Hat tip to the Quackometer on BBC Newsnight…
Before they reconsider their damning response. here it is… with annotations in red
Society of Homeopaths does not endorse “preventative” treatment in serious tropical diseases
The Society of Homeopaths, the UK’s largest register of homeopaths with 1,500 members, does not endorse the use of homeopathic remedies with a view to preventing serious tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever.
This is a very misleading statement as it implies that the Society is critical of such practices. The truth is that the Society does not ‘endorse’ any particular mode of treatment within the world of homeopathy. However, the Society quite happily organises conferences on such things as the treatment of HIV and malaria with homeopathy and it supports charities which do such work in Africa. Homeopaths routinely offer dangerous advice and the Society has done nothing about it. Indeed, its statements about such matters have been deeply questionable and misleading.
The evidence to support the use of homeopathic prophylactics, that is, using homeopathic remedies as a preventative treatment, is currently largely anecdotal and therefore the use of this method is speculative.
Again a misleading statement as all forms of homeopathy could, at best, be described as ‘speculative’. Homeopathy cannot be shown to be clinically effective for any condition – and evidence for success is mostly based on anecdotal evidence. The Society tries to make out that malaria prevention is somehow a special case. It is not. Indeed the first homeopathic cure devised by the founder was for malaria.
This is entirely different from treatment by a registered homeopath in the UK. Although more research is welcomed, the balance of evidence already shows that treatment by a homeopath is clinically effective1, cost-effective2 and safe.3
This is simply untrue. The overwhelming scientific evidence is that homeopathy is an inert treatment with no specific effects. The Spence trial referenced here to show clinical effectiveness did no such thing. It was a survey of patient satisfaction at the Bristol Homeopathy clinic without control groups. Such a study is incapable of showing effectiveness. This has been pointed out to homeopaths many times. They keep misleading people with this minor study as if it is solid evidence. The Witt study again suffers from lacking controls and not being randomised. The third paper is meaningless as all agree that sugar pills can be safe. The dangers of homeopathy come from using ineffective treatments against serious diseases – the central point of this Newsnight programme which the Society is refusing to address
By the end of 2009, 142 Randomised Controlled Trials of homeopathy had been published in peer-reviewed journals.4 In terms of statistically significant results, 74 of these trials were able to draw firm conclusions: 63 were positive (patients given a homeopathic medicine improved significantly more than the comparison group given either an inactive placebo or established conventional treatment) and 11 were negative (no significant difference was seen between the action of the homeopathic medicine and the comparison group).
Systematic reviews of the trials of homeopathy consistently show that most trials are of poor quality and therefore are likely to mislead. Furthermore, several analyses have clearly shown that the higher quality the trial of homeopathy the more likely it is to show a negative result – entirely consistent with homeopathy being an inert treatment. Again, this is continuously pointed out to homeopaths – and they ignore it- instead trying to bamboozle with the ‘most are positive’ gambit. This is deeply misleading.
Further, 75 per cent of in vitro experiments have found that substances as dilute as homeopathic medicines have specific effects.5 For example, [h]omeopathically-prepared thyroxine can slow down metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs.6These results were replicated by five separate laboratories in Austria and confirmed by the results of similar experiments carried out by an independent team in Brazil.7 The homeopathic thyroxine used was so highly diluted that you would not expect any molecules to be present.
This is classic cherry picking of anomalous results. Why bring up this study? Clearly one set of anomalous results does not turn over classic chemistry. Much higher standards of evidence would be required.
It is recommended that anyone interested in homeopathic treatment consults a member of the Society (they will have RSHom after their name), who has completed three or four years of training and has agreed to abide by a strict code of ethics and practice.
I would suggest people do the exact opposite of this. If you want to understand what homeopathy can do for you, do not consult a homeopath as it is quite clear that they are incapable of appraising their own capabilities.
- 1. Spence D, Thompson E and Barron S. Homeopathic treatment for chronic disease: A 6-Year, university-hospital outpatient observational study. J Altern Complement Med 2005; 5: 793-8.
- 2. Witt C, Keil T, Selim D, et al. Outcome and costs of homeopathic and conventional treatment strategies: a comparative cohort study in patients with chronic disorders. Complement Ther Med, 2005; 13: 79-86
- 3. Dantas F, Rampes H. Do homeopathic medicines provoke adverse effects? A systematic review. Br Homeopath J 2000; 89: 535–8
- 4.Mathie, R. The Research Evidence Base for Homeopathy. British Homeopathic Association, 2009.www.britishhomeopathic.org/export/sites/bha_site/research/evidencesummarymay09.pdf
5. Witt CM, Bluth M, Albrecht H, et al. The in vitro evidence for an effect of high homeopathic potencies – a systematic review of the literature. Complement Ther Med, 2007; 15: 128–138
6. Endler PC, Heckmann C, Lauppert E, et al. The metamorphosis of amphibians and information of thyroxine. In: Schulte J, Endler PC (eds). Fundamental Research in Ultra High Dilution and Homoeopathy. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998
7. Guedes JR, Ferreira CM, Guimaraes HM et al. Homeopathically prepared dilution of Rana catesbeiana thyroid glands modifies its rate of metamorphosis. Homeopathy, 2004; 93(3):132–7