The Modern Face of Scientific Homeopathy

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Tonight, on BBC2, we were treated to Professor Regan’s Medicine Cabinet, where we were walked through the vast amount of quackery that we can find in a high street pharmacists.

Homeopathy was given a thorough kicking and straightforwardly shown to be utter nonsense. I did love the Ainsworth’s Pharmacist trying to defend his batshit robotic dilution apparatus, the The Pinkus Potentizer, that produced dilutions of 100 to the power of 100,000 – a truly barking level of dilution that would leave one molecule in a hundred squillion visible universes.

Happily, we were also shown some of his minions in the background preparing remedies in the more traditional manner of banging the vials against a leather Bible whilst looking slightly possessed. And then we were told by the Ainsworth chap, Mr. Tony Pinkus, Homeopathic Pharmacist,  that modern science had not yet caught up with the wonders of homeopathy. Yes, I am sure.

My position has always been that homeopathy’s biggest threat is for people to find out what it is. It is not herbalism, it is modern day witchcraft wearing the white coat of a scientist. This programme will have done wonders for the demise of this shabby trade.

You can watch the programme on the fabulous BBC iPlayer. Unless you live outside of the UK, in such a place as America, and have rejected the rule of our sovereign Queen and  have chosen not to pay the BBC licence fee. I suggest you get straight on an aircraft to Heathrow now, or use some techie proxy server thingy to get round the BBC rules.

Enjoy.

On this theme…

37 Comments on The Modern Face of Scientific Homeopathy

  1. Always nice to see the quacks get their arses kicked, but I should point out that the vast majority of pharmacists think it’s bollocks too.

  2. Missed it tonight, but we’ll be watching it tomorrow.

    You’re certainly right to a certain extent about being their own worst enemy, but I suspect many will continue to believe in it even they are shown conclusive proof it is complete BS.

  3. That was amazing.

    I’ve never seen a homeopathic remedy actually being prepared before and I’d never really believed that it could possibly have been as ridiculous as Ben, Gimpy, yourself, et al have suggested. It is.

    Very pleased that the BBC is getting behind the whole bad science movement (at least to a small extent) and I’m looking forward to watching the rest of this series.

    Not quite sure I agreed with their conclusions about herbal remedies but only because I felt they downplayed the importance of how the fact that they had side effects was an indicator that they might have some effect at all. But on the whole I really enjoyed the programme and very much agreed with the statement that “you have to remember that pharmacies are shops” and that their first objective is to sell products. This is very different from pharmacies of old and is indicative of how societal context affects healthcare.

  4. Very good programme. I’d have liked to have seen them lay into herbal quality control issues (or lack of them) a bit more, but otherwise a good effort.

  5. The importance of this is that, for me, the fact that pharmacists are prepared to sell me the witchcraft of homeopathy with a straight face undermines them totally as a profession. How can I trust them to give me good advice about the right product for me when they are quite prepared to sell me nonsense, and probably knowingly so too.

    The Royal Pharmaceutical Society have been cricised for not upholding their own code of ethics in this regard. This is worse than the homeopaths not upholding their own code of ethics. You might forgive the hom as they actually appear to believe this stuff and just use their code as a smokescreen. But the pharmacists appear to be doing it fr pure commercial gain.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/jul/21/pharmacists.homeophathy

  6. Totally agree that the biggest threat is people finding out that there is nothing in the tablets.

    Love the quote that science has yet to catch up with the wonders of homeopathy …… he really thinks that scientists are having a tough time explaining why homeopathy does no better than placebo ….

    If you find a link to enable us non UK residents to see this then can you please post it up as I would love to take a look at it.

    Thanks
    Exdoc

  7. hmm, if the technical quality of the Pinkus Potentizer is a good as that of their homepage, I wouldn’t hold me breath that they are even getting the dilution they aim for…not that it makes a difference as nothing will still be nothing….
    Sceric

  8. Totally forgot that was on, will catch up on the iPlayer. The image on this post is truly disturbing, like something from a bad 80s horror film (thinking along the lines of Phantasm)

  9. Why are they contriving to dilute whatever essence of penguin beak or gnat’s eyelash they purport to believe in – I thought there was a litle bit of Julius Caesar et al in all of us anyway by drinking tap-water!?
    I recall a pharmacist in my old hospital descibing herbal remedies as what was left over and thrown away as clinically useless after the pharmacists had selected, extracted, refined and controlled what was proven therapeutic.
    Professor Regan’s programmes are excellent – but to those who have faith in water’s ‘memory’ they will make little difference I fear.

  10. “Why are they contriving to dilute whatever essence of penguin beak or gnat’s eyelash they purport to believe in – I thought there was a litle bit of Julius Caesar et al in all of us anyway by drinking tap-water!?”

    Ah, but it hasn’t undergone the magic shaking.

  11. It’s one thing gullible people wasting their money on Homoeopathic remedies. What I am concerned about is people with serious illnesses replacing medication with homoeopathic remedies risking their health and possible premature death.

    I am a member of my medical centres patient panel. Last year I complained about the fact that their web site includes information on Homoeopathy. The GP’s agreed with me but said their hands were tied because the NHS guidelines are that doctors can recommend homoeopathic treatments and therefore it is referred to on their website.

    In my opinion Prince Charles has a lot to answer for because he singly handedly gives bogus treatments the air of respectability and I don’t believe the NHS would remotely contemplate homoeopathy if it wasn’t for Charley boy’s interference.

  12. I agree that, if it reflects badly on homoeopathy, it reflects even worse on the pharmaceutical profession.

    BillyJoe.

  13. What a stroke of genius to test homeopathy without using homeopathic remedies, but only placebo!

    that’s always guaranteed to make sure it doesn’t work.

  14. I presume you are a supported of homeopathy. The test done on the programme was a simple demonstration of the power of a placebo. To homeopaths, it should have been horrific because you saw people believing a therapy was effective when all they were getting was attention and suggestion. Ring any bells?

  15. if you want to discredit something, you should at least try to stick to basic principles of scientific investigation

  16. homeopaths do not dispute the power of placebo any more than allopaths. all regan did was prove the placebo effect – she didn’t test homeopathy. any kid studying scientific investigation could have told you that was total nonsense.

  17. Dear Anonymous (PS posting as anonymous is just plain daft)

    Prof Regan did not set out to test homeopathy with the sleeping pill test. The programme was quite clear. She wanted to show you could produce a successful remedy just by using a sugar pill and suggestion. That is what she did. It was a simple demonstration of an important effect. That does not make it nonsense. It highlights that you have to be very careful when you get people saying “homeopathy worked for me”. This is unreliable evidence.

    If homeopaths do not dispute the power of placebo, how come so many of them try to rubbish placebo controlled trials. As you well know, and as the programme was also quite clear about, when you look at placebo controlled trials of homeopathy the larger and better controlled ones tend to show no difference between ordinary sugar pills and homeopathic sugar pills – completely consistent with the pills being inert. Just as you would expect given the absurd dilutions.

  18. I loved the bit when the pharmasist was explaining homeopathy. Non-sequitur after non-sequitur after non-sequitur. The question isn’t just: Did he believe what he was saying? but: Did he believe what he was saying had any actual content?

  19. The Yorkshire Centre of Classical Homoeopathy is up in arms over the program. Bunch of idiots. I left a comment, not that they’ll publish it.

    http://ycch.wordpress.com/2009/04/24/professor-regans-medicine-cabinet/

    And my comment;

    … and we continue to conduct rigorous trials (provings) on all our remedies …

    You live in a dream world. How come when you tested your quackery on the BBC to win the $1m on offer, you failed miserably??

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2512105.stm

    PS – The $1m is still up for grabs if you’d like to take a shot! Do I hear crickets chirping?

  20. homeopaths do not dispute the power of placebo any more than allopaths.“Allopath”? Is that supposed to be an insult? It’s a nonce word favoured by homeopaths, outside of whose fantasy world it has no meaning whatsoever, to describe real doctors of real medicine. Outside the fantasy world homeopathy the usual word to describe a homeopath is “charlatan” – which, inexplicably, isn’t a practitioner of a branch of medicine.

  21. Right, I’m off to cure my hangover in a homeopathic manner by diluting a quantity of vodka in my bloodstream and emulating succussion by jumping up and down on the dancefloor. Much like taking a homeopathic remedy, I’m predicting this won’t work and I’ll be in a similarly terrible nick tomorrow.

  22. I thought the programme was good, but not great. The animations were annoying and it had too many of those “this is where we remind you what you’ve already seen and what’s coming next, for when we sell it abroad and they want to stick adverts in” sections. The bit on homeopathy was hilarious but it would have been better if they had done a real test as well as doing the placebo demonstration. And I couldn’t get my head around the logic of rejecting homeopathy while retaining branded painkillers, despite having convincingly shown that their advantage over cheaper generic pills was a placebo effect. Why is it OK to pay over the odds for a placebo “boost” from Anadin/Nurofen, but not to buy the pure placebos of homeopathy?

  23. Who were the subjects involved in Prof Regans ‘demonstration’? Maybe they were rather eager to please? I am not sure if any homeopathic sleep remedy would have been that successfull.
    Imagine any homeopaths ‘demonstrating’ some homeopathic effect in this anecdotal way- The duck would have something to say for sure.
    Allegations of double standards here are inevitable.
    Surely there cant be many people using homeopathy who are not aware of the dilutions involved? If people dont want to believe science then they wont.
    The agenda here is to kick homeopathy out of Pharmacies not just Prof Regans TV Pharmacy. Maybe it is the best way forward but people though will just go to health food shops or buy by mail order.

  24. I think anyone trying to create “allegations of double standards” here is just being preposterous. It was a TV programme and using various techniques to demonstrate points. I am sure Regan would be the first to admit the programme attempted no rigorous trials. However, as an illustration, it worked very well and it illustrates science that is backed up by rigorous studies. If homeopaths had pulled a similar stunt, we would be quite right to ask where is the real science that backs up what you are trying to do?

  25. It certainly was one of the most skeptical programmes ever seen on TV!

    However, the script could have been just a bit better. For example, we were told that anyone wanting to use herbal medicines should first seek advice from an ‘expert’. However, what it should have said was you should seek advice from a PROPER doctor – I have visions of someone consulting their herbal ‘expert’. Not the right impression at all.

    There were a few instances like this, when they were (accidentally or incompetently, I assume) vague instead of reinforcing Prof Regan’s message.

  26. I loved the “science hasn’t caught up with homoeopathy…nothing is sensitive enough to record materials that have such high dilutions” comment from Pinkus. Of course, that includes the human body, which also appears to be unable to “record materials that have such high dilutions”.

  27. If “nothing is sensitive enough to record materials that have such high dilutions”, what special techniques to homeopaths have to be able to record the. Or would it be a matter of faith?
    Mojo, when the authors say
    Ultramolecular homeopathy had no observable clinical effectswe all know the word “observable” will be latched on to by desperate homeopaths and their disciples to confirm that there are clinical effects but they’re not observable. And from that we can conclude that homeopathy is an effective treatment for aids – it’s just that not observable, which doesn’t mean that it isn’t effective.
    Completely barking, the lost of them!

  28. I finally got round to watching this last night. An excellent insight into the world of the homeopath, it was too.

    The painkiller brnad effectiveness experiment was interesting but it would also have been better to randomize the participants into 2 groups, one who took the generic drugs first, and one who took the brand name drugs first. Otherwise, you might instead be showing the effect where your expectations affect the outcome, as exploited by kinesiologists everywhere.

    But, for a 1 hour TV documentary, not bad at all.

  29. Sorry for the delayed response but I have to defend pharmacists. I doubt that there are many who believe homeopathy is an effective therapy. In any profession there are some who will want profit above honesty. Several of the well known quack therapies are supported by medically qualified people (although one wonders how many of the claimed MD’s are from recognised medical schools.

    I find it rather disturbing that the MHRA has just approved the first homeopathic remady to have labelled indications (and you can just imagine what the spokesman for the manufacturers said about that)and so, in my opinion, it is not only the RPSGB but any organisation that does not state that homeopathy is unproven that is being unethical

  30. I would like to ask you all people who are against homoeopathy that if you say if there is no medicine or whatever in homeopathy then just prove that why homeopaths across the world are getting good results in many incuarable conditions and if you say that is all psychological then why in small children may be in infants also HOMEOPATHS GETS RESULTS and if you still say that it is placebo effect then why modern medicine people are not able to give the same effect with placebos.Rather I will say thats the SAFEST THING IN THE WORLD WITHOUT GIVING ANY ACTUAL MEDICINE HOMEOPATHS AND ALL OTHER HEALTH PROFESSIONALS CAN TREAT THE PATIENTS AND AVOID THE MAJOR SIDEEFFECTS WHICH EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT MODERN MEDICINES CAN CAUSE.If you have answer to it please give me that.ANYWAYS I KNOW THAT YOU MUST NOT BE HAVING ANY ANSWER AS YOU PEOPLE LOVES TO LIVE BLIND LIFE. ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE AGAINST IT ARE LIKE PEOPLE WHO USED TO SAY THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO EXPLORE THE SPACE WITH THE SPACESHIPS.YOU WILL ALWAYS TRY TO PROVE THAT HOW OTHER SYSTEMS ARE USELESS THAN TRYING TO PROVE THAT HOW CONVENTIONAL SYSTEMS ARE GOOD.

  31. Could somebody please explain the placebo effect to me.Why does it only work with homeopathy?Should I be able to have a placebo effect with medication from my doctor for migraines?

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