny because I don’t have to worry about my self esteem whether I am popular with you or not – the thing is you didn’t answer my question did you – Do you think the Queen and her Homeopathic Physician are stupid by using homeopathy or the presidents of America, Politicians and Olympic Sports teams and Stars?

    You must remember that a lot of medicines used today were first discovered well before modern medicine started using them (many I might add by homeopathic doctors) so are you suggesting that these medicines are crap because they were discovered more than a hundred years ago? Also do you not think that some modern drugs are not crap like thalidomide? Certainly there was some crap medicine going on before modern medicine and there is still some crap medicine going on to this day and there will be tomorrow as well. Homeopathy does not come under that heading thankfully but only exists in the minds of those that have either not had the benefits of its safe curative effects or those that stand to loose from those that take financial loss like the drug companies when some people wish to use alternative or complimentary medicines / therapies that they find curative.

  30. #30 by Mike Hall on April 23, 2011 - 08:15

    That’s right, I have had time to respond a few of times to your messages here. I haven’t had time to read through and respond to the trials you sent me. That is at least a couple of hours work. I also have a full time job and, frankly, prefer sitting in the sun with my family to reading medical literature.

    I didn’t say that you were making an appeal to popularity by invoking the queen. Invoking the queen is an appeal to authority. Your appeal to popularity was invoking “1,341,000,000 Chinese people”, or “half a billion others”. You also seem to have misunderstood the concept of an appeal to popularity. The appeal to popularity has nothing to do with your self-esteem, or anything to do with your personal popularity at all. The appeal to popularity is a logical fallacy, which suggests that claim X is true because many people believe claim X is true. In your case, you have claimed that homeopathy works and you know this because “half a billion” people have used it and believe it to work.

    This does not logically follow. The truth of a claim is not changed by the number of people who accept or reject it. I’ve already given you a clear counter-example to the argument from popularity: at one time, people believed our solar system was geocentric. It was always heliocentric, regardless of people’s beliefs.

    The reason I did not answer your question about queens and presidents is that it is irrelevant to the question of whether homeopathy works. As I previously explained, it is an argument from authority: claim X is true because important person Z accepts it as true. This is another logical fallacy. Important, clever or famous people are not immune to being wrong about things. Nor do the things they believe automatically become true because they believe them. I do not think the Queen is stupid, I think she is mistaken.

    Yes, I’m sure there are medicines in use today that have been in use for a while. But their efficacy is not a function of their antiquity. If you can prove they work, great. If you can’t, they shouldn’t be used. If they are in use, and you can’t prove they work, they should be withdrawn. I don’t care if they are pharmaceuticals or homeopathy. If you can’t show it works, don’t give it to patients. I thought I had made this position very clear.

    Finally, your ad-hominem attacks on my character are both irrelevant to the question and highly disappointing. I have been polite with you, and restricted myself to criticising your ideas and your arguments. I haven’t starting hurling insults, or suggested you are being disingenuous. I had hoped you would have been professional enough to keep this conversation about the issues. You do a disservice to yourself and to your profession by making personal attacks.

  31. #31 by L. Marsh. on April 23, 2011 - 11:49

    I apologies if you thought I was making a personal attack, actually I was getting quite frustrated with your logic and lack of not reading the double blind tests and still insisting that there was no proof that homeopathy works. However I do suspect that whatever proof may be put before you, you will still insist that homeopathy doesn’t work. Enjoy the sun and take the time to read what I have sent you. It is good to see that you admit that homeopathy is a profession, this is one step forward.

  32. #32 by Mike on April 23, 2011 - 12:53

    I’ve spent the morning going through the evidence you supplied. Sadly, I haven’t found any of it compelling – for the reasons set out below.

    Homoeopathic therapy in rheumatoid arthritis: evaluation by double-blind clinical therapeutic trial. (Br J Clin Pharmacol 1980).

    This trial is statistically weak, with only 23 patients in each treatment group. Sample sizes this small are prone to aberrations in the data skewing the result and are not significant enough to show efficacy. The results are interesting, but would need to be followed up by a larger study. Certainly not enough data to justify clinical use.

    Treatment of Acute Childhood Diarrhea With Homeopathic Medicine: A Randomized Clinical Trial in Nicaragua. (Pediatrics 1994).

    As I’ve already mentioned, this is also a statistically weak study with only 81 patients in total. This was part of a series of studies conducted by Dr Jennifer Jacobs. Dr Jacobs also completed a meta analysis of her own data, which cast doubt on her previous conclusions. To settle the question, she then performed another trial with a larger sample size (292 total). This larger trial showed no effect.

    Randomised controlled trial of homoeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial series. (BMJ 2000).

    Similar to the above, this is a statistically weak trial, with only 51 patients. A larger trial would need to be done to show efficacy.

    The Word document you sent me, titled “Research in Leading Medical Journals” (actually a cut-and-paste from Dana Ullman’s blogpost on the subject for the Huffington Post) refers to the results of several studies:

    Is homoeopathy a placebo response? Controlled trial of homoeopathic potency, with pollen in hayfever as model. (Lancet 1986)

    Again, statistically weak. Only 52/56 patients in each group. Also, objective outcome measures (such as IgE) showed no effect from homeopathy.

    Is evidence for homoeopathy reproducible? (Lancet 1994)

    Another weak study, with only 15/13 patients in each group. Patients continued to receive standard care throughout the study (and so all patients were getting an active treatment) and, again, objective outcome measures showed no effect. The paper also acknowledges that the trial design may produce false positives.

    Randomised controlled trial of homoeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial series. (BMJ 2000)

    Already discussed above.

    Potent placebo or potency? A proposed study model with initial findings using homoeopathically prepared pollens in hayfever. (Br Hom J 1986)

    Unfortunately, I cannot find the text of this study so I am unable to respond to it.

    Treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis using homeopathic preparation of common allergens in the southwest region of the US: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. (Ann Pharmacother 2005)

    Yet another statistically weak study, with only 40 participants. Also, the homeopathic potency used is 6X, which is within the realms of plausibility. Even if this trial had some statistical power, and was able to show the efficacy of a 6X homeopathic nostrum, that lends no credibility to nostrums diluted beyond 12C.

    A meta-analysis of homeopathic treatment of pollinosis with Galphimia glauca. (Wien Med Wochenschr. 1997)

    I was unable to get the full text of this article, however the abstract indicates that some of the data used were uncontrolled, unblinded, retrospective, not randomised and not placebo-controlled. Conclusion also acknowledges that the results may be biased.

    The Word document you sent titled “Homeoprophylaxis on Agronomy” appears to be notes from a presentation about the topic at a conference held in Cuba in 2008, not good quality, peer-reviewed, published trial data.

    Finally, the article on Leptospirosis in Cuba seems to be a news article or press release about another presentation at the same Cuban conference. Again, this is not good quality, peer-reviewed, published trial data – which is a great shame as this was the article I had hoped would show some effect. It is the only one you have given me with enough participants to be statistically relevant. However, it seems to be a retrospective analysis of an uncontrolled and unblinded intervention.

  33. #33 by L. Marsh. on April 25, 2011 - 10:51

    Okay I give up.

    You say there was no proof of efficacy of homeopathic remedies and is due to a placebo effect because of no double blind trials.

    You say that you can’t use trials of remedies to prove that homeopathy works, no matter how many people are involved in the trials.

    You say that people are put in danger by going to see a homeopath.

    You say that any medicines produced more than 100 years ago are no good.

    You say that the medical profession prior to 100 years ago was no good.

    You must be inferring that modern day medicine is the only treatment that people should seek and that the only cure to any disease is through modern pharmaceutical drugs.

    I have supplied a random sample from bits and pieces in my files that clearly show that homeopathy is efficacious but is clearly not enough information for you and every bit of information that I have given has met with your disapproval including the double blind trials that you kept asking for.

    Modern medicine often just uses animals to test their products on and then rely on “human guinea pig” trials to test their efficacy, but you choose not to accept the same type of trials for homeopathy no matter how many people involved.

    I certainly agree that modern medicine has made some great strides forward in the last few years however not all procedures or drugs are safe or free from side effects as can clearly be seen with the drug thalidomide that caused 10,000 babies to be born without limbs, and many more such drugs with their own side effects, including over the counter drugs. You have not given me the double blind tests of the drug thalidomide that I asked for and for obvious reasons you have side stepped the whole issue of dangerous drugs that have only been tested on animals without any long term surveys done on them.

    I have a busy homeopathic clinic that comprises of patients that 98% of them have come from their medical doctor as a result of non effectiveness of their drugs or the side effects of them (this is not to say that doctors don’t help or cure people, of course they do). Through homeopathy or in your words the placebo effect I am able to help or cure up to 75% of these people safely and without side effects. I have an interesting and rewarding life – service to humanity is the greatest gift of all and knowing the truth is even better. I wish you well.

  34. #34 by Mike Hall on April 25, 2011 - 19:33

    > You say there was no proof of efficacy of homeopathic remedies and
    > is due to a placebo effect because of no double blind trials.

    That’s pretty much right, yes. Homeopathy is an unproven intervention for any condition. The published literature shows it to be no more effective than placebo.

    > You say that you can’t use trials of remedies to prove that
    > homeopathy works, no matter how many people are involved
    > in the trials.

    If by “trial” you mean RCTs, then no I did not claim that.

    If, however, by “trial” you mean case histories, then you’re right, those data cannot prove efficacy. For reasons I have previously stated.

    > You say that people are put in danger by going to see a
    > homeopath.

    No, I didn’t say that. I’m sure no-one will argue that homeopathy itself is unsafe. It is, after all, only sugar and water. Nor is visiting a homeopath unsafe. The danger comes when people in need of urgent medical attention go to see a homeopath instead of a real doctor.

    But safety is a separate question – we’re discussing efficacy.

    > You say that any medicines produced more than 100 years
    > ago are no good.

    No, I didn’t say that either. What I’ve said is, we decide whether a medicine is good or not based on the data – not on how long it has been in use. Some old stuff will work, some old stuff will not. The stuff that doesn’t should be thrown out.

    > You say that the medical profession prior to 100 years ago was
    > no good.

    I think it is reasonable to say that 100 years ago, medicine was not very good. You only need to look at things like life expectancy figures (49 years c1900, 80 years today) to see how much medicine has improved. That isn’t to say everything they did was bad or wrong, just that overall, the general state of medicine and medical knowledge was poor. We’ve come a long, long way in the last 100 years.

    > You must be inferring that modern day medicine is the only
    > treatment that people should seek

    I think that sick people, in need of treatment, should go to a doctor. I don’t think that’s a controversial view.

    > and that the only cure to any disease is through modern
    > pharmaceutical drugs.

    I have no opinion on the nature of the intervention. I’m only interested in whether it can be shown to work.

    > I have supplied a random sample from bits and pieces in my files
    > that clearly show that homeopathy is efficacious

    No, the material you provided does not clearly show that homeopathy is efficacious. At best, those papers could be treated as preliminary or pilot studies, but would need to be repeated with tighter controls and larger sample sizes before they could be used to justify clinical use.

    > but is clearly not enough information for you and every bit of
    > information that I have given has met with your disapproval
    > including the double blind trials that you kept asking for.

    That’s correct, the information you have provided is not enough. If a pharmaceutical company were to try and launch a new drug with a comparable evidence base, they would be laughed out of the room.

    > Modern medicine often just uses animals to test their products
    > on and then rely on “human guinea pig” trials to test their
    > efficacy, but you choose not to accept the same type of trials
    > for homeopathy no matter how many people involved.

    This is not true. Certainly, some interventions are tested with animal models first, before human trials. But when they come, those human trials will be randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, independently replicable, peer-reviewed and with a statistically significant number of participants.

    This is exactly the kind of data I would readily accept as evidence in favour of homeopathy. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see a single positive study for homeopathy which matches these criteria, the same criteria by which all of medicine is judged.

    The data you provided were either from uncontrolled observational studies with large numbers of participants; controlled trials with very few participants; and/or from papers which have since been superseded by better research.

    > I certainly agree that modern medicine has made some great
    > strides forward in the last few years however not all procedures
    > or drugs are safe or free from side effects as can clearly be
    > seen with the drug thalidomide that caused 10,000 babies to be
    > born without limbs, and many more such drugs with their own
    > side effects, including over the counter drugs.

    That is true – and I have never suggested otherwise.

    However, the fact that some pharmaceuticals, including thalidomide, can have dangerous side effects doesn’t say anything about homeopathy. Even if every single pharmaceutical product currently on the market was dangerous and could not be proven to work, it still doesn’t say anything about the efficacy of homeopathy.

    That is why I keep telling you that your invocation of thalidomide is a red herring; it has no bearing on the question at hand.

    > You have not given me the double blind tests of the drug
    > thalidomide that I asked for

    Because, as I have already explained, they are irrelevant.

    > and for obvious reasons you have side stepped the whole issue
    > of dangerous drugs that have only been tested on animals
    > without any long term surveys done on them.

    I would be interested to know what you think these “obvious reasons” are.

    I should also note that I am routinely critical of the media for making medical claims about people, based solely on data from animal models. I do not and would not support the clinical use of any intervention which only had data from studies on animal models to support it.

  35. #35 by Warren on April 29, 2011 - 01:23

    Wow.
    You have some patience Mr Hall! I assume the big pharma/thalidomide commission pays well.

  36. #36 by Empty Book on November 3, 2011 - 00:32

    Y’all sound so fired up – all agreeing with each other and ready to set up a lynching mob. Is there no room for exploring dissenting views in order to grow? Under thedynamic you have created nothing will be learned and someone may be hung!

    Might there be some merit in the thousands of intelligent Homeopaths who have beenpracticing long before medicine arrived and still today? How could it be that they are entirely misguided? It is very possible that the scientific method of assessment, combined with the self-serving/pharmaceutical profit based lack of heart, mass production approach to health has a limited and skewed perspectives?

    The lack ofstudies in Homeopathics and other modalities is more an expression of how allopathic medicine has oppressed them than a commenton their integrity.

    Realze ir or not, a major portion of reality and truth is invisible, eternally mysterious and not readily measureable by ordinary human senses. Thinking otherwise, that we can fully understand and control the biochemistry of body or the planet eparated from its relationship with spirit and all else, without doing immeasurable damage has leld us to where we are right now – a medical system with innumerable fatal mishaps, arrogant insesnsitive healers, low support staff morale and huge hospital protectd cover ups of injured parties – and a planet almost destroyed. Allthese developments ocurrd during the reign of science and medicine, at the hands of the arrogant, angry mob that te human race, in particular the North Amercian culture – has become!

    So please take a breath, learn to meditate, check your humility, listen to and conside dissent, and the wisdom of long established principles of your heritage. Try to realise there are forces at work that we need to aobseve but cannot control. Homeopathy works from this paradigm. The doses are notmeant to be high enough to force the body to do this or that. They are to invoke subtle adjustments from within, based on energetic powers of cummunication between body mind and consciousness, learned from humble observation, with reasons and groupings thatnseem unlikely to the narrow observer but well known to one with an open heart.

    You are judging a territiry unkown to you, and using your own methods tomjudge. It’ s just like what we did to First Nations people, disregarding their perspective as primitive, then we have half ruined the

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