Homeopathy and the threat of endarkenment

Recently a post of mine describing attacks on homeopathy as “batty and arrogant” that I wrote last year was retweeted. This meant that again homeopathy’s hard-core detractors rushed out with lectures about the scientific method and the need for randomised trials (obvious) but yet again no attempt to actually deal with the issues I raised – that if you are worried about failing to follow the rules of evidence based medicine, homeopathy is not the place to point the finger.

So although I am, as I said, agnostic about homoeopathy, I think it’s worth coming back to the issue because the problems with evidence based medicine as practiced at the moment haven’t gone away, in fact they have become even clearer. For instance, Takeda Pharmaceutical and Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) have just had to pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages for hiding the cancer risks of their Actos diabetes drug. To me that seems far more dangerous and irresponsible than anything done by homeopaths.

The central charge against homeopathy is that there are no randomised trials showing its effective, so it’s worthless. My point is that even if that is true – both sides swap trial results – drug treatments with impressive RCT results, like Actos, can turn out to be deadly. Cause for much greater concern I’d argue. Drugs can also come trailing positive RCT results and be remarkably ineffective. The drug ezetimibe, according to RCTs, is very effective at lowering cholesterol and widely prescribed. However no RCT has ever shown that it cuts your risk of heart disease. There are also serious questionmarks over the benefit of  prescribing cholesterol lowering statins to millions who don’t have heart disease.

Of course this doesn’t prove that homeopathy is any good. But the attacks on homeopathy aren’t just about a lack of evidence. The underlying message is that without RCT support a treatment is not just unproven but fraudulent. And since few non-drug treatments have RCTs all CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) is fraudulent.

Beware of endarkenment

Some of the self-proclaimed sceptics attacking homeopathy then go even further and claim that this lack of evidence means that if CAM is allowed to flourish it could usher in a time of “endarkenment” – a reversal of the scientific principles established in the enlightenment. This lunatic claim is perfectly illustrated by the tag line on a blog by the vigorous homeopath basher “Skepticat”, which reads: “resisting the age of endarkenment”. The threat to the enlightenment from the multiple examples of drug companies worth billions of dollars playing fast and loose with the evidence is apparently as nothing compared to the destructive power of those homeopaths.

The “endarkenment” point, however, turns out to be very enlightening. It explains why those bashing homeopathy and other CAM practices are so rude and aggressive. They are engaged in a crusade. Armies of the light battling against forces of darkness. This, ironically, puts them in an ideological or even religious camp rather than a scientific one. In fact the reason the various forms of CAM don’t have trials backing them has nothing to do with a fear of the light of reason but simply because their treatment don’t involve patentable products.

However the endarkenment myth-making has been very effective in pushing non-drug treatments out to the fringes with, what I and others would argue, disastrous consequences for our health. We are faced with an epidemic of lifestyle disorders – diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s – and while putting more and more very expensive drugs through RCTs to target the symptoms will be very profitable, it will do little to affect the underlying causes.

That is because drugs are very good at doing one thing, such as shrinking a tumour or boosting insulin production, while these lifestyle disorders all involve a range of unhealthy changes in the way the body is functioning, all of which lifestyle treatments can reverse. However measuring the benefits of treatments designed to have a range of effects is not something that RCTs do well. They are good at measuring what drugs do – produce a single effect.

Why RCTs are like a one-legged stool

Seeing this as a problem doesn’t mean that you are rejecting science or in danger of reversing the enlightenment but it does mean rethinking what counts as scientific medicine. This is the argument put forward by a couple of researchers at the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation in New York in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Neurology February 2014.

They start by remarking that relying solely on RCT’s is like: “resting all of health care evidence on a one-legged stool.” The effect, they say, has been to downgrade to relevance other equally valid forms of non-randomised treatments for chronic diseases, such as supplements and changes in diet and lifestyle..

The reason for this, they go on, is that: “RCT’s are usually reserved for profitable new drugs while non-drug treatments are usually tested with cheaper “observational” studies.” (These are studies which look at what happened to people getting a treatment rather than giving one group the real treatment and one a dummy. Something that is difficult to do with diet, for instance.)

At the moment observational studies are considered less reliable than RCTs but the way RCTs are usually done on non-drug treatments, claim the authors, means that they are more likely to produce negative results. That’s because they are: “frequently underfunded, short-term and underpowered” (don’t have enough people in them to detect some of the effects).

So our current system of evidence based medicine that allows both dangerous and ineffective drugs onto the market is used as a stick to beat such CAM treatments as homeopathy. The way it does test CAM treatments is poor and more likely to produce negative results. This still doesn’t prove homeopathy works but it does suggest the system used to evaluate it and other non-drug treatments is in need of a serious overhaul.

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Comments

  1. BS Detector says:

    It’s been fun, but I’m fed up with the conspiracy accusations of both the entire medical profession and anyone who dares criticise homeopathy.

    The question should not even be about whether or not homeopathy is just sugar pills. It clearly is. Not even homeopaths can tell the difference. BBC Horizon proved that.

    The question is: why do sugar pills have a genuine effect? Because they clearly do – but not on everyone, and not for everything. It’s amazing anyway. And where a sugar pill works, I’m all for it.

    But just don’t claim miracles, or new laws of physics, or that millions of medical professionals are heartless monsters, when we know that giving people sugar pills without any homeopathy involved, and even telling them they are sugar pills, can have these amazing effects. That has been proven time and time again, and is the very reason that modern drug trials must have a control group getting a placebo.

    • BBC Horizon were looking for material doses in energy medicine. Energy medicine does not contain a material dose that’s why it’s called ENERGY medicine. You clearly don’t know the first thing about homeopathy so please stop contributing.

      • Janice, you wrote: “BBC Horizon were looking for material doses in energy medicine. Energy medicine does not contain a material dose that’s why it’s called ENERGY medicine.”

        This is new to me (and probably otheres here). For our benefit, please could you describe here what “energy medicine” is and also describe how it works.

        Thanks in advance.

        • Predictable reply Steve. If you don’t know what energy medicine medicine, I am wondering how you are able to wax so lyrically about homeopathy since anyone with any knowledge of homeopathy knows that homeopathy is energy medicine. It is hard to impossible for me to believe that I am engaging in any kind of genuine discussion with you (and probably others here) when you claim to know about homeopathy and yet nothing about energy medicine. Anyone who uses or is genuinely interested in homeopathy knows that it is energy medicine. I’m sure you can see my point.

          • The only point I see, Janice, is that instead of answering my question you have chosen to post an obfuscatory diatribe. Your unwillingness to answer is noted but, in deference to Mr Burne’s request that we do not attribute motives to each other, I shall refrain from doing so in this case.

          • Hey, Janice, you wrote: “anyone with any knowledge of homeopathy knows that homeopathy is energy medicine. …. Anyone who uses or is genuinely interested in homeopathy knows that it is energy medicine. ”

            Now this is interesting. I’ve just dug my old homeopathy course-books (Boericke, Tyler, Farrington, Isley, Gibson) out of the attic and had a shufti through them. You know what? As far as I can see, not one of them mentions “energy medicine”. However, there is always the possibility that I missed something so, if they did refer to “energy medicine”, perhaps you could give me the pages on which these references occurred. I’ve also looked through the notes I’ve made from meetings with my mentor: again, no mention of “energy medicine”. I wonder why that is?

            Now, Janice, you have told me that “ANYONE with any knowledge of homeopathy knows that homeopathy is energy medicine”. It seems to me that there are only two possible options here:
            EITHER: Neither the authors of those books (at least two of which are still recommended for homeopathy courses) nor my mentor had any knowledge of homeopathy.
            OR: You were not telling the truth when you made that statement.

            Which option do you think it is, Janice?

            (Whilst going through my old books, I noticed that one of them was missing: “The Science of Homeopathy” by George Vithoulkas. Noticing its absence led me to recall that he made some reference to “energy medicine”, but I never got far with his book because I found it unreadable: it annoyed me because, whatever it was, it wasn’t science. Unfortunately (for this discussion) I lent it to someone about 30 years ago and never got it back, so I can’t check. However, that is a moot point, given that the other authors are all “anyone”.)

    • Interesting question here is what are the ingredients of the placebo? In fact there is no standardisation which has some surprising implications. People taking part in drug trials naturally want to know if they are getting the real thing. The easiest way to do this is by noticing if you are getting any side-effects. In the case of SSRIs this might include dry mouth and some feeling of nausea. When people believe they are on the drug as a result of side effects, the placebo effect then transfers to the drug making it more effective than it would be otherwise.

      The main researcher in this area is Dr Beatrice Golomb at one of the UC campuses. She reported on a few studies where independent researchers compared an SSRI with a placebo that was designed to mimic some of the side of the drug but not the pharmacological effect. The result was that the difference between drug and placebo – pretty small anyway when you factor in the unpublished trials – almost vanished.

      It’s quite likely as a result of this phenomenon that the SSRIs which showed up as most effective in trials were the ones with the stronger side effects – not the kind of result that RCTs are supposed to produce. Point is that the RCT’s don’t always produce the best drugs and that the placebo/drug distinction is not so clear cut as often presented.

      Another example of the way drugs can actually rely on the placebo effect comes from the work of Professor Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin reported in the New Scientist several years ago. He had two groups of patients who were in hospital getting a delivery of a tranquilising drug on a regular basis via a drip. The difference between them was that one was visited when the drug was due by a doctor who asked how the patient was feeling, said they would soon feel better as the drug was coming, fiddled about with the line and was generally cheerful and friendly. The other group got no visit; the drug was just silently delivered on schedule. While the patients who were visited rated the drugs very positively, those who just got it with no placebo- type input described them as having very little effect.

      It’s findings like these that suggest that there is a strong case for enhancing the placebo effect in clinical practice – something Professor Ted Kaptchuk Harvard Medical School in Boston has been investigating.

      • You dont include the proven conspiracy ‘theories’ like Takeda/Eli Lilly suppressing bladder cancer side effects to increase sales in the things you are fed up with do you? Or are you just fed up with having to defend the position that conspiracies don’t occur. If so I dont blame you, its a tough gig.

      • Jerome, can you assume the participants were aware of what the side effects were? Presumably they would have to be aware for it to have an effect and in my experience most people are clueless about the side effects of what they take.

        • Researchers spoke to the subjects all of whom were keen to know if they were on he drugs. Many of them made a guess and the most common reason given was the they had experienced side effects I suspect in some cases they were rather vague or maybe even not ones normally associated with SSRIs. The point was that when the blinding was broken the rate of correct guesses was fairly high. It is some time since I read the study so I can’t remember if the researchers were able to correlate a correct guess about the drug with improved rate of responding.

    • You dont include the proven conspiracy ‘theories’ like Takeda/Eli Lilly suppressing bladder cancer side effects to increase sales in the things you are fed up with do you? Or are you just fed up with having to defend the position that conspiracies don’t occur. If so I dont blame you, its a tough gig.

      • I didn’t mention it specifically as a conspiracy but I would include that in the catagory of concealing results. I don’t think anyone could claim that concealing results didn’t go on.

  2. Laurie Willberg says:

    No discussion about medical philosophy is complete without reading Dr. PhD Harris Coulter’s essay Empiricism vs. Rationalism in Medicine http://www.whale.to/a/coulter.html
    It clearly outlines the differences in the theoretical approaches of both schools of medicine.
    Militant skeptics really are out of touch with the realities of both systems.

  3. I am still unclear why homeopathy should be a good example to illustrate a critique of RCTs. Homeopathy as a treatment, however individualized it may be, could be accommodated in a classic RCT, with double blinding and a placebo group.
    On the other hand, the shortcomings of classic RCTs become very obvious in the field of psychiatric care, where treatment is a complex of non-drug treatments and/or drugs. Rather than relying on observational studies, “pragmatic RCT designs” are utilized when it comes to answering questions for psychiatric clinical practice. There are problems with pragmatic RCTs as well, they often cant use a placebo group, often can’t be blinded and randomization is not very straightforward. This can lead to problems regarding the internal validity of a pragmatic RCT, but increases external validity, i.e. the applicability to real life practice.
    Pragmatic RCTs are designed to bridge the gap between classic RCTs and observational studies.
    Non-drug CAM treatments (which Homeopathy is not, in my opinion) can be tested with pragmatic RTCs to accomodate for the greater complexity of a non-drug intervention. Of course is more expensive than observational studies, but since CAM is a revenue generating industry, that shouldn’t be the deterrent.

    • Janice says:

      Bit of an old story really-men telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies. My body is mine-not yours. I own my body-you do not. I’ll treat it in any way I choose. If I so choose to treat my body with homeopathy then that is my business-not yours. The fact that you think it is your business belies your patriarchal view and your need to control others-even the most intimate aspects of others i.e. their bodies. The sceptics posting here (all male) need to take a good long look at themselves and their real motivations.

      • That’s a baseless accusation.

        • Janice says:

          Ha ha ha. It is entirely based on fact. People involved in the homeopathic community, both practitioners and users know full well that sceptics actively campaign for the closing of homeopathic hospitals as well as trolling websites in an attempt to discredit homeopathy and campaigning for shops to stop selling alternative remedies and displaying information about them. So yes it’s a fact that your patriarchal and controlling attitudes seek to prevent me from treating myself with homeopathy. My body, my life, my choice – whichever way you try to twist it. Get real with yourself.

      • BS Detector says:

        I actually agree with your statement. Of course it’s your choice what you do with your own body. Do extreme sports, take drugs, ride a bike without a helmet,whatever – I fully support that right.

        What you don’t have the right to do is scam people. You start preaching that extreme sports increase life expectancy, or that riding a bike without a helmet is actually safer, etc. (while selling some useless alternative, of course) and you cross a line.

        I’m female, by the way. I’m also painfully aware that altmed groupies blindly follow gurus who are ALMOST ALWAYS MALE.

        • “altmed groupies” “blindly follow gurus”. I think this take on people who use alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs whether it’s homeopathy, herbal tea, vitamin c or whatever, is a perfect example of your disdain for a very large percentage of the population. Pharmaceutical drugs have killed hundreds of thousands of people with their side effects-so again back to Jerome’s question about why you aren’t campaigning for more safety around these drugs?? Will a sceptic please answer the answer??

          • Janice, you wrote:
            ‘ why you aren’t campaigning for more safety around these drugs?? Will a sceptic please answer the answer??’

            That is disingenuous: two of us have already answered this. Yet again, we do so via the AllTrials campaign, which was established for that purpose. You see, there *is* an organised campaign, by sceptics, to get Big Pharma to clean up its act. (And, despite what you like to have people believe, there is no such organised campaign against the touts for pseudomedicine.)

            • elainelewis says:

              So, you’re activists against big pharma, and your ‘proof’ is your ‘participation’ in AllTrials. Now, if that’s true, meaning that you acknowledge that “big pharma” is misleading the public by manipulating drug trials and hiding unfavorable results, then how can this be the “robust science”, the safe-haven, for sick patients that you claim it is? You can’t have it both ways! You can’t say, “the science is over here” when “over here” consists of fraudulent, manipulated drug studies, by your own admission!

              • You are making the fundamental error of assuming that, because *some* trials have been problematic, that therefore *all* trials have been problematic. That is quite simply not the case. If you *really” believe it is the case (I’m sure you don’t, but I have overestimated you before, so…), please feel free to reject modern(i.e “synthetic”, “Big Pharma”, “unnatural”) anaesthesia or analgesia if you have an operation or a tooth extraction, to reject HDCV jabs if you are ever unfortunate enough to be bitten by a rabid animal … I could go on with a very long list, but I suspect that anyone with sufficient neurones to form a synapse will have got the point by now.

                • elainelewis says:

                  So my fundamental error is my assumption that because some trials have been problematic that therefore all trials have been problematic. OK Steve, here’s a gun, put it to your head, most of the chambers are empty, only “some” have bullets in them. I’m sure you’ll be fine.

                  • The point I was making was that just putting up a trial that looks positive but has been criticised in detail is not a useful way to go unless you can show why the critique was flawed. I certainly would’t suggest that a critique of one trial shows all are flawed. What you need is to have some that haven’t been shown to have serious issues from the begining.

              • Oh and “our side” is the one that is exposing the problems wiht “Big Pharma” and *actively* holding it to task; yours argues that, because there are some serious problems with the way drug trials have been reported, pharmacologically inert sugar pills cure disease.

              • That thought occurred to me too Elainelewis

                • Also if the attack is directed at mainstream big pharma where are all the comments about it? All I can see is a couple of reluctant admissions. With hundreds of thousands dying I thought you might see a bit of outrage

          • BS Detector says:

            Why are you pretending to not be aware of the All Trials campaign, having already asked that question and been told the answer more than once?

            Rhetorical question, of course. We all know why.

    • Laurie Willberg says:

      Keep in mind that RCTs were originally developed to (supposedly) test for drug toxicity after the Thalidomide scandal. There is a great deal of academic debate about how conclusive they may or may not be for revealing efficacy or effectiveness. Researchers like John Ioannidis have been pointing out the foibles of not only RCTs but how errors are compounded when data is selectively excluded or included according to predetermined criteria. Readers should do their own homework, it’s a vast subject.
      RCTs are mandatory for bulk drugs due to toxicity. The notion that RCTs be mandatory for substances that are not toxic is actually laughable.
      I suspect that the vast majority of people know enough to NOT be convinced by anything funded by industry or are convinced that statistics hold the key to their well-being.
      Superficially looking at many existing studies that were never formulated according to homeopathic theory and practise and drawing the conclusion that the wrong remedy (predictably) lead to poor or no results is something that Homeopaths can entirely do without.

      • I believe you are mistaken about the origin of randomized controlled trials, they were not developed after the Thalidomide scandal, but have a much longer history. Testing drug toxicity is not the only purpose for RCTs, you could test Homeopathy as a treatment modality while allowing for individualized remedies, and still randomize, control and double blind – as I am sure has been done time and again.

        • Laurie Willberg says:

          I’m sure I’m not mistaken. Look up the evolution of the RCT as written in medical journals and you’ll see I’m right. And when the treatment is aimed at the whole patient and not the named condition, what are you going to randomize for?
          In any event RCTs have been shown NOT to translate well into live clinical populations, which is why drugs are certainly not the panacea militant skeptics (but not the medical industry itself) try to paint them as.

          • What is considered the first published randomized controlled trial, was conducted in 1948.
            Regardless of the view homeopathy takes, i.e. treating the whole person, people still visit homepaths with specific complaints. You take a class of complaints (let’s say seasonal allergies) You let everyone (except a control group) receive the whole homeopathic treatment procedure, the patients in the treatment group receive their individually prescribed homeopathic remedy, and the placebo group will receive just plain globuli. You measure the outcome for differences between the groups.

  4. BS Detector says:

    Plot idea: evil pharmaceutical company wants to destroy reputation of homeopathy, employs top mercenary paid shill to campaign against it as a fake online grassroots campaign.

    Plot foiled by plucky homeopaths who notice the expert shill accidentally only ever uses his real name to comment, so must be faking it!

    • elainelewis says:

      Plot idea: Pharmaceutical companies know their drugs are toxic and don’t really cure any chronic disease, feel threatened by ever-increasing interest in natural cures as exemplified by the spreading of establishments like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, must come up with ways to thwart this trend on multiple tiers: 1) increase their advertising to consumers (USA TV is replete with drug ads), 2) Buy influence with doctors by paying them directly (CNN report), 3) Write fake articles in medical journals by paying doctors to front for them, 4) control the curriculum of medical schools through funding and 5) fund a bunch of “grassroots” organizations of angry “science-supporters” who post day and night fake reviews on alternative medicine products and block access to natural products and practitioners in any capacity they can manage. Sounds like a real winner!

  5. Jerome your comment regarding the drug ezetimibe “according to RCTs, is very effective at lowering cholesterol and widely prescribed. However no RCT has ever shown that it cuts your risk of heart disease. There are also serious questionmarks over the benefit of prescribing cholesterol lowering statins to millions who don’t have heart disease.” This could take on an even more insidious turn. I heard a researcher on radio national saying that cholesterol (HDL at least) limits the transport of cancer cells to different parts of the body and cholesterol drugs may actually encourage the spread of cancer. Just wondering if you have anything on this?

    • This is a complicated and controversial area that has been debated for a long time. Confusingly both high and low cholesterol have been associated with cancer.
      Some studies have linked cancer with low levels but experts disagree about whether statins might increase cancer risk. Ezetimibe – which acts in a different way to statins – has been linked to cancer but not all expets agree it is causal. There’s a recent paper linking high cholesterol with a raised risk of breast cancer and a suggestion that statins might reduce it; prostate cancer has also been linked with high cholesterol and claims that statins can cut the risk are disputed.
      Here a link to a recent look at the low cholesterol cancer connection:
      http://www.cardiosource.org/News-Media/Media-Center/News-Releases/2012/03/LDL_Cancer.aspx
      It starts:

      “LOW LDL CHOLESTEROL IS RELATED TO CANCER RISK
      CONTACT: Beth Casteel, bcasteel@acc.org 240-328-4549

      March 25, 2012
      CHICAGO (March 25, 2012) — Low LDL cholesterol in patients with no history of taking cholesterol-lowering drugs predates cancer risk by decades, suggesting there may be some underlying mechanism affecting both cancer and low LDL cholesterol that requires further examination, according to research presented today at the American College of Cardiology’s 61st Annual Scientific Session. The Scientific Session, the premier cardiovascular medical meeting, brings cardiovascular professionals together to further advances in the field.

      While scientific evidence supports the benefits of lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) to help prevent heart disease, previous studies of cholesterol-lowering drugs have suggested a strong association between low levels of LDL-C and cancer risk. This is the first study to examine the relationship of low LDL-C and cancer risk over an extended period of time only in patients with no history of taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.”

      Good luck with this!

  6. Janice says:

    Thanks Jerome for bringing ‘the conversation’ into a new arena. The conversation does indeed go round and round. But what you have done is to ask the pertinent question as to why are the hard core sceptics so obsessed with bashing homeopath?. They will respond with the usual of bashing homeopathy even more. But crucially what they won’t do is address the actual question. How do grown men of working age get to afford the luxury of bashing homeopathy EVERYDAY online, at conferences, at social sceptic meetings and I mean all day and every day. And for years and years. For your information Jerome, Chapman is one of a few who have blogs, twitter, websites etc specifically to bash homeopathy and have been doing this since sometime in the 1990′s. What is truly unbelievable is that these people assert that they don’t get paid but rather do it for the safety of the ignorant and gullible populace. Come on pull the other. Get a proper job, Guy Chapman (aka Josephine Jones), Alan Henness (aka Zeno), Andy Lewis (aka le canardnoir). Just a few names of the organised sceptics who you will find online all day and most of the night 7 days a week-getting paid to bash homeopathy. Either that or they’re aristocracy and can afford not to have a proper job.
    It’s a sordid can of worms Jermome. As a rule I mostly ignore them these days, there are far more important things in life-like keeping well. But for you Jerome, in your job, it would make for an interesting investigation-if you have the stomach for the dark side.

    • Your question is odd. Every skeptic I have ever met, hard-core or not, understands why homeopathy is nonsensical. Only a small subset bother challenging it. Skeptics may specialise in cryptozoology, paranormal claims, debunking psychics, UFOlogy, crop circles, adiophools, all sortys of things. Ben Goldacre, a prominent skeptic, spends most of his time these days pressing for transparency in clinical trials. Simon Singh mainly writes about physics and maths. Edzard Ernst is most often these days found poking the soft underbelly of chiropractic and acupuncture, admittedly on the basis that little additional effort is needed in exposing homeopathy.

      My blog unquestionably does not exist specifically to bash homeopathy. For example, last year I reported a “live blood analysis” quack to Trading Standards, along with other skeptics, and he was recently fined £9,000 plus £10,000 costs (after first trying a “freeman on the land” defence). Another recent focus has been Houston cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski. I’m also interested in free energy quackery, though mainly elsewhere other than my blog.

      The simple truth is that homeopathy is the skeptics’ whipping boy because it takes very little knowledge of actual; science to realise it’s wrong. GCSE general science is sufficient to recognise that the core doctrines of homeopathy are simply wrong, and that makes it a useful teaching tool.

    • An example of what Guy Chapman spends his time doing. This blog post http://www.chapmancentral.co.uk/blahg/tag/sandra-hermann-courtney/ on Chapman central is about me. I am not a homeopath, I do not sell homeopathic remedies. I am a private citizen who was helped with homeopathy and for that reason of course I support it. Nothing should be wrong with that, but Chapman thinks he needs to ridicule me. Thank you, again, Jerome for writing this piece so that many of us can air our concerns about the skeptics.

      • Perhaps you should take a good look at your own blog and twitter account before complaining about being ridiculed.

      • Janice says:

        Chapman’s response is a perfect example of how organised sceptics always miss the crucial points. Instead of answering the ‘crucial’ question I pose-of how sceptics, particularly the online variety such as Chapman, manage to follow and comments on every post on the internet about homeopathy? I’ll answer for him- full-time sceptics are affiliated to a number of high profile organisations that tend to be one of two things-either pushing the pharmaceutical route as an only option for healthcare or groups that are almost religious in their stance that science knows and has the potential answers to all the diseases of the human body. Clearly science doesn’t have all the answers otherwise we wouldn’t have the proliferations of diseases we see today like cancer, heart diseases, mental illnesses, autoimmune diseases and so on. In fact, there is plenty of on-going discussion regarding pharmaceutical drugs actually exacerbating many conditions. All Chapman says about homeopathy is that it doesn’t fit with the current scientific approach. And he is right-it doesn’t. Homeopathy isn’t about introducing toxic pharmaceutical drugs into the body-this can never be a cure for anything although such drugs can give relief in the short term. Homeopathy takes a different approach. And for millions of people-including myself-it works, it brings about permanent cure. Chapman will nevertheless continue in the same vain that he always has- that it doesn’t fit with the current ‘scientific’ approach to health and therefore it cannot work. That is only half true-it doesn’t fit with the western scientific approach of science-which views the body as a group of movable parts-that can only be helped by pharmaceutical drugs. Homeopathy instead takes its approach from the eastern traditions- where all things are considered-lifestyle, mental and spiritual health, likes and dislikes, life traumas and bereavements and so on. We all know that stress can play be a killer so it obvious to a homeopath to address the causes behind illness and disease in order to treat a person. If Mr Chapman chooses the toxic route for his healthcare it’s entirely his choice and none of my business. So why does a man who should be out doing something useful, give up having a job to campaign full time against homeopathy? Answer-he gets paid well. Any sane person can see that the way a person’s chooses to address their own health is a personal issue. Mr Chapman however is not driven by sanity but by money and maybe too by some misguided belief that in some way he has some kudos by being part of the sceptic community. The reality is the sceptic ‘community’, as it exists, is a bunch of rather sad ageing men who have little else to do all day apart from giggle between themselves on twitter about alternative health practices without actually having had any real experience of it themselves. Pointless springs to mind. I suppose the point for them is that they are getting some income due to their affiliations with the aforementioned high profile organisations.

      • ChristyRedd says:

        It’s no secret that “skeptics” like to take pot shots at homeopathic patients who have the gall to talk about their satisfaction with it in public. I don’t have a blog and don’t use Twitter or Facebook, but I’ve been a target of “skeptic” ridicule simply because I posted positive comments about homeopathy on articles like this one.

        However, blogs are not all Guy Chapman spends his time on……not by a long shot. He posted 129 negative reviews of homeopathic books and products on Amazon. It’s pretty obvious from his attitude right here in these comments that Chapman does not believe he needs to learn anything about homeopathy so wouldn’t have any reason to purchase books and equally obvious that he wouldn’t use a homeopathic medicine under any circumstances. Real customers weren’t fooled for a moment as you can see from just four of the comments posted back to him:

        J.D.W. says: “How much they pay you Guy?”

        K.C. says: “The burning question for me is ‘Who is Guy Chapman’. Every time I read an article about homeopathy that has comments — there he is.

        “Is this all you do all day, Guy, scour the internet for homeopathy debates to pour your informed scorn all over? I say ‘informed’ because you seem to have gone to great lengths to educate yourself about the mechanisms, history and philosophy of homeopathy. How anyone can dedicate so much time and energy to something that they don’t believe in — so that they can ridicule it — amazes me!

        “Look, I’m an atheist, my opinion of religion is that — for the most part — it is dangerous superstitious nonsense and has been responsible for more death, misery and division than any other human foible. But I wouldn’t waste my valuable time studying scripture and theology so that I could spend my days scouring the internet for articles to deride.

        “However, if someone offered to pay me to do it…..

        “Your omnipresence betrays you, Guy. You’re a shill.”

        You do have to wonder how an engineer manages to make a living and pay the bills when he spends all of his waking moments bashing something far outside his field of expertise.

        Joan says: “Since you don’t believe in homeopathy, I assume your negative review is because homeopathy DOES work and you don’t want others to know it so that we continue buying allopathic remedies which I assume in your opinion do work.”

        O. C. says: “It really does make you look like you have ulterior motives when you search for homeopathy books on Amazon just to give them a bad review without having read them. Your reason for doing so — that you are passionately interested in homeopathy — is inadequate. Even if the reason you give for your actions is true, it really just makes you look OCD. Give it a rest and find a new hobby.”

        • elainelewis says:

          Christy, if this is true, that he’s written 129 negative reviews of homeopathic books on Amazon? Then that should disqualify him from even commenting here, because he’s a troll pure and simple, and most websites are very clear on their stance about trolls, they are not welcome! This is worth repeating: “O. C. says: ‘It really does make you look like you have ulterior motives when you search for homeopathy books on Amazon just to give them a bad review without having read them.'” As far as I’m concerned, that’s it, he’s done, this is the nail in his coffin!

          • ChristyRedd says:

            elainelewis…..Absolutely it’s true. Here’s the link to prove it. This is part of the review Guy Chapman posted to Hyland’s Kids Kit: “Homeopathy is thoroughly discredited (see Trick or Treatment). There is no reason to suppose this product should work…..etc., etc., (we all know the rest)…..It is particularly concerning to see it sold for use on children.” Followed by more of the usual. It appears on the fourth page of comments posted to the Hyland’s Kids Kit page and is under the name “Guy Chapman (Just zis Guy, you know?) – U.K.” To see the rest of his reviews and responses to them click on “see all my reviews” right after his name.

            http://www.amazon.com/Hylands-Kids-Kit-Homeopathic-Medicine/product-reviews/B00008CMQ2/ref=cm_cr_pr_btm_link_next_4?ie=UTF8&pageNumber=4&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=byRankDescending

            Our Guy Chapman has been a very busy little bee!

            • elainelewis says:

              Christy, I assume this is Guy Chapman’s review since he never claimed it wasn’t. I didn’t look at it until now, then I noticed there was a link to all his reviews! OMG! Here are some of them, there’s nothing I can say, there’s nothing anyone can say! If this doesn’t tell you who these people are, nothing will:

              Copied from Amazon.com
              http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A3D5GYLBN18QOI/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

              Reviews Written by
              FlareHolyMeteo

              [Hyland’s Kids Kit] As hesitant as I am about trusting the pharmaceutical companies, I explored this option for treating my child’s colds and gave it a try. However, after doing some research, I found out how these remedies are constructed. They are based on an ill-conceived notion that “like cures like.” … However, to make the remedy more powerful, you have to dilute it to the point in which the original substance does not exist, just the water or sugar it was dissolved in. The entire concept makes no sense. The Wikipedia article explains why this product does not work:

              [Homeopathic combination remedy for ADD] My brat of a son, God bless him, he has ADD. I was not wanting to use drugs with devastating side effects to get him to pay attention in class and not make me want to beat him when he gets home. I gave him this and then he proceeded to rob a liquor store and get himself in jail.

              [Boiron’s first aid kit] Homeopathic remedies like these are quackery. They are based on the assumption that if you dilute the substance that makes you ill to the point where it cannot be present, the cure becomes stronger. This makes no physical sense. Save your money.

              [Arnica Cream] After I got ran over by a car, I decided in order to save some money and to not submit myself to the greedy pharmaceutical companies, I decided to give this homeopathic remedy a try. However, I still felt like I was in a bunch of pain, especially where my ribs broke after two tons of machinery plowed into them.

              [Homeopathic Psychology by P. Bailey] I bought this book and followed the remedies as constructed in this book. However, I am still autistic. I guess it must be the mercury in my blood. It turns out that the active ingredient in the treatment he gives, mercury, is diluted to the point in which it no longer can exist. Time for me to get chelation therapy…except that has also been disproven.

              [Yeastaway] I tried this stuff, and my yeast infection persisted. I also started to get a rash as well. I’ve had some friends that used it too, but it didn’t do anything for them either.

              [Ring of some sort] I put this ring on. Then my cute boyfriend appeared naked in front of me. My penis grew three inches, it must have been the ring!

              COMMENT section:
              plsrph says:
              So, you have a penis and a vagina! (since you have also reviewed the vaginal suppositories for yeast infection)…..no wonder you are so confused.

              plsrph says:
              So I have read your other reviews. Seems that writing bad, or in your small mind, funny reviews, for products you have never tried is some sort of deviant sport. Thanks for being the poster child of idiocy.

              FlareHolyMeteo says:
              I go where the evidence leads me. Basic science says that water and sugar pills are not medicine, and if you’ve ever seen James Randi’s TED talk on homeopathy, he literally swallows 6 days of homeopathic sleeping pills and nothing happens to him.

              If you ignore that clear evidence that homeopathy is a fraud, then who is the poster child of idiocy?

              plsrph says:
              I am a licensed pharmacist so I know what is medicine and what is not. Part of what I do for a living is read and evaluate evidence based literature and science. What I do not do is to intentionally mislead people [who] are legitimately seeking out the experiences of others by falsely portraying myself as having purchased and used a product…any product. Nor do I make any decisions based on the rants of a fanatical, obviously frustrated, bitter old man that I see on U-tube. If you do not believe there is benefit in homeopathy then by all means do not practice it, but do not try to convince others by using LIES AND MISREPRESENTATIONS. You only undermine your own arguments by resorting to such tactics. Just carry on eating trans fats, genetically modified “food” and aspartame and let the FDA guard your health. Seriously, do you not have anything better to do with your time than dig through Amazon and look for products you can bash, or is your immature humor your means of entertaining yourself?

              • ChristyRedd says:

                elainelewis: plsrph, a licensed pharmacist (!), says it so well………thanks !!! Anyone who reads the pharmacy trade journals knows that they are focusing on homeopathy and recommending that pharmacists who don’t understand homeopathic medicines learn about them so that they can help their customers who have questions.

              • Why would I deny that review is me, since nobody rational has ever suggested it was and the fact it is not is blindingly obvious to anyone with half a brain?

                • ChristyRedd says:

                  So, Guy, you’re back to deny that you wrote that particular review. Interestingly, you haven’t said a word about the other 129 reviews you did write on homeopathic books and products being sold on Amazon. They’re the ones I commented on here several days ago. You wrote this review on Hyland’s Kids’ Kit, and you signed it “Guy Chapman “Just zis Guy, you know?” (UK)” It reads, in part: “Homeopathy is thoroughly discredited……blah, blah, blah…..It is particularly concerning to see it sold for use on children. There is no reason to suppose this product should work…….(no need to quote your complete statement since we all know the rest of it). There are documented cases where children have suffered long term harm and some parents have even been jailed for causing the deaths of children through relying on homeopathy instead of medicine. (And you think people will believe YOU purchased the product and gave it to YOUR children?) It works the same as a fake treatment for the simple and obvious reason that it is a fake treatment.”

                  Along with yours, there were also very positive comments from real customers like this one: “Kathleen W. — This is a life saver!!! I don’t know where I’d be without the Hyland’s Kids’ Kit.”

                  https://www.amazon.com/Hylands-Kids-Kit-Homeopathic-Medicine/product-reviews/B00008CMQ2/ref=cm_cr_btm_link_next_4?ie=UTF8&pageNumber=4&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=byRankDescending

                  Provide proof that homeopathic medicines have caused long term harm in children whether used with or in place of conventional medicine. Explain why you wrote reviews of products you obviously never purchased or used and why readers should take your comments seriously.

                  • There is no reason why I would deny writing the review, because nobody has made a remotely credible accusation that I did. As you note, I have no problem signing my name to reviews of fraudulent products, and routinely write such reviews when the products are spammed (I do not go looking for them, these are only products that have been promoted on social media by spammers).

                    There is no requirement to prove that homeopathic products cause harm. They are inert (http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/11/08/rheumatology.keq234.full, written by a team including homeopaths and believers), therefore selling them is fraud. The only reason it is legal to sell these fake medicinal products is that they already existed when the regulations were written, so were “grandfathered” in. Many medicines also were, but a lot have since been dropped as new evidence comes to light or better treatments are worked out. Homeopathy has no mechanism for that, because there is no objective difference between remedies at normal potencies and no objective evidence they are anything other than inert. The question “does remedy A work better than remedy B for condition C” yields a negative answer for all values of A and B, and pruning it back to “does remedy A work” also yields a negative answer if your test is properly designed to eliminate biases and chance.

                    • ChristyRedd says:

                      So, Guy, you do admit that you wrote those reviews — obviously without ever having purchased or used the products or books. After claiming that homeopathy causes long term damage in children, you can’t provide proof of your claim. No more need be said. Thank you.

                    • No, I do not. This is not the first time you have misunderstood such statements. As I said, I had no reason to deny it previously, and nobody has ever made a remotely credible claim that I did.

                • elainelewis says:

                  It certainly isn’t “obvious”, but, you are right, Mr. Chapman, it’s not your review. When you said it wasn’t, I double-checked and sure enough, it’s another skeptic’s review, not yours. I’m sorry. I was careful to find your reviews this time. One of them pertained to a homeopathy emergency kit. You posted that you had “dropped” your emergency kit, and all the pellets fell out! Because you couldn’t tell which pellets came from which tubes, you were worried that your sunstroke pellets might have been accidently put back into the hypothermia tube, which could potentially spell disaster! Really, Guy, this kind of posting is disingenuous and it’s why I called you a troll. Jerome, by all rights, should have an anti-troll policy here. In answer to an Amazon commenter who said, “Why does homeopathy work on children and animals if it’s just placebo, you wrote:
                  Jan 18, 2013 9:38:19 AM PST
                  Guy Chapman says:
                  It doesn’t, but we fool ourselves into believing it does – both animals and children are soothed by the attention.

                  Dear God! Honestly, guy, is that the best you can do? That’s your answer to the all-important question, “Why does homeopathy work on animals and children if it’s just placebo?” This is a crucial question because it destroys your all-important placebo argument! There can be no placebo effect if the patient doesn’t know he’s getting a remedy! Your assumption that it’s the “attention” and “soothing” that’s doing all the work is problematic because the attention is ONGOING! It doesn’t start with the giving of the remedy, it starts the minute the child says he’s sick! The offer of care and concern begins right away! But it doesn’t cure–or no remedy would be needed!

                  Very often these kids are so young, they don’t even know that the glass of water they’re getting contains a remedy. And the other problem is, the first remedy given doesn’t often work! If it’s placebo, there should never be a second or third remedy needed. But the soothing and attention is there from the start, that’s how mothers are! If attention and care “worked”, no child or pet would ever get sick, because they are DOTED on, especially pets!

                  Furthermore, animals tend to go off and hide when they’re sick, hide under the bed, in the closet…they don’t want to be touched, approached…”attention” is the last thing they want! Now perhaps you can explain again, why does homeopathy work on pets and babies, why are there homeopathic vets, why does the queen of England have a homeopathic veterinarian if homeopathy is just placebo?

                  • ChristyRedd says:

                    Well said, elainelewis — especially the point about animals hiding under the bed and not wanting to be touched or bothered. No response from Guy yet, is there?

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Christy, this is their “Building 7” moment. Building 7 of the World Trade Center “collapsed” on 9/11 even though it wasn’t hit by a plane! No one wants to address this inconvenient truth! Similarly, the skeptics’ convenient answer for the “what about children and pets” quesiton has consistently been, “Homeopathy “works” because of placebo. It works with pets because they respond to the care and attention of their owners,” but sick pets don’t WANT care and attention! They want to be left alone, they go and hide, and touching them makes them worse, they will even snap at you or growl or hiss, I’ve been a pet owner myself and I’ve seen this behavior! Now deal with that, skeptics, don’t sweep it under the rug like the people who cover their ears when you mention Building 7, deal with it because this is your undoing, your Achilles Heel, if you can’t!

                  • Amazon has a long tradition of satirical reviews.
                    The Queen has a homeopath and a homeopathic vet because the Queen is no more immune to being duped than anybody else. It is not a coincidence that the target of the vendor of “invisible clothes” was the Emperor: the fallacy of appeal to authority is common, and citing the Queen’s silly beliefs as if they validated the nonsense of homeopathy is pretty common.

          • So, Ms Lewis, if Guy Chapman’s “negative reviews of homeopathic books on Amazon …should disqualify him from even commenting here”, does the samed apply to Christine Jahnig (posting in this thread as “ChristyRedd”, and on Amazon as “C. Jahnig”), who has written negative reviews of scientific/rationalist books (e.g. Science-Based Medicine: Guide to Homeopathy) and also posts a lot of unverifiable anecdotes in response to evidence that is negative for homeopathy?

            • ChristyRedd says:

              Steve, (would that be Steve Tonkin?, I do think it is),

              Please do post a link to the negative reviews you claim I posted on these books. “Skeptics” really don’t like those “anecdotes”, do you? I can understand why you wouldn’t. What you call “anecdotes” are a powerful testimony in any field. In fact, it’s by personal testimonial, the telling of these “anecdotes”, that homeopathy has become the second most used system of medicine in the world today. I use it, like it and tell my friends, family and neighbors. They use it and like it and tell their friends, family and neighbors. You can’t prevent people from talking about their experiences. Neither can you stop the growth of homeopathy.

              Here’s a wonderful example of the telling of our human experiences — it’s a scintillating rap video by Hollywood’s own John Board:

              People don’t buy a product over and over again if it doesn’t work for them. I’m sure you’ve noticed that people are turning in droves to CAM modalities for that very reason — conventional drugs don’t work for them except to cause more disease or death.

              • “Please do post a link to the negative reviews you claim I posted on these books.”
                http://www.amazon.com/Science-Based-Medicine-Homeopathy-Steven-Novella-ebook/product-reviews/B00C1RATAG/ref=cm_cr_dp_qt_hist_one?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addOneStar&showViewpoints=0

                ” “Skeptics” really don’t like those “anecdotes”, do you? I can understand why you wouldn’t. ”
                I know you understand why, because I’ve already told yu several times: they are not verifiable, and are therefore useless as evidence.

                • ChristyRedd says:

                  Anonymous “Steve”: Three points:

                  1) You haven’t posted a link to any comment at all made by me ChristyRedd.

                  2) Yesterday I posted the above comments made to Guy Chapman in response to his fake reviews of homeopathic products and books on Amazon, products he never purchased and never used. With his attitude toward homeopathy would anyone really believe he would buy Hyland’s Kids Kit? Chapman hasn’t shown up to defend himself, but someone else did……..YOU, Steve Tonkin. You’re known to be involved in skeptical organizations and post on Chapman’s Blahg so you two have a connection. Why don’t you let Chapman speak for himself?

                  3) For someone who is consumed with curiosity about who other people might be, you certainly don’t want anyone to know who you are, do you? What’s preventing you from posting your full name? If you think that posting under a screen name is proof of some sort of wrongdoing, why are you posting under a given name used by so many millions of people that you may as well be posting under “Anonymous”? Maybe a refresher course in critical thinking should come before posting comments?

                  • Ms Jahnig, you wrote:
                    “Anonymous “Steve”:”

                    So neither of us is posting here with our full names. So what?

                    “1) You haven’t posted a link to any comment at all made by me ChristyRedd.”
                    No, I posted to a comment that you made using another of your screen names. (NB: I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with using different screen names in different places.)

                    “Chapman hasn’t shown up to defend himself, but someone else did”
                    Guy Chapman does not need me to speak for him. I was not defending him at all; I was merely pointing out your hypocrisy.

                    “Why don’t you let Chapman speak for himself?”
                    Exactly how do you think I have *not* let Guy Chapman speak for himself?

                    “3) For someone who is consumed with curiosity about who other people might be,”
                    Actually I don’t give a damn who other people might be. However, I am concerned with the truthfulness of what they write here. (i.e. my concern is with the message, not the messenger)

                    ” you certainly don’t want anyone to know who you are, do you?”
                    Dear Christine (that’s a clue, by the way 🙂 ), I really don’t care who knows who I am. You think you’ve worked it out, so well done, you!

                    “What’s preventing you from posting your full name?”
                    %”£$&^%*^($*&%£

                    Drat! There goes another irony meter!

                    • ChristyRedd says:

                      Steve Tonkin:

                      MY concern is with the truthfulness of what you (and your “skeptic” colleagues) post on the internet about homeopathy — not about whether or not you use your real name or use or don’t use Twitter or Facebook. Each one of you spends a tremendous amount of time spreading lies and misinformation about homeopathy via comments to articles and blogs. Whether you genuinely believe your own misinformation or are paid to post it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you are attempting to influence the public away from a system of medicine that could be curative for so many people, could ameliorate their suffering and dysfunction in very significant ways, could improve their quality of life and could lower their medical costs. Studies show that homeopathy does that for 70% to 80% of the people who use it. If you used homeopathy and fell into the group of people who found it didn’t work, I’m sorry about that. No system of medicine works for everyone in every condition. However, your experience does not excuse your attempts to influence people who could be helped.

                      I post here — and on other articles — because homeopathy has done such great things for me that I want the public to know the truth about it. I am angered when I see people like you attempting to influence others away from something that could be so positively life-changing for them. And not just for them, but for their animals and gardens as well, even the very planet itself. Other readers here who are interested in how homeopathy can be used to reduce the effects of toxic chemicals on our environment will find information by googling “agro-homeopathy”.

                      Readers who are interested in seeing hundreds of documented case records of cures of conditions from cancer to psychogenic diabetes mellitus to coma to gangrene with homeopathy alone (non-toxic, no side effects, no destruction of the person’s immune system) can find them by googling “homeopathy cured cases”.

                      For readers wanting to see studies (many have already been posted in these comments):

                      Large studies proving the safety of homeopathic medicines:

                      http://homeopathyresource.wordpress.com/2009/01/05/extensive-study-concludes-homeopathic-remedies-and-treatment-are-safe/

                      Research:

                      http://hpathy.com/scientific-research/research-in-homoeopathy
                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16883077
                      http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/systematic_reviews/index.html
                      http://www.extraordinarymedicine.org/extraordinary-evidence-homeopathy-s-best-research/
                      http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/randomised-controlled-trials-in-homeopathy/

                      Homeopathy in life-threatening conditions:

                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16425109

                      Some of the studies showing homeopathy is superior to conventional medicine:

                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19358959
                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14960096

                      Economic studies:

                      http://avilian.co.uk/2011/07/patients-whose-gp-knows-complementary-medicine-tend-to-have-lower- costs-and-live-longer/
                      Dept. of Economics, Tilburg University, Erik Baars, May 31, 2010

                      Swiss economic analysis shows homeopathy is 15.4% less expensive than conventional medicine:
                      http://bit.ly/GVCRnF
                      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/swiss-homeopathy_b_1340506.html

                    • Ms Jahnig, yo wrote:

                      “Each one of you spends a tremendous amount of time spreading lies and misinformation about homeopathy via comments to articles and blogs.”

                      If you have evidence that I have lied, anywhere, about homeopathy, please post it here. If not, please withdraw it. (Curiously, the only person I know who has been shown to be telling porkies in this thread is, wait for it … wait for it … YOU!)

                      As regards the gish-gallop of links you posted, I guess you were hoping nobody would bother to follow them up. Once we eliminate the homeopathy trade sites (which clearly have an “interest” in touting thier own propaganda) we are left with:

                      #1. A Huffington Post article by the subject of this article:
                      http://americanloons.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/393-dana-ullman.html

                      #2. Something you claimed as a “Swiss economic analysis shows homeopathy is 15.4% less expensive than conventional medicine”, which was in fact a report prepared *for* (not *by*) the Swiss government. It was prepared by individuals, all of whom are either paid by or affiliated to organisations that promote “complementary” medicine, i.e. more people with an axe to grind. Even so, their conclusion was not quite what you would have us believe. It stated: ” Reliable statements of cost-effectiveness are not available at the moment.” This report is discussed in detail at http://www.zenosblog.com/2012/05/that-neutral-swiss-homeopathy-report/

                      #3. Four PubMed links. One was a link to the PubMed abstaract rrom the article you cited in my #2 above, one was the outcome of a patient satisfaction survey, one was an assessment of the assess the feasibility of a RCT (i.e. it was not itself an RCT), and one was a description of the experience of four homeopathists in ER.

                      In other words, not one of the nominally independent links you cited contained any robust evidence that homeopathy is more effective than placebo.

                    • ChristyRedd says:

                      This should be a working link to the economic study done by Erik Baars, Tilburg University:

                      http://avilian.co.uk/2011/07/patients-whose-gp-knows-complementary-medicine-tend-to-have-lower-costs-and-live-longer/

                    • Christyredd: Your logical fallacy is: Begging the question. As soon as you remove the assumption that homeopathy is valid (which is how you should approach every subject: never *assume* it’s correct), what you find is that skeptics engage in several different types of debate.

                      We often blog about the fallacious thinking that leads to the false belief that homeopathy works, we also discuss the evidence homeopaths present which they claim support it (and usually does not), we discuss other subjects including both medicine and quackery (for example, skeptic activism has resulted in two live blood practitioners being convicted and fined under the Cancer Act in recent weeks), and we engage in a lot of ribaldry, mocking the poor schmucks who shill for Big Sugar on Twitter.

                      What do you do online, other than attacking the reality-based community?

                    • Request: can you dial down the insults – “mocking poor schmucks….shill for big sugar” doesn’t add to your agument, although ironically to many Big Sugar is not metaphorical but a major health hazard. Not sure any homeopaths go to bat for doughnuts.

                  • BS Detector says:

                    Article on tiny, local Wiltshire news site here where I live in UK, about some homeopath scamming a poor cancer sufferer, guess who the second person to comment is – all the way from the USA?

                    Why, it’s Christy Redd! Almost as if she does nothing else!

                    Your goose is well overcooked, Miss Dishonesty.

                    • ChristyRedd says:

                      BS Detector: If you had read my comment above you would have seen that I stated that “I post here and on other articles” and that I went on to explain why I do that.

                      What YOU DON’T DO is provide complete and accurate information in your comments so I’m going to do it for you. The Wiltshire paper did a story on drummer Gerry Hunt who has lymphoma. It reads in part:
                      “Three weeks ago, despite an aggressive course of chemotherapy and stem cell transplant, the drumming teacher was told by doctors they had exhausted all options and he was given 2 – 4 months to live.
                      “Thanks to the generosity of Swindon residents the campaign has so far raised close to 3,000 pounds, 2,000 of which have already been used to pay for 6 months of homeopathic treatment to boost Gerry’s immune system.
                      “Last month the thought of Gerry who was UNABLE TO EAT AND HAD DIFFICULTY MOVING, performing in front of a 200-strong audience would have been unimaginable.
                      “To see him playing was just amazing.”, said his daughter-in-law Lindsay, 34.”

                      It’s pitiful to see a fellow human being so consumed and so warped by hatred for something you don’t have the capacity to understand that you would rather see Gerry Hunt dead than have a chance to spend more time with his family and friends and do it with pleasure and better functioning simply because that pleasure, time and functioning came through homeopathy. Obviously, the people of Swindon don’t think the way you do. They support Gerry and homeopathy.
                      As I said in my comment, I congratulate them all.

                    • ChristyRedd says:

                      In keeping with Jerome Burnes’s views on respect for the opponent, I am editing the last paragraph of my comment regarding Gerry Hunt to read: “Obviously, the people of Swindon don’t think the way you do. They support Gerry and the opportunity homeopathy gives him to spend more time with his family and friends and to do it with pleasure and better functioning. As I said in my comment, I congratulate them all.”

                    • Thanks! I’m confident others will follow

                    • ChristyRedd says:

                      You’re welcome, Jerome.

                      Here’s my edited comment:

                      B.S. Detector: If you had read my comment above you would have seen that I stated that “I post here and on other articles.” and that I went on to explain why I do that. I’m also going to take the liberty of letting other readers here know more about what was said in the article about Gerry Hunt. It reads, in part:

                      “Three weeks ago, despite an aggressive course of chemotherapy and stem cell transplant, the drumming teacher was told by doctors they had exhausted all options and he was given 2 – 4 months to live.
                      “Thanks to the generosity of Swindon residents the campaign has so far raised close to 3,000 pounds, 2,000 of which have already been used to pay for 6 months of homeopathic treatment to boost Gerry’s immune system.
                      “Last month the thought of Gerry, who was unable to eat and had difficulty moving, performing in front of a 200-strong audience would have been unimaginable.
                      “To see him playing was just amazing.”, said his daughter-in-law Lindsay, 34.”

                      Obviously, B.S. Detector, the people of Swindon don’t think the way you do. They support Gerry and the opportunity homeopathy gives him to spend more time with his family and friends and to do it with pleasure and better functioning. As I said in my comment to the article, I congratulate them all.

                  • Ms Jahnig, you wrote: “What’s preventing you from posting your full name? ”

                    Just curious, dear Christine: How did “Paul” and “Janice” answer when you asked them the same question? (Sauce, goose, gander, etc.)

              • Yes, people buy ineffective products over and over again, it happens all the time. The vast majority of multivitamins sold and consumed are completely worthless, they are metabolised and excreted with no effect. All homeopathic products sole din the UK are worthless. People buy magnets to put in their shoes, whose magnetic field doesn’t even penetrate their socks. In fact, fraudulent claims are rampant in SCAM, that’s why the skeptic movement addresses them. It’s the intersection of consumer protection and science advocacy.

            • elainelewis says:

              Steve, link please, to what you’re referring to!

              • I have already posted the link in response to the Jahnig/Redd request to do so.

            • elainelewis says:

              Steve, what reviews are you referring to, please post a link so I can read them.

              • For the second time: I have already posted the link. (See reply to Jahnig/Redd)

                • elainelewis says:

                  Well, obviously, I can’t find it! I’d like to know what she’s done that’s so horrible!
                  And please don’t say again that she lied about being on twitter….what was the lie, exactly? Christy, please clear this up because I’m getting so tired of hearing that you lied about twitter.

            • elainelewis says:

              I’m still looking for the link, Steve, haven’t found it yet.

        • You have to be getting paid to be posting that much ChristyRedd. They obviously dont pay based on the quality of argument, It must be based on how often he responds or how many words he can cut and paste. Or perhaps how well he can ignore the discussion and move it to him espousing his doctrine (a word he seems to love to use in attacking others). I noticed a lot of cutting and pasting going on there with responses not related to the post. Their organisation must have a little well of rote posts they can put up when they get stumped rather than answering the question directly. Say what you like he is a good cut and paster. Of course they believe this takes energy and focus away from positive promotion of natural health care, but I wonder if they realize how much certainty they build in their targets when we see the dearth of their research, their philosophical bankruptcy, and their rabid dogmatism, and the disgraceful lack of quality in their argument.

        • ChristyRedd wrote: “I don’t… use Twitter”

          That is quite simply not true. “ChristyRedd” is a pseudonym of Christine Jahnig, who tweets as @fallintosummer

          • ChristyRedd says:

            Chapman is focused on posting lots of mis- (dis-) information. You, “Steve”, are focused on who people are. Interesting that you don’t post your full name, isn’t it. A little projection, maybe?

            • BS Detector says:

              Interesting that you just got caught red-handed and your response is pure unapologetic hypocrisy, Miss ‘Redd’.

            • No, I’m just interestred in who tells the truth and who doesn’t. If you lied about using Twitter, why the heck should we believe anything else you write here?

              • elainelewis says:

                Oh, well how about this–129 negative reviews by Chapman on products he doesn’t use and books he hasn’t read. That is a LIE Steve. That is LYING! Are you OK with that? Is that what you’re doing too? Combing the internet for homeopathy products and posting negative reviews when you haven’t read the books and haven’t taken the remedies? That is so dishonest. Why should any of us give credence to anything you “skeptics” have to say? You’re self-evidently a dishonest bunch and all the rest of the things Jerome wrote about you: arrogant, rude, batty, obsessed…how did he come to this conclusion? Just by observing you. Keep posting! You’re just confirming his article.

                • Elaine Lewis, you wrote:
                  “That is a LIE Steve. That is LYING! Are you OK with that? Is that what you’re doing too? Combing the internet for homeopathy products and posting negative reviews when you haven’t read the books and haven’t taken the remedies?”

                  Are you accusing me of lying, Ms Lewis? I have read the books and I spent several decades taking the “remedies”. A few months ago, Ms Courtney accused me of lying in this regard. In response I posted an image, taken with that days newspaper, of the homeopathic “remedies” that I’m too much of a hoarder to throw away (I guess you’ll tell me ‘there’s a remedy for that’ 🙂 ) and the well-used homeopathy books that still infest the woowoo section of my bookshelf. Do I have to do the same again?

                  Oh, and the image also included the homeopathy products that I have reviewed on line (such as the Helios kit).

                  Also, if you are as concerned about lying as you make out above, how come you are not berating the Jahnig/Redd entity , who has demonstrably lied (e.g. re Twitter) in this thread?

                  You continued:
                  “That is so dishonest. Why should any of us give credence to anything you “skeptics” have to say? ”

                  Exactly how is that dishonest? If you believe that anything that I have written here or elsewhere is untrue, why not post the evidence of such instead of making unfounded accusations.

                  Clue: It is not the sceptics that have been caught ought lying in this debate.

                  • elainelewis says:

                    Steve, you just posted to Jerome, “Elaine and Christy have accused me of lying!” Now, please, read the above post again where I asked you if posting on Amazon, pretending to be an ordinary dissatisfied customer of alternative medicine books, etc., was alright with you and something you engaged in too, since it amounts to lying, and you didn’t answer me! Is it OK to post in the comments underneath a homeopathy first aid kit, “I dropped my first aid kit and all the pellets fell out and got all mixed up….” Really? I didn’t know skeptics carried homeopathy first aid kits! This is news to me! I just want to know if this sort of “posting practice”, which is dishonest, is alright with you. This was one of Chapman’s posts. Are you OK with that? Can you possibly respond to that point?

                    • elainelewis says:

                      PS, I am tired of the big news of the day being that Christy said she didn’t use twitter and … what, she does? She said she doesn’t use twitter; I have a twitter account too but I don’t use it, I have a facebook account but I am hardly ever there. I’m not sure why this is a scandal. I must say, though, if Christy ever goes to a Rx drug site and posts, “I was just taking my valium the way I always do, and they really made me sick and I don’t think anybody should take valium at all or any Rx drug, they really don’t work, the whole thing is a well-known fraud!” let me know because that sort of posting I would consider to be outrageous!

                    • OK, so you clearly don’t have any evidence that I have lied. Now, how about doing the decent thing and withdrawing the accusation and apologising?

                      No?

                      I didn’t think so.

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Steve, I never said you lied. I asked you if disingenuous commenting, pretending to supporters of homeopathy when you’re not, was OK with you, because that’s lying. I asked you if you’ve made similar comments yourself? I’ve noticed that Amazon is a swarm of skeptic commentary on every non-mainstream topic including iridology and psychic communication! And you skeptics get very unflattering commentary back, such as, “Why are you doing this?” Here’s one now:

                      AndrewZ says: [to PL about a book on psychic phenomenon]
                      Why do you care if some people believe in this? Why even take the time to comment? Don’t you think your time would be better spent on something else? I mean, seriously. There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t believe in or agree with, but I don’t waste my time commenting on those things because I have better things to do. I assume you also have better things to do, as well, right? Why spend your time putting things down that you don’t believe in? Go do something else that’s more worth your time.
                      You don’t have to believe in this–nobody is forcing you. It doesn’t make you narrow-minded if you don’t. However, when you do what you’re doing on here, it does make you annoying.

                    • Ms Lewis, you wrote: “Steve, I never said you lied. ”

                      You implied it when you wrote to me: “You’re self-evidently a dishonest bunch…”

                      So, if you now claim that is not an accusation of lying, exactly what dishonesty are you accusing me of? (It would be nice to see your evidence of it as well — which would be nicer than Ms Willberg’s & Janice’s, which can be summarised as: “I don’t want to believe this, therefore you must be lying.”)

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Steve, to end this back-and-forth, I apologize for implying that you might be dishonest based on the clear and provable fact that other skeptics have posted dishonestly on Amazon in reviewing books and products that they didn’t buy or read.

                    • Thank you. Assuming that you were being sincere and will not repeat the slur unless you accompany it with unambiguous evidence, apology accepted. (Even though you did, in a later post, tacitly withdraw it, based on unfounded/unevidenced accusations made by “Janice”.)

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Stever wrote:
                      “Thank you. Assuming that you were being sincere and will not repeat the slur unless you accompany it with unambiguous evidence, apology accepted. (Even though you did, in a later post, tacitly withdraw it, based on unfounded/unevidenced accusations made by “Janice”.)”

                      Please understand, I am not in the business of “slurs”. I’m a homeopath. I’m here to thank Jerome Burn for calling attention to a rabid and altogether inexplicable, organized attack on homeopathy by a group calling itself “Skeptics”. I’m not in the attack business, Steve. I don’t spend my days looking for web pages to post mean things on, as much as I dislike many things, I don’t make a career out of stalking and hunting down people or things I don’t like; rather, I engage in positive activities that are uplifiting to me; so, of course, any apology I make is sincere because I’m a sincere person. But then I see in a post by Janice that you claim to have studied homeopathy! It stretches credulity, but I’m willing to drop it! To a degree, all of you have studied homeopathy, but, as another post I read said, “I’m an atheist, I don’t like religion, but you don’t see me reading the Bible just so I can go to religious websites and take pot-shots at the Bible to show those people how stupid they are, it’s a bizarre thing to do.”

                    • “you claim to have studied homeopathy! It stretches credulity”

                      As much as homeopathy? 🙂

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Yes, like homeopathy! Homeopathy does stretch credulity, there’s no doubt about it! It’s a very unusual concoction, your average person never would have come up with it, MIGHT have come up with like cures like–after all, we give stimulants to hyperactive children–but the dilution and succussion? I think if Hahnemann hadn’t come up with it, no one else would have! So, yes, strains credulity; but, so do a lot of other things–like the internet, for one, it’s an absolute miracle! Email, skype, all the things we take for granted, and I can’t explain any of them, Steve! Why do I have to be able to explain homeopathy? Can you explain your car? But you don’t want to stop driving it just because you can’t explain how it works, right? I don’t want to stop using homeopathic remedies just because I can’t explain–convincingly–how they work. The one thing I am utterly sure of though, is that they DO, and it’s not placebo for reasons I won’t go into unless you want me to, I’m just glad they work, they’ve been a life saver for my daughter and me as well, I’m thinking now of a concussion I had in 1980–a car accident–hit by a fire truck going through a red light and let me tell you, there’s nothing psychological about a concussion! I suffered for 24 hours, started taking the remedy at that point, every 15 minutes, and in one hour was completely well again! So well, I went to work! Now, I know, “Just a coincidence, you would have gotten better in an hour anyway!” Or, “Placebo! Knowing that you were taking a remedy made you feel better!” You know, Steve, if I did that to you when you attempted to praise the effect a drug had on you, you would get very irritated with me; so, I would appreciate it if you would hold your tongue, and accept what I have to say as at least “interesting”. What works, works! You can’t always explain it, and all things aren’t explainable! So why can’t we leave it at that?

                    • “Can you explain your car? But you don’t want to stop driving it just because you can’t explain how it works, right?”

                      What are you on about? Of course I can “explain” my car. FWIW I’ve been maintaining my own cars since I was 16 and motor cycles since I was about 14. Still do most of it unless I’m pushed for time.

                      “I would appreciate it if you would hold your tongue,”

                      And I would appreciate it if you didn’t try to dictate what I may and may not comment on. Sheesh!

                    • Ms Lewis, as regards the rest of your post, you wrote: ‘I’ve noticed that Amazon is a swarm of skeptic commentary on every non-mainstream topic including iridology and psychic communication!’

                      Exactly how is this relevant to me? I have never posted anything on Amazon to do with either of those topics.

                      ‘And you skeptics get very unflattering commentary back,’

                      Again, _where_ am I getting these comments back? You appear to be making the silly and unfounded assumption that “you sceptics” are a uniform group — lurk on our forums, come to our meetings, you’ll find that most of us disagree with each other on most things! Self-opinionated, we may be, of one mind we most certainly are not.

                      You concluded:
                      “You don’t have to believe in this–nobody is forcing you. It doesn’t make you narrow-minded if you don’t. However, when you do what you’re doing on here, it does make you annoying.”

                      I could say exactly the same back to you, Ms Lewis: “You don’t have to believe in robust statistical analysis – nobody is forcing you. However, when you pretend that there is robust evidence that homeopathy is differentiable from placebo, then you are being more than annoying; you are ultimately putting lives at risk.”

                      (And there’s no need to play the “Big Pharma” card: to paraphrase Mr Chapman, “problems with pharmaceutical products validate pseudomedicine in exactly the same way as airliner crashes validate flying carpets.”)

                      Now, I have work to do….

                    • Given your adherence to RCTs and evidence, could you possibly give me a reference for the claim that homeopathy is putting lives at risk? Also if, as you claim, a lack of evidence that homeopathy is indistinguishable from a placebo puts patient’s lives at risk, does it then follow that having a treatment that is more effective than a placebo does not put patient’s lives at risk? Suspect you would find it hard to prove that one.
                      So do you then have any data to show that homeopathy – without positive RCT evidence – is more dangerous than treatments that do have RCT evidence? Good luck with that one too.
                      “Problems” (translation: often a considerable level of damging or even lethal side effects as well as in some cases marginal clinical eficacy) with pharmaceutical products may not validate “pseudomedicine” but these problems do have a considerable impact on the risk/benefit balance that patients and doctors have to weigh up in the real world.
                      Studies have shown, for instance, that when patients are asked how their decision to take a drug is affected by information that it is actually twice as effective as previously thought the answer is “not much”. However when told that the risk of side effects is double what they had been told, around 40% say they would then not take the drug, especially if it is one that has to be taken for a long time.

                      Is this rational? I would argue it is.
                      So in the real world if someone has been taking a drug for a condition which it has not done much to help and if that drug also comes with unpleasant side effects, are they then the irrational victims of a fraudulent practitioner if they decide to try homeopathy in the hope that it works better and lacks the side effects?
                      And to go one step further: what if they find that it does work for them, whatever the reason?
                      Would the rational thing to do be to stop taking it on the grounds that there was no reliable evidence from a RTC to show that it was better than a placebo?

                    • Mr Burne, briefly, as I have to leave for work in a few minutes:
                      “could you possibly give me a reference for the claim that homeopathy is putting lives at risk?”

                      Sure: http://www.news.com.au/national/poor-science-led-to-penelope-dingles-death-from-cancer/story-e6frfkvr-1225899300532

                      “Also if, as you claim, a lack of evidence that homeopathy is indistinguishable from a placebo puts patient’s lives at risk,”

                      But I *haven’t* made that claim; I have claimed exactly the opposite.

                      “So do you then have any data to show that homeopathy – without positive RCT evidence – is more dangerous than treatments that do have RCT evidence? ”

                      No, I don’t – but then I haven’t made any assertion in that regard, and I will not do before I have evidence to support it.

                    • Is that reference really the best evidence or even good evidence that homeopathy is putting lives at risk?
                      It is a link to a report in a newspaper in Perth, Australia four years ago, the opening sentence reads: “A CORONER has found that “misinformation and poor science” led to the death of a Perth woman who refused conventional treatment for her cancer.”

                      Unfortunate for the poor woman and it may well be that the doctors treating her with homeopathic remedies were at fault but you can’t claim from that single example that homeopathy in general is putting lives at risk. That is precisely the sort of anecdotal evidence that homeopaths are routinely jeered at for providing.

                      Apologies for the typo in the next sentence.
                      It should of course have read: “If, as you claim, homeopathy is indistinguishable from a placebo and that this puts patient’s lives at risk, does it then follow that having a treatment that is more effective than a placebo does not put patient’s lives at risk? Let’s assume that your answer is no.

                      So on safety we have a single anecdote showing homeopathy is putting patients’ lives at risk and by contrast we know for certain that drugs that do have RCT’s supporting them can still cause the death of thousands.

                      So a RCT is no guarantee of safety but does it guarantee effectiveness?

                      What it tells you is that on average those in the trial benefitted more from the drug than from a placebo. However the degree of benefit can be remarkably small.
                      In the case of SSRs, for instance, it is around 2 points on a 20 point scale – a benefit that needs to be balanced against the side-effects which include a raised risk of suicide.
                      In the case of statins to prevent heart disease in healthy people the benefit is anywhere between 250 and1000 to 1 (figures vary). Between one in ten and one in five will have some side-effects.

                      My point is that that as a system for ensuring treatments are both safe and effective the RCT is seriously flawed. Yet the absence of RCT’s is at the heart of your crusade against homeopathy. Wouldn’t an equally vigorous campaign to ensure that RCTs, or some other method of testing, that ensured better safety and greater effectiveness benefit patients far more?

                      In the meantime could you respond to my question about what is the rational thing to if you have not benefitted from a drug and are suffering side effects and then by starting homeopathic treatment you do benefit and lose the side effects?

                      This is the sort of result reported by large numbers – certainly, it would seem, massively more than the number of case histories of people whose lives are put at risk by homeopathy.

                    • Mr Burne, you asked, “Is that reference really the best evidence or even good evidence that homeopathy is putting lives at risk?”, it may not be the *best*, but I suggest that it is good. If, as a medical journalist, you dig around that tragic case a bit (I’m sure you have better access than I to relevant resources) you will find that the poor woman was persuaded by touts for homeopathy to eschew conventional treatment for her cancer in favour of homeopathy. Of course, one can never know for certain what the outcome would have been had she made different choices, but one can infer it, from statistical analysis of similar cases treated differently.

                      If only such cases were isolated; they aren’t. Perhaps you could use your journalistic resources to dig around the cases mentioned in the following a bit more:

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8XYUixuw8g and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f975xKbLm4k
                      (watch sequentially)
                      http://www.1023.org.uk/whats-the-harm-in-homeopathy.php
                      http://edzardernst.com/2012/12/the-risks-of-homeopathy/
                      http://whatstheharm.net/homeopathy.html (could bear a little updating)

                      You continued: “So on safety we have a single anecdote showing homeopathy is putting patients’ lives at risk and by contrast we know for certain that drugs that do have RCT’s supporting them can still cause the death of thousands.”

                      Firstly, I think you will now agree that we have not one, but several, well-documented cases. Of course, if your better access to resources can show that homeopathy is not implicated in al of these, please post the evidence!

                      Your point about drug death seems pertinent on the face of it but, if you are comparing it to homeopathy you need to address the following for each case:
                      * How would the outcome have differed had the person not taken any medication?
                      * How would the outcome have differed had the person taken homeopathy instead of medication?

                      You continued: “My point is that that as a system for ensuring treatments are both safe and effective the RCT is seriously flawed. Yet the absence of RCT’s is at the heart of your crusade against homeopathy.”

                      I agree that RCTs are not perfect, but in many (most?) cases, if all the data are published, they give a useful basis for decision-making.

                      I do not have a “crusade” against homeopathy, but I do think there is sufficient statistical evidence that it is indistinguishable from placebo.

                      You asked:
                      “Wouldn’t an equally vigorous campaign to ensure that RCTs, or some other method of testing, that ensured better safety and greater effectiveness benefit patients far more?”

                      Probably, yes. Do you have a suggestion for this “other method of testing”?

                      In response to your: “In the meantime could you respond to my question about what is the rational thing to if you have not benefitted from a drug and are suffering side effects and then by starting homeopathic treatment you do benefit and lose the side effects?”

                      Highly hypothetical as I am unlikely to ever knowingly use homeopathy again, but the *emotional* thing to do is to use the placebo (which you call “homeopathy”). To make a rational decision, I would want far more information.

                      Finally: “This is the sort of result reported by large numbers – certainly, it would seem, massively more than the number of case histories of people whose lives are put at risk by homeopathy.”

                      Certainly, it would *seem* so but, before you reach a meaningful conclusion, you would need to take into account, inter alia:
                      * The relative numbers of people using each treatment for each illness under consideration.
                      * The fact that there is no homeopathy equivalent of the MHRA Yellow Card scheme.

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Regarding this paragraph: Mr Burne, you asked, “Is that reference really the best evidence or even good evidence that homeopathy is putting lives at risk?”, it may not be the *best*…”

                      No kidding! Really? Not the best, eh? Well, how come you demand only “robust” evidence from us, but you get away with what amounts to gossip as “evidence”, in fact, you don’t even have the facts! You told Jerome, that since he’s a journalist, HE should go and dig up the facts for you! What nerve.

                    • elainelewis says:

                      What the heck is this?

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8XYUixuw8g and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f975xKbLm4k
                      (watch sequentially)
                      http://www.1023.org.uk/whats-the-harm-in-homeopathy.php
                      http://edzardernst.com/2012/12/the-risks-of-homeopathy/
                      http://whatstheharm.net/homeopathy.html (could bear a little updating)

                      This is Skeptic propaganda! That’s what you’re linking to? When we link to studies in homeopathic journals, you hit the ceiling! So I say no, do not link to material written, narrated and produced by other skeptics! If you have ROBUST evidence to present in terms of what Jerome asked for, then present it!

                    • Ms Lewis, you asked, “What the heck is this?”

                      The answer was given in the paragraph above the links I posted: it was suggestions of cases where Mr Burne might “use [his] journalistic resources to dig around the cases mentioned in the following a bit more.”

                      You dismiss them as “skeptic propaganda” which, of course, you are entitled to and, presumably you can back up that claim by demonstrating that they are unfounded. However, what I am sure Mr Burne will find much more useful is if you can save him some leg-work by actually showing that any of those cases is unworthy of further investigation because it is either fictitious or did not involve homeopathy.

                      I agree that anecdotes are weak, which is why I did not produce them as evidence, but as starting points for a medical journalist to investigate. If he investigates and finds them unfounded, then so be it and we will all be wiser for it.

                      However, I suggest that you need to distinguish between *checkable* anecdotes and the sort of unverifiable personal anecdotes so beloved of SCAM (Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine) practioners.

                      Another of the major issues here re evidence is that homeopaths (and other SCAM practitioners) have failed to set up equivalents of the MHRA Yellow Card scheme, so there are no centralised registers of their failures.

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Steve, I can’t believe my eyes! You just said anecdotes were OK as evidence! See below:
                      “However, I suggest that you need to distinguish between *checkable* anecdotes and the sort of unverifiable personal anecdotes so beloved of SCAM (Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine) practioners.”

                      So, you’re saying if the anecdote “checks out”, it can be used? Well, that’s amazing, because we have tons of those! You surely realize that there are actually homeopathic MD’s and hospitals in the world, past and present, and they have records like any other doctor or hospital, and in that context, yes, there are “checkable” examples of homeoapthic cures galore, would you, or anyone else, like to hear some?

                    • “So, you’re saying if the anecdote “checks out”, it can be used? ”

                      If it is supported by robust evidence, why not?

                      Do you think unverifiable anecdotes should be used?

                    • Really appreciate the care you have taken in your response rather than ignoring most of the points or resorting to a barrage of Andy Lewis-style insults. All your points are perfectly reasonable but on some I have to say I disagree. The wider point I would make is that my concern about heavyweight scepticism – and I accept protestations that it is not driven by pharmaceutical interests – is that it has the effect of pushing non-drug approaches to the fringes.

                      This increases the strong tendency to see the solution to our current epidemic of life-style disorders (diabetes, heart disease etc) as drug based. This is a disaster which effectively ignores evidence that a serious commitment to diet, exercise, nutrition and other life-style changes can have a hugely beneficial impact on these disorders.

                      Of course they are given lip service by health professionals but the research budget for them is tiny in comparison and the reality is that the response to patients with these metabolic disorders is to reach for the prescription pad. It is ludicrous, for instance, to spend 600 million or so on diabetic drugs when dietary changes can greatly improve the health of diabetic patients – and I don’t mean by putting them on a low fat/high carb diet.

                      In this intellectual climate it seems to me that the aggressive sceptical approach makes the dependence on drugs more likely and a shift towards lifestyle approaches less likely. One reason for this is that one of the drivers for the lifestyle approach is to significantly reduce the damage done by drug side effects

                      However sceptics seem less concerned with side-effects and more with nailing down the evidence. The hounding of homeopathy, which cannot begin to rival the side-effects of drugs however high you put the risk of driving people to ignore other treatment, is evidence of this.

                      A campaign to reduce side effects by a serious commitment to lifestyle treatments and prevention would do far more for patient health than insisting relentlessly on RCTs and downgrading the likes of observational studies and clinical judgement.

                    • We seem to have discussed ourself into near agreement on some things (is that a “first” on here? 🙂 ) . Whilst I am sure that there are things on which we will always disagree (I will come to one of them later), I have to say that I do agree with you re lifestyle, and it is a concern. I also suspect that a lot of it is patient-driven (so much easier to pop a few pills than to cycle 10 miles to work come rain or snow, minimise the ethanol consumption, prepare healthy meals from fresh ingredients, etc.), although a lot of it is almost certainly a consequence the decreased time GPs get to spend per patient (this is one area where homeopaths clearly have the edge over NHS GPs, but I do wonder how well they’d do if they were limited to a mean of 10 minutes per consultation!).

                      I see our major area of continued disagreement as being related to your “The hounding of homeopathy,”: I simply do not see it as that. My view (and, I am pretty sure, that of many on “my side” of the fence) is that, if people want to use homeopathy, that is entirely their choice. What I do object to (and, I assure you, it is not just homeopathy: by far the greater majority of my ASA complaints have related to misleading advertising for optical equipment) is the making of unsubstantiable advertising claims. I suggest that anyone making medical/health claims must be held to a very high standard of evidence for those claims, and I wouild entirely agree that “Big Pharma” should not be exempt.

                      Nice chatting with you, sir.

                    • Delighted to have areas of agreement! Demanding evidence for claims seems a non-brainer at first sight and I still don’t really understand why homeopathy – used by a number of regular doctors who are schooled in the scientific approach – hasn’t either got some solid support or faded away. But it gets more complicated.

                      The established view is that once a treatment has two positive RCTs and been licenced you are entitled to make claims about it. But at this point I find myself in the sceptic camp. It’s very clear – and I’ve written about this a lot – that there is plenty of wiggle room.

                      For instance, the medical establishment says that trials show statins cut the risk of heart disease in healthy people. But there is a persuasive case for saying that the benefits are so vanishingly small that it really isn’t worth it, especially since the evidence suggests side effects are pretty common. Don’t really think the ASA would be in a position to judge.

                      Same goes for the long running debate over heart risk and saturated fat. Conventional wisdom said for years it raised risk but there was always a pro-lobby, now much more vocal, making a persuasive case for saying not only is the evidence of risk not that good but basic physiology suggests we need saturated fat. Again, not one for ASA.

                      So are they the right body to judge homeopaths and other non-drug, and so cash-poor, treatments? The testing playing field is far from level. If a drug gets a damming review it can commission another one that is likely to be favourable – not an option for the poor relations.

                      My “hounding” point has always been based on these kinds of considerations – it’s not nearly as simple as saying one has the evidence and this doesn’t. In fact in some cases patients might be getting a worse deal from the tested stuff – the use of heavyweight tranquilisers on difficult/disturbed children is one example.

                      If the playing field was considerably more level I’d have no hesitation in forcing homeopathy and any other treatment system into the exam room. Meanwhile I understand why treatments without RCTs are an affront to intellectual rigour but I’m yet to be convinced that they are a serious danger to our health. Do we have any evidence, for instance, that since making claims was tightened up that patient outcomes have improved? Maybe there should be demands to set out more clearly what is known about results and what is disputed.

                    • Jerome I would like to see just 5% of the resources channelled in to Allopathic medicine diverted to sound unbiased research of eco-biological non intervention approaches. As long as patented drugs produce such mind numbing rivers of gold for their masters I’m afraid it will never happen, and if it does there will be serious attempt to undermine positive findings.

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Ah, the sweet smell of sanity, may it forever reign! Thank you, Jerome; you are a true journalist!

                    • Anonymous says:

                      Steve, your argument is driven by your faith. I dont have a problem with that by the way but certain sceptics do.. When a natural cancer treatment is used and the patient dies the practitioner is blamed, when chemotherapy irradiation and surgery is used and the patient dies its all “you did the best you could can we give you a donation?” Parallel to that, a recent 2013 U.S. study looked into the predictors for back surgery following work related injury. You would assume it would be related to the type and severity of the back injury. Nothing of the sort. If the injured worker consulted a Chiropractor first the incidence of surgery was 1.5 percent. If they consulted a Surgeon first the incidence of orthopaedic surgery was 42.7 percent. Now given that the Professional indemnity insurance for the Orthopaedic surgeons is just under a quarter of a million dollars and has to be subsidized by the federal government and the Chiropractors Professional indemnity insurance is around 3,000 which do you think is the safest option? I know what I’d be doing as a first option.

                      Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 May 15;38(11):953-64. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3182814ed5.
                      Early predictors of lumbar spine surgery after occupational back injury: results from a prospective study of workers in Washington State.
                      Keeney BJ1, Fulton-Kehoe D, Turner JA, Wickizer TM, Chan KC, Franklin GM.
                      Author information

                    • The Hippocratic oath which was taken by medical doctors, not sure if they still do, includes the words ‘First do no harm’. Homeopathy as a minimum achieves that aim. Allopathic medicine fails. If G.P.’s still take that oath they should desist because it is clearly not an aim in medicine and it certainly isnt achieved. The argument of whether the risk outweighs the benefit is another thing entirely, I think sometimes it does, but not often it doesn’t

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Steve, you asked how it”s relevant to you that Amazon is a swarm of skeptic commentary on every non-mainstream topic from iridology to psychic communication and you said, “What does that have to do with me?” I asked you, and still waiting for an answer, if it’s alright with you for skeptics to leave comments disingenouously pretending to be supporters of alternative medicine as Guy Chapman did in one of his comments (“I dropped my remedy kit and all the pellets spilled out!”) Where do you come down on this type of dishonesty? Have you engaged in it too?

                      You say that you skeptics aren’t all alike. That’s not what I’m seeing on Amazon. You have “talking-points” in all your “non-pretending” posts, and they are:

                      Quacks, Quackery, Magic, Magic Water, Fraud, Placebo, No evidence, Anecdotal evidence, Scientific, Pseudoscience, Woo, Loons, Don’t waste your money, Double-blind studies, and the ever-popular: All studies have shown that homeopathy doesn’t work.

                      Here’s one such comment now, see if you can pick out the talking points:
                      Happy Skeptic – See all my reviews
                      This review is from: Homeopathic Remedies: A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and Their Homeopathic Treatments (Paperback)
                      “This is a good reference manual for quacks who believe or practice homeopathy, your hard earned money would be better spent on understanding allopathic treatments and how to get the better patient care that you deserve. Homeopathy has no scientific basis, failed every credible double-blind test, and should be discarded.”

                      Yes, “all of one mind” is quite apparent. I hope you don’t mind my asking again if disingenuous commentary is part of what you do too along with the rest of them, as per the marching orders handed down from Saint Randi, such as the title of Steve Novella’s book, for example: “A Guide To Homeopathy”, how disingenuous is that?

                      I don’t want to keep you from your “work” any longer Steve. Judging from the massive number of skeptic posts on Amazon pertaining to books they’ve never read and remedies they’ve never bought, apparently a skeptic’s work is never done.

                    • Ms Lewis, I am happy to comment on stuff that I have written. If you want comments on other people’s Amazon reviews, yu will have to ask them. That said, I do agree with the last sentence of the “Happy Skeptic” review that you posted, but that is a general point, not specific to the book. I cannot comment on a review of a book that I haven’t read, and I am appalled that you should expect me to do so.

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Steve, regarding this that you wrote to me:
                      “Ms Lewis, I am happy to comment on stuff that I have written. If you want comments on other people’s Amazon reviews, yu will have to ask them. That said, I do agree with the last sentence of the “Happy Skeptic” review that you posted, but that is a general point, not specific to the book. I cannot comment on a review of a book that I haven’t read, and I am appalled that you should expect me to do so.”

                      Steve, why do comment on trivia in my posts instead of the thrust of the argument? I didn’t ask you to comment on Happy Skeptic’s review at Amazon under a book he hadn’t read. If I recall, you had composed a post here saying that skeptics were not an organized group marching in lock-step, that you all thought differently about a number of things, and I believe I replied by saying that as regards homeopathy, you all sound exactly alike, that all your posts sound the same, they all contain the same words and phrases, and I used Happy Skeptic’s review as an example of that. They all contain the words, “Quack”, “Lack of evidence”, “Quackery”, “Magic water”, “No double-blind studies”, “Placebo”, “You’re wasting your money”, “Save your money”, and so on, and when someone like Jerome isn’t not around, the language and accusations propel into rudeness and vulgarity. OK? Oh, and I was glad to hear you tell Jerome that you’re not engaging in a crusade against homeopathy. I suspect no one believed that.

                    • Ms Lewis, you wrote: “Steve, why do comment on trivia in my posts instead of the thrust of the argument? ”

                      1. I have no idea, until you say so, which bit of your posts you consider to be “trivia”. It always seems to me that it is more than a little odd to post stuff in a public forum if you*don’t* want it commented on.

                      2. I have already addressed what you call the “thrust” of your argument in a previous post.

                    • Elaine, this line of argument is ridiculous. So you can’t trust amazon reviews?! Big news! To cut and paste snippets from amazon does nothing but make you look foolish and petty. Your insinuations of dishonesty are based on commentary that clearly someone else than your “accused” wrote. Furthermore, you take the fact that the arguments in a debate about the same thing (homeopathy) are similar, as proof of some organized effort with “talking points” and “marching orders”. If that is so, then what’s your excuse?!
                      It has been alleged several times in this discussions, that commentators skeptical of homeopathy may be paid by someone (“Big Pharma”) to contribute. It is posts like your latest one, that give homeopathy a bad name in the public perception. Perhaps “Big Pharma” should be paying you.

                    • elainelewis says:

                      Homeopathy doesn’t have a bad name. As a matter of fact, I just received this email a few minutes ago:
                      “Madam! You are doing a great service. Homoeopathy is a great boon to humanity . Pl continue your mission . God bless you

                      Sent from my iPad=”

                      Oh, I know, another victim of placebo!

                • BS Detector says:

                  So it’s bad when *they* do it, but perfectly reasonable when *we* do it? By awesome twist of fate, your Christy Redd just popped up commenting on a local news site near where I live in the UK. No way she’s just stumbled across local news in Wiltshire.

                  Red handed, again. Organised bunch of quasi-religious dishonest hypocrites.

                  • You really need to keep your insult quotient down BS detector if you want to keep posting here. It’s clear that you have zero respect for anyone involved in homeopathy which is fine, but you don’t need to demonstrate it every time.

                    • Mr Byrne, you wrote:
                      “You really need to keep your insult quotient down BS detector if you want to keep posting here.”

                      Will you apply the same criterion to those who write here in support of homeopathy? I ask because I have been accused, without a shred of evidence, by elainelewis and ChristyRedd, of lying.

                    • Absolutely – I beleive in a free and frank exchange of views combined with old fashioned respect for your opponent. Having just got slightly irritated in print with BS Detector I now promise not to do it again.

            • Your definition of disinformation is: information you don’t like. Unfortunately the problem is with reality, which fails to support your cherished beliefs. I cannot fix that but you might find that if you read and understand Jay W Shelton’s ” Homeopathy: How it Really Works” you might eventually work out where you’re going wrong.

          • ChristyRedd says:

            P.S. “Steve”………..so much for “critical thinking” ! You don’t notice the fallacies in your own thinking.

            • Wow ChristyRedd, that’s quite a whopper! You’ve been caught in a completely unnecessary lie (no facebook or twitter, when you have both). Isn’t a casual relationship with the truth a huge handicap when your arguments are largely based on testimony?

      • elainelewis says:

        One would hope that Mr. Chapman would be able to comment on homeopathy without devolving into personal attacks such as what I saw in his blog about you! Are they “skeptics” or adolescent sorority girls, bonding through personal attacks on others, while publically proclaiming they’re all about “science”? I should think “science” could do without this kind of “support”!

        • I think I can answer that question elaine 🙂 They’re certainly not sceptics because they swallow any old multinational drug corporation guff, that only leaves the “jumped up little sorority chick whose daddy wouldn’t buy them a pony” (Danny Devito)

      • BS Detector says:

        Says the woman who does nothing else online but post about homeopathy. And even has a blog about homeopathy. Everywhere it’s mentioned on the web, you and most of the others here appear like a rash.

        Very clear which side is doing it for the money.

        • Yes is it the side that are the shills for the greedy multinationals that can afford to absorb a nine billion dolllar fine and have their shares go down 2 percent for a few weeks right? Do you get paid by the number of words you write or the quality of your argument Mr.BS?

          • BS Detector says:

            Funny how conspiracy loons can never think of their own witty comebacks, so steal other people’s. Do you just cut and paste?

  7. We have been confronted by the myriad of doubtful explanations of how homeopathy worked. But recently after years of research and references, we a team of doctors form india have come up with a very possible explanation – not a cooked up theory, to call the active principle of homeopathic potency as “MOLECULAR IMPRINTS” of the actual drug molecule. This is being supported by hundreds of scientific studies done so far, but was stumbling across the very lack of this ACTIVE PRINCIPLE for the further explanations.

    But now i am sure, the table is turned towards us, and the research works we are conducting will one day fetch the Nobels and the whole medicine will work in a different fashion compared to this century.

    This is our blog: http://dialecticalhomeopathy.com/

    • Now all you have to do is provide a plausible mechanism of operation, proof of the fundamental doctrines of homeopathy, and evidence that refutes the null hypothesis.

      Oh, wait: that was all you ever had to do. You’ve had over two centuries, and each succeeding year has made it less, not more likely. I’d get right on it if I were you.

    • BS Detector says:

      You can’t imprint anything on a liquid. Even primary school children know this.

  8. While I agree with the article’s arguments about the issues in evaluating non-drug treatments, it seems that homeopathy is a poor example to illustrate this point. Homeopathy, by it’s own theoretical framework, is not a non-drug treatment (however debatable one might find homeopathic remedies). While it may be rare that your MD will send you home without a prescription, but instead with directions for lifestyle changes, it is much rarer still to leave a homeopaths office after a lengthy diagnostic consultation without receiving a prescription for a homeopathic remedy. Rather than stressing the importance of non-drug interventions, homeopathy would serve to reinforce the belief that taking a drug (in its broadest definition) is the preferred option.

    • ChristyRedd says:

      Conventional doctors and homeopaths both believe that when a patient is struggling with an illness intervention is appropriate and in the patient’s bests interests. While the conventional doctor will prescribe a drug, the homeopath will prescribe a homeopathic medicine. Homeopaths are also well versed in nutrition and the general lifestyle changes which can help the patient regain good health. In fact, my experience is that homeopaths looked into things like environmental causes of problems (e.g., mold in the patient’s basement), habits (e.g., is the patient sleeping with too many pillows) and lifestyle changes long before conventional doctors considered them. My experience is that it is only fairly recently that conventional doctors (excluding specialists like allergists) have begun to learn about and talk to their patients about these things. Many have no training in or knowledge at all about nutrition.

      • Laurie Willberg says:

        Very good points. Homeopaths always make a point of questioning patients about their diet and lifestyle habits. I know of one Homeopath who while taking a case for a patient who was suffering overall poor health found that the patient was subsisting on a diet of candy bars, potato chips and soft drinks. When the Homeopath advised the patient that she would have to start preparing proper meals for herself the patient replied “I’m not sure I can do that.” The Homeopath replied, “Then I can’t help you.”
        No remedy given, no fee charged either.

        • elainelewis says:

          Hi Laurie! I think both of you are right. It is very possible that a homeopath takes a case, gives a remedy, and asks next to nothing about lifestyle. It is also just as likely that the homeopath tries to explain to the patient that his diet does not support healing and the patient doesn’t want to hear it! That would be my situation. Very rarely do my clients want to hear what I have to say about lifestyle, they simply want their remedy.

          • BS Detector says:

            Your clients. Another homeopath. Damn all these Big Pharma shills commenting for money – that’s our job!

            • ChristyRedd says:

              “–that’s our job!” Good of you to admit it.

              • BS Detector says:

                How’s life in Wiltshire, neighbour? Seeing as you just commented on an article about homeopathy on the local rag, I figured you can’t still be in the USA telling people you don’t use Facebook or Twitter (lol!) and that unbelievers scour the web for homeopathy stuff to comment on.

                Cos that would just look awful, wouldn’t it?

      • Interesting, my experience has been quite the opposite, I have received suggestions for lifestyle changes, or advice to be patient and wait, in lieu of prescriptions from medical doctors on several occasions. In my youth I visited homeopaths quite frequently for different ailments. Most of those were, admittedly frivolous, complaints of a teenager (lack of drive, feeling tired, general malaise etc.), but I walked out with a bottle of globuli every time.

        • ChristyRedd says:

          Until I found homeopathy 15 years ago, the only medical care available to me was conventional care. Over the course of some 50+ years of seeing conventional doctors exclusively I have to say that not one of them ever did anything but prescribe conventional drugs, most often antibiotics. As an aside, when I suffered from food allergies the GP’s and gastroenterologists I saw vigorously denied that food allergies even existed so you can understand that these doctors had nothing of value to offer me and certainly no medical help.

          Since conventional medicine has totally dominated the medical landscape here in the US for almost 80 years, I can only believe that the vast majority of Americans have had the same experiences I am describing in what they were prescribed and what was discussed with them and recommended to them. Most Americans have been indoctrinated over many, many years to believe that conventional drugs are the only form of medicine that even exists. It is only fairly recently that other treatments like homeopathy and acupuncture have begun to come to the forefront.

          To this day, I have never heard of even one conventional doctor seen by friends or neighbors who has been trained in nutrition. On the other hand, naturopaths, who make up a good percentage of CAM practitioners, are trained in nutrition and also in homeopathy. My own homeopath trained in nutrition and then later in homeopathy.

      • True. The departure is that doctors think we should use interventions that provably work, whereas homeopaths believe that the sole truth lies in a 200-year-old delusion based on refuted conjectures and rejection of a system of treatment that no longer exists.

        There are so very many medical practices from the 1790 that have stood the test of time. Like, er… er… er…

  9. Jane Priceman says:

    Hi Jerome. Boy do we need more agnostics like you – ones who are truly
    objective and less biased.
    I myself am totally biased being a practicing homeopath for many years.
    Although the discussions about how it works are interesting, any journalist
    interested should take a wonder down to The Royal London Hospital for
    Integrated Medicine (formerly The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital) and see
    the work in action. Too far for you I know.
    When my husband became very ill and hospitilised last year with a severe
    lung infection (long story about how he developed this) and the antibiotics
    didn’t work, homeopathic remedies saved him. How do I know this? It was an
    interesting experiment.
    When the doctors found out I was a practicing homeopath they said no
    homeopathy was to be administered and promptly gave him antibiotics, the
    first he had had in more than 30 years. Of course as we have always used
    homeopathy for our health we decided to give the remedy anyway. Doctors
    can’t have it both ways. If it doesn’t do anything what is the harm in him
    having the remedy? We feel we made this choice as an informed decision. I
    couldn’t tell the doctors because I needed them to keep him in hospital to
    have access to the test results and I was worried they would refuse to treat
    him but I was quite sure he didn’t need the antibiotics although we had to
    continue with them. Obviously we understood clearly what we were doing.
    When my husband first arrived the consultant told us the infection was so
    severe that he would loose the lung. This was another reason for us to use
    homeopathy. We know how much deeper the changes are than anything
    allopathic.
    After the first month on both the antibiotics and homeopathy he was doing so
    well the doctors were amazed. I, taking my eye off the ball stopped the
    homeopathy as we thought he was nearly out of the woods and left him on the
    antibiotics. Literally the next day his health started to deteriorate. He
    developed secondary infections deeper in the lungs and his general wellbeing
    plummeted. He lost all his appetite and generally went into a state of
    malaise. This continued with the doctors telling me he wasn’t responding to
    the antibiotics and they may have to move him to another hospital to have
    the lung removed.
    As I was so emotionally involved it took me a day or two to realise that he
    had deteriorated because I had removed the homeopathic medicine.
    As soon as we put him back on the homeopathic medicine his health started to
    improve and he made a full recovery. The lung healed perfectly without any
    damage or scar tissue. The consultants’ final comment at the last xray was
    ‘remarkable’. He said he never thought it would heal properly.
    He never knew that we were administering the homeopathic remedies sadly, as
    I didn’t feel able to discuss the case with him.
    The oppostion and complete lack of understanding of the homeopathic model
    made things very difficult and I felt as if I was treading on egg shells.
    How sad for all of us that so much potential healing is being discounted and
    dangerous in a world where the effects of antibiotics are being neutralised.

    • I must say the evidence presented by homeopaths is as impressive as the dogma of the alleged sceptics is unimpressive. It infuriates me that these arrogant (insert adjective) tell you the doses involed in homeopathics cant possibly have any effect but then tell you you cant use them. If they cant possibly have an effect they cant have a bad effect can they? On the positive side they can at the very least have a placebo effect. Why would they deny your husband the benefit of placebo? They are (insert adjective) (insert adjective) (insert adjective). My adjectives are the worst you can imagine. Great story. For the (insert adjective) that want to call this just anecdotal, try reading the references to some of the research posted here, and try answering some of the challenges instead of spouting your religious RCT doctrine.

      • Substitute “flat earthers” or “young Earth creationists” in your sentence and the meaning doesn’t change. Just so you know.

        • elainelewis says:

          I don’t understand something. Why are you arguing with people who actually use the thing you say doesn’t work? This is just tiresome! It’s not like you’re arguing with people who have never tried homeopathy! We use it, all the time! It’s like saying, “Based on the ingredients you’re using, your casserole can’t possibly taste good! No, I won’t try it, I will just continue to assert that it doesn’t taste good!”

          • BS Detector says:

            Nobody says it doesn’t work. It’s a placebo. Placebos work on lots of people, for lots of things. Placebos can be amazing.

            But placebos can’t cure cancer, or prevent malaria, or anything else that has a simple physical cause and isn’t subjective in any way. All the positive thoughts and placebos in the world won’t cure HIV.

            Tell people they can, people will die.

          • For the same reason I would argue with people who were part of a pyramid scheme. Homeopathy users have been defrauded, and they need to know how to understand the problem and why the claims of homeopaths are fraudulent.

            • Well let’s see if we can get you to be a little more specfic, Mr, Chapman, if that indeed is your real name. You say, “Homeopathy users have been defrauded, and they need to know how to understand the problem and why the claims of homeopaths are fraudulent.”
              Would you be willing to accuse any one or all legal practitioners of homeopathy of fraud? For example, are you accusing Dr. Peter Fisher, MD, a well known practitioner of homeopathy, a Royal Physician, of being a fraud? Are you accusding me or Dana Ullman of being a fraud?

              • You and Dana are frauds: you pretend to practice medicine and engage in scientific discourse about homeopathy, but you have no medical qualifications or insight and you relentlessly promote refuted claims. Fisher is at least a real doctor, he is open about the fact that homeopathy is not to be used when you are actually ill. Hahnemann would call him a traitor against “divine homeopathy” – he submitted evidence to the UK parliament repeating false claims that are known to be false, but here I think he was misled by his friends. It is hard to see how he reconciles knowledge of physiology with belief in magic sugar, but in this he is little different from other doctors who advocate for religious perspectives at odds with the evidence.

                • If you were a prosecuting barrister no judge would put up with your frequent attributions of motives to people. Can you drop it here

                  • Jerome I don’t see you saying the same about supporters frequent attribution of motive, and would also point out that that was a central theme of your own article.

                    • It’s tricky being a part time ring master. I’d reccomend both sides avoid attributing motives and feel free to reprimand others if they do it. Which is the article of mine whose central theme was attributing motive? Don’t recongnise it as something that I find very interesting or a source of problems – its what they do that matters

                  • Could it be the agnostic has found religion?

                  • The falsity of, say, the claim that the Swiss government produced a report validating homeopathy – a claim explicitly refuted in print by the responsible official – is not dependent on motives. It’s simply a false claim that should not be repeated. That it is repeated, is evident here.

                • I you think people are frauds rather than misguided you are a fool debating with them. Try not to be so judgemental Chapman Central. You dont know the motives of others (unless you are psychic, your not are you?)

                  • Paul, you wrote: “Try not to be so judgemental Chapman Central. You dont know the motives of others (unless you are psychic, your not are you?)”

                    Curious how you don’t similarly berate the touts for homeopathy (yourself included) when they make judgemental comments and attribute motives to members of the evidence-based community.

                    • Would be great if both sides could rein back on attributing base motives which are largely unverifiable. Certainly dont help to clarify any argument.I’m keen for this to be a civilized debating chamber – so not House of Commons – rather than rough pub at chucking out time

                    • Thank you, Mr Burne.

                      However, I think I’m probably done here: the fundamental issues are just going round and round in circles as usual, going nowhere, in a dense fog of obfuscation.

                    • Hard not to agree with you and many thanks for your sane contributions.

                      I still don’t really understand why it is so impossible to present any data that shows a clear effect from homeopathy given that there are so many patently sincere and intelligent people claiming benefit.

                      At first sight the recent post by ChristyRedd would appear present that sort of data relating to cell lines. If those two studies are valid then they seem to put homeopathy on the bottom rung as it were, showing that something is going on. The next step is animals. Are there really no solid well established animal studies showing that homeopathic treatment works on them? And if there aren’t isn’t that seems pretty fatal for homeopathy and if there are then why haven’t they been clearly put out there?

                      You have been presented with what should be a pretty simple test by the sceptics – their line is that what you do does not have any physical effect beyond a placebo. So all you have to do to refute it is to present just one clear and unambiguous well conducted trial that shows it does and their case collapses. Your mechanism is still mysterious – to say the least – but that becomes a subsidiary issue if you are actually having an effect.

                      It seems to me there are four options why after over 400 posts here no has clearly set out why, how and when that simple test was passed:

                      You can’t come up with even a couple of solid examples. In which case you are indeed “going round and round in circles going nowhere, in a dense fog of obfuscation.”

                      You have come up with the data but the opposition has successfully raised so many doubts about it and picked so many holes in it that it has become impossibly complicated to present a clear account of what the evidence shows.

                      There is something about the way that tests – cell line, animal or human have been done using homeopahty which means that they aren’t able to yield unambigous results, in which case you have to explain that and set out a case for using a different method.

                      You have presented clear irrefutable data on numerous occasions but the prejudice against homeopathy is so great that no one is prepared to acknowledge what it actually shows.

                      I’d really like to know what the bottom line is and move on.

                    • You make some very pertinent points.

                      I think the “ambiguity” (for want of a better term) of the test results is a statistical phenomenon: if, as the sceptics claim, homeopathy is indistinguishable from placebo, given any sufficiently large randomly chosen sample of well-conducted tests, one would expect to find approximately one half in favour of homeopathy, one half in favour of placebo. To focus on those that support a pre-held view is exactly equivalent to tossing a coin a large number of times, then focus on the approximately 50% of “heads” outcomes and claiming that the coin is biassed in favour of “heads”.

                      The above assumes, of course, that there is no publication bias in favour of “positive” outcomes. Given that publication bias exists almost everywhere, it would be reasonable to expect some sort of skew in favour of positive outcomes for homeopathy.

                      One of the phenomena that I have noticed from reading a large number of trials is how many, some decades old, report inconclusive results but which show a slight, if statistically insignificant, positive outcome for homeopathy and call for more work to be done. I would have assumed that these would have been the most obvious areas for further research, yet I can find no incidences of this follow-up work being published. It’s probably an impossible question to answer but I’d be curious to know if this is because the follow-up study was never undertaken or because, when it was, the results were not the “required” ones.

                      Until there is a climate of publishing all trial outcomes (this applies to the conventional pharmaceutical industry as well), we will probably never know the answer to this.

                    • There is a letter missing there Steve. It should read ‘if’. My comment is related to the foolishness of debating with someone who is a fraud. That would obviously be pointless (and foolish) because they are not interested in the truth of the matter. I’m sure you would agree.

                      Not sure how I became a ‘tout’ for homeopathy, like Jerome I may be one of the only two genuine sceptics on the issue. I am agnostic but their argument is better, sorry. I was hoping to reasearch the studies at a later date although they appear to be archived now.

                  • Well, at least that is a fair point: debating with frauds is indeed pretty pointless. However, my main interest in debates with homeopaths is to ensure that onlookers are not left with the false impression that homeopathy has any validity at all – and that the endless repetition of refuted arguments is pointed out.

              • I think he accused you of being a homophobe, based on your logorrheic youtube tirade…but you have yet comment on that…You should hardly be the one to goad anyone into being “a little more specific”.

  10. Lil' Sugarpill says:

    The term ‘Endarkenment’ was coined by David Colquhoun, one of the ‘gurus’ of the UK skeptic movement. He is very proud of it. He is also a pharmacology professor who tells us he started out as a trainee in a homeopathic pharmacy. I’d love to know whether someone at that pharmacy upset him – jilted love perhaps? – because Colquhoun’s take on homeopathy is so tainted with a carefully-nursed vitriolic hatred that even his most ardent fans know that his stance is fuelled by more than a pure, rational wish for ‘enlightening’ the gullible public.

    Jerome, I salute you for tackling the question of ‘skepticism’ vis-a-vis CAM. More please.

  11. Many thanks to Jerome Burne for an exceptionally well reasoned article.

    The exposure of the anti-intellectual, anti-science tirades of near hysterical homeopathy skeptics has happened at several levels and is ongoing. This is but one more article which points out the obvious flaws in skeptics’ reasoning, misdirected outrage while far worse is occurring right under their unseeing eyes. In addition, the focus of the skeptics, almost exclusively, on a single method of testing is clearly unreasonable and violates any rational conception of valid evaluative criteria for homeopathy. Any sane person would, of course, want to evaluate ALL the “evidence” and keep clearly in mind the difference between the known and the unknown rather than make leaps to flights of fancy, explaining away 200 years worth of medicine as “placebo effect” and petulantly denying any other possibility while childishly protesting that “science” was on their side.

    • BS Detector says:

      Says the “doctor” of chiroquacktic. Nice coat. Makes you look almost as though you have a genuine medical degree.

      • Good argument Mr.B.S. Must be crooked if he wears a coat right? By the way is there an RCT linking coat wearing to quackery? Maybe you should be more concerned about fellow shills who try to pass off quotes in the Royal Geographic society as epidemiological studies and comments by pop stars as laws in scientifc discussion

      • ChristyRedd says:

        Chiropractic??????? Don’t bother to do your homework, do you?

        • BS Detector says:

          Watch and learn, homeopaths:

          I stand corrected, he is not a chiro. I was mistaken.

          See how easy it is to check a fact and admit when wrong? (Trick is doing the second part as well.)

          He is still just a pretend doctor who believes in the ‘medicine’ which brought you tiger penises and powdered rhino horn. And pin sticking. Funny how ‘Drs’ without real MDs are always the ones trying hardest to hype their image and credentials. Bit like toothpaste adverts on TV.

  12. I hope Chapman alleged sceptic hasn’t left the discussion without answering Jeromes question. Why are you so concerned about harmless homeopathiy and so absolutely disinterested in the disaster of artificial chemicals made by multinational corporations killing people?

    Also surgeons complain many of their techniques are not supported by evidence. When will you (and your buddies) call for the banning of all surgery not supported by RCT’s? When will you answer my question which hasnt gone away because youve ignored it i.e… “Chapman central will now present a study that proves the increase in life expectancy was a result of artificial chemicals being introduced into the body and not a result of improved sanitation, dramatically reduced hardship, and a dramatically greater abundance of food and water. All a result of real science and not pretend.

    You’ve made the statement. I want the RCT. Remember, the null hypothesis you love to tout??. And Chapman alleged sceptic where is your study that shows the use of artificial chemicals is both efficacious and sustainable long term as well as being better than natural medicine and lifesyle interventions?

    Just on behalf of all the homeopaths here let me repeat their question. Why do you ignore all the evidence they present?

    • elainelewis says:

      Paul, this is what I’ve been asking over and over–“Why aren’t you on pharmaceutical sites demanding to know why drugs can’t be made more safely?” But no, I don’t get an answer. I guess it gets right to the core issue, the contradiction, that if they can’t explain it, NULLifies their whole fake concern over homeopathy and begs Jerome’s question, “Why is it homeopathy leading to the “endarkenment” and not the pharmaceutical industry’s playing fast and loose with the RCT’s?” There is simply NO outrage over the deaths that drugs like Actos have caused, all the outrage is over the hypothetical harm to the hypothetical patient who opts to see us instead of a “real” doctor, and then hypothetically dies. Will someone please explain this insanity.

      • Elaine Lewis, you wrote:
        “Paul, this is what I’ve been asking over and over–”Why aren’t you on pharmaceutical sites demanding to know why drugs can’t be made more safely?” But no, I don’t get an answer. ”

        That is simply not true you have had an answer: You have been told before (shall I post the links?) that many of us (unlike the touts for pseudomedicines like homeopathy) have signed up to the AllTrials campaign for *precisely* this purpose.

        The unpalatable (to the champions of pseudomedicines) fact is that there *is* an organised campaign, of which many of the sceptics posting here are members, to get BigPharma to clean up its act. However there is no such organised campaign against SCAM (Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine); despite what you believe, we post here as private individuals with a conscience. (The only person ever demonstrated to be posting for cash was the journalist paid by German homeopathic organisations to denigrate Edzard Ernst.)

      • BS Detector says:

        Why aren’t they? They are!

        AllTrials campaign. Targets big Pharma to clean up its act.

  13. Jerome. You do keep good company.

  14. Worldwide research budget for homeopathy is <$2 million annually. Homeopathy remains medicine & science best kept secret. Skeptics pretend ignorant of/hate all positive high quality research in homeopathy.

    Upto the end of year 2010, there have been 318 studies published in 124 medical journals including 11 meta-analysis, 8 systematic reviews including 1 cochrane review (out of approximately 20 systematic reviews published) and 93 RCT (83 DBRPCT + 7 DBRCT + 3 RCT) out of approx 225 RCT published) in evidence of homoeopathy to produce significant to substantial health benefits in a wide array of health conditions.

    Reference to these studies including links to 168 full text papers is available at http://drnancymalik.wordpress.com/article/scientific-research-in-homeopathy/

    • The site with the link to the 168 papers is remarkable. You and a few others really need to pull together your research material in a way that makes sense of it for general public. In this sort of public debate you have to spoonfeed people.

      • More of the same could be said about your little mission, couldn’t it? What’s worse, bashing a legal and proven effective epidemiology, or accepting the crap they’re screwing us with now?

        • BS Detector says:

          You’re in the Encyclopedia of American Loons.

          • Well stuff me, there is such a thing. When you make billions of dollars there is no end to the witch hunts and destructive character assassinations you can conjure. If Johnbenneth is listed there Mr.B.S. he can be proud of himself. Scientism is a disease that needs heroes to cure

            • BS Detector says:

              Proud, right. I bet it’s the first thing on his resume.

              The only witch hunt and character assassination is by the loon fringe. Science actually cures diseases, you don’t.

              • Actually the body heals itself. We can remove interference to its processes and maybe give it some resources it can utilise, but without the bodies inborn healling abilities nothing ever heals. If you doubt that, get your best physician to apply his skills to a corpse, then you will see who does the healing.

                • BS Detector says:

                  Complete nonsense. What do you think antibiotics do?

                  They kill bacteria. Directly. The clue is in the name.

                  They are employed to kill bacteria because the body’s immune system is failing, overreacting, and sometimes threatening to kill the patient.

                  Ypu are full of words, empty of knowledge. And your little reference to Jesus wasn’t missed either. I should have guessed.

      • Philippa Fibert says:

        Can I also suggest this paper, which demonstrates that the wrong kinds of trials are being performed to test whether homeopathy works:
        Mathie R.T., Hacke, D., Clausen, J., Nicolai, T., Riley, D.S., Fisher P. (2013). Randomised controlled trials of homeopathy in humans: characterising the research journal literature for systematic review. Homeopathy, 102, 3-24
        Basically: most trials test the ‘homeopathic medicine’ often innapropriately prescribed, against a ‘placebo’ medicine. There are only 12 non-placebo randomised controlled trials of individualised homeopathy as it is practiced in the real world, compared to another real world treatment.
        I agree that we need to pull the research together in a way that makes sense to people, but its a complicated arguement. I also like this paper:
        Relton C, O’Cathain A, Thomas K J. (2007). Untangling the debate. Homeopathy; 92, 152-155.
        Which identifies the different components of ‘homeopathy’ and by extension, which elements are missing from most trials. If we accept the premis that homeopathy is a complex intervention, then we need to follow MRC guidelines for complex interventions and test the effectiveness of the totality.
        Thank you for a great article.

        • Yes treatmenents that are designed to treat patients – rather than diseases – are tricky for RCTs. Presumably patients getting individualised homeopathy sometimes/often get other advice as well around diet so they might also be eating differentl. You could randomise them to such multiple treatments or to normal care or maybe give them random homeopathic remedies and random food advice. Such trials could tell you if the treatment group as a whole did well or not but not fs the individual treatments were effective. Seems unlikely to be done with a large group for a long time

    • BS Detector says:

      10 seconds on Google and what a surprise! Another “Dr” without a genuine medical degree.

      • Since when has the Medical profession had exclusive use of the title? Oh wait, I know, since Doogie Howser was on T.V. right?

        • BS Detector says:

          “Look at all our proper qualifications!”
          “We looked. They’re not proper qualifications.”
          “Qualifications don’t matter! Big Pharma! Conspiracies!”

          • I’ll try again, since when has the allopathic medical profession have exclusive right to the title?

  15. You are not comparing like with like. Homeopathy is a TREATMENT which has an effect on persons and Professional Drugs are PRODUCTS which have an effect on populations. Homeopathy is management and the evaluation of Professional Drugs is applied mathematics.

    It doesn’t matter if Homeopathy cannot be evaluated statistically. It provides a framework for medical practice – an instrument of inquiry with an emphasis on sensitivity – not a product with the potential to kill.

    I have seen a farmer visit his GP and point to the pain in each knee. Within a matter of seconds the Doctor prescribed a drug (Celebrex). He didn’t seem to notice that the farmer was wearing new lace up boots.

    • Good one, Donald. Yes, the product has replaced the pracitioner. The drug mafia have become our new physcians. They can’t sell their product without telling everyone what the problem is.

      • BS Detector says:

        Yeah! Not remotely like telling everyone that real medicine is poison ( a problem! ) then selling them your own special magic snake oil. Boiron is your Big Pharma, and you are it’s devoted foot soldiers and religious believers. As bad as scientologists. Thank god real doctors are not fooled.

  16. L. H. Olavius says:

    Nice written article and all in all a very interesting blog you run here.

    May I direct your attention to the following paper regarding “Large-scale application of highly-diluted bacteria for Leptospirosis epidemic control” from Cuba.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20674839

    and then some comments to this:
    http://www.bmj.com/content/345/bmj.e6184/rr/616928

    Quote: “Unlike the conventional vaccine, the homeopathic product could be produced in less than 2 weeks (compared to 6 months), cost 2% of the conventional vaccine, and was far more easily stored and administered”.

  17. elainelewis says:

    What damns these “skeptics” is the fact that they’re against EVERYTHING–any natural healing at all, whether it’s acupuncture, homeopathy, Vitamin C, herbs, Traditional Chinese Medicine… no matter what it is, they are up in arms about it! It leaves nothing standing but drugs! And you have to ask yourself, why aren’t they incensed by all the fake studies, the fines against drug companies in the millions of dollars, the death toll these drugs are responsible for…. But they’re not harrassing drug company executives, their PR men nor their other employees, just us. How can that be unless they really are just the foot soldiers of the pharmaceutical industry?

    • That’s simply not true, but we do not support the use of the word “natural” as a get out of jail free card to bypass the requirement for evidence. Consider St. John’s Wort, it has a provable effect on mild depression, the problem is that the dose of the active ingredient depends on the individual plant, the year’s growing conditions, the part of the plant used and so on – there’s wild variability in dose. Most new drugs come from a molecule found in nature, the process of pharmacology is about isolating the active substance, assessing the dose-response, working out how it’s metabolised so as to ensure the correct bioavailability. The idea that a plant itself something is better than a purified or synthesised version of the active prinicple of the plant “because natural” is just silly.

      • Gee, I’m sorry, it is true. You’re against all natural healing. Admit it, don’t try to walk it back. I’ve heard skeptics refer to acupuncture as “magic needles”, homeopathy as “magic water” and all the rest described as “woo”. And yes, as world famous herbalist Dr. John R. Christopher once said, “They take a plant, remove the so-called active ingredient from it, and turn it into a poison.” The reason drug comanies won’t use the whole plant is because there is NO MONEY to be made in the whole plant.

        • No I’m not. Unlike the proponents of “natural healing” I have no caring whether something is natural or not: all that matters is whether it provably works. Vitamin C cures scurvy, it doesn’t cure cancer. Vitamin A is essential to life but in excess it causes a variety of pathological symptoms including acute liver failure and potentially death. Craft butchers prepare better tasting meat, but few people can tell whether it’s organic or not.

          Mosquitoes are natural, so is malaria. If you get malaria you can chew on the bark of the cinchona tree and take your chances as to whether the dose is sufficient, insufficient or supersufficient (in which case you’ll get cinchonism), or you can take a purified form (quinine) or a much more effective drug such as malarone. Or you can use homeopathy, in which case you’ll suffer exactly the same symptoms as if you had done nothing, because plasmodium falciparum, unlike humans, is not so easily fooled.

          I find it baffling that this is considered even remotely controversial.

          • elainelewis says:

            So you have no caring if something is natural or not. Well, there’s you’re problem. Because the body is a natural entity that can only metabolize what it is genetically programmed to accept. Drugs are xeno-biotic to the human body, i.e., FOREIGN, they don’t belong! I wouldn’t care how meticulous your drug trial was, the product would STILL be xeno-biotic in the end; ergo, all the deadly side-effects! I’ll ask you again, why aren’t you on the orthodox medical sites harrassing and hounding them, demanding to know why they can’t work with safer substances that won’t kill people? Why is your ‘zeal’ misdirected at us? Unless, of course, you people are, in fact, Big Pharma’s foot soldiers!

            • The body is completely unable to distinguish between natural and synthetic vitamin C, but it undoubtedly does react to foreign materials such as proteins – that is what the immune system does, and in fact that is how vaccines work: they introduce a foreign protein in order to stimulate an immune response, which then primes the immune system so that it produces antibodies faster if it is attacked by the same protein again.

              Before insulin was isolated from dogs and injected, every Type I diabetic died rapidly. Now they don’t Good old FOREIGN xeno-biotics.

              The human body contains more bacterial cells than human cells. Many times more. This is part of what makes us work. Classifying interventions according to whether they form part of the normal human metabolism or not is facile.

              • elainelewis says:

                Then you tell me what accounts for that endless list of side-effects, some deadly, that accompany every prescription drug? And again, if you could possibly tell me why you expend endless hours harrassing homeopaths and trying to deprive people of their right to medical free-choice and no time at sites that promote Rx drugs, demanding an explanation for why they cause so much harm?

                • Everything that has an effect, has a potential side effect. The entire business of medicine is working out the balance of risk and harm. Antimalarials, for example, have a number of potential side effects including things like photosensitivity. The risk from side effects is massively lower than the risk form malaria.
                  As to “harassing” homeopaths, I have no doubt they would be a lot happier being allowed to promote homeopathy without the unwelcome intrusion of reality, but the risk here is that people who are genuinely ill might believe them. That can be deadly. http://is.gd/Dingle, for example.

                  • elainelewis says:

                    Are you deaf? The RISK is in what you call “real” medicine! When it is CORRECTLY used, it causes over 100,000 deaths per year in the U.S. and 2,000,000 in-hospital adverse reactions! That is where the risk is, Chapman! All you’ve got going for you, for all your effort put forth here, is a HYPOTHETICAL patient who comes to a homeopath instead of an MD, and in doing so, dies. That’s all you’ve got! I’ve got JAMA itself saying that 100,000 people a year die from correctly-prescribed Rx drugs! Now again, why are you harrassing and lobbying against our right to exist?

                    • Laurie Willberg says:

                      Hi, Elaine. We can add life-threatening results of misdiagnosis to the list of “real medicine” gaffs too. It claims the lives of about 12 million patients (about 5% of the population) yearly in the U.S. alone. And apparently it could be as high as 20%. This tops the list of allopathic-related fatalities. Anyone who responds hysterically to the notion that homeopathy could even hold a candle to this tragedy obviously has no sense of proportion.
                      http://www.naturalnews.com/045018_American_medical_system_misdiagnoses_doctors.html
                      Make sure you also browse the articles that are referenced at the end of the report too.
                      Disinformationists/skeptics are not responsible for patient outcomes, perform no actual research and educated patients should recognize that skeptics have no place in any dialogue about health care technology.

                    • Deaf is one possibility ElaineLewis, there are others. BTW your figures are generous to a fault. Null estimated it was 758,933 Dr. David Graham, the associate director for science and medicine at the FDA’s own Office of Drug Safety testified at a hearing of Mercks drug Vioxx. A study led by Graham that was concluded in the summer of 2004 found that Vioxx was responsible for an estimated 38,000 excess heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths. In his testimony, Graham stated that this was a conservative estimate. He said that “a more realistic and likely range of estimates for the number of excess cases in the US” was between 88,000 and 139,000. “Of these,” he added, “30-40 percent probably died. For the survivors, their lives were changed forever.”
                      To dramatize the number of people affected, Graham noted that “this range of 88,000 to 138,000 would be the rough equivalent of 500 to 900 aircraft dropping from the sky. This translates to 2-4 aircraft every week, week in and week out, for the past five years.”
                      I should point out that this was just one lousy stinking drug trumpetted by the so called sceptics (sceptics, what a joke). There are literally thousands of others.

                    • No, it really doesn’t. The actual total for deaths due to medical misadventure for 2012 was 2,580(www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_06.pdf).

                      You are probably being misled by nosnesne such as Gary Null’s “Death By Medicine”, which counts a heart attack or car crash victim who dies in surgery as having been killed by the doctors.

                      Here’s a real patient who went to a homeopath instead of an MD and suffered months of agony, followed by a completely avoidable death: http://www.safetyandquality.health.wa.gov.au/docs/mortality_review/inquest_finding/Dingle_Finding.pdf

                      Admittedly such cases are rare. Less rare are those where people are put at risk by bogus claims to protect against disease (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9341713.stm).
                      It’s all about the balance of risk and benefit. Homeopathy provides zero provable benefit, and anybody who relies on it instead of real medicine when they need real medicine, puts their health at genuine risk. Fortunately most people are smart enough to realise at some level that trusting a homeopath instead of an MD would be crazy.

            • BS Detector says:

              Who’s paying you to promote this guff? Xeno-biotic is meaningless. How many natural things are poisonous? How many man-made drugs and treatments have saved millions of lives? Insulin ring a bell? Antibiotics?

              The biggest maker of homeopathy is Boiron, a multi-million dollar company. Liars for money, and successfully sued for it as well. The worst of all Big Pharma, as their nonsense products (diluted duck liver to cure a cold???) don’t even work.

        • BS Detector says:

          Accuses homeopathy sceptic (ie. normal person) of only criticising for money.
          Admits to being *professional homeopath*, makes a dozen posts criticising real medicine.

          Wow.

          I see why you cultists accuse sceptics of being paid, having ulterior motives, etc. You do it, so you assume they must do it as well.

      • elainelewis says:

        Simply not true? Oh, it’s true alright! Admit it, don’t try to walk it back now, or change the subject by saying, “What does ‘natural’ really mean anyway?” You’re against all natural healing methods leaving only one thing standing and that is –ta da!–pharmaceutical drugs and all the sickness and death they cause! Why aren’t you on their websites demanding answers from them instead of making endless posts here, only confirming Jerome’s thesis that there is something really “batty” about your obsession with homeopathy?!

        • No, I am not. What I am against is the false use of the term “natural” as an escape hatch to avoid criticism. Vitamin megadoses are touted as “natural”. It’s virtually impossible to consume sufficient of the source food to get that kind of dose.

          What you actually find is that some natural products have effective ingredients, and these can be isolated and used therapeutically, other natural products not only don’t have any provable therapeutic value, they may not even contain the thing they say on the label.

          St John’s wort has some effect on mild depression, but the amount of the active ingredient is dependent on the part of the plant, the season, the time of year, the location – tests of St John’s wort tablets find massive variations form tablet to tablet.

          If you have toothache, feel free to chew willow bark, you may or may not get a therapeutic dose of acetylsalicylic acid. I’ll take an aspirin because then I’ll know the actual dose.

        • If you think skeptics give the pharmaceutical industry a free pass, you’ve not been paying attention. http://alltrials.net and http://badscience.net

          • Alltrials is certainly aiming to clean up the way RCT’s work but that doesn’t begin to acknowledge their shortcomings. As a gold standard The RCT has a lot of gilt in it.

            To begin there’s no disagreement that there are many ways that the results of RCT’s can be skewed; perhaps the simplest is just to hide unfavourable results. The recent House of Commons Committee report into the Tamiflu saga – a gold standard example of hiding data – estimated that 50% of all clinical trials have never been published; when such trials are unearthed they are more likely to be unfavourable than published ones. Clinical trials run by the companies making the drug – a curious system, when you think about it, anyway – have been estimated as four times more likely to be favourable than ones done by an independent body.

            As has been pointed out by several commentators here, the Alltrials campaign, supported by the BMJ and many other medical bodies, has been set up to make the results of clinical trials more transparent, which is obviously a good idea. Dr Ben Goldacre one of the prime movers pointed out in a recent blog some of the other ways that RCT’s could be manipulated to produce favourable results (http://healthinsightuk.org/2014/03/25/statin-advice-from-the-wizard-of-oz/).

            These included excluding people from the trial who were likely to swing results in the wrong direction because they responded strongly to a placebo, or because they had some other disorder, or didn’t take their drug regularly. Results were also improved by playing down side-effects. Many trials didn’t report them sat all, such as many of those trialling statins, while others didn’t provide evidence of how reports of side effects were collected or how often.

            Now, preventing such fiddling in the future (practices, it is worth stressing, which raise the risk of patients being damaged or not being effectively treated) is obviously a good idea but it doesn’t deal with the past – this stuff has been going on for years. The result, commented the House of Commons report, has been to make the evidence base on which doctors decide on drug treatments for their patients corrupted and unreliable. In his book Goldacre has called for all the data on trials on any drug still in use to be carefully looked at for evidence of such manipulation. But that is a vast task and it’s hard to see who would pay for it.

            So faced with the fact that the claim that RCTs provide a solid scientific evidence base underpinning orthodox medicine looks increasingly implausible, patients’ the search for something else becomes increasingly reasonable.

            But even if future RCTs could be put back on the straight and narrow and if the backlog of dodgy data was cleaned up, that still wouldn’t ensure that patients got the most reliable information about treatments. A key problem is that an RCT is a highly specialised and unreal event.

            The patients, as we’ve seen, are carefully selected. Most are younger and fitter than the people on whom the drugs are most likely to be used. What’s more they generally only have a single disorder, the one the drug is designed to treat. The subjects are carefully diagnosed to make sure they have the relevant condition and then carefully monitored to make sure they take the drug. The trials most last for a relatively short time – six months is pretty normal – and rarely involve more than a few thousand people.

            However when a drug is released into the real world conditions are very different. Those getting it are likely to be older (and so with declining immune systems, maybe various deficiencies) to have a number of other conditions, to be taking other drugs. They may have been misdiagnosed, compliance is far poorer and they may be taking the drugs for life.

            Inevitably new side-effects start to appear because millions rather than thousands are getting them for years but the system we have for picking up problems after a drug has been licensed is notoriously poor – not least because such reports are regarded as anecdotes and all too often dismissed, especially if they didn’t appear in the original RCTs.

            One of the few studies done comparing the cost effectiveness of a drug based on the result of RCT data (this is what NICE uses in its calculation) with the benefit in the real world found that it was five times less effective.

            This failure of the RCT’s to give reliable information on the real world effect of drugs shows up most vividly in what is going to be a growing problem – poly- pharmacy; older people taking an increasing number of drugs. If you are on five or even 10 drugs – not uncommon over 70 – there has never been an RCT of that combination. No one really knows how they will interact or what effect the combination will have on your system. The few trials that have been done have found considerable improvement when some drugs are stopped but it has to be done on a trial and error basis.

            In the post that started this thread I quoted this comment from a recent article on ways of gathering evidence: Relying exclusively on RCTs is like: “resting all of health care evidence on a one-legged stool”. RCTs have important and all too often unrecognised shortcomings which is why I suspect the confidence with which the sceptics disparage any RCT-free non-drug treatment is misplaced.

            • The problem I have with criticisms of RCTs as a form of test is that most of them come from people with an emotional or financial investment in treatments that fail RCTs. The fact they can be skewed, is an argument for doing them properly an scrutinising the results, not an argument against RCTs per se.

              The term “orthodox medicine” is also problematic. It’s just medicine. Doctors are not the entirety of medicine, there are many anciliary professions. There are valid complementary therapies such as counselling and massage. But the opposition to “orthodox medicine” has at it’s heart those who sell and promote treatments that will never make it into the mainstream – not because they are unorthodox, but because they are wrong. Vitamin megadoses and homeopathy, to pick just two, have been extensively examined, and are without merit.

              Nobody relies only on RCTs either. To get to RCT requires IRB approval, which in turn requires a solid scientific case for making the test. Most of the criticism of the trial of chelation therapy for heart disease was based on the fact that it was unethically conducted, not that the treatment itself is bogus (though that is undoubtedly the case).

              I think that the day someone finds a better means of testing whether a treatment works than the RCT, is the day it will happen. Testing drugs on people is risky, but using drugs that cannot be objectively proven to work, is worse. Homeopaths advocate jetissoning the entire apparatus of evidence based medicine and scientific medical inquiry, because this inquiry resolutely rejects their claims. That is, on the whole, a great reason not to do it. Homeopathy is readily understood to be abject nonsense, based on whimsy and conjecture at every level. Any means of testing medical treatment that does not reject it,miss plainly deeply flawed.

              Yes, definitely improve conduct of RCTs, and preferably place more emphasis on patient protection (hence advocates of science based medicine, rather than merely evidence based) but don’t ever make the mistake of assuming that because something can yield a skeewed result, and because it rejects something you like, that it is wrong to reject thee thing you like. It’s not being conducted by industry that skews results, it’s being conducted by *proponents*. Money is not the only motivator and “big pharma” is not the only party making money from selling treatments. Most multivitamins enrich the seller and the patient’s urine, and nothing else.

              • I have just finished watching Eurovision song contest and your reply my comment about RCTs really does merit null points Chapmancentral. “Criticisms of RCTs come from people with emotional or financial investments in treatment that fail RCTs!” First that is a really egregious example of the sort of fact-free assertion that you condemn homeopaths for making. What on earth is the evidence for it? It simply isn’t true – psychiatrist Dr David Healy, for instance, has mounted a very considered critique of RCTs on his web site Rxisk which makes many of the points I did; he’s not selling anything.

                But even if it were true, so what? I took the time to set out a number of specific shortcomings of RCTs and all you can do to refute them is to challenge the motives of the people making them. That’s not an intellectual debate it’s yet another ad hominem attack – you are ignorant, you are biased, you don’t understand science. This name calling is not convincing.

                You agree that that RCT’s can be skewed, (and they regularly are), but dismiss it as not a fundamental problem. But the “skewed” point was just one of half a dozen I made, all of which you ignored. In the past I’ve commented on your practice of making assertions about someone’s accuracy or motives and then when they show the claims not to be true you move on to another point.

                It’s now clear that you are quite happy to repeat the same accusation later, completely ignoring the refutation. This is what happens with your equally incorrect, yet frequently made assertion, that vitamin megadoses have been “extensively examined” and found to be “without merit.”

                Last time I gave the example of the two year, double blind, RCT involving megadoses of B vitamins run on over 200 people with Mild Cognitive Impairment. It showed that the vitamins reduced brain shrinkage in the areas affected by Alzheimer’s by nearly 90%. Just the kind of thing your RCT campaign demands. You didn’t respond to that at the time and now you repeat the lack of evidence for vitamins claim.

                I also pointed out the really poor quality of some of the trials claiming to disprove the benefits of vitamins and gave the example of a recent study that attempted to show large doses of B vitamin were valueless. This was comprehensively dismantled in a feature on the site healthinsight.org. You made absolutely no attempt to show why the attack on B vitamins was actually valid and yet here you are now making “vitamins are worthless” assertion again. This does not inspire confidence in your claims about any other medical issues involving trials.

                You seem to suggest that at the moment there is nothing better than an RCT. But how can you say that when you haven’t considered the shortcomings. You’ve also ignored the point that broader mix of evidence is needed – including observational trials and clinical judgement.

                This is because trials of treatments that involve multiple interventions – diet, psychological, biochemical – are poorly suited to the RCT. For support for this point see the article I referenced in my original article that started this comment trail. It also talked about the shortcoming of RCTs and why they tended to produce negative results in these sorts of treatments.

                You assert that any testing system that doesn’t reject homeopathy is deeply flawed but I can’t take that seriously since you’ve said the same thing about vitamins. I know that’s wrong so I not at all confident about your homeopathy assertion.

                Finally you return to totally irrelevant and erroneous business of attributing motives – that I (?) people (?) are rejecting ways of testing that don’t t fit with something I like. This is the cherry picking allegation that you failed to deal with before when it was challenged.

                I don’t mean this as a gratuitous insult but it doesn’t seem to me that you are serious about engaging with any sort of genuine debate or exchange of views or evidence. Should you really be posting here?

                • elainelewis says:

                  Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! “Should you really be posting here?” Indeed, yes, this is the question, this is the problem with “trolls”, they are not sincere, they have an agenda, and as such, they are really wasting the time of the people who post out of legitimate interest in the subject. Your reply is so sharp, Jerome, it really shouldn’t be wasted, it would make a good article on its own! I intend to save it!

                • You seem to me to be denouncing the system of randomised controlled trials, but you’re not, as far as I can see, suggesting a better mechanism to replace them. You seem to think that the problems of randomised controlled trials are unfixable, even though there have already been meaningful improvements and lots of people seem to think they can be fixed, but you do not seem to acknowledge that exactly the same sources of bias exist for the treatments and tests you might prefer.

                  Why would the supplement industry be uniquely free of commercial biases and imperatives? Nobody has ever given me a credible reason why this might be so. The US DSHEA is a law passed by people with vested interests in the supplement industry, that exempts supplements form having to prove safety or efficacy prior to marketing. Any law doing that for drugs would rightly be denounced. My biggest problem with the “natural” lobby is nothing to do with evidence of effect and everything to do with the assumption that being labelled “natural” automatically validates something. I don’t say you fall for this obvious fallacy but prominent proponents such as Mike Adams unquestionably do. We’ve seen the “natural” lobby supporting Stanislaw Burzynski, a pharmaceutical manufacturer who has gamed the system for decades, who has routinely failed to report serious adverse events for years, who has charged patients tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to participate in unpublishable fake “clinical trials”, whose IRB is run by a director of his company with a clear conflict of interest, whose “independent” patient group is run by a former director and so on. Any company that did this and did not play the “natural” card would be pilloried. He plays the “natural” card, quite without justification, and gets a free pass from the “natural” lobby. Do you not see that as any kind of problem?

                  You are right that I was careless with my phrase. I mean, of course, that in my experience in debates such as this, opposition to RCTs as a method of assessing treatment outcomes seems to come primarily form those whose preferred treatments do not fare well in RCTs.

                  RCTs are not the only form of fair test that is possible. It can be said with very great confidence that homeopathy is bunk. It is an excellent test of any system that aims to separate valid from invalid treatments. What test do you propose in place of the RCT, and can you demonstrate that it unambiguously rejects homeopathy, a known bogus intervention?

                  I am all for fair tests. I think any product sold tot he public as medicinal should be supported by identically high standards of proof. The “natural” lobby uses the self-examination of scientific medicine as a stick with which to beat it, but does not engage in similar self-examination. The ability to discard a bogus treatment is a key indicator of a system that meets essential minimum standards of self-criticism. No human endeavour is without fault. All I’m asking for is evidence that whatever mechanism is proposed as an alternative to the much-reviled RCT, a system that arose, it must be remembered, in response to even worse biases in the past, should demonstrate the ability to identify and reject treatments that don’t work, even if they are ideologically acceptable.

                  One thing that would move this on a bit is if you can show me examples where the “natural” lobby have unambiguously rejected treatments labelled “natural”, from within their own ranks, rather than the “competition”.

                  • I’m not “denouncing” anything – seems that is more your territory. I’m just being a journalist – seeing how the official line about evidence based medicine – that it is founded on RCT’s which are the gold standard – match up with the reality. Being sceptical in fact. I read quite a lot by critics of RCTs which seemed to me to make a lot of sense and which, most importantly, were generally ignored when people talked about evidence based medicine. I’m simply reporting –as is my job – on the findings of a number of researchers who are a lot more knowledgeable than me.

                    It is no different from journalists covering economics or politics pointing out serious shortcomings of the conservative privatisation policy or an environmental journalists contrasting the rhetoric with the reality in the way oil companies respond to evidence for global warming.

                    In none of those cases do I think it is the journalist’s job to come up with alternatives, although of course when I come across proposals which seem to make sense I will write about them. At the moment my sense is that there is very little awareness of these shortcomings. One of my intentions in setting up this site – Body of Evidence – was to write about the way much of medicine is not evidence based. Do read some previous posts.

                    I did hope that this fierce and frank exchange would throw up a discussion about flaws in the way non-drug trials were conducted and how they might be improved – and referenced one recent paper that did this – but so far no one has taken up the baton. As far as I can see the sceptic side is pretty happy with the existing set up so I wouldn’t expect much of a contribution from there any more than I’d expect the privatising conservatives would investigate ways to make state run programs more effective.

                    I can see that there are attempts to fix the worst shortcomings of RCTs although I think it is a bit of a leap of faith to expect the leopard GSK to change its spots. But it is true that some the other criticisms seem much more fundamental such as the fact that the RCT is a rarefied beast and the big different between what happens there and the results in the real world. One way round that would be to have much better post marketing surveillance and much more outcome research – tracking what happened to patients given particular treatments.

                    I’m afraid I regard your request for me to go into the commercial interests of the supplement industry as another of your distractions. I’ve made a number of fairly serious points about RCTs and I’d like to stick to those for now. All the stuff about DSHEA has nothing to do with the Oxford trial of megadoses of B vitamins which is a major refutation of your sweeping claim that all vitamin treatments are rubbish, expensive urine etc. Can you also deal specifically with that?

                    Sam e with your “biggest problem” with that very slippery word “natural”. It’s not an issue for me. I’m also not going to get drawn into a debate over Burzynski – I don’t know the details – although I am aware of allegations that the government played fast and loose with patent applications. I just get the feeling that you are again throwing in a few more issues from your cupboard marked “disputed issues involving non-drug treatments”. I’m not a spokesperson for anyone or anything. Trying to tease out the various implications of relying on the RCT and how to come up with some better ways of testing is enough for now.

                    You condemn the “natural” lobby for not coming up with other forms of testing but that ignores the huge disparity of resources. In very broad terms I would like to see a serious commitment by appropriate bodies with access to public funds investigating ways seriously to research and implement lifestyle changes.

                    Yet despite the broad brush recognition that these account for something like 50% of Alzheimer’s cases, the funding devoted to researching Alzheimer’s prevention is less than 1% of the total budget. I think it is not unreasonable to suggest that the financial muscle and interests of companies searching for patentable treatments might just have something to do with that. Not that drug treatments might not be really valuable but the playing field is so not level it is practically vertical.

                    Not going to get involved in debate over “natural” treatments being rejected, although I have a number of examples where drug treatments continue to be used despite clear evidence of their danger or lack of effectiveness. I’ve set them out before and you have ignored them.

                    • I am afraid this is a waste of both our time. You seem unprepared to accept that rejecting homeopathy is a litmus test for the validity of any system for sorting valid from invalid treatments; you claim not to denounce the RCT but your statements are strongly opposed to it, they also imply that rejection of homeopathy is a reason why the RCT might be wrong, and you have not offered any alternative that might be better (as measured by its ability to reject known bogus treatments such as homeopathy, laetrile, vitamin megadoses, chelation for autism and so on).
                      Whatever your real views, from over here it looks as if you are simply engaged in special pleading. The relevance of the research budget for alzheimer’s is irrelevant: there are many unsexy diseases that get under-funded, that is not the fault of the system if inquiry, it’s an argument for putting more taxpayers’ money into research into these conditions. That requires in turn that the science research bodies are properly funded, which they have not been for decades.

      • Actually Chapman Central the main get out of jail free card is that people dont die in their droves taking herbs and vitamins. They are part of our evolution. Synthetic drugs are not. They occur in nature and would reasonably be consumed in a hunter gatherer society in the natural course of foraging, drugs would never be. They therefore dont require the same level of proof and research as synthetic chemicals manufactured by greedy multinationals that have repeatedly proven to be interested only in market share and profit.They occur in synergistic forms (Like vitamin c which always occurs in nature with citrus bioflavanoids, not like its artificially manufactured artificially sweetened ascorbic acid form. Mother nature has never had any ulterior motives in her medicine. She has never been sued for billions of dollars, she doesnt control media to control people. Oh and once again, where you said any criticism levelled at medicine can be also levelled at natural medicine WRONG (again).

        • BS Detector says:

          You are absolutely clueless. Whether a chemical is man-made or naturally occurring makes no difference, it is the same chemical. Vitamin C is ascorbic acid, no matter where you find it or how you make it, and its function in the body has nothing to do with bioflavonoids in any way. Nor is it only found in citrus fruit either.

          Read, learn, then comment. Not the other way round.

        • elainelewis says:

          Very well explained, thanks!

  18. Why dont the so called sceptics touting the null hypothesis answer me this. 100 years ago chemical medicine was rare. We used herbs, homoeopathic medicine, foods as medicine, some surgery (rarely) the odd sulphur drug. Along came J.D. Rockefellar and the Flexner Report. They did a study that showed synthetic chemicals introduced into the natural biological environment of the human body were both efficacious, sustainable in the long term and safer and more effective than natural medicine. That showed us we could discard thousands of years of traditional herbal medicine confirmed across multiple cultures independently showing similar results.(add your reference here sceptic)
    Oh no wait… they didnt do that study…so all we have is the environment to look at. Lets see, if we put an artificial chemical into a natural biological environment does it produce an efficacious effect that is sustainable? It doesn’t? Well you better do the study before you start espousing the benefits of synthetic chemicals in the natural biological environment of the human body. Apply your own null hypothesis to your model of reality alleged sceptic. Social norms are your religion, not science. You are the least sceptical person on the planet.
    Answer Jeromes question. Why arent you more concerned about the obvious damage done by your model of reality. Hippocrates said first do no harm. Homeopathics achieve that. I know of no one who has ever died from them. Can you say the same about Vioxx. NSAIDS, Benzodiazapines, Statins, etc etc etc. Have homeopathic manufacturers been sued for 9 billion. Billion alleged sceptic, not million. (or 6 billion like GSK last year.)The real risk is that reliance on these dangerous artificial chemicals prevent people from getting the actual help they need and making the actual lifestyle changes they need to make. Does that argument sound familiar? Like you I havent provided a reference alleged sceptic.
    .

    • The Flexner Report I have read, it was about the quality of medical education (which was in some cases shockingly poor). The Rockefeller thing is a canard, an appeal to conspiracy. But have you seen what happened to average human life expectancy in the years since the catalyst you discuss?

      The distinction between natural and artificial chemicals is spurious. There is no difference, as far as the plant is concerned, between a nitrate fertiliser form a synthetic base or a natural base. The molecules are the same.

      Average life expectancy in the West has doubled in the last century, and a lot of that is down to vaccination and antibiotics. You’re welcome to go and live a paleolithic lifestyle if you like, just be aware that in paleolithic times it was rare to live beyond 30 years.

      • Chapman central will now present a study that proves the increase in life expectancy was a result of artificial chemicals being introduced into the body and not a result of improved sanitation, dramatically reduced hardship, and a dramatically greater abundance of food and water. All a result of real science and not pretend. You’ve made the statement. I want the RCT.

        • Your logical fallacy is: poisoning the well.

          I could cite endless studies, but I have no doubt you will dismiss them based on the source. So why not settle for the Royal Geographical Society, who have no evident dog in the fight:

          “During the twentieth century, life expectancy rose dramatically amongst the world’s wealthiest populations from around 50 to over 75 years. This increase can be attributed to a number of factors including improvements in public health, nutrition and medicine. Vaccinations and antibiotics greatly reduced deaths in childhood, health and safety in manual workplaces improved and fewer people smoked.”

          You can sum up all of those with one word: science. Science developed vaccines, science developed antibiotics, science developed epidemiology and ways of assessing the prevalence and effect of small risks spread across large populations, science developed means of saving people after traumatic injury.

          One simple example: in the first three quarters of the 20th Century, over a quarter of a billion people died of smallpox worldwide. In the last quarter, not one single person has contracted smallpox. This was achieved entirely due to the development of the smallpox vaccine, and a concerted effort worldwide by medical scientists and doctors.

          As to “artificial chemicals”, feel free to cite any test that can distinguish objectively between “natural” and “artificial” vitamin C, similarly presented. Prefer natural chemicals? Fill your boots. Botulinum toxin is 100% natural.

          • The Royal Geographic society as a reference, you cant be serious? Whats your next reference, The Daily Inquirer? This is your response to the request for peer reviewed research? I said show me the study. If this is your version of that, I can see why you are so far off the mark. Guilty as charged. I poisoned your anecdotal well. You gave me a grin anyway.

            • It’s not a reference, it’s yet another summary. As I said, I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the usual suspects will wave away any summary published by the WHO or in the medical literature using the “pharma shill gambit”. The fatc remains that these are the things usually credited by independent observers as leading to the substantial improvements in life expectancy in the West over the last century.
              The term “artificial chemicals”, and the tone in which you use it, says a lot about your approach. If you want to subscribe tot he naturalistic fallacy that’s your own affair, but the body cannot tell the difference between a “natural” and an “artificial” chemical. This has been tested with vitamin C, for example.
              Vaccination eradicated smallpox. Do you count the smallpox vaccine as natural or artificial? It’s completely natural, in that it’s isolated from a natural pathogen, but it’s not a protein that is normally present in the human body (though it was present often enough to be a major killer).

              • Correct its not a reference. You haven’t provided a reference. The reason you haven’t provided a reference is because there isn’t one. Your paradigm is a model of reality based upon your social conditioning, not the bedrock of reductionist science like you like to pretend (believe?). If it wasn’t so you would provide me with a reference, not a magazine article. So instead of you waffling on about how I will reject any evidence you suggest, why dont you prove your point and prevent some evidence?

                • Present some evidence

                • They don’t have sarcasm on Betelgeuse, so Paul frequently failed to spot it unless it was pointed out to him.

                  That word paradigm. Have you any idea how many real scientists use it? Virtually none. Yet it’s on the tip of every crank’s tongue. Why? Because as soon as our present understanding of the nature of matter is turned completely on its head and shown to be utterly wrong, why, even homeopathy might be plausible! As long as the new paradigm is not a more detailed explanation of the old, in which the old turns out to be jest an approximation to the new which requires clarification in edge cases, as happened in every other case where a new paradigm took over.

                  • Chapman pretend sceptic, you wont present one study because there isn’t one study to support your model of reality. How can you maintain your sense of smug superiority criticising all the evidence presented and fail to present one single study to support your major premise. Just one, a study, not a magazine article. A scientific journal, not a magazine. A study done by a scientist not a journalist. You pretend to be scientific, you must know the difference surely?

                    • BS Detector says:

                      I think he tolerates the arrogance, ignorance and conspiracy drivel with admirable aplomb. You are the ones claiming magic works, so YOU must bring the evidence. It’s nobody else’s job to prove you wrong. Magic water is not magic. End of.

                    • See if you can refute this without playing the “pharma shill” card: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6019a5.htm

                    • Hooray, Well done Chapman Central. An article with references. It took this whole time but you finally posted one. Some of it is correct, lots of it is hightly contentious like for example cherry picking a couple of types of cancer while cancer overall has skyrocketted. The claim of mamograms (routinely irradiating breast tissue (especially in women who are genetically succeptible in the first instance is to say the very least counter productive. Perhaps you are aware irradiation is carcinogenic. Medicine claiming they reduced smoking when they in fact encouraged it until 1983. I find that particularly offensive because I lived through that era and saw the frustration of natural therapists having to deal with people sitting in their offices with smoking related conditions telling them they didnt have to give up smoking because their doctor told them there was no PROOF it was harmful (at least political medicine, the type you support). Improved road safety, that was engineers, and biomechanists not medical researchers. Funny how you claim anything done by science is medical. Also as Jerome points out CSIRO figures prove that infectious diseases were in significant decline before the introduction of vaccines and some even temporarily spiked after the release of the vaccine before continuing downwards. Some immunity is conferred with vaccines it seems but it is never as good as the immunity acquired from contracting the actual disease, I would like to see a study where the outcome of contracting the disease where the contextual parameters are adjusted to where they are not is compared. That study also has never been done. On neural tube defects its important to note that the main improvement here is because of addressing folate intake. Folate deficiency is related to an inadequate intake of green leafy vegetables. As medicine actively ridiculed eating whole natural foods from the 1910’s to the 1980’s they are the cause not the solution of the problem. Also the solution shouldnt be to add it to grains it should be to include more organic green vegetables. On the subject of lead, it was the greedy multinationals that put it in paint and gasoline, the same people who invested in big pharma in the early days. They persisted with it until rogue researchers overwhelmed them with proof and they were forced to remove it, much the same as smoking. Anyway this is a lot of big topics and I could go all day, but that gives you an idea on how to critically (and sceptically) appraise such claims. Good on you for posting a paper with references to support your model of reality.

                    • This is not a peer-reviewed scientific publications, references are not required for obvious and well established facts such as vaccines saving millions of lives, homeopathy being bogus or vitamin megadoses being bullshit.

                      There are many more examples of industry lobbying damaging health than tetra-ethyl lead. The lead industry as a whole lobbied against replacement of lead piping, and the supplement industry used legislators with substantial stockholdings to pass an act exempting their products from scrutiny and allowing them to make bogus claims. Every industry is the same, the bigger it is the worse it is. Medicine is not just an industry, though: a vast amount of medical research is conducted by universities and charitable foundations with no vested interest in any specific product.

                      There’s no good evidence that organic food is more nutritious, of course, and if you want ot introduce legislation forcing people to eat their greens then feel free to do so but in the mean time adding folic acid to bread has, if I recall the paper I read correctly, led to a substantial reduction in neural tube defects.

                  • “That word paradigm. Have you any idea how many real scientists use it? Virtually none.”

                    The word paradigm comes from Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” probably the most influential work on the history and philosophy of science in the last fifty years.

                    • “The word paradigm comes from Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” probably the most influential work on the history and philosophy of science in the last fifty years.”

                      Unless you include just about everything written on the subjects by Karl Popper and Imre Lakatos….

                      And the point is that scientists tend not to use the “p-word” – it is the philosophers of science who use and from whom the cohorts of the inanely credulous grabbed it and started to sprinkle it around (along with “health-care modalities” and similar fine-sounding but meaningless BS)

                    • I know it does, I have read it. Kuhn argues that, for example, the Einsteinian “paradigm” replaces the Newtonian, and homeopaths use this to pretend that one day a new “paradigm” will happen along that validates them, but in reality Newtonian mechanics is still accurate enough for everyday use and relativity merely fills in an area where it is revealed as only an approximation. Each of his “paradigm shifts” is merely a point at which we gained a better understanding of the world, allowing bus to describe it more accurately. And guess what? Each one has left less and less room for homeopathy, and we have now arrived at a position where homeopathy is completely understood by the scientific community. Homeopaths of course dislike this understanding but have nothing comparable to offer in its place.

  19. Jerome, your writing is a breath of fresh air, thank you!

  20. Thank you very much Jerome and I am sure you are aware that science nowadays is not really science. Once upon a time an experiment in science would be undertaken to discover the results. Nowadays the result has already been decided! Just as scientific trials on drugs discard any negative results that would impact on the commercial profitability of that drug.

  21. Burne’s editorial proves that when people repeat a LIE frequently enough, other people believe it. The lie to which I refer is that there are “no randomized trials that show that it works.” What is so strange about this lie is that virtually all of the people who assert this mistruth KNOW that there have been “high quality” randomized and double-blind studies published in the Lancet, BMJ, Pediatrics, Rheumatology, Chest, Cancer, Pediatrics Infectious Disease Journal, Cochrane Reports, and many more.

    As for those people who say or imply that homeopathy is “implausible,” such statements simply prove how uneducated and ill-informed these people are. There are now compelling and cogent explanations for absolutely plausible ways that nanodoses of the original medicine persist in water solutions, even if they are diluted at a 1:100 rate 30 times or 200 times…or more.

    Further, the above research was published in the LEADING journal in the field of “material sciences” (the multi-disciplinary field that combines physics, chemistry, and engineering). That reference is:
    Chikramane PS, Kalita D, Suresh AK, Kane SG, Bellare JR. Why Extreme Dilutions Reach Non-zero Asymptotes: A Nanoparticulate Hypothesis Based on Froth Flotation.
    Langmuir. 2012 Nov 1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23083226

    To read this article, you will need to go to a library or university. Sadly, however, almost none of the skeptics of homeopathy have done so, thus explaining their ignorance on the subject. And those few skeptics who have read this article are adequately educated to comment critically of it…but heck, they blame the homeopaths for their incompetencies.

    Please note that most of our bodies hormones and cell signal agents operate at nanodose levels, which are at the SAME levels of nanodoses that are found in homeopathic solutions. Unless skeptics think that our body runs on “placebo” hormones, I would suggest that skeptics are running on placebo brains…or more likely, they are simply proving that cognitive dissonance is alive and active, and they are doing all they can to keep their rotary phones (and Big Pharma drugs) alive and kicking.

    There have also been at least a dozen basic science trials showing that homeopathic medicines have measurable effects on up- and down-regulation of specific genes. Therefore, I have pity for these fools who call themselves skeptics. They are simply proving their ignorance or their ability to write and speak mistruths.

    • Dana, you claimed Darwin as a supporter of homeopathy, but the record from his own papers conclusively proves that he held it in total contempt. Your claim that Darwin supported homeopathy is a lie.

      You claimed that Nightingale supported homeopathy, ignoring the fact that she clearly framed this in terms of it being inert and therefore suitable for the “reckless physicking of amateur females”. She knew it did not work, yet you claim this as support.

      You claimed that the “neutral” Swiss Government published a health technology assessment showing homeopathy to be safe and effective. That was a lie: Dr. Felix Gurtner of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health has explicitly stated it is a lie, and has pointed out that the outcome of the process of which the original document formed part, was to remove reimbursement from homeopathy – it was reinstated after a political campaign led by the “neutral” authors of the report you promote.

      Now, I don’t think you do this because you are evil. Homeopathy is faith healing without the deity, your beliefs mean you will always support that which seems to confirm your beliefs and reject that which contradicts them. But your belief does not make the fact that like does not cure like any less of a fact, does not make the fact that dilution does not increase potency any less of a fact, and does not in any way undermine the fact that the overall conclusion from the body of evidence is that homeopathic remedies have no medicinal effect,

      • Fortunately, history continues to validate the fact that homeopathy skeptics are still not having any significant effect. The body of circumstantial evidence by millions in at least 80 countries has ‘convicted’ homeopathy of curing disease that conventional medicine cannot. In realty, the ‘debate’ of homeopathy vs conventional medicine was over decades ago. Homeopathy won. It is now a question of how much money will it take for the drug companies to make health care consumers believe their hype. It’s not about safe, inexpensive and curative health care. It’s about money.

        • Really? So homeopathy on the NHS is not in terminal decline, then? The Australian Government hasn’t just published a preliminary report which is as damning of homeopathy as the ones published by the Swiss and British Governments?

          And actually it would not matter how successful skeptics are in rolling back the tide of nonsense. The rise in popularity of young Earth creationism has done precisely nothing to validate it, it is as wrong today as it always was. Just like homeopathy.

          • ChristyRedd says:

            The Australian report seems to have conveniently ignored 300 studies providing evidence of homeopathic efficacy just as the UK’s Sci & Tech Committee did. Are you actually trying to claim the Swiss HTA was “damning of homeopathy”? This is the HTA’s conclusion: “Taking internal and external validity into account, effectiveness of homeopathy can be supported by clinical evidence and professional and adequate application be regarded as safe.” Contrary to “skeptic” claims the Swiss HTA was produced by appropriately qualified professionals without a vested interest. The 13-member investigating team was composed of 10 people trained in conventional medicine 6 of whom also had training in homeopathy. The other 3 were trained in physics, electrical engineering and sociology. Eight of the 13 held academic positions of whom 6 had been involved in research in CAM.

            You might be interested in reading the full text of the report which includes the names and credentials of each of the chapter authors at:

            link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-642-20638-2/page/1

            Denial of the facts does not invalidate them; neither does repeating lies.

            • elainelewis says:

              Thanks, Christy. It’s really hard to refute a person who doesn’t have any compunction about lying.

            • Christy, as we keep telling you, science does not *ignore* positive studies. It takes *all* published studies, positive or negative, assesses their quality, and weighs them in the balance. There are many sources that have reviewed the effect of study quality on outcome for homeopathy: they consistently find that the better the study is methodologically, the less likely it is to have positive findings. The 300 studies have eben checked, their quality assessed, and the outcomes weighted accordingly. At the end of this process there is no credible evidence that homeopathy is effective for any condition. This is in line with expectations, since it is based on refuted doctrines and lacks any remotely plausible mechanism of action.

              There is no reason to suppose it should work and no way it can work, so it’s not a surprise when you look carefully and find that there’s no good evidence it does work.

            • And Christy? That’s not a Swiss HTA (http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2012-13723/). It’s a “case study in research misconduct” (http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2012-13594/).

              Why you repeat the false claim that this is a Swiss HTA when not only did I point you to the authoritative refutation previously, but the same refutation has been linked within this discussion, I leave as an exercise for the reader.

              • ChristyRedd says:

                One man’s opinion — even if that man is a government employee — expressed in a letter to the editor cannot be taken as the Swiss government’s official position which is that the HTA was commissioned by the Swiss Federal Social Insurance Office as part of an overall evaluation of CAM modalities.

                As to D. M. Shaw’s claim of ” research misconduct”, it’s good to remember that Shaw is not a medical professional of any kind and has no training in and has not conducted medical research, certainly not homeopathic research. From reading the paper in which he makes his claims of misconduct, it’s clear that he doesn’t even know what external validity is or why it’s important. His background includes giving lectures on ethics at the U. of Glasgow’s Dental School, working as an English instructor and working as a tutor in moral philosophy. His previous papers include “We should not let families stop organ donation from their dead relatives” and “Cryogenics: Seeking life after death”.

                ibmb.unibas.ch/publications/journals-and-books/shaw-david-martin/

                Case dismissed!!!

                • You might wish that, but the published record shows you to be wrong. The claims made by homeopathists for the Swiss report are explicitly refuted by the responsible official. It is not a Swiss government report, and the Swiss government did not find homeopathy to be safe or effective (indeed they found it to be neither).

                  • BS Detector says:

                    Nailed. No doubt the Really Honest Cult of Homeopathy will now stop saying “the Swiss Govt PROVED it worked, so there!”

                    Because, you know, only Big Pharma tell lies like that. And Dana Ullman.

          • On the subject of the Australian government Chapman Central. They had a committee called the prescribed benefits scheme committee that was populated with eminent medical researchers. They were famous worldwide for keeping the costs of medication low by demanding the Big Pharma multinationals proved both efficacy and cost effectiveness. They were in demand as lecturers in other countries explaining how to do it. An exectuive from Pfizer flew in from the U.S. and demanded they include their novel new drugs on the scheme. They refused on the grounds that they hadnt proven efficacy and cost effectiveness. The Pfizer executive the went direct to the minister of health Michael Woolridge who within 6 months had the whole committee sacked and replaced with a compliant one. Woolridge left politics shortly after and took a volunteer job with a medical charity which I believe was sponsored by pfizer, and then shortly after moved into a senior executive position, leaving the Australian public to pay higher costs forever for their artificial chemicals. I have a transcript of the interviews but they are too large to post here.

            • That’s exactly the same as the supplement industry forcing through the DSHEA which exempts their products from the requirement to prove safety and efficacy. It’s immoral. What of it? Surely you are not so blinded by zeal that you assume resistance to the bogus claims of the supplement industry means acceptance of the bogus claims made by the medical industry? Every skeptic I know is a supporter of All Trials.

      • L. H. Olavius says:

        Below is a quote from Darwins “The Power of Movements in Plants”:
        “And that the 1/20,000,000th of a grain of the crystallised salt does the same. Now I am quite unhappy at the thought of having to publish such a statement. The reader will best realise this degree of dilution by remembering that 5,000 ounces would more than fill a thirty-one gallon cask or barrel and that to this large body of water one grain of the salt was added – only half a drachm or thirty minims of the solution poured over the leaf. Yet this amount sufficed to cause the inflection of the leaf. My results were for a long time incredible, even to myself and I anxiously sought for every source of error. The observations were repeated during several years. Two of my sons, who were as incredulous as myself, compared several lots of leaves simultaneously immersed in the weaker solutions and in water and declared that there could be no doubt as to the differences in their appearance”.

        It is so easy that anybody can do it.
        1. Buy a sundew plant
        2. Buy a ammonium carb. remedy
        3. Give the plant some tapwater…. nothing happens
        4. Give the plant some of the remedy…. the leaves will react at once by contracting.

        • Now try this: go to any library, scientific or otherwise, and see if you can find any publication in the last 200 years that shows “like cures like” to be a useful principle in investigating new medical interventions.

          Go to any library and find any publication in the last 100 years that shows a universal property of matter which is retained when the substance is diluted beyond ten to the twenty-third power, whether or not the substance is subjected ot magic shaking along the way.

          Cite any paper form physics or chemistry which shows an effect that is anywhere close to the claims of homeopathy, viz. a property of matter which is universal, specific per substance, which not only persists but becomes stronger with increasing dilution, however far this is taken, which is transferable to the intermediary of a sugar pill, transferable thence to a human body through dissolution by the enzymes in the mouth, and then has a measurable effect which is, again, distinct per substance.

          The problem with studies such as the one you allude to, is that they amount to tiny dots of light in an ocean of blackness where the evidence should be. It’s like claiming that psychics can really see the future because a psychic once won the lottery.

      • “Chapman Central” is either willfully lying or is mis-informed. However, because I have answered his concerns many times before, I know (!) that he is being untruthful. My article about Darwin’s experience with a homeopathic doctor was published in a peer-review journal: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816387/

        Even though Darwin was skeptical of homeopathy, the RESULTS amazed him…and perhaps saved his life. This homeopathic physician, James Manby Gully, was Darwin’s FAVORITE doctor (that’s Darwin’s words)…thus, providing additional evidence that homeopathy is not a placebo.

        As for that “Swiss Report,” there is NO denying the fact that the Swiss govt funded several reviews of research on homeopathy. The most comprehensive review of this research (one that reviewed basic science trials, clinical trials, metaanalyses, epidemiological studies, and cost-effectiveness studies) found strong support for homeopathy: Bornhöft G., Wolf U., Ammon K., et al. Effectiveness, Safety and Cost-Effectiveness of Homeopathy in General Practice – Summarized Health Technology Assessment. Forsch Komplementärmed 2006;13(suppl 2):19-29.

        As for Florence Nightingale, she sought the care of the SAME homeopathic physician who Darwin used…and Nightingale referred to him as a “genius.” Further, she referred her own father for homeopathic treatment. Is THAT the actions of a skeptic of homeopathy…or is this simply more evidence of Chapman lying through his teeth. I normally would not be so hard of a person, but I have provided these references to him in the past. Me thinks he doth protest too much…despite having no legs to stand on.

        • Well now.

          1: Darwin said this of homeopathy: “ou speak about Homœopathy; which is a subject which makes me more wrath, even than does Clair-voyance: clairvoyance so transcends belief, that one’s ordinary faculties are put out of question, but in Homœopathy common sense & common observation come into play, & both these must go to the Dogs, if the infinetesimal doses have any effect whatever. How true is a remark I saw the other day by Quetelet, in respect to evidence of curative processes, viz that no one knows in disease what is the simple result of nothing being done, as a standard with which to compare Homœopathy & all other such things. It is a sad flaw, I cannot but think in my beloved Dr Gully, that he believes in everything— when his daughter was very ill, he had a clair-voyant girl to report on internal changes, a mesmerist to put her to sleep—an homœopathist, viz Dr. Chapman; & himself as Hydropathist! & the girl recovered.”

          That is his actual writing from the archive.

          2. The Swiss Government funded a program for the evaluation of complementary medicine (PEK), which included two reports on homeopathy, one by homeopathists and one meta-analysis. Here is what Dr. Felix Gurtner of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health says about that report: http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2012-13723/

          He explicitly repudiates the claim that it is a Swiss Government report, and explicitly refutes the claim that it is a health technology assessment report. It is, in fact, a case study in research misconduct, whose authors all have conflicts of interest despite explicitly stating that they do ont, whihc reverses the hierarchy of evidence in order to reach the conclusion they admit in the introduction that they are aiming to support.

          3. Nightingale said of homeopathy: “Homoeopathy has introduced one essential amelioration in the practice of physic by amateur females; for its rules are excellent, its physicking comparatively harmless–the “globule” is the one grain of folly which appears to be necessary to make any good thing acceptable. Let then women, if they will give medicine, give homeopathic medicine. It won’t do any harm.”

          It is abundantly clear from this that she was well aware that the remedies are inert.

          The real question is, once you have been shown authoritative evidence that your statements about Darwin, the “Swiss report” and Nightingale are false and/or misleading, why do you repeat them? You have never, as far as I can tell, apologised ot your readers anywhere for the numerous occasions when you have touted something as “proof” of homeopathy that later turns out to be refuted or erroneous.

          • Chapman is so so deluded that he doesn’t even realize that the above quote from Darwin verifies MY points precisely. First, the quote ends with “and the girl recovered.” Thanx for verifying that the girl was cured! Second, that quote proves that Darwin has NO belief in homeopathy…therefore, it CANNOT be explained as a placebo! The RESULTS of Darwin’s visit to this homeopath were amazing and extremely quick. Within 8 days, he was eating “like a machine” or walking 7 miles a day! Previously, he told his cousin that he was dying and he was totally unable to work one in three days (his words!). But Chapman is very good at seeing ONLY what he wants to see…and always ignores the big picture (how convenient!).

            As for the Swiss Report, there is NO controversy to the FACT that an agency from the Swiss government funded several reviews of research, including one that was the most comprehensive review of ALL scientific investigations of homeopathy, not just clinical research but also basic science research, epidemiological work, cost-effectiveness studies, and more. I have already provided reference to that review of research.

            As for Florence Nightingale, Chapman repeats his same old information, but he NEVER acknowledges that later in life she grew to admire homeopathy so much that she went to the SAME homeopath as Darwin did (!)…and she referred her father to homeopathy too. Is THIS the actions of someone who doesn’t have respect for homeopathy?

            These “skeptics” are sloppy in their science and even more sloppy in their understanding of history. They often quote people earlier in their life…while I quote them later (when they gotten personally experiences with homeopathy!)….but Chapman’s primary purpose is to mis-inform. He does so in virtually everything he writes…and NEVER ever admits his multiple errors in fact. The real IRONY here is that he holds himself out as a “defender of science.” He doth do much more harm than benefit.”

            • The quote shows that Darwin had the utmost contempt for homeopathy. There is no evidence that homeopathy cured him (in fact there is not one independently authenticated case where homeopathy can be objectively show to have cured anyone of anything). Medicine back then was largely guesswork, and we have no idea if his symptoms were alleviated by the mineral spa, some herbal treatment, a medicine or just regression to the mean.

              You are right that there is no controversy over the fact that the Swiss government commissioned a number of reviews. One, Shang et. al., was published unaltered in a peer reviewed journal, the other, Bornhoft et. al., was published in a substantially revised form without peer review. I know you prefer this document, but the issues of undeclared conflicts of interest and reversal of the hierarchy of evidence make it worthless.

              Regardless, the outcome of the review of which it formed a part, was the withdrawal of funding for homeopathy. The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health continues to recommend against funding to this day, though politics has caused the government to temporarily restore it.

              This is precisely the case in the UK, and probably after the review in Australia is finalised, the same will be the case there. Evidence and fact say homeopathy is worthless, believers assert otherwise, politicians care more about the fox populism than about evidence (hence continued criminalisation of cannabis in the UK).

              I understand the sincerity of your belief, my issue is ITU your wilful distortion of the facts.

            • Just to be absolutely clear about that Swiss report. You said, in an article at HuffPo that “the Swiss government has determined that the very small doses commonly used in homeopathic medicine are both effective and cost-effective” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/swiss-homeopathy_b_1340506.html).

              As Dr. Gurtner made absolutely clear (http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2012-13723/), the Swiss Government actually concluded the exact opposite, and the report you trumpeted as a Swiss Government report was in fact a privately published, non-peer-reviewed apologia for homeopathy written by homeopathy advocates.

              The claims you made in HuffPo were objectively false. The Swiss Government did not publish the report, the Swiss Government found that homeopathy is NOT cost effective (because they found that it is not effective).

              Please point me to the place where you corrected the false report you wrote, and apologised for misleading readers.

              • ChristyRedd says:

                Apparently, you hope that if you throw enough mud on the wall, some of it may stick. Sorry, Guy, the facts are against you……….again and again and again.

                • So you say. And as soon as you provide a credible and robust proof that like cures like as a general basis of cure, that dilution increases potency, and that any remedy at normal potencies can be objectively shown to cure any organic disease, you will have made your point.

                  It’s been 200 years, the homeopaths really ought to get round to this some time soon.

              • Chapman is not simply delusional, he suffers from a chronic case of complete denial of evidence. Lucky for us, he is transparently deaf, dumb, and blind. His assertion that there is not “one independently authenticated case where homeopathy can be objectively show to have cured anyone of anything.” Thanx Chapman. This statement PROVES your ignorance and your willful intent to tell lies. Besides the several hundred double-blind and placebo controlled trials published in the Lancet, BMJ, Pediatrics, Chest, Cancer, Rheumatology, amongst many others, there are 100 million people in India alone who rely SOLEY on homeopathic medicine, let alone the true irony that Chapman is asking for a “single anecdotal” case, despite the fact that there are thousands of such cases.

                As for the Swiss reports, he KNOWS but pretends to be ignorant of the fact that the Swiss govt funded numerous reports, though the most comprehensive report was conducted by a group of professors, including Bornhoft, Wolf, Ammon, et al.: http://www.bag.admin.ch/themen/krankenversicherung/00263/00264/04102/index.html?lang=de

                Chapman and his ilk have a black and white view of reality. I pity them and their children. They have never seen the rainbow of reality.

                • Dana, you are rewriting history. The Programme for Evaluation of Complementary Medicine (PEK) included several studies, one of which was an earlier version of the Bornhoft document you falsely portrayed as a “Swiss government report”, a claim explicitly refuted by the responsible official (http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2012-13723/).

                  The responsible official also points out that as a result of this programme, reimbursement of homeopathy was *withdrawn*. In other words, the report you tout as particularly comprehensive, still failed to persuade its intended audience.

                  You wrote in HuffPo that the Swiss Government published a report finding that homeopathy is safe and effective. This is not true. The Swiss government did not publish the report. The Swiss government did not find homeopathy safe or effective. The outcome of the PEK was exactly the same as the outcome of the British government’s Evidence Check (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/45/4502.htm) and the Australian government’s draft report last month (http://consultations.nhmrc.gov.au/public_consultations/homeopathy_health).

                  It really does not matter how you spin it: you made false claims about the report. You have never, as far as I can tell, retracted, clarified or apologised for this, in fact you continue, it seems, to make virtually the same claims. Bornhoft et. al. is not viewed as kindly by the scientific community as it is by those who share the agenda of its authors (http://www.smw.ch/content/smw-2012-13594/).

                  Misrepresenting sources (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Homeopathy/Article_probation/Incidents#Misrepresentation_of_studies_by_User:DanaUllman) is also a core part of the reason you were banned from editing Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Homeopathy#DanaUllman_banned). You have form. If you want to be seen as an honest broker, you need to stop ,misrepresenting sources as you did with Darwin, the Swiss report and Nightingale. I am just a random skeptic, you seem to be a prominent representative of the homeopathy community, and as such your continued and systematic misrepresentation of sources ultimately discredits the entire field.

                  Personally, I would prefer you keep it up, because you are very much better at discrediting homeopathy than I am (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Dana_Ullman).

                  • MISREPRESENTING THE LITERATURE

                    Chapman’s now saying Dana Ullman was banned from editing the Wikipedia article because he misrepresened sources, and then links to Wikipedia Talk? LOL! Look who’s misquoting sources . . go to the Wikipedia article on homeopathy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy, and see what they’re now using as a source for the Placebo Hypothesis, after getting caught MISQUOTING the U.S. Department of Health’s article on homeopathy via the NCCAM and NIH (http://nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy#hed5) as their source for the claim: SHANG!

                    Well, the placebo hypothesis is the pivotal charge and theme of the attack on homeopathy. For “sceptics” to lose the placebo argument for homeopathy is to lose the entire argument against it, at which point apologies would be due, and since it’s impossible for self proclaimed “sceptics” to apologize for anything, they have to keep scraping the bottom of the barrel for verification of their charge.
                    The footnote to the source verifying Wikipedia’s claim, that homeopathy’s effects were the work of placebos, first went to Ernst’s “Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews of Homeopathy.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1874503/

                    Now, as we all should know, even if they do look at the footnotes, most people will not follow them through, and of the few that do, even fewer will look at the study, and practically no one will actually read it all the way through . . which is why I DO, for once convicted always suspected, and I have found it to be a law IN FACT that all propounders of the placebo hypothesis for homeopathy are liars or quoting liars, and such is the case as it always has been with Wikipedia. The footnote for the placebo hypothesis always blows up in their faces and has to be changed.

                    Ernst calls Linde’s meta analysis “technically superb” and which in turn leads to the Linde meta analysis saying “The existence of contradicting evidence is not unusual in therapeutics. One solution to resolve such contradictions is to conduct systematic reviews and meta-analyses
                    of rigorous studies. In 1997, Linde et al. [3] did just that. The conclusions of this technically superb meta-analysis expressed the notion that homeopathic medicines are more than mere placebos.”

                    What Linde actually said was, “The results of our meta-analysis are not compatible with the hypothesis that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are completely due to placebo.”

                    Ernst continues to say, “The authors also stated that no indication was identified in which homeopathy is clearly superior to placebo.”
                    But they didn’t say that. What Linde actually stated was, “However, we found insufficient evidence from these studies that homeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition.”
                    This is a prima facie misrepresentation of Linde. Ernst wants us to believe Linde et al said something they didn’t say, and Wikipedia picked up on it and twisted it to mean that homeopathic remedies are placebos.
                    It should be pointed out that Linde was analyzing the clinical literature to determine if the materials used were acting as placebos, not how effective they were for any single condition. Yet this was construed by Wikipedia to mean just the opposite of what the Linde authors intended, i.e. a misrepresentationof Linde by Wikipedia via Ernst. This is why you are immediately disqualified if you use Wikipedia as source material in a PhD dissertation. It is entirely unreliable, as anyone see.

                    It was soon after the revelation that Ernst was tampering with the evidence that he was fired from his post at Exeter with charges of academic misconduct following him, and Wikipedia dumped his Systematic Review for the NIH article. When it was exposed that the NIH article said nothing about homeopathics being placebos . . the word “placebo” doesn’t even appear in the article. . Wikipedia hoisted the present reference to the Shang 2005 already discredited meta analysis . . which is now blowing up in their faces . . again.

                    The real reason Wikipedia banned Dana is becuse he was bringing up links tothe literature they didn’t want to confront, like Roy, The Structure Of Liquid Water; Novel Insights From Materials Research; Potential Relevance To Homeopathy http://hpathy.com/research/Roy_Structure-of-Water.pdf in which four American material scientists from Penn State Stanford and the University of Arizona densely analyze the literature on water physics for the plausibility of specific efffects for high dilutions;the Witt review of biochmeical testing, “The in vitro evidence for an effect of high homeopathic potencies–a systematic review of the literature http://tinyurl.com/7n9sedq which blows the placebo hypothesis to pieces.

                    Wikipedia now hastily states: “Homeopathy is a pseudoscience;[2][3][4] its remedies have been found to be no more effective than placebo.[5]” Foot note number five leads to the Shang meta.

                    Johnson and Boon’s 2007 review of the literature for pharmacists states, “In contrast to findings by Kleijnen and Linde, a 2005 meta-analysis by Shang et al that was published in Lancet found that the efficacy of homeopathic treatment was no different than placebo.51 However, this study has been highly criticized for being methodologically flawed on many levels.52-61 Of particular concern, the researchers eliminated 102 of 110 homeopathic trials and based their conclusions on only the 8 largest high-quality trials without clearly identifying the criteria by which these trials were selected or the identity of these trials. Odds ratios calculated before the exclusions (on all 110 trials) do not support their ultimate conclusion that homeopathic interventions are no better than placebo.”
                    Am J Pharm Educ. 2007 February 15; 71(1): 07. Where Does Homeopathy Fit in Pharmacy Practice?
                    Teela Johnson, HonBSc and Heather Boon, BScPhm, PhD http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1847554/

                    Now I ask Mr. Chapman, WHO has more credibility in this matter? The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, or the anonymously edited, non-peer reviewed, forever changing Wikipedia?
                    If Shang is so credible, why did Wikipedia wait until it had been exposed for misquoting Ernst (who misquoted Linde) and the NIH’s Introduction to Homeopathy”?
                    This is why I kicked Chapman off my blog. Kaviraj and I asked him repeatedly to source his placebo charge, as I have done and am doing here, and he couldn’t do it. He just went on making accusations about other things . . like he is doing here . . such as accusing the great proselyte Dana Ullman of “misquotes.” And I might add, in promoting homeopathy with classic works such as “The Homeopathic Revolution,” Dana Ullman has done more for real medicine than we may ever know.

                    It will be interesting to see what it is next after the Wikipedia editors, lurking in the shadows of Burne’s blog, read this. Will they stick with Shang, or find something else?

                    Perhaps an apology by Jimmy Wales . . ?

                    I doubt it.

                    • I haven’t abandoned my agnostic stance but it definitely looks to me as if the gadfly Chapmancentral is being outgunned here. Pretty impressive account of the Wikipaedia wiggling. We all like tidy endings so a victory by one side or the other would be nice but I can’t see that. Seems more like a debate between a marxist and someone from the Chicago school – victory depends on who sets the rules about what counts as winning. Ironically it also seems to me that 300 years ago people with Chapmancentral-like personality – relying on rules, sniffing out heresy and quick to condemn would have been more comfortable in the puritan camp, while the homeopathy supporters would have been at home with the free thinkers exploring new and dangerous ideas.I still don’t know if just how strong the evidence that homeopathy “works” is but I’m very certain that if it had access to the marketing budget of the large phamacuetical company it could certainly produce it. And that is something that does need changing.

                    • Do feel free to identify a better source for Ullman being banned for misrepresenting sources than the arbitration case in which he was banned for misrepresenting sources.

                      I showed an unambiguous and categorical refutation of his claims re Bornhoft et. al. Where did he apologise for making those misleading claims?

                      He has form, you see: for example, claiming that Montagnier’s work vindicated homeopathy even though Montagnier himself said it could not be extrapolated to cover the products used in homeopathy.

                      That’s the problem with homeopathy. There’s no actual scientific support for it, so every new finding that seems on the face of it not to actually contradict it, is claimed as final clinching proof. Until it’s refuted, after which something else takes its place.

                    • BS Detector says:

                      Just looked up the story of Dana and his Wikipedia fight. What a serial liar. Quite right he was banned.

          • L.H. Olavius has provided a reference for his Darwin Quote but you havent provided one for your that I can see Guy. You should reference your quote. Having said that I fail to see what Darwins opinion has to do with science. Its simply the opinion of a man who doesnt have the benefit of the last couple of centuries of scientific discovery

            • Darwin to W. D. Fox, 4 Sept 1850
              http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-1352
              You speak about Homœopathy; which is a subject which makes me more wrath, even than does Clair-voyance: clairvoyance so transcends belief, that one’s ordinary faculties are put out of question, but in Homœopathy common sense & common observation come into play, & both these must go to the Dogs, if the infinetesimal doses have any effect whatever. How true is a remark I saw the other day by Quetelet, in respect to evidence of curative processes, viz that no one knows in disease what is the simple result of nothing being done, as a standard with which to compare Homœopathy & all other such things. It is a sad flaw, I cannot but think in my beloved Dr Gully, that he believes in everything— when his daughter was very ill, he had a clair-voyant girl to report on internal changes, a mesmerist to put her to sleep—an homœopathist, viz Dr Chapman; & himself as Hydropathist! & the girl recovered.

    • BS Detector says:

      You are the shouting homeopath who claimed in Huffington Post that a 30c dilution could not possibly be the same as a drop in the ocean, like the ‘mean skeptics’ say, because you “make it in test tubes”!

      That was the single most jaw dropping FAIL comment I read that day. It actually made me stop reading HP.

      Either you can’t do primary school maths, or you are an unashamed peddler of lies. Either way, you are an amazing hypocrite and utterly untrustworthy.

      • The most jaw dropping fail comment I found was your buddy that you tagged out offering the Royal Geographic society as a scientific reference. No wait, passing off as a law in a dicussion about science the ego driven pronouncement of a pop star. That was funny though Mr.B.S.

        • BS Detector says:

          He has systematically trounced several of the hard-of-thinking on this forum, the least of which is you, far more politely than I would be – or they are to him. That you think Tim Minchin is a pop star is hilarious. That you think his argument rests on that is also hilarious. But given the standard of your posts so far, your continuing and embarrassing lack of understanding is not surprising.

          • I’m sorry I’ve done so badly, I thought I was doing so well too. Tim Minchin is in fact a pop star and the link on Chapman centrals post takes you to Tims little rant, its not acceptable as evidence for anything other than expressing the pop stars personal views. To present it as argument is… Unacceptable.

  22. Jamie Taylor says:

    Thank you for a well thought out article. It is a never-ceasing wonder what some people can read into what you have written.

  23. One stunning bit of research for simply validating the mechanism of homoeopathy that few people dare to embark on is to use the computer modelling of drug molecules prior to being approved for clinical trials. Many drug companies and universities heavily fund computer simulations of drug behaviour.

    Some modelling looks at whether a drug binds properly to the molecules it must interact with in the body. Another kind of modelling, a ‘Solvation Study’ typically surrounds a drug molecule with a cluster of water molecules to simulate the mostly water environment they may encounter in the human body. Pressure, temperature etc are altered and the water molecules start to move around based on Quantum Physics simulations. Some of them bash against the drug molecule deforming it. If the drug is stable enough it will return to its starting shape or not deform too much and if that is the case the drug is probably suitable for going to real drug trials. If the molecule is unstable then bits will break off which is not good as those might go on to cause side effects and in that instance the drug company won’t bother with a drug trial if the side effects are deemed too risky.

    I know these things because I did such simulations as part of my Masters degree in Computer Modelling of Molecular and Biological Processes at Birkbeck College in the University of London. One glaring issue I had with such studies was how all the focus was on the drug molecule and how the water molecules affected its shape and function rather than any attention be paid to the drug molecules effect on the shape and function of the cluster of water molecules. Water molecules typically can cluster around the drug molecule and can sometimes drift away intact in their joined up architecture that has within it an imprint of the drug molecule. This ‘imprint’ of the drug molecule within the water cluster means that the water cluster, from a biochemical point of view, is a negative or ‘antidote’ to the original drug’s actions. Of course Homoeopaths will tell you that’s exactly what homoeopathic remedies often behave like – with behaviour opposite to the substance from which they were formed from.

    For some bizarre reason drug companies across the world and researchers in universities almost universally ignore how the water molecules glue together into forms that can have their own biochemical effect. Randomised trials are not the place to start for evaluating efficacy of Homoeopathy -the place to start is with basic research that can be done on a computer at a university and, with ever more powerful home computers, something that can even be done by an amateur scientist at home.

    • Sounds fascinating angle. Wonder who would fund it?

    • Jazz- Thanks loads for posting this, it is indeed a fascinating epic. File it with the uncontrollable polymorphism encountered in drug manufacture noted by Sheldrake in the Science Delusion. It is also ironic, like the revelation that the vaccine is essentially homeopathic in nature, that modern drug pseudoscience is encountering the supramolecular and dissolution issues of the clathrate, their precious synthesized moles ionizing into a cloud of plasma before their very eyes and their action boomeranging on them. Oh God, it’s the laff of the century. All Hail Hahnemann!

    • Jazz- Deserving of a standing ovation for your contribution to the discussion!

    • The reason people don’t focus on the effect of drug molecules on water clusters, is that the duration of water clusters has been carefully measured and they last a few tens of femtoseconds. Electrochemists know all about this.

      Of course, if you look at everything from the perspective of “does this support my belief?” you very often get the answer “yes”, but if you look at the facts themselves, you do not conclude anything like homeopathy. If Einstein had not existed, someone else would have published relativity (several people were working along similar lines). Nobody who is not already a believer has ever looked at the facts and concluded anything like homeopathy. It’s entirely dependent for its existence on accepting the word of Samuel Hahnemann.

      • STRUCTURE

        Oh good, the “water structure lasts only 10 femto seconds, so it can’t structure, therefore it can’t retain a memory” argument. I love the stupidity of this and brought it up to a roomful of physicists at Josephson’s symposium at the Cavendish, and nobody said a word.
        First of all, according to the world’s leading authority on water, Martin Chaplin of London Southbank U. bond breakage happens in ice, too, and anyone can see ice structures, so that melts the water can’t structure argument. And, according to Prof. Chaplin, water does store and transmit information, concerning solutes, by means of its hydrogen-bonded network. He says “changes to this clustering network brought about by solutes may take some time to re-equilibrate.”

        “The main evidence against water having a memory is that of the very short (~ps) lifetime of hydrogen bonds between the water molecules [1209]. Clearly in the absence of other materials or surfaces (see later), the specific hydrogen bonding pattern surrounding a solute does not persist when the solute is removed any more than would a cluster around any specified water molecule, or else water would not know which of its myriad past solutes took preference. Indeed the atoms that make up the water molecule only remain together for about a millisecond in liquid water due to proton exchange (see water dissociation). A recent NMR study shows no stable (>1 ms, >5 μM) water clusters are found in homeopathic preparations [712]. It should, however, be noted that the lifetime of hydrogen bonds does not control the lifetime of clusters in the same way that a sea wave may cross an ocean, remaining as a wave and with dependence on its history, but with its molecular content continuously changing.g Also, the equilibrium concentration of any clusters are governed by thermodynamics not kinetics.”
        http://www1.lsbu.ac.uk/water/memory.html

        Now, I’d like to further challenge this notion of bond breakge. When you see their model of the water molecule, they show a discreet entity, an oxygen ping pong ball with two mickey mouse ears for hydrogen atoms, several of these balls bouncing off of each other to show what happens in water at the microscopic level.
        My first question is, what is that the architects of this model think these water molecules are swimming around in? Water? LOL! Do they think it’s a vacuum, or another gas?
        They speak of hydrogen bond breakage and the dissolution of structures, but there are other bonds between water molecules, such as sigma bonds, there are supramolecular interactions such as van der Waals.
        So first, I question this idea that the water molecule is a discreet entity. I wonder if they’re not energy vortexes. And I question the assertion that these hydrogen bonds break at all. We are told that the water molecule has tetrahedral (4 ) transverse connection points. But rather than being sockets on hard little balls, I think they could be the direction of energy flow, and instead ofbrekaing, they are stretching and contracting, and the fneter of the oygen vortexes are moving, not he bond. The hydrogen connections to other molecules are pumping and circling or rotating.
        The other question is where do they think all the energy to move these discreet entities, if that’s what they are, comes from? This jumbled square dance, what do they think powers it?

        Chaplin says, “An extraordinary paper authored by Nobel prize-winning Luc Montagnier has described memory effects in aqueous DNA solutions that the authors propose depend on interactions with the background electromagnetic (EM) field. These effects, if real, require the prior processing and dilution of the solutions and are explained by Montagnier as resonance phenomena with nanostructures derived from the DNA and water [1602].e”

        I agree with Chaplin that Montangier’s paper is extraordinary, I think it’s one of the most extraordinary studies I’ve ever read, and laughably it has sent the homeopathy haters running around in circles smashing into each other.

        First they insisted Montangier’s paper was not about homeopathy, but complained about it anyway. Then Montagnier confirmed that it was indeed about the materials used in homeopathy, and so it is that homeopathics, it would appear, emit among other EM, low frequency EM at one kilo Hertz, and this is inferred as being transducted out of the background electromagnetic field, i.e. the Schumann resonances. tinyurl com/7evvmkb

        I think that the high dilute solution is a scintillator. Energy flows into and out of water like a sponge, the structure of its piezo electric hydraulics from solutes governing the biologically relevant signal.

        • Fascinating and way above my academic pay grade.it is very clear that the sceptical line on homeopathy involves ignoring the remarkable amount of thinking about mechanism that supporters have done. It’s not going to win them round but in terms of theorising about how homeopathy might work it seems rather more sophisticated than current theories/claims about how psychiatric drugs work – professor Joanna Moncrieff of Imperial has comprehensively demolished the standard explanation for what amtipsychotics do.

          • The skeptical line on homeopathy involves two things: first, asking the homeopathists to prove their
            claims, and second, examining the things they assert in support of their claims.

            Benneth conjectures that water molecules might be energy vortices. I can answer that: no they are not. In fact the statement is functionally meaningless. The structure of atoms and molecules can be described in many ways depending on how closely you want to zoom in: my understanding runs out round about the Schroedinger equations, which describe the quantum state of particles over time, and explain (or at least seem to me to explain) the wave-particle duality of matter. An energy vortex (in as much as the concept makes any sense at all) can only exist in a state of propagation, it would require a field to contain it. I guess it would look something like a curl source, memorably described to me as the electromagnetic equivalent of what happens when you pull the plug out of a bath. Quantum physics is too heavily mathematical for me to understand it more than qualitatively, but I do have enough grasp of it to understand concepts such as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which gives us, en passant, the irreducible minimum amount of information that can exist, and in the process quite callously refutes homeopathy, almost as if it didn’t care.

            Memory of water? Aside from the fact that it doesn’t have memory, or at least nothing persistent or general, not one of the tests that purport to show this memory, provide any evidence at all that whatever it is that forms the memory, will persist when it’s dropped on a sugar pill and evaporated. Does sugar have a memory as well? Does alcohol remember as well as water? Does the memory require shaking or not? If so, exactly what is the minimum force per succussion?

            But that’s a sideshow, like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a pin when the correct question is: are there any such things as angels?

            If you follow back the chain of references for “like cures like” in the sense used by homeopaths (i.e. as a sole valid basis for cure), it has only one root of authority: a single observation by Samuel Hahnemann, There is no actual evidence that like cures like, and there is no objectively demonstrated property of matter that is responsible for this. His conjectures centred on the “vital force”, which lacks any empirical basis, and appeals ot “miasms”, or disturbances of the vital force (the miasma theory is the basis of the name “malaria”; it was discarded when the germ theory was shown to be true).

            Always be on the lookout for the specific being used to assert the general. Cinchona bark causes fever, cinchona bark cures malaria; therefore things which cause a symptom, cure the disease that causes that symptom.

            Knowing, as you do, that clinical trials are subject to manipulation and bias and error, especially when conducted by proponents, would you, when presented with a drug, follow the chain of proof back as far as you could? So why not try it. See if you can find any evidence, outside the walled garden of believers in homeopathy, that there is some property of matter which is both universal in scope and specific to each material, and which has an effect on the human body which is tied to the symptoms of disease, and which can be used to alleviate disease if correctly attenuated.

            There is no informed dissent from the idea that giving a patient a measurable quantity of a pharmacologically active substance, can have an objectively measurable effect.

            Homeopathy does the exact opposite. It takes substances that may or may not be pharmacologically active, may or may not have some connection to the disease they are said to cure, and may or may not actually exist (e.g. “light of Venus”), dilutes them to the point where no scientific test can identify any property distinct from the base solvent, drops them onto a sugar pill and evaporates the base solvent, then drops the sugar pill in a pool of enzymes and hopes for the best. Oddly, nobody has ever managed to provide any objective evidence that this has any effect on the body that is specific to the substance used. Why do you think that might be?

            • We have our differences, Chapmancentral – in fact that is about all we have – but have to admire your persistance and energy. Mildly curious to know how you find the time. Can’t stop however as off to to the memorial service of Dr Skinner who treated thousands of patients who had all the symptoms of thyroid deficiency but whose blood test readings fell within the normal reference range. He was about the only UK doctor who would do this and since it is contrary to formal endocrinology guidelines he was regularly hauled up in fromt of the GMC. This is despite the fact that – according to shelves of written testimonies – a large proportion of the patients saw a dramatic improvement. In one case I know of the doctor who had referred one patient to Skinner then reported him to the GMC after the patient has come to tell her how she was now able to get out of the house and was looking for a job. Can’t go into details here but the story of this man’s struggle to continue treating patients in the face of hostility from the endocrinology establishment raises all sorts of questions about the way evidence based medicine is practiced. Not specifically relevant to homoeopathy but it is a good example of why many turn to alternatives in desperation. Ironically in this case there was a mainstream solution for these patients but doctors are forbidden to use it.

              • You can call me Guy. So, to your point: there are, in my view, three kinds of medical therapy.

                The first is medicine that is definitively proven to work. That includes vaccines, antibiotics, insulin, antiretrovirals and a host of other effective interventions. Most of these have one thing in common: the proof of effect relies on objective tests. It is very easy to tell if a drug for an insulin dependent diabetic works, or of a vaccine generates an antibody response.

                Second, there’s stuff that is known to be wrong, to a sufficiently high degree of certainty that no further investigation is warranted. That includes reiki, homeopathy, therapeutic touch, intercessory prayer and so on. These all share a common feature too: they have no remotely plausible mechanism of action. It is not a surprise when you find that the more closely you control for confounders, the less likely you are to get a positive result.

                The third class is the stuff that’s interesting. It may or may not work. The evidence is pointing one way or the other. Tamiflu was thought to work, but now is known to be only marginally effective. Vitamin D is now known to be slightly deficient in many older people in the West. But the third class also have things in common: they all address symptoms which are either self-limiting (i.e. get better on their own) or subjective, and they all have a plausible mechanism of action. That makes it extremely easy for proponents of a therapy, to skew the results of trials. That’s why it has taken so long to work out that acupuncture, for example, is actually just a placebo. Obviously we’ve known for a long time that qi and meridians are nonsense, but it has taken a long and painstaking series of increasingly subtle tests to work out that it doesn’t actually matter if you put the needle in or not, so the needle penetrating tissue does not itself cause the release release of endorphins.

                Now, I do not know about the specific case you name. But what I do know is this: every proponent of every therapy, has an emotional, and often financial investment in it. Every patient has also vested emotional commitment in the therapy. People hate being shown to be dupes. So, while individual cases can be interesting pointers ahead, only rigorous studies can separate truth from fiction. It has taken a longtime to learn this and many patients have been harmed along the way by practitioners who hold to ideas that have been shown to be wrong. Doctors conducted unnecessary radical mastectomies, reducing quality of life for thousands of women, chirporactors kill and injure a steady stream of people by inducing strokes, chelationists harm autistic children, numerous alternative practitioners promote anti-vaccination tropes that lead to fatal outbreaks of preventable disease.

                I quote Minchin’s Law: alternative medicine, by definition, has either not been shown to work, or has been shown not to work. The name for alternative medicine that can be shown to work, is medicine.

                I have never seen a criticism of medicine that does not apply equally to alternative practitioners. Criticising medicine is absolutely fine, in fcat it’s mandatory, that’s an important job of medical science.Exactly the same scrutiny should be applied whether you like the sound of a treatment or not. What aggravates me about alternative medicine advocates is not that they advocate treatments that have been tested and shown to be ineffective, so much as the fact that they give anyone who waves the “natural” flag a free pass.

                In the US, the “natural” lobby are defending Stanislaw Burzynski, a drug manufacturer who has committed gross ethical violations including not reporting potentially fatal adverse events for up to seven years, and using an institutional review board run by someone with a financial stake in the trials it reviews. If Pfizer did this the natural lobby would be at the head of the baying mob. To give people a free pass on ethics and normal standards of clinical care, on the basis that your enemy’s enemy is your friend, is bonkers.

                I wholeheartedly support any reasonable trial of any plausible treatment, with proper ethical controls. I wholeheartedly support the naming and shaming of manufacturers who abuse that, be they Pfizer or Stanislaw Burzynski. Health is too important to allow ideology to rule, don’t you think?

                • Anonymous says:

                  Guy, you are right, some drugs work, if working means they produce an outcome. All however have side effects. The problem for you is, lifestlye modification works without side effects, herbs largely do too. There is no shortage of research supporting that. (I think you conceded herbs work before your wild claim that alternative treatment doesnt work), Chiropractic is supported by mountains of evidence. Perhaps you dont consider that alternative? So heres the thing, why do you attack homeopathy which has no known side effects and fail to be concerned about surgery that is without formal evidence, as Stanford Professor David Eddy said, “the confident statements in texts and medical journals have simply been handed down from generation to generation”. Will you go in to battle with the surgeons over that? When will you start blogging about the massively well documented deaths resulting from the introduction of artificial chemicals into the natural biological environment of the human body. You give us a single anecdote about someone who was sick being kept from lifesaving medicine by trying homeopathy. You provide no reference, no evidence that medical intervention would have in fact worked for them while people are dropping like flies from using cox 2 inhibitors etc etc. That is the original question by Jerome, and that is one of the questions you have failed to address. By the way GSK have been fined 6 billion Takeda and Eli lilly 9 billion Pfizer has only been fined 3 or 4 billion I dont recall the exact figure. Is that why you use Pfizer as a good example, because they’ve been fined less? How much has Madaus and Reckeweg been fined?

                  • Anything that has an effect, potentially has a side effect. Homeopathy of course has neither. Chiropractic is not supported by “mountains of evidence”, it is supported by a patchy and inconsistent evidence base. There si reasonable evidence that spinal manipulation is effective for lower back pain, but no good evidence that chirpoiractic has any unique benefit over other manipulation therapies; there is no credible evidence at all to support the existence of the vertebral subluxation complex, the “evidence” for treatment of colic and certain other conditions not affceted by the musculoskeletal system is rather obviously down to misinterpreting regression to the mean and natural course of disease, the eevidence of strokes is very strong but the chiroprac tice profession seems to be in denial over it.
                    As Simon Singh says, chiropractors happily promote bogus therapies, they are also a hotbed of antivaccinationism. The only responsible course for a chiropractor who wants to be seen as ethical and evidence based is to drop the chiropractic pseudoscience and become a regular physiotherapist.
                    Issues with medicine validate quackery in precisely the same way that plane crashes validate magic carpets, so the fines and such don’t really advance your case for quack remedies. They do, however, highlight a rather singular fact: medicine constantly re-examines treatments and discards those that are found not to work. I cannot find a single example of a quack health intervention where nonsense has been ditched after it has been clearly shown to be nonsense.,

                • This could be the biggest crock you have posted “I quote Minchin’s Law: alternative medicine, by definition, has either not been shown to work, or has been shown not to work. The name for alternative medicine that can be shown to work, is medicine.” What a joke calling that a law. What you quote here is not a law, its a lie. And heres you claiming science is without bias, and you are its voice. HA!
                  And one other thing. You claim you have never seen a criticism that is levelled at Allopathic medicine that cant be levelled at Natural Medicine. Just so you can never say that again, Natural Medicine is part of the evolution of our biology. Allopathic medicine is not.

                  • Minchin’s Law is a firmly established principle of medicine that has been extensively reviewed and accepted as a universal principle. I refer you to Minchin’s original publication: http://is.gd/Storm

                    • HA HA HA HA. First you quote a magazine as your science and the you quote a pop star for laws of science you complete twit. I dont believe you believe a word you peddle, no one could be so stupid as to offer what you offer as evidence then criticise the evidence of others, you must be getting drug money for this. And yes there is mountains of research supporting Chiropractic. There is also solid scientific evidence supporting the Chiropractors Subluxation. Read Spinal Biomechanics for Clinicians chapter 6 “Mechanical engineering definitions of subluxtion. ” A little research will show the head of the organisation that publishes it is a peer reviewer for the journal spine and has been published in peer reviewed journals on 150 occasions. But that wont mean anything to you because hes not a pop star or a journaist for Royal Geographic Society.

                    • Sarchasm: the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

                      I must point out in passing, though, that Minchin’s Law is supported by a great deal better evidence than the “law of similars”.

                    • Hey he’s back. We missed you Chapman Central 🙂

                    • Oh I’m sorry, is there an SLA on responding to blog comments? I wasn’t aware.

        • BS Detector says:

          You are like DeepakChopra. Sounding all clever and sciencey, but only impressing those who don’t understand a word of it and making real scientists laugh their heads off.

          You can’t store any pattern in anything that is not a fixed and unchanging solid. Any liquid or gas is in constant motion and destroys any patterns. Try drawing a picture on water. This is so simple and basic, it’s hilarious to hear a grown man suggest otherwise – especially with your own made-up nonsensical physics too.

          • Hey wheres our usual village idiot, has he been tagged out? I was growing to enjoy his comments Mr.BS.

        • You obviously missed the bit where Montagnier said his results cannot be extended to cover the products used in homeopathy. Oops!

          The difference between science and homeopathy is that in science, it doesn’t matter who says something, only whether it’s provably right. Homeopathy rests 100% on the authority of its prophets. Little about it, if anything at all, is backed by independent findings outside the walled garden of believers.

          If homeopathy worked, effects would be seen in semiconductor fabs, by biolelectrochemists and so on. In practice nobody who is not already a believer finds anything to suggest any principles remotely similar to the false doctrines of homeopathy.

          This is all covered in the excellent Wikipedia article: http://is.gd/homeopathy

  24. ChristyRedd says:

    I am an extremely satisfied user of homeopathic medicine of many, many years. In my opinion — which is based on my personal experience of what homeopathy has accomplished for me, what it has accomplished for my family, friends and pets and not on some theoretical belief about it — homeopathy has ushered in not the age of endarkenment but a true enlightenment about what good medicine can accomplish for people, for animals, for our gardens and farms, for our very planet which is today polluted and toxified by chemicals to a degree never before seen in its history. We know now that homeopathy can be used to treat plant diseases and insect problems without resorting to pesticides, fungicides and herbicides – toxic chemicals that sicken the workers who use them and pollute the soil and our rivers, streams and oceans along with all of the forms of life that exist in them and depend on them for life.

    But going back to my experiences as a patient, if I were to have used conventional drugs to treat my high intraocular pressure caused by glaucoma or my high blood pressure, I would have risked developing serious iatrogenic diseases like gout and Steven Johnson’s syndrome. I would then have had the conditions I was originally treated for plus new ones I didn’t have before using those drugs. I would also have had to use those drugs for the rest of my life simply to control the symptoms of those conditions. Instead I chose to use safe, effective homeopathic remedies. They normalized both those pressures, and they did it permanently, safely and inexpensively. When the pressures were normalized I was able to stop taking the remedies. Six-month check-up’s with my GP and ophthalmologist show they remain normal.

    I am only one of today’s 500 million users of homeopathy. It is the second most used system of medicine in the world today. Its use is growing at rates of 10% to 30% annually in countries around the world. It is the first choice of people who can afford to use any medicine they like. It’s used by those people over and over again, decade after decade. It cures the same conditions in tens of thousands of people from one end of the globe to the other. It accomplishes those wonderful feats because it’s based on natural laws.

  25. Laurie Willberg says:

    Thanks for a very thoughtful article!
    The system of evaluating medical treatments IS indeed seriously flawed and it has gotten to the point that many of us have simply given up attaching any sort of truthful credibility to it. As Prof. Dr. Bruce Lipton has pointed out pharma research is no longer scientific because those conducting it have too great a conflict of interest in pushing positive outcomes. These are later revealed to have been obtained by juggling statistics. Issues of fake ghost-written peer reviews and journal publication bias are also a huge problem that undermines the credibility of the present system.
    It has also now reached the point that data is ruthlessly manipulated to provide predetermined conclusions, speculative interpretation is interjected among facts and media spin is employed to take it all out of proportion. This is compounded by the nonsensical notion that the word “evidence” is interchangeable with “proof”, and that the absence of evidence is evidence of absence.
    In the case of homeopathy, some pundits posit that this present state of uncertainty, which surrounds most medical interventions by the way (none come with any guarantees) should constitute some termination point in ongoing research. Or more punitively, the destruction of the entire system, which is presently the second largest to be practised worldwide to the benefit of hundreds of millions of patients.
    Using the same logic, conventional medicine should be scrapped because when subjected to the same scrutiny it not only routinely fails to deliver positive results but is the 3rd leading cause of preventable deaths.

  26. Hans Weitbrecht says:

    Interesting article and another round of being drawn into an argument created by the sceptics of homeopathy.
    And this is what I want to dwell on a little bit.
    Their argument is, that homeopathy fails, because it uses medicines which do not contain any chemical component of the original substance. And because this is so there cannot be any effect of these medicines and therefore homeopathy is unscientific and cannot work. It is their thinking, a method is proven unscientific, if one part of it is found to be invalid. This validity has to be under their own self- created terms of scientifficness.
    As long as we accept their deductions and views about homeopathy based on their understanding and terms of scientificness, this argument will never end.
    As soon as we return to the principles of homeopathy, things look quite different.
    Once we realize, that potentization and dynamisation of medical substance does not form part of homeopathic rules and principles, we realize that it does not matter to the validity of homeopathy as a method of selection of medicines and their application, if a crude material dose of medical substance is applied or a diluted and potentized one. Both will work curatively if they are selected according homeopathic principles.
    Of course it makes sense to use the minimum dose necessary to achieve the purpose, as nobody wants to put undue pressure on an already weakened organism.
    So to all, who still enter above argument:
    First familiarize yourself with the principles and rules governing homeopathy.
    For those patients of mine who have a conceptual problem with medicines prepared as dilution and potentization, I keep a few mother tinctures to treat those sceptics. These mother tinctures contain a certain percentage of medical material. Of course, I will inform them that they have to tolerate a certain physical impact created by those tinctures.
    And just to spell it out in plain English:
    Homeopathic treatment can be pursued with material doses of medicines.
    Homeopathy does not stand or fall with the dispute over potentized and diluted medicines.

    • L. H. Olavius says:

      I quite agree Hans and I often try to run this exact argument, i.e. homeopathic remedies comes in many potencies, thus the argument “there is nothing in it” is simply untrue.
      And as you know Hahnemann himself recommended in severel volumes of his MM Pura sometimes the mother tincture for certain remedies (Sarsaparilla, Sponiga, Verbascum, etc.), but this almost never mentioned anywhere.
      Over the years I have noticed even when some sceptic admits that in lower potencies (or even mother tinctures) leaves plenty of the original substance left I see in the next debate, that the same person repeats his “funny” remark about “it is just sugar/water/nothing in it”.
      So I realised that what the poster below states, it is about repeating the same lie – and not to seek the truth (the same goes with the sundew experiment, which no sceptic has – to my knowledge – never bothered to carry out). So entering a debate about homeopathy is not about convicing a sceptic, but informing the remaining readers about the truth about homoeopathy.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Burne’s editorial proves that when people repeat a LIE frequently enough, other people believe it. The lie to which I refer is that there are “no randomized trials that show that it works.” What is so strange about this lie is that virtually all of the people who assert this mistruth KNOW that there have been “high quality” randomized and double-blind studies published in the Lancet, BMJ, Pediatrics, Rheumatology, Chest, Cancer, Pediatrics Infectious Disease Journal, Cochrane Reports, and many more.

    As for those people who say or imply that homeopathy is “implausible,” such statements simply prove how uneducated and ill-informed these people are. There are now compelling and cogent explanations for absolutely plausible ways that nanodoses of the original medicine persist in water solutions, even if they are diluted at a 1:100 rate 30 times or 200 times…or more.

    Further, the above research was published in the LEADING journal in the field of “material sciences” (the multi-disciplinary field that combines physics, chemistry, and engineering). That reference is:
    Chikramane PS, Kalita D, Suresh AK, Kane SG, Bellare JR. Why Extreme Dilutions Reach Non-zero Asymptotes: A Nanoparticulate Hypothesis Based on Froth Flotation.
    Langmuir. 2012 Nov 1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23083226

    To read this article, you will need to go to a library or university. Sadly, however, almost none of the skeptics of homeopathy have done so, thus explaining their ignorance on the subject. And those few skeptics who have read this article are adequately educated to comment critically of it…but heck, they blame the homeopaths for their incompetencies.

    Please note that most of our bodies hormones and cell signal agents operate at nanodose levels, which are at the SAME levels of nanodoses that are found in homeopathic solutions. Unless skeptics think that our body runs on “placebo” hormones, I would suggest that skeptics are running on placebo brains…or more likely, they are simply proving that cognitive dissonance is alive and active, and they are doing all they can to keep their rotary phones (and Big Pharma drugs) alive and kicking.

    There have also been at least a dozen basic science trials showing that homeopathic medicines have measurable effects on up- and down-regulation of specific genes. Therefore, I have pity for these fools who call themselves skeptics. They are simply proving their ignorance or their ability to write and speak mistruths.

    • As I’ve said I don’t have any grip at all on the pro/anti homeopathic literature but seeing the repeated claims here that there are here good reputable studies supporting it I don’t understand why the supporters have not managed to get any of this into the mainstream. There was a fairly vigorous exchange of studies at a commons committee hearing devoted to homeopathy hearing several years ago but in the end, I think, the conclusion was that the evidence wasn’t convincing. Could well be wrong and I’m sure there were criticisms of the process but someohow homeopaths don’t seem to be very good at fighting their corner.Is this fair?

      • Laurie Willberg says:

        A roundup of the criticisms of the old commons committee hearing can be found here http://www.hmc21.org/#/cstc-critique/4539135869
        For starters, the committee totally ignored the positive research while inviting people to speak at the table who were not researchers or medical practitioners in favor of people like Tracey Brown, a PR specialist hired by Sense about Science which was liberally funded by pharmaceutical companies.
        Homeopathy does not get equal time in the press largely due to media bias influenced by corporate advertisers. I also understand that journalists do not have the time or energy to thoroughly investigate the subjects that they are reporting on. Editors frequently run press releases without fact checking, and many of these carry a pseudoSkeptic spin.
        For a more detailed account about the history and development of this situation the best reference is Martin J. Walker’s “Cultural Dwarfs and Junk Journalism” available for free download at http://www.slingshotpublications.com./Books/E-Books

        • Laurie WIlberg, as usual, is right on the money. And Jeorme, it IS fair to say that homeopaths haven’t done a very good job of prresenitng themselves, but neither do other misunderstood woodland creatures . . like gnomes and elves. At the beginning of the millenium homeopaths for the most part were mostly ignorant of the clinical trials and metas, and totally unaware of most of the physical research. We’ve been like the Jews of the Inquisition. The pharmacetuical industry hates homeopathy because they can’t get their hooks into it and the convnetional doctorhood hates it because its difficult and time consuming.
          In the last few years though, the homeopathy bashing has let up, which can be seen in the repsonses here on this blog. And this change is due to the Internet. People are becoming more educated about what homeopathy is and what it can do. Instead of watching Randi on Youtube or reading Wikipedia, anyone can now read the actual studies and reviews online and see for themselves what the evidence is.
          Why don’t you?
          Here are links to peer reviewed studies. I’ve left out the dot outof most of them so as to not overburden your links ratio. Just copy and paste into the browser and add the dot:
          Am J Pharm Educ tinyurl com/7htoejq This in my mind is the best overview of the literature on homeopathy, by pharmacists for pharmacists
          Int J Onc tinyurl com/7n9939c tinyurl com/6m2dpnd This shows hte use of ionized pharmacetuicals (homeopathy) in the treatment of cancer
          Integr Cancer Ther tinyurl com/7r7zajg
          Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg tinyurl com/cb88aym
          UK Parliament tinyurl com/7666q5g
          Nature tinyurl com/davenas tinyurl.com/hirstsj tinyurl com/7aelcv9
          Inflam Res. tinyurl com/6fj9jsn
          BMC Public Health tinyurl com/7r7zajg
          Lancet tinyurl com/84xt56k
          NY Acad Sci.tinyurl com/6w7t4bf
          RHINITIS BMJ2000;321:471 tinyurl com/bemiring
          ENNIS: Basophil models of homeopathy: a sceptical view PDF
          tinyurl com/skeptennis
          FISHER: hi quality experiments give positive results tinyurl com/7666q5g
          TILLER thermodynamics tinyurl com/billtiller
          MED SKOOL! tinyurl com/ammedcol
          Nobelists
          MONTAGNIER Nobelist’s experiment of the century shows emissive index tinyurl com/Montagnier
          JOSEPHSON Molecular memories Nobelist weighs in tinyurl com/bdjosephson
          SHANG: Gotcha:The conclusions on the effectiveness of homeopathy highly depend on the set of analyzed trials R. Ludtke, A.L.B. Rutten Homeopathy had a significant effect beyond placebo anthromed org/UploadedDocuments/LuedtkeRuttenJCE08.pdf
          Intl Journal of High Dilution Research tinyurl com/hidilres
          MASS TRIALS, EPIDEMICS
          Summary of Cuban Experiences on Leptospirosis Prevention
          http://homeopathyresource.wordpress.com/2009/01/17/summary-of-cuban-experiences-on-leptospirosis-prevention-from-the-authors/
          Bradford: Logic of Figures tinyurl com/7gxlhu6
          http://johnbenneth.wordpress.com

          • Frightenly thorough. Will definitely look through them all when I stop running a blog or two!

          • One small problem, John – you omitted all the studies that show negative results, and included nothing whatsoever that proves like cures like or dilution increases potency, both of which conjectures are refuted.

            However, you could advance the debate by providing a single study that convincingly refutes the null hypothesis. Or at least you could if one existed.

            • The null hypothesis for what, your dear placebo theory? That the action of homeopathics are solely due to the placebo effect? LOL! No such study exists. Leave your hyptheses at the door, Edzard, though I must say, I love it when you step in it.

              Joking aside, lets’ take a look at what we’re supposed to infer by what you thought would be your little mickey mouse trap. In a statistical test, the null hypothesis is nothing more than a supposition based on limited evidence. In this case the supposition is that there is no significant difference between potency and placebo, and so what we see as the differences are due to an error in sampling or experiment.

              HOMEOPATHY AND THE NULL HYPOTHESIS

              The null hypothesis can only be made then by restricting the data, which you have in effect called for, without, btw, defining exactly what it is you are calling for. Pre-clinical? Clinical? Meta anlysis? In other words, you’re trying to get me to piecemeal one study out to you, preferably my favorite one, for a skeet shoot, so you can attack it alone. This is a common trick used by professional homeopathy antagonists, and this is why the metas have to be twisted by Ernst and Wikipedia for the echo chamber to say just the opposite of what the metas conclude, that homeopathy is not equivalnet to placebo.

              You want to judge homeopathy based on the limited evidence of a single study. Nice try. What you don’t want me to is to turn the table on you.

              NEGATIVE STUDIES

              There have been negative studies, but they have been almost exactly the same numbers as those for conventional medicines, and consistently, reviews of studies, such as Kleijnen, Linde and Cucherat, even Shang in redux by Ludtke and Rutten, have not supported your continually insistent, beyond-all-reason allegations that the effects of homeopathy are solely due to the placebo effect, i.e. there is a significant effect manifested by fourth phase or ionized pharmaceuticals, better known as high dilutes.

              WHY DILUTION INCREASES POTENCY

              As for dilution increasing potency, that’s a very good question. Water is the primordial electromagnetic (EM) absorber, so it is also the primary EM emitter. Step dilutions increase the structural uniformity of the hydrogen bonded domains. As solutes are diluted out of the diluent, succussion causes atmospheric nucleation, the internal meniscus increases in resolution and the median frequency of the signal rises. Succussion is also causing nuclear reactions in the hydrogen, similar to heavy water, and it begins to emit detectable beta radiation (Conte et al, Theory of High Dilutions).

              As dilution continues to increase, uniformity in the aqueous structuring causes more coherence in the signal. As the signal rises and sharpens, so does the potency rises in sinusoidal (up and down) curvatures. At one potency the solution may cause suppuration, at another absorption. At a lower dilution it may cause an aggravation, at a higher a gentle cure.

              Posology, the correct dose, plays the devil with all medicine, homeopathic or otherwise.

              LIKE CURES LIKE

              “Like cures like” has a chemical analogue in the action of like solvents, which will dissolve one another, and in magnetism, where like poles will repel one another, the magnetic analogue explaining how it is that similar diseases will expel one another, the magnetic character of one disease repelling another with a similar charge. This action has been noted in one natural disease curing another such as the measles being a cure for whooping cough, or small pox having been noted as a cure sometimes for deafness, blindness and paralysis.

              The exemplary proof for the phenomenon of like cures like, homeotherapy, i.e. oppostional similitude, cure by the forcing of a substance (from a different source) that causes the same symptoms as the disease to be cured, can be seen historically and universally in the smallpox vaccine, as it is the soul of epidemiology and the smallpox vaccine homeopathically wiping out variola in humans.. The use of an artificial disease to expel a natural one is, by strict definition, homoeopathy as Hahnemann intended it, and, once again, that’s also the smallpox vaccine, which is homeopathy in the crude: Injection of bovine variola in humans makes them immune to anthropovariola. like cures like, similia similibus curentur.

              Let us then stop conflating dilution with similitude. In pandemistry, homeopathy is the only thing that works curatively, and it can be seen in its unwitting modern day use, from the small pox vaccine to the whooping cough “vaccine,” the difference being that homeopaths have learned how to select, cut and administer the dose better than the allopath fools, and they’ve done it for just about every complaint humanity.

              As a medical epilogue, that medicine historically has not recognized the phenomenon of adaptive immunity in the vaccine and failed to apply it in the treatment of other diseases . . is flabbergasting. When will the medical profession get on board and begin to apply fourth phase medicine?

              Are some so venal and others so stupid as to allow the increase of the physician predator’s material wealth dictate prescriptions for health and well being? As if we are so blinded by money, what a poignant reminder it must have been when coins were put on the eyelids of corpses.

              • John, we’ve been round this loop before. You have never properly understood the null hypothesis, or why no trial of homeopathy has ever refuted it. I have already stated the null hypothesis elsewhere in this debate, it is not limited to the placebo effect and it is supported by homeopaths such as George Lewith at Southampton.

                Your diatribe against the “physician predator” says more about you than I could or want to. Conspiracist thinking is irrational (as indeed is homophobia).

                • I find myself agreeing with Guy more and more . . we have indeed been ’round this loop before, and it’s getting old for me as I think, for everyone else, too. He doesn’t address the literature he said doesn’t exist, except to say (without criteria) he doesn’t agree with the results.

                  Sigh, poor Guy. I guess I have to chalk it up to to a severe confirmation bias. No comprehensive meta analysis of the literature of clinical trials of homeopathy concludes that the materials used in homeopathic medicine are “placebos” (placebo taken to mean inert and the effects due to the placebo).

                  Here again are the three metas published in the highest impact peer reviewed journals that attest to Guy’s placebo assertion false. Note that he has not addressed them. He just keeps repeatingthe same old mantras:

                  1.) University of York for the U.K. National Health Service (NHS) by Cucherat et al 2000: HOMEOPATHY NOT PLACEBO: Found evidence that homeopathy was more effective than placebo. University of York/ NHS

                  2.) LANCET by Linde et al 1997: HOMEOPATHY NOT PLACEBO: results not compatible with placebo hypothesis

                  3.) British Medical Journal (BMJ) by Kleijnen et al 1991: HOMEOPATHY NOT PLACEBO: The results showed a positive trend regardless of the quality of the trial or the variety of homeopathy used.

                  In addition to these high quality meta analyses, published in high impact medical journals, there are the following:

                  FISHER: High quality repeated experiments yield positive results tinyurl com/7666q5g

                  JOHNSON BOON 2007: Pharmacist report says metas find homeopathy significantly better than placebo tinyurl com/7htoejq

                  SHANG 2005/ Ludtke Rutten: re-analysis of total data set finds significant homeopathic effect beyond placebo tinyurl com/ludtkerutten

                  [Remember to put a dot between tinryurl and com after pasting into your browser]

                  Now note this in your hornbook: NO CONCLUSIVE REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE FINDS THAT HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES ARE “PLACEBOS”!!! And yet in the face of this we are repeatedly told by opponents of homeopathy . . such as Guy . . that homeopathic remedies are placebos, implying that the pharmacy is inert, and therefore homeopathy is a hoax.
                  We have to repeat back just as often.

                  • Comprehensive reviews of the literature on homeopathy find that there is no good evidence of effect beyond placebo. They also find that positive outcomes are more likely in badly conducted trials and less likely in well conducted trials. That puts the onus firmly back on the homeopaths to prove their case. No study of homeopathy refutes the null hypothesis (which includes but is much broader than placebo), nor is there any evidence that like cures like as a general or useful principle, or that dilution actually increases potency, or that dilution and twerking materially affect this.
                    Scientific understanding of homeopathy has moved on a long way. We now have a full and comprehensive explanation for alll the observed effects which is coherent and both internally and externally consistent. It involves no ad hoc hypotheses and does not invoke any speculative or unproven theories. Homeopathic remedies are inert, the longer homeopathic consultation maximises nonspecific effects such as placebo, expectation effects and so on, the observations are complicated by the normal issues of regression toward the mean and natural history of disease, there is no objective pathological evidence of effect.
                    Science understands homeopathy. Homeopaths, apparently, don’t. That’s not something I can fix for you.

                    • But the fact that you believe the benefits of positive expectation and placebo effect are maximised only serves to make your violent opposition to something that is harmless and at least somewhat beneficial so baffling in the light of ignoring so many damaging medical practices. Do you know that in the early 1960’s the AMA was given the equivalent of half a billion dollars in todays money to do research on smoking. The A.M.A. did studies to see how smoking might BENEFIT duodenal ulcer and calm nerves. Research already existed showing the damaging effects and even the surgeon general spoke out against it, but it took political medicine another 20 years to speak out against it. Does knowing that make me a conspiracy theorist or does knowing that make me a genuine sceptic? One that doesn’t accept anything the system tells me to accept, and doesnt feel exempt from providing evidence for anything because my position is ‘obvious’? The question for us is why is your approach so unbalanced?

                    • The same argument might be made for allowing vendors of penny stocks to sell them without regulation. It’s mostly harmless, nobody loses much, and the penny stock vendors do nicely.

                      The problem with homeopathy is that while the problems themselves are harmless, the sales pitch is fraudulent and a small number of people are taken in and rely on it when they are actually ill, which leads to harm and even death.

                      Selling fake medicine is immoral whether you are Pfizer or Boiron. I would have thought this was obvious, but apparently not.

                    • Thats why we are opposed to artificial chemicals that have never been a part of human evolution, all our intake since being primordial slime has been plant remember. Thats what we are made from. Not synthetic patentable chemicals. The fact they can be patented proves they are not part of nature, therefore us. Thats why they are so deadly and produce such damaging side effects compared to plants. And just to repeat, I know poisons occur in nature. I dont use them.

                • Of course you know that the American Medical Association was found guilty of conducting a criminal conspiracy against a licensed profession in the Supreme Court in Chicago in 1989? Judge Susan Getzendanner ruled their actions were taken because they had their income threatened. Including appeals the case went for 11 years. Does that make the U.S. Supreme Court a conspiracy theorist too? Why are you so certain conspiracies dont exist when it has been proven they do?

                  • Yes, they overstepped the mark in their opposition to chiropractic. However, I doubt this would have happened today because the difference between fraudulent “straight” chiropractors and the merely deluded “mixers” is much better understood. Incidentally, calling chiropractic a “licensed profession” is begging the question: the process of “legislative alchemy” has been used to turn several forms of quackery into “licensed professions”, that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the evidence, which, for chiropractic, is weak for anything other than mild to moderate low back pain, and with major questions over ethics (bogus “maintenance” adjustments, whole-spine X-rays looking for the non-existent subluxations etc.) and harms, including stroke and death.

                    • You can say YOU havent seen the evidence supporting Chiropractic, how can you say I havent? Did you read Spinal Biomechanics for Clinicians Volume one Chapter 6? Guess not. Just because you havent made the effort to seek out the information doesnt mean it doesnt exist. How easy is it for a sceptic to fold their arms and pretend something doesnt exist when they havent bothered to look? Changes in three dimensional posture is linked to a huge number of health sequlae. Ideal spinal structure is well documented in the literature. Nerve damage to mechanoreceptors and the spinal cord is related to asymettrical loading and well established in the literature. Alteration of structure has also been well documented. What exactly do you think isn’t proven?

                    • Your statement wasnt a question… “Incidentally, calling chiropractic a “licensed profession” is begging the question: the process of “legislative alchemy” has been used to turn several forms of quackery into “licensed professions”, that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the evidence, which, for chiropractic,”

                      Absolutely true for medical licensing. When you use the term quackery do you include putting artificial chemicals into a natural biological environment and expecting sustainable results? If enough members of the public support a profession it will be licensed.

                      You cant commit anti trust violations against a profession to protect your income (or monopoly in this case). There was an informant inside the A.M.A. (nicknamed sore throat) that leaked information to the plaintiffs. The information that was leaked was from some of the leading orthopedic surgeons in the United States asking the A.M.A. to stop attacking Chiropractic because they were doing good work and should be cooperated with. The main reason the A.M.A. was found guilty was because they suppressed that information and continued to black ball the profession of Chiropractic.

                      Also involved in the suit were the American College of Radiologists, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the American Hospitals Association and one other, I dont recall. They all settled out of court when the writing was on the wall, except for the A.M.A. who fought it out to the bitter end. Given that the court ruled the motive of the self proclaimed protector of public health had been to protect their financial patch in spite of knowing the work Chiropractors was good it was one of the greatest scandals of the 20th century but received virtually no media attention.

                      They received an injunction that lasted 25 years preventing them from attacking Chiropractic. That has now expired and they have resumed from a position of far greater strength and influence. If they can be caught, they will still be found guilty under anti trust laws I can assure. But it was a minor miracle they were able to be caught in the first instance. By the way they had all conspired, just because the others settled out of court doesn’t mean they weren’t involved. Conspiracies abound Chapman Central

        • Laurie, The book isnt a free download.

      • Thanks for your article Jerome. Anonymous, Laurie & John have clearly articulated that there actually is a positive evidence base for homeopathy.
        The strength of the opposition to homeopathy is possibly being fuelled by the growing evidence base, summarised on the Faculty of Homeopathy website. Up to the end of 2011, 164 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in homeopathy have been reported in 140 full papers in peer-reviewed journals. This represents research in 77 different medical conditions. Of these 163 RCTs:
        • 43% were positive (beneficial or likely to be beneficial)
        • 6% negative (unlikely to be beneficial or ineffective)
        • 49% non-conclusive
        • 2% non-extractable data
        Compare this to BMJ Clinical Evidence Effectiveness of 3,000 treatments, which includes some CAM treatments (http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/set/static/cms/efficacy-categorisations.html) and reads:
        • 11% Beneficial
        • 24% likely to be beneficial
        • 7% Trade off between benefit & Harm
        • 5% Unlikely to be beneficial
        • 3% Likely to be ineffective or harmful
        • 50% Unknown effectiveness
        One word is conspicuous in its absence from the homeopathy RCTs

        The ‘evidence for no evidence’ is a single 2005 meta-analysis by Shang et al (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16125589) which set out to compare 110 homoeopathy trials and 110 matched conventional-medicine trials. In the end only 8 trials for homeopathy and 6 trials for conventional medicine were deemed to be larger and of high enough quality to use. The authors concluded that there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions and that this finding was compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.
        This study did not include many new trials and was mostly a different statistical reworking of old data – data which previously showed a positive result for homeopathy. It also breached the international QUOROM (quality of reporting of meta-analysis) guidelines. Reanalysis of Shang’s meta-analysis by Ludtke et al (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18834714) demonstrated that homeopathy had a significant effect beyond placebo and that the negative results were mainly influenced by one single trial on preventing muscle soreness in 400 long-distance runners. Rutten (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19371564) also concluded that re-analysis of Shang’s post-publication data did not support the conclusion that homeopathy is a placebo effect.
        Nevertheless, Shang’s meta-analysis was still used as one of the prime pieces of evidence that Professor Edzard Ernst (the homeopath who apparently isn’t: http://www.hmc21.org/#/edzard-ernst/4543212059) referred to as “a devastatingly negative overall conclusion” for homeopathy, in assisting the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee (STC) publish their report Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy in February 2010. This single discredited meta-analysis is nevertheless still used by the skeptics to support their belief – yes belief (not scientific proof) – that homeopathy can’t possibly work, so therefore it doesn’t.

        We are firmly in the era of evidence based medicine (EBM). It is conveniently forgotten that EBM is (Dr David Sackett http://www.bmj.com/content/312/7023/71) the integration of:
        • Clinical expertise
        • Patient values
        • Best research evidence (RCTs, meta-analyses etc.)
        – not just the research evidence.

        • That seems an impressive rebuttal of the claim that homeopathy is evidence-free. Not my job to tell you what to do but seems to me you need to package it in a sharp, clear user, friendly way and get it out. Whether you like it or not you are involved in a very public debate where the key to success is to have a message that people can immediately grasp. The sceptics have done that very effectively – your mechanism is mad, there is no evidence that it works and every time it has been tested the results show it is no better than a placebo. You have got to be able to match that; briefly in sound-bites if it is in a PR arena and in more detail when dealing with medics or people with a grip on the data. I haven’t seen evidence that you are doing that at the moment, although I appreciate all the reasons – not your interest/skill area, time, money etc.

          • It’s an “impressive” rebuttal of a straw man. For any inert intervention, the process of random chance and normal experimental bias means that you will get positive results, and the overall totality of evidence will be weakly positive.

            When you test whether it works, rather than looking for proof to support your belief it does work, you get a very different answer. The chances of a positive outcome reduce as the quality of the research increases – the more accurately you control for the known confounders, the less effect is observed.

            Can you find evidence to support a belief in homeopathy? Absolutely, yes. If you look only at one part of the null hypothesis – placebo effects – you can even produce a body of opinion that supports effect beyond placebo. If, however, you isolate all the veriables (see Brien et. al., “Homeopathy has clinical benefits in rheumatoid arthritis patients that are attributable to the consultation process but not the homeopathic remedy: a randomized controlled clinical trial”) you find that the effects are non-specific. There is in fact no single condition for which homeopathy can be objectively shown to have a specific effect.

            In other words, talk therapy plus magic beans may have an effect, but it’s not down to the magic beans. And really this is not a surprise, since anything else would require that tests of homeopathy are unique among trials in being immune from these confounders.

          • I think the skeptics have actually done a great job in raising the profile of homeopathy and asking hard questions which research is attempting (funding permitting) to answer. Everything needs to be held to account and homeopathy is no different. Orthodox medicine (OM) is increasingly coming under the spotlight and it’s not all pretty. Check out ‘Deadly Medicine and Organised Crime’ by Nordic Head of Cochrane Peter Gøtzsche (http://blogs.plos.org/speakingofmedicine/2014/03/10/book-review-deadly-medicines-organised-crime-big-pharma-corrupted-healthcare-peter-gotzsche/). As a result more and more people are looking for something that will cause less harm and do some good. Many of these people are turning to homeopathy.
            I frequently recommend homeopathy alongside OM in my pharmacy and often (not always of course) get positive results. Our focus as health professionals is on patient outcomes, not the theories behind how or why something works. If we’re not interested in selecting the safest and most effective option for an individual patient – orthodox or complementary – we’re in the wrong job.
            RCTs are useful guides to test out new, expensive, substances that can sometimes do more harm than good. Yet it is only when the substance passes this first test and is released into the public domain do we start to experience what it really does. Homeopathy has been in the public domain for over 200 years and when used appropriately by a properly trained professional is one of the safest forms of medicine on the planet, and can be very effective too.
            An observational study at Bristol Homeopathic Hospital included over 6,500 consecutive patients with over 23,000 attendances in a 6-year period. 70% of follow-up patients reported improved health, 50% referring to major improvement. The best treatment responses were reported in childhood eczema and asthma, and in inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, menopausal problems and migraine in adults. Similar patient-reported outcomes have been reported from the UK’s other four NHS homeopathic hospitals (http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/clinical-outcomes-studies/)
            yet Eczema & Migraine tested by RCT showed unclear direction of results (http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/randomised-controlled-trials-in-homeopathy/). The aim of classical homeopathy is to clear the most predominant symptoms first, as chronic disease is considered to have layers. Once those symptoms have been dealt with, the symptom pattern changes as deeper layers of the disease are exposed. The different symptoms require a different remedy. So you see the challenge of applying the RCT model for chronic conditions, as we’re trying to hit a moving target.

            ‘In the balance between benefits and risks it is an uncomfortable truth that most drugs do not work in most patients’ – a quote not from a homeopath, but from BMJ editor Fiona Godlee (http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3666)

            We have recently entered the era of Pharmacogenomics to try and figure out how what the best medicine is for each individual. Classical homeopathy, with its constitutional approach has been doing this for 200 years.
            When counter-prescribing any medicine we have to consider what the patient wants, as this is going to affect the outcome (call it placebo if you wish. The placebo response is to be encouraged as it helps the patient get better). Even if I feel the patient would benefit more from the homeopathy option, I won’t go near it if the patient is not open to it. I also appreciate deeply the role and value of OM when used appropriately. We also have to look at why the patient is in poor health and address the cause, which is often lifestyle (nutrition, exercise & most important of all – how they manage stress). The best medicine is still no medicine – and this includes homeopathy.
            I take your point Jerome about marketing homeopathy more effectively, but you’ll discover that the majority of the practitioners of this art are not into sales. Our primary aim is to help people get better. The correctly selected remedy has the potential to remove the symptoms of ill health rather than just suppress them. This is not so good for sales.

            • Really? You think research is attempting to answer the hard questions? I am agog.
              Who is conducting investigations to honestly test whether like cures like as a general or even moderately common principle? That’s the first necessary step, ans the claim is currently based on extrapolation from a known false inference that was refuted over a century ago.

              • Who is conducting investigations to honestly test whether like cures like as a general or even moderately common principle? I’m not sure but I’m pretty sure its not the Royal Geographic Society.

      • Jerome the medical industry has specialist in every field including P.R. and marketting experts research and political lobbiests. They have virtually unlimited resources and the total support of the media at all levels. Homeopaths are Homeopaths. Rarely are they researchers, probably not scientists (I dont think) and get virtually no help from the government and dont forget the demand for RCT’s is only a recent (post Sackett) event. They dont have armies of enthusiasts prepared to argue in their favour while they just get on with their work, they have to do everything, so its probably some poor sod who puts their hand up at a committee meeting that has to fill any or all of these rolls. Its not a playing field its a mountain they have to climb a mountain with a giant on top hurling boulders down at them while they tolerate slander and abuse. I think they do an amazing job under the circumstances.

  28. Your comparing homeopathy with ah.. professional drugs on the basis of results and cost equally was elegant. Gave me a few smiles. Now your use of the word “agnostic” allows me a guffaw in your notional Company.

    As a teenager, having moved from a private school, I won a debate with a visiting VIP and was later tied to a high wall with a wire round my neck to be hanged as a “heretic”. It came close.

  29. Well, Jerome, the fundamental problems with hioemopathy can be summed up in three points. All the hoemopaths have to do in order to nullify criticism, is to fix these three things:
    1. There is no reaosn to suppose it should work
    2. There is no way it can work
    3. There is no good evidence it does work.
    Now of course the usual suspects will hold up their examples of claimed cures as “proof” it does work so I should be clear here: it does not work as they say it works. Science can account for every single known observation of homeopathy: placebo effects, expectation effects, regression to the mean, natural history of disease, cognitive errors and so on. These problems affect all observations of all therapeutic interventions, collectively they are the null hypothesis, and it is increasingly clear that many drugs do not refute this null hypothesis.
    The scientific explanation for homeopathy requires no ad hoc hypotheses, no reference to unproven or disproven conjectures, it is coherent, internally consistent, and consistent with other branches of scientific inquiry. None of these tings is true of the explanations offered by homeopaths.
    So, homeopathy is inert, it’s all in the consultation, as Brien et. al. found. And if we left it at that, and hoemopathists restricted themselves to claims to “boost the immune system” and “increase wellness”, the semantically null fallbacks of supplement peddlers, we’d be fine, but they don’t.
    They claim to treat, prevent or cure serious diseases like cancer and malaria. When that happens, people suffer real harm and die. Read the coroner’s findings on the death of Penelope Dingle: that homeopath really shows what batty and arrogant means.
    I don’t really much care if people want to buy homeopathic tablets, the only thing that bothers me is that they are not sold with fraudulent claims. Sadly the homeopaths seem unwilling to stick to honest claims, and hence the problem.

    • Chapmancentral you make me feel such a failure, Most of the time I suffer from the delusion that I am a reasonably competent journalist; that I can construct a clear and well thought-out argument. But then you pop up to comment and it is clear that I have totally failed. My carefully crafted thesis clearly leaves your grey cells untouched.

      Let me spell it out (I have a strong urge to put this in shouty capitals). I don’t really care about homeopathy. I know it has an incomprehensible mechanism, I know that the evidence base is at the very least disputed (the other commenter here johnbenneth would certainly strongly disagree with your claims research shows it has no benefit) but that is not what I am interested in. Some drugs don’t work in the way they are supposed to- such as SSRIs. Some widely prescribed drugs confer almost no benefit – step forward ezetimibe. I think I’m right in saying that evidence for the effectiveness of over the counter cough medicines is virtually non-existent.

      Essentially I’m using homeopathy as a starting point for exploring the way we evaluate medical treatments, which I think is seriously flawed. The post you were commenting on had a summary of a recent paper that described our system of relying on the RCT to test treatments as being as balanced as a one legged stool. The system is gamed to make drugs the norm even if they are less effective and far more dangerous than various alternative approaches – for instance statins for vast numbers of healthy people vs. the use of diet and exercise as a way of cutting the risk of heart disease.

      The paper that questions the benefits of setting up the RCT as the gold standard for evaluating treatments and suggests that carefully done observational trials could be a more informative way of testing treatments that have a range of variables. I hate to be rude but if you want to join in a discussion on those lines do hang around. But please stop repeating that homeopathy is not supported by RCT trials and that anyway it can’t work according to current scientific standards. I’ve known that for years and it doesn’t worry me – there are much bigger and more important issues involving science and evidence to get furious about.
      .

      • Well known homeopathy troll Guy Chapman doesn’t respond to the science he calls for when it answers, Jerorme. Putting aside the fact that he and his ilk call homeopathy fraud and then mandate its use in the crude with the vaccine (like cures like) the insistence that the materials are inert is demonstrably false, as they have action in vitro, and measurable emissive indices as well as supramolecular physical distinctions. But of course this means nothing to Chapman and you don’t care, right?

        Here’s an intersting comment from Hahnemann: “When the ratio of dilutant to medicine is as low as 100:1 if very many succussions are, as it were, forced into it by a powerful machine, we obtain medicines that, especially in the higher degrees of dynamization, act almost instantaneously but with intense, even dangerous violence, particularly on a delicate patient, without bringing about the permanent, gentle counteraction of the vital principle.”
        This would appear to be capable of inspiring an interesting test of homeopathy for the agnostic and atheist alike, would it not? Maybe this could be a dose of shut up medicine for the more strident cavilers. Chapman says the materials in question here are inert, while for a couple of centuries its been in print that merely by the means of intensive succussion of an eyedropper bottle half full of distilled water into which a single little homeopathic sugar pill has been dissolved, one can make an aqueous solvent capable of instantaneous and dangerous violence on the human economy.
        Towards the end of his career Hahnmeann had developed the Q series, a new schema of dilution, not for the purpose of making his medicines stronger, but to make them gentler, ameliorating the effects of repeated doses for the purpose of sustained application.
        You must forgive me for being puzzled over the lack of inquiry in the place of what is now filled with screed. Where is the proof for the placebo hypothesis? IF they have nothing to prove, then why are they bothering us?
        For a description of the action of the materials used in homeopathy, the U.S.FDA (whose chief sponsor was Copeland, an MD homeopath) refers to Clarke, a Picccadily MD homeopath..
        As it was 200 years the issue now is still posological. Even though homeopaths use an elegant form of applied adaptive immunization with medicine specificalluy designed to avoid overdosing, they still have trouble with giving too high a potency, or givng a lower one too many times. People can lay themselves flat with homeopathic dilutes, put themselves in bed for a week or more, even make their symptoms permanent (Kent). This is why you should care and Chapman take the test. These little sugar pills are demonstrably not inert. They’re RADIOACTIVE!
        What do you say to THAT?

      • Maybe you could start by not assuming that the facebook interactions of sceptics are not their complete hypothesis but a snap shot and realise that your article is an insult to the critics of homeopathy. Yes the homeopathy studies are poor due to being underfunding, underpowered etc, but that has not stopped repeated claims that one study or another provokes it works or persistent lies by people such as Mr Benneth you surely are aware of his accusation that sceptics go around recruiting homosexual young men. What reaction do you expect to such ad hominem attacks? You may have noticed sceptics attack the lack of evidence in conversations about homeopathy, homeopathy supporters usually attack the person, and that is what your poorly informed article is used for. I ask, if all you know are the comments made by sceptics on topic in homeopathy discussions how do you know what they are doing about conventional medical problems. Simply put you know next to nothing although I assume you are aware of the AllTrials initiative, which seems to have massive sceptic support but little from the CAM community.

        • Love your comment involving an ad hominem attack on me, the rest of which consists of complaining about ad hominem attacks. Confess I’ve not heard about Mr Benneth’s claim that sceptics go round recruting homosexual but it sounds a very confused story. Why could anyone say that? What is the crime, homosexually? Recruitment? I do know about Alltrials. Do read the piece about it at HealthInsight.org – http://healthinsightuk.org/2014/01/07/companies-claim-drugs-side-effects-are-commercial-secrets/.
          Pleased to see this campaign, the book I wrote with Patrick Holford about 7 years ago had a lot of that sort of material. at the time it was described by one medical reviewer as “pharma bashing”. Glad we’ve moved on. However recent behaviour of Alltrials poster boy Dr Ben Goldacre claiming statins have effectively no side effects based solely on studies conducted by the drug companies seems very contradictory, see this post:http://healthinsightuk.org/2014/03/25/statin-advice-from-the-wizard-of-oz/

        • Hey “Fangin”, why don’t you take your story about me claiming pharma recruits homosexuals to bash homeopathy to the Anti Defamation League, and when they throw it back in your face, submit it to Aesop.

        • Jessie Mac says:

          You said ‘sceptics attack the lack of evidence in conversations about homeopathy, homeopathy supporters usually attack the person’. This is the opposite of my experience. Being someone who has experienced repeated benefits from homeopathic treatment I occasionally engage in debate about homeopathy on the Guardian website. The Guardian takes a particularly scathing view of homeopathy and posters like nothing better than categorising homeopaths as ‘snakeoil salesmen’, who are ‘dangerous charlatans’, who ‘prey’ on vulnerable patients and rip them off. Their view of patients is as bad, describing us as ignorant, gullible, pathetic, moronic, believers in ‘woo’, and so on. Not surprisingly few people who’ve found homeopathy helpful will put their heads above the parapet as they will experience a deluge of scathing and demeaning remarks, questioning their sense, their intelligence and their sanity. I’ve never come across homeopaths or homeopathic users doing anything remotely as abusive. It’s so bad that even I, fairly toughened to online abuse, tend only to comment that I don’t care how homeopathy works, I don’t care if it’s benefit is all down to placebo, as long as it works. And it has for me. But actually I am, after years of treatment, convinced from my own repeated experience that it’s little to do with placebo, since remedies work differently, sometimes, but not always, making you worse for a while. Once a remedy made me worse for a week and had to be counteracted by another remedy. I have no idea how homeopathy works, but there’s no way effects such as I’ve experienced repeatedly can be down to placebo.

          • Good comment Jessie Mac. Searching for evidence is fine, the concern I have with EBM is the evidence it dismisses. That outcome was never Sacketts intention

        • Fangio sorry to attack you but thats an idiotic statement.”You may have noticed sceptics attack the lack of evidence in conversations about homeopathy, homeopathy supporters usually attack the person”, and that is what your poorly informed article is used for”
          No I havent noticed that, hows this from Chapman central for attacking the person. Worse than anything I’ve seen. “Homeopathist whacknut attack loon and comment spammer Sandra Hermann-Courtney (@BrownBagPantry) poses an interesting question on her attack blog.
          You should withdraw your ridiculous accusation.

          • BS Detector says:

            That would be the same woman who constantly posts articles saying sceptics are all gay atheist pedophiles, right? Yes, it is. I looked.

            So now you’ve seen worse. And there’s much more, too. Proper psycho nut job attacks on anyone who dares to say they disbelieve the conspiracy nonsense.

            You are the one who should withdraw your ridiculous accusation.

            • Laurie Willberg says:

              I have no idea where you are “looking” (and hate to posit a guess) but your accusations are patently false. Perhaps you’d like to back up your assertions with relevant evidence other than your anecdote that you “looked” at something.
              As far as your other comments are concerned, I sincerely doubt most readers would consider “skeptics” to be “normal” or even socially acceptable, and you have proved that point better than anyone else in this discussion.

              • BS Detector says:

                You have no idea where I found them, but you know my ‘accusations’ are false nonetheless? What a great detective you would make. So fair, non-judgemental and willing to examine all the facts first!

                Still, you are correct to request I back that up so you can see those facts for yourself:

                Google ‘Sandra Courtney Tim Bolen Skeptics pedophiles’, then tell me who is making nasty accusations around here.

                • BS Detector says:

                  (I was not aware this “john benneth” has supposedly said the same thing. Seems to be quite an extreme right wing religious conspiracy theme with homeopathy supporters.)

                  Jerome, I am sure you will agree that accusations don’t get much more vile and unhinged than ‘unbeleivers are a gay atheist pedo cabal’. Not a pretty thing to bring up, agreed, but when someone says stuff like that then, quite frankly, everyone has a right to know what sort of person they’re actually dealing with.

                  Including you. They’re on your blog.

                  • I know you came late to the discussion but what we are discussing here is why the sceptics go to such lengths to attack homeopaths yet seem to ignore serious flaws in the disease care system. No one here has supported bashing anyone on the grounds of race religion or sexuality. A more constructive comment to the discussion would be along the lines of why the sceptics arent (or dont appear to be) concerned in the slightest about surgery being conducted with any significant research to support them, or perhaps why companes like Pfizer, GSK, Eli Lilly Takeda (and almost every other big pharma company if you read Rubens report are being fined billions of dollars and killing hundreds of thousands. Can you offer a comment on that?

                    • And by the way, you hate people claiming conspiracy theories, what do you classify Takeda and Eli Lillys actions leading to being found guilty of hiding evidence about side effects of bladder cancer. Thats pretty disgusting isnt ? Would you buy their products after that?

                    • BS Detector says:

                      Sure. Those who ‘attack’ homeopathy also attack flaws in real medicine. Did homeopaths start the AllTrials campaign? Did they hell. It was Ben Goldacre, Simon Singh, etc.

                      So your premise is based on a lie. They do attack the Pharma companies. They attack anything that’s wrong. Meanwhile, your lot posts the most vile and disgusting lies about homeopathy unbelievers being organised cabals of pedophiles.

                      Now wonder you would rather talk about something you made up. Did you Google Sandra and Tim Bolen?

      • If you want to address the way we assess drugs, then any method you propose must necessarily be able to demonstrate the ability to distinguish between potentially valid, and invalid proposed therapies.

        Homeopathy is invalid. It has no theoretical basis, no remotely plausible mechanism of action, and it’s doctrines are long refuted. If you are setting out to show that your view on how we should separate truth from falsehood in medical cliaims, rather than attacking those who correctly discern that homeopathy is bogus, instead show how your alternative would correctly identify it as such.

        • wideeyedpupil says:

          Many drugs are prescribed by GP/MDs for addressing symptoms despite the drug not having been designed for that purpose and no scientific understanding of how or why it could be effective. (Your points 1 and 2). As to point 3 it is usually some trial that has noticed the efficaciousness of some drug in a sponsored trial which of course precludes investigation of all the potential negative side effects, especially long terms ones.

          • You are missing the point. There is no significant dissent from the view that giving measurable quantities of pharmacologically active substances, can have an objective effect. The measured bioavailability of homeopathic remedies, is zero. The purported connection between remedies and diseases is also problematic, based on extrapolation of a single false inference.

        • On at least four occasions in recent years, I have seen a patient refuse treatment which was later recognised as potentially fatal. I have known people who used homeopathy and they were all sensitive. A belief in theoretical basis may leave one insensitive and less effective.

          • Problems with medicine validate homeopathy in precisely the same way that plane crashes validate magic carpets. To propose homeopathy (an inert intervention) based on issues with effective medications – or even ineffective ones – is fallacious.

            • Laurie Willberg says:

              Skeptic faith in RCTs can be summarized by this brilliant meta-analysis on the use of parachutes
              http://www.bmj.com/content/327/7429/1459
              “Conclusions As with many interventions intended to prevent ill health, the effectiveness of parachutes has not been subjected to rigorous evaluation by using randomised controlled trials. Advocates of evidence based medicine have criticised the adoption of interventions evaluated by using only observational data. We think that everyone might benefit if the most radical protagonists of evidence based medicine organised and participated in a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial of the parachute.”

              • Laurie Willberg says:

                I might add that we hope Mr. Chapman is relegated to the placebo group.

                • BS Detector says:

                  Wishing the blasphemous unbelievers dead now? You so classy! So rational! So persuasive!

              • Laurie, there is no “faith” in RCTs. The emphasis on double-blinded randomised placebo controlled trials is hard-won knowledge, based on centuries of error and blind alleys.

                When you test a therapeutic intervention, the following things, among many, will skew the results:
                * Expectation effects
                * Observer biases
                * Placebo effects generally
                * Regression toward the mean
                * Natural course of the disease
                * Confirmation bias
                * Random errors

                Expensive placebos work better than cheap ones. Sympathetically administered placebos work more than indifferently administered ones. Red placebo pills work differently to green ones. Big placebo pills work better than small ones.

                Medicine has learned, the hard way, that if you do not work to exclude these things, then you will falsely conclude that something works, when it does not. Drug companies have been playing games with this for ages, concealing the results they don’t like and publishing only those they do (which will be positive one time in twenty by chance alone, for a completely worthless remedy).

                We now know that most published research overstates the effect of the intervention tested. We know better than ever before how to separate correct form incorrect conclusions. Long-term studies have exposed the fact that many drugs are not as good as claimed, and some are actively bad.

                And exactly the same science shows that the majority of claims made by supplement peddlers are exaggerated (it would be astounding if this were not true since their motivations are identical to those of drug companies.

                And, sadly for its impassioned proponents, this same science, whose results you accept unquestioningly when they show medicine in a bad light, also shows homeopathy to be inert, exactly as we would expect given the way it is prepared. The great tragedy of science: the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by ugly fact.

                • Chapman Central. “There is no faith in RCTs” except for the faith that says we would all be dead (at 30 no less) if it wasnt for the advances of medical science after the Flexner report in 1910, and then all research be based on that assumption. No wait, I’m forgetting didn’t the Royal Geographic Society publish something on that? Hey next time I have a health issue I’m definitely going to a geographer

                  • I have noticed that a small subset of cranks have a fixation on the Flexner report. It was a mundane piece of work: Flexner was tasked with investigating the quality of medical education, and he found that it varied wildly.

                    He recommended, for example, that nobody should be admitted for medical training unless they had at least a high school diploma, and they should have at least two years’ university-level education before being allowed to practise. Uncontroversial ideas.

                    The report had wide-ranging effects because of the background that led to its being commissioned: large numbers of commercial medical schools, often with no anatomy or pathology labs, no salaried staff, no academic standards and in many cases no bar to entry.

                    Wikipedia has, as usual, a good lay summary: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexner_Report

                    • So the question is do you have any evidence to support your claim that if it wasn’t for medicine we would all be dead by 30? Let me clarify again, evidence means scientific evidence, not quotes by magazines and not “laws” invented by pop stars. You see science uses proof not dogma. When you apply dogma and unfounded diatribe its called scientism of which you are, unknowingly I’m sure, a practitioner. Its important to supply the evidence or admit the error because otherwise you just look silly, especially when you are criticising others for allegedly not having evidence and they present dozens of studies. See nothing, verses dozens of studies, it just makes you look bad. You understand I’m sure.

                    • The average life expectancy of humans up to the modern era was around 30. Science has changed that. Science shows where medicine is right and where it’s wrong, and shows that homeopathy and other forms of magical thinking are also wrong. The thing about scientific facts is that they go on being true whatever you believe.

      • Belstedly, I have an idea. Show what your proposed method for assessing evidence would do or find in the case of Stanislaw Burzynski.

        This is what matters. Margaret McCartney had taken on statins, yet is in your “batty and arrogant” group. Tamiflu has been found out. So Was Vioxx. I have never -not once, ever – found an example of supplements being withdrawn by their vendor due to tests finding lack of effect.

        A new system has to be better at finding and weeding out bogus treatments, homeopathic, reiki, acupuncture, mega vitamins, all must go.

        • Have heard of Burzynski but don’t know any details. Mcartney point doesn’t really work. Both McCartney and I are very sceptical on statins but she doesn’t think that advising cancer patients to cut our sugar and reduce carb intake makes sense but I do and have written about it here: http://healthinsightuk.org/2013/10/06/could-a-low-carbohydrate-diet-help-to-treat-cancer/. I think she’s wrong on homeopathy she presumably still thinks I’m wrong on carbs and cancer (though I’m sure she will come round). So what?

          It’s true that some drugs are withdrawn when they are shown to be too dangerous but equally – as I pointed out in the original post – there are good examples of the opposite such as SSRIs and Ezetimibe. Do try to read what you are critcising.

          As for negative supplement studies one problem is that they are so poorly done. Look up another piece on the HealthInisghtUK.org site on that took apart the recent apallingly shoddy research that claimed to show taking B vitamins had no benefit. Before condemning mega-doses of vitamins out of hand suggest you look at the very impressive positive RCT results on high doses of B vitamins for reducing brain shrinkage in patients Mild Cognitive impairmnent. What is really shocking is that becasue of the sort of unthinking hostility to vitamins that you exemplify that appraoch has not been followed up. Maybe you’d like to explain to the hundreds of thousands with MCI at the moment why that is such a good idea. As for acupuncture there are a number of trials showing benefit.

          • You and Dr McCartney differ on certain matters of where the balance of evidence lies. Your method for assessing the validity of evidence fails a very simple litmus test, in that it treats belief-based claims (e.g. Homeopathy) more favourably than evidence-based claims, at least when your personal preferences align more with the belief than with the evidence.

            This is important because you want us to trust you when you tell us why claims for some drugs are unreliable. As skeptics, most of us support AllTrials. We know why drug claims are unreliable. The problem for the agenda you seem to support, is that the proof of the unreliability of these claims, comes from the very tests that show most claims for vitamins and supplements to be grossly overstated, and all claims for homeopathy to be bunk.

            You accuse us of being batty and arrogant. That seems to me to be a description that more justly applies to those who assert, either openly or by implication, that the results of scientific medical inquiry are only reliable when they align with the agenda of proponents of alternatives to medicine, and never when they show these proponents’ claims to be identical to those of drug manufacturers when it comes to overstating effect, concealing negative evidence and evidence of harm, and furthering a commercial agenda.

            Supporters of people like Ben Goldacre do no apply this arbitrary rule. A false claim is false whoever makes it, whether they sell flower remedies or Vioxx.

            • Sigh. The accusation that I cherry pick my evidence favouring research that fits with my “personal preferences” is one that you have made before. On that occasion I cited research showing that many drug company trials were unreliable and I also cited a critique of a study claiming to show there was no benefit from B vitamins. I asked you to tell me which one showed that I only accepted it because of my preferences and why that was a reasonable interpretation and you failed to respond. That’s your style – make one unfounded allegation and then when it is refuted move swiftly on to another one.

              You say the methods used to show drugs are dangerous or ineffective are the same as those showing no benefit for vitamins etc. But there are numerous ways studies can be set up to be more likely to produce positive or negative results – drug companies do this for the positive and – as mentioned the paper I quoted in this “endarkenment” post explained – there are reasons why the RCTs done on non-drug treatments are more likely to produce negative results.

              I really don’t have an agenda that supports everything CAM does and attacks everything pharmacological. What I do think is that the pharmacological dominance of medicine pushes a lot of non-drug treatments into the fringes, which is disastrous if we are going to have an impact on lifestyle disorders. Relying on drugs to deal with diabetes, for example, is daft. It’s interesting that you mention Goldacre’s consistency when it looks as though his strictures about not just relying on published drug company studies was jettisoned when it came to the study on statins’ side-effects on which he was an author.

              • Another well written article worth reading, and sharing.

              • It won’t do any good, Jerome. Chapman’s done the same thing to me on my blog he’s doing to you on yours. I finally kickedd himoff for wsting mytime, but he is an amalgam of what homeopaths have faced for 200 years, and you may want to keep him on as an example, feeding him occasionally bits of scraps.
                He sets up his balking points and then just goes round and round with them. For instance, he says, “there are no RCT’s for homeopathy.” You show him some and he says, “there are no RCT’s for homeopathy pub’d in peer reviewed journals.” You show him some and he says, “”there are no RCT’s for homeopathy pub’d in peer reviewed journals that have been replicated.” You show him some and he says, “”the sample sizes are too small.” You show him some large, long-term, cohort studies that track patient satisfaction and he says, “there is no evidence for homeopathy.” You show him the in vitros and he says, “homeopathy’s a placebo.”
                At this point you say, “show me the literature that supports the placebo hypothesis.” No answer. YOU say, “show me just one study that proves the placebo effect for homeopathy.” HE says he doesn’t have to prove anything to you, you have to prove it to him, and you can’t, therefore homeopathy doesn’t work . .
                It could be that this is some sort of pathological projection, a disease about ot named after him or a form of plasmophobia, the fear of emissive materials, like strontium 90. Or it could be he’s working for a homeopath in Piccadily who can’t afford malpractice insurance.
                Read this from the BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL: “ . we would accept that homoeopathy can be efficacious, if its mechanism of action were more plausible.” . . “The evidence presented in this review would probably be sufficient for establishing homoeopathy as a regular treatment for certain indications.” Kleijnen J, Knipschild P, ter Riet G. “Clinical trials of homoeopathy,” British Medical Journal, 1991; 302: 316–323.
                Ahem. Now, Dr. Agnostic, what do you think about THAT?
                Say ah.
                johnbenneth.wordpress.com

                • Certainly sounds familiar. He seems to have an awful lot of free time

                  • Benneth didn’t “kick me off”, I stopped visiting his site after he started posting blatant homophobia. http://americanloons.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/22-john-benneth.html

                    • Well! Chapman finally gives us a link to something. But when, Guy, are you going to fill your hollow assertions with something other than links to ad hominems? Quit trying to divert attention away from the body of evidence, the pre-clinical, objective tests of homeopathy with your stupid accusations of homophobia. Let’s talk about why, in the face of global criteria, you can’t accept tests of high dilutes, such as the in vitros.

                      You say these materials used in homeopathy are inert. Okay, then how is it then that between 1984 and 2007 biochemical tests showed the action of what you call inert materials in vitro? The basophil degranulation (BD) test alone, for which you crucified Benveniste, was replicated two dozen times in 23 years, most notably by Hirst (Nature), who panicked when he saw the results and declared a false positive; and the multi centered test by Belon et al (Inflammation Research) in which Professor Ennis of Queens University in Belfast, a homeopathy sceptic, found inexplicable results. Similar action from these materials you call inert have been seen on gene expression, cultured cells, non cellular systems, enzymes, neutrophile granulocytes, erythrocytes and lymphocytes . . anyone can read it for themselves in the Witt in vitro review at tinyurl com/7n9sedq (copy and paste into browser with dot inserted before com).

                      If these materials are inert, then why do they have effects on plants?

                      tinyurl com/plants12 ,
                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19945677?
                      itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=9
                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19945675
                      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19468651?
                      ordinalpos=7&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

                      Now you may say you can’t prove that something is inert, but you can prove that it is not, and botanical tests do. Try it out on a houseplant, see what happens.

                      Isn’t it interesting to note that curious is the opposite of denial?

                      You yourself have proved these materials are not inert, you’ve called them placebos, implying that they do have an effect, and you have proven it by showing the effect they’ve had on you. Look how you’re racing around trying to get everyone to not believe in them. Funny, isn’t it? It would encourage people to misuse them, and this is exactly what’s happened with homeopathics. You say its just plain water? By composition so is tritiated water, whichis also radioactive

                      Every comprehensive review of the literature concludes high dilutes are more than placebos. Whereas they do not have a chemical analysis, being radioactive they do have an emissive one. THe index can be seen in the electromagnetic spectrum.
                      You think they’re inert because you don’t realize that water, as a wide spectrum absorber is a widesprectrum emitter as well. This is why its dangerous to say they’re inert. You wouldn’t say that about other pharmaceuticals because you didn’t udnerstand heir mode of action, would you?

                      You say there’s no acceptable theory? IF I explained to you how hydroxls transduce enthalpy and the background radiant field, you wouldn’t accept it and you would continue to say, there’s no acceptable thoery for the mechanissm of action.

                      But if I told I was gay that would deflate the accusation of homophobia, wouldn’t it? Likewise, I think there’s some real problems with homeopathy. But not because it doesn’t work, but because it does, more than people want to believe. Hahnemann didn’t invent a new scheme of potentization because his remedies weren’t powerful enough, he did it because they were too powerful, they wold sicken when repeated.

                      Then you say like doesn’t cure like. Yes it does, anyone can see that in the smallpox vaccine. Bovine variola is used to cure human variola. Voila! YOU KNEW IT ALL ALONG!

                      So can we move on? Talk about some of he finer points of homeopathy?

                      With you, Guy, probably not. This is why I’d ban you from further discussion. Other people’s opinions mean little to you. You keep rpeating the same lies over and over again, as if repetition will convince everyone whta you say is true. I predict you’ll continue to denounce, detract and defame without recognition of the body of evidence, or any reference to what others believe, you’ll continue to transmogrify the discussion into something ugly, like using a discussion dealing with human sexual pathology, which includes homo-satyriasis, and make accusations of homophobia midst your own exposition of homoeophobia.

                    • As you know, Benveniste’s claims are considered refuted. They cannot be independently replicated other than by believers. Ennis claimed to have replicated them, but again the replication disintegrated under careful observation.

                      And even if these claims were not refuted, so what? Montagnier claims to have replicated them, but states that they cannot be generalised to the products used in homeopathy. There’s no evidence of persistence, no evidence of transferability through an intermediary, no evidence of relevance ot human biochemistry, no evidence for bioavailability, no evidence of objective effect in vivo.

                      All we have are a bunch of studies of a type that cannot, inherently, refute the null hypothesis, and which turn out to be less likely to produce a positive result the more carefully you control for bias.

                      There is no evidence that like cures like. There is no evidence of any effect at normal homeopathic dilutions, for virtually all substances (and the remaining tiny number have only very problematic evidence that does not hold for non-believers). There is no remotely plausible mechanism of action. There is no evidence of any property of matter than can follow the doctrines of homeopathy, and there is not one single independently authenticated case where it can be objectively proven to have cured anyone of anything, ever.

                      And the final clincher is the absence of any method of self-correction. No human endeavour is free of error. Joseph Roy claimed to have identified the oscillococcus, and proposed oscillococcinum on the basis of it, The oscillococcus does not exist. It is not present in the liver of a duck. It does not cause flu. A remedy based on an impossible dilution of something that does not exist at all, and which therefore does not do the thing on which the claim of cure is based. In any sane and rational system of treatment this would have been discarded. In fact, I cannot find a single example of any remedy which has been discarded as ineffective. Not only did Hahnemann come up with the sole basis of cure, it seems, he also spawned an entire family of faultless humans whose inerrancy is assured the moment they believe. That’s religion, not medicine.

                    • Don’t worry, John, I still watch your YouTube videos form time to time. Pure comedy gold. Though not all of them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXmYP9VAvlA

              • Jerome, nobody denies that drug trials are often unreliable. The science that shows this, also shows that the trials conducted by proponents of other products, including supplements and homeopathy, are also unreliable. Why would only drug companies conduct unreliable research? Homeopathy and supplements are also massively profitable businesses, they have all the same incentives to falsify or distort research, and research consistently shows that for *all* interventions, the effect size decreases as the rigour of the tests improves.

                What I find bizarre is that the scientific finding that drug trials overstate effects, is then used to promote other interventions which identical science shows do not work as well as the vendors claim, or in some cases (e.g. homeopathy) do not work at all.

                That is why I believe that people who support alternatives to medicine, are cherry-picking. I am all for rigorously testing the claims made by *any* proponent of *any* therapy. That is how medicine has moved from the dark ages of intuition and guesswork, into a field which at least aspires to be scientific even if it often falls flat.

        • Chapman Central I thought Vioxx was ‘found out’ because people were dropping dead from heart failure. How many in the history of health care have been documented to have died from Homeopathy. Which are you more concerned about?

          The FDA officer (cant recall his name but can look it up) testified there were between 50 and 130 thousand deaths if I remember correctly. I think the drug actually worked for pain. Tamiflu was ‘found out’ after the U.S. wasted 1.2 billion on it. UK about 450 million pounds. Australia about 190 million dollars. Can you see any scandal there?

          • Vioxx was rumbled due to epidemiology and systematic reporting of adverse events. It’s a scandal, for sure. The question is why one should use the problems that happen when companies with vested interests do their own research, as justification for accepting at face value the claims of other vested interests.

            It seems to me that the prudent thing to do is to follow the money in *every* case. So you find that, for example, the US Federal Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 which exempts companies selling supplements form having to prove safety or efficacy, and prevents the Federal Food and Drug Administration even looking until there’s compelling evidence of harm, was sponsored by legislators with substantial vested interests in the supplement industry, and promoted by lobbyists for that industry.

            That’s not a surprise, of course. The entire reason we have rules on truth in advertising and the like is that companies that have a vested interest in selling a product, very often put their interests ahead of those of the public. That’s also why doctors, dieticians, nurses and dentists have to be licensed. It’s not a great reason for going to unlicensed parallel practitioners.

            • No actually the question is why do you devote so much time and energy attacking something that is by your own admission harmless when surgery is being conducted by surgeons who say there is no research to support their procedures, when people are dying like flies from adverse reactions to prescription drugs. Even the A.M.A. admits (although usually dramatically understates the problem). Hundreds of thousands of people die and you dont give a toss, you just want to be right at all costs. You want to be a big shot attacking the underfunded under resourced underpaid people that stand up to this evil greed and lunacy

              • BS Detector says:

                Real medical treatment saves millions of lives every day. Only the most paranoid, I’ll-educated and desperate altmed fundamentalists even question that.

                Open heart surgery kills a lot of people compared to Get Well cards. Get Well cards are perfectly safe, with zero side effects, and cheaper than open heart surgery too. That’s the basis of your argument, if you can even call it an argument – it’s that daft.

                • Do you have a study to support that statement? If you do thats fine, post it. If you dont you are asserting an opinion as fact. This is supposed to be the very thing you criticise. You see, clean water abundant food supply dramatically reduced hardship and plumbing are significant factors in health. Unless you can separate those things out all you have is dogma. That is what scientific process is about, removing the variables to reach a conclusion. If you dont remove the variables you are not scientific in your argument. All I have asked for is one study. I have asked you and I have asked Chapman Central to no avail. Tell me why you wont give me one study to support your claim.

                  • Interesting that graphs showing 100 year decline in common infectious diseases such as meaesles and diptheria that are considered examples of the power of medicine all show that the introduction of the vaccine came about 2/3 or the way down the curve (afraid I don’t have a reference to hand). Deline was well underway thanks to changes in living conditions. Not to say that vaccines are not useful or that they don’t save lives but that non-medical life-style interventions are equally potent. It’s a point that has been effectively ignored in programs to deal with our current epidemic of metabolic disorders – heart disease, diabetes, alzheimer’s and cancer. In all those medical pharmaceutical interventions rule.

                    • Jerome the decline in infectious disease prior to the introduction of vaccines is documented in C.S.I.R.O. records. I’ve seen them but I dont have them although i know who does I know who does.

                    • BS Detector says:

                      Interesting that you call yourself a medical journalist and yet actually get published in our national joke called the Daily Mail. Not to say your work isn’t useful, but…

                      Etc, etc. Poor show, Jerome. Agnostic indeed!

                    • I call myself a medical journalist becasue I write about medicine and am a member of the Medical Journalist Association. I don’t know what you call yourself – apart from your username – because you are anonymous. You also know I write for the Daily Mail because I make no secret of it, you haowever prefer to remain hidden. The fact you think the Daily Mail is a joke tells us something about you but nothing about my journalism. I don’t like most of the political slant of the Mail – but I know how much checking going into its health coverage because I am at the receiving end and that it has run some valuable compaigns. It has given me space to set out the dangerous failures of, for example, statins, the diabetes medication Avandia and the irresponsble use of heavyweight tranqulisers (antipsychotics) on both children and patients with dementia despite clear guidelines to the contrary. I don’t consider any of those jokes, maybe you do? Suspect you haven’t actually read any of what I have written, just rushed to judgement based on the fact you don’t like the paper I write for and I don’t agree with your take on homeopathy. Not a very study base for one of your all too frequent lazy ad hominen assaults. Damm you’ve got me at it now. Promise not to do it again.

                    • See, its harder than it looks Jerome 🙂

              • Homeopathy is harmless, belief in homeopathy is not. http://www.safetyandquality.health.wa.gov.au/docs/mortality_review/inquest_finding/Dingle_Finding.pdf or http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9341713.stm for example.

                And it’s not much time. Homeopathy advocates endlessly repeat the same refuted arguments, it’s quite easy to keep track.

                • Synthetic chemicals are not harmless, deliberately taking them is even worse. Has anyone ever died from metastatic cancer under allopathic medicne treatment? I didnt read your news article, I want science articles from peer reviewed journals. That is the standard of evidence you say you demand from others o that is the standard of evidence I demand from you..

                  • Wait, you just mad a claim not backed by SCIENCE. Show me the source, backed by an objective definition of what qualifies as a synthetic chemical, how the dose-response is measured, the type of harm at doses normally used and so on.

                    Last time I checked the human body can’t tell the difference between “natural” and “synthetic” vitamin C, and vitamin megadoses are punted as “natural” even though no normal human could eat sufficient of the natural source of those vitamins to get the dose proposed.

                    • The sceptics, not me, demand “scientific proof” of everything. I have a wide range of evidence that I accept. I have a right to hold you to your own standards. You have a right to hold me to mine.

                      Without rejecting good studies and science, I believe lots that I cant produce a R.C.T. or controlled trial or peer reviewed published article for. I accept peoples testimonies by and large, or at least dont dismiss them out of hand like sceptics I accept traditional wisdom. If thousands or millions of people claim a benefit from say Homeopathy I dont have a problem with that. I have a problem with people who reject case studies and practitioner experience and claim they dont represent evidence.

                      I especially have a problem when sceptics present societal accepted norms (ie unreferenced magazine articles newspaper articles, pop stars comments presented as laws of science, statements by cartoon characters, actors, sports heroes tv and real allopathic doctors etc.) as scientific proof of something then demand high level scientific studies from everyone else. Thats especially a problem when they wouldnt know a high level study if they fell over one. (Not accusing you specifically but certainly the majority of sceptics I encounter).

                      I find it completely ironic that a ‘sceptic’ would be driven by a societal norm. It takes scepticism to question societal norms. Those that are considered quacks by sceptics are actually the ones that question their societal norms and are in fact the true sceptics. Those that claim to be sceptics are in fact the least questioning and critical of anything that falls outside what is accepted within any particular society. Your use of mainstream media instead of science highlights that. Be a genuine sceptic and question the things that fall outside your models of reality (Paradigms)

                    • No, quacks are not the “true sceptics”. Carl Sagan explained why:
                      “In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”
                      In this case, the beliefs of the quack are, for all functional purposes, religion. Homeopathy is faith healing without the deity, after all. Science changes all the time, medical treatments are tested and rejected constantly, but I have yet to find an “alternative” health system that even has a mechanism for authoritatively rejecting any claim. No hoemopath has ever been able to cite a single remedy that has been rejected after it was later found not to work, not even one like oscillococcinum which is based on a purported bacterium which not only is not the cause of the disease it was supposed to cause, but in fact does not even exist.
                      When faced with incontrovertible evidence of error, a post-hoc rationalisation is introduced to replace the refuted claim in such a way as to paper over the inconvenient cracks.

                    • Ah, right, soi I have to provide definitive scientific proof of a negative in order to convince you. Oddly, creationists demand the same.

            • I agree thats reprehensible if thats true but the fact remains supplements are things from our food that have been part of our evolution forever

              • Really? http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/news/20120523/some-dietary-supplements-linked-to-liver-damage

                Some supplements are natural dietary components, though often in quantities well in excess of what would be consumed with any remotely natural diet. Others are not. Lobbying by the supplement industry and a law promoted by legislators with substantial vested interests means that supplements are exempt form any requirement to prove safety or efficacy, and the FDA is not even allowed to look unless there is compelling evidence of harm, as there was for OxyElite Pro (http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm374742.htm).

                Being natural does not make something safe. Being synthetic does not make it dangerous. That worldview is simply facile.

                • Exactly right Chapman central. Supplements should only ever be things that occur in nature in a the amounts that they would be expected to be consumed in nature by hunter gatherers. When they are consumed like that they deserve excemption from regulatory bodies. The body building industry is often way off the mark. I know of no Naturopaths that support that type of supplementation. The naturopath always asks the question where does that occur in nature. If it doesnt, they dont use it if they are worth their salt.

                  The straw man belief you ascribe to me is facile. Nature abounds with poisons. Do you seriously think Natural health practitioners dont know that? But the only substances make our bodies throughout human evolution are naturally occurring plant substances. Those poisons occurring in nature are well known to native societies, and guess what, like me they avoided them.

                • So why dont YOU attack the well documented damage done by drugs and surgery rather than the theoretical damage you claim done to be done by homeopathy?

      • So good to hear you Jerome.
        SANE argument is the best description I have..
        Thanks a lot for your carefully crafted thesis .. Wherever it is aiming 🙂 its in the right direction.
        And I am a classical homeopath.

    • Alex Scourfield says:

      ” … the fundamental problems with hioemopathy (sic) can be summed up in three points. All the hoemopaths (sic) have to do in order to nullify criticism, is to fix these three things:
      1. There is no reaosn to suppose it should work
      2. There is no way it can work
      3. There is no good evidence it does work.”

      The fundamental problem with this argument is that it’s profoundly unscientific. If all scientific progress were based on the premise that “there’s no reason to suppose it could work” then humankind would be stuck in the Dark Ages. Ditto in respect of the notion “there’s no way it can work”. Both these statements assume our present level of knowledge has the universe and the life systems within it totally figured out. As if!! The current state of the planet and human/animal health is more than ample evidence we have barely a clue about living systems, despite all our cleverness with technology.

      The third point, “there is no good evidence it does work”, is factually incorrect. Of course, if you’re coming from the position that notions 1 and 2 are taken as axiomatic, then no evidence is ever going to be admissible. Homeopaths have been banging their heads against this particular wall for decades now. The foundation and strength of the scientific method demands that in the face of new and/or contradictory evidence we re-examine the theoretical basis of our thinking, not dismiss the evidence, pretend that it doesn’t exist, or try to make it go away. The map is being mistaken for the territory here.

      What betrays the sceptics argument every time is that, as Jerome Burne pointed out above, it clearly displays its ideological and emotional basis. This is not reasoned scientific debate. This is rabid ranting and playing the (wo)men not the ball, attempting to silence debate by shrill denigration of the ‘opposition’.

      As Tolstoy once said, “I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would be such as oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.” There’s something rather delightfully appropriate about the fact that the average sceptic rant about homeopathy elegantly mirrors the nature of the ranter.

      And if you’re going to criticise something, at least learn to spell it correctly!

      • Really? Unscientific?

        1. There is no reason to suppose homeopathy should work. The doctrine of similars is based on Hahnemann’s conjecture that cinchona cures malaria because it creates symptoms similar to those of malaria. This is wrong. It cures malaria because it contains quinine which kills the plasmodium microbes which cause malaria. It has nothing to do with the symptoms of cinchonism (quinine overdose) which are in any case not normally those that Hahnemann experienced, as noted by Holmes as early as 1840. There is no credible evidence that “like cures like” is a general or even frequent principle, let alone a basis for a sole means of cure, as Hahnemann claimed.

        2. There is no way it can work. The dilutions involved mean that there is no detectable amount of the active substance (which in any case has no provable connection to the disease). No remotely credible mechanism has been advanced by which it might work and several implausible ones (e.g. water memory) have been refuted or shown to be wrong.

        3. There is no proof it does work. Not one single study refutes the null hypothesis by unambiguously proving an objective effect that cannot be accounted for by well known factors such as placebo effects, observer bias, expectation effects, natural history of disease and so on.

        That is properly scientific as I understand it. What’s missing?

  30. THE ART OF CURE
    Three cheers for “Homeopathy and the Threat of Endarkenment,” [ yet another dagger into the living corpse of medical pseudoscience by the great medical journalist Jerome Burne, wherein he once again skewers the “batty and arrogant” who solicit malice against homoeopathy.
    Increasingly, in the past decade, I’ve seen the phony “skepticism” of “homeopathy” fail to bear fruit. Every putative assertion borne of “skepticism,” turns out to be wrong.
    For example, contrary to myth, no comprehensive meta analysis of the literature has concluded that the effects of homeopathy rely solely on the “placebo effect.” Even the most cherished sources for homeopathy bashing, the Shang meta analysis and Ernst’s Systematic Review of the literature, and of course Wikipedia, turn out to be bogus, deliberate misinterpretation of clinical reviews. No literature reporting tests of the placebo hypothesis for homeopathy exists.
    Another myth is that biochemical tests don’t count becaue they have not been replicated. Read the Witt review of in vitro tests of high dilutions. Between the 1980s and 2007 Davenas, the basophil degranulation test published in Nature, the science journal with the world’s highest impact (the test Maddox, Randi and Stewart crucified Benveniste for) was replicated 24 times alone. Closer inspection of Hirst’s raw data, also published in Nature, confirmed Benveniste, although Hirst tried writing off his anomalous results as a cryptic false positive due to some “unknown effect.” They presumably were impossible due to presumed ignorance of physical difference and electromagnetic missive indices in homeopathic remedy solutions.
    What’s more, other biochemical tests have been replicated, and another in vitro on the effects of an ionized pharmaceutical (as used in homoeopathy) on gene expression was just published in BMC, now online at biomedcentral (dot) com/1472-6882/14/104
    Meanwhile, everyone, including homeopaths (who allow themselves to be treated like doormats by the medical sciences) are ducking the facts of what homeopathy really is. The world’s most advanced strategy of artificial adaptive immunization (AAI) is homoeopathy. It uses what in reality are medical isotopes, ionized pharmaceuticals, “fourth phase medicinals.” The common vaccine is in reality homoeopathic. It employes the same strategy of homeotherapy, giving an artifical disease to cure a natural one, the AAI Hahnemannian turned into a comprehensive doctrine of cure.
    Ironically, the method pseudoscientific medical authorities are condemning in the Commonwealth countries turns out to be a clumsy form of homeopathy in itself. In the crude it is the very same strategy mandated in the enforcement of vaccines, the only difference between homoeopathy, the science of AAI, and the unwitting “homeopathy” of the vaccine being posological . . allopaths have not learned, or simply will not learn, how to cut and administer the right medicine in the proper dose. If they would, they could turn medicine from being a vicious commercial enterprise, preying on the sick, into the art of cure.
    As a postscript let me say I think the reason they hate homeopathy so much is, as Burne hints at in Endarkenment, pseudoscientific patent medicine can’t find a way to dig its claws into it with intellectual property rights, so it can screw the rest of us.
    Read “Homeopathy and the Threat of Endarkenment,” by Jerome Burne. It’s “write on.”

    • John, you reversed the burden of evidence again. Nobody has to prove that homeopathy is inert, that’s the default based on the fact that no instrument exists which can demonstrate any difference between remedies at normal potencies. The burden of evidence lies on you to demonstrate a specific and objectively measurable effect that varies by remedy. Otherwise you might just as well substitute the word “magic”, it would not change the meaning of your words.

      • Laurie Willberg says:

        You are not bringing any sort of research or information to the table that supports your case. Instead you appear to be manufacturing semi-plausible arguments in favour of your position and insist on others following a higher standard that you seem to be capable of.
        You are stealing lingo from the legal system and even getting that confused — the term is “burden of proof”. This in itself is not only wrong-headed but unscientific as well.

        • Yeah. I had a smile or two at Jerome’s free use of the word “evidence”.

        • Laurie, we have discussed this sufficient times that you know the response well.

          http://is.gd/homeopathy has an extensive list of sources. These include a systematic review of systematic reviews that found not one single condition for which any specific effect could be discerned.

          As for evidence that like cures like, or how, or evidence that dilution increases potency, or a remotely plausible mechansim? None exists. There is, quite simply, no reason to suppose hoemopathy should work, no way it can work, and no good evidence it does work.

          Feel free to bring that evidence. The onus is firmly on you, since it is an extraordinary claim: that one man, single-handedly, discovered the uniquely valid principle of cure, even though he was wrong about cinchona curing malaria because of symptomatic similarity, wrong about miasms, wrong about the infinite divisibility of matter, and his claims have never been replicated by anybody who was not already a believer.

          • Laurie Willberg says:

            No, Guy, if you and other skeptics wish to continue ignoring not only positive research but scores of positive clinical outcomes there’s no need for further dialogue. Since you actually perform no research nor have any responsibility for patient outcomes you and those like you will remain in the bleachers as armchair critics.
            You consistently fail to support your case and seem bent on doing little else than supporting the status quo.

            • As we tell you every time, Laurie, systematic reviews weigh up all the evidence, positive or negative. They find that as study methodology increases, the chances of a positive outcome decrease (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10391656). That is the very definition of a treatment that does not work.

              A systematic review of all the systematic reviews of homeopathy found no condition for which there is convincing evidence of effect: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12492603

              While we’re on the subject of ignoring inconvenient facts, hoemoapths are not doing so well refuting the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the law of mass action, the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy, and various other well-established scientific principles which robustly contradict the claims of homeopathists. If I were you I’d get right on that. When there’s no reason to think something should work, no remotely plausible way it could work and no single example where it can be objectively shown to have worked in the past, people tend to stop believing claims that it does work.

      • ChristyRedd says:

        In addition to not bringing any sort of research or information to the table to support your case, you also, as John Benneth noted, ignore research when it’s presented to you or simply deny it completely. You claim homeopathy doesn’t work because, in your limited view, it can’t work. Research destroys the “skeptic” assumptions that nanodoses do not or cannot have significant physiological effects. This is quoted directly from a paper by researchers at two leading Italian universities who recently conducted research on Gelsemium, a popular homeopathic medicine, and found it to influence genetic expression associated with nerve cells whether the dose was 2c, 3c, 4c, 5c, 9c or 30c. BTW, drug companies use these tests to determine which drug can influence certain genes. From the paper: “Conclusions: The study shows that Gelsemium s., a medicinal plant used in traditional remedies and homeopathy modulates a series of genes involved in neuronal function. A small but statistically significant response was detected even to very low doses/high dilutions (up to 30c) indicating that the human neurocyte is extremely sensitive to this regulation.”

        http://www.citeulike.org/group/12952/article/13148803

        It is not the only research showing that homeopathic medicines affect gene expression.

        • Christyredd, this is the inevitable result of seeking to confirm a hypothesis instead of testing it. A finding by homeopaths on cells in a dish, published in a journal devoted to supporting SCAM, Why oh why oh why does the world of science not discard the entirety of molecular physics, biochemistry, pharmacology and indeed all of medical science, based on this compelling evidence? I wonder.

          Have you never wondered why the only people who ever find any evidence even vaguely supportive of homeopathy, start their papers by setting out their belief in homeopathy? Why do no biochemists, electrochemists and the like ever stumble across a finding that non-existent dilutions of something affect gene expression, only homeopathists who set out to find it? And what evidence is there that something applied direct to cells in a dish will affect the human body when given in very small doses via the enzymes of the mouth? How does this “gene expression” stand up to that test? (Clue: they haven’t even looked).

          That’s before you get to the rather obvious point that none of these findings are generalisable. A finding that, say, one molecule might affect gene expression, doesn’t validate a general claim that all molecules similarly prepared, will affect gene expression, and it certainly doesn’t translate to any claim for tany effect based on that expression; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the effect (if it is an effect and not an artifact) persists, or can be transferred via the medium of a sugar pill.

          In fact not only is there no objective test that can even distinguish between different remedies at normal potencies, but one manufacturer was found to be missing the vial entirely one time in six and in the balance of cases dropping water on top of a tube of pills on the assumption that it would evenly distribute down the vial. We’re not aware of a single customer complaining that their remedies did not work. Nobody noticed until someone actually looked at the line.

          It is perfectly possible for peopel to believe they have found something that does not exist at all. Here’s one example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N_ray

          • ChristyRedd says:

            As I’ve often told you, Guy, denial of the facts does not invalidate those facts. Neither does it make those facts disappear. Obfuscation does not change the facts either, much as you might hope it would.
            There is no point at all in “discussing” this research with you so I will simply make these points:
            There are 600 basic science studies, observational studies and RCT’s showing homeopathy has biological effects or produces significant to substantial health benefits. According you, every last one of those studies is flawed in some way that invalidates it. That’s not really credible is it? Especially when you consider the fact that they have been conducted by respected researchers or under the auspices of world-respected facilities like M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
            We all know that “skeptics” don’t consider observational studies “real” evidence of a treatment’s effects so I will point out that they are included in medical journals and are considered by medical professionals to be of value.
            The problem for you is that once you admit that just one study isn’t flawed you’ve admitted that homeopathy works. It explains why no matter what evidence is presented to you, you must, of necessity, resort to denying its validity.
            There are 25,000+ volumes of cases of chronic diseases like cancer and Grave’s disease cured with homeopathic treatment. I doubt you’ve read even one of them. I doubt that you, as an engineer rather than a trained medical professional, would understand them in any real way or that your opinion of them could have any real meaning. To claim that these conditions just disappeared in these patients is hardly credible at all, is it? In fact, despite your claims, you haven’t posted even one documented, verified case in which a brain tumor or Grave’s disease just vanished all on its own leaving the patient healthy again. Conventional doctors would laugh at the very idea.
            There are 1/2 million homeopaths in the world today. Most of them are M.D.’s. They wanted to do more for their patients than they could achieve with conventional treatments alone. They saw the results homeopathy achieves and decided to invest three or four more years in training and study so that they could practice it. Claiming these professionals have been deluded or don’t understand the improvements and cures they see in their patients isn’t any more credible than any of your other claims.
            The “skeptic” platform is so flimsy a child could topple it with one finger.

            • You are right that denial of the facts does not invalidate the facts.

              Like cure like is a generalisation from a single refuted observation; there is no evidence that it is correct as a general or widespread principle, let alone as a sole valid basis of cure. That is a fact.

              Dilution increases potency is refuted, Hahnemann’s statement that there can be no amount of matter which does not retain its essential quality was comprehensively refuted early in the 20th Century, that, too is a fact.

              There is not one single case where homeopathy has been independently verified to have objectively cured any case of any disease. That is a fact.

              Not one single study of homeopathy has ever refuted the null hypothesis. That’s a fact.

              Studies are more likely to be positive if they are badly designed and sloppily conducted. That’s a fact.

              No remotely plausible mechanism of action has ever been proposed. Another fact.

              Science has an explanation of homeopathy which is complete, coherent, both internally and externally coherent, and requires not ad-hoc hypotheses, whereas homeopaths do not. Another fact.

              The skeptic platform consists of exactly two words: “prove it”. Your inability to understand the concept of proof is your problem, not ours.

            • The fact that Skeptics are still referencing Shang et al as somehow ‘conclusive’ proof that Homeopathy doesn’t work only undermines their credibility. A study that broke the lancet’s own rules for the publication of a meta-study and whose “et al” included a former editor of the Lancet whose known opposition to Homeopathy must have made him think he could bend the rules that he himself would have certainly been aware of. Skeptics like to dismiss all research in CAM publications as biased, while typically, never seeing the bias in their own favoured publications.

              One would have to be hopelessly naive to think that all conventional scientific research was unbiased and not subject to the same commercial and political considerations as newspaper influence, for example. Naive or wilfully blind.

              • Well said Mark. Perhaps naieve or wilfully blind for a small stipend.

                • BS Detector says:

                  Mark is a professional homeopath, making a living selling homeopathy, and yet the other guy has to be posting for money? One rule for the believers…

                  😀

      • Guy writes, “John, you reversed the burden of evidence again.”
        That’s exactly right, Guy. Ionized pharmaceuticals, the materials used as medicine in homeopathy, are legal, potent drugs regulated in the US by the FDA. To get them off the shelves YOU have to prove they’re inert.
        FDA: “A guide to the use of homeopathic drugs (including potencies, dosing, and other parameters) may be found by referring to the following texts: A Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica by John Henry Clarke, M.D., (3 volumes; Health Science Press) and A Clinical Repertory to the Dictionary of Materia Medica by John Henry Clarke, M.D. (Health Science Press). These references must be reviewed in conjunction with other available literature on these drug substances.”
        Clarke comprehensively covers 1000 remedies in a schema that indexes their action from head to toe, mentally and phyiscally, giving case examples and clinical conditions. This is hardly the work of a man reporting th action of placebos.
        Guy says, “Nobody has to prove that homeopathy is inert, that’s the default . . ” No, you’re wrong, Guy. The legal default actually is that the pharamacetuicals used in homeopathy are potent, and there is good reason for this, because the pre-cinical and clinical evidence shows that they are. Assuming they are inert is dangerous.
        IF you don’t believe this, put it to the test. Have a friend select and obtain a single remedy for you to test of the dry pellet type Boiron sells in the tube, or Helios, the type used in classical homeopathy, cover the label and give it to another friend to administer to you without you knowing what it is. Take a single pellet, crush it between two spoons and dump it into a shot glass of your own distilled water and stir until dissolved. Then pour the water from the shot glass into a eye dropper bottle, filling it halfway. Then close the bottle tightly and succuss it strongly against a book or something with a resilient surface. Then drink it. Do this enough times and you’ll probably trigger a strong reaction, or an aggravation.
        In other words, if you really think these items are inert and have no action, put them to the test.
        YOU may be good at defamation, dismissing the evidence, arguing, being “sceptical,” but the fact remains, that whatever you may think the mechanism is, be it placebo or just good marketing, etc. homeopathics are quite real. If they weren’t taken fo real by a segment of the population, you wouldn’t be here.
        You owe it to yourself to test it.
        Guy continues, “. . and based on the fact that no instrument exists which can demonstrate any difference between remedies at normal potencies. The burden of evidence lies on you to demonstrate a specific and objectively measurable effect that varies by remedy. Otherwise you might just as well substitute the word “magic”, it would not change the meaning of your words.”
        INstrumental testing has already been done, so once again your premature assertions, your presumptions, blow up in your face. Instrumentation has been used to study ionized pharmaceuticals, most recently and most notably the work done by Nobelist Luc Montagnier using the Benveniste coil and a Soundblaster card:
        “The same filtrates were analyzed just after filtration
        for production of electromagnetic waves of low frequency.
        For this purpose we used a device previously
        designed by Benveniste and Coll (1996; 2003) for the
        detection of signals produced by isolated molecules endowed
        with biological activity. The principle of this
        technology is shown in Fig. 1.”
        Clipart pictures of coil around test tube, connected to amplifier connectedto computer.
        “Fig. 1 Device for the capture and analysis of electromagnetic
        signals (EMS): (1) Coil: a bobbin of copper
        wire, impedance 300 Ohms; (2) Plastic stoppered
        tube containing 1 mL of the solution to be analyzed;
        (3) Amplifier; (4) Computer with softwares.”
        “After all dilutions have been made (generally 15-20
        decimal dilutions), the stoppered tubes are read one by
        one on an electromagnetic coil, connected to a Sound
        Blaster Card itself connected to a laptop computer,
        preferentially powered by its 12 volt battery. Each
        emission is recorded twice for 6 seconds, amplified 500
        times and processed with different softwares for vizualization
        of the signals on the computer’s screen (Fig. 1).
        The main harmonics of the complex signals were analyzed
        by utilizing several softwares of Fourier transformation.”
        Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures
        Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences Luc MONTAGNIER, Jamal A¨ISSA, Stephane FERRIS,
        Jean-Luc MONTAGNIER, Claude LAVALLEE
        Interdiscip Sci Comput Life Sci (2009) 1: 81–90
        tinyurl com/Montagnier
        This test was a replication of Benveniste’ and is one of many physical tests of homeopathy:
        Dielectric strength
        Gay A. Presence of a physical factor in the homeopathic
        dilutions [in French]. Éditions des laboratoires P. H. R.
        ed. Lyon: P.H.R.; 1951. In this test Alphonse Gay and Jean Boiron used a modified galvoneter and were able to distinguish the verum from the controls.
        Hartmann and Farenkopf 1952
        Brucato, Stephenson, 1966
        Ives, 1980
        Jussal et al., 1982
        Jussal et al., 1983
        Galvanic effects
        Knauer, 1969
        Heintz, 1971a
        Heintz, 1971b
        Heintz, 1972 1
        Hartmann et al., 1992
        Light absorption (IR, visible, UV)
        Heintz, 1941
        Heintz, 1942
        Zacharias, 1995b
        Zacharias, 1995a
        NMR (spectra, T1, T2)
        Smith, Boericke, 1966 These are the first NMR tests
        Smith, Boericke, 1968
        Young, 1975
        Lasne et al., 1985
        Sacks, 1985
        Lasne, 1986
        Weingärtner, 1988
        Lasne et al., 1989
        Weingärtner, 1989
        Weingärtner, 1990b
        Demangeat et al., 1992
        Weingärtner, 1992
        Conte et al., 1996
        Demangeat et al., 1995
        Demangeat et al., 1997
        Sukul et al., 2000
        Aabel et al., 2001
        Milgrom, et al., 2001
        Raman spectroscopy
        Luu, 1975
        Boiron, Luu-D-Vinh, 1976
        Luu, 1976
        F Boiron, Luu-Dang-Vinh, 1980
        G Weingärtner, 1988
        Weingärtner, 1990a
        Weingärtner, 1992
        Beta scinitllation testing by Conte and Lasgne shows beta emissions from ionized pharmaceuticals.
        Any more questions?

        • A couple:

          First, why do you cite only the positive studies, when authoritative systematic reviews consistently find that positive outcomes correlate with poor methodology, and there is no good evidence to support homeopathy as effective for any condition?

          Second, why do you not cite evidence for a remotely plausible mechanism of action, when that is clearly required now that the doctrines of similars and infinitesimals are known to be be based on refuted conjectures?

          • It’s true that reanalysis of the Linde eta analysis, what Ernst called “technically superb,” showed a correlation between rigor and positive results in clinical trials, but this was not enough for Linde et al to recant their not placebo conclusion, and the correlation is not the case for replications of biochemical tests (Witt), which are an anathema to the placebo hypothesis. It should also be noted, btw, that Wayne Jonas, MD, a former director of the US Department of Health’s Nartional Institutes of Health, participated in the Linde meta analysis and later went on with Deborah DIlner to perform a test of exposing mice to a dilute of tularemia at Walter Reed to see if it could improve their immunity to rabbit fever, and discovered that it could.
            Now, you ask for a mechanism of homeopathic action, conflating it with the mechanism for ionization of matter, by referring to similars and infinitesimals.
            The doctrine of similars is historically observed as adaptive immunity, which is the basis for vaccines. Cowpox, a disease in cattle, is injected into humans to immunize them from small pox, a similar disease contracted by humans . . and it can be seen that deadly diseases do not usually strike the same individual twice, and when they do, they are usually non fatal.
            Hahnemann writes,

            “There is much similarity between the fevers and coughs of measles and those of
            whooping cough. In an epidemic where these two diseases raged simultaneously,
            Bosquillon noticed that many children who had just had measles remained free from
            whooping cough. o They would all have remained permanently free of whooping cough
            and would have been rendered immune by the measles if whooping cough were not just
            partly similar to measles, i.e., if it also had a similar skin eruption. That is why measles
            protected only a number of children from the whooping cough, and only during that
            epidemic.
            “But when measles meets a disease that is similar to it in its main symptom – the eruption
            – it will undeniably destroy and cure it . . homoeopathically.
            “Thus a chronic herpetic eruption was cured p ( homoeopathically) promptly, completely,
            and permanently by and eruption of measles, as Kortum observes. q
            “A six-year-old miliary eruption on the throat, face, and arms, with extreme burning,
            which was aggravated whenever the weather changed, was reduced to a simple swelling
            of the skin when measles broke out; and after the measles it was cured, never to return. r
            a. Traité de l’inoculation, p. 189.
            b. I leilkunde für Mütter, p. 384.
            c. Interpres clinicus, p. 293.
            d. Neue Heilart der Kinderpocken, Ulm, 1769, p. 68; and Specim., obs. 18
            e. Op. cit.
            f. Nov. Act. Nat. Cur., vol. I, obs. 22.
            g. Nachricht von dem Krandeninstitut zu Erlangen, 1783.
            h. This seems to be the reason for the remarkable salutary result of the widespread
            use of Jenner’s cowpox vaccination. The smallpox has not since then appeared
            among us with such widespread virulence. Forty or fifty years ago, when a city
            was stricken, it lost at least half, often three-quarters of its children.
            i. Willan, Ueber die Kuhpockenimpfung.
            j. Especially Clavier, Hurel, and Desormeaux, in Bulletin des sciences medicales,
            publié par les membres du comité central de la Société de Médecine du
            Département de l’Eure. 1808; also in Journal de medicine continue, vol. XV, p.
            206
            k. Balhorn, in Hufeland’s Journal, vol. X, p. 2.
            l. Stevenson, in Duncan’s Annals of Medicine, lustr. II, vol. I, pt. II. No. 9.
            m. In Hufeland’s Journal, vol. XXIII.
            n. On the Venereal Diseases, p. 4.
            o. Cullen’s Eléments de medicine pratique, French translation, pt. II, I, 3, chap. 7.
            p. Or at least that symptom was removed.
            q. In Hufeland’s Journal, vol. XX, no. 3, p. 50.
            r. Rau, Ueber d. Werth des hom. Hellv., Heidelberg, 1824, p. 85.

            I include Hahnemann’s footnotes to show that he was not alone in making these observations of one disease curing another, as he often thought of being alone by detractors.

            As Hahneman astutely points out, the smallpox vaccine is homoeopathic, as are many others. But those who are uneducated in these matters, like children, understandably panic at the thought of . . by a needle stick . . being given yet another disease to iatrogenically cure you of a more serious natural one.
            What anti homeopaths do is conflate the adaptive immune system’s ability to acquire the power to reject certain antigens, with the principle of like cures like with ionized pharmacy, confusing the use of fourth phase pharmaceuticals as a superior way to trigger adaptive responses, on the basis that they are inert.
            This was iterated in part by another commentator on Jerome Burne’s Body of Evidence, a homeopath who explained that homeopathy does not require post-Avogadros to trigger a homeopathic response, as once again can be seen in the use of whole killed body vaccines, such as in conventional attempts to prevent the whooping cough in children.
            To sustain their attack on what ironically is in truth a long standing method of preventing disease, opponents of the homoeopathy have to deny the previous outlined corrollaries of oppositional similitude.
            It is no coincidence that Hahnemann and Jenner developed the same mechanism governing their respective applications simultaneously. Both homoeopathy and the vaccine were revealed in 1796, both men were developing their applications of the same biomechanical principle, at the same time . . except Hahnemann took it further to apply it to all afflictions, in a way that was safer, more effective and easier to use, with materials that were longer-lasting than Jenner’s dried lymph, which without a preservative or refrigeration would inevitably become inert, as Lewis and Clark discovered when they attempted to take the smallpox vaccine to the Pacific Northwest Indians in 1804, five years after Hahnemann defeated the Scarlatina epidemic in Konigslutter with small doses of Belladonna. It has since been observed that immunization with potentized Variolinum, as used in homeopathy, will cause the crude vaccination with cowpox not to take, as by the same mechanism of small pox prophylaxis it causes the acquisition of an immunity to the vaccine. Variolinum also has aborted many cases of small-pox, and has proved an efficient preventive against small-pox contagion and vaccinal infection (Clarke).

            Regarding the mechanism of the remedy itself, Hahnemann was first to describe it as magnetic, and since then it has not changed. You will note that there are indeed corollaries to like cures like. In chemistry it can be seen as like dissolves like in the action of solvents and like repels like in the poles of magnets.

            The mechanism of action within the remedy has indeed been proven as it was first postulated, not chemical, but magnetic (Hahnemann; Clarke). Homeopathic remedies have been discovered to be emissive throughout the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum (Boericke and Tafel, photons; Elia; Rey, thermoluminescence; Benveniste et al, rf EM; Lasne/Conte et al, beta radiation; Weber et al, unknown EM; Montagnier et al, rf EM).
            As to how the ionized remedy propels it emissive qualities, my postulate is that it is electrostrictive, the piezo electric effect.

            • BS Detector says:

              Your postulate is not just wrong, but nonsense. And that’s from someone who actually has a physics qualification.

            • You can spin it how you like, they acknowledged that as the quality of studies the chances of a positive outcome reduce. That, taken with the rest of the body of systematic reviews, which collectively find no convincing evidence that homeopathy works for any specific condition, and added to the fact that like does not cure like, dilution reduces, not increases potency and so on, you arrive at the point we are at now, where science e fully understands all the observed facts and finds nothing meriting further inquiry. Homeopathy “works” by placebo effects, expectation effects, regression to the mean, natural history of disease and other mundane and prosaic confounders which apply to every single observation of every single therapeutic intervention.

              There is nothing more to discover because there is simply no reason to believe it should work, no remotely plausible way it can work, and no good evidence it does work.

              Homeopaths, like most believers in refuted nonsense, have built massive walls to isolate them from refutation. I enjoy spraying reality-based graffiti on those walls, for the amusement of passers-by.

      • You reversed the burden of evidence says Mr. We’d all be dead by 30 if it wasnt for medicine.

        • BS Detector says:

          Average life expectancy was under 30, once. We died in droves from childbirth, tooth decay, ingrowing toenails, tiny septic cuts, you name it. No penicillin, no dentists, no blood transfusions, etc.

          Perhaps you have astonishing evidence that life expectancy actually drops with medical advancement, and that closing all the hospitals and ceasing medical research will boost health and longevity? No, of course you don’t. You’re just a troll.

          • Have to say I’m getting rather bored with all the point scoring – who said what on another site. who’s a fraud, who’s a quack. It’s been a really fascinating discusion I’ve learned a lot and I really appreciate you taking the time to comment – 227 of them so far!. But as ring master I’d like a return to civility; disagree by all means but you don’t have to combine it with an insult. The aim of this site is to discuss issues around evidence. I feel relying on RCTs severely limits what can be learned about treatments. I’d like some ideas around that. Not to score points but to have a discussion in which people bring information to the table. So respect each other folks and post something surprising or interesting. Otherwise it’s probably time to say good night. I’ll give it another 24 hours.

            • “I feel relying on RCTs severely limits what can be learned about treatments. I’d like some ideas around that”

              If one relied *only* on RCTs, your point would be valid; in reality, RCTs are one of several ways one can study efficacy (but still considered to be the “gold standard”). A major issue with the homeopath approach is a heavy reliance on anecdote; anecdote is completely uncontrolled and is unverifiable. It also relies upon post hoc ergo propter hoc. i.e. much more limiting than RCTs

            • BS Detector says:

              It is hard to have a rational convo when faced with paranoid and baseless accusations that everything you say is because big Pharma is paying for it and you’re part of a cabal of ‘gay atheist pedophiles’.

              The irony is big Pharma makes the stuff anyway!

              Only today, the widely-ridiculed UK health minister was exposed as having secretly pushed big Pharma paid-for research to influence govt policy. The company? Boiron, worlds biggest maker of homeopathy. Boiron is also the only big Pharma company that ever actually got caught paying a shill to smear a critic, too.

              The double standards of evidence required, acceptable behaviour, etc. are stunning. Same applies to the constant aversion to RCTs, because they don’t give the answer homeopaths want.

              You don’t need to know the first thing about HOW it works to be able to find out IF it works. That’s what RCTs do, and homeopathy does exactly as well as sugar pills. Obviously.

            • Laurie Willberg says:

              Thank you for returning sanity to these proceedings. Are you always this magnanimous?
              Perhaps this may shed some light on some of the issues that seem to be beyond the scope of those who are not experienced in Homeopathic theory and testing:
              http://www.homeopathy.org/portfolio-view/prover-susceptibility-and-the-ascending-dose-did-randomized-placebo-controlled-trials-disprove-the-homeopathic-proving-hypothesis/
              “Improperly designed studies yielding false negatives due to inadequate or incomplete understanding or application of homeopathic theory have a devastating effect on the scientific community’s perception of homeopathy that will be difficult to reverse. And, unless the errors are exposed, they will reverberate into future policy guidelines drawn by governments and regulatory bodies.”

            • Best post in the thread Jerome. I’m not protesting innocence but very happy to return to sane and rational conversation. I’m concerned if you have learned a lot here though, its only bad habits you will pick up 🙂

            • Laurie Willberg says:

              Placebo effect sizes in homeopathic compared to conventional drug trials? No difference!
              http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20129180
              Research that clearly indicates that the “no evidence” mantra is demonstrably false, questioning the motives of those who persist with this dishonest stupidity:
              http://www.homeopathy.org/portfolio-view/research-in-homoeopathy-2-by-robert-medhurst-bnat-nd-dhom/
              Anyone with a sincere interest in the current state of Homeopathy research should review the presentations from the Homeopathy Research Institute’s 2013 conference held in Barcelona:
              http://www.hribarcelona2013.org/

          • Let me fill you in. Your colleague made the statement that we all live to greater ages because of medicine. You as a sceptic presumably embrace evidence. He made the statement, I didnt. Therefore according to your rules of engagement you or he needs to provide the evidence to support the claim. You need to show evidence as to why its synthetic chemicals that have made us live to greater ages rather than dramatically increased availability of food and water. Dramatically improved sanitation (it has been suggested and I agree that plumbers have saved more lives than any other profession) . Dramatically less hardship. Clean water supplies. You see I don’t think such evidence exists, and if that is the case you are just as guilty of operating from a belief system (maybe moreso) as everyone you accuse. So my simple request is, null hypothesis in mind, do you have a study that shows what you claim is in fact the case. I was irritated by being offered a quote from an article from Royal Geographic as evidence. I’m sure you would agree that is inadequate as a form of evidence (assuming you have at least a rudimentary background in science. So fire away with a reference if you have one.)

          • The current generation in the U.S.A. is the first generation since the industrial revolution that is expected to live a shorter lifespan than their parents. WHO figures state the U.S. spends a staggering 18% of GDP on disease care so I’m not sure if you find that staggering enough. Cuba spends 6% and produces significantly better results by including traditional healers in their system.

        • Except that it was science. Feel free to find a primitive population with no scientific artifacts, with a longer life expectancy.

          • elainelewis says:

            Chapman, in answer to your question, “Where did you get your figures, from Death By Medicine by Gary Null?” No, from here, the Washington Post:

            Prescribed Drugs’ Toll Is Among Deadliest

            By Rick Weiss
            Washington Post Staff Writer
            Wednesday, April 15, 1998; Page A01
            More than 2 million Americans become seriously ill every year because of toxic reactions to correctly prescribed medicines taken properly, and 106,000 die from those reactions, a new study concludes. That surprisingly high number makes drug side effects at least the sixth, and perhaps even the fourth, most common cause of death in this country.

            The analysis, the largest and most complete of its kind, suggests that one in 15 hospital patients in the United States can expect to suffer from a serious reaction to prescription or over-the-counter medicine, and about 5 percent of these will die as a result.

            If the findings are accurate, then the number of people dying each year from drug side effects may be exceeded only by the numbers of people dying from heart disease, cancer and stroke, and may be greater than the number dying from lung disease, pneumonia or diabetes.

            Experts said the study, which appears in today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, is stronger than previous ones because it looks only at cases in which drugs were taken correctly.

            (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/health/daily/april98/drugs041598.htm)

            • Criticisms of Pomeranz abound. The death rate was extrapolated from admission rates in 1994 but based on rates of ADRs taken from studies conducted before 1981. Publication bias also inflated mortality and morbidity data. Then there’s the post hoc fallacy. The latest figures form CDC, using a methodology informed by this type of study and specifically designed to expose the problem, since that’s CDC’s remit, find much lower figures, as I noted.

              You must also remember that this is data for hospital patients, who tend to be the sickest. These are the cases where the choice may be certain death versus a risky intervention.

              Of course you could always use homeopathy, which has no effects, side or otherwise. This works fine unless you’re actually ill.

              • Chapman central I know you would be concerned about a fourfold increase in death and serious outcomes from correctly prescribed, correctly taken drugs. I’m almost certain you would share our concern that half a million people are dying evey year with that figure doubling every 5 years according to the official government figures. You are probably concerned that the current generation is estimated to be the first generation since the industrial revolution to die younger than their parents. I know you would have the wisdom to accept the official figures from the U.S. F.D.A. I’m not sure you would recognise how conservative they must be but here they are:
                Source: “AERS Patient Outcomes by Year,” Food and Drug Administration (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 31, 2010) –

                “These data describe the outcome of the patient as defined in U.S. reporting regulations (21 CFR 310.305, 314.80, 314.98, 600.80) and Forms FDA 3500 and 3500A (the MedWatch forms).
                Serious means that one or more of the following outcomes were documented in the report: death, hospitalization, life-threatening, disability, congenital anomaly and/or other serious outcome.

                2000 Death 19,445 Severe outcomes 153,818.
                2010 Death82,724 Severe outcomes 471,291.

                • What were the damage figures from homeopathy again?

                • Right, so you take a figure which is a known overestimate, with published criticisms, multiply it by five for no obvious reason, and then demand that I condemn it. Not playing that game. I have read and cited the CDC’s analysis, which puts medical misadventure at a tiny proportion of that number.

                  Nor is this relevant to the invalid claims of homeopaths or supplement vendors. It’s a distraction fallacy, a version of the schoolyard cry “but look what Billy did”. Problems with medicine validate bogus claims by “alternative” practitioners in exactly the same way that plane crashes validate magic carpets.

                  Medicine is all about the balance of risk and benefit. Looking only at the risk in the hope that nobody will check whether your claims for benefit are true, and bleating when they do look and find they aren’t, is rather cynical, don’t you think?

          • Off the top of my head the Hunzas in Pakistan, the Mayans, people from the Russian Steppes and areas in Bulgaria. The Hunzas were legendary for their longevity. You just dont seem to understand the rules of science. You cant just forcefully push your opinion. You must provide research,

            • That’s a new age myth. The Hunza people have a lower life expectancy, in line with other populations facing similar hardship. Child mortality among Hunzas is extremely high, with 30% of children dying before the age of ten. The basis of the myth of the Hunzas longevity is the high social standing that is afforded to elderly Hunzas, as well as the fact that births aren’t registered (for lack of a written language) and age is not necessarily measured in years, but as a function of wisdom and social prestige.

              • alxkr that may or may not be the case. I have seen lecturers who studied the Hunzas prior to their westernisation (Paavo Airola was one) and its not the story they tell. In reality we are probably genetically limited in lifespan so living longer is about avoiding shortening our lifespan. The best way to do that according to every credible study I have seen is by systematic undereating and periodic fasting. Popping Valium, Idocid Moggadon, Paracetamol, Cox 2 inhibitors like Celebrex and Vioxx, Statins, etc etc etc and then mixing them all up in the popular practice of polypharmacy is not the way home. I’m sure you would agree, and this is the common practice of medicine.

            • This is not a peer-reviewed scientific publication. There is no significant informed dissent from the view that vaccines, antibiotics, trauma medicine and such have substantially increased human lifespans.

          • True science contributed, along with accident. But lets not forget that the introduction of synthetic chemicals into the natural biological environment of the human body has not been shown to be both sfficaceous and sustainable. It is therefore unscientific. If thats not true please feel free to be consistent with your own demands of Homeopathy and present a study that shows the improvement in age isnt due to better sanitation, more abundant food and water less hardship etc. Remember you have still ducked this and a number of other issues and this is your major central assumption. And its completely without evidence. Your supposed to demand evidence. That applies to you especially if you demand it from others doesnt it?

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