13 January 2010

Boots continued support for homeopathic choice in health care options

Filed under: Homeopathy — homeopathy4health @ 1:52 pm
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Since the opening question of the recent UK Parliamentary Evidence Check for Homeopathy, Boots ‘Pharmacy-led Health and Beauty Retailer’ have come under pressure to justify the presence of homeopathic remedies on its shelves. This was quickly followed by an open letter organised by the Merseyside Skeptics Society asking them to remove them.

A letter to Boots in support of its continued supply of homeopathic treatments today received this response:

“Thank you for taking the time to contact us about the sale of Homeopathic products in our stores.

At Boots we take our responsibilities as the leading Pharmacy-led Health & Beauty retailer in the UK very seriously and as part of this we pride ourselves on being able to offer all of our customers a choice of products that support them in their day-to-day lives. 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’m delighted to hear that you want us to continue to sell these items and you’ll be pleased to know that you can still find these in our stores. Additionally, our Pharmacists are trained healthcare professionals and they’re on hand to offer advice on the safe use of complementary medicines in line with guidance offered by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

Thank you once again for your positive feedback and, of course, for your valued custom.

Yours sincerely

Boots Customer Care”

20 December 2009

‘The trouble with skeptics’, ‘illiberal liberals’ and skeptic projection

I appreciate jdc325’s piece on inappropriate skeptic attitudes and behaviours, having been subject to them on this blog.  I’m pleased to say however that generally the skeptic tone is much better than two years ago: Skeptic insults to homeopaths daily count: December 4th 2007.  I’d like to add a skeptic fail of my own: making up facts based on logic, or ‘flact’ for short.

Also of interest this week is Brendan O’Neill’s piece in Spiked online on the illiberal, anti-free speech treatment of Johnny Ball’s scepticism of man-made climate change at a ‘religious style get together of rationalists’ including freedom-of-speech-for-scientists and anti-homeopathy campaigners. Further evidence that science or scientism is the new orthodox fundamentalist religion.  Update: even Randi is being subject to the same treatment

And finally I agreed with homeopathyblogs that Goldacre et al are projecting onto homeopaths their own unscientific and biased approach as detailed by William Alderson’s review of Ernst and Singh’s Trick or Treatment.  The printed version of  Goldacre’s notorious anti-homeopathy piece in the Guardian contained cartoons projecting pharma’s love of its pills and forcefeeding them to innocent patients.  Given that Goldacre is involved in psychiatric work you would think that he would recognise this, unless of course he was wilfully using it to influence.

26 November 2009

Parliamentary Science and Technology Evidence check for Homeopathy

Thanks to ‘Voice of (not so) Young Homeopathy’ for their comments on this week’s Parliamentary Science and Technology Evidence check for Homeopathy here:


You can watch the whole meeting here:   http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=5221

Vo(ns)YH promises a transcript too.

Some funny moments: I thought Goldacre’s comment that he wasn’t interested in Physics quite hilarious given that homeopathy allegedly ‘goes against all its laws’, and Ernst saying that he thought it was the long consultation that helped homeopathic patients REALLY begged the question: ‘is there any evidence for that? and if there is then why does the NHS only allow 10 minutes?’ and David Colquhoun got a dishonourable mention about going around collecting anecdotal evidence.

I’m disappointed that no-one mentioned that only 13% of NHS treatments are backed by solid evidence: http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/ceweb/about/knowledge.jsp

Update: Here is the evidence supplied to the committee:


26 April 2009

Singh and Ernst’s book ‘Trick or Treatment?’ “has no validity as a scientific examination of alternative medicine.”

From H:MC21: ‘Halloween Science’

A critique of Trick or Treatment? by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst written by William Alderson on behalf of H:MC21 (Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century); March 2009.

Trick or Treatment? by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst claims to “examine the various alternative therapies in a scrupulous manner” (p.3). This critique assesses the validity of this claim, both in general and specifically in respect of homeopathy, by analysing the authors’ own arguments and evidence for accuracy, consistency and reliability. Where information is lacking in Trick or Treatment?, the critique incorporates evidence from other primary sources (where possible) or reputable secondary sources. Some conclusions reached on the basis of Ernst and Singh’s own statements are also supported by reference to other sources. All sources are referenced.
RESULTS: We have identified nineteen major faults in the case presented by this book

Evidence: (1) The authors frequently rely on figures, trials, events, quotations, statements, opinions and explanations which are unsupported by reference to sources. (2) This evidence is frequently misleading as a result of being presented out of context. (3) The authors use different criteria when assessing the validity of evidence, depending on whether the evidence supports their views or not.

Science: (4) The authors commit the common fallacy of confusing absence of proof with proof of absence. (5) The importance of theory is minimized or even ignored, when discussing both science in general and individual alternative therapies. (6) The authors assume that orthodox medicine is scientific, but offer no justification for this position. (7) There is evidence that the authors do not understand the principles and practice of orthodox medicine.

Definitions: (8) Alternative medicine is defined in four different ways in the course of the book. (9) Other significant terms, such as ‘science’, ‘disease’, ‘cure’, ‘effectiveness’ and ‘orthodox medicine’ are undefined. (10) This allows arguments to be built on vague preconceptions rather than on clearly defined principles. (11) The differences between orthodox medical and alternative medical definitions is not taken into account, despite their impact on the design of trials. (12) The authors fail to present the ideas of evidence-based medicine accurately. (13) The authors fail to present the nature and development of homeopathy accurately, raising doubts about their presentation of the other therapies. (14) They also call into question the principles of orthodox drug therapy, despite the fact that the tests used by this therapy underpin much of their argument.

Analytical tools: (15) The authors fail to prove that their main tool, the randomised controlled trial (RCT), is valid for testing curative interventions, while presenting evidence that there are serious problems with using it for this purpose. (16) They show that a tool derived from these trials, the meta-analysis, is prone to lack of objectivity, yet they rely on this for some of their conclusions. (17) Their conclusions are also dependent on the concept of the placebo effect, but they make it clear that this effect has no scientific basis and is so unpredictable as to have questionable scientific validity in this context. (18) They acknowledge the importance of individuality in the curative process, but deny its significance for the design of analytical tools. (19) They fail to take into account the need for analysis of evidence from clinical practice.

CONCLUSIONS: Ernst and Singh have failed to provide a secure theoretical or evidential base for their argument, and have used analytical tools inadequate (in this context) for achieving objective and reliable conclusions. The result of these weaknesses is that their argument relies heavily on preconceptions, variable definitions and opinion, a problem exacerbated by a tendency to confirmation bias on the authors’ part. As a result, Trick or Treatment? has no validity as a scientific examination of alternative medicine.

Full report here

20 February 2009

Remedy snippet of the day – Diamond (Adamas) by Peter Tumminello

Filed under: Homeopathy — homeopathy4health @ 11:55 pm
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From Twelve Jewels. With thanks.

“What can compare to the negative state of Diamond? The diamond is the ego destroyer, dismantling all that stands between self and Self. He has a distinct negative state expressed in being hard on himself, locking into negative thoughts, experiencing an endless stream of physical or emotional obstacles, feeling undeserving of love or being unable to control his emotions.  He is dark, angry and down.

Many are experiencing the Diamond state now, in the their day-to-day lives. It is a raw and often brutal human experience, fraught with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, awful heart-break, total disasters, severe self-abuse and extreme violence; the sorts of experience about which people say ‘I will never get over that’ or ‘I will never recover from that’. They include the death of a child, the loss of the most precious possession, which can be a deeply loved ideal, a person or a thing; severe and cruel abuse; being the subject of shocking violence. They invoke a a dark night of the soul experience.”

Contribution of homeopathy to the control of an outbreak of dengue in Macaé, Rio de Janeiro

From the International Journal of High Dilution of Research 

“Homeopathy has contributed throughout history [see herehere and here ] to the control and eradication of epidemic diseases. Facing the challenge of controlling an outbreak of dengue, the Secretary of Health of the county of Macaé, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in early 2007 carried out a “Homeopathy Campaign against Dengue”. 156,000 doses of homeopathic remedy were freely distributed in April and May 2007 to asymptomatic patients and 129 doses to symptomatic patients treated in outpatient clinics, according to the notion of “epidemic genus”. The remedy used was a homeopathic complex against dengue containing Phosphorus 30cH, Crotalus horridus 30cH and Eupatorium perfoliatum 30cH. The incidence of the disease in the first three months of 2008 fell 93% by comparison to the corresponding period in 2007, whereas in the rest of the State of Rio de Janeiro there was an increase of 128%. While confounding factors were not controlled for, these results suggest that homeopathy may be an effective adjunct in Dengue outbreak prevention.”

11 February 2009

CAM can provide significant health improvements to NHS patients

Hospital Healthcare Europe reports:

A year-long pilot scheme in Northern Ireland has found that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can offer significant health improvements to NHS patients.

Independent analysis of the findings showed:

  • Patients receiving acupuncture treatment reported an average 33% improvement in their health and wellbeing
  • Patients receiving chiropractic and osteopathy treatment reported an average 38% improvement in their health and wellbeing
  • Patients receiving homeopathic treatment reported an average 54% improvement in their health and wellbeing

Founder of Get Well UK, Boo Armstrong, says of the results: “The results from this project speak for themselves – complementary therapies improve health and save money. These findings are consistent with other service evaluation from across the UK. A personalised health service will need protocols to include complementary therapies.”  Full report

21 December 2008

James Randi avoids homeopathic challenge for $1 million prize

I have long suspected that James Randi is ‘all mouth and trousers’.  It seems he has been avoiding Professor George Vithoulkas’s proposed experiment ‘to prove that there is a biological effect on human organism from the ultra high dilutions of homeopathic remedies beyond the Avogadro number’, for two years and claims on his website that the homeopaths have withdrawn.  Professor Vithoulkas states:

“In 2002 the BBC Horizon program presented a documentary that showed that the Benveniste experiment about homeopathy was a fake one and therefore… homeopathy was also fake! http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2512105.stm

Mr.Vithoulkas had repeatedly stressed in many communications that the experiment was in any case a falsely conceived one from its very beginning (see the correspondence). The opponents of homeopathy basing in this false experiment by Benveniste their hypocritical arguments maintained that homeopathy was simply placebo effect.

Mr Randi after this false experiment (ignoring all other experiments that showed the effect of homeopathy) declared in his website (http://www.randi.org/) that whoever could prove the validity of the action of a homeopathically potentized remedy beyond the Avogadro number would be winning one million $ as a prize.

Mr Vithoulkas challenged this statement and with this idea a new experiment was conceived that would prove that the highly potentized remedies could actually have a biological effect upon the human organism.

The experiment was simple: An individualized remedy would be given to a number of patients in a double blind fashion and half of the patients would receive placebo the other half would get the real remedy. The Greek Homeopathic physicians that would participate in taking of the cases and prescribing the remedies should point out in the end of the experiment the ones that they had got the real remedy.

The protocol was structured by a group of internationally known scientists and the experiment had to take place in one of the hospitals in Athens.

What follows is the real story (with facts in correspondence that transpired) of how through several “tricks”, Mr.Randi refused to go through the experiment and rescued his million.

We sent the following statement to Mr. Randi in order to be posted to his website but he refused to post it. Read

17 October 2008

RCTs “placed on an undeserved pedestal” – head of NICE

I can’t find any other reference to this information apart from as reported by Pharmatimes:

[update: also here and The Independent  ‘Statistics can help but doctors must also use their judgement’ which includes the pleasing statement: ‘It is scientific judgement – conditioned by the totality [my bold] of the evidence – that lies at the heart of making decisions about the benefits and harms of therapeutic interventions]

‘The chairman of the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has suggested randomised controlled trials (RCTs) should no longer be seen as the be-all and end-all of clinical research.

In a speech last night to the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Sir Michael Rawlins said such studies had been placed “on an undeserved pedestal”. He called for other types of research, including observational studies, to be given greater attention.

Professor Rawlins presides over an organisation that has regularly indicated its discontent with clinical evidence supplied by drug manufacturers. For its part, industry has been vocal in its criticisms of NICE’s cost-effectiveness models. More recently, Professor Rawlins has sharply criticised industry pricing practices
for new drugs.

All the same, some may be surprised at his willingness to question the value of RCTs, generally seen as the most rigorous tests for a new medicine, and talk up the benefits of other types of study.

In his speech Professor Rawlins said clinical trials were:

* Virtually impossible to conduct properly when studying treatments for rare diseases with very few patients

* Often prohibitively expensive. He cited a recent study of 153 trials completed in 2005 and 2006, which showed a median cost of over £3 million, with one trial costing £95 million. One manufacturer has estimated that the average cost per patient of a clinical trial rose from £6,300 in 2005 to £9,900 in 2007

* Even “unnecessary” when, as in the case of Novartis’ Glivec (imatinib) for chronic myeloid leukaemia , a treatment produced a particularly “dramatic” benefit

However, Professor Rawlins also expressed concern about the growing tendency, especially in cancer research, for clinical trials to be stopped early.

“The desire to stop trials early is understandable, but the possibility that an interim analysis is a ‘random high’ may be difficult to avoid,” he said. Moreover, there was “no consensus among statisticians as to how best to handle the problem”.

Prof Rawlins also had some criticism for his medical colleagues, many of whom adopted too rigid an approach to clinical research, he claimed, particularly in the trend towards ranking different types of clinical trial in terms of importance.

Hierarchies attempt to replace judgment with an over-simplistic, pseudo-quantitative, assessment of the quality of the available evidence,” he commented.

Accoording to Professor Rawlins, observational studies, historical controlled trials and case-control studies are also important sources of information.

What is needed is for “investigators to continue to develop and improve their methodologies; for decision-makers to avoid adopting entrenched positions about the nature of evidence; and for both to accept that the interpretation of evidence requires judgment“, he concluded.’

22 September 2008

Remedy snippet of the day – Causticum by Rajan Sankaran

Filed under: Homeopathy — homeopathy4health @ 8:33 am
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From The Soul of Remedies

‘The main feeling in Causticum is that the person is the one who has to take care of the group or family.  He is facing the threat from outside and in order to face this threat, he requires that the whole group should fight together.  Being the strongest member of the group, one who is the most capable of putting up a fight, he regards a threat to any one member of that group as a threat to himself. If he doesn’t forestall the threat, it will affect the whole group and he will be weakened.’

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