Tony Blair and Homeopathy

One thing always puzzled me about Tony Blair (well in fact, many things) was when he rather suddenly came out in defence of homeopathy. Out of the blue, he told the detractors of this weird superstition to back off:

I think that most people today have a rational view about science and my advice to the scientific community would be fight the battles you need to fight. I wouldn’t bother fighting a great battle over homeopathy – there are people who use it, people who don’t use it, it is not going to determine the future of the world, frankly.

What will determine the future of the world however, is the scientific community explaining for example the science of genetics and how it develops, or the issue to do with climate change and so on.

Now, the problem I have with this statement is that homeopaths undermine the public trust of science with their pseudo-scientific ramblings, their misrepresentaiton of data and their undermining of real medicine. The ability to use science to support policy is disrupted by a government that is willing to support NHS quackery.

Now a little quackery in the UK may not well determine “the future of the world”, but homeopaths claiming that they can cure AIDS in Africa might well help out in unfolding that dreadful tragedy. The Ethics Officers in our Homeopathic societies go out of their way to avoid condemning such dangerous practices.

Let’s pick on the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths for a change. They have members, who think that treating meningitis in children with sugar pills is OK, that malaria can be prevented and treated with magic, and that vaccines for children are a very bad idea.

Tony Blair should have been picking up the phone to the Officers of the Homeopathic Societies and demanding to know what the hell they were doing rather than telling concerned people to lay off these ‘gentle’ people. At the time, the Ethics and Welfare Officer of the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths was Lyndsey Booth, an expert in ‘treating’ autism with homeopathy. One more lunatic in charge of the asylum.

In fact, Tony may not even have needed to waste tax payers’ money on that phone call. He could have waited until the next family meal. Yes, as the eagle-eyed amongst you might have guessed, Lyndsey Booth is Tony Blair’s sister-in-law.

Tony and Cherie have been repeatedly criticised for their dabbling with dubious lifestyle gurus, in particular Carole Caplin and her conman ex-boyfriend Peter Foster. Caplin employed Lyndsey as a homeopath for her health and fitness company, LifeSmart. As the Times reported,

Lyndsey Booth, 47, who gave up a successful career as a lawyer to retrain as a homeopath, helped organise a Downing Street meeting, held two years ago, that aired fears about possible links between the MMR vaccine and autism.

So much for ethical homeopaths not wanting to disrupt health advice regarding vaccination.
Lyndsay Booth has now defected from the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths to join that much more ethical organisation, the Society of Homeopaths, whose ideas on transparency and honesty I have documented thoroughly.

None of this surprises me. Blair was a man who was prepared to take the minimal evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and fit it to his preconceived ideas. This sort of thinking is what makes homeopaths who they are. First decide what you want to believe and then find the evidence, no matter how flimsy, to support that.

But Blair has now gone. I doubt that more dour Scotsman in charge will be quite so accommodating to such delusions. Homeopaths have lost a secret friend in high places.

On this theme…

54 Comments on Tony Blair and Homeopathy

  1. Dear Mr. Duck,

    You write with such contempt for anyone who uses or expresses appreciation for homeopathic medicine, and yet, your new tirade against Tony Blair neglects to mention that he is not alone.

    In fact, Blair has followed a fine tradition of political leaders throughout the world who used and/or advocated for homeopathy. My new book, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy”, provides evidence of these words and actions from: 11 U.S. Presidents (Lincoln, Tyler, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, McKinley, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Clinton); José de San Martin (of South America); Benjamin Disraeli; and Mahatma Gandhi.

    There IS a good reason that so many intelligent people over the past 200 yeras who have access to any type of medical care in the world choose homeopathic medicine. And not only have so many world leaders and monarchs used and appreciated homeopathy, but so many of our cultural heroes have done so too, including leading physicians and scientists, literary greats and sports superstars, corporate leaders and philanthropist, musicians and artists, women’s right leaders and peacemakers, and clergy and spiritual leaders.

    It is astonishing that there is a strong movement in the UK that is so filled with hatred and with narrow-sightedness that they are trying to take any some basic health and medical freedoms from others just because they do not understand the system of homeopathy or how to make it useful to them.

    We live in a modern age in which some basic freedoms must be maintained, especially personal freedoms for which governments nor other individuals should interfere.

    Will they next decide that there should be just one religion (or based on the people on THIS site, perhaps they want to abolish ALL religions)?

    My point is that we need more TOLERANCE and dialogue and education.

    I know some people will now say that Dana Ullman is simply flogging his own book. However, I myself am glad that anyone encourages people to read and to learn. Are skeptics now going to call for book burning too?

  2. Dana : you tell us there IS a good reason why so many politicians & cultural heroes choose homeopathy. Unfortunately, you neglect to tell us what that reason is. Could you, perhaps, enlighten us.

  3. Thanx for asking this question…and I hope that you are honestly interested in an answer.

    There is consensus amongst medical historians who agree that homeopathy developed its greatest popularity in Europe and in the US during the 19th century due to its significant, even substantially significant, results in treating people during various infectious diesase epidemics of that age.

    The fact that homeopathy was able to elicit curative responses in such dire situations showed people of the power and efficacy of these nanodoses.

    Mostly, people (including world leaders) sought homeopathic treatment because it worked and because they saw it work on their family. Because many of these people were initially skeptical of homeopathy, the results that they experienced tended to change their point of view.

  4. “even substantially significant, results in treating people during various infectious diesase epidemics of that age”

    I know you don’t believe in it but any evidence ?

    by evidence I mean proper stuff not hearsay etc

    the only thing water “cures” is dehydration and even then it’s better when it’s got salt in it.

  5. Dana said : Thanx for asking this question…and I hope that you are honestly interested in an answer.

    I would indeed and especially if you could provide anything other than hearsay. Got any evidence?

  6. Dana said, “There is consensus amongst medical historians who agree that homeopathy developed its greatest popularity in Europe and in the US during the 19th century due to its significant, even substantially significant, results in treating people during various infectious diesase epidemics of that age.”

    It’s a pity that it no longer works. I guess diseases are different now. After all, the organisms causing the diseases will have evolved, whereas homoeopathy is still fossilised in the early 19th century. In fact, it doesn’t even recognise that disease is caused by microorganisms.

    Or perhaps, just perhaps, homoeopathy works just as well now as it did then, and only appeared comparatively beneficial then because much of 19th century medicine was ineffective and actually harmful.

  7. Dear Duckettes,
    Despite the hundreds of clinical trials, many of which have been published in conventional medical peer-review journals, skeptics choose to ignore this and other basic science trials (many of which have also been published in conventional peer-review journals), skeptics use the “double-blind” method of closing both of their eyes to looking at this “body of evidence.”
    THAT is important…to look at the body of evidence.
    Because skeptics think that homeopathic medicines are just water, then, any basic science trial, not just clinical research, should convince them that there is something different about homeopathic medicines than just plain water. Do you agree? Please say yes or no.

    In the meantime, please also tell us all if the British Society for Rheumatology is a quack organization or if it is a respected medical organization.

  8. Dana – as you well know, there are over a hundred clinical trials of homeopathy, but the vast majority are small, of low methodological quality and badly reported. There are a few larger ones and some that show a positive effect. However, publication bias is a massive problem in CAM research and when the totality of studies are examined together, they are entirely consistent with the hypothesis that homeopathy is a placebo.

    This has been explained to you a hundred times. The mere fact that are many positive trials does not mean that there is a good body of evidence for homeopathy as most of them are rubbish.

    If you are so convinced of the quality of the evidence, why not publish your own meta-analysis, set out your criteria for analyses and see what people think?

    And yes, I have set out a challenge that would show that homeopathy was more than just plain water. It would cost less than $100 to perform. Why has no one done anything like this? My guess is that the results would be far less ambiguous and spinnable than a medical trial.

  9. Andy,
    I had thought that I had responded to your proposal for testing homeopathy, but I didn’t find it at your site. Perhaps I didn’t complete its posting, but I’m at home now (it is Sunday), and I will see if I have a copy of it at my office computer.

    Basically, your idea has never been done before because it is not a good idea. First, it doesn’t prove that homeopathic medicines work…and you harp on that issue. Second, this type of test that you are proposing is called a drug proving, and drug provings are known to NOT have effects on every person (only those who are healthy people and have hypersensitivity to a particular subsubstance).

    The homeopathic literature makes a distinct difference between those symptoms that a substance has been frequently found to cause in healthy subjects in provings, as compared with those symptoms that have only rarely been found in people in provings. Homeopathic repertories have bold-face medicines listed under certain symptoms, and these represent the most strongly indicated symptoms of that medicine; medicines listed in italics are the 2nd grade, and plain type symptoms are the 3rd grade and are least reliable.

    To me, if you or others simply review a homeopathic materia medica (which are a group of books that are a compilation of info from provings and clinical results), you will be amazed at how detailed the information has been published since the 1800s that have confirmed what we today know from modern toxicology. The body of information, to me, is part of the body of evidence for homeopathy.

    It might be interesting for skeptics to review a 19th century homeopathic materia medica and compare the symptoms that homeopaths uncovered through provings at that time with modern toxicology.

    That said…will you answer my pervious question about the British Society of Rheumatology. Is it a legit medical organization or not? Why do I sense that you (and others) chose to google to explore if they published any homeopathic studies before answering my question? By doing so, you’ve chosen to not be objective about this.

    Finally, I’m glad that you acknowledged that some of the large and high quality homeopathic studies have shown positive effects. It is very strange that some skeptics do not even recognize that FACT (many of these people actually say that there is “not a single study” that shows any therapeutic benefit to homeopathy (even that high-ranking UK science officer had the audacity, or ignorance, to say such misinformation.

    While I believe that one should not put much validity into studies that are not a high quality, a new review of the 21 high quality homeopathic studies and the 9 high quality conventional studies will be published. This review is expected shortly and will be published in a major scientific journal. What will be your response if this review of high quality studies shows a benefit from homeopathic medicines?

  10. Dana said : Because skeptics think that homeopathic medicines are just water, then, any basic science trial, not just clinical research, should convince them that there is something different about homeopathic medicines than just plain water. Do you agree? Please say yes or no.

    No. Or perhaps Yes because I can’t work out what the question actually is. What would I be agreeing to if I answered ‘yes’? That homeopathic ‘medicines’ are not just plain water, that they are just plain water or that a scientific trial could show whether or not they are plain water?

    The fact is that homeopathic medicines ARE plain water. There’s no denying it. To think otherwise is either to deny that matter is made of atoms and molecules or to indulge in magical thinking. Either of these is preposterous.

  11. Pgaunt…
    It is a simple question: could a “high quality” basic science study prove to you that there is a difference between “homeopathic water” and “plain water”?

    Here’s another one: What is the CHEMICAL difference between a CD that is blank and one that has a dozen encyclopedias on it? This question isn’t hard because there is no “chemical” difference at all between the 2 CDs because the difference is how the information is STORED on the CD.

    Likewise, homeopaths seem to have discovered a way to store information in water. I personally like the “silica hypothesis” which suggests that “silicate fragments” fall off the glass walls while making the homeopathic medicine, that each substance interacts with the silicate fragments in different ways, and that the higher potencies (those medicines that are undergo a higher number of serial dilutions, with vigorous succussion at each stage) have influenced the structure of water (just as the structure of carbon can create a diamond, the hardest mineral, or create graphite, the softest, even though both are carbon).

    Please also know that the succussion (aka “vigorous shaking”) creates bubbles and nano-bubbles that strongly change the pressure in the water, making it akin to being at 10,000 feet altitude.

    Do you still not recognize the POSSIBILITY that these influences create something different than just water, or do you wish to keep your feet firmly rooted in mid-air?

  12. Dana — I wish to keep my feet firmly routed in the realm of the non-barmy.

    CDs are not water molecules. Your idea about silicates is plain nonsense. And quite what shaking and being at 10000 feet have to do with it I have no idea. Your suggestions are all pseudoscientific gobbledegook.

    There really ought to be a variation on Godwin’s Law which can be applied to this sort of stuff. First person to mention ‘nano’ or ‘quantum’ is out.

  13. It is so so typical of skeptics of homeopathy to freak out whenever quantum physics is mentioned, even when it is not mentioned (my previous posts have not mentioned it).

    But heck, I will now.

    Conventional physics is a great tool for investigating most phenomena, except extremely large and extremely small systems. This is common knowledge.

    And yet, even though homeopathic medicines clearly fit within one of those realms.

    Ironically, skeptics insist that there is no plausible explanation for homeopathy, and they (you, in this instance) don’t want to even consider quantum questions that may shed some type of light on the subject.

    And yeah, CDs are not water…but that is somewhat obvious. Tell me this: how many molecules are there in stored information on the CD? The point is that the information is stored on the CD, and likewise, the process of serial dilution in double-distilled water seems to be another way to store information.

    As for water pressure at different altitudes, it seems that the fact that I mentioned was over your head. Water freezes in different crystalization patterns and are strongly influenced by altitude and water pressure. Vigorous shaking has an influence on water pressure (get it yet?).

    But…you have a totally closed mind. Luckily, not everyone does.

    There IS plausibility to homeopathy.

  14. Dana : it seems to me that you haven’t the faintest idea how quantum theory might be applied to homeopathy. You just seem to like the word.

    And yes, I know it’s obvious that a CD isn’t water and I haven’t the faintest idea how many molecules on a CD are used to store information. I do know that we know how to store information on a CD in quite intricate detail. You now only have to show how information can be stored in pure water. My guess is that you can’t. I look forward to seeing your explanation. Remember that water is a liquid and that the molecules are moving around all the time.

    Keeping an open mind does not mean having to consider every barmy idea which comes along. I think it was Richard Feynman who said that it’s great to keep an open mind but it’s not a good idea to keep such an open mind that your brain falls out. Seems quite reasonable to me.

  15. Dana said, “Water freezes in different crystalization patterns and are strongly influenced by altitude and water pressure. Vigorous shaking has an influence on water pressure (get it yet?).”

    What temperature are homoeopathic remedies prepared at? At what temperature are they stored?

    Get it yet?

  16. Dana – please post your criticisms of the challenge on the appropriate thread.

    As for CDs, there is a very simple test to tell a blank CD from a CD with music on it.

    No such test exists for water. No one has shown information encoded in water.

  17. Dana,

    I don’t really understand the point you are trying to make with asking ‘What is the CHEMICAL difference between a CD that is blank and one that has a dozen encyclopedias on it?’
    I don’t see how this is relevent to how information would be stored in homeopathic remedies. CDs are solid material, so having a series of bumps on the surface for the computer to read is sufficient to store information. As the whole CD is not changing its shape over time it doesn’t need to change its chemical properties to store information. (The same thing is true on for brail writing.)

    On the other hand, water is a liquid and therfore changes shape pretty easily. A mechanism other than shape retention is required for storing information here. If it is not a chemical mechanism, what is it?

    I don’t know if you are advocating quantum mechanics as a possible explanation of how homeopathy works. But I would like to counter your claim ‘skeptics insist that there is no plausible explanation for homeopathy, and they don’t want to even consider quantum questions’.
    I am a skeptic, I’m also a physicist and have considered some of the ideas put forward by homeopaths in this area and they are complete twaddle.

    And finally.. (:o) – sorry for a rather long post) you ended the stuff about silicates by refering to the different forms of carbon. We can do tests to find out the different structures and properties of these forms and see that they are completely different (it’s also obvious from just looking at them :o) ), if water has structures dependent on the remedies it contains, shouldn’t we be able to identify which water structure is associated with which remedy fairly easily? Has anyone tried to do this?

  18. Dear DFT,
    You wrote, “I don’t really understand the point you are trying to make with asking ‘What is the CHEMICAL difference between a CD that is blank and one that has a dozen encyclopedias on it?'”

    That’s right. There is no chemical difference. The point is that information is non-molecular.

    Likewise, with graphite and diamond, the two substances are made of the same thing, but the STRUCTURE of the molecule determines its strength.

    If you are seriously interested in the “memory of water” issue and how homeopathic medicines may store information, see the July, 2007, issue of HOMEOPATHY (published by Elsevier). It has both interesting theoretical articles as well as experimental data.

    No one yet has critiqued the work of Elia who has clearly shown that there is a difference between homeopathic water and plain water.

  19. The Elia paper fails to show a difference between water and homeopathic water. It is terrible paper. You can read it for yourself here…

    The paper neglects to describe its methods adequately or set out is results sufficiently. Critically, it fails to show that there is a consistent reproducable difference between water and homeopathic water. This is typical of this genre. Merely showing different spectra between samples fails to rule out solvent sample differences, contamination, experimental noise problems or instrument issues. The paper does not address this.

    Fundamentally, the paper fails a fundamental requirement of ant scientific paper – could an independent team derive enough information from the paper to replicate the work? The answer is no. No mainstream peer-reviewed paper would have accepted this paper. The fact that HOMEOPATHY published it, says more about the standards of this journal than the quality of the work.

  20. Dear Mr. Duck,
    What was I thinking? You’re so right…the Elia paper would NEVER get published in a respected peer-review journal.

    I’m very impressed that you now deemed the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences to be neither respected nor peer-review.
    V. Elia and M. Niccoli, Thermodynamics of extremely diluted aqueous solutions, Ann NY Acad Sci 879 (1999), p. 241. Full Text via CrossRef | View Record in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

    Or how about:

    Elia V, Niccoli, M. New physico-chemical properties of extremely diluted aqueous solutions. Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry 2004; 75:815-36.

    Is this journal just a front for homeopathy?

    Next, you will start saying that Elia is a “homeopathic researcher” or a “pro-homeopathic scientists” and thus his views are slanted. Yet, if you see some of his published works, only a small percentage is on homeopathic extreme dilutions.,V

    And how about: V. Elia, M. Marchese and M. Montanino et al., Hydrohysteretic phenomena of ‘extremely diluted solutions’ induced by mechanical treatments. A calorimetric and conductometric study at 25 °C, J Solution Chem 34 (8) (2005), pp. 947–960.

    V. Elia, L. Elia and P. Cacace et al., Extremely diluted solutions as multi-variable systems. A study of calorimetric and conductometric behaviour as function of the parameter time, J Therm Anal Calorimetry 84 (2) (2006), pp. 317–323.

    V. Elia, L. Elia and M. Marchese et al., Interaction of ‘extremely diluted solutions’ with aqueous solutions of hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. A calorimetric study at 298 K, J Mol Liq 130 (2007), pp. 15–20.

    V. Elia, L. Elia and M. Montanino et al., Conductometric studies of the serially diluted and agitated solutions. On an anomalous effect that depends on the dilution process, J Mol Liq 135 (2007), pp. 158–165.

    V. Elia, L. Elia and E. Napoli et al., Conductometric and calorimetric studies of serially diluted and agitated solutions: the dependence of intensive parameters on volume, Int J Ecodyn 1 (4) (2006), pp. 1–12.

    OMG, it looks like you’re surrounded by scientists who look at research objectively, even research that confirms physical effects from homeopathic doses, rather than have fundamentalist and old-fashion views of medicine and science.

    And I have noticed that you haven’t yet responded to my simple question: is the British Society of Rheumatology a respected medical organization?

    Finally…please know that homeopaths tend to be advocates for “integrative medicine,” taking the best of natural medicines and the best of conventional medicine, though we also advocate for using safer methods FIRST. It is a tad ironic that you prefer to advocate for more dangerous methods first. Eeeeeks…glad you don’t practice medicine.

  21. All well and good Dana, but I was talking about the journal you brought up and the paper therein. I stand by what I say. It’s a rubbish paper. If the other papers you cite are no better then shame on their publishers.

  22. Yes, shame on ALL of those other publishers, OR shame on you. The body of evidence (clinical and basic science) cannot and should not ignored.

    You might first investigate the 2,000+ trials on hormesis (low-dose effects research). Living organisms are a lot more sensitive to whatever they need for their very survival than you (and skeptics) grant credit.

    While this hormesis research does not include the most extreme potentization (please do not refer to homeopathics as undergoing “dilution” because that is only one part of the pharmaceutical process), this hormesis research gives lots of substance to the VAST majority of homeopathic medicines being sold in health food stores and pharmacies that are in the 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, and 18th potencies.

    Cool, now you can become an advocate of homeopathic medicines in the material-dose range.

    This is now my 3rd or 4th reminder that I’m still waiting to hear your thoughts on the British Society for Rheumatology. Hmmm.

  23. Dana said : please do not refer to homeopathics as undergoing “dilution” because that is only one part of the pharmaceutical process

    Been reading today’s Guardian have we? What is it with you guys? One of you says something and the next thing we know you’re all saying it. Some sort of morphic resonance effect, I’ll wager.

  24. ok I’ll take the bait

    british soc of rheum is a reasonable organistion BUT the trouble with many rheumatic diseases is they have a subjective and objective component. pain is a subjective experience for example and can be influenced by placebo effect much more than say objective measures such laboratory measures of disease activity.

    anyway fire away with the evidence

  25. Thanx Bruiser…
    Below is an excerpt from my ebook, “Homeopathic Family Medicine: Evidence Based Nanopharmacology.” I update this ebook every 3-4 months, adding new research.

    This is a partial excerpt from the chapter on fibromyalgia. I know some of you will grunt when you see this diagnostic category, and yet, whether you believe it is a real pathology or just a common disease pattern, you will find two high quality studies, one of which was published in the BMJ and one of which was published in RHEUMATOLOGY (the journal of the British Society for Rheumatology). Some of the objective data (described below) was published in the International Journal of Neurosciences.

    The BMJ study was double-blind, placebo-controlled WITH a cross-over (you cannot do better than that). The second study is worthy of your attention because not only was there greater CLINICAL improvement in the homeopathic treated patients (some of you can call that “subjective,” except when improvement in YOUR own symptoms is observed), the researchers also conducted EEG readings while the patients were given their dose or a placebo via olfaction. Yeah…this study will blow your mind…and maybe your nose too…

    The syndrome of fibromyalgia includes a disparate group of physical and psychological symptoms, including pain and tenderness in a dozen or so sites, stiffness, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, abdominal or pelvic pain, diarrhea, memory and concentration problems, and various states of anxiety and depression.

    The fact that this ailment is recognized as a syndrome is unusual for conventional medicine. In homeopathy, it is believed that ALL ailments are syndromes, that is, all disease is a constellation of physical and psychological symptoms and each patient has their own subtly different version of the disease. The fact that people with fibromyalgia tend to have sometimes slightly and sometimes overtly differing symptoms from each other is no significant problem for homeopaths because each person is observed to have his/her own syndrome of symptoms, no matter what disease doctors diagnose them to have.

    Because people with fibromyalgia tend to have distinct and unusual symptoms, this actually makes it easier for homeopaths to treat them successfully. However, homeopaths have also observed that a small percentage of people with fibromyalgia are so ill and their immune system is so compromised that it is difficult for homeopaths to provide effective treatment.

    Scientific Evidence

    Researchers in England found that patients with fibromyalgia were (obviously) a varied group with differing symptoms but that there was one homeopathic medicine, more than any other, that seemed to be indicated (Fisher, 1986). This medicine, Rhus toxicodendron (also called Rhus tox) was found to be indicated in 25% of fibromyalgia patients.

    The researchers found 30 patients who seemed to fit the symptoms of Rhus tox, and they were given a homeopathic dose of this medicine, 6C (this dose is considered a “low potency,” that is, it is a dose that generally does not have long-term effects). The researchers found that there was a significant degree of improvement in the reduction of pain and tender points and improved sleep when the subjects were taking the homeopathic medicine, as compared to when the subjects were taking a placebo.

    Researchers consider a study to have statistical significance if calculations show that there is a better than 5 in 100 possibility (written: P< .05) of the result to occur simply through chance. However, the results of this experiment were so significant that the researchers found that there was a 5 in 10,000 chance (P<.005) of this occurring from chance. This study, therefore, strongly suggests that homeopathic medicines can be effective in reducing the pain and tender spots and in improving sleep in patients suffering from fibromyalgia. In addition to this study, a more recent study published in the highly respected journal, Rheumatology (published by the British Society for Rheumatology) also found statistically significant results from homeopathic treatment. Researchers from the University of Arizona in collaboration with homeopaths conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial with 62 fibromyalgia patients (Bell, Lewis, Brooks, et al., 2004). Patients were randomized to receive an oral daily dose of an individually chosen homeopathic medicine in LM potency (or a placebo). Patients were evaluated at baseline, 2 months, and 4 months. The study found that 50% of patients given a homeopathic medicine experienced a 25% or greater improvement in tender point pain on examination, as compared to only 15% of those who were given a placebo experienced a similar degree of improvement (P=0.008). After 4 months, the homeopathic patients also rated the “helpfulness of the treatment” significantly greater than did those who were given a placebo (P=0.004). It is therefore not surprising that the study also showed that the average number of remedies recommended by the homeopaths was substantially higher to those in the placebo group as compared with the real treatment group. One special additional feature of this trial was that the first dose of medicine was given by olfaction (by smell) and that both groups were monitored with EEG. The researchers found that there was a significant and identifiable difference in the EEG readings in patients who were given the real homeopathic medicine as compared to those given the placebo (Bell, Lewis, Schwartz, et al, 2004a). Each patient had three laboratory sessions, including at baseline, at 3 months, and at 6 months after initial treatment. The researchers found that the active treatment group experienced significant increases in the EEG relative alpha magnitude, while patients given a placebo experienced a decrease in this measurement (P=0.003). The combined evidence of clinical improvement along with objective physiological response from the homeopathic medicine makes the results of this trial of additional significance. REFERENCES: Bell, IR, Lewis, DA, Brooks, DJ, Schwartz, GE, Leis, SE, Walsh, BT, and Baldwin, DM, Improved Cilnical Status in Fibromyalgia Patients Treated with Individualized Homeopathic Remedies Versus Placebo, Rheumatology, January 20, 2004:1111-7. Bell IR, Lewis Ii DA, Lewis SE, Schwartz GE, Brooks AJ, Scott A, Baldwin CM. EEG Alpha Sensitization in Individualized Homeopathic Treatment of Fibromyalgia. Int J Neurosci. 2004;114(9):1195-1220. Peter Fisher, Alison Greenwood, EC Huskisson, et al., “Effect of Homoeopathic Treatment on Fibrositis (Primary Fibromyalgia),” BMJ, 299(August 5, 1989):365-6.

  26. small study 26 patients in each arm , subjective tests

    EEGs are complex things and I am not aware of the evidence for their use in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia ( if it can me diagnosed)

    I supose my trouble is I would like to see changes in conventional markers of disease with homeopathy . such as % parasiteamia in malaria or Cd4 count in HIV

  27. Tony Blair was right . If truth displeases someone it is their fault and not of the truth. If Homoeopathy is a psedoscience then which Science makes modern drugs with dangerous side effects sometimes of fatal consequences? If you expect exact mathematical results from Homoeopaths then can you tell how exactly an Allopathic medicine will cure and what exact will be the side effects and how long will they last ?
    I too was once critical about the system- in fact I was wondering what these sugar pills can do till I tries it in family for minor ailments. Once having gained confidence in the system we and hundreds of our acquaintances switched over to Homoeopathy.
    No matter who calls it by any name – East or West – Homoeopathy is Best

  28. Krishna, real medicines have side effects because they contain active ingredients which have an effect. Homeopathic medicines don’t have side effects because they don’t contain active ingredients and don’t have any effects to start with. As homeopaths are fond of saying – the body is a complex system, it’s difficult to have some effect without having a side effect. Not having an effect at all (above placebo) is a good way of ensuring no side effects.

  29. Wrong – homeopathy is 2 1/2 times more likely to produce a beneficial effect than placebo, according to the lancet 1997.

    Try homeopathy – you’ll never go back.

  30. Try homeopathy – you’ll never go back.

    Is that because you will be dead?

    I love anonymous homeopath posters. Always the same nonsense. You must know Linde et al re-evaluated their 1997 study after errors were pointed out. The ‘effect’ disappeared. Subsequent meta-analyses have shown that homeopathy is a placebo. After all, it is just sugar pills.

  31. Linde simply estimated that the effect was smaller than he had previously observed. In fact, in 2005 (much more recent than your reference to the 1999 statement), he wrote a very strong critique of the junk science study by Shang, Egger, et al in the Lancet.

    It is so typical of skeptics of homeopathy to be under-informed and misinformed about homeopathy and its research.

    The 4 treatment studies of Oscillococcinum for the flu and the 3 childhood diarrhea studies provide some repeated clinical evidence for homeopathy…but heck, the people at this site maintain an unscientific attitude and simply don’t believe good science.

  32. Dana – a new year dawns, but you obviously have not made any resolutions to stop misrepresenting evidence.

    So, you start off by citing the Linde 1997 paper that even the authors concede was fatally flawed. You then try to rubbish Shang et al., but even if the criticisms were fatal (which they are not), it would still show no evidence for homeopathy.

    Then you cite the Oscillococcinum studies – which show, if I remember, that the ‘powerful’ medicine of homeopathy cannot prevent flu, but may shorten its duration by 0.28 of a day. No one really believes even that.

    And finally, you say there have been ‘3 childhood diarrhea’ studies. it is difficult to call you anything other than a liar Dana as you well know that there are four. Here they are – all by the same lead researcher…

    1. Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Gloyd SS, et al. Treatment of acute childhood diarrhea with homeopathic medicine: a randomized clinical trial in Nicaragua. Pediatrics. 1994;93:719–725.

    2. Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Malthouse S, et al. Homeopathic treatment of acute childhood diarrhea: results from a clinical trial in Nepal. J Altern Complement Med. 2000;6:131–139.

    3. Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Gloyd SS, et al. Homeopathic treatment of acute childhood diarrhea: a randomized clinical trial in Nicaragua. Br Homeopath J. 1993;82:83–86.

    4. Jacobs J, Guthrie BL, Montes GA et al. Homeopathic combination remedy in the treatment of acute childhood diarrhea in honduras. J Altern Complement Med. 2006;12:723-32.

    The first of these studies was perhaps the most important, being published in a real journal and showing a ‘significant’ effect. The next issue of the journal contained a rather damning critique,

    Analysis of Homeopathic Treatment of Childhood Diarrhea by Sampspon and London.

    They concluded,

    “In summary: 1) The study used an unreliable and unproved diagnostic and therapeutic scheme; 2)There was no control for product adulteration; 3)Treatment selection was arbitrary; 4) The data were placed into odd groupings without explanation, and
    contained errors and unexplained inconsistencies; 5) The results were not clinically significant and were probably not statistically significant; 6) There was no public health significance; 7) Selection of references was incomplete and biased to support the claims of the article, and references were quoted inaccurately; and 8) Editorializations were inappropriate.”

    When Jacobs did her own metaanalysis of the first three trials she acknowledged the lack of statistical power in these studies and recommended larger trials. She did the fourth larger trial (which was also of better quality) and surprise surprise,

    The homeopathic combination therapy tested in this study did not significantly reduce the duration or severity of acute diarrhea in Honduran children.

    You failed to mention this trial Dana because you are intellectually dishonest and only interested in misrepresenting science for the sake of your shabby trade.

    All these things have been pointed out to you before. I am not prepared to spend lots of blog time repeating the same messages to you. If you are to comment on this site you must take the debate forward, acknowledge errors and not be selective in your data or studies.

  33. Mr. Duck,
    It is your scholarship that is shabby. First, you prove your ignorance of homeopathy by referring to the 4th diarrhea trial as though it was some type of replication of the previous studies. It was not. You yourself note that the researchers used a “homeopathic combination therapy” as treatment. You don’t seem to understand that this refers to a MIXTURE medicine, rather than individually chosen medicines for the subjects. Whooops.

    The other 3 trials were all used individually chosen medicines. Also, in the 1st trial published in Pediatrics, the children who got the best results were those given a homeopathic medicine AND who had a confirmed infection (“real” pathology).

    As for the meta-analysis to which you refer, you chose to not mention that it too was published in a leading conventional pediatric journal (how convenient).
    That reference:
    Jacobs, J, Jonas, WB, Jimenez-Perez, M, Crothers, D, Homeopathy for Childhood Diarrhea: Combined Results and Metaanalysis from Three Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trials, Pediatr Infect Dis J, 2003;22:229-34.

    You also erroneously assert that Linde said that his 1997 meta-analysis in the Lancet was “fatally flawed.” Wrong. He simply estimated that the results were less than they observed if they included some more recent trials (up to 1999)…but even then, there have been some newer trials since then that have shown positive effects. The bottomline is that he and his team have not yet published a new meta-analysis, but even an editorial in the 1997 Lancet referred to Linde’s original work as “state of the art”!

    Linde’s co-author of the meta-analysis is Wayne Jonas, MD. Jonas continues to publish high quality research that shows positive effects, but heck, you prefer to be a duck and see pond scum.

  34. Dana,

    Ah, I see you now refer to homeopathy trick #31: “If a trial is negative, find a way of saying it is not ‘real’ homeopathy.” You fool no-one. Squirm Squirm.

    As for Linde – yes it was fatally flawed and it was not just about taking into account new trials. The quality of trial was seen as an important factor – and when quality measures are included we see a consistent pattern in homeopathy – low quality trials tend to show positive results, high quality trials tend to show inconclusive and negative results.

    And Dana, you stick to you low quality results without admitting them. If this is not the case, why did you decide to bring up Linde 1997 in the first place, rather than later better analyses?

    What reason other than misprepresentation did you have?

    Before going on, please answer that question, if you can.

  35. There have not been a better meta-analysis than Linde’s in 1997. When a skeptic of homeopathy refers to it as “state of the art,” it is.

    Surely (!) you are not referring to the junk science of Shang (2005) as being the “better” meta-analysis. Shang’s study had no external validity…it was shown to be entirely dependent on how they chose to exclude certain studies (such as a high quality and large study on polyarthritis because they could not find a “matching” allopathic trial, even though NONE of the final studies were matching in ANY way! Ooooo, how convenient…and somehow, they determined that none of the Reilly trials (2 published in the Lancet and 1 in the BMJ) were high quality. Ooooo, how convenient.

    And ironically, 3 of the 8 allopathic trials that showed “efficacy” have since been taken off the market due to safety concerns. It is convenient for modern drug companies to have short-term “positive” results but are later shown to be more dangerous than beneficial…and yet, still be considered to be “effective”! Wow…wonderful capitalism at work, with “science” on its side.

    Quack, quack…

  36. So, Dana. Would you like to reference this ultimately authoritative statement that the Linde 1997 study was ‘state of the art’ and why this trumps all other criticism of it, including the rework by the same authors?

    Could it not be that this, ever so slightly, just fits with your prejudices a little? Maybe?

  37. Andy,
    No problem. The editorial in the Lancet was written by a skeptic Jan P. Vandenbroucke of the University of Leiden (The Netherlands). It was published in the SAME issue in which the Linde meta-analysis was published (September 20, 1997, vol 350, p. 824). You can tell by his writing that he is a hyper-skeptic.

    The exact quote is: “A randomised trial of ‘solvent only’ versus ‘infinite dilutions’ is a game of chance between two placeboes. How then did a blank give a significant result? The meta-analysis is completely state of the art. The authors have carefully evaluated known baises.”

    As far as I have read, there have been no known serious critiques of this meta-analysis, while there has been considerable and notable strong criticisms of the Shang work.

  38. You are not aware of any “serious critiques of this meta-analysis”. Perhaps, you should try Google. Do they have that in your neck of the woods?

    “A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy” Ernst, 2002

    “Six re-analyses of Linde et al.’s original meta-analysis [3] were located [4–9]. Table 1 summarizes key data from these publications. The results of these re-analyses demonstrate that the more rigorous trials are associated with smaller effect sizes which, in turn, render the overall effect insignificant [5, 6, 8]. One re-analysis suggests that the initial positive meta-analytic result [3] was largely due to publication bias [9], a notion that had been considered by the original authors but was rejected by them. Most notably, perhaps, the authors of the original meta-analysis [3] concluded that their re-analysis ‘weakened the findings of their original meta-analysis’ [6]. Collectively these re-analyses imply that the initial conclusions of Linde et al.[3] was not supported by critical evaluation of their data.”

    Perhaps you would like to start with these six critiques?

    1. Ernst, E. Are highly dilute homoeopathic remedies placebos? Perfusion. 1998;11:291–292.

    2.Linde, K; Melchart, D. Randomized controlled trials of individualised homeopathy: a state-of-the-art review. J Alt Complementar Med. 1998;4:388.

    3. Linde, K; Scholz, M; Ramirez, G; Clausius, N; Melchart, D; Jonas, WB. Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo controlled trials of homoeopathy. J Clin Epidemiol. 1999;52:631–636. [PubMed]

    4. Morrison, B; Lilford, RJ; Ernst, E. Methodological rigour and results of clinical trials of homoeopathic remedies. Perfusion. 2000;13:132–138.

    5. Ernst, E; Pittler, MH. Re-analysis of previous meta-analysis of clinical trials of homeopathy. J Clin Epidemiol. 2000;53:1188. (letter). [PubMed]

    6. Sterne, J; Egger, M; Smith, GD. Investigating and dealing with publication and other biases. In: Egger M, Smith GD, Altman DG. , editors. Systematic Reviews in Healthcare: Meta-analysis in Context. London: BMJ Publishing Group; 2001. pp. 189–208.

  39. Andy,

    Linde, et al (1999) did note that “higher quality” homeopathic studies found a reduced level of efficacy, though this efficacy was still significant. Further, Linde noted that “higher quality” studies of all sorts find reduced levels of efficacy, so this observation is not unique of homeopathic trials. The very first sentence of this 1999 article emphasizes this fact.

    Predictably, you chose to quote a biased source, E. Ernst! And predictably, he mis-read and mis-reported the Linde (1999) article. Linde was clear in his assertion that his newer (1999) estimation of the data led to his assertion that he may have “overestimated the effects of homeopathic treatments.” He never said that the results were no longer significant.

    Further, Linde has published much more recent articles on homeopathy, including in the Annals of Internal Medicine (“A Critical Overview of Homeopathy,” March 4, 2003, pp. 393-400). Quoting from their abstract, “Some data—both from randomized, controlled trials and laboratory research—show effects from homeopathic remedies that contradict the contemporary rational basis of medicine. Three independent systematic reviews of placebo-controlled trials on homeopathy reported that its effects seem to be more than placebo, and one review found its effects consistent with placebo. There is also evidence from randomized, controlled trials that homeopathy may be effective for the treatment of influenza, allergies, postoperative ileus, and childhood diarrhea. Evidence suggests that homeopathy is ineffective for migraine, delayed-onset muscle soreness, and influenza prevention.”

    So, yes, homeopathy has not yet been proven to be effective for certain conditions, even most conditions. Likewise, despite ALL of the resources available to conventional medicine, it too has not been proven effective for most conditions.

    Being an uber-skeptic, I am surprised that you’ve lost the courage to test homeopathy once an academician (professor Harald Walach) proposed a specific study to do. It makes me wonder…

  40. On what basis do you pronounce Ernst biased? Is it simply that he is dispassionate in his reviews and hence comes to conclusions you do not like?

    And when you say “omeopathy has not yet been proven to be effective for certain conditions” don;y you mean ‘no conditions’.

    Isn’t it the truth that that there is no evidence that homeopathy is clinically effective for any condition? No matter what you try to dissemble about the evidence, isn’t this simple fact still true?

  41. No, it is NOT true that there are no conditions for which homeopathy has been found to be effective. Linde et al assert otherwise, as does the Cochrane Report on the treatment of influenza.

    As for Ernst, I have shown how his own biases have led to him providing misinformation. That is evidence of bias.

  42. FFS Dana. Let me quote Peter Fisher who wrote the forward for your book. He says of the Cochrane review…

    The authors concluded that the data were promising, but not strong enough to make a general recommendation to use Oscillococcinum for influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Further research is warranted.

    And that is the best result you can come up with?

  43. Heck, good physicians and scientists insist 99% or so of the time that “more research is warranted.”

    The beauty of Oscillococcinum is its logic. Since the 1920s (!), homeopaths have used this medicine. Is it any surprise that it is made from the heart and liver of a duck (good evidence of “quackery”, eh, Mr. Duck?)…and that ducks are known reserviors of influenza viruses. It is quite logical that homeopathic doses would provide benefit…and four large trials have verified this effect.

    Your complaint that the results were not large enough is a classic. It is like the person who proves that he can fly, but then, you would assert that he doesn’t fly as high or as fast as a jet so this experience is “meaningless.”

    The bottomline is that the “body of evidence” (the clinical trials, the laboratory trials, the work by Elia and so many others, and the historical experience during epidemics, and the history of its use internationally all add up to verify that there IS something to this strange and mysterious system of homeopathy.

    And I predict that some of today’s leading skeptics will become some of homeopathy’s leading advocates in 10 years or so. We will laugh about this over a good beer, I know, at that time…

  44. It is just me who is alone in doubting the results. I quote from Peter Fisher, the Queen’s homeopath, you wrote the forward to you latest comedy book.

    And I have good reason to doubt it:

    1) It is implausible. Why would duck liver cure flu? What is the mechanism?
    2) There is no duck liver in the medicine anyway? The common dilution is 30C
    3) It is sold by Boiron a prevention for flu – which does not work.
    4) The effect for relief is not clinically significant – even if it is true! 0.28 of a day on an illness that last two weeks. I thought homeopathy was ‘powerful’?
    5) The results are far better explained by an anomalous, even fraudulent result. This has to be expected given the vast vested interests involved in France.

  45. Actually, Oscillococcinum is not 30C; it is 200C (even more potentized!). It is inaccuate to say that it is more “dilute,” just as one doesn’t say that an atomic bomb is more “dilute” than conventional bombs.

    Four large independent trials of Oscillo, and you still insist that it is all fraud. Sounds like this duck is stuck in the mud.

    And the study on fibromyalgia in RHEUMATOLOGY (2004) found clinical relevance AND changes in EEG (is that objective enough for ya?)…

  46. I think the best proof for homeopathy is personal experience.
    Most of the critics of homeopathy are only quoting studies. Very few of them have gone to a competent homeopath. Find a good homeopath, try it and then you’ll see.

    • “I think the best proof for homeopathy is personal experience.”

      You’re wrong. The sad thing is that you will not understand or accept that you are wrong.

  47. No, it is not sad at all. Anyone who has experienced the benefits of classical homeopathy knows who is sad and who is happy. No science will ever change my mind.

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