Neal’s Yard Ethical Bullshit Remedy

Neal’s Yard Remedies has announced that it is withdrawing is Malaria Officinalis 30C homeopathic remedy from sale. This is the absolute minimum it could have done given that its Exeter Branch was recently caught out by the BBC South West programme Inside Out selling this remedy as protection against malaria. (I wrote about this staggering event recently.)

What reason do Neal’s Yard give? Let’s look at their press release in detail.

The BBC’s Inside Out programme – Homoeopathy and Malaria

We love the BBC, but we all know from time to time they can be guilty of naughty editing, especially when it comes to showing people apparently storming ‘out’. Our Medicines Director Susan Curtis was interviewed for the Inside Out programme last week, and unfortunately a lot of what she was trying to say was not shown. The most important point, and something we are very passionate about, it that as our health is so important, we advise that people seek professional advice on all matters of health.

So, we note that Neal’s Yard remind us of how recently the BBC were discovered to be less than honest in their film report showing the Queen ‘storming out’ of the BBC filming of a documentary. So, Neal’s Yard want to compare the ‘misrepresented’ Susan Curtis to the Queen. All I can suggest is that you watch the footage of the non medically qualified Medicine’s Director ‘hurriedly leaving’ the interview. Make sure you pay attention during the bit where Susan Curtis rips of her microphone and says ‘I have actually had enough” and then quickly leaves as the interviewer asks if what the company was doing was “criminal, unethical and dangerous”. A full transcript can be found on ‘thinking is dangerous‘.

The statement claims that Neal’s Yard ensures people “seek professional advice on all matters of health”. We shall examine that a little more closely later.

Next in the press release,

We know there have been no clinical trials for the use of homoeopathy in the prevention of malaria but homoeopathy does have a good track record in preventing and treating other epidemic diseases. Susan said that there is no absolute guarantee that you will not get malaria with any treatment and that the most important factor is to take measures to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.

Neal’s Yard acknowledges that there is no good evidence that homoeopathy can prevent malaria. So, why does it sell it then? Malaria kills. By offering a prevention where there is no scientific evidence or reason to suppose that it will prevent malaria, you are simply putting lives at risk. Susan then claims that there is a “good track record in preventing and treating other epidemic diseases.” This is bullshit of the highest order. There is no good evidence that homeopathy can prevent or cure any disease – it’s just sugar pills. Homeopaths like to tell each other stories and myths about cholera epidemics in the 19th Century. Not good enough. Can you imagine a drug company offering evidence for a new drug based on 200 year old fairy stories? By saying that “no absolute guarantee that you will not get malaria with any treatment ” it ignores the fact that there is good evidence that convential anti-malarials, properly prescribed, can do a great deal to protect you, whilst homeopathic sugar pills do absolutely nothing. Weasel words.

And on,

We do not advertise or sell the remedy as a prevention for Malaria. It is supplied on request by practitioners working in Neals Yard Remedies stores, and in fact, the practitioners have been trained to always explain that the remedy should not be considered as a guarantee of prevention of malaria. The name of the remedy is based on its latin name and not on its claim to cure or prevent an ailment.

Now this is one of the most beautiful bits of bullshit I have yet come across. I purchased a tub of Neals Yard Malaria pills. A picture of the product is shown above. So, I am supposed to believe that when the word ‘MALARIA’ appears on the label it is actually a very technical latin name which a mere lay person like me could not understand and in fact has nothing to do with the deadly disease spelt using the same letters in the same order. Let us remind ourselves what MALARIA CO 30C actually is. It is a homeopathically prepared ‘nosode’ dilution of the malaria parasite designed with the like-cures-principle in mind. The product is specifically designed to prevent or cure malaria, but is so dilute that all you end up with is the plain sugar pill and so cannot possibly do anything. There is 1 part ‘remedy’ to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 parts water. (100 to the power of 30)

Well, did Neal’s Yard sell this as a prevention or cure for malaria? The page from their web site has now gone. But, by the amazing powers of the interweb I can remind you what the page looked like here (also here). The product was being sold alongside Medicines Director Susan Curtis’ book Homoeopathic Alternatives To Immunisation in which she describes how such a remedy could prevent malaria. And did my purchase come with a warning? Nothing. Not a word about the fact that I should be seeing my GP and taking anti-bite measures? Silence.

The press release ends,

However, as this is obviously a contentious issue which is causing customer concern, we have decided to withdraw the product, Malaria Officinalis 30c from sale with immediate effect.

I have a feeling that the real reason might be to do with the fact that the BBC passed on their information to Trading Standards and the MHRA, the body who make sure all medicines are licensed and marketed appropriately. Selling a homeopathic remedy with claims, implied or otherwise, without a license is a criminal offense. Even if you do have a license, you are only allowed to make claims for conditions that do not normally require a doctor’s attention, like ‘feeling a bit under the weather’.

The product sold to me by Neal’s Yard was manufactured by Ainsworth’s, the homeopathic pill company. Their web site still contains the same product. I am sure there is some anxiety there that they do not want the MHRA telling them that they cannot sell this stuff. Let’s hope the MHRA are not aware of this.

But back to the main issue. This press release is almost a complete string of bullshit statements designed to obscure the fact the Neal’s Yard were selling dangerous products. The company likes to portray its ethical nature, and wants to fill the gap on the high street now that The Body Shop have been acquired by a big multinational. Is this press release a one-off? Sadly not.

Their previous press release was an attempt to discredit the Cochrane review of vitamin supplements that showed that there was little evidence that certain vitamin supplements did you much good and that they even could be shortening your life. The Vitamin Companies and Health Food Industry came out in a massive PR battle to rubbish this study – without even reading it. Ben Goldacre covered this in this Saturday’s Guardian where he showed that the Health Food Manufacturers Association had roped in various clueless celebrities to condemn the work. It was obvious that none of the celebrities had either read the work or understood it. The vitamin pill salesman Patrick Holford started saying that it was a ‘conspiracy’ by vested interests to destroy the vitamin industry whilst neglecting to mention that the Cochrane collaboration is independent and forbids its members from taking corporate funding for its studies and that Holford himself had taken around half a million pounds from the vitamin industry over the past year or so.

The deliberate obfuscation of this serious report is shameful. All have been at it, from Holland and Barrett to the ‘mad-as-a-box-of-frogs’ website What Doctors Don’t Tell You. All of their criticisms were shallow and idiotic. Rather than issue a press release that said they would be “studying the conclusions of this important study and seeing how it affected their business”, as you might expect ethical and responsible businesses to do, there was nothing but a universal knee jerk reaction of the type you might expect of the asbestos or tobacco industries.

Neal’s Yard Remedies were no different. Their press release did not even give specific criticisms of the Cochrane review but of a previous piece of work by the authors. The Cochrane review was in part a response to these previous criticism and was ten times longer than the study criticised by Neal’s Yard. The press release concluded,

there is considerable documented evidence both for vitamin deficiencies in the general diet (particularly for specific at-risk groups), and for the health benefits of vitamin supplementation when taken at recommended doses. Those individuals who wish to take vitamin supplements to maintain good health should therefore continue to do so, and should not be discouraged by the shoddy scientific study by Bjelakovic et al.

That is a shameful statement to make. The only thing that is shoddy is Neal’s Yard criticism of a gold standard review that it looks like it has not even read.

Neal’s Yard is portraying itself as wearing the mantle of ethical business. It is marketing bullshit. It likes to be seen as green, organic and ‘carbon neutral’. What can be ethical about selling overpriced cosmetics to the self-indulgent? What is ethical about selling useless sugar pills for lethal diseases? The business has a new Managing Director, Jonathan Hook. He says “Our ultimate aim is to be entirely organic”. Ex mobile phone salesman Mr Hook was shoehorned in by owner Peter Kindersley as Hook’s father was an organic farmer, and Kindersley likes that kinda stuff. The company is pleased with itself that it is now ‘carbon neutral’. But these claims of being organic and ethical do not take into account the context of their business. Would an atomic bomb be ethical because it has a lower carbon footprint than 100,000 tonnes of TNT?

On the subject of the wild claims Neal’s Yard make about their health products, Jonathan Hook shows a hint of doubt. He said in the Times,

“All our products have a therapeutic intent as well as being beautiful,” he says. “You can say: ‘This is really gentle, it will do good.’ You can’t say: ‘It will cure eczema.’”

Therapeutic intent. That’s nice. But it is also bullshit. What Neal’s Yard sells is shiny blue bottles for the gullible. Any more claims to be ethical and I might start getting angry.

On this theme…

247 Comments on Neal’s Yard Ethical Bullshit Remedy

  1. What utter utter utter shits. No shits its too kind, they are c….

    PS They say:
    “The name of the remedy is based on its latin name and not on its claim to cure or prevent an ailment.”

    The latin genus of the malaria parasite is Plasmodium.

  2. I had someone, who I can only describe as an idiot, come in with a packet of this very same homeopathic crap last week.

    She was going somewhere in Sub-Saharan and her actual question was

    “Can I take this instead of Malarone, as it is cheaper”

    I thought she was taking the piss. Presumably somebody who has spent a few thousand on a holiday can spring £50, or so, for some antimalarials.

    I looked over her shoulder for Jeremy Beadle, then realising he was dead, thought how best to answer….

    The best I could do was, “Well, you could but you are quite likely to get malaria and possiby die.”

    In the end she decided she’d buy a box of Avloclor (£2) as she had taken that when she went to the Dominican Republic((!) I wasn’t happy to sell that so I sent her on her way.

    It is very worrying how little some people know about science and medicine. I’m sure some people still believe that Earth is flat.

  3. ….’malaria’ meanwhile is apparently rooted in the italian ‘mala’ (bad) ‘aria’ (air) supposedly coined by a late C17th Italian physician Francisco Torti when the disease was wrongly linked to the bad air of marshy (mosquito-y) districts. Hmm, you learn something new every day. Apart from the fact that Neal’s Yard are apparently morally bankrupt, which is now old news…

  4. Forming a perfectly mixed ethical bullshit cocktail, the Neal’s Yard news page is peddling MMR/autism nonsense “MMR: Major mumps outbreak proves the vaccine doesn’t work – What Doctors Don’t Tell You, 10 April 2008 [uh-oh, WDDTY: loony source alert] At a time when health officials are quietly admitting that there could be a link between the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine and autism [no, they’re admitting nothing of the sort], a new study has also discovered that it doesn’t work….”. Gah, there’s a reason doctors don’t tell you that: and the reason is that it’s bollocks.

    Not that the news page’s antivaccination nonsense should give the impression Neal’s Yard aren’t interested in promoting scientific healthcare. Not at all. For the low low price of £4000 they can make you fully qualified in using nice smells to make people feel better.

  5. Yes Rob, it’s unbelievable that NYR trot out WDDTY canards as if it is a reliable source of information. I would have gone on about this bullshit but my post was already too long. Methinks their Medical Director is an utter liability to the companies expansion plans. I give her six months.

  6. May I raise the question which “malaria parasite” this sugar pill contains? As P. falciparum is the deadliest one, but P. vivax and P. ovale can also kill.

    Another thing is that all these species developed many sub species througout the world. So it is quite fascinating that not only the “like cures” by ‘principle’ but but also “something which has at least the name in common can cure”.

    Good to see homeopathy is developing day-by-day.

  7. Only just found this site. a question, not exactly to do with the above story but homepatheic:

    homeopaths take water and the ‘active ingredient’ and dilute it down and down and down X 30 so that there is little if any left. The argument is that the memory of the water is the trick etc etc So far so good, less is more yada yada.

    So: is the water H2O? that is two hydrogen atoms to one oxygen, no more no less. Is it pure water? Bottled? Hard? Soft? From the tap? Collected from the inner thighs of virgins? You get the drift. There must be so much ‘other stuff’ in there that it must be contaminated. Has this issue ever been tested? Considering that it’s a straightforward question – why not?

    Then…. If the water is considered OK for the purposes of the treatment then it has to be activated by tapping shaking or whatever to set that memory? [great get out of jail card there homeopaths] so what’s stopping it picking up bits of the bottle it’s in, the stopper, seal or anything else ? or have they been purified too?

    I suppose/suspect alchohol/sugar pills/earwax subjected to the same treatment will end up the same too – ie much the same as before.

    Talk about having your cake and eating it.

  8. ukridge – it is not fair to say that homeopathic malaria treatments do not progress. The first nosode remedy was made from decaying marsh vegetation in 1862 because nasty smells woz wot caused malaria – as becky has pointed out. This created the Malaria officinalis remedy – the one NYR claimed to have stopped selling.

    In 1889 the Malaria co remedy was invented by using the malaria parasite (undisclosed which species). This was the remedy I bought and is pictured above.

    It looks like NYR are so incompetent that they did not even know which malaria remedy there were stopping selling. Which version of a blank sugar pill they were flogging.

    Apparently, Helios and Ainsworths Malaria Co consists of the four malaria plasmodia (Falciparum, Vivax, Ovale and
    Malariae). No homeopathic proving has ever been made of them. It is just pure blind faith in their delusions that NYR depend on.

  9. If a doctor exposed patients to risk in this way, I presume they would not only be struck off but also vulnerable to charges of criminal malpractice, gross deception and even – if their patient subsequently contracted malaria – GBH.

    What Neal’s Yard and Ainsworth’s are doing is criminally stupid; why is it not criminal? And why has no NY patient who subsequently contracted malaria sued the pants off them?

  10. I like how it says keep out of reach of children. Presumably to prevent hyperactivity from all that sugar in the sugar pills. Actually, I noticed this same warning on the homeopathic crap sold at my local chemists (I really should stop going there).

    On top of that, it costs a mint for a single dose of the magic water. Maybe I should just sack it all in and become a homeopathic remedy wholesaler in some sort of elaborate Sokal style hoax. Cut price homepathic remedies straight from the tap.

  11. “What is ethical about selling useless sugar pills for lethal diseases?”
    Evil, evil, evil. Anyone who claims to have therapeutic intent and sells pills they must know are ineffective is not simply a bullshitter – they’ve gone way beyond that point and I think Gimpy had it right in the very first comment on this post.

  12. Yes will – the China 30C – I was going to come onto that! It demonstrates how little they have actually reflected on what they are doing. They did not know even which version of the MALARIA nosode they were selling. Their action looks like a damage limitation exercise.

    But this does not surprise me. The stores on the high street are offering a range of plainly fraudulent services, including applied kinesiology and allergy testing. Charlatans.

  13. I have been following this kind of thing (pseudoscience, quackery et c.) for a while now. The more I read the more puzzled I get. I can sympathise (to a certain extent) with the public not knowing who to trust, who baffles me are the pseudoscientists themselves. They have to be either very, very stupid and really think they are helping people; or they have to be the nastiest, most vicious lot out there; quite frankly with blood on their hands (contributing to the spread of AIDS and malaria et c.). My problem is that I just can’t accept that in 2008 people could be that bone-headed; or that they could be that vicious that they’d literally kill people for a fast buck.

    Perhaps I’m very naive!

  14. You are showing your Sociopathic side again for all the world see Mr Cox.
    Lets hope all this deep seated anger and sociopathy does not make you ill.

    1960s measles party survivor, how did i do it along with millions of others.
    When are you going to warn us about the next immenent measles epedimic sacremongering, maybe if you keep doing it each year you may be right one day.
    Og and Mr Cox do look up the term IATROGENIC death rates, it may help you to do your day job a bit better and protect the public, that is what you get for right?

  15. Andrew, I was going to post a cutting reply to your comment but then I read your own blog where you express your concern that “The olympic logo is a fine example of the deception by the puppets and lackeys of the satanic controllers or New World Order […] Divine awaken human beings scare them silly as they are no match for a multi dimensional being.[…] The media is helping to focus negative energy at the logo which suits the powers that be fine as they need all that negative energy to enpower the logo. One can use radionics or sympathetic magic to cancel out these satanic logos”.
    I genuinely think you are suffering from delusions, and hope you find appropriate professional help.

  16. I’d love to know an representative example of just what “30C” dilution is… One drop in an Olympic standard swimming pool? One drop in a lake a mile wide? What? I used to work with someone (in a hospital, no less!) who was way into all this quackery – homeopathy, feng shui, massage therapy, etc. and I’d like to be able to use a mental picture if I encounter another like her.

  17. To get one molecule of remedy in the water, you would need a sphere of water 381,000,000,000,000,000 meters in diameter. Which, correct me if I am wrong anyone, is about ten times further away than the nearest star, alpha centauri.

  18. “[at 30C] To get one molecule of remedy in the water, you would need a sphere of water 381,000,000,000,000,000 meters in diameter. … about ten times further away than the nearest star, alpha centauri.”

    Not sure about that, Mr Duck. My own hasty calculations show that at 30C, to find a single molecule of active ingredient, you’d need a sphere of water “only” 40,000,000 km in diameter: roughly a quarter of the way from the Earth to the Sun.

    (workings-out: You’d need 10^60 molecules, which is about 1.6×10^36 moles. 1 litre of water contains approx 56 moles, so 1 cubic kilometre of water contains 56×10^12 moles. Dividing 1.6×10^36 moles by 56×10^12 moles/km3 means we need approx 3×10^22 km3 of water. A sphere that volume is about 40,000,000 km in diameter.)

  19. You may well be correct. In which case, it makes homeopathy a hell of a lot more plausible. probably.

  20. Of course, that’s only for a 30C dilution. I tried working out how big a droplet of the commonly used 200C dilution would be required to find a single molecule of active ingredient but couldn’t put a definite number on it because the maths got silly. Suffice to say it would have to be a droplet mind-bogglingly billions of billions times larger than the entire universe.

  21. Thanks for illuminating the immense scale of what a “30C” homeopathic preparation really means – I can certainly use it next time I discuss plausibility with another true-believer in homeopathy!

  22. When the remedy’s total lack of active ingredient is pointed out, the true believer’s response is usually to invoke the notion that “energy” or “vibrations” or “healing information” is being transferred instead of mere molecules. But in the 200 years that homepathy’s been around nobody has ever detected, or measured, or isolated or even properly defined what these might be.

  23. My my, how peculiar: Neal’s Yard are still selling the same things, but they’ve just removed the word “malaria” from the descriptions on their website. They still sell
    a book titled ‘Homoeopathic Alternatives To Immunisation’ which they used to describe as containing “practical information on preventing and treating major infectious diseases, including hepatitis, flu, malaria, measles and whooping cough”. But now is described as containing “practical information on preventing and treating major infectious diseases, including hepatitis, flu, measles and whooping cough”. Same book, containing the same bad advice, but they’ve just deleted the word “malaria” from its description on the website. Ditto with China 30C Homoeopathic Remedy, currently advertised as “Traditionally used for exhaustion, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea and fever”, used to say (Google cache, 19 Apr 2008) that it is “Traditionally used for exhaustion, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea, malaria and fever”. For that matter, good old fashioned diarrhoea kills lots of people every year – I wonder how ethical it is to sell a magic sugar pill to people as treatment, instead of recommending rehydration and conventional doctoring.

  24. I have emailed Mr Hook of NYR to ask if he believes that his sugar pills can prevent dangerous illnesses. Also, I have asked what medical due diligence is done on such claims.

  25. “based on its Latin name” – what does that mean? The name of the product is based on its Latin name? So, the Latin name for a product called “Malaria” is “Malaria”? I’m confused.

    I sought to clarify by going to a Latin>English translator. I got “Malaria = Jaw”. So the product they’re selling is “jaws”??!!!

    So I went to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, to see if it shed any light on this Latin origin issue. It didn’t. But it does contain the following statement which is crying out for a calrification:

    “Of interesting historical note is the observation by Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th Century that over-dosing of quinine leads to a symptomatic state very similar to that of malaria itself. This lead Hahnemann to develop the medical Law of Similars, and the subsequent medical system of Homeopathy.”

    Is Homeopathy a “medical system”? Is that entire statement either interesting or responsible given that what Hahnemann witnessd presumably had nothing to do with Malaria?

    Someone with appropriate knowledge and editing privileges might want to visit wikipedia – malaria.

    I really like that the label warns to keep the sugar pills out of reach of children. How cute.

  26. I’ve just had a thought about the subtle rewording on the NY site (see my comment above). Neal’s Yard, and I think homeopathic vendors more widely, advertise their remedies as being “traditionally used for” treating diseases in order to avoid claiming that the pills are actually “effective against” anything. And they say that the “traditionally used for” labelling makes no claim of effectiveness (eg their press release claim that “We do not advertise or sell the remedy as a prevention for Malaria”). In which case, if Neal’s Yard is now acknowledging that these pills are ineffective against malaria, why remove the claim from the China 30C pill that it’s been traditionally used for malaria? After all, the pill has been traditionally – albeit ineffectively – used for malaria. Removing that description seems like an implicit acknowledgement that the “traditionally used for” wording is a claim of effectiveness, or at least that it will be perceived as such by customers.

  27. I find it amazing that traders in alt med like Neals Yard do not appeared to be worried about the new trading standards laws which become effective in about three weeks. Weasel words like ‘treat’ will no longer offer a get out. Even is something is true ‘ homeopathy has been used to treat malaria’ – it will still be a criminal offence to mislead by omission – ‘but is completely useless’.

  28. This may have been explored before, but I’ve never seen any one mention it…

    With regard to homeopathy’s claim that the beneficial effects of remedies come about from their “energy”, “vibrations” or “healing information” etc, is it not claimed that said beneficial effects are transferred to the water by contact?

    Surely then, every homeopathic remedy, known or as yet unknown, has come into “contact” with every molecule of water on the planet by now.

    Don’t buy these expensive crap based magic sugar remedies, just have a drink of tap water and hey presto, you’ll be immune to everything and live forever.

    Or am I missing something?

  29. I was one of probably several people who asked the MHRA for more information on this issue and what sanctions could be applied to NYR and other outlets who were advertising the product.

    I recently recieved this reply:
    “Dear xxx

    Thank you for your email.

    The decision on whether or not to pursue a case in the criminal courts would depend on a number of factors including the nature and severity of the offence and the amount of harm the product had caused. The fact that the product was removed from the marketplace is also a factor. The legislation which the MHRA administers relates to medicinal products, Susan Curtis’s book is therefore not subject to our control. A claim made for a product in a book would be a relevant factor in determining whether or not that product fell within the definition of a medicinal product.

    I am checking to see whether the products sold by Ainsworths and Helios have the appropriate registrations under medicines legislation. If they do not or are in breach of their registration the MHRA will take regulatory action.

    Yours sincerely

    David Carter
    Manager, Medicines Borderline Section”

  30. I am getting so close to banning anonymous commenters as they are almost undoubtedly stupid. Homeopathic digitalis?

  31. Well, I can’t take malaria tablets as I suffer from bad side effects from all of them (proven), so now the homeopathic remedy has been withdrawn, I don’t have any options left. Thanks!

    • Katie – homeopathic malaria prevention was never an option for you. It does not work. It is just sugar pills. Should you have used it you would have been left unprotected and not known about it. That might kill you.

      Andy

    • To echo what LCN just said, if you really are unable to tolerate the proper drugs, then you are right you don’t have any options. You need to avoid malarial areas. If you do to those areas your only strategy is to avoid getting bitten. That is unlikely to be completely successful so then you are just taking your chances like the local population. You may stay lucky or you may get sick. At least, as an educated westerner you could be alert to the signs of illness and seek effective treatment promptly, and as a well-fed rich person you are not debilitated by prior illness and/or malnutrition, so you may be quite robust, but it’s not always successful and smart westerners do get sick and die.

      Homeopathy is not an “option”, it’s just an absence of medicine.

      • You may not think homeopathic remedies are an option, and you are entitled to your opinions, but I would far rather take something that lots of people say helps than not take anything at all. Unfortunately, I will be going to an area where malaria is possible in the near future, and would have appreciated the chance to try/test the remedy. When I agreed to help over there, I thought I had the option of trying the remedy. Now I will have to go without taking anything. I could obviously say that I’m not going anymore, but when I make a promise, I keep it.

      • When I agreed to help over there, I thought I had the option of trying the remedy. Now I will have to go without taking anything. I could obviously say that I’m not going anymore, but when I make a promise, I keep it.

        Would you have agreed to go if you had not thought that the remedies may be effective?

      • Katie – it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves at this point that malaria kills. This is not a fashion choice, or a lifestyle option, we are talking about.

        On that basis, it is rather extraordinary that you would wish to risk your life by depending on a protection mechanism based on superstitious thinking – for that is what homeopathy is. You will be taking a sugar pill and hoping it has some magic properties.

        The option of ‘trying the remedy’ has serious consequences. If you are wrong in your hope that the magic will work, you could get seriously ill and even die.

        Surely you would want a really good reason to think you were not risking your life? Isn’t your approach rather reckless?

  32. Katie, what you are doing is deeply irresponsible.

    ” Now I will have to go without taking anything. ”

    Why on earth can’t you just go to your GP and get the correct course of medication for the country you are visiting, like any sensible person would?

    If you are not properly protected against malaria you may well contract the disease. If this is the case you might be OK, toddle back home and get some emergency treatment and survive (albeit after being VERY ill indeed). But if you get infected with malaria you help spread the disease. The people infected as a result of your ‘experiment’ would not have the luxury of going home with you for some expensive treatment and may well die.

    Can you cope with that on your conscience?

    Spend money on homeopathy on your High Street if you are determined to throw your money away on nonsense, but don’t gamble with the lives of the poor people in malaria endemic countries just because you’re a naive fool.

  33. @Katie:

    By the way, here’s what Peter Fisher, clinical director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (as it was then called) and editor in chief of the Faculty of Homeopathy’s journal Homeopathy, had to say about homeopathy being recommended for the prevention of malaria:

    “I’m very angry about it because people are going to get malaria – there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria and you won’t find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this advice.”

  34. Katie, before we knew how to work out what things work in medicine there were many old wives’ tales and superstitions about how to prevent and treat malaria. People who didn’t happen to catch malaria probably thought they worked. Other people caught malaria. Some of those died.

    It is not a matter of opinion that homeopathy doesn’t work. It is not a matter of opinion that testimonials are no basis on which to draw reliable conclusions about medical efficacy.

    I do have an opinion about a westerner travelling to a malarial area to risk their own life and place a burden on the local healthcare system and mine (should they get sick back in the UK so it’s my tax money that gets spent trying to reverse the consequences of their choice). I’ll leave you to guess what that opinion is.

    I wonder how you would react if I suggested that if you choose homeopathy for supposed prevention then you are morally obliged to choose it for treatment if you get sick. There are, fortunately, not many believers in homeopathy who follow their principles to the bitter end and turn to real medicine on e they actually get ill.

    Belief in homeopathy is a lifestyle choice and a badge to wear. In this it is like creationism in the US. It costs the believer nothing in their daily life and it admits them to a social group they want to be part of. A churchgoing car mechanic in Littlerock, Arkansas loses very little by his foolish belief. Homeopathy is the same. Believers are safe while they use it for the typical round of non-illnesses that most of them suffer from or the unpleasant but non-fatal illnesses that real medicine often cannot cure. But, once in a while this choice bumps up against a nasty fact in the outside world. Malaria is a nasty fact. No amount of ear-candling, foot-rubbing, needle-sticking or sugar-pilling is going to stop you dying of malaria.

    To put it another way, you are free to build castles in the air, but you are not free to live in them.

    • I’m sorry, I didn’t see the article above.

      However, it doesn’t suggest a solution for people who have had major problems taking malaria tablets. That category of people seems to have fallen by the wayside with regard to everyone’s concern.

      If there isn’t another solution, I am still only left with the homeopathic remedy, or not as the case may be! And personally, although not a communist, I would still prefer to believe Cuban research and try something that might work rather than taking nothing.

  35. Well, contrary to what you believe, I don’t choose homeopathy to be part of a club.

    I didn’t start looking at alternative medicine until I was given 300 tablets (in one go) for something. This seemed quite bad to me, so I started looking at alternative medicine and found something which cured the problem. By doing so, I actually saved the taxpayer money, as I was paying my own money to cure the problem.

    Since then, I have always gone to the doctor first for any other problems I’ve had. All the tablets I’ve been given by the doctor have given me side effects. One of the side effects has actually been long-lasting (years in fact). However, since I am told that conventional medicine is better, I still always try that first. I’ll let you decide whether I am costing the taxpayer more or less by doing this!

    As far as malaria goes, I would be happy to try taking tablets if they didn’t give me bad side effects. If that tablet is invented, I will take it.

    You are obviously able to take tablets without side effects, and you are very lucky. If I was that lucky, maybe I wouldn’t be using alternative medicine either. I use it when conventional medicine fails. Generally, from my own point of view, if conventional medicine fails, why disallow people the chance of another option?

    As far as homeopathy goes, I have a couple of thoughts for you:
    A vaccine pad has been invented. It uses tiny little needles instead of a large long needle. The pad also uses a minute amount of vaccine in comparison to a normal vaccination but is more effective.
    Cuba made a leptospirosis homeopathic vaccine and gave it to millions of people. The results were good.

    Last but not least, in answer to your statement about using it for bad illness, I wouldn’t use a parkinson’s disease tablet to cure high blood pressure, why would I use an alternative medicine to cure something it doesn’t claim to cure?

    • …why would I use an alternative medicine to cure something it doesn’t claim to cure?

      I would be astounded if you could find a single condition that some homoeopath, somewhere, has claimed homoeopathy can treat. In any case, homoeopathy claims to be “a complete system of medicine” which can treat anything, without reference to diagnosis of named conditions.

      • Sorry, that first sentence should finish “…that some homoeopath, somewhere, has not claimed homoeopathy can treat.”

  36. In answer to Will’s “Why on earth can’t you just go to your GP and get the correct course of medication for the country you are visiting, like any sensible person would?”

    I have been to the doctor before. There are no tablets left for me to take.

  37. Katie said:

    A vaccine pad has been invented. It uses tiny little needles instead of a large long needle. The pad also uses a minute amount of vaccine in comparison to a normal vaccination but is more effective.

    Please tell us how diluted you think homeopathic potions are because it looks like you have little idea. If you did, you might just see a very slight problem with your example.

    Cuba made a leptospirosis homeopathic vaccine and gave it to millions of people. The results were good.

    No, the results were bad. It was a spectacularly badly executed ‘trial’ and for a clinical dissection of just how bad it was and why it doesn’t show what homeopaths try to claim it does, see AP Gaylard’s Much ado about nothing. See also why the ASA adjudicated that it was not adequate substantiation for an advert making claims about homeoprophylaxis: Dangerous homeopathy.

  38. @Katie:

    However, it doesn’t suggest a solution for people who
    have had major problems taking malaria tablets. That category of people seems to have fallen by the wayside with regard to everyone’s concern.

    If there isn’t another solution, I am still only left with the homeopathic remedy…

    No, you have a third option: the option of not going to places where you are likely to contract malaria. From what you have posted above (“When I agreed to help over there, I thought I had the option of trying the remedy. Now I will have to go without taking anything. I could obviously say that I’m not going anymore, but when I make a promise, I keep it.”) it would appear that your life has actually been endangered by homoeopaths’ claims that they can prevent malaria.

  39. Katie, you still seem to be miffed at us for telling you that you don’t have an option for effective malaria prevention. That’s not our fault. Just because you want homeopathy to be that option does not make it so.

    You seem to be labouring under the false impression conveyed by many in the SCAM world that there exists and effective treatment for all ills and they have it even when conventional medicine fails. The plain truth is that conventional medicine does fail. The equally plain truth is that, almost without exception, SCAM does not fill the gap.

    Depending on what you regard as SCAM therapies, and I do not regard rational nutritional advice and physical therapy as SCAM, any benefit you have inferred has either been coincidental, imaginary or placebo effect. I now place placebo effect last in that list. Five years ago I’d have put it second or even first. We now have interesting trial data that show the placebo effect to be so close to zero as makes no real difference in practical medical situations.

  40. I’ll start with the easy one first. Conventional medicine doesn’t state that it can cure everything, and neither does alternative medicine. Before you start yelling, alternative medicine treats the complete person, not every ailment. Basically it means trying to understand the complete person and find the root of a problem rather than just handing out 300 tablets. Anyone who says that conventional or alternative medicine can treat everything should definitely not be saying that!

    I completely agree that trials must be scientifically done and if I had the money, I would make sure that trials were done completely correctly without any bias either way. I also agree that homeopaths have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot, rather than following the ‘scientific route’.

    I went boss-eyed trying and failing to understand everything, so I will stick to what I understand.

    The “We understood that no scientific rationale existed…” part confused me. Are the ASA saying that’s what Ainsworths said, or is it a phrase written by the ASA that just happens to sound unbiased?

    One point I note is that it could not be proved that the homeopathic remedy for leptospirosis was effective rather than education or external factors. I’m showing my lack of knowledge here, but how are these factors excluded in human trials for conventional medicine? (You never know, I might win the lottery!)

    Generally on the subject of conventional medicine trials, if there are conventional medicines which have followed the ‘scientific route’ , been approved and then been found to be problematic themselves, are we really sure that the current ‘scientific route’ is really the right ‘scientific route’? But that’s another matter for another forum!

    Never having taken it, I can’t vouch for the malaria tablet, so I can’t add to the anecdotal evidence, but I would love there to be scientific trials.

    As I said before, homeopaths often shoot themselves in the foot.

    The vaccine pad results would suggest that a lower dose of vaccine is more potent than a higher dose. What’s to say that a very low dose isn’t even more effective? If the parasite (I think that’s right?) that actually causes malaria is tiny beyond belief, why can’t something that’s tiny beyond belief cure it?

    You know, before I started writing on this forum I was really worried, but there’s actually far more risk of me ending up in hospital after a road accident than by getting malaria. (http://www2.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/accidents/casualtiesgbar/rrcgb2009.html)

    Do I think that alternative medicine works? Of course I do, having had the benefits. Was it always a placebo effect? I can’t tell you. But if it was, it was a very good one, as it worked, and I didn’t get any side-effects. And yes, I do include homeopathy in that.

    Last but not least, something to get you thinking. I had a (minor) problem for most of my life which I thought was incurable. When I first took homeopathy for a different problem, I stopped using something (not drugs!) that is an everyday household product, as it is said to ‘reduce’ the effect. Having done so, I discovered that the minor problem stopped. It turned out that I was allergic to the household product. So homeopathy can even cure ailments you didn’t expect!

  41. Where to begin? So much of what you say is just wrong and/or repeating the half-truths of SCAMsters. 

    I’ll start with the easy one first. Conventional medicine doesn’t state that it can cure everything, and neither does alternative medicine.

    Homeopathy and various SCAM modalities claim to be complete systems of medicine that can cure everything. Real medicine is more modest. 

    Before you start yelling, alternative medicine treats the complete person, not every ailment. Basically it means trying to understand the complete person and find the root of a problem 

    We know the slogans. Every SCAM modality I have met is more trivially reductionist that real medicine. .

    The “We understood that no scientific rationale existed…” part confused me. Are the ASA saying that’s what Ainsworths said, or is it a phrase written by the ASA that just happens to sound unbiased?

    I’m writing this on my phone. I can’t find where you’re quoting that from. 

    One point I note is that it could not be proved that the homeopathic remedy for leptospirosis was effective rather than education or external factors. I’m showing my lack of knowledge here, but how are these factors excluded in human trials for conventional medicine?

    Controls. Blinding. Randomisation. 

    Generally on the subject of conventional medicine trials, if there are conventional medicines which have followed the ’scientific route’ , been approved and then been found to be problematic themselves, are we really sure that the current ’scientific route’ is really the right ’scientific route’?

     

    Controlled trials show efficacy. Safety is demonstrated by similar methods but also by post-authorisation surveillance where uncommon problems can be spotted occurring in small proportions of millions of patients. No similar surveillance exists for  any  SCAM. 

    Never having taken it, I can’t vouch for the malaria tablet, so I can’t add to the anecdotal evidence,

    You’re still not getting it. Anecdotal experience counts for nothing. Read  what I said earlier about old wives’ tales. 

    The vaccine pad results would suggest that a lower dose of vaccine is more potent than a higher dose. What’s to say that a very low dose isn’t even more effective? If the parasite (I think that’s right?) that actually causes malaria is tiny beyond belief, why can’t something that’s tiny beyond belief cure it?

    You are completely clueless about the nature of homeopathic dilutions. Remedies are not diluted really, they are just replaced with water or alcohol in a sequence of rinsings. )

    Do I think that alternative medicine works? Of course I do, having had the benefits.

    You are mistaken. As I have explained. 

     Was it always a placebo effect?

     

    Last but not least, something to get you thinking.

    Unlikely from the evidence of your comments so far. 

     I had a (minor) problem for most of my life which I thought was incurable. When I first took homeopathy for a different problem, I stopped using something (not drugs!) that is an everyday household product, as it is said to ‘reduce’ the effect. Having done so, I discovered that the minor problem stopped. It turned out that I was allergic to the household product. So homeopathy can even cure ailments you didn’t expect!

    As I suspected. No need for a lot of thought. You’re just being silly. If you were sensitive to something and stopped the exposure that’s fine. It’s not homeopathy. 

    • Thank you BSM for doing that. And bonus points for writing all that on a phone!

      The phrase “We understood that no scientific rationale existed…” came from the ASA’s adjudication on my complaint about Ainsworths malaria leaflet:

      We understood that there was currently no generally accepted scientific rationale for assuming that homeopathic products, which lacked pharmacologically active molecules, could produce clinical effects. We considered that there was no broad acceptance of the evidence supporting the efficacy of homeopathy and we noted that this was the position adopted by the Science and Technology Committee in its recent report “Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy”. We considered that Ainsworths had not provided sufficiently robust scientific evidence, including double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trials, to substantiate the implied claim that homeopathic products were effective prophylactics. We concluded that the leaflet was therefore misleading.

      (The wording isn’t quite as I quoted in my blog, which I had taken from their final draft.)

      So, to answer Katie’s question, it’s the ASA’s assessment of the evidence in general and that Ainsworths had not supplied anything that would convince them otherwise.

  42. Before you start yelling, alternative medicine treats the complete person, not every ailment. Basically it means trying to understand the complete person and find the root of a problem 

    Let me ask you a question. How, after the whole rigmarole of an hour-long consultation does being given a sugar pill get to the “root of a problem”? Or being poked with some needles? Or having your back cracked? Or having your foot rubbed?

    We hear what the SCAMsters say. It’s bullshit. That people are taken in by this spiel is just depressing.

  43. @Katie

    One point I note is that it could not be proved that the homeopathic remedy for leptospirosis was effective rather than education or external factors. I’m showing my lack of knowledge here, but how are these factors excluded in human trials for conventional medicine?

    To elaborate on what BSM posted in response to this:

    What is done is to split the patients involved in the test into two groups and then, without either the patients or the people actually involved in conducting the trial knowing which is which, give half the patients the real treatment and half a dummy (or “placebo”) treatment. The allocation of the patients to one or other group needs to be done randomly so that the people running the trial cannot consciously or unconsciously allocate patients that are healtier to a particular group, and the blinding as to who is in which group is necessary so that the treatment and assessment of the two groups is identical.

    When this is done properly the apparent effects of homoeopathy vanish.

  44. Mojo, thanks for that, I appreciate what you’re saying.

    However, for the ASA report specifically, I’m interested in knowing how ‘education’ and other ‘external factors’ are excluded in conventional medicine human trials:

    For the education part, am I right in assuming that means human trials for conventional medicine are only conducted on people who are either all educated about malaria, or all uneducated about malaria? If there are a mix of educated and uneducated, then conventional medicine trials would not be able to exclude this as a factor either. So, is this what’s done, or is there another way of excluding education as a factor?

    I think the other external factors for leptospirosis include things such as the rainfall etc. Since people cannot be kept ‘locked up’ for six weeks or whatever time is required, how does conventional medicine exclude this as a factor?

    Alan, thanks for that, but if I understand correctly, the ASA is an unbiased report:

    From what I can see, the ASA are using a government report to quantify their evidence against homeopathy. Unfortunately, the report quoted does not give any indication as to what their evidence is, how it has been proven, or how they have excluded other factors. Therefore, by the ASA’s own words, this report should not be used in the report as evidence. The ASA is also quoting an unscientifically proven opinion, which everyone on this forum says is not valid evidence.

    (I’d also be interested in knowing who the ‘broad acceptance’ includes, because it doesn’t include me!)

    Badly shaved monkey. Thanks for your opinions:

    I didn’t actually know that you could be allergic to toothpaste. The idea didn’t even cross my mind, which is why I didn’t find out before. So no, I’m not silly, just too trusting about conventional products (and yes, I did do several tests to find out if I was right).

    No, I’m not just re-spieling what everyone else has told me. I have seen the effects of conventional medicine on myself, whether placebo effect or not. I have also seen people too scared to see a doctor actually go and see one because a practitioner has told them to. I’m not sure how that can be classed as bad.

    No true alternative medicine practitioner would say that alternative medicine cures all, because it obviously doesn’t. Yes, there are scammers, but there are also many true alternative medicine practitioners, whatever you may think.

    As I have said before, I think that proper scientific trials should be done. If anyone ever does a true unbiased report which conclusively proves that conventional medicine doesn’t work, then I will happily say that placebo effect is what cures or helps everything. Until then, what I say or what you say can only ever be classed as an unscientifically proven opinion.

    People used to laugh at the idea of the world being round, but it was still proven to be true!

  45. I’m very sorry about this, for Alan, I mean the report doesn’t detail evidence other than oral evidence, which this forum has discounted.

  46. However, for the ASA report specifically, I’m interested in knowing how ‘education’ and other ‘external factors’ are excluded in conventional medicine human trials:

    For the education part, am I right in assuming that means human trials for conventional medicine are only conducted on people who are either all educated about malaria, or all uneducated about malaria? If there are a mix of educated and uneducated, then conventional medicine trials would not be able to exclude this as a factor either. So, is this what’s done, or is there another way of excluding education as a factor?

    That’s where the randomisation comes in. If you have a mix of educated and uneducated subjects in the trial as a whole, you also have a mix of educated and uneducated subjects in each group. The subjects don’t need to be identical; as long as the groups are equivalent to each other the degrees of education will cancel out. The same goes for your point about rainfall.

    The Cuban study failed to control for these factors, and perhaps even more importantly for the use of vaccination and chemoprophylaxis in groups identified as high risk in the intervention area, because they used other regions with different rainfall levels and different amounts of publicity and education as a comparator. Because there were differences other than the use of homeopathy the study cannot conclude that the homoeopathy was the cause of any difference in outcomes.

  47. I mean the report doesn’t detail evidence other than oral evidence…

    Did you not see the written submissions to the Committee, or the wide variety of trials and reviews cited in them?

  48. For ASA to use the report, it would have to have studied all of the evidence in all of the reviews etc it cited, to ensure that all of the reviews etc held to the ASA’s ‘policy’ of providing evidence, controls etc.
    If the ASA has not studied all of the reviews etc, it cannot use it as evidence.
    If the ASA has in fact studied all of the reviews etc, it should make it clear that the oral evidence included in the report cannot be used as evidence. If oral evidence is not allowed for defence, then it is not allowed for ‘prosecution’ either!

    • It is using the committee’s report on the evidence. Not just (as you seem to think) the oral evidence but also the written evidence.

      • Most of the written evidence seems to be opinion – “However, it is of the opinion of the author”. Therefore, by the ASA and this forum’s rules, these opinions cannot be used in the ASA report against homeopathy.

        As I said before, the oral evidence cannot be used as part of the
        ASA report, because of the ASA and this forum’s rules.

        If there is actual scientific evidence by proven scientific methods in the report, which I have missed, then I agree that this can be used.

  49. Before you start yelling, alternative medicine treats the complete person, not every ailment. Basically it means trying to understand the complete person and find the root of a problem…

    And Douglas Adams’s Nutrimatic Drinks Dispenser “makes an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject’s metabolism, and then sends tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centres of the subject’s brain to see what is likely to be well received. However, no-one knows quite why it does this because it then invariably delivers a cupful of liquid that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”

    Various types of alternative medicine may pretend to be “holistic”, or to “find the root of a problem”, but this is not really the case. Homoeopathy, for example, pays no attention whatsoever to causes of disease, viewing the patient as nothing more than a collection of symptoms. See Hahnemann’s footnote to §1 of the Organon where he explicitly tells homoeopaths not to concern themselves with causes or to “construct so-called systems, by interweaving empty speculations and hypotheses concerning the internal essential nature of the vital processes and the mode in which diseases originate in the interior of the organism”.

  50. We’re never going to agree that alternative medicine does / doesn’t work. I can give you lots of examples where I’ve found that it does, and you can give me lots of examples where it doesn’t. So I would like to agree to disagree on this.

    I already agree that there are lots of people who scam.

    Whether you believe that conventional medicine works or not, would you agree that there are occasions as mentioned above where alternative medicine practitioners can help by sending their clients to a doctor?

    • Katie,

      You’ve still not understood what is and what is not a sensible basis on which to have this conversation.

      “Examples’ are simply not legitimate. It is not a matter of agreeing to disagree. This is not like discussing whether or not Marmite is nice to eat. I like it, you may not. We can agree to disagree over this because there is no right answer; it is simply a matter of opinion.

      In what we are discussing here there is right and wrong, true and false. We know how to decide between these extremities.

      You need to get over this bridge before you can hold competent opinions on the subject.

  51. Whether you believe that conventional medicine works or not, would you agree that there are occasions as mentioned above where alternative medicine practitioners can help by sending their clients to a doctor?

    Which is the same as saying, SCAM practitioners do not present a complete obstacle that prevent people seeking competent medical care.

    To which the answer is, yes that is true. However, they do present a partial obstruction and we would be better off if they did not exist at all.

    If homeopaths ceased to exist tomorrow, I suppose I’d rather the worried well spent their money on counselling. But, I’d think through the implications more fully if we ever achieved that happy outcome.

  52. If I remember correctly, you have not yet given me any conclusive scientific proof that alternative medicine doesn’t work.

  53. As I said before, a truly unbiased human trial following all scientific controls etc that can conclusively prove one way or the other.

      • But Katie. There have been dozens of ‘fair tests’ of homeopathy, with proper blinding and randomisation. And no review of all those trials has been able to demonstrate there is a consistent effect from homeopathy. In fact, the latest review shows very clearly that large trials, well conducted, tend to show there is no difference from placebo.

        Which bit of this are you struggling with?

  54. I’m struggling with the fact that you haven’t yet given me the names of any reports that I’m supposed to be looking at.

    • You are obviously aware of the House of Commons report. It walks through the evidence base in lots of detail. But all you have done is produce rather spurious reasons why you should not look at it.

      There are other very good lay summaries of the evidence base. Simon Singh’s Trick or Treatment is very good. So, is Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science. I have yet to meet a homeopath who has actually read both of these books.

      • Please would you therefore give me the page number in the House of Commons report which gives actual true scientific evidence including controls etc, proving that homeopathy does not work.

        (If it’s unscientific for me to use opinions or anecdotal evidence in defence of homeopathy, it’s also unscientific to use them against homeopathy.)

        For trick or treatment, can you give me an example of a human trial done. The report name, date etc.

        For Bad science, please can you point me in the direction of where the info is on human trials done.

      • Katie – there comes a point when you are going to have to put in some intellectual effort and not expect to be spoon fed. The evidence report is not an ‘anecdote’ but presents a reasoned argument based on a review of all available systematic reviews.

        http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/4504.htm#a12

        Please read this, take some time, and try to digest what it is actually saying. As for Trick or Treatment and Bad Science – again, both authors will walk you through the available trials.

        But you are going to have to put in the effort. You are sincere in understanding, aren’t you?

    • Try these, for starters (you could easily have found them by checking out the written evidence considered by the House of Commons Committee in arriving at its conclusion):

      Shang A, Huwiler-Muntener K, Nartey L, Juni P, Dorig S, Sterne J A et al. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy. Lancet 2005; 366:726-732.

      Ernst E. A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2002; 54:577-582.

      Cucherat M, Haugh M C, Gooch M, Boissel J P. Evidence of clinical efficacy of homeopathy. A meta-analysis of clinical trials. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 2000; 56:27-33.

      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.

      Linde K, Clausius N, Ramirez G, Melchart D, Eitel F, Hedges L V et al. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials. Lancet 1997; 350:834-843.

      Linde K, Melchart D. Randomized controlled trials of individualized homeopathy: a state-of-the-art review. J Alt Complementar Med 1998; 4(371):388.

      Here we have a whole series of studies that have gradually arrived at the conclusion that while there is some positive evidence for homoeopathy it is compromised by poor study quality, and that as you improve the study quality the apparent effects of homoeopathy decrease, with the best quality studies showing no effect.

      p.s. Don’t cite the conclusion of Linde et al 1997 without also considering the authors’ comment on it in Linde et al 1999. Or even Linde and Jonas’s comment that the 1997 analysis “has unfortunately been misused by homoeopaths as evidence that their therapy is proven” Lancet, Volume 366, Issue 9503, Pages 2081 – 2082, 17 December 2005.

      • I’ll start with the ps first. If I have offended you or Linde, then I apologise.

        I have to admit, that as most of the written evidence was based on opinion, I didn’t actually register that there were actual true reports in it. I will have a look.

      • I have to admit, that as most of the written evidence was based on opinion…

        Ah. Were you loking at the stuff submitted by homoeopaths?

  55. Katie, can you specifically confirm that you have read and comprehended my description of homeopaths ‘dilution’ as rinsing and, thus, that you fully accept that a homeopathic sugar pill contains nothing but sugar?

    • If you would like to add some true scientific reports, I will try and look at them.

      (I do have other things I should be doing!)

    • Katie – it does not take a scientific report to understand that a homeopathic sugar pill contains nothing but sugar. It requires a basic understanding of the process by which the pills are made and some elementary chemistry – as taught at school.

  56. Sorry to interrupt but Katie wrote,

    “I would far rather take something that lots of people say helps than not take anything at all. Unfortunately, I will be going to an area where malaria is possible in the near future, and would have appreciated the chance to try/test the remedy.”

    Yes, that’s what Janeza Podgorsek said. He took a prescribed homeopathic preventive for malaria. It didn’t work and he caught malaria. Then he took a prescribed homeopathic remedy to treat the malaria. He died.

    http://whatstheharm.net/newsarchive/JanezaPodgorsek.html

    Never having taken it, I can’t vouch for the malaria tablet…/i>

    Well, there you go. Podgorsek did take it and he still can’t vouch for it. Plenty more examples where that one came from. Try the ‘What’s the harm?’ website.

    • Cheryl Cole didn’t die. She did however take a full, correct treatment of anti-malaria tablets. She also caught malaria.

      • Let’s not get distracted – but anti-malarials are not 100% effective – but you stand a much lower chance of catching/dying of malaria.

        With homeopathy, your chances remain exactly the same.

  57. Sorry about messing up the italics in my last comment. I meant to say this as well:

    Katie wrote

    “I have to admit, that as most of the written evidence was based on opinion, I didn’t actually register that there were actual true reports in it. I will have a look.”

    Here, let me help you. Click here and scroll down:

    http://discoverhomeopathy.co.uk/?page_id=2

    • I don’t know whether homeopathy would have worked or not, so I can’t say either way. Scientifically, we will never know the answer to that one.

      However, it does prove that conventional malaria medicine fails as well.

      • No doctor will tell you that anti-malarials are 100% effective. But they do provide protection.

        Parachutes are also not 100% effective – but would you rather leap out of an aircraft on a magic carpet?

  58. le canard noir:

    Please can you send me the true scientific report which states that homeopathic malaria treatment does not work. Again, I will try to read it.

    • Katie

      Do you agree that where people’s health is concerned, good evidence is important?

      It’s the homeopaths that claim that homeopathic potions can prevent someone contracting malaria. It’s up to them – and you as their proxy here – to provide good evidence that that claim is valid. None of us here have ever seen any such good evidence.

  59. Strange you should mention magic.

    Let’s try some logic:

    The British Medical Association say that homeopaths are witches.
    By definition, witches deal in magic.
    Therefore the BMA must believe in magic.

    Isn’t logic great!

    • Logic is indeed great and I hope you get the opportunity to learn how to do it properly.

      Flawed reasoning and logical fallacies are the hallmarks of the ‘arguments’ presented by apologists for altmed and that is why they consistently fail to change minds that have been made up by considering objective evidence – rather than anecdote – in the first place.

      You may be able to find a local course on critical thinking skills. I respectfully advise you to attend it and hopefully come to understand why the syllogism you have presented here is hopelessly flawed.

  60. Actually, I am not aware of any homeopaths’ trials looking at their sugar pills and malaria (a good enough reason to avoid).

    But I do not base my scepticism on such evidence. As has been pointed out to you, there are enough reasons to doubt homeopathy overall – it is based on magical thinking and there is no good evidence that it is effective for any condition. On that basis, we can be pretty confident it does not work for malaria too.

    What reason do you have to still believe?

    • If, by ‘enough reasons’ you mean the other reports, then I can’t comment until I’ve seen the reports. I will let you know.

  61. They are sugar pills, Katie!!!

    You are talking about taking sugar pills to prevent malaria.

    Please, try to get to grips with this very simple fact.

    You do not need scientific trials to appreciate this. Homeopathic dilution is rinsing.

    Earlier in this discussion you equated homeopathic ‘dilution’with a “tiny” amount. This suggests you really do not know what the ‘dilutions’ are. There is not a tiny amount of therapeutic substance, there is none. Will you acknowledge this? A simple response will suffice.

  62. If you wish to believe my remark was an attempt at true syllogism, be my guest.

    Yes, I agree that peoples health is important. I have never said that you should take homeopathy instead of malaria tablets. However, people who have bad side effects from conventional medicine cannot be dealt with by conventional medicine. Therefore, I hold the view that a ‘might’ work is better than taking nothing.

    Since you yourselves have stated that a placebo effect may be the cause of alternative medicine ‘healing’, you cannot also say that nothing happens. By your own words, something does happen. Therefore the only way to prove the argument either way is by true scientific evidence.

    If I asked you to look at both sides of the argument, you would not, so do not insult me when I am in fact willing to look at both sides of the argument and have asked for the true scientific trial report names.

    By your own rules, I am only bound to accept true scientific trials in the parliamentary review. Again, by your own rules, the opinions and anecdotal evidence should be disregarded, however they are presented.
    Also, you may be happy to accept ‘walk throughs’. However, I make my own judgements, I do not just accept the word of others.

    When I scanned through the House of Commons report, I was looking at the information the review classed as oral and written ‘evidence’. But I believe I said before that I may have missed the true scientific evidence in amongst the rest.

    However you try to divert me, the HofC report is still mostly opinion and anecdotal evidence, whether by homepath or other. By your own rules, the only true scientific evidence which I can accept are the actual trials which took place. Again, by your own rules, all other ‘info’ in the report should be disregarded. Therefore the ASA report should not have cited the HofC report without stating this.

    The report “Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo controlled trials of homoeopathy”? does look as if it’s true scientific evidence, but the only copy I can find is quite expensive. Any ideas where there might be other copies?

    Unfortunately, most of the reports are just reviews. I have spent a little while scanning through them, but haven’t found details of the specific true scientific trials they are reviewing.

    • Katie – I think you do not understand what anecdotal evidence is and why it is unreliable.

      An appraisal of scientific trails is not the same as “anecdotal evidence”. If you are struggling to understand the difference, then it is going to be very hard to move forward. You are misunderstanding how science works. The uncharitable side of me wonders if this is willful misunderstanding.

  63. Katie,

    You seem to equate something you are calling “true scientific evidence” with controlled trials, but that is wrong. The scientific argument employs a lot more evidence than simply that derived from controlled trials.

    Visit this site;

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/

    Do not confuse the placebo effect with something really effective for serious diseases.

    If I asked you to look at both sides of the argument, you would not

    You can be forgiven for not knowing that many of us have been listening to both sides of the argument for years. We have examined the arguments and drawn unavoidable conclusions. You should by now be aware that the arguments put forward by the homeopathic side consist of nothing apart from a series of appeals to logical fallacies. There is no valid argument left for homeopaths to make.

  64. And we must slap this down again;

    Therefore, I hold the view that a ‘might’ work is better than taking nothing.

    Homeopathy is not a “might” work. It is a doesn’t work. It is the same as doing nothing.

    If you find yourself convinced by the arguments put forward by homeopaths then you really do not understand how these matters are settled.

  65. I cannot see any mention of specific scientific trials etc on the webpage.

    I do not confuse the placebo effect with something really effective for serious diseases. I’ve never said that.

    Surely anyone who is concerned with people’s health would prefer the possibility of a ‘might’ than nothing.

    No, I’m not wilful. I look at everything with an open mind.

  66. I apologise, I can see what you would refer to as a ‘reasoned argument’ on the webpage, but to me it seems the same as an opinion.

  67. The points I’ve made are that:

    a) All opinions and anecdotal evidence should be discounted.
    b) All true scientific evidence be be counted.

    I’ve already said that I haven’t read the whole report (You’ve had months to read and digest everything, I’ve only had a few hours.)
    If there is anything in the report that isn’t covered by a) and b), please tell me.

    • The HofC report discounts anecdotal evidence and reviews all the true scientific evidence available. As a result, it comes to a very strongly argued opinion that homeopathy is inert and should not be publicly funded.

      Opinions are of course valid – the trick is to look for opinions that can be defended on the basis of a sound appraisal of the evidence. Without reading the report, you will never be able to critique it properly. Instead you resort to the naive philosophical position that all opinions are should be ‘discounted’.

      You are in an intellectual black hole, Katie. You have surrounded yourself with reasons why you should not examine your beliefs. There is no escape, I am afraid.

      You should read the philosophers Stephen Law’s excellent book “Believeing Bullshit’ to understand how people get sucked into intellectual black holes. He has a chapter on ‘going nuclear’ where a common technique for denialists and pseudoscientists is to claim that all philosophical positions are equivalent and that reason is not to be trusted. You are pretty close to that position.

      • Are you saying that you fully read and understood the report in a few hours? If you did, then I salute you.

        However, it does not change the fact that the ASA called the HofC report an opinion. Are you saying that the ASA is incorrect in saying that the HofC report is an opinion?

  68. Katie said;

    Do I think that alternative medicine works? Of course I do, having had the benefits. Was it always a placebo effect? I can’t tell you. But if it was, it was a very good one, as it worked, and I didn’t get any side-effects. And yes, I do include homeopathy in that.

    The subject of this discussion is prevention of malaria, so I said;

    Do not confuse the placebo effect with something really effective for serious diseases.

    And back comes Katie with;

    I do not confuse the placebo effect with something really effective for serious diseases. I’ve never said that.

    I don’t think Katie is keeping any track of what she is trying to say.

    Having been directed to look at ScienceBasedMedicine, Katie says;

    I cannot see any mention of specific scientific trials etc on the webpage

    I am sorry, Katie, I do not think you have read any meaningful amount of the material at SBM. You were specifically shown the site so that you could understand why focusing solely on controlled trials is a mistake. You have been given as much as currently exists by way of controlled trials and meta-analyses. Read what you have been given. There is no more, but it is sufficient to reject homeopathy and its mountain of anecdote and fallacious argument.

    To show you are engaged in this in good faith, return to SBM and come back with a summary overview of the relevance of prior probability and clinical equipoise to the issue of controlled trials of homeopathy.

    As further demonstration, go away and find out why homeopaths invoking “energy” to explain the supposed retention of some sort of memory in their remedies despite all the rinsing contradicts the basic laws of thermodynamics.

    At the moment you are engaged in the well-recognised time-wasting tactic of “just asking”. It’s appropriate now for you to show that you can comprehend and interpret the material you have been given.

  69. Quite. It is time Katie put in the intellectual effort. She has not had ‘just hours’ to read the HofC report, but many days. The report is a mere 50 pages (excluding the huge wedge of inclusions and appendices) and could be read in an hour or two.

    That would show good faith. At the moment, I see no genuine desire to engage and understand our position.

  70. a) All opinions and anecdotal evidence should be discounted.

    Why should opinions be discounted? It depends on the basis of the opinion.

    Homeopathy is defeated by logic and well-established scientific principles independent of any trial data. It is certainly my opinion that homeopathy contradicts basic principles of thermodynamics. Why would you hold an alternative opinion. Once again, you need to stop “just asking” and do a little grown-up thinking work.

    Your problem seems to be that you don’t happen to like the opinion of competent people who disagree with you. That is not showing independence of thought, that is just stubbornness and over-estimation of your own abilities. I’m sorry that this is the case.

  71. Katie – we are in danger of getting into a philosophical debate about epistemology. That is surely an intellectual black hole for the purposes of this discussion, of the exact sort that Stephen Law warns us about in ‘Believing Bullshit’.

    Let’s just say for now that there are opinions that can be defended on an appraisal of evidence and opinions that are based upon logical fallacies, wishful thinking and other errors.

    Unless you actually read the HofC report, how can you have any opinion yourself which category of opinion the MPs fell into?

    Or put it another way. You are quite happy for yourself to have an opinion, but appear to discount other people for doing the same. Is your opinion well founded, or might other people have come to better conclusions on the basis of evidence and reason? You will not find out unless you engage with them.

  72. BSM makes a very good point about how we come to well formed opinions even without having to resort to ‘science’.

    Take Bertrand Russel’s teapot. We can be pretty sure there is not a teapot in orbit around the Sun somewhere between Earth and Mars without sending scientific experiment laden spacecraft to look for one. We can come to a well founded opinion on the matter on the basis of reason alone. Just as we can be sure there are no elephants in the refrigerator and that homeopathic pills are just sugar pills.

    Your position is often called ‘scientism’ – a belief that all debate about truth has to revolve around scientific ‘facts’.

    Science has a very important role – to find out if there are fairies at the bottom of the garden is not one of them.

  73. Or to put it another way, you do not need a PhD in imperial invisible textile manufacture to know the emperor has no clothes on.

  74. I have looked again at SBM. The first review I looked at included many personal insults.

    This forum too has hurled many personal insults at me.

    As I said before, I have only had a few hours to read the report since I have been doing other things. One of those things was to visit a relative who lives a long way away and has recently been in ITU. I apologise if that is not to your liking.

    As I said, if you are able to read the report and understand it in a few hours, then I salute you. I however cannot. That is not because I am wilful, it is because I cannot.

    I said before that I tried conventional medicine for malaria first. I did not say that I had tried homeopathy first. Nowhere else have I mentioned anything about placebo effects and serious medicine in the same sentence.

    I can only say that I must have made some comment which caused you concern, since no-one now seems to be able to make a comment without making a personal insult.

  75. Katie

    All that said, please answer the questions about equipoise, prior probability and thermodynamics.

    If you can answer them then we can move on.
    If you cannot answer them then you must acknowledge that we xo indeed know a lot more bout this stuff than you and you should start actually listening to what we are saying to you.

    Our impatience arises because you are yet another person who turns up and seriously thinks that they can confront scientific facts and evidence with feeble anecdote. You then say you will reject anecdote but do not follow this to it’s logical conclusion. We have given you all the scientific evidence that disproved homeopathy or given you access to it. There is no more. No more is needed.

  76. Katie – if anything said here has appeared rude to you it may be because at times you have appeared insincere.

    In real life, you know full well that anecdotes can be very unreliable. You doubt the stories people tell you down the pub. You would be very unhappy if you were charged with a crime based solely on anecdotal evidence. This is common sense. In medicine, anecdotes can mislead in well characterised ways too.

    And in real life you accept people with opinions too if you feel they are are experts on a subject. But you play that you want to reject ‘opinion’ here because of your mischaracterisation of perfectly reasonable positions. Understanding how experts on homeopathy have come to robust opinions and view the subject is where we have been trying to guide you.

    The HofC report has a summary that could be read in 10 minutes. The whole report in 2 hours, but you do not even dip in, instead you desperately find reasons not too, using arguments about opinion and anecdote that you do not really believe.

    There is only so much gentle persuasion we might use before we doubt your sincerity. Yet one more person who chooses to believe what they wish to be true rather than what reason and evidence compels them to accept.

  77. Katie,

    Before we let you play the poor little victim card again, I have just re-read this thread from the point of your first entry. We were very polite to you and presented piece by piece rebuttals of the long list of fallacious and specious arguments that solidly filled your posts. Here for instance I highlighted every single sentence you had written to point out that you were in error: Badly Shaved Monkey on August 7, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    I’m afraid it becomes rather exasperating when after all that we find you clinging to the same positions.

    A quote for you;

    “Offence is what people take, when they can’t take argument.” Richard Dawkins

    But my questions to you still hang there waiting for you to answer them. If you choose to do so you will learn some interesting things.

  78. You have made many personal insults. You have also accused me of lying. I wasn’t. I am allowed to take offence.

    You have not highlighted every sentence I have made as having errors. I have made many comments which you have not commented on. You have also misquoted some of my comments.

    I am not going to read any articles which contain personal insults.

    I have never appeared insincere. I say again, look for the word ‘concede’.

    There are in fact 275 pages in the HofC report. If you look at pages 70 and 71, you will see that it is an interview asking about opinions. The interviewer also stops both sides from finishing their sentences. The chairman also makes reference to prostitution. Even if you decide, contrary to previous comments made by yourselves, that generalized opinions are allowed, this is hardly an interview which can be included in a scientific report.

    If you want quotes, “Attack is the best form of defence”.

    • You have also accused me of lying

      That’s a big accusation that one would expect you to support with specific evidence.

      Cite an example, please.

      You have not highlighted every sentence I have made as having errors.

      No I have not. There’s not enough time and you seem not to respond when these things are pointed out to you. However, nor have I claimed to highlight every erroneous sentence of your that contains errors. Nor have I said that every one of your sentences does contain errors.

      What I actually said was;

      Here for instance I highlighted every single sentence you had written to point out that you were in error: Badly Shaved Monkey on August 7, 2011 at 10:29 pm

      That points you to an example where I highlighted every problematical sentence in one of your posts to illustrate the issue. It was almost every sentence in the post of yours to which I referred.

      You have also misquoted some of my comments.

      That needs an example as well. Copying and pasting do not lend themselves particularly well to misquoting someone.

      I notice you have still not attempted any answer to the specific questions I have offered to you as being instructive. We are stuck in a meta-argument about the discussion. It is a familiar pattern we observe in supporters of homeopathy. It tends to look like a deliberate tactic to avoid the substantive issues.

      • I use the ‘you’ as a plural ‘you’.

        “I’ve only had a few hours.”
        “She has not had ‘just hours’ to read the HofC report, but many days.”
        I actually meant that I had only a few hours due to other things I had to do.
        If you misunderstood and believed that I meant literally a few hours, then I concede that I misunderstood you too. However, considering the number of insults that have been hurled my way, I believe I can say that the forum has been a distinctly unfriendly place to be.

        You’re correct, the erratum should include two sentences not one.

        Insults are just that. In your words (more or less): Just because you think something is true, doesn’t make it so.

        I’ve already answered the complete system part of your post.
        We’ve already debated leptospirosis.

        “Do not confuse the placebo effect with something really effective for serious diseases.”
        “No true alternative medicine practitioner would say that alternative medicine cures all, because it obviously doesn’t.”

    • I think the problem is that people who pop up publicly to advocate SCAM therapies are very often completely clueless that there is absolute opposition to their beliefs. They do not really expect to be challenged and think that ‘agree to disagree’ or ‘live and let live’ are the worst that they should be faced with.

      Faced with a response that can be summarised as “your beliefs are not just deluded but dangerous, here’s the evidence” they can either revise their beliefs or complain about being criticised. Which option has Katie chosen?

  79. The video was amusing to start with. I didn’t enjoy the bad language.

    Personal insults are not valid criticism. I say again, look for ‘concede’.

    As le canard noir said, I think we can leave it there.

  80. @Katie:

    Unfortunately, most of the reports are just reviews. I have spent a little while scanning through them, but haven’t found details of the specific true scientific trials they are reviewing.

    Why “unfortunately”? Systematic reviews and meta analyses pool the results from all the available trials that fit their criteria. They also look at things like the quaity of the trials. This gives a more reliable picture than looking at individual trials. The test for statistical significance is that there is only a 1 in 20 chance, or less, that a positive result is caused by chance rather than a true positve, so even for perfectly conducted trials there will still be about 1 in 20 trials appearing to be positive, even for a completely ineffective treatment. Cherry-picking individual “specific true scientific trials” therefore proves nothing.

    If you read the reviews, you should be able to find out what trials they considered, and their selection and assessment criteria.

  81. @Katie:

    I have never said that you should take homeopathy instead of malaria tablets. However, people who have bad side effects from conventional medicine cannot be dealt with by conventional medicine. Therefore, I hold the view that a ‘might’ work is better than taking nothing.

    According to the account you yourself have posted on this page, in which you say that you have agreed to go to an area where you risk contracting malaria because you thought you had the option of homeopathic malaria prevention, it is clearly worse than nothing.

  82. I have not cherry picked. I have asked and asked for specific trials to no avail. I was perfectly happy to look at trials you yourselves cherry picked. I am surprised that you did not give me the details of those trials.

    You yourselves agree that something does happen when you take homeopathy, which is why I have asked for true scientific evidence.

    As an aside, I believe I am correct in saying that even the concept of placebo effect cannot yet be explained scientifically.

    If it is proved that the homeopathic malaria remedy does not work, then you are correct in what you say. If it is proved otherwise, you are not.

    As we seem to be going round in circles, and you have not actually answered any of my questions, I am going to love you and leave you. Take that as you will.

    However, you can be sure that I will take more notice of any future scientific trials I do find. In that as well, I will concede.

    • I have not cherry picked. I have asked and asked for specific trials to no avail.

      I haven’t accused you of cherry-picking trials; I have just pointed out why citing “specific trials” isn’t a valid approach.

      I was perfectly happy to look at trials you yourselves cherry picked.

      Neither have I cherry-picked trials myself: I have cited the last four major comprehensive meta-analyses/reviews of trials of homoeopathy, a systematic review of all the reviews up to 2002, and the single systematic review of trials of individualised homoeopathy.

      I am surprised that you did not give me the details of those trials.

      I gave you perfectly adequate details of the reviews and analyses I cited: authors, titles, where and when published.

      You yourselves agree that something does happen when you take homeopathy…

      …but not that it is caused by the homoeopathy.

      As an aside, I believe I am correct in saying that even the concept of placebo effect cannot yet be explained scientifically.

      I believe you are wrong. there appears to be a tendency for people to see what they expect to see. The placebo effect doesn’t seem to do much, if anything, beyond that.

      If it is proved that the homeopathic malaria remedy does not work, then you are correct in what you say. If it is proved otherwise, you are not.

      There is, to quote Peter Fisher, “absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent malaria”. Would you accept a malaria-repelling rock oor some magic beans as an alternative? There’s just as much reason to think that they would work.

    • Do you mean “Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo controlled trials of homoeopathy”, which you said “does look as if it’s true scientific evidence”? The question you asked was where can you get hold of a copy. Have you tried a library?

      Incidentally, why did you think this particular analysis was “true scientific evidence” but the others were not?

      • Yep, you’re right, I didn’t read it correctly. I saw the “in a set of 89 placebo-controlled clinical trials” and assumed it was an actual trial, but it isn’t.

        However, as you know, I don’t know much about these things and didn’t know that you could get things like this at a library. So thank you for that information.

      • It was an analysis of the results of the set of 89 trials – i.e. considering the methods and results of all 89 trials that fitted their stated selection criteria.

  83. Part of the problem Kate is that you have been asking the wrong questions.

    Only a fool would make a decision on whether homeopathy worked or not on the basis of an individual trial.

    Mojo explained why systematic reviews and meta analyses are much more reliable. The HofC report relies on a summary of several reviews and meta-analyses – it is reliable because it takes into account the broadest sweep of evidence and weights it according to clear quality criteria.

    If you read the HofC report, you will see the committee castigated homeopaths for not taking this approach. The homeopaths decided to present evidence to the committee by cherry picking only those studies that appeared to show a positive result. This is straightforward junk science and terribly misleading. Any homeopath who thrusts a ‘positive’ trial under your nose is misleading you as it is simply cherry picked. We know this because of the many reviews that have now been done showing the broad weight of evidence is negative for homeopathy.

    If you want to understand in detail why this approach is important, I can suggest to you the very excellent book (available for free only) called “Testing Treatments: better research for better healthcare” by Imogen Evans, Hazel Thornton and Iain Chalmers.

    http://www.jameslindlibrary.org/tt-downloads.html

    It explains how to appraise medical studies and why the approach we are describing is the most reliable. It is not about homeopathy, but about how any treatment can be made to look effective if you are not careful. Essential reading.

  84. On the placebo subject.

    It is a big mistake to think homeopathy ‘works’ because of some unknown placebo effect.

    What the basic science tells us is that homeopathy should have no specific effects on people. What the reviews show us is that trial data is unable to distinguish any effects observed from that of a placebo pill.

    When you give someone a placebo, you are likely to observe changes in their health. The most obvious reasons for this is that people do get better on their own for many things. Our immune system does a grand job. For things that do not get better, symptoms do vary over time -e.g. bad back pain, hayfever etc. Because you go to get treatment when things are bad – at any time in the future, on average, your symptoms are likely to be better. Hence in a trial, even a placebo can appear to be having effects.

    Placebos can have other effects to – they change people’s beliefs – they think differently about their illness. They may also answer questions to researchers more favourably as they are being treated. This is why trails without proper placebo controls should be treated very sceptically. (All in the book above I recommended.)

  85. I came back to apologise about the “cherry picking remark”, although that doesn’t change the fact that you did in fact give me a scientific trial and no-one answered the question.

    My question was “Any ideas where there might be other copies?” I’m not sure how that was wrong?

    I am definitely going to love you and leave you now.

  86. Katie

    You have not tried answering the questions about equipoise, prior probability and thermodynamics. I repeat, if you tried you might learn something interesting. If you do not then you have learnt nothing.

    Why, I ask myself, would you take the latter option?

  87. Katie on August 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm
    ps You did give me one scientific trial, but no-one ever answered my question, so I gave up.

    Can someone enlighten me? What question is Storm referring to such that our not answering it causes her to flounce off?

    Sorry, slip of the finger. I meant to say Katie. My mistake.

  88. @Katie, if you’re still out there:

    I have cherry-picked this example. This could be you in the future.

    From BMJ 321 : 1288 doi: 10.1136/bmj.321.7271.1288/a (Published 18 November 2000)

    Homoeopathy may not be
    effective in preventing malaria

    Editor—The homoeopathic principle that
    like should be cured with like is not always
    advisable, as illustrated in this case report.

    A 40 year old woman took two holidays
    a year in tropical countries. After experienc­
    ing digestive disorders with conventional
    prophylactic drugs she decided to seek
    medical advice from a homoeopath for her
    forthcoming holiday in Togo. Two homeo­
    pathic drugs were prescribed: Ledum palustre
    5 CH (Boiron, Sainte­Foy­lès­Lyon, France)
    as one granule daily and Malaria officinalis 4
    CH (Schmidt­Nagel, Meyrin, Switzerland) as
    a single dose on the day before departure.
    Ledum palustre 5 CH can be purchased
    in any French pharmacy and is usually taken
    to prevent insect bites or to reduce allergic
    reactions and pruritus. Malaria officinalis
    4 CH is unavailable in France and therefore
    was bought by mail order. The preparation
    is taken “against malaria” as the doctor or
    patient sees fit. It is made from “African
    swamp water containing impurities, algae
    and plants as well as mosquito slough, larvae
    and eggs.” Furthermore, “the manufacturer,
    who has performed no clinical trials on this
    drug, declines all responsibility regarding its
    use.” No instructions are supplied, and the
    destination of the journey and duration of
    the stay are not taken into account.
    Five days after returning to France with
    a fever (39°C), the patient sought medical
    advice from her homoeopath. Results of a
    blood smear test for malaria parasites were
    negative; haemoglobin concentration was
    13.9 g/l and platelet count 160 000 per
    mm3
    . She took homoeopathic drugs with
    vitamins, and a few days later antibiotic
    treatment was started. Ten days after the first
    medical visit she felt worse. Her temperature
    had risen to 41°C and her haemoglobin
    concentration was 10.6 g/l and platelet
    count 66 000 per mm3
    . She was admitted to
    hospital, where she was investigated for bac­
    terial infection but not malaria. Four days
    later she was admitted with neurological dis­
    orders to the intensive care unit at this hos­
    pital. An emergency search for malaria
    showed the presence of Plasmodium falci­
    parum (parasitaemia 7%). For two months
    she received intensive care for multiple
    organ system failure due to P falciparum.
    This case confirms the inefficacy of
    homoeopathic drugs for malaria prevention
    and treatment.
    2
    Travellers to tropical coun­
    tries should use recognised prophylactic
    drugs.
    Pascal Delaunay specialist in parasitology, department
    of parasitology­mycology
    delaunay.p@chu­nice.fr
    Eric Cua specialist in infectious diseases, department of
    intensive care
    Philippe Lucas specialist in intensive care and
    cardiology, department of intensive care
    Pierre Marty specialist in parasitology and tropical
    medicine, department of parasitology­mycology
    University Hospital, BP 3079, 06202 Nice, Cedex
    03, France
    1 Vickers A, Zollman C. ABC of complementary medicine:
    homoeopathy. BMJ 1999;319:1115­8.
    2 Carlsson T, Bergqvist L, Hellgren U. False safety with
    homeopathic agents. Swedes became ill with malaria in
    spite of prophylaxis. Lakartidningen 1995;92:4467­8.

    Happy Travels!

  89. I’m sorry, I can’t resist this one.

    “Only a fool would make a decision on whether homeopathy worked or not on the basis of an individual trial.”

    BMJ: This case confirms the inefficacy of homoeopathic drugs for malaria prevention and treatment.

    I’m sorry again, I just couldn’t resist it!

    Even if I don’t reply any more, I am still looking and taking note. I won’t be looking every day, but I am still looking.

    Katie.

  90. ps. I still say yuk! And although the words Cheryl Cole spring to mind, even with the BMJ comment, it’s still a good example. So thank you.

  91. Okay, back out again. Looking at the word as ‘confirms’ rather than ‘shows’:
    You can only use the word ‘confirms’ when something else has already been done. Since by your own words no scientific trials have actually been done on the homeopathic malaria remedy, the word ‘confirms’ cannot be used.

  92. Katie, can you think of a way you could do a double-blind, randomly controlled trial with homeopathic malaria remedies? I mean, ‘treating’ some with homeopathy, some with nothing and some with real treatment? You’d be comitting mass murder. Enough trials have been carried out on other conditions to show that it doesn’t work in ANY of those cases. Combining that with the fact that it doesn’t contain ANY active ingredients, and that prominent homeopaths themselves don’t recommend homeopathy for malaria, how could you possibly hold any other view than that to travel to a malaria endemic country with only homeopathic treatment is deeply irrespondible and reckless? I’m just really struggling to understand you’re position on this.

    • Presumably by prominant homepaths you mean qualified doctors. That would be the same doctors who said that antibiotics had no effects and prescribed prozac here there and everywhere in the belief that it was a cure all.

      Although we are still going in circles, as I have said before, which you keep ignoring, I tried conventional medicine first.

      From what other people have told me, including tour guides etc, many educated people who actually live in a malaria place or regularly go to a malaria place do not use malaria medicine at all. The reason being that the side effects for continual use are too great to justify taking the medicine.

      There are many people around who would volunteer, simply because they already do not take the conventional medicine.

      • pps. Before you say anything, yes I have tried conventional medicine on the word of a doctor. However, there are now many trials proving that what doctors have said on the basis of previous trials is actually incorrect. Antibiotics and prozac are just two examples.

      • As for trials showing problems with treatments such as antibiotics and prozac – then that is the beating heart of evidence based medicine working.

        The central thing to understand is that when new evidence emerges, doctors change their habits.

        When homeopaths see trials that show their treatments do not work, they do not change their habits but try to bluster their way out of confronting the evidence.

        No homeopath has ever changed their beliefs on the result of a clinical trial. That ought to be good enough reason to avoid them like the plague – homeopathy is a cult, not a method of healing.

      • That would be the same doctors who said that antibiotics had no effects…

        Please cite some of these doctors who said that antibiotics had no effects.

        While you’re at it, perhaps you could also tell us exactly who it was who laughed at the Wright brothers. 😉

  93. Okay, first, let me say that I do think that doctors do a very good job in general. I have seen firsthand how medical advances can produce good results. However, they and their medicines are not infallible.

    Licensing often restricts the recommended periods of administration of conventional malaria medicine. Therefore, educated people living in a region long term or frequently visiting cannot use restricted medication long term.
    That has nothing to do with silly decisions.

    I’ve just learnt that conventional medicine is 90% effective if you use treated nets etc.

    You’re right, in my enthusiasm, I was muddling everything.

    I’ve only seen this in the past few days, and haven’t seen all the evidence, so you’re also right that I shouldn’t be quoting unless I can actually cite where from.

    The side-effect of antibiotics I’ve seen mentioned is candida, which the BMA allegedly do not believe exists. However, since I have not seen all the evidence, I shall bow out gracefully on that one.

    • Katie,

      I think you are conflating two different things here.

      There is a genuine potential problem with yeasts taking advantage if our normal bacterial flora is hammered by antibiotics: think broad-spectrum and long-term.

      But there is also a world of woo around an entirely fictitious notion that Candida is the cause of a huge number of chronic medical problems.

      Fancy a trip down the rabbit hole?

      e.g. http://www.candida-society.org/ncs/symptoms.htm

      Leads to

      http://www.candida-society.org/ncs/tests.htm

      Leads to

      http://www.livebloodtest.com/

      Leads to

      http://www.livebloodtest.com/what_is_live_blood_analysis.php

      Live blood testing enables us to see your blood exactly as it behaves inside your body, giving a clear picture of your health at a cellular level. We are not looking for patterns that lead to a ‘diagnosis’ in any shape or form, but are merely looking for imbalances in the pH levels in your blood.

      Leads to

      http://www.livebloodtest.com/how_does_it_work.php

      You will be able to see live on the screen the quality of your red blood cells, the activity of your white blood cells, and whether there are bacteria, yeasts, moulds or fungus present. Any uric acid, breast imbalances, parasites, vitamin deficiency, heavy metals, organ stress (liver, cholesterol, kidney, pancreatic, prostate, ovarian, breast) or imbalances associated with degenerative conditions will also be detected. In addition, you will receive an overall picture of how you have been living, eating and thinking over the past 120 days.

      By observing and monitoring metabolic function or dysfunction, live blood testing removes the guesswork from diet determination and the selection of appropriate foods, drinks and exercise.

      Other benefits of live blood analysis include:

      Giving early warning of potential upcoming health challenges
      Alerting to the advisability of medical referral
      Monitoring a specific condition before and after any health regimes
      Determining the effectiveness of various therapies.

      In addition to the live blood test, we also perform dry blood analysis using the Mycotoxic Oxidative Stress Test (MOST). A drop of your blood is placed on a slide and allowed to clot for 30 seconds. Abnormal conditions can be easily identified in the way the blood clots. In particular, the presence of sialic acid can be indicative of several disease conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, heart attack and stroke. In addition, current conditions such as hormonal and sugar imbalances, digestive dysfunction and organ stress can be detected.

      A live and dried blood test is definitive and will support other medical testing.

      But still not forgetting.

      We are not looking for patterns that lead to a ‘diagnosis’ in any shape or form, but are merely looking for imbalances in the pH levels in your blood.

      But apparently

      http://www.livebloodtest.com/news.php?nid=3

      Perhaps one of the best ways of treating thrush naturally is to begin by having a live blood analysis because it allows one to actually see if one has yeast in their blood plasma, the type associated with recurring thrush.

      Ooh, yeast in the blood plasma!!

      • Thanks for adding that. It is difficult to keep up and answer all the fallacies that crop up.

        Katie – can I sum it up for you?

        If you have heard something from a mainstream doctor, there is a risk it might be wrong. If you have heard something from an ‘alternative therapist’, it is almost certainly wrong.

  94. Candida is a yeast, well known to any microbiologost. I can’t see that one could call it a side effect of an antibiotic, and given that any biochemical lab could probably give you a sample I doubt the BMA deny its existence… Many of the contributors to this discussion know far better than you do the failings of conventional medicine, the harm that can be/has been caused by it and the unscrupulous actions of certain pharmaceutical companies. But though these things are all true, that doesn’t make homeopathy real. People often take refuge in flights of fancy when they feel threatened. Should one discuss the validity of why they feel threatened? Yes. Would one discuss the validity of their fantasy world refuge? No.

  95. Thank you for the info that there is a genuine potential problem. I’m not sure about deliberately ‘looking down rabbit holes’, but I will look at the websites and I will definitely investigate what you’ve said about candida not causing some chronic medical conditions which have been claimed.

    Witches and fantasy worlds, oh the things people who take alternative medicine have to cope with.

  96. ps. For those who missed my earlier post – I am of course referring to the BMA quote of homeopaths being witches.

    • Except, of course, the BMA never made any statement to that effect – it was an off-the-cuff remark by a Dolphin (it often pays to read beyong the headline and sub-editing). And since he certainly seems to be of the opinion that homoeopathy doesn’t work the likening of homoeopathy to witchcraft in no way implies that he “must believe in magic”.

  97. And just in case it gets deleted after me pointing it out, here’s what it says:

    Homeopathy

    The Society of Homeopaths is a professional membership body representing non-medical homeopaths. Its members have to have completed a three-year full-time (or four-year part-time) course in homeopathy. The Society developed a Code of Ethics and Practice (April 2010).

    The Faculty of Homeopathy runs postgraduate training courses in homeopathy for doctors, dentists, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

    The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) provides information about the regulation of homeopathic medicines.

  98. I think there should be regulation for all alternative medicine products taken internally, with conventional medicine at least mentioned.

    At the moment, there are apparently herbal medicines without side effects stated. I think that this should be added immediately.

    At the moment there are apparently products available that do not include instructions or side effects. I think that these should have both added immediately. People are more likely to come to harm by looking up this info on the internet. I know that’s against recent legislation, but I would prefer people to be aware of side effects / problems caused by incorrect preparation etc.

    For cancer, I think legally you can only offer to help with side-effects of conventional treatment etc. If that’s true, then anyone offering to treat cancer itself, would be subject to sanctions quoted by the law.

    At the moment, a lot of conventional medicine practitioners are voluntarily starting to be regulated by the CNHC, which I think is a very good thing. At the moment homeopathic associations are apparently not regulated by the CNHC. I think they should join immediately.

  99. Katie said:

    At the moment, there are apparently herbal medicines without side effects stated. I think that this should be added immediately.

    Are you referring to herbal products registered under the MHRA’s THRS? Are these side-effects documented anywhere?

    In addition to people being made aware of side-effects and problems, do you also believe people should be properly informed of the evidence for the efficacy of these products?

    As for claims to treat cancer, you avoided my question about what you think the SoH should do to someone caught making claims to treat cancer.

  100. There are products which are not currently registered. I think they should be. It would be safer if they were. The people who made the recent legislation will have more information than me.

    Since anyone caught making claims to treat cancer should be dealt with by UK law, there is no point to your question. I am not a policeman.

    • It would be good to have one place where all (ie both sides) trial info and results were published, rather than having everything scattered around in different places. You could easily miss something at the moment.

      • It would be good to have one place where all (ie both sides) trial info and results were published, rather than having everything scattered around in different places.

        You mean like the systematic reviews and analyses I posted references for on 8th August?

    • Since anyone caught making claims to treat cancer should be dealt with by UK law, there is no point to your question. I am not a policeman.

      Are you saying that regulatory bodies shouldn’t be concerned about the people they are supposed to be regulating breaking the law, because someone else might deal with it?

    • You have only cited a few reviews. As far as I am aware, they also only include a limited number of trials.

      At the moment there seem to be lots of arguments as to whether a trial is ‘correctly done’ or not. To get over this, the government should set criteria for doing trials.

      If a trial passes the criteria, it can go in the central database. If that’s where everyone looks, the central database will fund itself. It will make it quicker to find info, the info will always be ‘correct’ and you will not miss anything when you’re doing searches.

      As far as I am aware, the GMC takes it’s cue from the law. Therefore the SoH should also take it’s cue from the law.

      As the Cancer Act 1939 exists, the GMC must have guidelines to deal with any ‘illegal activity’. The SoH should have similar guidelines.

      As I said before, people are more likely to come to harm if they look up info (such as dosage, side-effects etc) on the internet rather than reading it on the bottle/packet etc.

      • As far as I am aware, the GMC takes it’s cue from the law. Therefore the SoH should also take it’s cue from the law.

        As the Cancer Act 1939 exists, the GMC must have guidelines to deal with any ‘illegal activity’. The SoH should have similar guidelines.

        So, “taking [your] cue from the law”, do you think that a homeopath claiming to treat, say, cancer, would fall foul of the Society of Homeopath’s Code of Ethics and Practice? If so, what sanction do you think would be appropriate?

      • You have only cited a few reviews. As far as I am aware, they also only include a limited number of trials.

        Systematic reviews do not “only include a limited number of trials”; they include all the trials that fit their stated selection criteria. I have cited all the major comprehensive systematic reviews and analyses published since 1997, a review of all the reviews published up to 2002, and the sole systematic review of trials of individualised homoeopathy.

  101. At the moment there seem to be lots of arguments as to whether a trial is ‘correctly done’ or not. To get over this, the government should set criteria for doing trials.

    What makes you think the government is qualified to set criteria for scientific studies?

    If a trial passes the criteria, it can go in the central database. If that’s where everyone looks, the central database will fund itself.

    How? Are you proposing charging people for looking?

    It will make it quicker to find info, the info will always be ‘correct’ and you will not miss anything when you’re doing searches.

    No, the info will not always be correct. Even for perfectly designed and conducted trials, one in 20 will be a false positive. That is why you will get a more reliable indication of whether something works from systematic reviews rather than looking at individual trials. The work has already been done, peer-reviewed, and published.

  102. At some point in all this, Katie, it should have become apparent to you that we, variously, know what we are talking about, while you do not.

    If you still think the whether homeopathy works for anything is still an open question, for anything, never mind malaria, then there is probably not much more that can be done. It seems you have not read the meta-analyses, or if you have done then you have not grasped their import.

    You have been given access to ALL the half-decent literature on homeopathy. There isn’t any more. The story it tells is quite simple. Where trials are done reasonably well then homeopathy turns out to do nothing specific. That’s it.

  103. After the HofC review, you have a point. However, I imagine there would be scientists willing to work for the government and check trials for a central database.

    If inclusion criteria for reviews is always the same, then you already have your set criteria. If the inclusion criteria is always different, then surely it needs to be standardized, otherwise you’re always working from different starting blocks.

    From what I’ve seen, some reviews use articles, some use trials and some both. The inclusion criteria does not seem particularly standardized at the moment.

    As I said before, you would use a central database to get ALL of the relevant trials not just one.

    I don’t know who sets the false positive stats, but that could be added to the trial info.

    If the trials have already been checked to ensure that they follow the set criteria of ‘correct’ trials, then everyone searching the database will be starting from the same starting block and able to access all relevant trials.

    If everyone is working to the same guidelines, all of the trials will have the same way of presenting their results.
    You could easily do a summary / detailed report for any subject you chose.
    Laymen or scientists could use the database.

    When I tried to get review info from one company, it would have cost $30+.
    For one report, this seems quite expensive. I’m sure there are other ways that would be suitable / benefit different groups of ‘searchers’.

    As I said before, whatever the GMC recommends. They have more experience than I do.

    I have never claimed to be an expert.

    • As I said before, you would use a central database to get ALL of the relevant trials not just one.

      You mean something like this?

  104. Kind of a cross between that and clinicaltrials.gov, but with better criteria for being included and being able to get more reports.

    When I did a search of homeopathy on pubmed, I got 1236 studies.
    When I did a search on clinicaltrials, there were 50 trials.
    In one of the reviews you gave me there were 89 trials.

    I couldn’t immediately see how to get just clinical trials on pubmed.

    As the number of trials is different between clinicaltrials and the review, they must be using different criteria to include them.

    If you can do different trial reports on the websites, it wasn’t immediately apparent.

    So, a version with tight criteria for being included in the database (such as being ‘correct’, having results that can be shown on the database, including false positive stats etc), with different report types for different types of people, including summary and detailed reports.

    If experts believe there is a good reason for including ‘incorrect trials’, not showing results, not including false positive stats etc, then they know more than me. However, if you do include them in the database, you should be able to get reports which only include the trials which are ‘correct’, have results and have false positive stats etc.

    • I couldn’t immediately see how to get just clinical trials on pubmed.

      Click on “Limits” and then select “Clinical trial” under “Type of Article”.

      When a review is conducted, they will look at the trials to see if they fit the criteria.

    • Katie, it’s all been done these are the meta-analyses. If you want to read individual trials then look at the bibliographies. The well-known individual studies have been critiqued all over the web. Just look for the information.

      I will repeat: well-run studies show homeopathy has no specific effects. This accords with the sensible expectations of anyone with even elementary (since your use of $ implies that you suffer from americanism) school science education.

      What is it you want?

      You have still not answered my questions about equipoise, prior probabilities and thermodynamics. I really don’t see you as putting any genuine effort into understanding. While I’m as entertained as any other monkey by having my plonker pulled it gets boring after a while.

      You are now in a spiral of telling us what somebody “should do” about clinical trial databases. That is just not relevant. You have been given access to every half-adequate trial of homeopathy. I keep telling you there is nothing more. There isn’t. Homeopaths mostly do crap science, partly through simple incompetence and partly because they like the answers they get from asking the wrong questions. Well run trials confirm what we already know. Homeopathy has mo specific effect.

  105. Yep, that gets it down to 252. Thanks.

    I did actually muddle things up a bit.

    The criticaltrials are actually reports in themselves, but it would be nice to have a print button that gets rid of the search stuff at the top and to have a similar summary report for all the trials with the results, rather than having to go into each separate trial.

    The pubmed has search criteria but no ‘just report with no extra stuff’ or summary with results.

    Call me silly, but I’d just rather look at a database and get all the ‘correct’ trials with one quick search than search through all the reviews.

    I have been answering questions given by other members of the forum, but it seems as though it’s time to go.

  106. Please see “Impact of study quality on outcome in placebo controlled trials of homoeopathy” – Purchase this article for 31.50 USD.

    I’ll go now.

    • There are these places called “libraries”. Perhaps you have heard of them? Many have subscriptions to the journals and you can get a copy of the paper for the price of a signing up for a library card and the copying costs.

      • Would still need to search through the all the review biographies, which is still not as quick as doing a search on a database!

      • Yes, researching literature can be expensive or time consuming, sometimes even both. That’s life.
        btw: What you want is impossible – even the best quality trials can still find a significant effect when there is none (‘false positive’), so there’ll never be a database that lists only the “correct” trials without being super-exclusive (like only listing high quality resarch that has been replicated multiple times by different research teams – for homeopathy such a list would be empty). You’ll only see it’s a false positive when others try to replicate the result but fail and publish their findings.
        What makes you think reading individual studies will help you make an informed decision? You don’t have the skills to analyse the results. (This isn’t meant as an insult – rather like saying that even if an electrician gave me his equipment and the wiring diagram of our house I’d still need him to fix it because I neither know how to read such a diagram nor how to fix wiring.) What you need are scientific reviews (or, even better, plain language summaries of reviews); Mojo has already given you a list of all the reviews published in the last 15 years or so.

  107. Call me silly, but I’d just rather look at a database and get all the ‘correct’ trials with one quick search than search through all the reviews.

    I think I’ll have to accept your invitation to call you silly. You don’t want to have to “search through all the reviews”, but would rather draw your conclusion from all the available trials yourself. Don’t you realise that this would be an enormous amount of work, and that the reviews are the result of someone having done this work for you?

    When presented with published studies in which this work has been done for you, you reject this, or complain that you might have to pay to see the whole paper (would you prefer to pay the same amount for each individual trial?).

    The Linde et al 1999 paper states that “The general methods of our review have been described in detail elsewhere [7] and are reported here only in a cursory manner.” Reference [7] is The paper by substantially the same team published in the Lancet in 1997 and available free of charge here. It gives full details about how they selected the trials used in the analysis, and references for all the trials.

  108. Each to their own – I’ve never been work-shy!

    From what you’ve said so far, companies pay and individuals can see free. So if a central database did the same, I wouldn’t have to pay to see any trial, and I wouldn’t have to spend hours searching either.

    (But thank you for the info about Lancet being free.)

    If you don’t like the idea of a central database, that’s okay, you don’t have to use the idea. It was just in response to a post.

    • …I wouldn’t have to spend hours searching either.

      No, but you would have to spend weeks, or even months, looking at all the trials and deciding what weight to give to them. You would also need considerable expertise in trial design and statistics.

      There is already a central database of trials. It s called PubMed/MEDLINE, and I have already linked to it.

      Of course, there are other issues to be considered. One is the issue of publication bias, or the “file drawer effect”: negative studies are less likely to be reported than positive ones, for a number of reasons. So there is support for the idea of a public register of trials being conducted (as distinct from a database of published trials).

  109. But thank you for the info about Lancet being free.

    If you had looked up the reviews I cited earlier you might have found out for yourself.

  110. It didn’t occur to me that one company would charge $30+ and another would charge nothing for that particular review.

    Yes, you linked to pubmed, and I also referenced it as a basis for my ‘cross between’ central database with extra reports that aren’t currently available.

    The register of trials being conducted sounds good, if there is a ‘file drawer effect’.

    Yes, Mojo mentioned the ‘false positive’, so in my never to be made central database, I wanted it added as an extra bit of data in the trial info. You could also add things such as ‘Double-blind’ and ‘randomised placebo-controlled’ to make it quick and easy to find trials for review.

    From your scientific view, the reviews are good reviews of a set of trials with all the scientific terms you like.

    To me, each review has searched many sources and used different trials/articles. I don’t understand why they are all using different source info to prove the same thing. Laymen will also find it difficult to understand the reviews:

    “A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy” says “Even though a thorough search strategy was adopted, there is no absolute guarantee that all relevant articles were located”.

    A layman reading the ‘Findings’ of “Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects?” is going to have problems.
    To me, the info given in clinicaltrials.gov can be understood by a layman. That’s what I want. Something which anyone can understand.

    • To me, the info given in clinicaltrials.gov can be understood by a layman.

      How is bald data from multiple trials going to be easier for “a layman” to understand than the conclusions of a review?

      What conclusion do you draw from the info at clinicaltrials.gov as to the efficacy of homoeopathy? Explain your reasoning.

    • Yes, Mojo mentioned the ‘false positive’, so in my never to be made central database, I wanted it added as an extra bit of data in the trial info.

      What do you want added?

      • Katie probably didn’t read any full articles but the abstracts on PubMed.

        I was wondering about the ‘false positive’ comment, too.

    • @Katie: If the guys at CERN claim to have found the Higgs Boson, are you going to complain that their raw data is too complicated for a lay person to go to and verify their findings? Or take their word for it? When I publish papers (I’m a scientist) I write them in a way that someone of my level, but not necessarily in my field could follow my reasoning and conclusions and judge their validity. I don’t write them such that a lay person could understand. I can explain my data and reasoning to a lay person if required (and have done this many times). However, if you really want to pass informed comment/criticism, you will have to get yourself knowledgeable enough to read and understand the original paper. I don’t mean that to sound exclusive; anyone can read up enough to to this, with time. Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science book (amongst many others) has excellent explanations of how to be critical of data/statistics.

      I wouldn’t weigh in on a discussion of aerospace engineering/interpretive dance/the history of South America because I know little and would most likely look a prat. There’s always a chance that I might have had a flash of inspiration and have a valid point to make, but the burden would be on me to prove it to the satisfaction of the ‘experts’.

      Unfortunately, a hard-headed ‘alternative’ thinker would say that such a path would brainwash you to believe anything nasty scientists say (learn to think like a scientist and you’ll believe a scientist etc.), but if you get into it you’ll realise that the ‘orthodox’ scientific community is full of (often quite heated) arguments and disagreements; each side trying to apply rational thought to data and reach conclusions; The important point being that the conclusions eventually accepted fit the criteria that they are reached by following a series of rational steps, that they fit the data and are testable. Not that they are pleasing. Not that they boost anyone’s ego. Not that they ‘fit in’ with any beloved world view. Not that they maintain someone’s income.

      This is how science works. If you want to challenge scientists on their terms, you will have to learn how to think critically. This you can do. It takes time and discipline; and most importantly you have to realise that the sun doesn’t go round the Earth and the universe doesn’t revolve around you. I.e. you have no right to expect truths to be pleasing to you or fit into your existing world view. Everyday in my research I think I have an idea of what is going on, design and carry out an experiment, and then find that the data doesn’t fit my theory. Then I go back to the drawing board. I live amongst the unknown, being proved wrong on a daily basis. Eventually I get it about right and everything seems to fit. Then I have a model I can work with until it is improved or destroyed by subsequent findings. Most importantly my peers, and not me, ultimately judge the validity of my conclusions.

      Yes there are dishonest scientists; Yes there are unscrupulous pharma companies; But none of these things need play a role in your learning how to think critically.

  111. Erratum: This isn’t an insult for the author of “A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy”. It just confirms what I personally think with regard to reviews.

  112. I’ve given up. Katie seems to need us to make the individual synaptic connections in her brain. I don’t have the time or small enough tweezers.

    As Mojo has pointed out, she clearly never even bothered to try to read Linde (1997) or she’d have found it was free. Instead she rather disingenuously equates Linde’s two papers.

    Katie, I keep saying this. You need to put some effort in.

    Equipoise. Prior probability. Thermodynamics.

    You have not tried any response to these. Perhaps it might be because you’d have to deal in the substantive issues rather than the rather foolish meta-discussion you seem currently intent on.

    I’ve found the need to spoon-feed modern students and new graduates a little taxing, but Katie keeps insisting we must provide the spoons and then argues about their design.

  113. If I understand correctly, there is a false-positive % which is used in some calculations. If that’s true, it could be added to the individual/group trial data for the database or reviewers to use.

    I know you cannot simplify everything, but sometimes things are over-complicated. Using ‘limits’ instead of ‘search’ is a small example.

    The structure of the info and the language used in clinicaltrials.gov makes it easy to understand.

    If I remember rightly, you commented on my use of the $ sign after I asked for your expertise in searching for a cheaper copy of the review, which took a while to be answered.

    Articles without insults would have been better.

    I must be a very bad student!

    See you!

    • If I understand correctly, there is a false-positive % which is used in some calculations. If that’s true, it could be added to the individual/group trial data for the database or reviewers to use.

      The 1 in 20 rate is essentially an artifact of the usual test for statistical significance (it is thought that the rate of false positives in published is likely to be significantly higher than this, for various reasons – see here for more information).

      But this isn’t something that needs to be “added to the individual/group trial data” – it’s a general issue potentially applying to all trials. The only way of knowing whether a particular positive result is most likely a false positive is to either attempt to replicate the result or to look at the rest of the data available – and then we’d be back to reviews or meta-analyses again; you can’t do it just by looking at an individual trial. You want information about false positives added to your database, but you object to the methods that could find that information.

    • If I remember rightly, you commented on my use of the $ sign after I asked for your expertise in searching for a cheaper copy of the review

      You remember wrongly. If you read the posts you would have recognised this. But that would require effort before posting rather than writing ad hoc on-the-fly comments.

      “the review” you refer to is two separate papers by Linde; one in 1997 and one in 1999.

      In the two weeks since Mojo gave you their citations,

      Mojo on August 8, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      If you had bothered to attempted to read the Linde papers you would have found one was free and one was behind a paywall.

      You continue to argue about the reporting of clinical trials but show no desire to discuss the substantive issues. You seem not to want to be regarded as a “bad student”. Is this patter that of a good student.

      Merely as a reminder I offer again three substantive matters that you could address.

      Equipoise. Prior probability. Thermodynamics.

      I’ll even give you a hint. Much is claimed about homeopathy being “energy medicine”. How might this conflict with well-established core principles of thermodynamics.

    • Erratum:

      From what I’ve read, different illnesses / groups have different false positive %. At the moment this % is determined by individual reviewers, who may use different stats.

      You made the comment about me using the $ incorrectly after I correctly stated that the review would cost $30+.

  114. Can someone explain why Katie keeps going on about the $ sign?

    Katie,

    Stop fiddling about with irrelevancies. Let’s discuss the meat of the issue.

    e.g. Equipoise. Prior probability. Thermodynamics

    • Because she doesn’t understand the americanism comment was just to explain why you used elementary instead of primary (or did I, too, misread your comment?).

      • Oh, crumbs, is that it? I make a tiny humorous reference to her probably being American and she’s fixated on that.

        Talk about grasping the wrong end of the stick.

        Look, Katie, I made a jokey reference involving the different word for the early years of school. Please, move on and address something substantive.

        Equipoise. Prior probability. Thermodynamics.

        Pick one or have a go at all three.

    • a) I made the grave error of using a $ sign for a review which costs 31.50USD when asking you if it was cheaper anywhere else.
      b) You then said “since your use of $ implies that you suffer from americanism”.
      c) I then showed that I was correctly using the $ sign:
      “…Purchase this article for 31.50 USD.”
      d) Then (I think from subsequent comments) that everyone thought I was making a new comment complaining about the price.

      • You’re right, we should move on. Unfortunately, everything keeps getting very confused with me constantly answering insults. Please remember that.

      • I believe I did actually answer your question. However, to reiterate, the info shown on clinicaltrials.gov is easier because it has tables and the language is easier to understand.

        Although it may be very good, the Linde review has odds ratios which a layman will not understand.
        To understand a report, you must understand all of the report, not just the conclusion. If you do not understand part of the report, the conclusion is just a bit of text.

        I can understand the results of clinicaltrials.gov, but if you think it fails by not having a conclusion, then tell them that they should have a conclusion, and add it to the list for the new database people want.

    • I think that the info in clinicaltrials.gov is easier for a layman to understand.

      I call BS on that. Most of the trials listed there don’t even have results available, and even when there are results, there’s no interpretation/conclusion. I don’t doubt that you understand the general explanation of what the trial is about and what they did, but how do you interpret the results?

      • I already asked her about that on Saturday, but it seems she has been too busy “constantly answering insults”.

  115. This is a comment to a previous post, but I think it should be here:

    If you’re open thinking, even experts can sometimes learn from beginners. I may not be that beginner, I may not know anything, but the next time a beginner makes a comment, please listen with an open mind. You might be surprised.

    • Katie, you have shown no willingness to learn. All you have shown is a desire to argue the toss about side issues. It is true that experts can sometimes benefit from the questions of the non-expert, but you have not managed that yet. In the meantime you have shown no openness to learn from what those more expert than you know about this field.

  116. Katie,

    The curious thing is that you fixated on some muddle of your own making about dollar signs in response to me saying;

    I will repeat: well-run studies show homeopathy has no specific effects. This accords with the sensible expectations of anyone with even elementary (since your use of $ implies that you suffer from americanism) school science education.

    but as usual you shied away from addressing the substantive issue. Primary school science is all that is necessary to see that homeopathy is nonsense.

    You have chosen neither to agree with that statement nor to disagree with it and attempt tompresent a valid case to support your point of view. This is why you look like a time-waster.

    So, I ask yet again, please address one of these three relevant topics;

    Equipoise. Prior probability. Thermodynamics.

    I’ll share with you my assessment at this point. You don’t want to address these issues because you know you are not competent to do so, but are now fearful of showing your ignorance. Yet, at the same time you stubbornly refuse to accept that it is only from your ignorance that you came to believe in homeopathy. Instead you retreat into pointless irrelevancies because they don’t threaten your belief.

    • Since I have already willingly shown my ignorance on several occasions, I can only assume that you haven’t read those posts.

  117. @Katie

    I’m just going to go back to this (my emphasis):

    The criticaltrials are actually reports in themselves, but it would be nice to have a print button that gets rid of the search stuff at the top and to have a similar summary report for all the trials with the results, rather than having to go into each separate trial.

    What you are describing here is a systematic review. Precisely the sort of study you have rejected because, you claim, its results are too difficult for a layman to understand.

    • No, a systematic review has a conclusion. This is just a summary with the results, unless you want the database to do any extra stats.

  118. I already asked her about that on Saturday, but it seems she has been too busy “constantly answering insults”.

    As an aside, this is such a familiar pattern we see in SCAM believers, a constant whingeing about the terms of the debate and how unfair it is that they have their legs pulled for spouting hilarious nonsense all the while failing completely to progress the discuss of the actual topic. At the same time we are usually asked to acknowledge that they are original thinkers who have gained an ability to think ‘outside the box’, an ability they demonstrate by repeating a familiar list of fallacies, lies and misrepresentations.

    I predict more of the same from Katie and nothing useful on the actual subject of false claims being made for homeopathy.

    Unless Katie returns with something more interesting to say I’m going to bow out.

  119. Let’s cut this one off.

    katie, you have enough reading material. The original discussion was about how stupid it is to take sugar pills to prevent malaria. The discussion is now badly off topic – a tactic that is often deployed by those whose beliefs do not want to be challenged.

    There is nothing more to say here and comments will be closed.

    Thanks for all the care taken by all those who have tried to explain.

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