Let’s be aware. Very aware.
This is Homeopathy Awareness Week. The triumvirate of Lewith, Dixon and Fisher are on the attack against those silly people who think there is no evidence for homeopathy.
In a letter published in yesterday’s Guardian, they proclaimed there is, after all, positive evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy:
Positives about homeopathy
The apparent success of homeopathy for many patients is puzzling. But Dr Evan Harris MP is wrong to say it is “known not to be effective” (£12m spend on homeopathy hard to swallow, Society, 10 June). In fact, out of six reviews of the scientific evidence carried out by the independent and respected Cochrane Collaboration, two are cautiously positive and four inconclusive. There is also some evidence to say that homeopathy may be effective in the long term for chronic intractable problems. Inconvenient for those who oppose integrated healthcare perhaps, but very different from demonstrating homeopathy is “ineffective”.
If the NHS were to withdraw access to homeopathy, it would not save the £4m a year it currently spends. Patients now receiving homeopathy would still need treatment, almost certainly at a higher cost and with greater risk of side effects from treatment. The mistake made by Dr Harris and Professor Edzard Ernst is to assume that we have effective treatments for all conditions and all patients. We don’t. Some patients cannot tolerate existing treatments, often those with multiple morbidity – suffering from several conditions, each needing different treatment. For some conditions, we have no effective treatment at all. Is it morally acceptable to deny patients access to a well-established treatment they find effective when no conventional treatment is available? We would suggest not.
Professor George Lewith
Professor of health research, University of Southampton
Dr Michael Dixon
Medical director, Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health
Dr Peter Fisher
Clinical director, Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital
Let’s see what they are saying:
The apparent success of homeopathy for many patients is puzzling.
No it’s not! The apparent success is due to the placebo effect, making people feel listened to, making people feel as if something is being done just for them, personalised. This is well described elsewhere and shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
They then go on to tell us about the two reviews that the Cochrane Collaboration found to be ‘cautiously positive’ and the other four that were inconclusive. No references, of course, but I suppose this is just the Guardian.
So that’s it, then. Proof that homeopathy is efficacious. There can be no more criticism. All us sceptics can pack their bags and move onto, say, looking into bogus claims of chiroquacktic.
Hold on. Wait a minute, there!
Just two reviews that were ‘cautiously positive’? Is that the best they can do?
…currently 15% of the population of Britain trust it.
The over-the-counter market in homeopathy currently stands at around £40million in the UK, based on the last market figures published by Mintel, which estimated in 2007 it was worth £38million but projected to reach £46million in 2012.
There has been a 60% growth in the homeopathic market in Europe over 10 years (1995-2005); from €590million to €930million. 90% of homeopathic products are consumed by France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, UK and Poland. Relative to population, France and Germany have highest consumption – 59%
(Source: British Homeopathic Association)
In India, homeoquackery is rampant:
At present there are nearly 186 homeopathic medical college in India. Approximately 35 are government colleges, rest are managed by private bodies. Homeopathy is the third most popular method of treatment in India, after Allopathy and Ayurveda. It is estimated that there are about quarter million homeopaths in India. Nearly 10,000 new ones add to this number every year. The legal status of homeopathy in India is very much at par with the conventional medicine.
And all they’ve got are just two reviews that are:
You’d have thought they’d be able to come up with just a bit more than that?
If the NHS were to withdraw access to homeopathy, it would not save the £4m a year it currently spends. Patients now receiving homeopathy would still need treatment, almost certainly at a higher cost and with greater risk of side effects from treatment.
There may well be a greater risk of side-effects (but these are invariably grossly overstated by homeoquacks), but there is also a greater risk of people being made better by conventional medicine! (There’s no risk of anyone being cured by homeopathy.) Bear in mind as well, most conditions homeopaths treat are minor and self-limiting.
For some conditions, we have no effective treatment at all.
There are no effective homeopathic potions at all! They are all placebo sugar pills.
Is it morally acceptable to deny patients access to a well-established treatment they find effective when no conventional treatment is available?
Is it morally acceptable to lie to patients and tell them that there is good evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy? No, after two hundred years, they are still struggling to invent any evidence whatsoever.
This is Homeopathy Awareness Week. Be aware. Be very aware.