The Society of Homeopaths are a Shambles and a Bad Joke.

The last time I said that, the Society tried to sue me and my web hosts for defamation. So let’s say it again. They are a shambles and a bad joke. Worse, their irresponsible behaviour puts lives at risk.

Today the World Health Organisation condemned the use of homeopathy for dangerous diseases such as malaria, AIDS and childhood diarrhea. It has taken a very long time for them to do this and has been a result of a campaign by the Voice of Young Science to draw attention to the murderous practices of Western homeopaths in Africa who dish out useless sugar pills in an attempt to prevent and cure these fatal diseases.

The Society of Homeopaths have been at the root of the problem here. Many of the homeopaths involved in this dangerously misguided enterprise are members of the Society and they have done nothing to stop their members from exporting their healing fantasies to some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Indeed, the Society hold conferences highlighting the use of sugar pills for such illnesses. They refuse to uphold their own code of conduct when these excesses are pointed out and they legally threaten people like me who shine a light into their shenaningans.

So, how do the Society respond to the WHO issuing this warning? Their press release is a text book example of disingenuousness, cherry picking and diversion.

They say,

[B]oth the BBC and WHO have failed to acknowledge the evidence base for the use of homeopathy in the treatment of childhood diarrhoea in which, using randomised, double-blinded trials, the results were significant versus placebo(1).

They then cite two studies and a meta-analysis. It is worth quoting them in full…

Treatment of acute childhood diarrhoea in Nicaragua
This trial involved 81 children aged from 6 months to 5 years in a randomised, double-blind trial of intravenous fluids plus placebo versus intravenous fluids plus homeopathic remedy individualised to the patient. The treatment group had a statistically significant decrease in duration of diarrhoea.
Jacobs J. Treatment of acute childhood diarrhoea with homeopathic medicine: a randomized clinical trial in Nicaragua. Pediatrics 1994; 93: 719-725.

Treatment of acute childhood diarrhoea, repeated in Nepal
In a replication of a trial carried out in Nicaragua in 1994, 116 Nepalese children aged 6 months to 5 years suffering from diarrhoea were given an individualised homoeopathic medicine or placebo. Treatment by homoeopathy showed a significant improvement in the condition in comparison to placebo.
Jacobs J., Jimenez M., Malthouse S., Chapman E., Crothers D., Masuk M., Jonas W.B., Acute Childhood Diarrhoea- A Replication., Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 6, 2000, 131-139.

A meta-analysis of childhood diarrhoea trials
This meta-analysis of 242 children showed a highly significant result in the duration of childhood diarrhoea (P=0.008). It should be noted that the World Health Organisation consider childhood diarrhoea to be the number one public health problem today because of the millions of children who die every year from dehydration from diarrhoea.
J. Jacobs, WB Jonas, M Jimenez-Perez, D Crothers, Homeopathy for Childhood Diarrhea: Combined Results and Meta-analysis from Three Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trials

Let’s be a little bit more comprehensive. The Society have cherry picked their studies and failed to acknowledge the sticking points.

Here are all the trials published on childhood diarrhoea and homeopathy, including the ones the Society failed to mention.

1. Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Gloyd SS, et al. Treatment of acute childhood diarrhea with homeopathic medicine: a randomized clinical trial in Nicaragua. Pediatrics. 1994;93:719–725.
2. Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Malthouse S, et al. Homeopathic treatment of acute childhood diarrhea: results from a clinical trial in Nepal. J Altern Complement Med. 2000;6:131–139.
3. Jacobs J, Jimenez LM, Gloyd SS, et al. Homeopathic treatment of acute childhood diarrhea: a randomized clinical trial in Nicaragua. Br Homeopath J. 1993;82:83–86.
4. Jacobs J, Guthrie BL, Montes GA et al. Homeopathic combination remedy in the treatment of acute childhood diarrhea in honduras. J Altern Complement Med. 2006;12:723-32.

The obvious thing is that they have all been done by the same author. So, an alarm bell should ring that these studies have not been independently replicated.

The first of these studies was perhaps the most important, being published in a real journal, and not a CAM comic, and showing a ‘significant’ effect. The next issue of the journal contained a rather damning critique,

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/96/5/961

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

They concluded,

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

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

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

The result of this careful study was that the homeopathic treatment was no better than a placebo. But the homeopath authors do not conclude that homeopath did not work, they speculate the tablets had not been stored properly or that the wrong combination of sugar pills was made. At no point do they propose as a possibility that homeopathy can have absolutely no effect on a third-world child with the squits. And joking aside, diarrhea kills hundreds of thousands of children around the world, so intellectual honesty in studies like this, is not an optional add-on.

The Society of Homeopaths have failed to note these severe shortcomings. I can only conclude that the Society of Homeopaths are intellectually dishonest and only interested in misrepresenting science for the sake of their shabby trade.

The Society cannot be trusted to give meaningful health advice and to rein in the dangerous practices of their members. In giving out this misleading press release, the Society once again endanger children’s lives.

On this theme…

76 Comments on The Society of Homeopaths are a Shambles and a Bad Joke.

  1. Thanks so much for providing this information.

    As soon as I read the quote from the Society of Homeopaths on the BBC website, I wanted to get some background information on the studies they quoted so that I could verify what they were claiming.

    As usual, you've done a sterling job. Keep up the good work.

  2. It really is time we stopped looking upon these people as misguided fools and described them as they are, criminal charlatans. (Sue me.) Every large town has a very profitable (not charitable) alternative medicine outlet, attracting misguided, uninformed innocents who simply do not grasp the concept of scientific rigour. These middle-aged ladies can only lose some money in the search for relief from their menopause symptoms. Children dying of diarrhoea, who can be helped with electrolytes costing pennies is nothing short of criminal.
    Came across your website recently. Great to see there is someone taking the fight to the forces of superstition and alchemy. Keep up the good work.

  3. Mr Duck…You might be convincing IF your scholarship was good…but it ain't. Your above quote ("The homeopathic combination therapy tested in this study did not significantly reduce the duration or severity of acute diarrhea in Honduran children.") was NOT in the metanalysis (as you claim). It was taken from the FOURTH study listed above, and this study has NO impact on the previous THREE studies because the 3 studies evaluated individually chosen homeopathic treatment, while the 4th trial was a mixture of homeopathic medicines given to children without any indvidualization of treatment.

    If you are going to attack homeopathy, it is reasonable to ask for accuracy, though your palpable hatred for homeopathy obviously colors your rational mind so that your scholarship suffers (or you simply resort to the Big Lie).

    For the record, each of the first 3 studies were coordinated by Jacobs, though each study used different prescribing homeopaths, thus suggesting that the SYSTEM of homeopathy works.

  4. Dana, if you bother to read my post you will see I quite clearly attribute the quote to the fourth study.

    If I have a 'hatred' it is for the deliberate and systematic distortion of science and evidence, and I am afraid Dana you are a master of it. Are you still banging on about Darwin and homeopathy?

    http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2007/08/charles-darwin-and-homeopathy.html

    Do you support the Societies cherry picked and partial appraisal of the evidence here that may well mislead people into thinking homeopathy is effective? What are your own scholarly standards?

  5. When Dana references Jacobs studies he always ignores the fourth most recent study. He will list the older ones, but never that one, only because it says homeopathy does not really work.

    Chris (because my request could not be processed)

  6. "Curious" that there is no numerical statement of significance of the (supposed) efficacy of homoeopathy vs placebo in the three studies that were of minuscule sample size.

  7. @Dana: "t was taken from the FOURTH study listed above, and this study has NO impact on the previous THREE studies because the 3 studies evaluated individually chosen homeopathic treatment, while the 4th trial was a mixture of homeopathic medicines given to children without any indvidualization of treatment."

    Are you suggesting that "homeopathic formulas", as recommended by this homoeopath, do not work?

    "For the record, each of the first 3 studies were coordinated by Jacobs, though each study used different prescribing homeopaths, thus suggesting that the SYSTEM of homeopathy works."

    Good heavens! I never realised that independent replication could be achieved by the same scientist merely using different equipment.

  8. @Dullman:

    "while the 4th trial was a mixture of homeopathic medicines given to children without any indvidualization of treatment."

    Oh, they didn't work because they weren't individualised.

    They weren't individualised just like the large number of "buy this to cure your sore throat/allergy/flu etc" products you sell on your website, you mean?

  9. Wow…how creative! Some of you actually have the chutzpah to say that Jacobs' 4th study was "better!" Hmmm. Even though you folks normally rail against the supposedly piss-poor research in CAM journals, and yet, you make exceptions whenever a study has a negative result. How convenient!

    As for statistical significance… The combined results of three studies and the metaanalysis of 242 children showed a highly significant result in the duration of childhood diarrhea (P=0.008).

    Is this p-value too "inadequate"? Hardly. Jeez…do some homework and wake up and smell the coffee.

    As for combination homeopathic medicines, there are plenty of studies that show that they work, including:

    — Reilly, D, "Is homoeopathy a placebo response? controlled trial of homoeopathic potency, with pollen in hayfever as model," Lancet, October 18, 1986, ii: 881-6.

    — Weiser, M, Strosser, W, Klein, P, “Homeopathic vs. Conventional Treatment of Vertigo: A Randomized Double-blind Controlled Clinical Study,” Archives of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, August, 1998,124:879-85.

    — Oberbaum M, Yaniv I, Ben-Gal Y, et al. A randomized, controlled clinical trial of the homeopathic medication Traumeel S® in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced stomatitis in children undergoing stem cell transplantation. Cancer. 2001;92(3):684-690.

    • o.k.
      lets get YOU into a hospital…give you cancer/diarrhea/small pox/polio/flu..etc…/ and then watch you treat and cure yourself with phoneopathy.
      you believe in it sooooooo much you should have no problem with this “experiment”.
      go do it and then show your results…or shut the fuck up you fucking qwack charlatan con artist criminal!

  10. Let me check this. If the results of all the above studies hold up under independent verification, then homeopathy works better than placebo for childhood diarrhoea only if the remedies are individualised, right? So this is a better option in the third world than the Big Pharma treatment of, y'know, salt, sugar and water, that can be administered by anyone, because…

  11. Here are a group of people offering Africans sugar pills for HIV and malaria in return for a sizeable amount of money. At least the Rudyard Kipling mob built roads, schools, railways etc. By contrast, these modern colonialists of pseudoscience go to dying Africans and sell them lies – lies they are careful not to tell in better-educated, better governed Western countries. If we had proper science journalists in this country the newspapers would crucify the bastards.

  12. Dana,

    I'm sure your 'patients(!?)' love you and you have pearly-white teeth but let me emphasise what the Young Scientists wrote to the WHO….
    "Homeopathy does not protect people from, or treat, these diseases. When homeopathy stands in place of effective treatment, lives are lost."

    Homeopaths are up there with Scientologists, Jehovah Witnesses and, WORST OF ALL, the cult of Steiner Waldorf schools that deceive and indoctrinate young children and their parents. Homeopaths' pathological delusions on their quackery prey on vulnerable folk. Shameful stuff!

    Now, Andy, how about taking a good, long look at Anthroposphical medicine – more bollox from the SteinerWaldorf nutjobs?

    The Polecat

  13. A Nobel prize was won for the work showing that adding glucose to oral rehydration solutions drove the salts and hence the water across the gut faster and in greater quantity, also for the molecular studies showing this is due to the existence of a sodium-glucose co-transporter in the mucosal wall of the intestine. It has been estimated that this has saved more children than the invention of antibiotics (largely for the shameful reason that antibiotics are apparently 'difficult' to get to the people who need them.

    In cholera if the patient can be saved from dying from dehydration most of them are perfectly capable of clearing the toxin and recovering. Without treatment they don't have enough time, give them a glucose containing rehydration solution and you give them that time even in the absence of antibiotics. The powder is stable for years at room temperature and boiled water is all you need to make it up. When in doubt, err on the side of too much water.

    In the face of that lock solid science with molecular underpinning we have what? sympathetic magic that contains no magic. And they have the gall to call medicine 'allopathy'.

  14. @Dana

    You seem to have missed the question in my last post.

    If the reason the 4th study tested negative was because it wasn't individualised, then why do you sell non-individualised "remedies" through your website?

    Given your implicit protestation above that non-individualised homeopathy doesn't work, the casual reader might think that you sell stuff you yourself (even as a purported believer in homeopathy) knows doesn't work.

  15. Individualised remedies to treat childhood diarrhea? Well, that's assuming that you have the luxury of time. How long for detailed case taking? How many cases can a homeopath deal with in a day? And my understanding is that if the wrong remedy is selected, you wait before trying another? How long is suggested?

    Even if individualised remedies for childhood diarrhea work – the process is not timely. Nor is it cost effective. In the context of the original beef – which is Jeremy Sherr et al, going to Africa and claiming to treat – are individualised homeopathic remedies the correct response to, say, a outbreak of diarrhea in a orphanage in kenya? Or in a refugee camp?

    I thought dana had a Masters in Public Health?

  16. "Chris (because my request could not be processed)"

    BillyJoe (likewise)

    Perhaps someone can tell us how to do this successfully so we don't have to keep posting as anonymous.

    "Remember, posting as 'Anonymous' marks you out as an idiot."
    Idiots need help. 8)

  17. Oh well, seems I figured it out after all.

    Chris: Hit the list button in "Comment as" and choose "Name/URL"
    Then type in your name.
    (Seems to be no way to save it though)

  18. Having recommended larger trials, why did Jacobs follow up with a larger trial of non-individualised homoeopathy rather than the individualised homoeopathy used in the smaller trials?

  19. @Charlotte: "So this is a better option in the third world than the Big Pharma treatment of, y'know, salt, sugar and water…"

    You should always take homoeopathy with a large pinch of salt, so the two treatments amount to the same thing.

  20. Cherry-picking? Hmmmm. I love it…you and others assert that there is no research that shows that homeopathic combination medicines work…and yet, when I provide evidence of your ignorance (or mis-truth), you declare that I am cherry-picking. It seems that your defintion of double-blind is when you close both of your eyes (and turn off your brain).

    Isn't it interesting that you acknowledge THREE trials which showed successful precise replication of research, while a FOURTH trial by Jacobs was a different trial using a different (combination) medicine shows a negative result, and yet, I am waiting for you to tell us what the result was of the THREE trials.

    It is so much fun watch you wiggle and waggle…and with full irony in gear, you actually quote a CAM journal to "prove" that homeopathy doesn't work. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot quote a CAM journal only when they publish a negative result…but how convenient that you make such a valiant effort to do so…and show your lack of integrity in that process.

  21. Dana – let me remind you what the meta-analysis says – "Previous studies have shown a positive treatment effect of individualized homeopathic treatment for acute childhood diarrhea, but sample sizes were small and results were just at or near the level of statistical significance"

    The studies, as reported above, have also been heavily criticised.

    The larger trial is consistent with the findings of Shang – scrappy, crap homeopathy trials tend to show a small effect. Larger, better trials do not.

    As always, you are barrel scraping. Seeing what scraps of statistical significance you can scrape for the bilge that is homeopathic research. Plucking out what you think might be goodies and ignoring or explaining away anything that you do not like down there.

  22. Ooops, Dana – you missed my question again 🙁

    I'll save you the effort of reading back: why, if non-individualised homeopathy produces a negative result, do you still sell it through your website?

  23. Rocko…I guess that you didn't see the several trials in conventional journals that have shown efficacy of homeopathic combination medicines.

    By the way, in the light of evidence, 1/3 of Americans take 5 or more drugs. Please point me to the evidence base for the concurrent use of 5 or more drugs.

    As for Mr. Duck, you still do not get it. If an antibiotic was prescribed to people whether they had a bacterial or viral infection and did not work, would you then say that antibiotics do not work? The "better" studies that you say disprove homeopathy are those that do not apply any individualization of treatment. As for the 3 diarrhea trials, is the p-value of 0.008 non-significant? Is that your new definition of significance? Come on…say it.

    As for studies that have been "heavily criticized," the Shang review has been ripped apart…and it is so ironic that people who think that they are the guardians of "good science" actually defend the Shang mess! Chutzpah rules…such is what we come to expect that Mr. Duck.

  24. Dana,

    I'm no expert on statistics, but I have a feeling that making too much of a fuss about this so called p value of .008 is a bit unwise. Surely, the level of alpha is set prior to any analyses being conducted, and then, fllowing your analyses, you simply are left with evidence to reject or accept your null hypothesis. Talking about a p value of .008 is actually yet another example of cherry picking the poutput from SPSS or whatever programme was used. Or maybe my understanding of statistical inference is like Dana's understanding of basic science.

  25. Dana – "non-significant"? Not my words but those of Jacobs et al.

    And as for Shang, it has only been ripped apart only in the minds of homeopaths desperate to ignore it. Are you brave enough to summarise why you think Shang does not stand. (again)

  26. Here is a quote from a statistics textbook: 'Facts from Figures' by M J Moroney: "…there can never be any question, in practice, of making a decision *purely* on the basis of a statistical significance test … we must never lose sight of common sense, and all those other relevant factors which can not possibly be taken care of statistically". The book was published in 1951, so this is not a new idea.

  27. "I guess that you didn't see the several trials in conventional journals that have shown efficacy of homeopathic combination medicines."

    But usually only for very small values of "efficacy".

  28. Hmmmm…

    Why is it that (now according to homeopaths themselves), homeopathy cannot treat HIV, TB, Malaria, Influenza ?

    What exactly makes these diseases different to the ones they claim to be able to treat ? Hmmm… inquiring minds would like to know.

  29. So many of you say that there are small effect sizes from homeopathic combination medicines, and yet, what about the Reilly hayfever trials (1986) published in the Lancet? What about the study cited above using Traumeel that was published in CANCER? What about the vertigo study published in this AMA journal: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9708713

    It is so so interesting how little homework you folks do and how much arrogance you have…and then, you have the audacity to think of yourselves as "defenders of science".

    Because I know that some of you folks follow PubMed, you know about the new study published in an Oxford University Press journal showing non-inferiority between homeopathic treatment and Prozac in the treatment of moderate to severe depression, though homeopathic treatment had a predictably positive trend towards greater safety. This trial was not a combo remedy…it was good ole classical homeopathy…

  30. Dana – cherry picking again.

    Let's start out with the hayfever Reilly 1986 trial. It is the one reasonably large trial (n=144) that claims a positive effect. It might be worth noting that the authors claim too that the homeopathy group's symptoms got worse first (another victory for homeopathy as this is what homeopaths call an an "aggravation"). The study suffered from a high drop out rate 35% – which rings alarm bells. Note that there have been many studies of homeopathy and hayfever – you cherry pick what you think is your best shot. When you look at the totallity of evidence then your conclusions might be thoroughly different and it is difficult to assert that homeopathy works for hayfever. I suggest you learn from someone who does just this to see how evidence should be properly appraised…

    http://apgaylard.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/homeopathy-awareness-week-and-hay-fever/

    That is real homework from a "defender of science".

  31. Dana, you still haven't answered Rocko's question at the third time of asking, so in hope rather than expectation I ask again:

    Why, if non-individualised homeopathy produces a negative result, do you still sell it through your website?

  32. Dana; it's a bit weird to cite an article by publishing house and nothing else. Perhaps you think the name "Oxford" is more impressive than eCAM?

    The article is in an open source journal and can be found here:

    http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/nep114v1

    I think the authors have found that both homoeopathy and Prozac are equally ineffective in treating moderate to severe depression. Questions have been raised about the efficacy of Prozac from within reality based medicine recently. It is a shame the authors didn't have a true placebo arm against which to compare both treatments as that could have answered my concerns.

  33. Dana – I wonder if you are capable of listing the eCAM studies limitations before jumping to conclusions about the results? Are you capable of critical appraisal of a paper?

    It looks to me like the authors strongest statements are that the trial is just a feasibility test because of the limitations inherent in their trial.

    "This study, in spite of its limitations, illustrates the feasibility of randomized controlled double-blind trials of homeopathy for depression"

    Go on. Show your intellectual honesty and list all the limitations you can think of for this study. You lose a point if someone spots one you miss out.

  34. That eCAM journal has an impact factor of 2.535.

    DT has chosen to go on record for being blind. He boasts that he has posed a question "three" times, and when I cite some studies showing efficacy from combo medicines, he ignores it. Hmmmm.

    Perhaps DT and others would have preferred if Hippocrates say, "First, kill the patient" instead of "First, do no harm." I sell homeopathic combos to give people access to safer methods before having to resort to big guns.

    As for Mr. Duck, all research has limitations, but that doesn't mean that each good study is without value. Show some intellectual honesty by acknowledging what value this study shows for people with moderate to severe depression (you lose a point by igoring this), especially since the quote that you give is somewhat meaningless.

    As for the homeopathy and Prozac research, yes, evidence base research is beginning to question Prozac's efficacy, but this is combined with the fact of its safety issues, a negative effect that is considerably less with homeopathy.

  35. I don't remember Hippocrates saying "second, do no good".

    Perhaps something along the lines of:

    "First, do no harm.
    Second, ?
    Third, profit!"

  36. "As for the homeopathy and Prozac research, yes, evidence base research is beginning to question Prozac's efficacy…"

    So why did they choose to test homoeopathy against Prozac?

  37. Dana – I thought you would duck the question. It is simply not wise to draw any conclusions from a study unless you have a good grasp of its limitations and weaknesses. You appear to approach the problem the other way around. Draw whatever you wish from the study – even more perhaps than the authors dare conclude, and then ignore obvious limitations.

    You just cannot do it, can you? You actually cannot bring yourself to critique a paper on homeopathy.

  38. I would like to ask Dana if he believes that individualised homeopathic remedies to childhood diarrhea are a more practical solution that conventional rehydration therapy?

  39. sigh….

    Dana, you haven't answered the question about why you flog non-individualized remedies on your website.

    Perhaps I could rephrase: Do you believe homeopathy remedies have to be individualized in order to be effective? Yes or No?
    If Yes, then you are a hypocrit.
    If No, then how come the 4th Jacobs study showed no effect, and why did you use the excuse that it showed no effect because the remedies were "without any individualization"?

  40. It happens all the time doesn't it?
    There is a valid criticism of X, and someone responds by criticising Y as if criticising Y saves X.

    The measuring stick here is Science Based Medicine.

    If homoeopathy doesn't stack up it doesn't stack up. There's no point in comparing it to something else, such as unproven or ineffective conventional medicine, which also doesn't stack up.
    Science Based Medicine (SBM) = plausibility + credibility.
    Homoepathy has no plausibility (no known mechanism of action)
    Homoeopathy has no credibility (no support from credible clinical trials)

    Homoeopathy fails the test of SBM. Period.

  41. Homeopathy is water.

    Homeopaths have had enough information and education to be fully aware that they are peddling water, not medicine.
    When they make claims of efficacy above that of placebo, or mild rehydration, then they are deliberate, willful & criminal liars.

    There only 'out' from this charge is to plead insanity.

  42. Dana wrote "That eCAM journal has an impact factor of 2.535."

    So what? All the impact factor tells you is how often articles in the journal are cited by other researchers; in this case, other quacks. It tells you nothing about the quality of individual articles in the journal. Nature has an impact factor of 31.434, but that doesn't mean that everything in it is beyond reproach. That's why you need to actually read and evaluate the papers, something you persistently fail to do.

  43. Homoeopathy has to provide mechanisms for the following:

    How the symtoms of a chemical are reversed by giving it in diluted form.
    How succussion wipes out the memory of the previous chemicals in the water.
    How succussion encodes the memory of the new chemical in the water.
    How diluting a chemical increases its potency.
    How diluting the chemical out of the solution makes it even more potent.
    How the encoded water transfers the code to the sugar pill.
    How exactly the same thing happens if alcohol is used instead of water.

    Come on! The whole idea of homoeopathy is just ludicrous!

    It would not be worth the time and effort of even one clincal trial – except for the inexplicable fact that some people actually believe this absolute nonsense.

  44. "Homoeopathy has to provide mechanisms for the following:

    "How the symtoms of a chemical are reversed by giving it in diluted form."

    They aren't: the remedies work by intensifying the patient's symptoms, thus stimulating their innate healing processes. In any case, "provings" are carried out using the diluted remedies, not crude substances, so the issue of "reversal" doesn't arise.

    "How succussion wipes out the memory of the previous chemicals in the water."

    It doesn't. They use "double distilled" water to avoid previous memories.

    "How succussion encodes the memory of the new chemical in the water."

    Er… Quantum? Silica? Vital force? Laser-like gyroscopic metaphors? [waves hands around]

    "How diluting a chemical increases its potency."

    Quantum?

    "How diluting the chemical out of the solution makes it even more potent.

    Because Hahnemann said so.

    "How the encoded water transfers the code to the sugar pill."

    Er, quantum?

    "How exactly the same thing happens if alcohol is used instead of water."

    Definitely quantum. Or silica. Or hydrogen bonds. Or something…

  45. "How exactly the same thing happens if alcohol is used instead of water."

    Not a very clever question. Even very expensive absolute alcohol contains up to 1% water. The % water in the alcohol used by homeopathic pharmacies varies between 5-10%. Lots of water in the alcohol then.

  46. Boozer

    That might be true, but if Homoeopathy were a mature science you might expect the differences between succession in water and ethanol to be big questions. Papers and reviews would be devoted to the issue. The absence of such discourse on this and many other questions is the mark of homoeopathy as a pseudoscience.

    Instead of a developed research program they are scrabbling about to pick the inconclusive evidence out of the conclusively negative background in a desperate attempt to maintain the faint possibility that homoeopathy has some level of efficacy.

    If you're going to sell medicine to the public or implement it in the third world you should have proper rigorous evidence of efficacy.

  47. Sorry about the tone BilyJoe- It must have been the wine I had with dinner or maybe the drink at lunchtime as well.

    Derrik
    You are right Homeopathy isnt a mature Science- Whatever it is Homeopathy isnt Science. It has nothing to support the clinical side except anecdotes which in the present climate is tough.

    The issue of high dilutions though is interesting.
    See references below

    Samal S, Geckler KE: Unexpected solute aggregation
    in water on dilution. Chem Commun 2001;21:
    2224–2225.

    Rey L: Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions
    of lithium chloride and sodium chloride. Physica A
    2003;323:67–74.

    Elia V, Elia L, Cacace P, Napoli E, Niccoli M,
    Savarese F: Extremely diluted solutions as multivariable
    systems: a study of calorimetric and conductimetric
    behaviour as functions of the parameter
    time. J Therm Anal Calorim 2006;84:317–323.

    Arani R, Bono I, Del Guidice E, Preparata G:
    QED coherence and the thermodynamics of water.
    Int J Mod Phys B 1995;9:1813–1841.

  48. "the remedies work by intensifying the patient's symptoms, thus stimulating their innate healing processes."

    Do you mean a substance that produces a fever, produces malignant hyperthermia in diluted form? That a substance that induces sleep, induces coma in diluted form?
    Maybe I've ignored homoeopathy for so long now that I've forgotten what its all about.

    " They use "double distilled" water to avoid previous memories."

    Okay, substitute:
    How they avoid encoding the molecules that inevitably contaminate the water during succussion and dilution.
    (which is sort of what I meant sort of 🙁 )

  49. Don't blame me – I didn't make this stuff up.

    The idea that the diluted remedies produce the opposite effect to the crude substance is one of the commonest misconceptions about homoeopathy, and one that for some reason homoeopaths appear reluctant to dispel. You'll even see some homoeopaths bringing in hormesis (a phenomenon in which very dilute toxins show the opposite effect to that of large doses) as some sort of explanation for homoeopathy.

    This is not a claim that homoeopathy actually makes. For example, check out The Organon, 5th or 6th edition, aphorism 128, in which Hahnemann recommends "proving" remedies at 30C on the grounds that crude substances "do not exhibit nearly the full amount of the powers that lie hidden in them which they do when they are taken for the same object in high dilutions potentized by proper trituration and succussion". He doesn't say that the dilutions will reverse the effect, he says that they will strengthen it.

    The actual idea behind the "like cures like", as far as I can make out, is that symptoms are part of the body's healing process, so intensifying them will aid healing. Hence "aggravations" are a good thing, and hence the allegations from homoeopaths that real medicine will ultimately worsen the patient's condition by "suppressing" symptoms.

    And as I said, this "reversal" of effects at high dilutions is irrelevant to homoeopathy because remedies are "proved" at high dilution, so the effects being considered are those allegedly produced by the diluted substance. The idea that "provings" are carried out using the crude substance is another misconception that homoeopaths seem reluctant to dispel (see for example the example they commonly use of onions causing irritated eyes, a runny nose etc. and therefore being used to treat colds or allergies), possibly because the idea of invesigating the symptoms caused by a substance that has not been given to the subjects sounds, well, rather silly.

  50. Boozer

    I had a quick look at your references. I rather naively thought you were pointing me toward papers by physical chemists who were working on “extremely dilute substances”. I was initially quite pleased about this as I always worry that a sort of scienceism might hamper research efforts superficially similar to quackery etc.

    Giving succour to homeopathy would only be a side effect of such research. In an age of nanotechnology think what we could do with such knowledge. The obvious thought is that silicon chips might be made with infinitesimally lower concentrations of expensive doping agents like yttrium, lowering costs and the environmental impact of obtaining and processing such metals.

    In reality these are written by homeopathy apologists. The Rey paper can be found here [1]. It mentions the help he received from BOIRON [his caps].

    The Elia paper is one of a series. The work is predominantly cited in the CAM journals. Elia’s studies are taken to pieces in detail by Corti in [2]. This is behind a pay wall but the key criticisms are:

    1. The equipment used is not capable of taking measurements of the sensitivity reported.
    2. Samples were stored over time in brown glass bottles, which are known to leak conductive ions such as Fe and Ni.
    3. The shifts in conductivity over time were cyclical over the period of a year and best explained by annual shifts in temperature.
    4. For work attempting to demonstrate a notion in contradiction of current scientific understanding it was very shoddily indeed.

    What were you trying to achieve with your references? There is no common theme running through them. I wonder if you picked them up from a CAM journal.

    One of the things I noticed looking at the articles which cited your references was the number of reviews in comparison to the number of studies. For example; poor old Milgrom was in there with a whinge about the unfairness of sceptics. This just reinforces my view that the homeopathic community spends most of its time over extrapolating from a few, poor quality, under criticised studies. More poetically, they are pure dreamers building castles in the clouds.

    [1] http://www.vhan.nl/documents/Rey.thermoluminescence.pdf

    [2] Corti, H. R., Comments on "New Physico-Chemical Properties of Extremely Dilute Solutions. A Conductivity Study at 25 degrees C in Relation to Ageing". J. Solut. Chem. 2008, 37, 1819-1824.

  51. Derrik
    Thank you for that. Sorry about the Elia reference. All 4 references were from reputable journals so I thought it fair enough to quote them. As you probably have a life outside of all this I wont ask you to comment on the others.
    My interest in high dilutions has been inspired by work from Luc Montagnier which I came across earlier in the year. Today I came across the reference.
    The reference below is very interesting. It is published in a new journal. I am sure that it will soon appear on the radar of LCN ,Gimpy et al. It will be worth reading. I await comments with interest.
    Reference: "Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous
    NanostructuresDerived from Bacterial DNA Sequence s" Luc Montagnier, Jamal Aissa, Stéphane Ferris, Jean-Luc Montagnier, Claude Lavallee,Interdiscip
    Sci Comput Life Sci (2009) 1: 81-90

    Reference: "Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous NanostructuresDerived from Bacterial DNA Sequence s" Luc Montagnier,
    Jamal Aissa, Stéphane Ferris, Jean-Luc Montagnier, Claude Lavallee,
    Interdiscip Sci Comput Life Sci (2009) 1: 81-90

  52. Once again, good post LeCanardNoir. A lot of focus has been given to the clinical trials which tests homeopathy agaisnt placebo. But given that the basis of homeopathy, they claim, is that a substance diluted out of existence has an effect, where is the basic science proof that water with nothing in it can activate anything?

    There is a massive body of work out there looking at ligand receptor interactions and the downstream effects. Basic pharmacology talks about dose-dependence. All these are demonstrable. What homeopathy is peddling is the opposite to pharmacology. Any new drug released has gone through rigrous basic science testing. We know exactly what receptor, or cell process it affects, how it affects it, the concentration for half maximal effect (EC50). And only after we know how, and why, and where, does the drug get tested in clinical trials.

    Homeopathic remedies seem to bypass all basic science work and head straight to the clinical trials. This is not a level playing field. If homeopathy wants the skeptics to take it on board, surely they have to show what each and every "remedy" of theirs does, all the hows, wheres, and whys. The method of proving is not viable to determine what they do. Since homeopaths are peddling all the statistics (P values, alphas and the rest) these days, surely the method of proving is just a collection of numerous n=1 or 2 (i.e., anecdotes) all plonked together?

    So with the basis of the homeopathic trade so shaky, what right do they have to churn out this many clinical trials on humans? You claim that remedies have no side effects. The only possibility is if it is not active. If a substance is "active", you cannot ever be 100% sure of no side effects. Where is the ethics of testing a vial of "active" water, or "active" sugar pills on humans without prior pre-testing?

    Having taken it yourself is not a sufficient reason.

  53. Boozer

    Firstly with regard to:
    " All 4 references were from reputable journals so I thought it fair enough to quote them."

    Fair enough certainly, but as every scientist knows the literature is full of Shit. You have to be critical. Being critical is our job.

    With regard to your new citation; it is another week paper. The authors think they are measuring radio signal from samples of very dilute bacterial DNA after multiple homoeopathy like 1 in 10 dilutions. This is after stimulating the solution with low frequency radio waves. This effect does not appear in higher concentrations of DNA.

    They obtain their data by micro filtration of supernatant from centrifuged samples of bacteria. They never know the concentration of DNA they are dealing with. Why don't they purify DNA, quantify it and put some absolute numbers on their phenomena?

    Further when making these measurements their "blank" control is the lowest dilution. They have a filtrate of a bacterial culture, which will have been growing in a medium containing salts an buffers. Perhaps their effect is always present when you stick a tube of ddH2O in their machine and absent if the H2O contains electrolytes.

    Finally they jump from bacteria to HIV patients plasma in the discussion. You can't introduce new data in your discussion and the massive over extrapolation from bacteria in culture to an in vivo virus is risible.

    I wonder if they are building up to one of these resonance disease detectors.

  54. Derrik
    The fact this work by a Nobel prize winner is published in a new low impact journal suggests that Luc Montagnier is not yet looking to set the world alight. I doubt if he considered sending it to Nature.
    Homeopaths will note the signals from 6c dilutions
    Freezing and heating effects
    The fact that vortexing was required to produce the effect.

    Skeptics will find deficiencies in the work for sure as you have done- More big guns will have things to say as well about the paper.
    This work will continue long term if he can address the issues raised by this paper. You may think he will quietly move on from this. I think that he will continue.

  55. There is a fundamental problem with all this ultra dilute stuff and homeopathy which is that they are fundamentally disconnected issues. The business of there not being a single molecule of the supposed “remedy” is just the beginning of homeopathies implausibility. Even if pure water can remember a strand of DNA once dissolved in it and emit diagnostic radio waves when stimulated as a result, what would that tell you about the homeopathic remedies made of ship wreak or dog shit or duck liver? You still have to connect the impossible dots of those solutions, transferring that memory to a sugar pill, that memory having a biological effect, like curing like and the practice of individualising remedies.

    The quicker root would be to demonstrate homoeopathy in vivo. Cut out all that other stuff and just prove a biological effect. Andy’s “challenge” to a skilled homoeopath to demonstrate they can distinguish between high potency remedies would be ideal. Do that and it’s game over for us sceptics! You wouldn’t need to be pointing at inept experiments reported in low impact journals. Do it properly and you have a Nature paper!

    Don’t like Andy's suggestion, I have an alternative.

    1. Homoeopath receives patients arriving at surgery as normal.
    2. Homoeopath decides if patient is eligible for study.
    3. Patient gives informed consent.
    4. Homoeopath proscribes remedy.
    5. Patient randomly, and double blindly, assigned to placebo or control.
    6. Homeopath has as long as they want to call the assignment of the patient.

    A simple little study involving just the patient, the remedy and the homeopaths judgment. The results would be simple, concrete count data; the number the homeopath got correct, the number they got wrong. The appropriate null distribution for the statistical test would be binomial, like tossing a coin, very easy to interpret.

    I think the only reason you guy’s keep trotting out these relatively poor studies of almost non-existent phenomena, which might be noise or might be something, is that it’s the only way to maintain any hope that the nonsense might be real. It’s like seeing faces in the cloud or animals running in a flickering fire. They are just phantasms conjured by a delusional mind.

  56. "Don’t like Andy's suggestion, I have an alternative.

    1. Homoeopath receives patients arriving at surgery as normal.
    2. Homoeopath decides if patient is eligible for study.
    3. Patient gives informed consent.
    4. Homoeopath proscribes remedy.
    5. Patient randomly, and double blindly, assigned to placebo or control.
    6. Homeopath has as long as they want to call the assignment of the patient.

    A simple little study involving just the patient, the remedy and the homeopaths judgment. The results would be simple, concrete count data; the number the homeopath got correct, the number they got wrong. The appropriate null distribution for the statistical test would be binomial, like tossing a coin, very easy to interpret."

    I can just see a series of very low potency remedies (1X, perhaps, or possibly ones like the one used in this study) being prescribed.

  57. That’s a fair point Mojo. I think your objection could be met with agreement that only 30C+ potencies were to be used. The homeopath does get to examine the patient before deciding if they are eligible for the trial, so they could be satisfied in their own mind the patient would respond to the permitted remedies before enrolling the patient.

    You point to a bigger logistical problem in carrying out this experiment for real, which is really one of trust. The only homeopaths who would be interested in taking part are either knowing fraudsters who thought they could spoof the experiment or true believers who would suspect any sceptics as being involved in some great conspiracy to discredit them. For the first, scientists aren’t very good at spotting fraud. For the second, I think they are to far gone to engage with, the lunacy is exhausting.

    My scientific point remains. If you want to investigate a supposed biological phenomena in ill humans; study ill humans! Arrange your experiment so that it will give clear concrete numbers rather than ambiguous “squint or you’ll miss it” signals.

    Andy’s challenge is so simple you would expect it to be a routine part of homeopaths practical exams. It is an analogous task to one given to me in second year chemistry, of identifying an unknown powder by chemical means. It’s also very similar to the kind of practical examinations taken by medical students. There is however an obvious reason why they don’t do it; it is impossible.

  58. "Andy’s challenge is so simple you would expect it to be a routine part of homeopaths practical exams."

    The great thing about Andy's challenge is that it is something that homoeopaths actually claim to do, and that is in fact absolutely fundamental to the practise of homoepathy. In order to determine what symptoms a remedy is to be used to treat, the diluted remedy (not the crude substance) is given to volunteers, and the homoeopath in charge will then identify the characteristic symptoms caused. It therefore follows that they should be able to identify remedies from the symptoms they cause. Giving the homoeopath the opportunity to choose the remedies themselves will enable them to choose remedies that are supposed to produce dissimilar symptoms.

    It also has the advantage that it doesn't involve treating patients.

    The only amendment I'd make would be to insist on 30C remedies being used. They should have no trouble with this because this is the potency Hahnemann recommended for "provings" in the later editions of the Organon (see aphorism 128). Allowing any potency to be used would allow 1X, which is potentially a 10% solution; there are plenty of substances that would be easily identifiable at such a concentration (I'v recently spotted a homoeopath claiming to be able to identify a homoeopathioc preparation because it would stain blotting paper yellow – it turned out that what they were proposing to use may have been a mother tincture).

  59. Basically, if Andy's challenge is impossible, then so is homoeopathy, since it relies on identification of "proving" symptoms to decide which remedies are appropriate to treat which symptoms.

  60. Except Homoeopaths fudge proving. That fudging is part of what makes it a pseudo science, there not being a coherent set of ideas to subject to scientific scrutiny.

    In the past they did prove undiluted remedies. My favourite is the account of proving carb vedg (charcoal). They got the symptoms of scurvy, presumably because all that charcoal was sequestering vit C in their gut.

    Now do they not have panels of provers, with a senior prover taking in lists of symptoms experienced by the others and synthesising them together. Thus they suppose that an individual may not experience all the symptoms but together they can build a remedy picture.

    I think that having long been aware that they can do nothing like Andy's challenge they have instituted a sort of "cold reading" technique to practice on themselves and maintain their delusions.

  61. Wait a minute, we're talking about homeopathy here, right? Where they distill a substance that has never been proven to help treat a condition down to less than one molecule in the solution?
    Then claim that water has a 'memory' against all the known laws of physics?
    That's like three levels of bullshit. So why are we wasting our time talking about it? Anyone who believes it is obviously deluded.
    Outlaw the damn thing. It's killing people.

  62. The only amendment I'd make would be to insist on 30C remedies being used. They should have no trouble with this because this is the potency Hahnemann recommended for "provings" in the later editions of the Organon.

  63. Pharmaceutical companies not only cherry pick evidence they Ghost Write articles. They deliberately lie. Of course one picks the trials that support the case. This is what Meta Analysis does, it picks the strongest trials etc, it cherry picks… that’s the whole point.

    To say that Homeopathy is only as good as Placebo is different than saying not as good as placebo.

    Placebo is evidence of effect, not of the tested substance but of the body’s conscious response.

    How is it possible to know if it is a placebo effect or the actual Homeopathic remedy? You cant… only if there is less of an effect than placebo. So you cannot say the Homeopathic remedy is not potentially doing an equal job to placebo.
    Some remedies my simply have a subtle effect, however positive.
    To deny this is as ignorant as you claim Homeopathy to be.

    Science is about healthy skepticism, not some hysterical throwback witch trial.

    Use science….

    don’t abuse it.

    • So many confusions in so few words.

      Where to start…

      “This is what Meta Analysis does, it picks the strongest trials etc, it cherry picks”

      Yes, but they select on quality and then look at the results.
      Homeopaths cherry pick by selecting on results regardless of quality.

      “Placebo is evidence of effect, not of the tested substance but of the body’s conscious response.”

      Not true. A placebo may not induce a placebo effect. The natural course of an illness may mean people get better without any ‘bind-body’ effects.

      “How is it possible to know if it is a placebo effect or the actual Homeopathic remedy?”

      You do trials. If homeopaths comes out the same as a placebo then it looks like the homeopathy voodoo has no specific effects.

      “Some remedies my simply have a subtle effect, however positive.”
      Ask your patients if they are happy with an undetectable subtle effect from your work.

      “Science is about healthy skepticism, not some hysterical throwback witch trial.”

      Witch trials are appropriate when you deal with witches.

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