Saturday, 25 August 2012
Friday, 7 October 2011
Wednesday, 31 August 2011
Friday, 17 December 2010
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Why do Indians entertain such a false and disproven belief as homeopathy at such a mass scale?. Probably, it can be traced to a great extent to abject poverty status in India with as many as 37% population below poverty line.It is the cost of modern treatment which in many cases forces the poor patient to take recourse to "alternative" treatment.However, it is so unfortunate that these poor people should be given false hope by "fake" doctors.The social security system of the country is in a dismal state,people don't have enough money to afford to pay medical insurance premiums and cost of modern drugs and diagnostics procedures is rising rapidly.However, none of these justify the existence of a trap of a fraudulent system of "treatment" which can never offer any relief,to say the least.
Thus on the one hand poor are facing the severest brunt in terms of bad health care by the practice of homeopathy,the rich are being lured into the trap through marketing gimmicks such as "multi-speciality clinics"(see previous post).There is so much on the stake for the people that we need to rise up to ban homeopathy.
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Sunday, 16 May 2010
Sunday, 9 May 2010
Alternative explanations for "cures" :
A variety of alternative explanations have been offered for how homeopathy, if the remedies themselves are ineffective, may appear to cure diseases or alleviate symptoms:
- Unassisted natural healing - time and the body's ability to heal without assistance can eliminate many diseases of their own accord
- Unrecognized treatments - an unrelated food, exercise, environmental agent or treatment for a different ailment, may have occurred
- Regression toward the mean - since many diseases or conditions are cyclical, symptoms vary over time and patients tend to seek care when discomfort is greatest, they may feel better anyway but because the timing of the visit to the homeopath they attribute improvement to the remedy taken
- Nonhomeopathic treatment - patients may also be getting nonhomeopathic care simultaneous with homeopathic treatment, and this is responsible for improvement though a portion or all of the improvement may be attributed to the remedy
- Cessation of unpleasant treatment - often homeopaths recommend patients stop getting conventional treatment such as surgery or drugs, which can cause unpleasant side effects; improvements are attributed to homeopathy when the actual cause is the cessation of the treatment causing side effects in the first place
- Lifestyle changes - homeopaths often recommend diet and exercise, as well as limitations in alcohol or coffee consumption and stress reduction, all of which can increase health and decrease symptoms
- The placebo effect - the intensive consultation process and expectations for the homeopathic preparations can result in the release of endorphins or other body-effecting chemicals which alleviate pain or other symptoms, or otherwise affect an individual's biology
- Psychological healing - the care, concern and reassurance provided by a homeopath as part of the consultation can assure the patient the symptoms are minor and easily treated, or alleviate tension that could exacerbate a preexisting condition. This can be particularly effective when physicians have limited time with the patient or are unable to provide a diagnosis or treatment.
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
MPS URGE GOVERNMENT TO WITHDRAW NHS FUNDING AND MHRA LICENSING OF HOMEOPATHY
In a report published on 22nd February,2010 , the Science and Technology Committee concluded that the NHS should cease funding homeopathy. It also concluded that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should not allow homeopathic product labels to make medical claims without evidence of efficacy. As they are not medicines, homeopathic products should no longer be licensed by the MHRA.
The Committee carried out an evidence check to test if the Government’s policies on homeopathy were based on sound evidence. The Committee found a mismatch between the evidence and policy. While the Government acknowledges there is no evidence that homeopathy works beyond the placebo effect (where a patient gets better because of their belief in the treatment), it does not intend to change or review its policies on NHS funding of homeopathy.
The Committee concurred with the Government that the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious (that is, it does not work beyond the placebo effect) and that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible.
The Committee concluded-given that the existing scientific literature showed no good evidence of efficacy-that further clinical trials of homeopathy could not be justified.
In the Committee’s view, homeopathy is a placebo treatment and the Government should have a policy on prescribing placebos. The Government is reluctant to address the appropriateness and ethics of prescribing placebos to patients, which usually relies on some degree of patient deception. Prescribing of placebos is not consistent with informed patient choice-which the Government claims is very important-as it means patients do not have all the information needed to make choice meaningful.
Beyond ethical issues and the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship, prescribing pure placebos is bad medicine. Their effect is unreliable and unpredictable and cannot form the sole basis of any treatment on the NHS.
The report also examines the MHRA licensing regime for homeopathic products. The Committee is particularly concerned over the introduction of the National Rules Scheme (NRS) in 2006, as it allows medical indications on the basis of study reports, literature and homeopathic provings and not on the basis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) - the normal requirement for medicines that make medical claims.
The MHRA’s user-testing of the label for Arnica Montana 30C-the only product currently licensed under the NRS-was poorly designed, with some parts of the test little more than a superficial comprehension test of the label and other parts actively misleading participants to believe that the product contains an active ingredient.
The product labelling for homeopathic products under all current licensing schemes fails to inform the public that homeopathic products are sugar pills containing no active ingredients. The licensing regimes and deficient labelling lend a spurious medical legitimacy to homeopathic products.
The Chairman of the Committee, Phil Willis MP, said:"It sets an unfortunate precedent for the Department of Health to consider that the existence of a community which believes that homeopathy works is 'evidence' enough to continue spending public money on it. This also sends out a confused message, and has potentially harmful consequences. We await the Government's response to our report with interest.”
When will Indian government wake up to stop the scandal of homeopathy in India??
Friday, 26 February 2010
Saturday, 20 February 2010
Friday, 27 March 2009
Sunday, 9 March 2008
(1) homeopathic drug (read fakes/poison) manufacturers
(2) homeopathic (pseudo) physicians
(3) Owners of large homeopathy "clinic" chains
(4) Ad film makers who make ads like "homeopathy works"
GO THROUGH PREVIOUS POSTS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS BIGGEST FRAUD WITH THE HEALTH OF THE PEOPLE
Monday, 29 October 2007
Is Homeopathy "New Science" or "New Age"?
Homeopathy has existed for about 200 years, yet reports in the media have suggested that homeopathy is the medicine of the future. Today, homeopathy is found in almost every country. In Europe, 40% of French physicians use homeopathy; 40% of Dutch, 37% of British, and 20% of German physicians use homeopathy . In the United States, hundreds of thousands of people take homeopathic remedies each year. Indeed, homeopathy seems to be becoming more popular.
Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, developed homeopathy in about 1796. He was dissatisfied with the conventional medicine of his time. The accepted medical remedies at that time were often dangerous for the patient. There was a joke that more people died of medical treatment than from the disease itself.
Hahnemann laid out two principles of his homeopathy. First, he said that "like cures like" (Similia similibus curentur). This meant that a substance that produces certain symptoms in a healthy person can be used to cure similar symptoms in a sick person.
Second, Hahnemann asserted that smaller and smaller doses of the remedy would be even more effective. (In a way, perhaps this was a good idea because some of Hahnemann's remedies were poisonous.) So Hahnemann used more and more extreme dilutions of the remedies. In a process he named "potentization," Hahnemann would take an original natural substance and often dilute it 1-to-99 (called "C1"). A second dilution of 1-to-99 would be called "C2." Between each dilution, the remedy must be vigorously shaken. This shaking, or succussion, supposedly released the healing energy of the remedy. This healing energy has never been adequately defined nor measured.
Hahnemann found C30 dilutions to be quite effective. For Hahnemann, these very high dilutions presented no problem. He did not believe in atoms, and he thought that matter could be divided endlessly. Today we know that any dilution greater than C12 is unlikely to contain even one single molecule of the remedy. Sometimes Hahnemann diluted a substance 1-to-9 (called "D1"). In this case any dilution of D24 or greater would also not likely contain any molecules of the remedy.
Homeopathy claims to use only "natural" substances. This is an attempt to contrast itself with conventional medicine. For example, homeopathic remedies include raw bovine testicles, crushed honey bees (Apis mellifica), Belladonna (deadly nightshade), cadmium, sulfur, poison nut (Nux vomica), hemlock (Conium), silica (Silicea), monkshood (Aconite), salt (Natrium mur), mountain daisy (Arnica), venom of the Bushmaster snake (Lachesis), arsenic (Arsenicum album), Spanish fly (Cantharis), rattlesnake venom (Crotalus horridus), Ipecac (Ipecacuahna), dog milk (Lac canidum), poison ivy (Rhus toxicodendron), and more. Some of these substances are quite harmless, but others can be toxic (especially at D4 and lower dilutions).
How did Hahnemann know that a remedy was appropriate for a particular disease (actually for a particular symptom)? Hahnemann and his students tested remedies on themselves. They would eat various plant, animal, and mineral substances and carefully observe what symptoms occurred. This is called "proving." These reactions (or symptoms) were collected together into a book Materia Medica. For example, one of the symptoms of Pulsatilla (windflower) is "An unpleasant message makes him deeply sad and depressed after 20 hours." During provings, the people knew which substance they were taking. This is a problem because one might anticipate a certain reaction or exaggerate some symptom.
Today, in modern science, we try to prevent this bias by not letting the person know what he or she is taking -- a "test-blind" procedure. When evaluating symptoms, it is also important that the researcher does not know which remedy is being tested (a double-blind procedure) because the researcher can also be biased.
One recent German study  did compare a remedy (Belladonna C30) to a placebo. Those who received the placebo reported even more symptoms than those who received the remedy. The symptoms reported included minor aches and pains in various parts of the body. Did the patient mistakenly assume that a normal ache or pain must be related to the remedy? It is possible that the ache or pain was the result of a confounding factor such as not enough sleep.
As we can see, homeopathy is not concerned with the disease. It concentrates on the symptoms reported by the patient. Homeopathy then matches these symptoms to those symptoms that a remedy causes in a healthy person. By contrast, scientific bio-medicine uses symptoms to identify the disease and then treats the disease itself.
There are two points of view about homeopathy that are in conflict. One viewpoint says that homeopathy should not attempt to meet the rigorous requirements of scientific medicine. It is sufficient that there have been millions of satisfied patients during the last 200 years. Science is not relevant anyway because it rejects the concept of the energy of the "vital force" which is essential to homeopathy. This vital force is identical to the concept of vitalism -- a primitive concept used to explain health and disease. And, besides, scientific medicine is unfairly prejudiced and biased against homeopathy. Dana Ullman , a leading spokesman for American homeopathy, says that personal experience is much more convincing than any experiments. The emphasis on experience shows that most people simply do not understand that good science, based upon experiments, is essential to the development of knowledge.
The second viewpoint is that scientific research is necessary if homeopathy is to be accepted by medicine and society. In the past 15 years many experimental studies have been done to examine homeopathic remedies. Two reviews of homeopathy are perhaps the best known.
J. Kleinjen, P. Knipschild, and G. ter Riet examined 107 controlled clinical trials of homeopathy. They concluded that the evidence was not sufficient to support the claims of homeopathy. C. Hill and F. Doyon  examined 40 other clinical studies. They also concluded that there was no acceptable evidence that homeopathy is effective. Since the above reviews were written, four more research studies have appeared.
In 1992 the homeopathic treatment of plantar warts (on the feet) was examined . The homeopathic treatment was no more effective than a placebo.
A report in May 1994 examined the homeopathic treatment of diarrhea in children who lived in Nicaragua . On Day 3 of treatment the homeopathic group had one less unformed stool than the control group (3.1 Vs 2.1; p <.05). However, critics  pointed out that not only were the sickest children excluded, but there were no significant differences on Days 1, 2, 4, or 5. This suggests that the conclusion was not valid. Further, there was no assurance that the homeopathic remedy was not adulterated (contaminated). Finally, standard remedies which halt diarrhea were not used for comparison purposes.
In November 1994 a research report examined the effects of homeopathic remedies in children with upper respiratory infections (such as a cold) . Eighty-four children received the placebo, and 86 received individualized homeopathic remedies. The researchers concluded that the remedies produced no improvement in symptoms or in the infections.
In December 1994 a fourth study examined homeopathic treatment of allergic asthma in Scotland . The 13 patients who received the homeopathic remedy reported feeling better and breathing easier than the 15 patients who received the placebo. Then the researchers combined these data with several earlier experiments. They concluded that, in general, homeopathy is not a placebo and that homeopathy is reproducible.
However, there were too few patients for significant analysis. Second, personal reports of feeling better are not reliable. If a patient feels better, is that proof of recovering from the ailment? There are many diseases in which the patient feels good but is actually quite sick. What is needed are several proper physiological measurements of improvement. Third, it is inappropriate to combine this small study with previous studies of a different disorder.
The latest study from Norway  examined relief from the pain of tooth extraction/oral surgery by homeopathic remedies or placebos. Fourteen of the 24 subjects were students of homeopathy, and 2 of the 5 authors were homeopaths. It is safe to say that motivation was high to have homeopathy succeed. However, no positive evidence was found favoring homeopathy, either in relief of pain or inflammation of tissue.
The reader may ask why so much attention has been given to the scientific research when supporters of homeopathy reject the relevance of clinical trials to establish its validity. But the same people also claim that the 1991 review, and the Nicaragua and the Scotland studies are proof that homeopathy does indeed work. It is important to realize that all of the research that seems to support homeopathy is seriously flawed. The only conclusion that is justified at this time is that research has not conclusively shown that homeopathic remedies are effective.
What answer can be given to someone who says he took a remedy and it worked? Most people do not realize that in time most conditions will get better even if nothing is done. As the saying goes, "A cold will get better in 14 long days without treatment, but will get better in only two short weeks with medication." A wise medical doctor will say not to worry, that medication won't help much. (By the way, has anyone ever heard of a homeopath telling a patient that they need not worry and that the sickness will go away by itself?) When someone says the homeopathic remedy cured them, we can ask: "Would one have been cured just as quickly if nothing had been done?"
Another factor to consider is the "placebo effect." This means that if people "believe" that they are being properly treated, they will perceive themselves getting better faster. Recent research shows that up to 70% of medical/surgical patients will report good results from techniques that we know today are ineffective . (At the time of the treatment, both the patient and the physician were convinced that the treatment was effective.)
Since 1842, homeopaths have argued that the placebo argument is irrelevant because children and animals are helped by homeopathic remedies. But children and animals respond to suggestion when researchers and often the parents and pet owners are aware that a remedy has been given.
Supporters also claim that there are no risks from homeopathic treatment. They say that the ultra dilute remedies are safer and cheaper than most prescription drugs. First, it has been shown that several homeopathic remedies for asthma actually were contaminated with large amounts of artificial steroids. Second, some remedies do contain measurable amounts of the critical substance. If a patient takes 4 tablets daily of mercury (D4), he would receive a potentially toxic dose. And a dose of D6 cadmium exceeds the safe limits. Finally, a D6 or less dose of Aristolochia contains significant amounts of this cancer-causing herb. Therefore, we cannot easily and quickly claim that homeopathic remedies are always safe.
There is an additional risk of seeking homeopathic treatment. If someone is ill and requires immediate medical treatment, any delay could have serious consequences. This is the risk that is present with all alternative medical care.
Advocates of homeopathy often assert that using dilute remedies is similar to vaccinations. After all, vaccinations also use very dilute substances. Once again, homeopathy is trying to obtain respectability by showing that conventional medicine uses similar procedures. This is misleading for several reasons. First, vaccinations are used to prevent disease. Once one is sick and has symptoms, a vaccination will not help. The homeopathic remedy is given only after one is already sick. Vaccinations use similar or identical weakened microorganisms, but homeopathy is concerned with similar symptoms of illness. And last, many homeopathic remedies use D24 or C12 dilutions where none of the substance remains. Vaccinations on the other hand must contain a measurable amount of the microorganism or its protein.
Sometimes we can learn much about a topic by examining who or what it associates with. In the first 100 years, homeopathy was closely associated with many pseudosciences including Mesmerism and phrenology. In the United States, many early homeopaths were members of the mystical cult of Swedenborgianism.
Unfortunately, this has not changed today. Especially in the United States, chiropractic (spinal manipulation therapy) and applied kinesiology use homeopathic remedies. Many homeopaths use iridology, reflexology, dowsing, and electrodiagnosis. None of these methods has scientific validity. In America, if you want to learn more about homeopathy, the best place to go is to any New Age bookstore or meeting place.
Another connection of homeopathy with the New Age movement is found in the emphasis upon some mystical energy (called the "vital force") which, though unquantifiable, supposedly permeates the universe and is responsible for healing. Fritjof Capra and Deepak Chopra claim that the mysteries of quantum physics support this "healing energy" concept. But Victor Stenger  has shown that all of modern physics (including quantum physics) remains materialistic and reductionistic and offers no support for the mysterious energy supposedly present in potentized homeopathic remedies at dilutions of C12 or greater.
Is Homeopathy Quackery?
In the United States, we have a motto: "If it walks like a duck, and looks like a duck, and sounds like a duck, then it probably is a duck." To what extent does homeopathy look like quackery and sound like quackery?
One clear link that homeopathy has to quackery is its supporters' use of faulty logic. The first example is known as the "test of time" argument -- the fact that homeopathy has existed for a long time shows that it is valid. But longevity does not guarantee validity. Astrology, numerology, and dowsing have been around for a long time, but they are clear examples of pseudoscience. Longevity of an idea is never a good substitute for rigorous science.
The second argument is that many people have tried homeopathic remedies and are all satisfied, so homeopathy must be legitimate. Along the same lines, we are told that the following famous and important people all supported homeopathy: The British royal family, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Mark Twain, O. J. Simpson, Yehudi Menuhin, Angela Lansbury, and Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science). The Chinese have a saying that if a thousand people say something foolish, it is still foolish. Also a majority vote is no substitute for good science. In addition, we usually hear only about the successes, but the failures are conveniently forgotten or ignored.
A third argument is the "non sequitur." Typically, the crackpot says: "They laughed at Galileo, and he was right. Today they laugh at me; therefore I must be right." (Actually Galileo was not laughed at. Rather he was persecuted because he was devoid of a proper Christian faith to accept the correct dogma.) Homeopaths say that throughout history many great geniuses have rebelled against the prevailing wisdom; many of these were ultimately recognized as correct. Paracelsus, William Harvey, Louis Pasteur, and Joseph Lister were vindicated by history. Therefore, it is argued, Samuel Hahnemann and homeopathy also will ultimately be recognized as correct. But this argument forgets that many more who claimed to be geniuses were correctly rejected.
In the spirit of fair-mindedness, one may be tempted to give homeopathy the benefit of the doubt and simply conclude "not yet proven." However, what then are we to do when many lay practitioners report that merely writing the name of the remedy on a piece of paper, and putting this on the body of the patient results in a "cure." Even two respected national spokesmen were unwilling to reject these reports, and one of them suggested that quantum physics may ultimately explain these healings as well as those reported by patients who are given the remedy over the phone.
We must conclude that homeopathy certainly sounds like quackery.
Homeopathy in the United States
Before 1920, homeopathy was extremely popular in the United States. There were many homeopathic hospitals and medical colleges. But then conventional medicine established more rigorous standards for training students. In addition, pharmacology and the discovery of many useful drugs happened at the same time. Today in the United States, only about 500 of more than 600,000 physicians use homeopathic remedies.
However, many scientists are concerned because the popularity of homeopathy is increasing. Today almost anyone can buy homeopathic remedies without a prescription. This is because in 1938 a homeopath who also was a powerful politician (Royal Copeland, MD) was able to have a law passed that made homeopathic remedies exempt from all drug regulation. So homeopathic remedies do not have to be proved effective, as all other drugs must be. In addition, many unlicensed and untrained people can give homeopathic remedies to anyone who asks for them. Both German and French homeopathic companies recognize the large potential American market for their remedies. Sales of remedies are growing by 30% a year, and most remedies are sold in New Age and related natural health-food stores. Therefore, there is no control over the quality of homeopathic treatment received by patients; nor is there control over the quality or purity of the remedies.
Why Do People Accept Homeopathy?
Perhaps there are really two different questions here. The first question relates to the New Age in general. The second question relates to many alternative medicines as well as homeopathy.
Why do people read their horoscopes? Why do people believe in good luck and bad luck? Why do people ask a dowser for help? Why do people visit fortune-tellers? People who do these things want to know about the future, to avoid uncertainty, and to take control of their lives. For many people the uncertainty in life is unbearable. These people want explanations that they can understand. Modern science has become so complex that many people turn away in frustration. It is unfortunate that most people throughout the world do not understand what science is and what science does. For example, how many people can explain why it is warmer in the summer than in the winter? (Only 2 of 23 recent Harvard graduates could mention the tilt of the earth's axis.) Or how many people understand the basic ideas of biological evolution? A survey by the National Science Foundation in May 1966 reported that 48% of American adults believe that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, and only 47% knew that it takes one year for the earth to go around the sun. This scientific illiteracy, due in part to the shortcomings in our education systems, makes it easy for pseudoscience and superstition to succeed.
Why do people turn to homeopathy and other "alternative" medicines? Many people are dissatisfied with conventional medicine. They distrust physicians who may prescribe expensive drugs or painful surgery. Often physicians can find nothing wrong with the patient. Or else they tell the patient that time alone will cure the ailment. And, of course, physicians often cannot spend much time talking with the patient because they have too many patients to see that day. If the physician finds nothing wrong, this may offend the patient because it suggests that the cause is psychosomatic. The patient who wants to be cured and to be cured immediately is upset when the physician says that time alone will cure the problem. The patient may also be unhappy if the physician doesn't give some medication.
An initial visit to a homeopath can often take more than one hour. Patients are encouraged to talk about all of their cares, concerns, and pains. Patients may be asked whether they like oranges or apples; what kinds of music they enjoy; whether they sleep on their back or on their side.
Later the homeopath tells a patient that because he is a unique individual, the remedy will also be individualized for that patient alone. Thus, homeopathy is seductive to both the patient and the physician. The patient and physician become partners in fighting the illness. The homeopath is seen as a concerned and sympathetic health-care giver.
It must be concluded that by every objective, rational, and medical standard, homeopathy has failed to establish its scientific credibility. Homeopathy has not cast off the many characteristics of pseudoscience and quackery. How can conventional medicine, science, and patients respond to this challenge?
The problem of scientific illiteracy must be acknowledged. For example, if people understood the influence of suggestion and the placebo effect more clearly, homeopathy's attraction might diminish.
Intelligent people can encourage others to think more critically. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. A miracle means a violation of the laws of nature. A miracle cure probably is not a miracle at all. If something seems too amazing to be true, it probably isn't true. We must demand that the claims of diagnosis and cure be supported with good evidence. To paraphrase another American motto: "The only thing necessary for quackery to succeed is for intelligent people to do nothing."Mahlon W. Wagner, Ph.D.Unquote.
Now even some people are trying to claim that nanotechnology will explain the "magic" of homeopathy.When I met such a proponent, I categorically told him that till anything substantial comes out of "such research",which most surely will yield nothing,nobody can attach any scientific sanctity to the fraud of homeopathy.The only case when homeopathy will be "scientifically proven " is when all the present knowledge of physics,chemistry and medicine is proved wrong!!
Monday, 27 August 2007
Homeopathic "remedies" enjoy a unique status in the health marketplace: They are the only category of quack products legally marketable as drugs. This situation is the result of two circumstances. First, the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which was shepherded through Congress by a homeopathic physician who was a senator, recognizes as drugs all substances included in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States. Second, the FDA has not held homeopathic products to the same standards as other drugs. Today they are marketed in health-food stores, in pharmacies, in practitioner offices, by multilevel distributors [A], through the mail, and on the Internet.
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician, began formulating homeopathy's basic principles in the late 1700s. Hahnemann was justifiably distressed about bloodletting, leeching, purging, and other medical procedures of his day that did far more harm than good. Thinking that these treatments were intended to "balance the body's 'humors' by opposite effects," he developed his "law of similars"—a notion that symptoms of disease can be cured by extremely small amounts of substances that produce similar symptoms in healthy people when administered in large amounts. The word "homeopathy" is derived from the Greek words homoios (similar) and pathos (suffering or disease).
Hahnemann and his early followers conducted "provings" in which they administered herbs, minerals, and other substances to healthy people, including themselves, and kept detailed records of what they observed. Later these records were compiled into lengthy reference books called materia medica, which are used to match a patient's symptoms with a "corresponding" drug.
Hahnemann declared that diseases represent a disturbance in the body's ability to heal itself and that only a small stimulus is needed to begin the healing process. He also claimed that chronic diseases were manifestations of a suppressed itch (psora), a kind of miasma or evil spirit. At first he used small doses of accepted medications. But later he used enormous dilutions and theorized that the smaller the dose, the more powerful the effect—a notion commonly referred to as the "law of infinitesimals." That, of course, is just the opposite of the dose-response relationship that pharmacologists have demonstrated.
The basis for inclusion in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia is not modern scientific testing, but homeopathic "provings" conducted during the 1800s and early 1900s. The current (ninth) edition describes how more than a thousand substances are prepared for homeopathic use. It does not identify the symptoms or diseases for which homeopathic products should be used; that is decided by the practitioner (or manufacturer). The fact that substances listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia are legally recognized as "drugs" does not mean that either the law or the FDA recognizes them as effective.
Because homeopathic remedies were actually less dangerous than those of nineteenth-century medical orthodoxy, many medical practitioners began using them. At the turn of the twentieth century, homeopathy had about 14,000 practitioners and 22 schools in the United States. But as medical science and medical education advanced, homeopathy declined sharply in America, where its schools either closed or converted to modern methods. The last pure homeopathic school in this country closed during the 1920s .
Many homeopaths maintain that certain people have a special affinity to a particular remedy (their "constitutional remedy") and will respond to it for a variety of ailments. Such remedies can be prescribed according to the person's "constitutional type"—named after the corresponding remedy in a manner resembling astrologic typing. The "Ignatia Type," for example, is said to be nervous and often tearful, and to dislike tobacco smoke. The typical "Pulsatilla" is a young woman, with blond or light-brown hair, blue eyes, and a delicate complexion, who is gentle, fearful, romantic, emotional, and friendly but shy. The "Nux Vomica Type" is said to be aggressive, bellicose, ambitious, and hyperactive. The "Sulfur Type" likes to be independent. And so on. Does this sound to you like a rational basis for diagnosis and treatment?
At Best, the "Remedies" Are Placebos
Homeopathic products are made from minerals, botanical substances, and several other sources. If the original substance is soluble, one part is diluted with either nine or ninety-nine parts of distilled water and/or alcohol and shaken vigorously (succussed); if insoluble, it is finely ground and pulverized in similar proportions with powdered lactose (milk sugar). One part of the diluted medicine is then further diluted, and the process is repeated until the desired concentration is reached. Dilutions of 1 to 10 are designated by the Roman numeral X (1X = 1/10, 3X = 1/1,000, 6X = 1/1,000,000). Similarly, dilutions of 1 to 100 are designated by the Roman numeral C (1C = 1/100, 3C = 1/1,000,000, and so on). Most remedies today range from 6X to 30X, but products of 30C or more are marketed.
A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. Assuming that a cubic centimeter of water contains 15 drops, this number is greater than the number of drops of water that would fill a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth. Imagine placing a drop of red dye into such a container so that it disperses evenly. Homeopathy's "law of infinitesimals" is the equivalent of saying that any drop of water subsequently removed from that container will possess an essence of redness. Robert L. Park, Ph.D., a prominent physicist who is executive director of The American Physical Society, has noted that since the least amount of a substance in a solution is one molecule, a 30C solution would have to have at least one molecule of the original substance dissolved in a minimum of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water. This would require a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth.
Oscillococcinum, a 200C product "for the relief of colds and flu-like symptoms," involves "dilutions" that are even more far-fetched. Its "active ingredient" is prepared by incubating small amounts of a freshly killed duck's liver and heart for 40 days. The resultant solution is then filtered, freeze-dried, rehydrated, repeatedly diluted, and impregnated into sugar granules. If a single molecule of the duck's heart or liver were to survive the dilution, its concentration would be 1 in 100200. This huge number, which has 400 zeroes, is vastly greater than the estimated number of molecules in the universe (about one googol, which is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes). In its February 17, 1997, issue, U.S. News & World Report noted that only one duck per year is needed to manufacture the product, which had total sales of $20 million in 1996. The magazine dubbed that unlucky bird "the $20-million duck."
Actually, the laws of chemistry state that there is a limit to the dilution that can be made without losing the original substance altogether. This limit, which is related to Avogadro's number, corresponds to homeopathic potencies of 12C or 24X (1 part in 1024). Hahnemann himself realized that there is virtually no chance that even one molecule of original substance would remain after extreme dilutions. But he believed that the vigorous shaking or pulverizing with each step of dilution leaves behind a "spirit-like" essence—"no longer perceptible to the senses"—which cures by reviving the body's "vital force." Modern proponents assert that even when the last molecule is gone, a "memory" of the substance is retained. This notion is unsubstantiated. Moreover, if it were true, every substance encountered by a molecule of water might imprint an "essence" that could exert powerful (and unpredictable) medicinal effects when ingested by a person.
Many proponents claim that homeopathic products resemble vaccines because both provide a small stimulus that triggers an immune response. This comparison is not valid. The amounts of active ingredients in vaccines are much greater and can be measured. Moreover, immunizations produce antibodies whose concentration in the blood can be measured, but high-dilution homeopathic products produce no measurable response. In addition, vaccines are used preventively, not for curing symptoms.
Stan Polanski, a physician assistant working in public health near Asheville, North Carolina, has provided additional insights:
Imagine how many compounds must be present, in quantities of a molecule or more, in every dose of a homeopathic drug. Even under the most scrupulously clean conditions, airborne dust in the manufacturing facility must carry thousands of different molecules of biological origin derived from local sources (bacteria, viruses, fungi, respiratory droplets, sloughed skin cells, insect feces) as well as distant ones (pollens, soil particles, products of combustion), along with mineral particles of terrestrial and even extraterrestrial origin (meteor dust). Similarly, the "inert" diluents used in the process must have their own library of microcontaminants.
The dilution/potentiation process in homeopathy involves a stepwise dilution carried to fantastic extremes, with "succussion" between each dilution. Succussion involves shaking or rapping the container a certain way. During the step-by-step dilution process, how is the emerging drug preparation supposed to know which of the countless substances in the container is the One that means business? How is it that thousands (millions?) of chemical compounds know that they are required to lay low, to just stand around while the Potent One is anointed to the status of Healer? That this scenario could lead to distinct products uniquely suited to treat particular illnesses is beyond implausible.
Thus, until homeopathy's apologists can supply a plausible (nonmagical) mechanism for the "potentiation"-through-dilution of precisely one of the many substances in each of their products, it is impossible to accept that they have correctly identified the active ingredients in their products. Any study claiming to demonstrate effectiveness of a homeopathic medication should be rejected out-of-hand unless it includes a list of all the substances present in concentrations equal to or greater than the purported active ingredient at every stage of the dilution process, along with a rationale for rejecting each of them as a suspect.
The process of "proving" through which homeopaths decided which medicine matches which symptom is no more sensible. Provings involved taking various substances recording every twitch, sneeze, ache or itch that occurred afterward—often for several days. Homeopathy's followers take for granted that every sensation reported was caused by whatever substance was administered, and that extremely dilute doses of that substance would then be just the right thing to treat anyone with those specific symptoms.
Dr. Park has noted that to expect to get even one molecule of the "medicinal" substance allegedly present in 30X pills, it would be necessary to take some two billion of them, which would total about a thousand tons of lactose plus whatever impurities the lactose contained.
Some homeopathic manufacturers market twelve highly diluted mineral products called "cell salts" or "tissue salts." These are claimed to be effective against a wide variety of diseases, including appendicitis (ruptured or not), baldness, deafness, insomnia, and worms. Their use is based on the notion that mineral deficiency is the basic cause of disease. However, many are so diluted that they could not correct a mineral deficiency even if one were present. Development of this approach is attributed to a nineteenth-century physician named W.H. Schuessler.
Some physicians, dentists, and chiropractors use "electrodiagnostic" devices to help select the homeopathic remedies they prescribe. These practitioners claim they can determine the cause of any disease by detecting the "energy imbalance" causing the problem. Some also claim that the devices can detect whether someone is allergic or sensitive to foods, vitamins, and/or other substances. The procedure, called electroacupuncture according to Voll (EAV), electrodiagnosis, or electrodermal screening, was begun during the late 1950s by Reinhold Voll, M.D., a West German physician who developed the original device. Subsequent models include the Vega, Dermatron, Accupath 1000, and Interro.
Proponents claim these devices measure disturbances in the flow of "electro-magnetic energy" along the body's "acupuncture meridians." Actually, they are fancy galvanometers that measure electrical resistance of the patient's skin when touched by a probe. Each device contains a low-voltage source. One wire from the device goes to a brass cylinder covered by moist gauze, which the patient holds in one hand. A second wire is connected to a probe, which the operator touches to "acupuncture points" on the patient's foot or other hand. This completes a circuit, and the device registers the flow of current. The information is then relayed to a gauge that provides a numerical readout. The size of the number depends on how hard the probe is pressed against the patient's skin. Recent versions, such as the Interro make sounds and provide the readout on a computer screen. The treatment selected depends on the scope of the practitioner's practice and may include acupuncture, dietary change, and/or vitamin supplements, as well as homeopathic products. Regulatory agencies have seized several types of electroacupuncture devices but have not made a systematic effort to drive them from the marketplace.
For more information about these devices and pictures of some of them, click here. If you encounter such a device, please read this article and report the device to the practitioner's state licensing board, the state attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI, the National Fraud Information Center, and any insurance company to which the practitioner submits claims that involve use of the device. For the addresses of these agencies, click here.
Since many homeopathic remedies contain no detectable amount of active ingredient, it is impossible to test whether they contain what their label says. Unlike most potent drugs, they have not been proven effective against disease by double-blind clinical testing. In fact, the vast majority of homeopathic products have never even been tested.
In 1990, an article in Review of Epidemiology analyzed 40 randomized trials that had compared homeopathic treatment with standard treatment, a placebo, or no treatment. The authors concluded that all but three of the trials had major flaws in their design and that only one of those three had reported a positive result. The authors concluded that there is no evidence that homeopathic treatment has any more value than a placebo .
In 1994, the journal Pediatrics published an article claiming that homeopathic treatment had been demonstrated to be effective against mild cases of diarrhea among Nicaraguan children . The claim was based on findings that, on certain days, the "treated" group had fewer loose stools than the placebo group. However, Sampson and London noted: (1) the study used an unreliable and unproved diagnostic and therapeutic scheme, (2) there was no safeguard against product adulteration, (3) treatment selection was arbitrary, (4) the data were oddly grouped and contained errors and inconsistencies, (5) the results had questionable clinical significance, and (6) there was no public health significance because the only remedy needed for mild childhood diarrhea is adequate fluid intake to prevent or correct dehydration .
In 1995, Prescrire International, a French journal that evaluates pharmaceutical products, published a literature review that concluded:
As homeopathic treatments are generally used in conditions with variable outcome or showing spontaneous recovery (hence their placebo-responsiveness), these treatments are widely considered to have an effect in some patients. However, despite the large number of comparative trials carried out to date there is no evidence that homeopathy is any more effective than placebo therapy given in identical conditions.
In December 1996, a lengthy report was published by the Homoeopathic Medicine Research Group (HMRG), an expert panel convened by the Commission of the European Communities. The HMRG included homeopathic physician-researchers and experts in clinical research, clinical pharmacology, biostatistics, and clinical epidemiology. Its aim was to evaluate published and unpublished reports of controlled trials of homeopathic treatment. After examining 184 reports, the panelists concluded: (1) only 17 were designed and reported well enough to be worth considering; (2) in some of these trials, homeopathic approaches may have exerted a greater effect than a placebo or no treatment; and (3) the number of participants in these 17 trials was too small to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of homeopathic treatment for any specific condition . Simply put: Most homeopathic research is worthless, and no homeopathic product has been proven effective for any therapeutic purpose. The National Council Against Health Fraud has warned that "the sectarian nature of homeopathy raises serious questions about the trustworthiness of homeopathic researchers." 
In 1997, a London health authority decided to stop paying for homeopathic treatment after concluding that there was not enough evidence to support its use. The Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham Health Authority had been referring more than 500 patients per year to the Royal Homoeopathic Hospital in London. Public health doctors at the authority reviewed the published scientific literature as part of a general move toward purchasing only evidence-based treatments. The group concluded that many of the studies were methodologically flawed and that recent research produced by the Royal Homoeopathic Hospital contained no convincing evidence that homeopathy offered clinical benefit .
Proponents trumpet the few "positive" studies as proof that "homeopathy works." Even if their results can be consistently reproduced (which seems unlikely), the most that the study of a single remedy for a single disease could prove is that the remedy is effective against that disease. It would not validate homeopathy's basic theories or prove that homeopathic treatment is useful for other diseases.
Placebo effects can be powerful, of course, but the potential benefit of relieving symptoms with placebos should be weighed against the harm that can result from relying upon—and wasting money on—ineffective products. Spontaneous remission is also a factor in homeopathy's popularity. I believe that most people who credit a homeopathic product for their recovery would have fared equally well without it.
Homeopaths are working hard to have their services covered under national health insurance. They claim to provide care that is safer, gentler, "natural," and less expensive than conventional care—and more concerned with prevention. However, homeopathic treatments prevent nothing, and many homeopathic leaders preach against immunization. Equally bad, a report on the National Center for Homeopathy's 1997 Conference described how a homeopathic physician had suggested using homeopathic products to help prevent and treat coronary artery disease. According to the article, the speaker recommended various 30C and 200C products as alternatives to aspirin or cholesterol-lowering drugs, both of which are proven to reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes .
In a survey conducted in 1982, the FDA found some over-the-counter products being marketed for serious illnesses, including heart disease, kidney disorders, and cancer. An extract of tarantula was being purveyed for multiple sclerosis; an extract of cobra venom for cancer.
During 1988, the FDA took action against companies marketing "diet patches" with false claims that they could suppress appetite. The largest such company, Meditrend International, of San Diego, instructed users to place 1 or 2 drops of a "homeopathic appetite control solution" on a patch and wear it all day affixed to an "acupuncture point" on the wrist to "bioelectrically" suppress the appetite control center of the brain.
America's most blatant homeopathic marketer appears to be Biological Homeopathic Industries (BHI) of Albuquerque, New Mexico, which, in 1983, sent a 123-page catalog to 200,000 physicians nationwide. Its products included BHI Anticancer Stimulating, BHI Antivirus, BHI Stroke, and 50 other types of tablets claimed to be effective against serious diseases. In 1984, the FDA forced BHI to stop distributing several of the products and to tone down its claims for others. However, BHI has continued to make illegal claims. Its 1991 Physicians' Reference ("for use only by health care professionals") inappropriately recommended products for heart failure, syphilis, kidney failure, blurred vision, and many other serious conditions. The company's publishing arm issues the quarterly Biological Therapy: Journal of Natural Medicine, which regularly contains articles whose authors make questionable claims. An article in the April 1992 issue, for example, listed "indications" for using BHI and Heel products (distributed by BHI) for more than fifty conditions—including cancer, angina pectoris, and paralysis. And the October 1993 issue, devoted to the homeopathic treatment of children, includes an article recommending products for acute bacterial infections of the ear and tonsils. The article is described as selections from Heel seminars given in several cities by a Nevada homeopath who also served as medical editor of Biological Therapy. In 1993, Heel published a 500-page hardcover book describing how to use its products to treat about 450 conditions . Twelve pages of the book cover "Neoplasia and neoplastic phases of disease." (Neoplasm is a medical term for tumor.) In March 1998, during an osteopathic convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, a Heel exhibitor distributed copies of the book when asked for detailed information on how to use Heel products. A 2000 edition is larger but does not have the neoplasia section .
Between October 1993 and September 1994, the FDA issued warning letters to four homeopathic manufacturers:
BHI was ordered to stop making claims that BHI Cold, which contained sulfur and pulsatilla, were effective against mumps, whooping cough, chronic respiratory diseases, herpes zoster, all viral infections, and measles. In addition, when combined with other BHI remedies, it had been illegally claimed to be effective against otitis, pleurisy, bronchitis or pneumonia, conjunctivitis, and tracheitis.
Botanical Laboratories, Inc., which distributed Natra-Bio products, was ordered to stop claiming that BioAllers was a homeopathic remedy for reliving symptoms of allergy due to pollen, animal hair, dander, mold, yeast, and dust. The products were promoted as homeopathic even though some ingredients were not in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia.
L.B.L.-Bot.Bio.Hom.Corp, of Roosevelt, New York, was ordered to stop making false claims that products could prevent AIDS, reduce cholesterol, cure diabetes and other pancreas disorders, and cancerous blood disorders.
Nutrition Express, of Houston, Texas, was warned that products it was marketing for the temporary relief of infection, minor liver disorders, lymphatic disorders, and menstrual discomforts were misbranded because their labels or labeling included statements that represented that the products were intended to be used for curing or preventing disease.
Greater Regulation Is Needed
As far as I can tell, the FDA has never recognized any homeopathic remedy as safe and effective for any medical purpose. In 1995, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request that stated:
I am interested in learning whether the FDA has: (1) received evidence that any homeopathic remedy, now marketed in this country, is effective against any disease or health problem; (2) concluded that any homeopathic product now marketed in the United States is effective against any health problem or condition; (3) concluded that homeopathic remedies are generally effective; or (4) concluded that homeopathic remedies are generally not effective. Please send me copies of all documents in your possession that pertain to these questions .
An official from the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research replied that several dozen homeopathic products were approved many years ago, but these approvals were withdrawn by 1970 . In other words, after 1970, no homeopathic remedy had FDA as "safe and effective" for its intended purpose. As far as I can tell, that statement is still true today.
If the FDA required homeopathic remedies to be proven effective in order to remain marketable—the standard it applies to other categories of drugs—homeopathy would face extinction in the United States . However, there is no indication that the agency is considering this. FDA officials regard homeopathy as relatively benign (compared, for example, to unsubstantiated products marketed for cancer and AIDS) and believe that other problems should get enforcement priority. If the FDA attacks homeopathy too vigorously, its proponents might even persuade a lobby-susceptible Congress to rescue them. Regardless of this risk, the FDA should not permit worthless products to be marketed with claims that they are effective. Nor should it continue to tolerate the presence of quack "electrodiagnostic" devices in the marketplace.
In 1994, 42 prominent critics of quackery and pseudoscience asked the agency to curb the sale of homeopathic products. The petition urges the FDA to initiate a rulemaking procedure to require that all over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic drugs meet the same standards of safety and effectiveness as nonhomeopathic OTC drugs. It also asks for a public warning that although the FDA has permitted homeopathic remedies to be sold, it does not recognize them as effective. The FDA has not yet responded to the petition. However, on March 3, 1998, at a symposium sponsored by Good Housekeeping magazine, former FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler, M.D., J.D., acknowledged that homeopathic remedies do not work but that he did not attempt to ban them because he felt that Congress would not support a ban .
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Homeopaths 'endangering lives' by offering malaria remedies
Alok Jha, science correspondent
Friday July 14, 2006
Doctors and scientists have warned holidaymakers not to use homeopathic remedies for malaria and other serious tropical diseases or their lives could be put at risk.
The warning follows an investigation by the BBC which found 10 homeopathic clinics and pharmacies allegedly went against government guidelines by recommending unproven remedies for malaria and other tropical diseases such as typhoid, dengue fever and yellow fever.
Scientists said the homeopaths' advice was reprehensible and likely to endanger lives. Professor Geoffrey Pasvol, a tropical medicine expert at Imperial College London, said: "Medical practitioners would be sued, taken to court and found guilty for far less. What this investigation has unearthed is appalling." Malaria is a major risk to people travelling in the tropics and can kill within days of the first symptoms. Almost 2,000 people returned to Britain with malaria last year and 12 died. According to the Department of Health, most cases resulted from people not taking the appropriate protective drugs.
Dr Ron Behrens, director of the travel clinic at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, said: "We have treated people ... who thought they were protected by homeopathic medicines and contracted malaria."
In 2005 the Health Protection Agency issued a warning because of people falling seriously ill when using homeopathic remedies. Its advisory committee on malaria said: "Herbal remedies have not been tested for their ability to prevent or treat malaria and are not licensed for these uses ... There is no scientific proof that homeopathic remedies are effective in either preventing or treating malaria."
In the BBC's Newsnight investigation, an undercover researcher went to 10 alternative health clinics. She asked for advice on protecting herself from malaria on a holiday to Africa and each time was recommended homeopathic products instead of being directed to a GP or conventional travel clinic. Among the clinics and pharmacies visited were the Vale Practice in East Dulwich, Helios in Covent Garden, and Nelsons off Oxford Street in London.
A spokesperson for Nelson's said staff were trained to provide responsible advice about malaria protection, and to advise that patients should consult a GP before deciding on treatments. "We are concerned to hear that this may not have happened in this case and have taken immediate steps to reiterate to the pharmacy team that this advice must be given."
A statement from Helios said: "We give advice on traditional homeopathic remedies which have been used by people for many decades in their attempt to avoid conventional treatment for malaria. There are many bibliographic references to the use of these remedies."
The Vale Practice said it was "a complementary therapy centre that does exactly that - complement the medical model. This, however, can only be done after a thorough consultation. In this instance a consultation was refused and direct and leading questions were put to the homeopath which can be taken out of context. Unfortunately this example is unrepresentative of practice policies. The Vale Practice ... has a policy of referring to the GP whenever indicated."
Monday, 13 August 2007
Heavily diluted solutions are used in homeopathic remedies
The Lancet says the time for more studies is over and doctors should be bold and honest with patients about homoeopathy's "lack of benefit".
A Swiss-UK review of 110 trials found no convincing evidence the treatment worked any better than a placebo.
Advocates of homoeopathy maintained the therapy, which works on the principle of treating like with like, does work.
Someone with an allergy, for example, who was using homoeopathic medicines would attempt to beat it with an ultra-diluted dose of an agent that would cause the same symptoms.
The row over homeopathy has been raging for years.
In 2002, American illusionist James Randi offered $1m to anyone able to prove, under observed conditions in a laboratory, that homeopathic remedies can really cure people.
To date, no-one has passed the preliminary tests.
In the UK, homoeopathy is available on the NHS. Some argue that it should be more widely available, while others believe it should not be offered at all.
In 2000, the UK Parliamentary Select Committee on Science and Technology issued a report on complementary and alternative medicine.
It reported that "any therapy that makes specific claims for being able to treat specific conditions should have evidence of being able to do this above and beyond the placebo effect".
According to Professor Matthias Egger, from the University of Berne, and Swiss colleagues from Zurich University and a UK team at the University of Bristol, homoeopathy has no such evidence.
They compared 110 trials that looked at the effects of homoeopathy versus placebo with 110 trials of conventional medicines for the same medical disorders or diseases.
This included trials for the treatment of asthma, allergies and muscular problems, some large and some small.
For both homeopathy and conventional medicines, the smaller trials of lower quality showed more beneficial treatment effects than the larger trials.
However, when they looked at only the larger, high-quality trials, they found no convincing evidence that homeopathy worked any better than placebo.
Professor Egger said: "We acknowledge to prove a negative is impossible.
"But good large studies of homeopathy do not show a difference between the placebo and the homoeopathic remedy, whereas in the case of conventional medicines you still see an effect."
He said some people do report feeling better after having homoeopathy. He believes this is down to the whole experience of the therapy, with the homeopath spending a lot of time and attention on the individual.
"It has nothing to do with what is in the little white pill," he said.
However, the Lancet also reports that a draft report on homoeopathy by the World Health Organization says the majority of peer-reviewed scientific papers published over the past 40 years have demonstrated that homeopathy is superior to placebo in placebo-controlled trials.
Furthermore, it says that homoeopathy is equivalent to conventional medicines in the treatment of illnesses, both in humans and animals.
Professor Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, said the draft WHO report seemed overtly biased and that all of the trials cited happened to be positive.
"They are not the most rigorous ones, not the most recent," he said.
A spokeswoman from the Society of Homoeopaths said: "Many previous studies have demonstrated that homeopathy has an effect over and above placebo."It has been established beyond doubt and accepted by many researchers, that the placebo-controlled randomised controlled trial is not a fitting research tool with which to test homeopathy."