24 Feb 2010

Homeopathy is under threat

Homeopathy needs our support. If you, like me, have been helped by homeopathy or know someone who has then please take a short moment to support this petition. Parliament is being lobbied today with over 25,000 signatures and I got an email last last night about this online petition that has been restarted.

Number 10 petition:
Sing and pass on and don't forget to verify in the email to make sure it goes through.

Homeopathy worked for me petition:
And follow the 'homeopathy worked for me link'.

The Telegraph are reporting that MPs will be calling for an end to the funding of homeopathy on the NHS as well as suggesting that that claims to ‘treat’ disease should not be used. Understandably there has been much discussion on the web - here is one blog posting some of the evidence in clinical trials showing it works.


James Mackenzie said...

Philip, can you explain how it works? In particular, how can smacking water on leather inspire it to remember things?

No offence, but people who get well while taking homeopathy cannot assume homeopathy delivered for them, even discounting the placebo effect.

Beks said...

Homeopathy is under threat because it doesn't work. Your thinking it worked doesn't make it so - a review of the evidence shows it to work only as well as a placebo. PLEASE do not divert funding from medicines that are proven to work and genuinely save lives, to something that cannot.

Philip Booth said...

James - like your blog and have visited it a fair few times - yes clearly using homeopathy as a placebo would be unethical - also placebo effects are unreliable and usually short-lived.

Dr Sara Eames from the Faculty of Homeopathy says: "We see patients who are on a lot of medication that's not particularly helping them and often we can help them reduce their medication and have a better quality of life. I think we actually save the NHS money and that's why we should be on the NHS."

I've seen some of the clinical trials that indicate homeopathy has an effect - especially convincing are those with animals and children.

There is also clearly a public appetite for homeopathy with surveys showing satisfaction rates of above 70%. I don't believe we should abandon patients we cannot help with conventional scientific medicine. If homeopathy is getting results for those patients, then we should continue to use it.

And I'm afraid no I can't explain how it works - but am very interested in what we are starting to discover about the qualities of water...infact was just reading the New Scientist a couple of weeks ago - see the link that suggests that a total rethink of the structure of water is needed:

I'm sure you'll agree that just because we don't understand something doesn't mean it doesn't work...

Anonymous said...

Cristal Sumner, CEO of the British Homeopathic Society, says there is plenty of evidence to support the efficacy of homeopathic treatment..."with 100 randomised controlled trials; and many more on outcome responses which reflect on how patients feel."

By contrast, there has never been any randomised controlled trials underpinning the claimed benefits
of adding poisonous waste fluorosilicate compounds (fluorides) indiscriminately to our drinking water.

Nevertheless, our Secretary of State for Health, and many others before him holding that office, have enthusiastically endorsed the practice.

Bernard J Seward

Larry David said...

I am a Green supporter and will most likely be voting for your party again in the coming elections, however there is one huge grip I have which in fact scares me a little - The Green party policy on alternative medicine and homeopathy.

Despite what you say there is no evidence to prove that it works, in fact it goes against all scientific reason and common sense.

I agree with Beks here - money diverted away from genuine medicine to alternative medicine (called so due to the complete lack of scientific evidence and testing required to sell it) is a travesty.

Will Davies said...

I am a Labour voter (are there any left of us?!) and am pleased that our MP David Drew is also a supporter of this petition - I hope the Government will take a proper look at the research that shows homeopathy works.

I like the spelling mistake re singing and passing on petition link!

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for recent flurry of comments. Green party policy is to make available on the NHS complementary medicines which are cost effective and have been shown to work. Clearly more research is needed but I have been convinced that homeopathy has a place.

Certainly more research is also needed into much of what is labeled 'genuine medicine' in comment above. For example a 2008 meta-analysis involving 35 clinical trials and 5,000 patients suffering from depression found that commonly prescribed antidepressants have little more effect than 'dummy' placebo pills.

And yet, prescriptions for anti-depressants are at record levels, with 31 million written in 2006 at a cost to the NHS of almost £300million. To put this in context, the NHS spends £11 billion on its annual drugs budget. Of that, the annual bill for homeopathic remedies is £152,000.

I enclose some bits below that are key to the rest of our health policies...

The Green Party believes in a much stronger emphasis on prevention of ill health, via living healthier lives and greater equality. This shows how, unlike other parties, our policies are woven together into a coherent whole, to produce a happier, better life. For we cannot have an effective preventive approach, and thus a long-term-thinking ‘health’ service, unless we encourage healthier eating, more exercise, a lower-stress slower-living society, a serious reduction in environmental pollutants, and greater access to tranquil countryside. And we recognise the connection between mental and physical wellbeing.

And simply making our society more equal will improve our health, without spending a penny extra on the NHS. Life expectancy, infant mortality, low birth weight and self-rated health are worse in more unequal societies. Mental illness is much more common in more unequal countries. Drug addiction is more common in more unequal societies. Obesity is less of a problem in more equal societies like Japan and worst in the most unequal ones like the US.

Better health is not a matter of ever increasing spending on the NHS. A surer route, which can’t be disrupted by the need to bail out bankers, is simple things like good food, less competition and less stress.

In terms of health the Green party remain the only main party to seek to maintain a publicly funded, publicly provided health service and oppose NHS privatisation and treating health care as a market. It is deeply disturbing how all the other three main parties have now shifted towards accepting this privatisation.

Greens also seem to be alone in wanting to decentralise health care responsibility to local government, ensure that minimum service levels and national guidelines are provided to prevent a postcode lottery, and oppose further health service centralisation.

And alone in having a free health service - ie abolish prescription charges, re-introduce free eye tests and NHS dental treatment for all, and ensure NHS chiropody is widely available. In particular, maintain the principle of a free NHS by implementing in the rest of the country the scheme that provides free social care to the elderly in Scotland. If the Scots can do it, so can the rest of us. This would be phased in, costing about £3bn in 2010 rising to £8bn pa and could create 120,000 jobs.

I could go on lots more but hopefully our manifesto will be launched soon - also you can view health policies on our national website.

Philip Booth said...

I meant to also post a link with a response from The Society of Homeopaths:

Larry David said...

Interesting read and I agree with a lot of what you said.

I am encouraged that the Green party policy is to make available on the NHS complementary medicines which are proven to work but I feel here it is important to distinguish between alternative and complementary medicine.

Complementary medicine - used alongside and in conjunction with scientifically proven medicine to increase the happiness of the patient.

Alternative medicine - offered instead of scientific medicine. If this is proven to work then it is adopted as real medicine and loses the alternative tag. Homeopathy is alternative medicine.

I am looking forward to the manifesto and hopefully voting Green.

Pete said...

How sad that a party so at the forefront of persuading the UK public that the scientific fact of man-made climate is a real threat is also a party that has members that peddle this unscientific garbage. How can members of your party work so tirelessly to spread scientific reason when other members post rubbish like this which completely undermines the party's credibility as an authority on anything scientific?

I want my tax money to go towards medicine that works, not lining the pockets of con-men who make money out of selling magic beans to sick people. Even though I agree with so much the Green Party stands for, it is blog posts like this that ensure I could never vote for them.

Anonymous said...

It is not just Greens who support homeopathy - by the end of 2009 there were 74 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of homeopathy published in peer-reviewed journals which describe statistically significant results from which firm conclusions can be drawn. Of these RCTs comparing homeopathy either with placebo or established conventional treatments, 63 were positive for homeopathy and 11 were negative.

Pete said...

Post links to these trials, Anonymous. Just saying they exist isn't going to sway anybody. Which journals? Scientific journals or New Age "journals"?

And can't you see why people have trouble with homeopathy? You dilute a substance until it is highly unlikely a single molecule remains in the substance. This solution is hit on a piece of leather (I imagine shouting "izzy wizzy, lets get busy" is optional). This water supposedly has a "memory" of the "active" substance, but no memory of the thousands of other molecules that will have passed through it. It is then added to sugar pills and sold to sick people.

Using Occam's Razor isn't it more likely that a) People for which homeopathy is working are exhibiting a placebo, than b) people are being cured by ingesting pure water in a way that contravenes all known laws of physics, chemistry and biology?

It's all very well playing with magic pills in Middle England to cure the sniffles and a vague sense of unease, but con-men selling these fake pills are killing sick people for profit in the Third World by telling people they can cure malaria and AIDS. Adding credence to this rubbush in the West is fuelling this cynical murder.

Larry David said...

Well said Pete.

Even leaving the dilution issue aside (homepathic remedies are diluted to such extremes that there are simply no molecules of it left in the dose), fair blind trials have shown time and time again that homeopathy performs no better than placebo.

MrGodbehere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MrGodbehere said...

Citation please, not assertion. I get told this all the time and the peer reviewed tests, outside the wonderfully unbiased (yeh, right) Homeopathy journals, are inconclusive at best. Stating otherwise is dishonest, and that dishonest won’t sell your case particularly.

The successes were either born of misunderstanding (they neglected other things they were doing which more likely contributed to the easing of the ailment) or placebo effect and this is the conclusion of most peer reviewed studies.


For one of the top of a very large stack.

In the one positive double blind trial I have found (on ADHD) it states that the parents were informed whether or not their child was receiving the placebo. Ignoring the parent-child psychological ramifications of this disclosure is amateurish and makes the paper a laughing stock.

It’s water, its pseudoscience, if it worked the pharma’s would be all over it for economical reasons (why spend billions on a drug when you can sell homeopathic treatments which cost less than 1% to develop for the same price) and it should not be defended until it has undergone the same robust peer reviewed scrutiny as other medicines, and come out a success.

Andy said...

Enjoying the debate - came across this site that makes a lot of sense to me:

And not all those peer reviewed studies are from homeopathy journals - see:

As has been said before just because we don't understand how it works doesn't mean to say it doesn't - look at much of other medicine and drugs....

See: http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/basic_science_research.html

I enjoyed the New Scientist article that this blog writer linked to...I do suggest the contributers above take a look at it:

Philip Booth said...

Good news for those who support homeopathy:

The UK Government, on 26th July 2010, finally published its response to the Science and Technology Committee report ‘Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy’. The response states that homeopathy’s ‘risks’ are not significant enough to warrant removing the flexibility of Primary Care Trusts to make their own decisions, and provision of the treatment on the UK National Health Service (NHS) will therefore continue. However, it was added that the position will be kept under review. It also highlights that homeopathic products are subject to regulation as laid down in the EU Human Medicinal Products Directive.

Of course with the changes to the NHS this may well all change again...