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Including the questionable promotion of homeopathy in the UK.
“Critics of homeopathy have been known to swallow entire bottles of homeopathic pills to make the point they contain nothing but sugar. But homeopaths are not disturbed by this demonstration because, according to the tenets of homeopathy, increasing the dosage actually reduces the effect. So, the critics would face danger not by taking more pills, but by just licking one. Or, perhaps, they could overdose by staying away from the pills altogether. We can safely say that homeopathic remedies pose no risk of side effects or of toxicity. Just try calling a poison control centre to say that you accidentally took too many homeopathic pills. You'll get a response along the lines of "forget it," or "bogus product." But does this mean that homeopathy presents no risks? Not at all. There are several concerns. Some homeopathic remedies may not actually be homeopathic. More seriously, some homeopaths offer pills for protection against malaria or radiation exposure. Others claim that they can treat cancer, with the most outrageous ones urging their victims to give up conventional treatment. Finally, there is the matter of Health Canada issuing a DIN-HM (Drug Identification Number-Homeopathic) to homeopathic products, implying to the consumer that these remedies have been shown to be safe and effective. Safe, yes. Effective, no…If you think there's something more to homeopathy, consider the following: How come different homeopaths prescribe different remedies to the same person for the same condition? How come drugs, other than homeopathic remedies, do not increase in potency when they are diluted? How come the trace impurities in the sugar used to make the tablets, or in the water or alcohol used for dilution, which are present at higher concentration than the supposed active ingredient, have no effect? How can remedies that are chemically indistinguishable from each other have different effects? And how come a producer of homeopathic remedies given an unidentified pill cannot determine the original substance used to make the dilution? Finally, how come there are no homeopathic pills for diabetes, hypertension or birth control?” Joe Schwarcz, Director, McGill University Office for Science and Society, Canada (7th August 2012)
“BIG PHARMA is evil and LITTLE ALT MED is benign, or isn’t it? After researching alternative medicine for roughly two decades, I can produce more than enough examples to demonstrate that the latter assumption is erroneous. Let’s take for example homeopathy, or “LITTLE H”, as we might call it for the purpose of this blog. The name LITTLE H is not entirely absurd because homeopathy makes, of course, much less money than the pharmaceutical sector; nevertheless, I estimate the annual worldwide sales of homeopathic products to be in the region of 2 or 3 billion pounds. Not bad, considering that there are virtually no costs for drug development or raw materials; remember: homeopathic remedies are so incredibly diluted that they typically contain precisely nothing. So the earnings of LITTLE H are easy and the profits are high. No wonder then that LITTLE H is trying to safeguard its big income.” Professor Edzard Ernst, The 21st Floor (20th July 2012)
Homeopathy has no place in modern pharmacy practice, except perhaps as a case study in history, ethics or perhaps most appropriately, critical thinking. Despite the numerous problems that exist with the sale of these products, I’m unaware of any pharmacy regulator, worldwide, taking any voluntary action to limit or restrict their sale in pharmacies…Regulators have a responsibility to put the public interest first. Putting the public interest first should include committing the profession to meet science-based, professional standards. And homeopathy is incompatible with a science-based practice standard.” Science Based Pharmacy (13th July 2012)
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"Arnica creams are ambiguous hybrids using weaker dilutions that make them both (1) normal herbal products as well as (2) homeopathic. And yet the flagship ingredient, arnica, is diluted to a truly homeopathic degree (very, very diluted). Thus arnica creams are usually mainly homeopathic, while still being a little bit herbal. In this article, I will look at both sides of this split personality." Article by Paul Ingraham, PainScience.com (27 July 2015)
British Advertising Standards Authority [ASA] Adjudication on Ainsworths (London) Ltd 27 July 2011: Ainsworths was told by the ASA to ensure in future that no marketing communications referred to serious medical conditions, that no medicinal claims should be made for unlicensed homeopathic products, and that medicinal claims for licensed homeopathic products should not include indications other than those allowed by the MHRA marketing authorisation. Casewatch (27th July 2011)
“Legal challenges are being considered in response to the ASA taking on homeopaths.…Assuming that the homeopaths legal threats amount to nothing, and given that the ASA has taken a position of the evidence, adjudications should come quickly thereafter. Homeopaths will be told that they have broken the CAP code and they must comply. This will also mean that they have explicitly broken their own Codes of Ethics that they have signed up to putting bodies like the Society of Homeopaths in extremely awkward positions…It is then likely to get messy. Continual non-compliance will pressure the ASA to refer advertisers to the Office of Fair Trading [OFT] who have powers to initiate criminal proceedings against homeopaths who may have broken Trading Standards legislation. How many have the balls, or stupidity, to face up to this remains to be seen. Much will depend on the OFT’s appetite to prosecute – and this may be the one glimmer of hope for homeopaths. We are in this position because regulators and enforcement agencies, including Trading Standards and the MHRA, have turned a blind eye to this sector of commerce, allowing exemptions and exceptions to practices that would be crushed in any other industry. The ASA are entering waters that others have explicitly avoided wading in. If the credibility of the ASA is to remain, then they need to ensure the statutory authorities who can enforce compliance through criminal sanctions are prepared, on board, and ready to take quick action.” The Quackometer blogspot (1st April 2011)
"Oscillococcinum, also known by its shortened and more familiar name Oscillo, is a homeopathic cold remedy. Its maker, Boiron USA, has been advertising it on TV pretty aggressively lately…According to their website, Oscillo is a 200C dilution of “Anas barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum”, duck liver and heart…Boiron calls this a “therapeutically active micro-dose“. It’s not. It is a non-dose. Boiron is being consciously deceptive, either when they call it a micro-dose of anything, or when they label it 200C meaning that it contains no active ingredients. The two are mutually exclusive. It can’t be both a micro-dose and a non-dose. Like most homeopathic products on the market, Oscillo’s “inactive ingredients” (in fact its only ingredients) are sucrose (85%) and lactose (15%), from which the small sugar pills are made. The “dilution” of pure water is said to be infused into these sugar pills; the principles of homeopathy dictating that the water retains a “spiritual imprint” or “essence” of whatever was once dissolved in it. Homeopaths call this “water memory”. However, here’s the real kicker: The sugar pills are dry. Whatever water they are alleged to have been infused with — with its claimed cargo of spiritual essence — has evaporated out. Not even the pseudoscience of homeopathy puts forth any postulate that there is any such thing as sugar memory. Thus, not even the faith-based “active ingredient” of homeopathy, this so called spiritual essence, is present in Boiron’s product. The sugar pills contain no water. The water contained no molecules of duck. Molecules of duck have no plausible history of treating colds or any other illness…If you’ve purchased Oscillococcum and feel that you were victimized by deceptive marketing, get your money back.” Brian Dunning, Skeptic Blog (3rd March 2011)
"This week, the Canadian consumer affairs programme Marketplace devoted its episode to looking at the claims, practices and regulation of homeopathy. It is a pretty damning account and the homeopaths are up in arms about it, as we shall see. This prime time programme is likely to do the homeopathy trade a lot of harm in Canada. And the main reason is that it did a good job of exposing the central ludicrousness of the nature of the treatment – the huge dilutions…Now of course, this ‘response’ was prepared before the homeopaths had actually seen the programme…” The Quackometer blogspot (16th January 2011)
NOTE: The entire CBC Marketplace 'Cure or Con?' programme can be viewed online here: Part 1 and Part 2.
“The one thing that is more absurd than homeopathy is the regulation of homeopathic products (at least in the US). Because of timely political pressure, homeopathic products were essentially grandfathered in to FDA approval. They do not require any testing for safety and effectiveness…The labeling requirements are almost Orwellian. They need to list ingredients – even the ones that are not actually in the preparation because they have been diluted past the point where there is likely to be a single molecule left. They must list the indications – despite the fact that there aren’t any. There isn’t a single proven indication for any homeopathic remedy. So homeopaths essentially have to make up multiple fictions to put on the label of homeopathic products – in the name of consumer information…Clearly the regulations are broken…The optimal solution would be for the laws to catch up to the science (they are about a century and a half behind) and remove homeopathic remedies from automatic FDA approval. In fact, they should be banned as fraudulent, in my opinion. At the very least they should be labeled appropriately, with a clear statement that they do not work and do not contain any actual medicine or active ingredients; they are nothing but placebos. If there is actual active ingredient in a preparation – then it should be regulated like any other drug.” Steven Novella, MD, NeuroLogica blogspot (27th October 2010)
“What on Earth is going on? The Government appears to think nothing is wrong with giving you fake medicine at the taxpayers' expense. They said it is fine for doctors to give you pills that contain nothing whatsoever and charge them to the NHS. Homeopathy really is that simple…It is possible and desirable to have an honest discussion of the propriety of giving a patient a placebo when there is nothing better that can be done. The ludicrous situation at present is that doctors are not supposed to give placebos honestly, but are allowed to give them dishonestly by refereeing you to a homeopath. Despite being asked many times to refer alternative medicines to NICE for evaluation, the Department of Health has failed to do so. Could it be because they know that most will fail? There is no excuse for failing to submit all medicines to the same criteria of efficacy and safety.” Professor David Colquhoun, The Independent (3rd August 2010)
“We are often accused of tilting at windmills; and hey, what's wrong with offering placebos for the worried well with self-limiting conditions? Well firstly, it is considered unethical for modern medical practitioners to sink to this kind of deception that denies the patient his or her autonomy. Secondly, by opening the door to irrational medicine alongside evidence-based medicine, we are poisoning the minds of the public. Finally, if we don't put a brake on the increasing self-confidence of the homeopathic establishment, they will cease to limit their attention to self-limiting or nonspecific maladies. Already, an investigative journalist for Newsnight has exposed the willingness of homeopathic chemists to offer homeopathic prophylactics for malaria. On World AIDS Day, the Society of Homeopaths in London hosted a conference on the treatment and prevention of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome by using water with a remarkable memory.” Michael Baum, MD, ChM, FRCS, FRCR (hon) and Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FRCP, FRCPEd, The American Journal of Medicine (November 2009)
“A few weeks ago, I wrote an article critical of Bryce Wylde’s appearance on Canada AM where he indicated that homeopathic treatments were of benefit for cuts, bruises, burns, and bug bites. Mr. Wylde responded in the comments section of that post where he provided a list of his “favourite scientific documents” for my review….None of the 21 provided citations had any direct relevance to the topic of first aid (the topic on Canada AM). Most of the studies’ conclusions were not representative of the literature, had inadequate statistical analysis/power, and/or had significant methodological flaws. Even the most remote positive results were reported enthusiastically by the authors, whereas negative results were downplayed or said to call for “further research” — despite reviews demonstrating negative overall results that are more pronounced with improved study quality. This pattern is not necessarily due to devious attempts at misrepresenting data; rather this can arise from unintentional investigator biases, hence the value of peer review and independent replication… A review of this literature in broader scientific context demonstrates that the efficacy of homeopathy does not match that of available therapeutic interventions and it does not appear to be effective beyond the placebo effect. Positive effects are generally found in studies of poor quality that suffer from multiple methodological and analytical issues and these effects do not persist in higher quality studies. No evidence has been provided, nor does any appear to exist, to suggest that homeopathy is an appropriate or necessary intervention for either first-line or co- treatment among self-limiting, acute, or chronic conditions. Mr. Wylde’s list of citations reinforces, rather than addresses, concerns about homeopathy.” Kim Herbert, Skeptic North (23rd August 2010)
“Homeopaths have become simply deceptive in their advocacy of malaria treatment. The latest email from the Abha Light Foundation shows that they want to carry on their lethal practices without alerting the world…[published secret email correspondence]…whilst it is impossible to engage in the most serious concerns about what they do, whilst they disregard all aspects of medical ethics and ignore the science and evidence, and whilst they wallow in child-like conspiracy theories, I see no option but to use the law to prosecute them and stop them. Deportations and criminal records are the only way forward. I hope the Kenyan authorities wake up to what is going on soon.” The Quackometer (25th July 2010)
“It is a myth that there are homeopathic hospitals in the UK. What we have are the tiny, vestigial remnants of Victorian Quackery in a few small clinics…The homeopaths are right about one thing: the amount of money being spent on these tiny facilities is not large within the grand scheme of things. But the millions that is spent on indulging the homeopathic fantasies of these few doctors is still money that could be spent on treatments that have an evidence base, that are based in science and not magic, that could provide effective treatments and even save lives. But what is really wrong about these facilities is that they allow a double standard to exist and fester in an environment where it is important to hold all treatments to the highest levels of scrutiny. Homeopathy cannot demonstrate any cost-effectiveness, it poses serious ethical issues that remain unaddressed by its practitioners and it gives an imprimatur to the non-medically qualified homeopathic quacks who use the same reasoning to inflict their murderous delusions on people with AIDS or malaria in developing regions, such as in Africa or India. If the NHS cannot recognise the blatant nonsense it funds, it does not bode well for the same people fending off the far more sophisticated drug companies when hard decisions need to be made.” The Quackometer (11th March 2010)
“Excellent Freedom of Information work from Prof David Colquhoun of University College London, who has obtained the course materials of the now-defunct BSc in homeopathy that was for a short while offered by the University of Central Lancashire, and is reviewing them on his blog... After years of wrangling, 13kg of paper fell through Prof Colquhoun’s letterbox on Christmas Eve. The lecture notes and their relationship with the Society of Homeopath’s code of conduct are, in places, staggering. Even considering that this is a course built entirely on quackery it’s surprising to see so much internal contradiction and spurious claims of evidence and health benefits….The whole field is messy, vague, inaccurate and entirely dependent on the goodwill or ignorance of patients for any positive results. At best it’s a harmless placebo, at worst it’s a despicable, cynical, potentially deadly confidence trick played on the sick. The University of Central Lancashire is, as Prof Colquhoun says, to be commended for grasping the nettle and scrapping their ill-advised course but one has to wonder what on earth they were thinking offering it in the first place.” Ian Douglas, The Telegraph (8th January 2010)
“I’m sorry to go on about homeopathy, I really am. But my colleague Dr James Le Fanu has written defending it in these pages, and I thought his arguments were instructive, so I’m going – very quickly – to look at them here. He has three main planks to his argument, and they are all very familiar to homeopathy-watchers…it is an odd fact about homeopathy that its defenders engage in these sort of smokescreen arguments. If homeopathy works, it should be possible to show that by doing research. Instead, anecdotes and insinuations of conspiracy are thrown around. It doesn’t matter what the NHS drugs budget is, or what Peter Hain thinks – these are all irrelevant to the debate about homeopathy. It either works or it doesn’t. The evidence suggests, rather forcefully, that it doesn’t.” Tom Chivers, The Telegraph (6th July 2010)
“The missing link is what placebo actually means: caring effects. We can get good caring effects when we spend time listening, when we follow people up carefully and consistently, when we take longer appointments, when we explain properly and usefully what the problems are and what might help. There is evidence for this: we know that using such ‘caring effects’ makes people better, faster, and for longer.
Using a ‘placebo tablet’ isn’t necessary to get ‘caring effects’. There is no need to mislead or to confound people with promises about tablets that aren’t based in evidence. The problem is that the NHS is geared (still) towards easily measured targets and outcomes. It is not geared to help the vocationally motivated doctors and nurses who want to ‘care’. Ethical, placebo-like ‘caring effects’ are there for the taking, but the real question is how best to do this in an NHS that finds it easy to overlook the importance of them.” Margaret McCartney MD, blogpost (5th July 2010)
“Essentially those who wish to make money by practicing medicine without proper training have managed to soften the laws so that they are able to practice medicine without proper training. The usual defenders of consumers against rapacious industry are so beguiled by the touchy-feely rhetoric of promoters, that they have been entirely asleep at the switch. The results are predictable. The latest case to come to media attention comes from down under – Penelope Dingle from Perth Australia, according to local news reports, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003. Her doctors gave her a good chance of survival with standard therapy – surgery to remove the cancer, and chemotherapy to mop up any loose cells and reduce the risk of recurrence. It is not a pleasant prospect, but with modern care it’s not too bad, and it buys in many cases a greatly improved quality and duration of life. Penelope Dingle, however, chose to refuse all science-based treatment and opted instead for a regimen of diet and homeopathic treatment…The evidence is in the published literature – systematic reviews of systematic reviews show that homeopathy does not work for any indication. When anyone with the slightest objectivity and scientific knowledge examines homeopathy they can only conclude that not only does it not work – it cannot work. It is IBAR (a variation of FUBAR) – implausible beyond all reason. Therefore prescribing homeopathy is incompetent and/or unethical.” Steven Novella, Neurologica Blog (10th June 2010)
“…when people see homeopathy being sold by a trusted provider like Boots they assume it is a proven treatment. They assume that Boots will have vetted the products they sell and will only stock those that are known to be effective. They're wrong of course, the only correct assumption to make is that Boots values profits more highly than integrity. My goal with this project is to get Boots to rethink its decision to stock homeopathy products." Wikinut Health (13th February 2010)
Published correspondence that took place between Boots The Chemist and a homeopathy skeptic. Zeno’s blog (1st January 2010)