The Society of Homeopaths, Richard Barr and MMR

mmr

The Society of Homeopath’s response to the latest BBC revelations was entirely predictable. The BBC investigation uncovered how homeopaths appear to be routinely offering their sugar pills as an alternative to childhood vaccinations such as MMR. Such unethical and unthinking behaviour can only lead to children being exposed to potentially dangerous infections.

Doctors appeared to have been shocked by these findings. But they should not have been. Antagonistic beliefs towards standard medical care, particularly vaccinations, is the norm in the homeopathic community. Indeed, homeopathy was founded on the principle that its beliefs are the One True Way and that other doctors use medicines to actually harm their patients, not cure them.

So, the Society of Homeopaths issued a press release that followed a very predictable format. They state that they “acknowledge that the evidence to support the use of homeopathic prophylactics, that is, using homeopathic remedies as a preventative treatment, is largely anecdotal and therefore the use of this method is currently speculative.”

This is a dog whistle message.

To the outsider it might appear that the Society do not support their members offering such superstitious alternatives to real vaccines. After all, who would risk important decisions about children on anecdotal and speculative ideas? But to their members, a different noise will be heard. All homeopathy is based on anecdote and speculation. The Society do not explicitly ‘endorse’ any particular use of their pills. But what they are saying to their members is that they need not worry. The Society will not use its code of ethics to stop such nonsense from happening. According to the BMJ, the Society routinely promotes such speculative ideas in breach of their own code of ethics. As I first exposed on this blog: they have no interest in upholding their own code of ethics just because a member may be risking lives with unevidenced treatments. We can be sure that the Society will not be going to any trouble to try to stamp out this irresponsible practice within their membership. Their ethics committee will not be troubled by offending members.

Indeed, anti-vax views are easy to find on homeopaths discussion groups. And academic research has shown worrying levels of bad advice regarding MMR amongst homeopaths. The problem is in finding saner voices advocating a more circumspect approach to MMR and other childhood vaccines. There is no emerging leadership within the homeopathic world willing to address to the criticisms made of them. The leadership appears to be entrenched in their fundamentalist view of ‘allopathic’ medicine versus homeopathy. One of their leaders recently caught my attention – and I must admit, I am amazed that I had not spotted this before.

Barr is unusual amongst the directors in that he is not a homeopath. He is a solicitor.

Richard Barr is a Director of the Society of Homeopaths. He is unusual amongst the directors in that he is not a homeopath. Barr is a solicitor – and a solicitor, it would appear, who has experience of several ethics and standards committees with his local authority and the Law Society. As such, his profile says that he is a member of the Society’s Professional Standards Committee, no doubt based on his experience of such matters. When Richard Barr is not assisting with the ethical problems of the Society of Homeopaths, he works out of his home office in Norfolk for a “virtual law firm” called Scott Moncrieff Harbour and Sinclair (SCOMO). He says he handles mainly medical cases.

Now Richard Barr ought to be a name familiar to you. I should have recognised it, but I did not. Maybe you cannot pin it down too.

So, let me take you back to 1992.

In December of that year, a small one-year-old boy by the name of Robert Fletcher became seriously ill with convulsions. Robert was diagnosed as being epileptic and was quite ill with several fits per week. His mother, Jackie, was convinced that his problems were caused by an MMR vaccine that Robert had been given ten days before his first fit.

Jackie Fletcher put an advert in a newspaper to see if she could find other parents whose children had become ill shortly after their MMR jab. No doubt, with a universal vaccine, it would not be hard to find children who became ill around that time – even if there was no link between the vaccine and the illness. Many parents came forward and the support group JABS was born.

This is where Richard Barr steps in. He began acting for the group and started to look for ways that the parents could gain compensation and started to ensure that legal aid was available for them. The only problem was that there was no evidence that MMR caused any of the problems the parents were sure were caused by the vaccine.

To get around that problem, Barr came up with a pioneering approach. He applied to legal aid to get funding to do some clinical studies into associations between the vaccine and problems such as autism. He formed a partnership with a sympathetic doctor called Andrew Wakefield who was paid £150 per hour by the law firm. The pair were awarded £55,000 to start their research. Over the coming year, Wakefield admits several of the JABS children to the Royal Free hospital to do tests on them. At the same time, Wakefield patents his own “safer” single measles jab.

In 1998, the Lancet published the paper by Wakefield that suggested a link between MMR and autism, based on the case studies of eight children. He also gave a press conference to state the same assertion – without mentioning that he was being paid by a group seeking compensation or his own financial interest in the failure of the MMR jab. The paper had not found a definite link – but based on this speculation, the newspaper industry created a politically fuelled scare that ensured parents would now question the safety of the vaccine and many would not have it given to their children.

The outcome of this farce is now well know. Wakefield was found to have been “callous, unethical and dishonest”. He had performed invasive and risky procedures on children without ethical approval, had not disclosed he was being paid by Richard Barr and had not been honest about where the children had come from. Wakefield was struck off for serious misconduct.

The idea that MMR causes autism has been proven not to be true after serious investigations into the problem over the past decade. But nonetheless, vaccination rates have dropped to dangerous levels and many parents have been looking for alternatives – no matter how illusory. I am sure that the homeopaths, that their director Richard Barr now sits over on the ethics committee, will be benefiting from the unfounded doubts and fears created from this thoroughly misconceived venture.

30 comments for “The Society of Homeopaths, Richard Barr and MMR

  1. October 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    One thing that has struck me about the use of “homeopathic vaccines” and the use of nosodes as homeoprophylaxis is that the remedies themselves largely exist in the UK because of i) historical accident and ii) indifference on the part of the Department of Health, the MHRA and their predecessors. The details of the historical accident are too boring to go into but, in short, homeopathic remedies that were on the market in 1971 got a free pass in the way of a “Product Licence of Right”. It was intended that these PLRs should be revisited and homeopathic remedies would be licenced in some more regular way but this never happened.

    The MHRA do have the power to revoke the PLRs of these remedies on public health grounds. The situation in the rest of the EU is different from the UK. Nosodes are banned in the Netherlands. Both Germany and France are stricter than the UK about their manufacture.

    Nosodes represent a threat to public health in that there are homeopaths encouraging their use in place of vaccines and also their manufacture can invoke the handling of dangerous pathogens and it is unclear whether the manufacturers are geared up to handle them. On top of that, some nosodes are technically illegal in the hands of lay homeopaths.

    I believe that if the MHRA acted it would cut this sort of nonsense dead.

    • Le Canard Noir
      October 3, 2010 at 8:42 pm

      Indeed, you can see Ainsworths selling their MMR nosode here…

      http://www.ainsworths.com/site/combination.aspx

      Despite these products being pointed out to the MMR, they have not yet done anything. If anyone else wants to drop them a line, then we shall see if it does any good.

  2. October 3, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Goodness. You really couldn’t make it up.

    The following paragraph from Barr’s bio on the SoH’s website caught my eye:

    “Although he is not a homeopath, [Richard Barr] has become interested in it ever since his wife Kirsten started to train to be a homeopath after experiencing at first hand some spectacular results following homeopathic treatment – including helping her daughter to recover from a severe brain inury after she had been damaged through medical negligence.”

  3. October 4, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Unbelievable.

  4. phayes
    October 4, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    “You really couldn’t make it up.”

    No – usually the idealistic young lawyer gets sucked into the evil world of organised quackery through blackmail or debt or something, not marriage. ;-)

  5. Lorraine
    November 18, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    DOH say vaccination doesn’t cause autism, because a causal relationship hasn’t been proven, however, they haven’t disproven it either.

    In response to the last paragraph of the article follow this link:

    http://www.ianrcrane.co.uk/index.php?act=viewDoc&docId=26

    After years of insisting there is no evidence to link vaccines with the onset of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the US government has quietly conceded a vaccine-autism link in the Court of Federal Claims.

    • Le Canard Noir
      November 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

      Lorraine – it is simply midleading to suggest that there is no evidence that MMR does not cause autism. The overwhelming weight of evidence suggest no link. And there is no reason to think otherwise. The claim was a hoax.

      And as for you old news about the USE government ‘conceding’, please read http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/02/incredible_shrinking_causation_claim.php.

      This post is not to discuss the merits of MMR – it has been done to death. Stick to the topic raised please.

  6. August 10, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    As a qualified practicing Homoeopath I assure you my friends who are in allopathic, disease management for profit through big pharma camp, that Homoeopathy is a very effective method of treating and healing disease. It is recognised by the W H O as the second leading primary method of healthcare in the world, and while I do not for a moment dismiss the importance of medical science in it’s role of benefitting society, I am personally convinced of the efficiency of Homoeopathic energy medicine simply as I have seen miraculous results with this medicine in cases where alopathy was seen to be causing more harm than good to the patients involved. I no longer seek to flog a dead horse in relation to persuading those who are so rigid in their thinking that they literally will not accept what they cannot see explained by current scientific means with all of it’s limitations in spite of the real evidence which can be experienced by anyone who is willing to put their predjudices aside long to experience what is possible here. Finally, As the scientific community is yet at a loss as to scientifically understand the whole concept of quantum physics, in relation to energy medicine, which cannot thus be contained in a petri dish or dissected and explored as a matter of fact, I believe that it will only be in the perhaps distant future that the full merit due to this gift to humanity will be duly awarded as universal knowledge and awareness is ever expanded.
    Christine Creedon. Irish College of Homoeopathic Medicine.
    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
    Mahatma Gandhi.

  7. Badly Shaved Monkey
    August 10, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    And yet the trial data show you are wrong.
    And yet basic scientific knowledge shows you are wrong.

    Your remedies are made by repeatedly washing out a tube with water or alcohol and giving the patient a bit of that water. Or some of that water is dried onto a sugar tablet and then the tablet is given.

    You may think your patients get better because of that tablet, but you are wrong.

    Your patients have diseases that fluctuate in severity. You take the credit for the upswings.
    Your patients tell you convenient answers when you ask them. Spence (2005)
    Your patients go away when they give up on you, but you do not realise that your pills did not work for them.

    For all these reasons you think you are creating health benefits.
    BUT YOU ARE WRONG.

    I have said it before and I’ll say it again. We get one chance at life. Unfortunately you have wasted a significant fraction of yours believing in and selling a falsehood. That is deeply to be regretted. By locking yourself in a false belief system and wittering amateurishly about “energy medicine” and quantum physics you exclude yourself from ever learning anything true and meaningful about science and the wonderful world around us.

    The apposite quotation for you Ms Creedon is the following from Carl Sagan,

    They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

    Please make sure you do not trip over your big floppy shoes on the way out.

  8. Badly Shaved Monkey
    August 10, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    p.s.

    It is recognised by the W H O as the second leading primary method of healthcare in the world

    The International Criminal Tribunal “recognised” Slobodan Milosevic as a war criminal.

    Check your dictionary. “recognise” and “approve” are not the same things.

    I recognise you as a homeopath. I do not approve of you.

  9. Badly Shaved Monkey
    August 10, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    p.p.s. You also write like an illiterate 9-year old.

  10. August 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Christine – how wonderful to see a homeopath actually express what they think without pause. Few are as open to admit their real beliefs that medicine is harmful. It demolishes any claim from you to be ‘complementary’.

    Your Ghandi quote, of course, only applies if you are right. If you are wrong, then you are likely to get stuck at the “laugh at you” stage – as homeopaths have been for 200 years.

  11. Badly Shaved Monkey
    August 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Well, maybe Ms Creedon was another one-hit blunder.

    It’s much more fun when they stick around.

    Oh, well.

  12. Badly Shaved Monkey
    August 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Bump

  13. August 17, 2011 at 12:14 am

    To badly shaved monkey.

    And yet this trial data was based on an entirely false methodology showing an inevitable result because the trial was conducted in a way that was biased, thereby making a positive result impossible.
    It’s imperative that different vials are used when dealing with individual Homoeopathic remedies and this was not the case here which doomed the trial from the outset. I rest my case.

    Basic scientific knowledge shows that I am wrong eh? yes i’m glad you said BASIC. This is precisely my point. It is BASIC !

    Your description of how Homoeopathic remedies are created is incorrect.At least get your facts right here before you comment.

    All symptoms of dis -ease in homoeopathy are treated individually and are tailor made to the requirements of a patient at any given time. I correct your suggestion that I take credit for the “Upswings” On the contrary I always give credit for improvement in the economy of a patient to the inate intelligence of the vital force of the patient in correcting or ameliorating any imbalance in the organism at any level of disposition.

    My patients, rather than provide convenient answers to leading questions, generally have a deep desire for healing and are encouraged to reflect on life conditions and circumstances in order to allow the Homoeopath to facilitate their healing as an unprejudiced observer.

    My patients do not give up on me nor do I on them. They would not be seeking homoeopathic assistance if they were not already dissillusioned with the allopathic system to a greater or lesser degree in relation to their particular predicament and it is often the case that the last port of call will provide a much needed breakthrough even when none was expected so to speak.

    Therefore I say to you that I do provide healthcare benefits and it is you that I say is wrong.

    Re wasting ones chance at life.
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.
    I DO NOT BELIEVE IN FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE !

    You seem to consider yourself somewhat enlightened and yet you indicate by your entrenched belief system that you are incapable of understanding what your biased nature will not allow you to explore to any level beyond your flawed but thorough programming.

    Your misguided description of how Homoeopathic remedies are created alone, are proof enough of this my friend.Do you not know that there are other substances involved here other than water and sugar pills? For your information the process is called trituration.

    I will allow you to witter on instead about the wonderful world that you believe you inhabit with all of your meaingful scientific knowledge which you show no evidence of having acquired in this forum by the way in spite of all of your attempts to come accross otherwise.

    I’ll stick to my own system of beliefs in this one life that I have, however flawed and take comfort that at least I am not shut down to anything outside of basic scientific dogma, and allow you to do likewise, though for your sake I hope that you will never be let down by the system in which you have placed so much of your belief based on what again ? Doctors differ, patients die, superbugs, overprescribing of anti biotics, burn it off and cut it out. And yes, I do belief in the wonderful technology that is available to humanity and have great respect for surgeons who save lives, but the downside of allopathy can not be denied. Many of my associates who are doctors in the medical community will state this as a given and yes many of them are using Homoeopathy on themselves and their families when faced with a choice for various
    complaints.

    I do not choose to elaborate on the subject of energy medicine amateurishley or otherwise as you are not open to such material and I would not waste my time on you in trying to convince you otherwise against your will. In a previous life you probably would have been ingrained with the belief that the world was flat.

    Re your quote from Carl Sagan.

    There are those who will laugh at anything they do not understand, in an attempt to mask their fear of same.

    But here again the quote from Ghandi diminishes the above as it is not even a particularly good quote. “Then they fight you”.RING ANY BELLS ? HIT A NERVE EH?
    Verbally on mindless websites where those who have no meaningful lives and are probably not even meaningfully unemployed and are afraid to give their real identity are happy to post insulting comment in place of meaningful debate ad infinitum, another reason why I won’t be trading back and forth here again as I am too busy actually helping people in real life. I do not need to be enlightened by your calibre as to the difference between recognised and approved. Now you are grasping at straws my dear and again let me tell you that the W H O both recognises and approves of homoeopathy as a suitable method of treating disease and so do the house of commons in the uk, where a bill was passed declaring it so APPROVED AND RECOGNISED ! Don’t take my word for it.

    Fortunatley I require neither your approval or recognition re my homoeopathic status, even if you felt better by telling me that I don’t have it.

    And Finally…. If you say that I write like an illiterate nine year old, you my friend write like a bully who has to resort to insult instead of meaningful debate in order to get your point across and you have in no way inspired me to credit you with having intelligence worth noting here. I realise that this is probably the hub of your world and you are only waiting to post back a comment that I won’t dignify with further response, and so I really should make allowance for you and your ilk.

    And to think that one of your fans believed that this was a once off blunder due to the lateness of my reply

    • le canard noir
      August 17, 2011 at 12:55 am

      A masterclass in error.

      Thankyou.

      But what trial are you talking about where the wrong vials were used?

  14. Mojo
    August 17, 2011 at 5:35 am

    Your description of how Homoeopathic remedies are created is incorrect.

    BSM was describing the “Korsakov method” of preparation, which is widely used by homoeopathic manufacturers.

    I would also be interested to know what trial you were referring to, by the way.

  15. August 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    Mojo, In fact I did not describe how Homoeopathic remedies are created and merely pointed out the innacuracy of another individuals description while adding that there are other substances also involved and naming the process of preperation which is called trituration, therefore you must be confused when you say that I am incorrect in describing how Homoeopathic remedies are created.

    I am perfectly aware of how the remedies are created, but I have not entered into that description in this forum as I don’t believe it is necessary for me to do so.s

  16. Vicky
    August 18, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Christine, Mojo didn’t say you gave a description but quoted you and then told you what BSM described since you didn’t seem to understand. Why was BSM’s description wrong – because the shaking wasn’t mentioned?

  17. August 18, 2011 at 12:16 am

    le Canard Noir,

    There has in fact been a number of trials of low scientific quality done re the proving/disproving of Homoeopathy. The one I refer to previously in response to comment about trials proving that Homoeopathy doesn’t work is one that was conducted by a uk hospital university, (Didn’t retain exact details) and televised by channel 4 in the late 90s. It was obviously flawed even in its execution, and at the time this was duly noted by Homoeopaths and those members of the scientific community who are advocates of Homoeopathic medicine and see it as an exact science which can be scientifically proved.

    Of far more interest to myself however is the ongoing research and unbiased clinical studies which are being carried out by way of showing Homoeopathys effectiveness in treating many conditions.A very small number of these are shown below and should you wish to delve deeper into this subject there are excellent publications documenting many more positive scientific trials as this will be my last post on the forum for fear that I may get caught up in Flogging a dead horse, which I am vehemently opposed to doing and as I have previously stated.

    The publications are as follows.. THE EMERGING SCIENCE OF HOMOEOPATHY, BY P BELLAVITE MD AND A SIGNORINI MD. AND HOMOEOPATHY, SCIENCE OR MYTH BY BILL GRAY MD.

    Documented studies.

    A double blind study published by the british journal of pharmacology in 1980, showed that Homoeopathy had a significant effect on rheumatoid arthritis.

    In a double blind study, Homoeopathy provided a superior level of pain relief for sufferers of osteo arthritis than acetaminophen. This study was published in the american journal of pain management. 3 july 1998.

    Allergy sufferers were treated with a Homoeopathic preparation of house dust mite, or a placebo in a double blind study, published in the lancet, Dec 10 1994. 77% of the Homoeopathic group experienced improvement compared to 3o% of the placebo group.

    I could go on, as clinical research continues to this day, in this area.

    At this point, you will either see something worth exploring further in what has been posted, OR, you will choose to remain unconvinced which is your choice, in relation to what resonates with your perception of truth.

    Either way, the effectiveness of this medicine made known to the world by the pioneer who was Samuel Hahnemann, will continue to grow and expand in spite of any attempts of dogma to thwart its use for the betterment of humanity.

    This is my final word on the subject as I don’t like to argue just for the sake of it if there is no possibility of agreement.

    • Le Canard Noir
      August 18, 2011 at 7:04 am

      Christine – what you are doing is cherry picking. Selecting those few bits of research that appear to fir in with your worldview. You are ignoring the overwhelming evidence that says homeopathy is an inert treatment. You suggest I might ‘remain unconvinced’ as these trials might not ‘resonate with my perception of truth.’

      I would suggest that it is you who are completely blind to your own confirmation bias.

      I would also suggest that “you don’t like to argue” because you are aware of the weakness of your position.

  18. August 18, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Yes Vicky,

    I misunderstood as there was no indication that he was quoting me.

    BSM did not describe the korsekov method, he didn’t describe any correct method for that matter, on the contrary he was completely in error, in ommiting to mention because of his ignorance on the subject that in preparing Hom remedies, the substance to be potentised homoeopathically must be processed through the water by succussing, (shaking). He never even mentioned that any substance other than water or (sugar?) is used which would mean there was nothing Homoeopathic going on in the first place.

    THE method of creating hom remedies is precise and is documented for anyone who cares to research the method.
    I don’t feel the need to educate anyone and it should be known by anyone considering discussion re same on a forum before deciding that one is entitled to comment.

    Pity that bsm doesn’t know that.

    • Chris
      August 18, 2011 at 1:34 am

      Perhaps you can be so kind as to tell us exactly what efficacy homeopathy has in preventing and/or curing measles, especially compared to the MMR vaccine that is presently in use in the UK (which is not the one that Barr originally hired Wakefield to “research”).

      Be sure to list the pertinent scientific studies that show homeopathy is effective for measles, since according to the above article: “The BBC investigation uncovered how homeopaths appear to be routinely offering their sugar pills as an alternative to childhood vaccinations such as MMR.” Since measles is known to kill at least one out of a couple of thousand cases, with several more becoming permanently disabled, the science that homeopathy is effective better be well documented.

  19. Badly Shaved Monkey
    August 18, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Ooh, Ms Creedon returns and provides us with a highly target-rich environment.

    You asked just one actual question;

    .Do you not know that there are other substances involved here other than water and sugar pills?

    Yes, I do thanks. See below.

    I’ll have to restrict myself to a few comments.

    1. I was taking it as read that the “tube” I specified as being repeatedly rinsed with water or alcohol did indeed have something put in it initially. Whether that was a liquid solution or a trituration from a solid really makes no odds to the principle. Ms Creedon will have to explain to us how the “Light of Venus” or “positronium” affect the set up of the initial tube, but once it has been set up then rinsing with solvent is a completely fair description of the Korsakov process. (Note the spelling Ms C)

    For a laugh, I’ll ask you one specific question. Is succussion against a leather-bound book essential or is mechanical vortexing acceptable? Justify your answer by reference to experimental data.

    2. You list some individual trials, but have chosen not to give us their proper bibliographical citations. That, frankly, is amateurish. Most homeopaths at least manage to copy and paste the citations from the SoH list when they do this. We have as a group looked at numerous homeopathic trials. Most are laughably incompetent. When not actually incompetent then they still need to be seen in the context provided by the overall body of evidence, which is what the meta-analyses do and show any apparently real effects in single trials are marginal and spurious. You will have to forgive me for not feeling that you have a very firm grasp on the trial literature.

    3. The fact that you did not recognise the implications of Spence’s (2005) survey of homeopathic patients for the interpretation of your own work speaks volumes.

    4. Alan Henness asked;

    Would you like to tell us what your association is with the Irish College of Homeopathic Medicine? I can’t find your name anywhere on their website.

    You have not answered. It doesn’t matter much to us. We tend to deal with arguments by their own merits. Appeal to authority counts for very little. However, you clearly seem to think that associating yourself with that institution confers upon you some particular authority. So, it is perfectly reasonable for us to ask you to substantiate that association.

  20. Badly Shaved Monkey
    August 20, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Katie’s getting boring. I wish Christine Creedon would come back.

  21. Ed
    January 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Can you give one example where a homeopathic ‘substance’ has had a proper scientific trial to establish its efficacy, safety and mode of action. In my view Homeopathy is an appalling sham which preys on vulnerable people who are likely to think they have benefited from homeopathy. Also, why do you have a Lawyer as the Dorector?. That will surely strike people as very odd indeed.

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