Sunday, 31 January 2010

Overdose on homeopathic "remedies"?

The stunt has been done many times before by various skeptics, but it never gets old.

The BBC reports on the "mass overdose" conducted by members of 10.23.

I do take issue in some of the statements in the article though from various people, like the following:

The society's chief executive, Paula Ross, said: "This is an ill advised publicity stunt in very poor taste, which does nothing to advance the scientific debate about how homeopathy actually works."

Paula Ross is the Chief Executive of the Society of Homeopaths.

Science wise there is no debate. Study after study and meta-analysis after meta-analysis has found consistent results. Homeopathy does not work, at best it's as good as a placebo.

So essentially figuring out how homeopathy works is, in a nutshell, "look at all the work done on placebos".

But Paula Ross will never admit that, because she has a vested interest in keeping homeopathy on the shelves no matter how potentially dangerous the "treatments" are (I suggest you read this article by Simon Singh).

The other statement was this one:

"Boots UK is committed to providing our customers with a wide range of healthcare products to suit their individual needs, we know that many people believe in the benefits of complementary medicines and we aim to offer the products we know our customers want
I have a cough, does that mean if I went to Boots UK and asked for heroin would they give it to me?
"We would support the call for scientific research and evidence gathering on the efficacy of homeopathic medicines. This would help our patients and customers make informed choices about using homeopathic medicines."

There is plenty of research, and you don't need to look very hard to find it. A search for "efficacy homeopathy" gave 16100 results.

I did another search for meta-analyses and found many articles, some of which I will share with you.

From 1998, an article titled Efficacy of Homeopathic Arnica -A Systematic Review of Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials by Ernst and Pittler concluded "The claim that homeopathic arnica is efficacious beyond a placebo effect is not supported by rigorous clinical trials."

Evidence of clinical efficacy of homeopathy by Cucherat et al. in 2000 found that homeopathic treatments were slightly better then placebo, but also that there were too many studies with crap methodologies, while the ones with good methodologies found that homeopathy wasn't better then a placebo.

A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy by Ernst in 2002 found that homeopathy wasn't any better then a placebo.

I could go on, but I won't.

I don't know what happens in the UK regarding homeopathic treatments, but I'm sure if they had to go through the same testing as proper drugs then we wouldn't see people say rubbish like this.

In my opinion the Boots UK people are being wilfully ignorant. There is easy money to be made selling distilled water or sugar pills. The BBC article says that £12 million was spent on homeopathic "remedies" by the NHS. It's quite possible that the actual market is far higher. I don't think Boots want to give up that cash cow with trifling things like efficacy.

The evidence is there, but in my opinion it seems that Boots and the homeopaths don't want to look at it.

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