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The Times view of homeopaths promoting bogus coronavirus treatments: Junk Medicine
"British homeopaths are promoting bogus treatments for the coronavirus" they say...
Monday April 13 2020, 12.01am, The Times
If you've been with me for a while, this is following the same pattern as previous blogs based on newspaper "fiction". The article is posted below, with relevant points I feel are worth exploring which will be in italics. I will include links to discover more, should you be interested to do so.
The number of recorded deaths of hospital patients in this country with Covid-19 now exceeds 10,000. Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a government adviser on the pandemic, warned yesterday that Britain was likely to be among the worst-affected countries, if not the worst of all, in Europe. In a public health crisis of such severity it is a natural human impulse to seek protection against infection. We report today that hundreds of homeopathic practitioners across the country are promoting treatments that purportedly provide it.
No. No they are not. Hundreds of practitioners are not doing this. Having worked with, studied with and got to know so many homeopaths - no one I know is talking about protection against infection. I do know people are talking about giving remedies that might help people be healthier though - that's what we do. I did also hear that in Cuba there are a group using homeopathic medicines as potential prophylaxis for the virus. They follow a history of successfully using homeopathy to deal with potential epidemics in the country which is particularly interesting and perhaps a story The Times might like to report on. Conclusions of a study, working with leptospirosis that was reported in 2010 stated: "The homeoprophylactic approach was associated with a large reduction of disease incidence and control of the epidemic." Interesting indeed.
More interesting yet (for me at least) are the facts that it wasn't conducted by homeopaths, it was scientifically robust, and had the results they gained come from the conventional scientific world, they would have been shouted from the rooftops. Did you hear about it? If you're reading this from outside of the homeopathic community the chances are you didn't. Were they able to publish in any of the medical journals they set it to, despite having been published before? No. Why might that be? Not that it wasn't a successful, interesting study. If you're curious, the excellent documentary film Magic Pills explores it further. And also talks about the other diseases that the Cubans successfully used homeoprophylaxis for. It's $4.99 to download - and a perfect time to find out more about it - addressing many of the issues raised in the media recently around homeopathy, looking at both sides of the argument.
Their claims are bogus. The basis for them is not medical science but superstition and wishful thinking. The practitioners who provide these supposed remedies are instilling false hope, profiting from vulnerability, and putting lives at risk. Their activity is exploitative and unethical, and it needs to be shut down straightaway.
Homeopathy is medical science, and fortunately in many places it is treated as such. Instilling false hope? For a start, I'd be intrigued, I am intrigued by the idea of false hope. If we were to step aside from the homeopathy issue for a moment and think about hope instead of fear, think about the placebo effect instead of the nocebo effect, think about those stories - you must have heard them too. You know the ones, where a patient is given the wrong diagnosis and they follow the anticipated path of disease and subsequent death. The other was so very ill, told they were well and recover. you know that one? I suppose the message is it works out like that because the placebo effect is very strong. Continuing to take homeopathy out of it, if 30% of people can recover due to placebo which I've seen suggested elsewhere, then hope feels to me to be an important part of the picture. Streaming constant fear into our living rooms feels to be criminal. This feels to me to be putting lives at risk. I'm well known to rant about this one to friends and family, so will kick away my soap box before I get started there.
Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus that was unknown before December. There is no cure for it. Scientists are working at breakneck pace to develop a vaccine. The notion that the highly diluted substances that homeopaths describe as remedies may offer protection from this threat will appear, to most people, intuitively implausible.
I don't want to get too far off point, but having heard many contradictory reports to it being unknown before December, having heard that the virus genome analysis looks like it was around from September 2019, I find it difficult to believe it was unknown before December. To be honest there are many viruses that are unknown to most of the public all the time. This one has attracted untold media attention and I doubt it's unknown to anyone now.
Yes there is no cure for it. As with the common cold, as with 'flu. As with so many things. All the more reason to boost our own immune system and get excited about the things we can do to be healthier. Which I've seen pretty much nowhere in mainstream media. Again, not so helpful. Wash your hands. Is that the best we've got? "Breakneck pace to develop a vaccine" sounds all very well - however to my awareness coronavirus vaccines are notoriously difficult to develop and have been previously attempted and abandoned. So we wait and see.
Yet our investigation using a database developed by the Good Thinking Society, a pro-science charity, reveals that British homeopaths are promoting herbal concoctions as a counter to Covid-19. One homeopath based in London is charging new patients £150 an hour for his “Coronavirus Remote Consulting” service, with an additional £20 monthly fee for sending prescription treatments from pharmacies.
For a start, homeopaths, unless they're also herbalists, are very unlikely to be promoting herbal concoctions. This rings warning bells for me in the accuracy of reporting to begin with. And if they are, then we're talking about herbal medicines not homeopathy, rendering the references to homeopathy in the article quite pointless.
The euphemism for this sort of ministering to the sick and vulnerable is complementary medicine, but it would be more accurate to refer to it as pseudoscience. And it has always been this way. Homeopathy was dreamt up by a German physician called Samuel Hahnemann in the 1790s. Its premise is that a patient can be cured of a malady by administering a drug or substance in so heavily diluted a form, either in water or alcohol, that sometimes not even a molecule of the original substance remains.
Dreamt up. A great phrase. Brilliant put down really. It discounts years and years of hard work, refining, countless case books, hundreds of happy patients, including many of the rich and famous of the times. Recoveries from illnesses that conventional medicine had no answers for.. It discounts millions of people using homeopathy around the world. It discounts thousands of practitioners working everyday with health and so much more. If you get the opportunity to read some of the old texts around homeopathy, Dr Elizabeth Hubbard for example. Totally inspirational. Also have a read of Rima Handley's A Homeopathic Love Story for a brilliant scene setting of where homeopathy came out of, but also the passion, the incredible work and amazing results. Dreamt up. In your dreams The Times.
It seems that the authors of the article have not heard of nanotechnology, nano medicines? Not just a euphemism for homeopathy, nano-medicines are something the conventional world are getting excited about, approved by the FDA since 1995. More on that here. And, do you know what? There is evidence to suggest this may be one way homeopathy may work too. Interesting. If you'd like to read about that more, here you go, or if you're more of a watcher, you might like the clip below from the film Magic Pills, mentioned earlier.
If you're intrigued by Professor Bellare, I was lucky enough to hear him talk at a conference several summers ago. There's more here if you'd like to explore the nano-medicine idea further.
There is no evidence that homeopathy is effective. A report by the House of Commons select committee on science and technology in 2010 concluded that homeopathic treatments performed no better than placebos, or dummy medicine, and that the principles on which they were based were scientifically implausible.
Oh my word. That old chestnut. "No evidence that homeopathy is effective". Wow. That anyone can still print that amazes me. There are years of evidence that it is effective. There are case notes on top of case notes. There are trials. There is a growing bank of evidence, and it's hugely exciting. The 2010 report and how it was carried out is shocking by the way, once you really start to look into it. You might like to find out more here. Whilst I'm here, The Australian Review, the most recent, and particularly damning review which echoed around the world, feels to be shrouded in mystery. The first review was abandoned, a new team was formed and the second review found that homeopathy was not effective in helping any medical condition. Particularly alarming now, given that recent investigations have discovered that “Contrary to some claims, the [first] review did not conclude that homeopathy was ineffective.” Read more here. More on the background of the Australian Review issues here.
In fact, whilst we're still on the topic of lack of evidence, and the author is about to move onto the Royal Family patronage, here's Dr Peter Fisher on that one. Dr Fisher was homeopath to The Queen until his recent death and speaks clearly about some of the issues involved here..
The supposed discipline of homeopathy retains its place in public life not because scientific researchers see a place for it but, in part at least, because it enjoys high-profile patronage. The Prince of Wales has urged that “science and homeopathy must work in harmony”, which is a bit like calling for an alliance of locksmiths and burglars.
Err... yes they do. Plenty of scientists, despite there being no glamour, no huge accolade, and plenty of stick to be taken, are intrigued, fascinated and very involved in homeopathy. Nice analogy, but no. I saw this clip doing the rounds today and feels so super relevant I wanted to share it here. Says it beautifully. Also "there is no scientific evidence homeopathy works" - wrong. Have a read here. And if you didn't watch Dr Peter Fisher a moment ago, do have a look at the short film above.
The Society of Homeopaths, even so, maintains the trappings of a professional organisation and keeps a register of accredited members. It reports to an independent regulatory organisation, the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care, which is responsible for protecting the public. In a global pandemic that has infected more than 1.8 million people and shut down the world economy, false hope is seductive and deadly. British homeopaths are spreading it, and they must be held accountable.
I would argue that the media is spreading terror, and they should be held accountable. False hope from homeopaths? For a start homeopathy is far more efficacious than this article would have you know, and for seconds British homeopaths are a tiny, tiny group. If they are able to spread anything around the world then perhaps they and the medicine they are using is far more powerful than The Times, and the Good Thinking Society, who appear to be behind this article, would like us to know.
I'm a Homeopath working in the Skipton (North Yorkshire) area. I am also able to offer food intolerance testing using Kinesiology and advice around diet and lifestyle.