Homeopathy and Cancer

August 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm (Alternative Medicine, Dangerously Wrong, Homeopathic Remedies, Homeopathy) (, , , , , )

The Homeopathy4Health blog has posted a piece that links to an internet article on cancer and homeopathy, based on a book authored by homeopath Ramakrishnan. Here is [a slightly amended – I changed ‘evidence’ to ‘research’ in the last sentence – version of] the comment I left on H4H’s blog, a reply from H4H and a link to some other comments following the H4H response:

In the findarticles.com piece, there are several references to the success rate of Ramakrishnan’s cancer treatments but I was unable to find the published, peer-reviewed papers that these percentages came from. The only reference seems to be to a book written by Ramakrishnan and Coulter. Apparently, “this book is based on Ramakrishnan’s clinical experience from his patient records of 1974 to 2000 during which time he has treated more than 5,000 cancer patients in India”. How reliable are the figures given by Ramakrishnan? Did he include all his cancer patients or were any excluded? What were the reasons for exclusion of patients? How were the patients diagnosed with cancer and who was diagnosing them? Were they being treated with conventional medicine plus homeopathy or with homeopathy alone? This is a problem with citing books or poorly referenced internet articles – we aren’t given the answers to any of these questions and in order for us to know whether the homeopathic treatment was really successful, we need the answers to these questions.

Some trials of homeopathy for cancer have already been published – including some randomised clinical trials. Milazzo, Russell and Ernst conducted a meta analysis on trials of homeopathy for cancer and found “insufficient evidence to support clinical efficacy of homeopathic therapy in cancer care” – Eur J Cancer. 2006 Feb;42(3):282-9. [PMID: 16376071]

If there are already properly conducted trials of homeopathy and cancer, why would anyone need to cite internet articles based on a non-peer-reviewed book written by a homeopath? Because the trials fail to show that homeopathy works. The book also fails to show that homeopathy works for cancer but because it suggests that it does [without providing appropriate evidence], it is cited. That’s how homeopathic research works – you keep looking for weaker and weaker evidence until you find some that is positive. It’s a kind of ultra dilution of the truth.

The response to this comment from H4H (in its entirety) went as follows:

If people with cancer symptoms around the world are being treated successfully with homeopathy then the current scientific methods used to measure homeopathy’s effectiveness in artificial conditions are weak.

So, the treatment has been tested and found not to work. Because someone believes, despite all the contrary evidence, that homeopathy simply must work, they decide that the tests are somehow wrong. I’m going to ask why they believe the tests must be wrong, but in the meantime here’s some replies to H4H’s response to my original comments (see in particular the comments #86 and #88 from MJ Simpson and Andrew): linky.

6 Comments

  1. Mojo said,

    “Because someone believes, despite all the contrary evidence, that homeopathy simply must work, they decide that the tests are somehow wrong.”

    Standard operating procedure. See also Lionel Milgrom, for example.

    http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/4/1/7

  2. gimpy said,

    See apgaylard’s most most recent post on yet another homeopathic lie over the Shang paper as another example of this kind of thinking. The default position of homeopaths is that their treatment works and anything that says it isn’t is a lie. It’s a fundamentalist religion.

  3. Mojo said,

    “It’s a fundamentalist religion.”

    Coincidentally, I spotted an interesting quotation from the prophet Hahnemann today, while researching something else: “He who does not walk on exactly the same line with me, who diverges, if it be but the breadth of a straw, to the right or to the left, is an apostate and a traitor”.

  4. jdc325 said,

    I found this amusing – according to David Colquhoun, “Hahnemann was aware of, and accepted, that matter was not infinitely divisible and his medicines would not work if they contained nothing of the original material.”

    Hahnemann himself said “there must be some limit to the thing. It cannot go on to infinity”. Does that mean that anyone who believes there is no limit to dilution is an apostate and a traitor? Homeopaths aren’t going to be very happy about that are they?

  5. jdc325 said,

    I can hardly bear to look at the ecam paper that Milgrom wrote.
    Thank God for shpalman – What The Hell Is This?

  6. dvnutrix said,

    Hahnemann cautioned fellow homeopaths that they should not carry the fluid medicines about in their pockets (say, on a home visit) because the shaking would potentise them to dangerous, potentially life-threatening levels that should not be administered to patients for fear of harming them. Presumably some colleagues rolled their eyes but maintained a politic silence. Other practitioners demurred that this pocket potentiation was implausible or that they had never seen such effects in their patients. Hahnemann declared that such practitioners “thereby show their want of ability to observe correctly”.

    No mention of apostasy so obviously mellowing with age.

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