Homeopath Jeremy Sherr has a blog post up describing a proposed trial of homeopathy in Aids patients in Africa. Ben Goldacre has posted a comment pointing out that the proposal is “a frighteningly poor quality research plan with no adequate control group to compare against.” Later in the comments johnhw notes, in response to Sherr’s point that placebo treatment is considered unethical in AIDS, that “a trial of an implausible remedy that lacks good evidence of any benefit over placebo – and which is being given to patients who are not receiving ARV treatment” may not be considered to be ethical either and makes a suggestion as to how the trial could be better designed. William points out that, as homeopathy is most likely nothing more than placebo, Sherr’s “experiment is just as unethical as treating with known placebos”. In response to these comments, Sherr now has a new post up. Here it is. It is a rant about the “Pharmaceutical Inquisition […] squawking away in a hysterical frenzy”. All that has happened is that bloggers have commented on the shockingly poor design of Jeremy’s proposed trial. I don’t consider the phrase Jeremy has used to be an accurate description of the blog comments he has received and I think that calling the posters the “Pharmaceutical Inquisition” is ridiculous. It implies that they are stooges of Big Pharma and borrows the term Inquisition in order to equate posters on his blog with the Catholic church’s erstwhile torturers. This is a pretty pathetic slur. Instead of making up childish insults for people who disagree with his ideas, wouldn’t it be better to engage in serious discussion? After all, we are talking about Aids – not something trivial.
Why on earth do homeopaths have these childish fantasies about healing Aids with magic water (or magic sugar pills)? I don’t know. Perhaps it is ignorance, perhaps delusion. Ignorance is an important factor in health and medicine. In the 1980s, there was a government campaign with leaflets headed “Aids: don’t die of ignorance” [You can see the leaflets here.] and this was something that came to mind when I read this study. There is a table here that shows the state of knowledge of homeopathy practitioners and educators in India. Forty-four percent of practitioners wrongly believed that a vaccine was available for the Aids virus and the same number wrongly believed that a cure for Aids was available. Twenty-four percent thought that you could catch Aids from using the same cutlery as someone with Aids. Fifteen percent did not believe that sharing needles was a risk factor. Twelve percent of practitioners also failed to realise that “having sex with a person who has the aids virus” can lead to transmission of Aids. Fifteen percent of practitioners and educators even thought that you could tell who had Aids just by looking at them.
EDIT2: Clicking on the Jeremy Sherr tag to find other WordPress blogs writing about him led me to this site: homeopathyresource.wordpress.com. They have a post up on Sherr as a teacher. They repeat the slur about critics being Big Pharma shills, refer to Jeremy as “an excellent teacher of homeopathy”, and reveal that Jeremy is not only a Fellow of the Society of Homeopaths, but also a member of the North American Society of Homeopaths. I’ve emailed NASH to find out their views on Sherr’s proposals, but I won’t bother with SoH as their ethics committe is a well-known joke. See Gimpy’s blog for more on the SoH’s code of ethics.
EDIT3: This is now officially a shitstorm. Dr* T has a post looking at the end of Quackademia at Salford and the Sherr controversy in a two-for-one special. JQH, meanwhile, comments on Sherr’s obvious dislike of criticism. Over at Semi-Skimmed, Sherr’s follies are being archived – here.
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