Why Write About Alternative Medicine? Part Three: Risks

February 6, 2012 at 12:30 pm (Alternative Medicine, Miscellaneous) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Another reason to write about alternative medicine: risk. Alternative therapies have associated risks that practitioners may not inform patients about. In part one of this series (here), I linked to research that found media coverage of alternative medicine to be positive (in some cases overwhelmingly so) and to lack discussion of the risks, benefits, and costs.

Given the reluctance of practitioners and journalists to tell people about the risks of CAM, I think it is worth taking some time to blog about them.

Physical risks to the patient

Risks depend on the therapy, but include vertebral artery dissection followed by stroke after cervical manipulation by a chiropractor, liver damage from kavadeaths associated with acupuncture, the finding that Vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin E supplements may increase mortality, and remedies such as ayurvedic medicines being contaminated with heavy metals.

Chelation therapy is not an alternative treatment (if used for lead poisoning) – but its off-label use is alternative. Despite there being no scientific support for these off-label uses, some practitioners have tried chelation therapy for autism and to treat coronary artery disease. There have been deaths from such off-label use of chelation therapy.

Colonic irrigation might lead to perforation of the rectum. Alternative diets might lead to nutritional deficiencies, rickets, and stunted growth. Ear injuries may occur as a result of candling. High doses of vitamin B6 can cause nerve damage. If you see a chiropractor you may be exposed unnecessarily to X-rays.

Although serious adverse events linked to alternative therapies tend to be uncommon, you can be poisoned, punctured, and even killed by alternative medicine. If you were going to take the risk of trying a treatment that had serious (if rare) side effects, I imagine you’d want to be pretty certain that it was going to do some good. Most alternative therapies are of little or no benefit for the conditions for which they are promoted. (You can find reviews of alternative therapies for various conditions here: http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/view/0/index.html.)

Failure to seek conventional treatment

The website What’s The Harm has a number of reports of people alleged to have been caused harm by alternative medicine. In many cases, the harm resulted from people failing to seek proper medical treatment (preferring to rely on homeopathy or some other alternative remedy). Here is the section on homeopathy. Harm caused due to reliance on homeopathy and failure to take conventional treatment includes malaria, organ failure, and death. You can find similar cases on their alternative medicine page – including deaths from AIDS, seizures, and breast cancer in patients who tried vitamin pills, acupuncture, and psychic healing instead of using conventional treatments.

This is a real problem with alternative medicine – it is being offered as an alternative to effective treatments for serious conditions.

Financial cost

Some nutritionists advise IgG testing for food intolerance (more here: SBM, Holford Watch, Breath Spa for Kids), which costs between $150 and $350 (cached page). Some also offer tests and treatment for histadelia (£55 for a test, plus the cost of daily doses of two grams of Vitamin C, 15mg of Zinc, 5mg of Manganese, and at least 50mg of Vitamin B6 the last time I checked).

As explained in the posts I link to above, IgG tests are  not useful – the presence of IgG antibodies does not indicate food intolerance. There appears to be no evidence that histadelia exists as a condition, that it can be diagnosed by a test, or that the treatments for it are beneficial. When I found nothing on Pubmed to support the claims made by those promoting tests and treatments for histadelia, I contacted some of them (Dr Kaslow and the Pfeiffer Treatment Center) to ask for the evidence that they based their claims on. Dr Kaslow advised me to contact the Pfeiffer Treatment Center and the PTC declined to respond to my emails.

In my beginners guide to chiropractic, I found that the cost of examination and treatment at the hands of a chiropractor was between £40 and £84. This page on the NHS website states that: “The cost of chiropractic varies and depends on the length of a particular chiropractic session. On average, a 30-minute session will cost £20-35 and an hour session £40-80″. Chiropractors often offer to treat conditions that there is no evidence they can successfully treat: colic, ear infections, or bedwetting to pick just three examples.

I found that Helios would charge me £4.45 for 4g of a 30C homeopathic product (X-ray tablets). A pound per gram for a ‘remedy’ that contains not a single molecule of the purported active ingredient. I checked to see if this was typical and found that Boiron USA X-ray 30C tablets could be purchased for a similar price on Amazon. These tablets contain sucrose and lactose. Now, I checked how much it normally costs to buy sugar. You can buy a 2kg bag for £3.49, or 1000 sachets for about a tenner (a penny a sachet). I don’t think I’m unreasonable in considering homeopathic products to be an expensive way to take sugar.

This is the risk that concerns me least. If people want to spend money on useless tests and treatments then that is up to them. As long as someone is pointing out that they are wasting that money. [Edit, see below comment #20 from phayes.]

Misinformation on public health issues

Advocates of alternative medicine often hold worrying positions on issues like vaccination. In surveys, chiropractors and homeopaths have revealed anti-vaccination sentiments and even advised against MMR vaccination. In this paper, Ernst found that websites for chiropractic, homeopathy and naturopathy generally did not recommend immunisation and promoted anti-immunisation attitudes (“of the 36 websites identified, only two offered advice in favour of conventional immunisation; three sites presented information that was considered neutral”).

Then there’s the nutritionist who claimed that AZT, the first prescribable anti-HIV drug, is potentially harmful, and proving less effective than Vitamin C and the vitamin pill entrepeneur who bought full page adverts denouncing Aids drugs while promoting his vitamin pills in South Africa, and sued his critics.

This risk is an important one – undermining conventional treatments for serious conditions, or public health initiatives such as vaccination, can have serious consequences. Here, for example, is what one paper says about the situation in South Africa where there was antipathy to anti-retroviral drugs such as AZT:

Demographic modelling suggests that if the national government had used ARVs for prevention and treatment at the same rate as the Western Cape (which defied national policy on ARVs), then about 171,000 HIV infections and 343,000 deaths could have been prevented between 1999 and 2007.

More

Part one on the media’s uncritical promotion of alternative medicine is here and part two on the entertainment value of alternative medicine is here.

29 Comments

  1. mike said,

    Homeopathy.

    1Kg of blank tablets costs £21.36 (0.2136p per tablet)

    http://www.hsconline.co.uk/250-grams-hard-lactose-sucrose

    Wave an essence of magic water over the stuff (that costs you nothing, since it is so diluted) and resell tablets at over 30x the purchase price.

    Instant money, courtesy of the gullible and misguided.
    No morals necessary. Sense of obligation to patients, honesty and altruism not required.

  2. Oliver Dowding said,

    Lots of “may”, “might”, “can” etc in your piece. Trite comment from Mike – you are welcome but its not the experience of many.

    These are interesting, as you mention both vaccines and misinformation in this, and being unprepared to admit problems.

    http://bit.ly/6w8LNK – note the categories of sufferers.

    http://bit.ly/z8M00r – wonder how many doctors pre-advise patients about this. More on same here http://bit.ly/zC6o1d and here http://bit.ly/zdgxwu
    Now you realise why for some people don’t care for some of what the conventional medics have to offer.

  3. jdc325 said,

    Hi Oliver,

    With regards the use of words such as “may”, “might”, and “can”, I thought that careful language might be appropriate to avoid giving the impression that I was saying that these things would always definitely happen (which I’m not). I should point out that the links I’ve posted do make clear that the risks I was referring to do sometimes occur. You can click on them and see for yourself if you like. Perhaps next time, I should use less cautious language and say that alternative therapies do have these risks attached. (Perhaps you’d prefer it if I stated confidently that antioxidant supplements definitely increase mortality? I’m not comfortable with doing making such confident, black-and-white statements devoid of nuance, so I’m afraid I shan’t be doing so. I prefer to point out that it’s likely, and link to the research that makes me think it’s likely.)

    Onto your point about practitioners failing to warn of risks. As I wrote in my blog post: “if you were going to take the risk of trying a treatment that had serious (if rare) side effects, I imagine you’d want to be pretty certain that it was going to do some good. Most alternative therapies are of little or no benefit for the conditions for which they are promoted”.

    You seem to have ignored this point about benefit when complaining about vaccination. Let’s take MMR as an example.

    The 10 years prior to the introduction of the single measles vaccine (1958-1967) brought 863 deaths, and 4,120,936 notifications. In the 10 years following the introduction of this vaccine (1968-1977), there were 292 deaths – and 1,600,979 notifications. Even with relatively low uptake, the use of this vaccine saw a reduction in the number of deaths of 571 (66%). There was a reduction in the number of notifications of 2,519,957, (61%).

    With the improved uptake of measles vaccination following the introduction of MMR in 1988, notifications and deaths fell still further. The ten years following the introduction of MMR saw 18 deaths (compared with 140 in the previous ten years). Notifications, meanwhile, fell from 837,424 to 106,210.

    The HPA has figures on incidence and deaths should you wish to check my figures: http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1195733835814 and you should be able to find figures for vaccine coverage on the WHO website.

    As for being unprepared to admit problems, I have linked before to this paper, which discusses adverse events linked to vaccination: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15032089

    The total number of cases where at least a possible relation between side effects and vaccination is observed–apart from local reactions and moderate general symptoms–is very rare (about 0.25 per 1000 vaccinations) and does not balance the benefits from vaccination.

    You will note that the researchers are not “unprepared to admit problems” with vaccination, and you will note that they also point out that the problems with vaccination do not balance the benefits from vaccination.

  4. Cybertiger said,

    As ‘mike’ so rightly said, these are the requirements of the powerful pro-vaccineer,

    “No morals necessary. Sense of obligation to patients, honesty and altruism not required.”

    You may remember that Professor (Sir) David Salisbury, expert witness at the trial of the Royal Free Three, stated under oath that the MMR had an “exemplary safety record”. The good professor had obviously forgotten the Urabe disaster of 1988 – 1992.

  5. jdc325 said,

    Hi Cybertiger,

    I’m left wondering whether you and Oliver have anything to say about the content of the blog post you’re both commenting on or whether you simply wish to post tedious whataboutery. (I suppose in your case, it does at least make a change from the usual childish abuse.)

    Cheers,
    jdc

  6. Cybertiger said,

    I didn’t read your post – sorry, jdc523! I knew it would be rubbish, so I didn’t bother … again. After all, I’ve firmly diagnosed you as a bog-standard Stasi operative who wibbles. My commentary was after ‘mike’ – who is an ongoing psychology study with a firm forensic diagnosis still pending. However, I do think ‘mike’s’ a few neurones short of a shilling.

    Cheers,
    Cybertiger

  7. Oliver Dowding said,

    jdc, I can only reply to a bit as I’m no expert on the many other alternative medications than homoeopathy. You don’t consider me an expert in homoeopathy. I do consider my cows were. You don’t, because you think they’d have got better anyway, regardless of what I did. Or have I got that wrong?

    I was just highlighting that for all your ferreting around to try and find statistics to implicate alternative medication as dangerous or useless, or both, is more than enough on the same for conventional medication. As I’ve said on occasions past, the data is actually blighted by the very poor, in my opinion, reporting rate. I don’t recall ever meeting anybody who has reported to me that their child has had a reaction to a vaccine, who has then gone and made sure it is officially followed up and reported to the relevant authority. Therefore, the statistics are surely skewed?

    I note that you say that the “website What’s The Harm has a number of reports of people alleged to have been caused harm by alternative medicine.” I’m not surprised, because firstly, that was their objective in creating the website, and I would be surprised if there wasn’t somebody somewhere who’d had a bad or serious or fatal reaction. It’s a numbers game, as with everything to do with medicine.

    For your interest, I’m sure you’ll find the following links give you plenty to chew over. Firstly, http://www.vernoncoleman.com/vaccines.htm it is a lengthy piece, but there is a lot of useful information within it. It might be the opposite of what you’re thinking, but who’s to say who is right, and especially in every situation?

    This website has a lot of interesting information, particularly on the tail off of diseases in relation to when vaccines were first introduced. Again, you may have an alternative view to the presented evidence, but it nonetheless seems to me to be logical. I’ll bet you don’t like the use of the word logical, when it comes from me. However, it seems to me that it’s virtually impossible to take into account a whole range of other reasons that would explain why disease may be better under control in 2012, such as improved nutrition. Although that is now currently seemingly declining in the West, generally many aspects of our nutrition is now better, making it really difficult to say with authority that vaccines were the major contributory factor to disease reduction. http://www.evidenceofharm.com/UCSD.ppt#363,27

    Finally, these graphs illustrate a similar point, somewhat more clearly.

    http://childhealthsafety.wordpress.com/graphs/

    I’m not trying to enter into a debate between medical people, and you know that as I am not one. However, I’m quite capable of interpreting a graph, and reading papers, and reading people’s accounts of their lives and their reactions to situations etc. Probably let my contribution to this blog drop at this point, much as you may like to pursue many aspects. I hope the information is of interest, although you may just choose to drop it.

  8. mrsP said,

    @ Oliver – could you tell me please how you consider homeopathy works? How can something with such a dilution have any effect whatsoever? What is memory?

    If the pills have memory, what happens to that memory when you go to the loo, and when your urine is diluted through the sewage system and back into tap water, why do we not all get cured of all our illnesses?

    For surely someone is bound to pee out a homeopathic remedy that finds someone with the same illness. We could also be overdosed of course. I am confused.

  9. Oliver Dowding said,

    @Mrs P: I’m sure you’ve read lots of documents explaining how medical doctors who use homoeopathy understand it to work. And lots of other people as well. I agree with them. So you don’t need me to explain it. Let’s face it, you simply disagree with that. Just because you and I don’t necessarily understand how something so dilute can be so efficacious, doesn’t mean that it isn’t or can’t deliver remedial benefit. I’ve always preferred to do some observation. If I fell out of an aeroplane and had a parachute on my back, just as I don’t necessarily understand how it operates, wouldn’t stop me from using it. I’m sorry that that’s a slightly simplistic explanation.

    As for your piece about your urine, that too is a regularly trotted out issue with those who deny homoeopathy can work. The answer is that I don’t know. Given the level of dilation when you actually took the pill or liquid remedy, I think it’s fair to say that by the time it ends up within the sewage system and coming into contact with disinfectants, which are known to disable the remedial effect, there isn’t going to be any impact felt by anybody outside of the person who took the remedy in the first place. But hey, you carry on thinking that in repeating it as a way of denying homoeopathy could work. The ever noticed how much chlorine, there is in tap water? Can I recommend you go and get a precipitator http://www.waterfiltersonline.com/precipitators.asp and you’ll be put to the test yourself and see how much green sludge you end up within the glass. You can try the same thing, with either some distilled water, and see the different precipitate you end up with. If you do with borehole water. It will be orange, representing the silicates , etc

    I’m sorry I haven’t given you a detailed specific explanation for you to pedantically pore over, but that’s not something that I do. My laboratory has always been the real world of observing the reactions in animals, etc. I don’t have any any more, as you will know from previous debates, and so those days have long since passed. Nonetheless, there are plenty of others gaining huge benefit from homoeopathy with their livestock, and didn’t significantly increasing numbers in the UK, and massively increasing in India and other countries around the globe. You can either spend time ridiculing them, denying that it can possibly work, or admire their inquisitive nature and application to make sure that they do get the results that homoeopathy will deliver. http://www.hawl.co.uk

  10. jdc325 said,

    @Oliver

    “You don’t consider me an expert in homoeopathy. I do consider my cows were.”

    Ah yes, your cows. We’ve been through this before. Your complaints about the blog post and the evidence linked to included a comment about individualisation (ignoring that one of the trials being discussed looked at individualised homeopathy) and a bizarre complaint that the authors noted their reliance upon RCT methodology. I don’t think you ever offered an adequate explanation of your distaste for randomised controlled trials. You also seemed to dispute that anecdotal evidence is anecdotal.

  11. jdc325 said,

    @Oliver

    However, it seems to me that it’s virtually impossible to take into account a whole range of other reasons that would explain why disease may be better under control in 2012, such as improved nutrition. Although that is now currently seemingly declining in the West, generally many aspects of our nutrition is now better, making it really difficult to say with authority that vaccines were the major contributory factor to disease reduction.

    Perhaps you could explain, seeing as you’re determined to discuss vaccination in the comments section below a post on the risks of alternative medicine, the improvements in nutrition that were made during the time periods I mention in my comment above? I’d also be very keen indeed to hear your explanation for how these documented improvements in nutrition in the relevant time periods (for which I expect you have evidence) account for the reductions in deaths from measles and notifications of the disease.

    Here’s what I wrote:

    The 10 years prior to the introduction of the single measles vaccine (1958-1967) brought 863 deaths, and 4,120,936 notifications. In the 10 years following the introduction of this vaccine (1968-1977), there were 292 deaths – and 1,600,979 notifications. Even with relatively low uptake, the use of this vaccine saw a reduction in the number of deaths of 571 (66%). There was a reduction in the number of notifications of 2,519,957, (61%).

    With the improved uptake of measles vaccination following the introduction of MMR in 1988, notifications and deaths fell still further. The ten years following the introduction of MMR saw 18 deaths (compared with 140 in the previous ten years). Notifications, meanwhile, fell from 837,424 to 106,210.

    Now, can you explain to me (1) what improvements in nutrition led to the reductions in deaths from measles in the period 1968-77 as compared with the period 1958-1967; (2) what improvements in nutrition led to the reductions in deaths from measles in the ten-year period following the introduction of MMR as compared with the ten-year period preceding the introduction of MMR; (3) what improvements in nutrition led to the reductions in notifications of measles in the decade following the introduction of the single vaccine; and (4) what improvements in nutrition led to the reductions in notifications of measles in the decade following the introduction of the MMR vaccine?

    I can’t wait to find out which improvements in nutrition accounted for the reduction in notifications of measles (a reduction of 2.5 million) in the decade after the measles vaccine was first introduced in England and Wales.

  12. jdc325 said,

    @Oliver,

    Finally, these graphs illustrate a similar point, somewhat more clearly.

    http://childhealthsafety.wordpress.com/graphs/

    I’m not trying to enter into a debate between medical people, and you know that as I am not one. However, I’m quite capable of interpreting a graph, and reading papers, and reading people’s accounts of their lives and their reactions to situations etc. Probably let my contribution to this blog drop at this point, much as you may like to pursue many aspects. I hope the information is of interest, although you may just choose to drop it.

    As you’re such a big fan of the graphs on the childhealthsafety website (and you have claimed to be “quite capable of interpreting a graph, and reading papers”), perhaps you can answer this question…

    Is it reasonable that the authors of the CHS website used mortality data from a country with relatively high uptake of MMR vaccination to claim that the risk of dying from measles in a country with zero uptake was 1 in 55 million?

    It’s also worth pointing out that the graph in question uses data from 1901 to 1999, but the line continues past 1999 and dips below one death per 55 million at 2006 (the graph has a trend line drawn through it that looks artificial to my untrained eye and the data points on measles mortality end around 1996, while the line continues past 2006). This apparently artificial line drawn through the graph clearly suggests that measles deaths will be less than 1 in 55 million in the years following 2006. As the population of England and Wales is around 55 million, this equates to zero deaths.

    If the graph and the authors’ interpretations of the data are correct, then why have there been deaths from acute measles infection in England and Wales since 2006? Given that there have been deaths from measles since 2006 (meaning that the risk of dying from measles is greater than 1 in 55 million) in a country with a relatively high rate of vaccine uptake then what would make the authors of that blog believe that the death rate from measles would be lower if vaccination uptake was zero?

    In the early 1980s when vaccine uptake was only at 45-60%, there were fifteen times as many deaths from measles as CHS predict there would be if vaccine uptake was 0%. Does this seem reasonable to you?

    I’d also like to ask why you might place your trust in the odd-looking graphs and bizarre (easily refutable, and obviously ridiculous) comments on an anti-vaccine website, and not in academic research.

  13. jdc325 said,

    Probably let my contribution to this blog drop at this point, much as you may like to pursue many aspects. I hope the information is of interest, although you may just choose to drop it.

    I hope you will continue to contribute to this thread Oliver. I’m very keen to see how you answer the questions I’ve posed in my last two comments here.

  14. Cybertiger said,

    As ‘mike’ so rightly said,

    “instant money, courtesy of the gullible and misguided”

    … is of course the reason why the vaccine-industrial-complex and their misguiding governmental lobbyists are so keen to cover up the Urabe debacle and other disastrous vaccine safety misguidance.

  15. jdc325 said,

    @Cybertiger,

    What, exactly, has been covered up? Please feel free to provide a full list of the cover-ups and tell us all how you know of them.

  16. mike said,

    @Oliver.

    I’m fascinated by your claim that homeopathic remedies are inactivated by disinfectants.
    You no doubt have a link to the scientific evidence for this?

    Regards,
    Mike

  17. Oliver Dowding said,

    @mike no, but I know that this is the case. You will laugh but I expect that. As with many things homoeopathic, and you won’t understand, in all probability because you never indulged in using homoeopathic remedies, this is how it is. Enjoy yourself.

    http://www.alexbekkermd.com/substances-to-avoid.html

  18. Cybertiger said,

    @jdc352

    Oh dear, you don’t get it, do you!?! The MMR has an “exemplary safety record”: where is the evidence? Where is the evidence for the assertion that “vaccines are safe”? For the establishment it’s a matter of money. For me it’s a matter of trust. What is it for you?

  19. Mike said,

    @Oliver,

    You point me to a homeopathic site that lists “substances to avoid” when one takes homeopathic remedies, supposedly because they will “antidote” (inactivate) the remedy???

    In all seriousness, please tell me how you or anyone else magically “knows that this is the case”? How do homeopaths “know” that other substances such as Pepsi or Vitamin C tablets are not harmful to take alongside homeopathic remedies? If these things are not clinically tested, surely homeopaths are just taking wild guesses, and greatly risking their patient’s health?

    The only way to “know” for certain is for someone to test the remedies for efficacy under controlled conditions, and show by a suitably valid method that taking the “antidote” will inactivate the therapeutic effect of the remedy.

    Surely there is a study somewhere that has demonstrated this. If there isn’t, you are just indulging in the equivalent of wishful thinking. And if there isn’t any evidence, then you are absolutely correct, I won’t understand, and I suspect nor will any other sensate, rational being.

    Your attempt to imply that this is somehow my fault for failing to understand, rather than your own failure to explain the reasons which have led you to declare some things are safe and some things are not is rather disturbing. Perhaps you could aid me in my understanding then, perhaps by carefully explaining how it is that you just “know”?

    If I told people I had a wonderful medical remedy I used to treat diseases, but could not tell them how I knew it worked, yet warned it would not work if taken on a Saturday or during a lunar eclipse, and when asked how I knew this just replied “You won’t understand”, I’d expect people to laugh at me, and quite rightly so.

    I see you have linked to evidence for increased suicidal tendencies in those who take certain antidepressants. You clearly believe this to be “evidence” of a problem with the drugs. Can I ask how you know? Is it because researchers have done clinical studies, and determined that is genuinely the case, rather than just “guessing”?

    What if a new antidepressant was marketed, and doctors announced that they had no side effects, and when questioned how they knew this they replied “We haven’t done any studies, we just know”, or “You won’t understand”. Would you be satisfied with that explanation? I wouldn’t, so I don’t see why you or I should be satisfied with the same explanation from homeopaths about homeopathy.

    Regards,
    Mike.

  20. phayes said,

    “If people want to spend money on useless tests and treatments then that is up to them.”

    To some extent it is. However,

    a) They may be exposing dependents (human or animal) to the mercies of the despicable/deluded quacks rather than themselves.

    b) Even if they’re not, their potentially delayed proper treatment can cost the rest of us.

    c) Some of that money will be invested in the further promotion and promulgation of medical pseudoscience and quackery.

    So I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest outlawing possesion of small amounts of quack ‘remedies’ for strictly personal use, but… ;-)

  21. jdc325 said,

    Thank you phayes – some excellent points there.

  22. teacake said,

    @Oliver Dowding – “If I fell out of an aeroplane and had a parachute on my back, just as I don’t necessarily understand how it operates, wouldn’t stop me from using it. I’m sorry that that’s a slightly simplistic explanation.”

    The differences between your parachute and homeopathy are that you can demonstrate that it clearly works, and it is possible to articulate a plausible, falsifiable explanation for how it works.

  23. Calm down jcd said,

    First thing I have taken homeopathics and they have worked where antibiotics failed and jdcthing none of your usual bs about placebo and psychological illnesses! No it wasn’t in my head! My go couldn’t believ how well they worked. And I think a surgery for example is a lot more dangerous than acupuncture, I had a friend recently who had an implement left in after surgery and caused serious problems! But oh no acupuncture could kill you, please! And mrs p please try and open your mind a little. I don’t think I’ve ever come across such small
    Minded maliciousness. Do the drug companies pay you guys to do this or what?

  24. jdc325 said,

    Hello C / Calm down jcd,

    I don’t remember talking about psychological illnesses in the above post. Perhaps you could point me to where I mentioned them? There are many reasons why someone might perceive an improvement after taking a homeopathic remedy. The remedy having an effect is not one of them. Spontaneous improvement, fluctuation of symptoms, regression to the mean, additional treatment, or placebo effect might be relevant to the perceived improvement. But sugar pills, alcohol solution or water containing no active ingredient will not be.

    As for surgery being more dangerous than acupuncture – the risks of a treatment have to be balanced against the benefits.

    PS: we’ve done the “are you a pharma shill” discussion several times before on this blog. I’m still not a pharma shill, but thanks for asking.

  25. Oliver Dowding said,

    Same old, same old, same old from jdc. I will leave you to carry on believing that there is nothing within what you refer to but none of us using homoeopathy successfully would refer to as sugar water or alcohol solution. Just because you aren’t aware of there being any active ingredient in it, or any property attached to it that causes it to have an active influence on the patient receiving the remedy, doesn’t mean that that isn’t the case. I’m naturally aware that you will do everything possible to find some angle or other within every scientific paper which has a positive conclusion in favour of homoeopathy to in some way denigrated or dismiss it. It’s not unusual to find scientists who prepared to disagree with one another.

    I’m sure you will ask me for lots of proof and scientific papers to back up what I’m saying. I’m sure that you will as usual dismiss anything that I’ve been party to, in terms of successfully treating animals with homoeopathy, as hearsay, delusion, spontaneous restoration of health etc. You’ll no doubt say the same to the tens of thousands of doctors, veterinary surgeons and others using homoeopathy successfully all around the world.

    What this all boils down to is quite simple. For some, such as yourself jdc, it challenges all notions that you can understand or hold, based on your education and scientific exploration to date. Therefore you dismiss it as implausible and impossible. Others, being more scientifically inquisitive, choose not to be so dismissive even though they may not understand the full mechanism by which homoeopathy works. They certainly understand a great deal more than you are prepared to accept.

    You’ll be pleased to know that I don’t consider you to be a pharma shill, Just one who has a very inflexible view of what is plausible with regard to anything that one might call homoeopathy. May I respectfully suggest you get on with what you do, and leave those of us who are successfully using homoeopathy, to do the same? I’m pleased that in the past many scientists, who were dismissive of new thinking, and on a whole range of scientific, mechanical and other discoveries, which later came to become the mainstream, were not able to prevent the new and better discoveries to take root and become established.

  26. Calmdownjdc said,

    Oliver, great post totally agree!
    My gp is now saying to me homeopathy had proven to be as effective as anti biotics! He advises me to use the natural method first!
    Also did you know most gp’s in Germany are homeopaths and they provide diagnosis using this method for patients having to attend a and e. Try as you might jdc and other like minded homeopathy is getting bigger as more people are being failed by western medicine!

  27. ChrisP said,

    Oliver, yes I am going to dismiss all your evidence about successfully treating animals with homeopathy as hearsay and delusion. That is because there is nothing in homeopathy that could do anything useful to an animal – unless you believe in magic.

    Homeopathy has always been a fraud.

  28. Oliver Dowding said,

    Don’t worry, Chris.

    As I said, you will be leaving those who “choose not to be so dismissive even though they may not understand the full mechanism by which homoeopathy works” to just get on and continue successfully deploying its massive arsenal for the betterment of many.

    I’ll leave you to operate in “drug-only” route, where fraud is presumably unheard of, while I and tens of millions of others avail ourselves of TWO options. Describing homoeopathy as a “fraud” makes me realise how deeply you understand it.

  29. ChrisP said,

    Oliver, the simple fact of the matter is that homeopathy doesn’t do anything a glass of water and a good chat wouldn’t do. There is nothing in homeopathic remedies to do anything, the whole concept is totally flawed, but it is a good way of selling very expensive sugar pills.

    I, personally am quite happy to do without it.

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