Homeopaths offer to rebrand products as ‘confectionery'

“Faced with an MHRA crackdown on unlicensed medicines, one of Britain's leading manufacturers of homeopathic remedies has indicated it would be prepared to re-label its products 'confectionery' to circumvent regulation. Under current UK law, it is an offence for a lay homeopath to supply or sell unlicensed homeopathic medicines for which they do not hold a certificate of registration from the MHRA. Unlicensed remedies can only supplied by those with prescribing rights - medical doctors or registered pharmacists - and then only after a face-to-face consultation with the patient. Since very few homeopathic products are licensed, this means a huge swathe of Big Sugar's products are, in theory at least, not legal.” Martin Robbins, The Guardian (2nd August 2012)

German Homeopathy Companies Pay Journalist who Smears UK Academic

“A consortium of pharmaceutical companies in Germany have been paying a journalist €43,000 to run a set of web sites that denigrates an academic who has published research into their products. These companies, who make homeopathic sugar pills, were exposed in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitungin an article, Schmutzige Methoden der sanften Medizin (The Dirty Tricks of Alternative Medicine)…The newspaper accuses the companies of funding the journalist, Claus Fritzsche, to denigrate critics of homeopathy. In particular, the accusation is that Fritzsche wrote about UK academic Professor Edzard Ernst on several web sites and then linked them together in order to raise their Google ranking. Fritzsche continually attacks Ernst of being frivolous, incompetent and partisan…Ernst has pioneered and championed the idea that alternative medicine can be subject to the same rigours of evidence-based medicine as any other treatment. He has produced many systematic reviews of treatments that draw together all available evidence to assess what overall conclusions it is possible to come to. When the evidence has been positive, he has said so. But his problem has been that, for a wide range of treatments, including homeopathy, the evidence is overwhelmingly negative, non-existent, or at best, inconclusive. This has angered many proponents of the various forms of supersitious and pseudoscientific health practices. Homeopaths in particular have been furious that Ernst has not used his Chair to promote alternative medicine. They see his results, not as scientifically objective, but as a betrayal of their beliefs.” Andy Lewis, The Quackometer (16th July 2012)

The Swiss Report on Homeopathy

“In 2011 the Swiss government completed an official examination of homeopathy, as part of its consideration of whether or not insurance companies should be made to cover homeopathic treatment. Their report, which concluded homeopathy is effective and should be covered, was published in English in February 2012. Not surprisingly, homeopathy promoters, like Dana Ullman writing for the Huffington Post, were quick to proclaim the virtues of the Swiss report and tout it as evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy. Recently, however, a more critical review of the Swiss report has been published, revealing the report to be biased and scientifically suspect…if you want to actually answer the question, does homeopathy work, you need to rely upon the most rigorously designed placebo-controlled trials. Anything less is likely to reflect bias and be highly misleading. Systematic reviews generally reflect this, and the UK report on homeopathy reflected this reality – when properly studied, homeopathy does not work…The Swiss study looked at the same data, but apparently wanted to come to a favorable conclusion. So they argued for a change in the normal rules of evidence, a common strategy among CAM proponents. They decided to rely more on “real-world effectiveness,” which is just CAM newspeak for “poorly controlled studies”…In other words, this is all an elaborate deception as a means of preferring low quality studies that are amenable to a positive bias to rigorous studies that are more likely to reflect the true (non-existent) effect of homeopathy. The Swiss report represents a biased review largely by homeopaths who changed the rules of evidence in order to declare that homeopathy works. Other homeopaths then present this review as unbiased and definitive. This is behavior that would make even the most unscrupulous pharmaceutical rep blush. This is also, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. This represents a general strategy apparent in the world of CAM – to present themselves as the experts so that they can pack panels with proponents and then advocate for changing the normal rules of scientific evidence in order to produce highly biased assessments of CAM. Further, they portray skeptics (meaning those who advocate for consistent and rigorous scientific methods) to be biased so that when they point out that the emperor has no clothes they can be dismissed. The Swiss report on homeopathy represents an embarrassing failure for the Swiss government. They should suspend any decisions based upon this report and put together an new scientific panel to perform a fresh and legitimate review of homeopathy. Or, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel – they can just review the UKs thorough and rigorous report and adopt its findings. Homeopathy is witchcraft and deserves no government support of any kind.” Steven Novella MD, Science Based Medicine (27th June 2012)

The Swiss report on homeopathy: a case study of research misconduct

“…the authors of this report adopted a very unusual strategy in what should have been an impartial evidence appraisal. It appears that their goal was not to provide an independent assessment but to choose criteria that would lead to their chosen conclusion that homeopathy is effective. To this end, they chose to adopt a highly questionable criterion of “real-world” effectiveness, ignore negative findings concerning homeopathy in favour of implausible reinterpretation of results, and attack RCTs. This use of a unique and suspect methodology in an appraisal designed to assess healthcare objectively gives cause for particular concern; one imagines that the Swiss government wanted homeopathy to be judged against existing standards rather than new ones created specially
for the evaluation. In doing so the authors have distorted the evidence and misled the public; these actions, combined with their conflicts of interest, strongly suggest that they are guilty of research misconduct. It is extremely unfortunate that the Swiss government lent legitimacy to this report by attaching its name to it, and also unfair that the English-language text is not available free of charge to the public when it is being widely misrepresented all over the world as proof of the efficacy of homeopathy.” David Martin Shaw, University of Glasgow, UK, Swiss Medical Weekly (31st May 2012) [pdf]

A critique of the Swiss report Homeopathy in Healthcare

“This brief, critical analysis of Homeopathy in Healthcare: Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs, discloses this report as methodologically flawed, inaccurate and biased. Hence, its conclusions are not reliable.” Edzard Ernst, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT] (30th May 2012)

The Swizz Report on Homeopathy

"Homeopaths are buzzing with news that a report has been supposedly published by the Swiss Government that shows that there is a large amount of evidence for homeopathy and that it should be included in the universal, compulsory Swiss insurance plans as a cost effective treatment. This is in stark contrast by a report by the UK’s House of Commons that came to the exact opposite conclusion – that homeopathy was a placebo therapy that the balance of evidence did not support its claims of effectiveness. Over at Zeno’s blog [see link immediately below], much of the truth behind this report has already been exposed. It was not written by the Swiss government, but by a group of homeopaths under the editorship of academics at the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany. This is a private University that specialises in training doctors in alternative medicine, including homeopathy, and is closely associated with the Anthroposophy movement – the esoteric, ‘ecofascist’ sect founded by early 20th Century Austrian mystic, Rudolf Steiner." By Andy Lewis, Quackometer Blogspot (21st May 2012)

That ‘neutral’ Swiss homeopathy report — What does the Swiss Government really think about homeopathy?

“Switzerland has a universal compulsory private health insurance scheme, regulated by the Federal Health Insurance Act of 1994 (Krankenversicherungsgesetz — KVG). The KVG details the treatments for which the treatment provider will be reimbursed. In 1998, the Swiss Department for the Interior (EDI) and the Federal Service Commission (ELK) decided to allow insurance companies to be reimbursed for five alternative therapies: homeopathy, anthroposophic medicine, neural therapy, phytotherapy (herbal) and Traditional Chinese herbal therapy (TCM). This was a temporary measure that expired in June 2005. These therapies were provisionally included in the reimbursement scheme while evidence was sought for their efficacy, appropriateness and cost-benefit so that a decision could be made in 2005 whether to end the reimbursement or add it permanently to the insurance scheme. For this, an elaborate Complementary Medicine Evaluation Program (Programm Evaluation Komplementärmedizin — PEK) was set up…respective authors [who wrote reports for the program] were allowed to properly publish their work in scientific papers or books after conclusion of the PEK. On homeopathy, this includes the HTA [Health Technology Assessment], written by Bornhöft et al., and the meta-analysis, famously known as Shang et al…A summary of the homeopathy HTA was first published in 2006 as an article in “Forschung zur Komplementärmedizin”, a German CAM journal. In the same year, authors Bornhöft et al. published a German book version, which was then extended and published in English in 2011. It is this eventual book that the English-speaking homeopathy world is so unjustifiably ecstatic about...The report was certainly commissioned by a Swiss Government department, but it was written by alternative therapy apologists. We cannot be certain who were involved in the original HTA on homeopathy, but the summary report published in 2006 was written by:

  • Gudrun Bornhöft and Peter Matthiessen: Chair in Medical Theory and Complementary Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany and PanMedion Foundation, Zurich
  • Ursula Wolf: Institute for Complementary Medicine (KIKOM), Inselspital, University of Berne and PanMedion Foundation, Zurich
  • Klaus von Ammon, Stephan Baumgartner and André Thurneysen: Institute for Complementary Medicine (KIKOM), Inselspital, University of Berne
  • Marco Righetti: Medical Practice, Zurich
  • Stefanie Maxion-Bergemann: PanMedion Foundation, Zurich

No wonder homeopaths think the HTA was a good report — it was written by supporters of alternative therapies…Homeopaths can praise the HTA under the PEK if they want. But in the eyes of the PEK review panel and the Swiss Government it was biased and overly optimistic, and taking everything else into account, they decided that homeopathy was quite likely ineffective but harmless.”  By Sven Rudloff and Zeno, Zeno’s blog (9th May 2012)
 

Boiron To Pay Up To $12M To End False Advertising Suits

Law360, New York (March 07, 2012, 1:47 PM ET) -- French homeopathic medicine giant Boiron Inc. agreed on Tuesday to spend up to $12 million to settle several putative consumer class actions claiming it falsely advertised the benefits of its homeopathic remedies.

Boiron will put up $5 million to cover consumers seeking refunds on Boiron products they purchased, according to the proposed settlement filed in California federal court. Refunds are capped at $100 per household, the settlement said.

Boiron also agreed to make changes to the labeling of its products, including adding a disclaimer.

Major homeopathic manufacturer facing class-action suits

A class-action complaint has been filed against the manufacturers of Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic product widely claimed to be a flu remedy. The complaint charges that the product (a) is nothing more than a sugar pill, (b) has no impact on the flu or any symptoms that accompany it, and (c) contains no molecules of its allegedly active ingredient. The suit, filed in California against Boiron, Inc., Boiron USA, Inc., and Laboratories Boiron, asks the court to halt the challenged claims and award damages for violating consumer protections laws. Casewatch (18th August 2011)

'Science reporting at its best' when exposing dangerous homeopathy claims

“On 4th January 2011 Pallab Ghosh generated a hard‐hitting Newsnight piece in which he made the shocking revelation that homeopathic vaccines against malaria, polio and typhoid are still on sale. The item was, he said, a follow‐up to his report on the same subject four years previously which led to action by the pharmaceutical licensing bodies although this was never carried out. He also dug out the remarkable fact that homeopathic remedies used on animals cannot legally be described as medicines, but that those used on humans can. This was science reporting at its best and was accompanied by a calm and well‐moderated debate between the President of a homeopathic regulatory organisation – who made a reasonable defence of her own case, refuting some of the claims made – and the science writer Simon Singh in which the latter, in my view at least, defeated her argument (although other viewers might disagree).” Pages 63-64, BBC Trust Report (July 2011) [pdf]

Diluted logic

“Unlike the UK, the Australian government does not directly fund homeopathy, but $3 billion of taxpayers' money is funnelled into private health fund rebates every year. So if your health fund covers it, taxpayers cover it too.” Dr Rachael Dunlop, COSMOS, (June/July 2011)

Homeopathy – practical remedies to address it?

“Insist that the ingredients in the final product, and their amounts, be listed on the bottle…International standard measures should be used...Mark products with a level of evidenced support…Insist that all medicines have the same licensing standards, or at least set stronger standards.” Sciblogs (23rd April 2011)

Call for doctors not to practice homeopathy or refer to homeopaths

“…in order for informed consent to occur…a doctor would have to say that:

  • Homeopathy has no demonstrated benefits for patients other than placebo
  • The vast majority of doctors are opposed to homeopathy, often vehemently
  • There is no active ingredient in homeopathic products—it has all been diluted
  • away.
  • It is based on two false premises, that "like cures like" and that the more dilute
  • a product, the more powerful it is
  • It is biologically implausible and completely inconsistent with our
  • understanding of medicine, biology, pharmacology and pathology

The authors of this letter consider that practicing homeopathy, or endorsing it by referring patients, is not consistent with the ethical or regulatory requirements of practicing medicine, and call for doctors to do neither.”

[Signed] Shaun Holt, Adjunct Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; Andrew Gilbey, Lecturer, College of Business Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand; David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology, Dept of Pharmacology, University College London, England; Michael Baum, Professor Emeritus of Surgery & Visiting Professor of Medical Humanities, University College London, England; Edzard Ernst, Director, Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter, England.

New Zealand Medical Journal (15th April 2011)  [PDF]

Related article in the New Zealand Sunday Star Times: Doctors warn of medical "madness", criticism of homeopathy reaches new levels

Related press release

Science vs. Homeopathic Pseudoscience

“What scientific concept that has been validated by experimentation constitutes the body of knowledge that is homeopathy? The answer is – nothing. There is no law of similars, nor a law of infinitessimals. There is no plausible mechanism to explain homeopathic potions. So instead we are given invalid analogies, innuendo, and a desperate attempt to confuse the public as to what homeopathy actually is.” Steven Novella MD, Science Based Medicine (6th April 2011)

Why pharmacists should not sell homeopathic products

“Homeopathy has grown to an alarming extent in the USA in recent decades. There are many compelling reasons for pharmacists to refuse to stock and sell these products. For instance, their safety and efficacy is unproven, patients using them may forego legitimate medical therapy, their sales yield a dishonest profit, selling them may expose the seller to legal consequences, they violate the oath of the pharmacist, they foster the encroachment of quackery in medicine, and they appeal to greed and profit motives. Pharmacists should adhere to a high professional standard that demands proven safety and efficacy in the products they sell.” W S Pray, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies (December 2010)

A bitter pill to swallow

“What follows is straightforward: there is no good evidence that homoeopathy does more good than harm. This is not just my conclusion after 17 years of researching the subject, but a fact based on the best available evidence, which is supported by virtually all experts who are not homoeopaths. The recent decision by the coalition government to continue homoeopathy on the NHS is thus puzzling, to say the least.” Edzard Ernst, New Statesman (11th November 2010)

Sense About Science comments on the UK Government's response to the Commons Science and Technology Committee Report, 'Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy'

"The Government has ignored the Committee’s detailed consideration of the licensing of homeopathic products as medicines. It has acknowledged that “there will be an assumption that if the NHS is offering homeopathic treatments then they will be efficacious” and that homeopathic products can be licensed with no requirement for evidence that they treat any condition at all. However, the Government has put forward a weak point about ‘patient choice’ instead of considering what to do about these problems. At a time when PCTs are reviewing expenditure on ineffective treatments, this is perverse. We urge them to go back and give proper consideration to this part of the Committee’s report. In the meantime, we recommend a warning on the label of homeopathic products telling people that the product is licensed without any evidence that it works." (26th July 2010)

Taking On Homeopathy in Germany

“It is good to hear that politicians in Germany are now openly discussing not only removing the protections that force insurance companies to pay for homeopathy, but actually banning insurance companies from paying for it. This would be similar to the BMA proposed ban on NHS support for homeopathy…With homeopathy the science could not be more clear, and recent exhaustive reviews, like Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy, have shown that it simply does not work.” Steven Novella MD, Science Based Medicine (21st July 2010)

Europeans Cast Critical Eye on Homeopathy

Without any scientific proof of their effectiveness, homeopathic remedies are highly disputed in Europe. With budgets strained, politicians are questioning whether the alternative treatments should be covered by state insurance systems. SPIEGEL (16th July 2010)

Homeopathy draws ire of German government officials

“In an interview with the magazine Der Spiegel, [Dr Karl] Lauterbach, who himself is a medical doctor and an adjunct professor of health policy at Harvard University in the United States, said many patients believe insurance only pays for things that are proven to help, and therefore it is in the public interest to stop the practice. "So health insurers are dignifying homeopaths through their actions," he told the magazine…"If everybody pays for his beer, then he can pay for his homeopathy," said Dr. Kay Brune, a professor in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuernberg, in southern Germany. Brune added that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that homeopathy actually causes any meaningful and healing bio-chemical reactions in patients, but that doesn't stop people from believing in a practice that has been so deeply ingrained into the German psyche. "Homeopathy has a very long tradition in Germany," he added in an interview with Deutsche Welle. "The founder, Hahnemann was a brilliant physician. But at that time doing nothing was helpful to the patient. In 200 years, the pseudo-science has not taken any steps forward." He also added that under the Third Reich, Nazi medical officials explored it as a "non-Jewish medicine," and even they gave up on it."  DW-WORLD.DE Health (13th July 2010)

Homeopathy targeted in debate on German health care spending

As Germany's government looks to fine-tune the country’s costly health care system, some government experts are suggesting that insurers stop covering homeopathy…Jürgen Windeler, who will assume leadership of Germany’s medicines assessment body in September 2010, says that the dearth of proof surrounding homeopathy’s effectiveness is well-documented enough to “not require further research”. The Local (a German-English publication) (10 July 2010)

Homeopathic 'Overdosers' Support the British Medical Association

“With the recent announcement from BUPA that, in light of the BMA's position on homeopathy, the company intend to address their current practice of covering homeopathic remedies in their healthcare policies, the 10:23 Campaign calls for the government to follow the reccommendations of their own experts and rid the NHS of this unproven and unscientific modality.” 1023 Website (4th July 2010)

Calls for homeopathy ban

"Currently at Bupa, some of our policies cover complementary therapies, including homeopathy. However, in light of the doctors' vote at the BMA conference, we will be reviewing our position on homeopathy." BUPA (2nd July 2010)

Clinical Debate: No arguments – just evidence

"In February, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published its evidence check on the alternative therapy. The report was backed by multiple meta-analyses and could not have been more damning. It found there was no credible evidence of homeopathy’s efficacy beyond placebo, and that its supposed mechanism was “scientifically implausible”.  And yet pharmacists sell homeopathic products. Arguments used to defend these sales are the patient’s right to choice, and their belief in the therapy delivering a valid result (ie the placebo effect).
Choice and belief are undeniably powerful factors, but as the RPSGB argues: “It is essential… the patient is given the appropriate information to make these informed choices and as a consequence it should be clear to the patient that there is no scientific evidence for homeopathy.”" Chris Chapman, Chemist + Druggist (17th June 2010)

Homeopathy Awareness Week: Is this the homeopaths' last stand?

“...bloggers and sceptics — enthused by their success on the chiropractic front — might already be considering action against any unsubstantiated claims made by UK homeopaths. This could truly be the end of homeopathy.” Professor Edzard Ernst, Guardian Science Blog (14th June 2010)

Fossilised Medicine: Homeopathy as a window into an earlier world of protomedicine

“...this fossilised medicine has its roots in the earlier concept of the doctrine of signatures. This idea was based on the concept that the living world was a divine, harmonious creation that was given to humans and filled with pervasive signs of the purpose of each part of that creation. Thus, illness could be treated by looking for the deep linkage between the natural world and the human body…Darwin came along and showed the doctrine of signatures cannot be true.” The Quackometer (1st June 2010)

NHS scraps doctors’ training at Scots homeopathic hospital

Training for junior doctors at NHS Scotland’s only homeopathic hospital, the Glasgow Homoepathic Hospital (also known as the ‘Centre for Integrative Care’) has been axed just days after homeopathy was condemned as “witchcraft” by young medics. The Herald (24th May 2010)

British doctors call homeopathy "witchcraft"

Doctors attending the annual British Medical Association (BMA) Junior Doctors Conference voted almost unanimously for a motion that, ""Given the complete lack of valid scientific evidence of benefit: (i) homeopathy should no longer be funded by the National Health Service; and (ii) no UK training post should include a placement in homeopathy." Dr. Tom Dolphin, deputy director of the BMA's junior doctor's committee, provoked raucous laughter by referring to homeopathy as witchcraft. (See 4:55:30 to 4:58:43 of link.)  To become official BMA policy, the motion must be accepted at the BMA's full conference next month.  [Donelley L. Homeopathy is witchcraft, say doctors. The Telegraph, May 15, 2010]   The BMA has previously expressed skepticism about homeopathy, arguing that the rationing body, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence should examine the evidence base and make a definitive ruling about the use of homeopathic remedies in the NHS. BMA website (8th May 2010)

Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland Denounces Homeopathy

“Following an announcement from the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, we at the Merseyside Skeptics Society ‘10:23 Campaign‘ would like to offer our full and unequivocal support to the new draft guidelines, which would require pharmacies to explicitly inform patients that homeopathic products simply do not work.  In the light of this proposal, we urge the the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain to follow suit and issue similar guidelines for its members…Until pharmacies realise that they must prioritise patient care over profit by providing only scientifically proven treatments, it is up to individual pharmacists to ensure that patients are given the information they need about homeopathy at the point of sale.” Merseyside Skeptics (23rd April 2010)
 

Epic fail: Scientific Research in Homeopathy Conference 2010

An undercover visit to the conference revealed the highly dubious input of its speakers. They included Jayney Goddard, Lionel Milgrom, Alex Tournier, Kate Chatfield, Steven Cartwright, Oliver Dowding, Clare Relton, and Dr Rob Verkerk. Skepticat blogspot (18th April 2010)

Homeopathy and the Structure of Memory

“With World Homeopathy Awareness Week fresh in our minds, it is appropriate to ask: why did evolution, which has always taken such a make-do attitude to developing the faculties of living things, not choose to work with water to construct an immune system capable of remembering its enemies? Surely, given the prodigious feats of memory attributed by homeopaths to this glistening, life-giving fluid, Nature could have fashioned a watery armour to protect us from disease? This has not happened of course because memories require fixed structures and water is a liquid. In this form, it is no more capable of remembering molecules than of being sculpted.” Professor Stephen Curry, structural biologist, Imperial College London (17th April 2010)

What's the Harm: Homeopathy - Gloria Thomas Sam (Part 1)

"The death of a small child is a tragedy. The death of a small child from parental neglect is a double tragedy. Gloria Thomas died from eczema, but she could have lived a long and normal life if her parents hadn't believed more in homeopathy than evidence based medicine." (9th April 2010)  [3:47 mins video]

What's the Harm: Homeopathy (Part 2)

"Homeopathy, grounded in the belief that water has a memory, just doesn't work. Rational skeptics anger and inflame proponents of homeopathic because we demand evidence of effectiveness. Evidence, according to a concordance of studies, that just doesn't exist."  (9th April 2010)  [8:52 mins video]

Homeopathic Remedy Machines

A look at simple copying machines, dial based machines, the McGurk Electrical Services MKIV Remedy Maker, the Sulis Instruments Remedy Maker Mk3, computer controlled machines, and other oddities. The Land That Tim Forgot blogspot (8th April 2010)

Homeopathy preys on the desperate

"When humans are afflicted with sickness and misery, when they are searching for a cure, sometimes reason is shoved aside in desperation…I'm not here to savage homeopathy, ridicule its users, and then offer no substantive comment…I certainly understand what it's like to be struck by an illness, mental or physical, and want to find a cure. But just because something gives one hope doesn't mean it works…In short, homeopathy is water.” Eric Mang, Rabble blogs (26th March 2010)

Homeopaths On The Run

“The cat is clearly out of the bag. Homeopathy is a 200 year old pre-scientific system of pure pseudoscience. Modern attempts to explain how it might work have failed, and the clinical evidence shows (no surprise) that it does not work…The public has been largely unaware of these facts, thinking that “homeopathic” was equivalent to “natural” and that they were getting herbs or some plant-based treatment. Like any cult, information is the enemy of homeopathy. The more the public, and regulators, understand about homeopathy the more ridiculous it seems…Homeopaths are now in the desperate situation of shouting “ignore that man behind the curtain.” They have decided to attack the messengers – skeptics. But in so doing they are just making the situation worse for themselves, as their attempts to explain homeopathy and discredit their critics are indistinguishable from drunken rants.” Steven Novella, Neurologica Blog (26th February 2010)

No to homeopathy placebo

“…what is wrong with giving placebos to patients as long as they help? The answer, I'm afraid, is a lot. This strategy would mean not telling the truth to patients and thus depriving them of fully informed consent. This paternalistic approach of years gone by is now considered unethical. Also, placebo effects are unreliable and usually short-lived. Moreover, endorsing homeopathic placebos in this way would mean that people may use it for serious, treatable conditions. Furthermore, if we allow the homeopathic industry to sell placebos we should do the same for big pharmaceutical companies – and where would this take us? Crucially and somewhat paradoxically, we don't need a placebo to generate a placebo effect. If I give my headache patient an aspirin and do this, as all good doctors should, with empathy, time and understanding, the patient will benefit from a placebo effect plus the pharmacological effect of the aspirin. If I prescribe her a homeopathic remedy, I quite simply deprive her of the latter. It is difficult to argue that this approach would be in the interest of my patient. What follows is straightforward: homeopathy is yet another beautiful theory destroyed by ugly facts.” Edzard Ernst, The Guardian (22nd February 2010)

“Consumer choice” — why Boots sell homeopathy

Paul Bennett, professional standards director and superintendent pharmacist at Boots, is questioned by the House of Commons science and technology committee about whether homeopathic remedies work. BBC News (22nd February 2010)

BBC Report

Dr Charlotte Mendes Da Costa and Professor David Colquhoun debate after the release of the report of the Science and Technology committee that condemned the spending of NHS funds on homeopathy. The report also condemned the MHRA for allowing misleading labelling of homeopathic pills. (22nd February 2010) [4:44mins]

Mass placebocide attempt: The 10:23 campaign

“The campaign was focussed on Boots, the UK’s biggest pharmacy chain, in particular the fact that Boots sell homeopathic pills and regularly gives appallingly bad advice about all forms of quackery that they stock…The campaign was a success because it got good coverage in the newspapers, radio and TV. Boots, rather like vice-chancellors, seems to be uninterested in reason or morals…” Professor David Colquhoun, DC Science (4th February 2010)

Homeopathy by the (mind-boggling) numbers

“To put homeopathy in a medicinal context, if you wanted to consume a normal 500mg paracetamol dose you would need ten million billion homeopathic pills. Where each pill is the same mass as the Milky Way galaxy. There is actually not enough matter in the entire known Universe to make the homeopathic equivalent of a single paracetamol pill.” Matt Parker, School of Mathematical Sciences at Queen Mary, University of London. Times Typepad (20th January 2010)

UK anti-homeopathy campaign

Skeptics in the UK have announced their intention to raise public awareness that homeopathy is quackery. The campaign launches early in 2010. People who wish to join or monitor the campaign can register via this link.

Homeopathic dilutions

“How do we know there are no molecules of active ingredient in most homeopathic remedies?...Methods used in chemistry confirm that homeopathic remedies contain only trace amounts of ingredients or none at all. From a rational, scientific point of view this is important as everything we know about how drugs work conventionally (dose-response studies, for example) means that homeopathy cannot work. It is not possible to dilute a substance out of existence and still expect it to have a physiological effect.  The extreme dilution used in homeopathy, particularly above 12C where the remedies contain no ingredients at all, is sufficient to invalidate homeopathy from a scientific perspective. Most claims made by homeopaths, however, are based on magical thinking rather than scientific principles, so the reality of ingredient-free remedies is explained away by invoking ideas such as 'water has a memory'.  Homeopaths claim that it is potentisation that makes their remedies work - not simply the dilution - and the lack of any molecules in their remedies does not invalidate the claims made for potentisation. This propensity for magical thinking is why this scientific invalidation will have little to no impact on the belief in homeopathy.” John Jackson, UK Skeptics (2010)

Homeopathic potentisation

“A look at the claim of increasing a remedy's strength by serially diluting and succussing it…Although critics of homeopathy tend to focus on the extreme dilutions homeopaths use, and this is correct from a scientific perspective, homeopaths themselves don't deny that their remedies often contain no ingredients. This is because they claim that their remedies work because of potentisation through succussion. However, the idea of potentisation has no basis in scientific understanding nor does it have an evidence base to support it. Homeopaths may claim that potentisation does something, even if they can't explain how or why, based on the results they see; however, those results may be as a result of how placebo effects can give the illusion of ineffective treatments working. Potentisation, therefore, could be a name given to a process whose explanation is still awaiting discovery or it may be another form of superstitious/magical thinking. As there are no effects detected in well-conducted clinical trials of homeopathic remedies, the second option looks the far more likely of the two to be correct.” Article by John Jackson, UK Skeptics (2010)

Scholar triumphs as the University of Lancashire is ordered to release homeopathy material

The ruling followed a three-day Information Tribunal hearing in Manchester, during which senior Uclan managers including Malcolm McVicar, the vice-chancellor, took to the witness stand to argue the university's case. The case was triggered by David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London. Zoë Corbyn, Times Higher Education (17th December 2009)

Closing the Door on Homeopathy

"Given the evidence and the state of the science, the only responsible position is to completely dismantle homeopathy and close the door on this pseudoscience once and for all." Article by Steven Novella, Science Based Medicine (11th November 2009)

HMC:21 — hammering the nails into homeopathy

"What homeopaths should not do is demonstrate a tendency to argue that weak papers in dubious journals represent proof of its efficacy, that it can treat and cure terminal illness, that its proponents have minds closed to changing in the face of evidence and that it actively undermines evidence based medicine. Unfortunately H:MC21 seem to believe in this latter option…" Gimpy blog (11th November 2009)

Homeopathy much less popular in Holland

Some 17% of Dutch doctors prescribed some sort of homeopathic medicine to their patients last year, compared with 40% 20 years ago…Doctors are most likely to prescribe homeopathic medicines because their patients ask for them rather than because they believe in homeopathy, the research, quoted in medical magazine Medisch Contact shows. Dutch News (26th October 2009)

Delusions About Dilutions Never Cease

"A former unsuccessful applicant for the Million Dollar Challenge (MDC), John Benneth is considering re-applying. He thinks he can distinguish between water and homeopathic remedies. He believes a recent study by Montagnier et al. supports homeopathy, and he wants to perform a variant of the same experiment. He is not alone in praising the Montagnier study: homeopaths are touting it as proof that homeopathy works." Critique by Harriet Hall, James Randi Educational Foundation (21st October 2009)

Scientist seeks ban on homeopathic products

"British physicist Simon Singh, who was sued by the British Chiropractic Association for saying their therapies for children were bogus, said yesterday it was "obvious" that homeopathy "shouldn't be allowed" and couldn't be regulated by a code of ethics. "I take a fairly hard line," he said. "If anyone is making claims that can't be supported by evidence, these claims should be halted and these practices should be prevented."" The Age — Melbourne,Victoria, Australia (10th July 2009)

Homeopathic A and E

Video clip from comedy due Mitchell and Webb, courtesy of Science Based Medicine (3rd July 2009) [2:33 mins]

Homeopathy Awareness Week (2009)

"…June 14-21 is Homeopathy Awareness Week. I would like to do my part to increase awareness of homeopathy. I would like people to be aware of the fact that homeopathy is a pre-scientific philosophy, that it is based entirely on magical thinking and is out of step with the last 200 years of science…The scientific community should use this week to make the public acutely aware of the fact that homeopathy is, put simply, utter rubbish. It is a classic pseudoscience and has no place in a 21st century science-based health care system." Article by Steven Novella, Skepticblog (15th June 2009)

A total disaster for homeopathy

Jan Willem Nienhuys takes a close look at The Donner Report. Vereniging tegen de Kwakzalverij (13th May 2009) [Dutch website, article in English]|

Homeopaths Attempt to Rubbish Ernst and Singh with Dismal Critique

"The stillborn homeopathy campaign, Homeopathy Worked for Me, that attempted to collect 250,000 signatures but managed just a few percent of that, has now resorted to producing a laughably daft critique of Ernst & Singh's Trick or Treatment. William Alderson, a homeopath, has produced a 142 page response to the book that attempts to show that the book has "has no validity as a scientific examination of alternative medicine". Entitled, Halloween Science, the critique is a collection of misunderstandings, quibbles, strawmen and just plain daftness." The Quackometer (22nd April 2009)

A placebo and a fraud

Article on homeopathy by Professor David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology, University College London (National Health Executive journal, Jan/Feb 2009) [pdf]

Homeopathy — Still Crazy After All These Years

Homeopathy is one of the longest running forms of pseudoscience in the modern world. Oliver Wendell Holmes recognized that it was nonsense back in 1842 when he wrote "Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions." We long ago gave up the nonsense of trying to balance the four humors by bloodletting and purging, but the homeopathy Energizer Bunny is still marching on. What makes it so indestructible? Article by Harriet Hall, MD (The Skeptic, 14th January 2009)

Harmless homeopathy?

"Currently the evidence fails to show that homeopathy generates more good than harm. Future research needs to scrutinise the value of homeopathy according to generally accepted scientific standards. If homeopathy does not meet these criteria, it will become obsolete." Editorial by Professor Edzard Ernst, International Journal of Clinical Rheumatology (2009) [pdf]

51 “Facts” About Homeopathy

Homeopath Louise Mclean suggested 50 facts that validated homeopathy in an attempt to counter criticism that homeopathy is only water with no therapeutic effects. In this link, each ‘fact’ is evaluated in two parts: whether the fact is true and what, if any, logical fallacy is being used. Mark Crislip, Science Based Medicine (24th October 2008)

A question of ethics

"Homeopaths are peddling so-called 'vaccines' without any evidence that they are effective." Article by Professor Edzard Ernst, The Guardian (6th September 2008)

Homeopathy — what a waste of time

"Research clearly suggests that this alternative therapy doesn't work except as a placebo…the absurdity of homoeopathy will become apparent if you think about one of its treatments, namely a flu remedy called Oscillococcinum. Each year a homoeopathic company called Boiron kills a muscovy duck and then extracts its heart and liver. This is then repeatedly diluted to create the entire world's supply of the flu remedy that generates sales of more than $20 million. There is no reason why a duck's heart and liver should cure flu, particularly when it is so diluted that the resulting pills contain no extract of duck. This has to be the ultimate quack remedy." Article by Simon Singh, The Times (23rd April 2008)

Treat with extreme caution

"Homoeopathic medicine is founded on a bogus philosophy. Its continued use is a drain on NHS resources and can endanger the health of patients." Article by Simon Singh, New Statesman (17th April 2008)

Homeopathy victim of PCT funding cuts

"Homeopathy is becoming the highest profile victim of the Government's drive to promote cost-effective use of NHS resources, with PCTs across the country stopping funding for the controversial treatment…Professor Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, and a former homeopath himself, said he supported moves to withdraw funding for homeopathy as it was nothing more than a placebo. 'There can be no cost-effectiveness without effectiveness,' he warned." Pulse (30th January 2008)

The Evidence For Homeopathy

A critical review of the 43 items contained under the 'evidence' tab of the Homeopathy section of the NHS Complementary and Alternative Medicine Specialist Library. Apgaylard (19th November 2007)

Diluting the scientific method: Ars Technica looks at homeopathy

Using the July 2007 issue of 'Homeopathy', four science writers examine the ostensibly scientific evidence in support of homeopathic medicine — an exercise that should provide everyone with a greater understanding of the features that separate science from pseudoscience. Six page article by John Timmer, Chris Lee, Jonathan M. Gitlin and Matt Ford (11th September 2007) [Also see link immediately below]

The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing'

A critical look at claims made for the use of homeopathy in the treatment and management of asthma, HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. Includes strong criticism of the Society of Homeopaths. Gimpy's Blog (original article published by The Quackometer on 16th August 2007)

Homeopath Fisher Fires Back'

"Last week I applauded the courage of Dr. Born for fighting against pseudoscience and quackery in the UK National Health Service by urging them to drop coverage for the utter nonsense that is homeopathy. Peter Fisher, director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, has now answered Dr. Born with an open letter of his own. It is a droll patchwork of unsupported assertions, straw men, propaganda, and assorted other logical fallacies." A critical commentary on Dr Peter Fisher's open letter by Steven Novella, MD, NeuroLogica Blog (29th May 2007)

Homeopathy: Holmes, Hogwarts, and the Prince of Wales

A critical look at the promotion of homeopathy in the 21st century in which the role of HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, is compared to that of Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. By Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief, FASEB Journal — Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (September 2006)

Fears over homeopathy regulation

"Patients will be put at risk by a new regulatory system being brought in for homeopathic medicine, critics say. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is introducing rules to allow remedies to specify the ailments for which they can be used. But critics argue the treatments will not be rigorously tested as they do not need to undergo the clinical trials orthodox drugs do to get a licence." BBC News (1st September 2006)

Homoeopathy: voodoo on the NHS

"It is outrageous that the NHS should knowingly promote this quackery. And it is knowing. The NHS Direct website points out that homoeopathy is contrary to everything we know about chemistry and medicine, and that there is no experimental evidence to support its preposterous claims. Yet the NHS still promotes it…." Jamie Whyte, The Times (15th July 2006)

BBC Newsnight: Homeopathy and Malaria

Review of the BBC2 Newsnight investigation which revealed that every one of ten randomly selected homoeopathic clinics and pharmacies in London was willing to recommend its products as an alternative to proven prophylactic drugs for malaria. The Bad Homeopath (14th July 2006) For more reviews of the programme's segment on homeopathy and malaria please click on the 'Homeopathy > Lethal practices' link at the top of this page.

Homeopathy is bunkum

"If any money is going spare for the NHS, let's spend it on real medicine that actually works." A commentary by Sue Blackmore, The Guardian (23rd May 2006)

Homeopathy is pointless, says expert

"It is likely that this debate could go on for another 200 years, but to me it is entirely obvious. The remedies do not work." Professor Edzard Ernst, Daily Mail (23rd May 2006)

Homeopathy, The House of Lords, and NICE

In this House of Lords debate on homeopathy Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty's Government whether they had any proposals to withdraw National Health Service (NHS) funding for homeopathy. He suggested that if the government wished to continue to fund homeopathy they should also fund coloured water and witchcraft which was likely to be just as effective. Hansard text, United Kingdom Parliament (23rd January 2006) [Scroll down to the 'Homeopathy' section. To view the 2nd page of the debate click on 'Next Section' ]

Is homeopathy a clinically valuable approach? [FULL TEXT]

Concluding remarks: "Therapeutic decisions should be based foremost on an assessment of the potential risk versus proven benefit. For homeopathy, the benefit side of this equation is currently not clearly defined: the best available evidence does not convincingly show benefits over and above those of placebo. The risks of homeopathy are probably relatively small. But even small risks can weigh heavy if the benefit is uncertain, small or totally absent. If one adds to all this, the scientific implausibility of the basic concepts that underlie homeopathic thinking, the inescapable conclusion is not positive: 250 years after the birth of its 'inventor' homeopathy is not associated with a risk-benefit profile that is demonstrably positive." Edzard Ernst, Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, Vol.26 No.11 (November 2005) [pdf]

Professor savages homeopathy

Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University, UK, denounces homeopathy as ineffective: "Study after study has shown it is simply the purest form of placebo. You may as well take a glass of water than a homeopathic medicine." The Observer (18th December 2005)

Homoeopathy: a relict of the past

"Since, after 200 years, there is still no convincing evidence for the effectiveness (never mind the 'principles') of homoeopathy, it seems pretty safe to assume it is a fraud." David Colquhoun, FRS, A. J. Clark Professor of Pharmacology, University College London. Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT] (December 2005) [pdf]

A Set-Back for Homeopathy

James Randi comments on the three blows in a row for homeopaths in the second half of 2005. (18th November 2005)

Bad Science homeopathy article

"You know how people sometimes say "doctors should give homeopathy to their patients"? Well we can't, because to do that, we'd have to lie to our patients." Ben Goldacre, M.D., Bad Science (18th November 2005)

A critical commentary on the leaked WHO draft report on homeopathy

"The WHO [World Health Organisation] clearly applies a method which countless homeopaths also use: selective critical thinking… critical reviews by the most influential authors/authorities that are specialized in scientific research on alternative treatments--the Web site Bandolier (Oxford University), the Cochrane Library, and Edzard Ernst (Exeter University)--are entirely ignored." Critique by Cees N. M. Renckens, Tom Schoepen and Willem Betz, Skeptical Inquirer (September/October 2005)

'Miracle water' turns to money

"It's time we poured cold water on the concept of homoeopathy. And kept pouring and pouring until it's undetectable." Dr Tony Copperfield (pseudonym of a GP from Essex, UK), columnist for Hospital Doctor. StrangeStuff Blogspot (July 2005)

This homeopathic hokum does nobody any good

"Greater Glasgow NHS Board caved in yesterday to a well organised campaign against its plan to close the in-patient ward of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital….The resources of the tax-payer funded NHS are limited….Why should a handful of patients, or physicians for that matter, be rewarded for a belief in magic? What next — witch-doctors on the NHS?" Paul Stokes, The Scotsman (18th May 2005)

Looking for hard evidence

"Homeopathy is a 200-year-old discipline that genuinely seems to help people — but there's still no evidence for it." Article by Edzard Ernst, The Guardian (12th April 2005)

Homeopathic medicine warning

Letter to Irish Medical News from Paul O'Donoghue, Head of Psychology Department, Central Remedial Clinic, Dublin (29th November 2004)

A close look at homeopathy

"True homeopathy, both the version true to Hahnemann's principles, and the modern, somewhat revisionist form, is not only unsupported by scientific theory, but also denounced by experimental evidence." Article by Hans Egebo, Skeptic Report (May 2004)

Dilution or Delusion?

An ordinary consumer asks the questions that should be asked about homeopathy. Article by Anders W. Bonde, Skeptic Report (December 2003)

Homeopathy: The Test

A test protocol that homeopaths designed and approved themselves yielded null results. Transcript of BBC Horizon programme (November 2002)

Hahnemann's Homeopathy

"In the final count homeopaths have to believe, put their faith into the existence of a Vital Force and a Healing Power of a dynamized medicine. Neither of these two has ever been demonstrated to the scientific world. Both remain in the sphere of philosophy and mysticism." Dr William E. Thomas M.D. (4th March 2002)

Homeopathy

A critical evaluation of Homeopathy for health care professionals, students and the general public. Creighton University School of Medicine (February 2002)

Homoeopathy: A critique (in 4 parts)

(1) Are you paying good money for nothing? (2) Evaporating evidence for efficacy of homoeopathic medicine (3) Homoeopathic medicine vs spontaneous remission/placebo (4) Safety profile of homoeopathy refuted. By Stuart Thomson, Director, Gaia Research Institute, South Africa (May 1999)

The Challenge to Professionalism Presented by Homeopathy

This lecture, presented in a required course on non-prescription products, was given to students who were in their final year of a Bachelor of Science program. It is heavily laden with facts whose goal is to achieve cognitive learning. However, it also attempts to influence the students’ attitudes, in order to facilitate their growth as caring professionals who can retain a firm scientific and ethical grounding in their practice. The topic is one seldom covered in non-prescription product courses. W. Steven Pray, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, Vol. 60, No. 2 (1996) [pdf]

Homeopathy

“The only concern of homeopaths is to treat the symptoms of disease, rather than the basic causes, which they do not recognize. Thus homeopathy correctly falls into the category of magic. And quackery.” James Randi (An Encyclopaedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural)

Homeopathy

Skeptic Wiki (The Encyclopaedia of Science and Critical Thinking)

HomeoLinks

Articles and links questioning the validity of homeopathy

H:MC18 Homeopathy: Medicine for the 18th Century

Defending the NHS From Homeopathy. H:MC18 is a website designed to help educate the public and defend their right to a decent NHS that is not undermined by expensive quack treatments. It supports orthodox medicine and its commitment to evidence, efficacy and safety. It singles out homeopathy as an excellent example of the opposite, a treatment unsupported by evidence and essentially unchanged since the 18th century.

Criticism of homeopathy – video collection

Including Richard Dawkins (The Enemies of Reason), Dara Ó Briain (Talks Funny), James Randi (Live at Princeton), Ben Goldacre (Science.TV), Mitchell & Webb (Homeopathic A&E), BBC’s Horizon (Horizon Tests Homeopathy), Tim Minchin (Storm), Australian Sketpics (Homeopathy does not work), and Crispian Jago (If homeopathy works, I’ll drink my own…). Round up at the 1023 website.