/ Health

Your view: the homeopathy debate roars on

Lion roaring

When we rounded-up your views on homeopathy and pharmacists we didn’t expect another 800 comments to roll in! That, and the fact it’s World Homeopathic Awareness Week, has re-fuelled our homeopathic fire…

In a first for Which? Conversation, this week’s ‘Your view’ is based on a previous round-up. If you’ve had enough of the word ‘homeopathy’ then bear with us for another week because it’s clearly a popular topic.

That said, previous discussions haven’t been problem-free. Many contributors have threatened to leave the debate and warnings have been issued.

So it is with a little trepidation that we broach the subject one more time with a short summary of your main points and themes…

The role of pharmacists

Our first Convo came out of our snapshot investigation which found that 13 out of 20 pharmacists failed to explain that there’s no clinical evidence that homeopathy works. Amy, a retired community pharmacist, found this surprising.

‘I have never advocated the use of homeopathic medicine and can see no scientific reason as to why it should have any place in modern medicine. If it does work it is probably due to the placebo effect or blind faith!’

BobH agrees:

‘Should pharmacists offer homeopathic solutions to medical problems? Probably not, unless you also think that it would be reasonable for them to ask you to bring in eye of newt and toe of frog and they’d make up a potion for you. People expect pharmacists to offer something that, in their professional opinion, will treat the illness presented.’

But SAHC says we should apply the same theory across all medicine:

‘If a pharmacist chooses to warn a customer against the use of homeopathy, that is up to him or her. I would vote that it should be up to a pharmacist’s personal conscience and belief. Conversely, should a pharmacist be required to warn his customers of the adverse side effects of mainstream drugs? Oh, that might not be a good idea… it would take up too much time, would it not?’

How is homeopathy being sold?

Robin spoke to his local Boots’ pharmacist about our investigation:

‘He was very aware of the Which? survey. He said Boots had sent out information and training reminders to them as a result. I take some comfort from this, and credit is due to Boots for taking some prompt action. Perhaps if everyone reading this also politely asked their local pharmacist if they were aware of the survey results and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society policy it might help even further.’

But Wavechange still feels let down by the way that homeopathic labelling works:

‘I have been looking at the Boots website and am disappointed to see that it lists various homeopathic properties. There are some guarded statements, but to have words such as “pain relief” shown without qualification on the front of the packet is little short of disgraceful.’

Where does homeopathy stand with science?

The issue of science has been discussed at length in both previous Conversations, and Wavechange sums up many people’s views here:

‘It is not up to us to disprove homeopathy but for you and your fellow believers to get together and prove that it works to command respect from the scientific community.’

Dr Lionel Milgrom responds:

‘Thank you: with this, I think you have at last verbalised the gigantic hubris under which many on this site labour. And that is proving or disproving how and whether homeopathy works, and gaining the respect of the scientific community have very little to do with patients’ democratic right of access to safe, cost-effective healthcare. Quite clearly many want homeopathy. The reason the pseudo-sceptic movement is so rife in the UK is because patients can still have homeopathy on the NHS if they choose to.’

ChrisP says homeopathy should not be seen as an alternative medicine:

‘The science plainly shows it can be as potent as a placebo, not that it actively heals. I doubt any doctor or pharmacist would treat an illness as significant as type 1 diabetes with homeopathy alone, whereas many members of the public would genuinely hope their chronic stress, indigestion or pain can be solved by homeopathy as it will be safe, not make them experience side effects nor directly kill them, which wrongly (or in some cases rightly) they may believe is always possible of traditional medicine.’

But Robin worries that homeopathy will still be used in the wrong way:

‘The only fly in this non-ointment is some homeopaths are claiming it can treat serious conditions such as cancer, aids, malaria etc. It is clear some are promoting the view that homeopathy is not just a placebo, as an adjunct to medical care, but a primary treatment. Others claim homeopathic “vaccines” have efficacy.’

So, do you agree with 71% of voters who say that pharmacists should only recommend remedies backed by science, or will you continue to buy and use homeopathic treatments?

Comments

Despite the fact that the Which? report has found some problems with pharmacists, I strongly believe that they are more likely to deliver better advice than is generally available on websites.

Wavechange: True enough. The ASA was completely overwhelmed with complaints about false advertising by homeopaths when their remit expanded to cover claims made on marketers’ own websites. It’s pretty clear that the concern over dangerously bad advice offered by homeopaths is well founded, but it’s not restricted to websites – four separate MHRA actions have failed thus far to rid Holland and Barrett of an illegal point of sale presentation from Nelsons.

ReallyGoodMedicine says:
23 June 2013

Here are two questions truly worth asking:

How many pharmacists advise their customers that the majority of conventional treatments are NOT proven to be beneficial, that is evidence based.

How many pharmacists advise their customers that conventional treatments often do harm, and not just harm but great harm?

See my comment below for the facts that only 11% of 3,000 common treatments are evidence based and that 784,000 Americans die every year as a result of using conventional care and conventional treatments.

ReallyGoodMedicine: There is no evidence that the majority of products are not proven to be beneficial, as has been pointed out before that claim relies on distortion of the facts. You’ve stated the 11% figure several times now, every time it has been pointed out why it is wrong, a point clearly made in the source itself, but you keep repeating it. Why is that?

ReallyGoodMedicine says:
23 June 2013

Food for thought, Guy, just some food for thought!

According to the British Medical Journal only 11% of the 3,000 common treatments they analyzed and which are offered on the NHS are evidence based:

http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/set/static/cms/efficacy-categorisations.html

The BMJ notes:

“However, the figures above suggest that the research community has a large task ahead and that most decisions about treatments still rest on the INDIVIDUAL JUDGEMENTS OF CLINICIANS AND PATIENTS.”

784,000 Americans die every year as a result of using conventional care and conventional drugs. Think of the numbers world-wide!

http://www.whale.to/a/null9.html

So maybe Which should be asking pharmacists if they tell their customers that most conventional drugs haven’t been proven to work and ……….that they’re harmful!

ReallyGoodMedicine says:
23 June 2013

Provide a link, Guy, to the BMJ’s statement that they were wrong when they stated that only 11% of the common treatments they analyzed were evidence based.

Thank you.

RGM: It’s in the report itself. It explicitly says that the figure does not reflect how widely the treatments are used. The best estimates are between 70% and 95% of treatment interventions being based on good quality evidence, as per Alan’s post in the previous debate.

ReallyGoodMedicine says:
23 June 2013

As you well know, Guy, the issue is not how widely used the treatments are. The issue was and still is:

The BMJ found that only 11% of the 3,000 treatments it analyzed were proven to be evidence based, that is proven to be beneficial.

You can’t provide a link to back up your claim that the BMJ said it was wrong in stating the figure of 11% for the simple reason that the BMJ stands by that figure, isn’t that right?

RGM: No, that is not the issue because (obviously) if a treatment is not actually used, the fact that it may or may not have good evidence is moot.

As I say, Alan already debunked this in the previous debate.

ReallyGoodMedicine says:
24 June 2013

Thank you, Guy, for acknowledging that the BMJ stands behind its analysis showing that only 11% of common treatments are evidence based.

RGM

You are trying to persuade us to accept a view that is not supported by the majority of doctors, pharmacists and the general public in the UK. I have previously asked you if you would explain what expertise and publications you have to be an authority in your field. I won’t ask again, but if we hear nothing, I think I will stick to taking advice from my GP and pharmacist. Neither has ever raised the subject of homeopathy in our conversations.

RGM: Your comment is mendacious. Alan Henness already pointed out that the figures show around 80% of treatments to be based on some form of compelling evidence, compared with 0% for homeopathy.

wev says:
21 June 2013

I can summarise a little the difference between the two sides. They have different standards of evidence, and standards may be the wrong word to use.

The homeopaths believe Randomized Controlled Trials for homeopathy are always conducted in a way that they’re deliberately designed to make homeopathy fail the trial. They point to evidence like Ben Goldacre’s book and recent topics at the British Medical Journal about clinical trials not being published, diabetes drugs being dangerous, and vaccines causing autism. They think homeopathy has shown itself to work, and probably works by making the body heal itself of whatever condition’s being treated. They accept personal statements of people feeling better after treatment as evidence it works.

Chris also has personal experience. He says he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 6 months to live, but his cancer disappeared after homeopathy treatment.

The skeptics believe there’s nothing wrong with the trials, and homeopaths don’t understand what science is. Without Randomized Controlled Trials, proper drugs and treatments wouldn’t be made. When people feel better from homeopathy, it’s the placebo effect. The brain makes pain relief chemicals. Guy also said cancer can unexpectedly go into remission and disappear.

Here are some of the links I posted at the end of page 2 of the last conversation

Potential harms including cancer of type 2 diabetes drugs have been ignored
http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3782
and
http://www.bmj.com/press-releases/2013/06/10/investigation-raises-questions-about-safety-new-diabetes-drugs-and-speaks-
and
http://doc2doc.bmj.com/forums/open-clinical_diabetes_bmj-investigation-should-glp-1-based-drugs-banned-whilst-gather-evidence

Many clinical trials are never published or published with wrong conclusions
http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3227
and
http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2865

Bias in clinical guidelines for giving treatments
http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3830

Autism and vaccines, read both pages
http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2095?tab=responses

Ben Goldacre on BBC2’s Daily Politics, starts at 1hr 16m

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b030l0ks/Daily_Politics_19_06_2013/

There’s more homeopathy debate here

http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/Homeopathic-help-offered-hayfever-victims/story-19273705-detail/story.html

You have not mentioned Ben Goldacre’s book called Bad Science, which happens to mention homeopathy – the 200 year old ‘treatment’ that has yet to achieve anything beyond the placebo effect.

Wev, nobody ignores issues with medical treatments, they are just not relevant to the issue of homeopathy. One of the leaders of the move to get all trial data published is Ben Goldacre, who is also one of the most prominent critics of pseudoscientific practices such as homeopathy.

Planes crash, people die, nobody seriously suggests this as a justification for the promotion of magic carpets. In matters of science – including medical science – there is only one way of knowing, only one proven way to separate truth from delusion, and it’s the scientific method. To be accepted, a claim either has to refute the null hypothesis or be in line with all observed facts and conflict with none. Homeopathy is not in line with any of the relevant science. Nobody other than a believer looking for something to support their belief has ever reported anything like the things that homeopaths claim.

ReallyGoodMedicine says:
23 June 2013

@chapman

“…..nobody ignores issues with medical treatments, they are just not relevant to the issue of homeopathy.”

You’re so very right that people don’t ignore the issues with conventional medical treatments that only mask symptoms, never cure anything and create diseases in the people who use them, diseases they didn’t have before they filled and took the prescription.

You’re so very wrong that those issues aren’t relevant to homeopathy. They’re very relevant because people use CAM medicines including homeopathy after they discover what conventional drugs don’t do for them and what they do to them. People who use homeopathy describe it as “wonderful”. That’s why it’s use is growing around the world every year. That’s why it’s being attacked along with all other CAM medicines. We could ask ourselves, “Who loses — loses money or prestige or status in their fields — when people’s health care dollars/pounds/francs go to homeopathy?” When the question is answered we understand where the attacks come from.

I’d say the failures of con med are very relevant to homeopathy.

Absolutely ReallyGoodMedicine,

the failures of con med are very relevant to Homeopathy, and for the reasons you have stated.
People are “wising up” to the failures of pharmaceuticals resulting in an ever growing use of effective alternatives; I personally know of thousands upon thousands of people who have been either harmed by prescribed drugs or have been let down by them.

Statins being just one example which cause: transient global amnesia (TGA), impaired cognition, including personality change, myopathy, neuropathy and a chronic neuromuscular degeneration similar to ALS and all statins are contributing to these adverse reactions. Statins result in CoQ10 inhibition which results in the buildup of free radicals and an increase mitochondrial DNA damage and mutation, primary factors in how we age. Statin drugs thereby enhance aging. Statin associated CoQ10 inhibition leads directly to increased mitochondrial DNA damage and premature senility.
The most effective way of safely reducing high cholesterol levels is by use of Niacin or Vitamin B3, so the drug companies concocted their own “version” Niaspan an analogue of B3 (but not B3) which failed. The unadulterated and original form of the Vitamin, not metamorphosed by them does work effectively in practice and without the side-effects.
Here’s the real story………….
http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n07.shtml

When your livelihood and belief-system is threatened from homeopathy or any other alternative, it is attacked and ridiculed as not being “scientific”, or any other excuse they can come up with to discredit a therapeutic treatment that actually works in practice.
Great post.

RGM: The claim that medicine does not cure but only “masks symptoms” is factually incorrect. Antibiotics cure bacterial infections, surgery cures trauma and so on. It also prevents an immense amount of disease. Smallpox has been wiped out by medicine, it previously killed millions of people every year.

Your claim is also logically invalid because there is no known case of any disease which has been authentically cured by homeopathy, so the question of whether medicine cures or not is as relevant to homeopathy as plane crashes are to magic carpets.

It really doesn’t matter how the victims of a scam describe it, it remains a scam. Who loses? The patient, as soon as they are actually ill, because homeopaths cannot be relied on to restrict their silliness to minor self-limiting ailments. The BBC found that every single homeopath visited prescribed worthless “homeoprophylaxis” for malaria, and most did not even give anti-bite advice because they apparently believe their own PR. Oh, and it’s not the medical world that accounts them worthless, it’s the Society of Homeopaths.

So homeopathy is not just a delusion, it’s a dangerous delusion. People believe in it, and as a result suffer real harm and die. Medicine can and will be fixed by the scientific method, homeopathy has no mechanism for self-correction because nothing about it is empirically verifiable.

The one remaining question is: why do you believe science is always right when it finds a problem with medicine, but always wrong when it finds that a medicine works or that quackery does not?

RGM

Whether you like it or not, the majority of educated people accept that there is no credible evidence that homeopathy works, and Guy has just pointed out some errors in your claims.

Perhaps you could tell us about what research you have done on homeopathy and provide a link to your relevant papers and reviews in peer reviewed journals.

As has been said many times, it is up to proponents of homeopathy to provide credible evidence that it works.

Wavechange: It is indeed for homeopathy believers to prove their case. And it should be reiterated that the kind of “evidence” they usually provide is not actually capable of providing this proof.

Trials of homeopathy v placebo almost all share two common problems. One is unfixable – the fact that you can only ever produce a result that suggests a non-placebo response, not one which refutes the null hypothesis. The other is more straightforward, which is separating specific from nonspecific effects. Most of these trials test a remedy which is believed to be “right”, but virtually none compare the “right” remedy with the “wrong” one. A demonstrable, repeatable, specific effect would be a lot more compelling than a result that is always compatible, at some level of probability, with the null hypothesis.

Of course what is really needed, and never provided, is a halfway plausible mechanism of action. You’ll always struggle to persuade anybody to accept a result which is compatible, at some level of probability, with the null hypothesis, when any other interpretation is in fundamental conflict with multiple well tested principles of science.

Guy

A new strategy for helping the public to understand why homeopathy is nonsense could be to draw attention to some of the wacky websites that chrisb and others have used to support their view.

I also believe that pharmacists should be encouraged to reject homeopathy, and stopping stocking homeopathic products is a worthwhile step for any responsible retailer.

Wavechange: Fair point, there’s one doing the rounds now that promotes a completely hilarious magic machine for making remedies. It has a “lock” button. Apparently if you don’t press this to lock in the magic, it decays over time (much as placebo effects decay as the body loses its ability to be fooled).

Guy

I do think we need to try to help prevent the supporters of homeopathy from recruiting more followers. Most people will understand that highly diluted orange squash has no taste, a small drop of washing-up liquid is of no use and that a trace of antacid will not help their indigestion. It’s not difficult to understand why homeopathy is useless, without the need for an understanding of the significance of Avogadros’s number, randomised control trials and null hypotheses. My suggestion is to keep the message conceptually simple for those who have little or no experience of the homeopathy debate.

Wavechange: The problem is that the believers assert “but it works!” – without an understanding of placebo effects, confounders and other such biases, and an appreciation of just how absurdly dilute “remedies” are, far beyond the dilute orange squash scenario, the “it worked” nonsense is superficially convincing.

I’ve been asking around and have yet to find anyone who uses homeopathic products, though quite a number who continue to swallow supplements, even though they are fairly sure that they are ineffective.

Wavechange: Most supplements enrich the urine wonderfully. Not that this has a great deal of effect…

Chris: Obviously if you trawl sites promoting supplements you will find all kinds of claims. Most of them are, of course, pure advertorial hype.

There is some evidence in respect of co-enzyme Q10, thoguh the science is not settled. Most other supplementation on current sale is either known to be worthless, known to be potentially harmful, or not backed by any credible evidence at all.

The same kind of science that finds problems with pharmaceuticals, commonly finds identical overstatements of benefit (with identical motives, unsurprisingly) in the case of supplements. But most supplements are basically unregulated. Therapeutic claims may not be made because makers have not provided proof of efficacy and safety. In fact, some things originally targeted as drugs are rebranded and sold as supplements if the evidence is not strong enough, precisely to capitalise on this loophole.

There;’s this weird idea that pharmaceutical companies are evil profit-hungry vultures while anything branded “natural” is sold by lovely people and made in wooden barns surrounded by fluffy bunnies. It’s cobblers. Big Herba is every bit as avaricious as Big Pharma, and spends a much lower proportion of its revenue on R&D and a much higher proportion on advertising.

It would be good if Which? could get some more input from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, especially in view of the lack of comments from pharmacists in previous Conversations.

From a scientific standpoint, there is no debate. Homeopathic remedies are inert, nobody has ever come up with a remotely plausible reason to believe otherwise and no observation has ever been produced which is inconsistent with this.

This is controversial among homeopaths because they have a deep emotional investment in homeopathy, but scientifically it is as controversial as evolution – and opposition is founded, as with evolution, on emotional attachment to an idea, not on empirical fact.

Wev says “I can summarise a little the difference between the two sides. They have different standards of evidence, and standards may be the wrong word to use.”

I disagree with Wev’s summary, because I think it misses a fundamental point.

Randomised controlled trials are used to test whether a specific medicine works better than placebo, or better than the current medicine. There is no dissent from the view that giving a patent a measurable amount of a pharmacologically active compound can have an objective effect on their body and their health.

Homeopaths are not trying to prove that remedy A works better than or worse than remedy B. They are first trying to show that remedies have any effect at all. Any remedy.

And what you find, as you pick through the studies, is that there is an *assumption* that effects exist and are specific, so most of the tests do not even begin to look at specificity.

From a scientific standpoint, this is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that there is a link between the specific remedy and the complaint. Actually there is no credible evidence to support this idea, so before they can begin to be persuasive homeopaths first need to demonstrate that their purported effect is not only different form placebo, but that the “right” remedy gives a different result from the “wrong” one.

I don’t believe they have done this. I have yet to see any decently designed test which sets out to show a *specific* as opposed to a non-specific effect from a particular remedy.

The importance of this is obvious when you look at the scientific understanding of homeopathy, which I discussed above. If you want to refute the scientific consensus about homeopathy yo have to produce a test that is actually capable of refuting it. You can’t prove that homeopathic remedies are not placebo with a test that can never rule out placebo effects. You might go a bit further if you can show an effect beyond placebo that *only* applies to the “correct” remedy and not to an “incorrect” one.

I don’t believe anyone has yet mentioned that there is a growing trend of scientific research into the effects/benefits of homeopathy, so easily dismissed by critics and skeptics as mere placebo.

It might therefore be a wise decision to reserve judgement until such time as the science is in, and a decisive conclusion can be made one way or the other.

For the cynics here who might say that the science is already in, then this is clearly just not the case, and further more in-depth research should be conclusive in the fullness of time.

Chris: They haven’t mentioned it because there is no “growing trend of scientific research into the effects/benefits of homeopathy”.

Science finds nothing worth investigating, homeopaths conduct faux-scientific “research” to try to save their income, especially from the public purse (a doomed venture, I think, since the increasing focus on value for money is unlikely to favour something where the provable value is nil).

But there is Guy there is, especially in India and Europe.

Tell me, do you disagree with everything I say just for the sake of it? or because you do actually disagree with what I have actually stated.

I thought my post was conciliatory, but then you always seem to put a spanner in the works don’t you?

Chris: No, there is no “growing trend of scientific research into the effects/benefits of homeopathy”.

A few homeopathy believers produce pseudoscientific papers purporting to investigate it, like the group who found silicates in a homeopathic solution of silicates prepared in glass, which will give any competent chemist a good belly laugh (and prompt the question: did you wash the glassware in HF beforehand?), but the scientific consensus on homeopathy is pretty much settled: it’s a placebo. Same as acupuncture, reiki and many other forms of woo. No remotely plausible mechanism of action, founded on provably wrong or empirically unverifiable beliefs.

As to whether I disagree with you just for the sake of it, I don’t know – let’s wait until you come up with a correct idea or a valid argument and see how I feel about it.

Guy,
“No, there is no “growing trend of scientific research into the effects/benefits of homeopathy”.

Not sure where you conjure up these sweeping statements but this is just ONE example.
http://drrizwanhomeo.com/index.php/latest-scientific-research-in-homeopathy

Chris: I know you fervently believe that what you say is true, but it’s not. You are the one claiming a growing trend” and your link to another list of junk studies does not establish that.

I recognise several of the items in that list; one is the paper that finds heavy metal traces in a substance prepared using concentrated nitric acid (which is often contaminated with heavy metals); another is the group who think that finding silicates in a solution prepared in glass is evidence of something other than sloppy technique.

So not only have you provided no evidence of the “growing” trend, the “scientific research” you include contains some woefully poor science.

Meanwhile back in the real world scientists doing genuine science have never come up with anything remotely like a homeopathic effect, in fact generally quite the reverse. No dose response curve shows a permanent reversal, for example, so the claim that potency increases with dilution is at odds with what science actually finds.

ReallyGoodMedicine says:
23 June 2013

Here’s a question truly worth asking:

How many pharmacists advise their customers that not only are many conventional drugs/treatments not evidence based and proven to be beneficial, but also that many conventional drugs do harm?

The British Medical Journal did an analysis of 3,000 common treatments offered on the NHS — the majority being conventional. It found that only 11% — eleven percent — are proven to be beneficial, that is evidence based. It also found:

23% are likely to beneficial (that is, they have not been proven to actually be beneficial)
7% are trade-off between benefit and harm
5% are unlikely to be beneficial
3% are likely to be ineffective or harmful
51% are of unknown effectiveness

The BMJ states: “However, the figures above suggest that the research community has a large task ahead and that most decisions about treatments still rest on the INDIVIDUAL JUDGEMENTS OF CLINICIANS AND PATIENTS.”

http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/set/static/cms/efficacy-categorisations.html

Most people are well aware of the fact that conventional treatments do harm. (That’s one of the reasons — along with efficacy and cost effectiveness — that they turn to homeopathy.) But in case anyone wants proof based on government statistics and the material in peer-reviewed journals, take a look at the book “Death by Medicine”. It shows that 784,000 Americans die every year as a result of using conventional care and conventional treatments. And that’s Americans ONLY. Think about the size of that number when the figures from every other country are added in.

http://www.whale.to/a/null9.html

How many people harmed or killed by homeopathy? The number is so low that “skeptic” sites like What’s the Harm have to glean their claims of harm from newspaper stories rather than from credible medical sources.

As for the claim “people die because they don’t use con med”, “skeptics” should keep in mind that homeopathic treatment goes to the root cause of the person’s condition. Con med simply masks the symptoms.

RGM: 100% of pharmacists advise their customers of known side effects, they have to, and they are on the mandatory label as well. If you buy triptans, for example, you get the Spanish Inquisition.

Nobody asks questions about homeopathy because most pharmacists are fully aware that its confectionery not medicine. It has no effects, side or otherwise.

I can vouch for the advice provided by pharmacists. In addition to reinforcing the information provided on the labels of certain prescription drugs, pharmacists have alerted me to occasional mistakes made by GPs including failure to consider possible interaction with another drug.

Guy,
“The claim that medicine does not cure but only “masks symptoms” is factually incorrect. Antibiotics cure bacterial infections, surgery cures trauma and so on. It also prevents an immense amount of disease. Smallpox has been wiped out by medicine, it previously killed millions of people every year”.

Medicine for the most part Guy does actually mask symptoms and does not cure.
Take the cases of: MS; ME; Osteo and Rheumatoid Arthritis; Alzheimers and Dementia; Parkinsons Disease; diabetes, hypertension; asthma; heart disease; COPD; so shall I go on?
The known deadly side effects of prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in the industrialized world, surpassed only by the number of deaths from heart attacks, cancer and strokes (Journal of the American Medical Association, April 15, 1998)

Antibiotics may indeed temporarily cure bacterial infections, but they keep on coming back time and time again to the point where that are becoming ineffective, and as reported in the news; and much surgery is palliative as it does not address the causes of disease: ie removal of the gallbladder because of stones, or removal of the appendix, and the waste of time that tonsillectomies are, as are angioplasties. The list is endless and I could go on.

As for smallpox eradication………….http://www.vaccinationcouncil.org/2012/04/02/smallpox-declared-eradicated-while-still-alive-and-well-by-viera-scheibner-phd/

The world campaign by the World Health Organization to spread the smallpox vaccination to third-world countries was abandoned in the 1970s and early ’80s, after 30 years in which the primary cause of death from smallpox was from the smallpox vaccine itself. The U.S. government acknowledged that children were dying all around the world from the government-sponsored cure for a disease, decades after the naturally-occurring disease had ceased to be a problem.

So I must say you do have a flair for the, “exaggerated” and the “fanciful” Guy.
I realize now after all this time, that you are most definitely a mouthpiece for the Pharmaceutical Cartel and the stranglehold they have on the Medical Profession.
Impartial to the core.

Chris, once again you have cited a counter-factual claim to an antivaccinationist crank site.

You keep doing this. You keep citing tiny minority views on websites run by swivel-eyed loons. Why?

Guy,
another superb corker………

“The problem is that the believers assert “but it works!” – without an understanding of placebo effects”

This I believe this is the truth of the matter, and whether you believe it or not…………….

Guy you qualify wholeheartedly as a “Scientismist” and fit these credentials exactly: the main reason for your animosity and antagonism towards Homeopathy or indeed any “Alternative”.

First it is necessary to make a clear distinction between science and Scientism. The former might be defined as a continuing effort to increase human knowledge and understanding through observation (with the important proviso that in spite of its more outlandish proposals, post-modernism still serves to warn that objectivity in observation is always conditioned by expectations and past experiences; regardless of the ‘rigour’ of the science).

Scientism, on the other hand, [1] is the totally unscientific belief that:-

· Only scientific knowledge is real knowledge:

· There is no rational, objective form of inquiry that is not a branch of science:

· Science is the absolute and only justifiable access to truth.

Significantly, no sign of post-modernism’s warning being heeded here. Indeed, supporters of Scientism (which has its roots in materialistic logical positivism [2] and naïve inductivism [3] – both of which are seriously limited interpretations of science) [4] see it as their bounden duty to do away with most, if not all, metaphysical, mythological, philosophical, sociological (in any non-reductive sense), and religious claims to knowledge, as their truths cannot be apprehended by the scientific method. And precisely because Scientism’s supporters are so jealous of what they believe is their monopoly on truth (especially as exemplified by the science of the day: science too has its fashions), they represent a form of dogmatic intolerance bordering on fundamentalism; even fascism. As neurophysiologist and Nobel Laureate Sir John Eccles once so eloquently put it, “Arrogance is one of the worst diseases of scientists and it gives rise to statements of authority and finality which are expressed usually in fields that are completely beyond the scientific competence of the dogmatist. It is important to realise that dogmatism has now become a disease of scientists rather than of theologians.”We shall soon see how ominously prescient were these words.

1. Ryder M. Scientism. Entry in the Encyclopaedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics. Copyright 2001-2006 by Macmillan Reference USA, an imprint of the Gale Group.

2. Popper K. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. New York: Basic Books, 1959.

3. Chalmers AF. What is this thing called science? An assessment of the nature and status of science and its method. 2nd ed. St. Lucia Qld, Australia: University of Queensland Press, 1994:13–14.

4. Okasha S. Philosophy of science: A very short introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Yet more copied material. 🙁

Why not post a link and credit Lionel Milgrom?

wavey,
Your comment is not relevant to what the message actually contains.

In addition the purpose of language and the written word is to communicate, irrespective of the author, so read the message.

I am merely suggesting that you comply with the Terms and Conditions of Which? Conversation. It’s also part of being respectful to other contributors.

Chris: Nice use of ad-hominem and poisoning the well, but it doesn’t fix the fact that the balance of your argument is simple repetition of the same dogma.

Your interpretation of the BMJ figures has already been debunked, but is in any case not in any way relevant to homeopathy, because homeopathy is exactly 0% effective. It doesn’t work. There’s no reason to think it should work, and no way it could work.

Dogmatism is the only thing that keeps homeopathy alive. Science is not dogmatic. It took very little time for medical science to accept that ulcers are caused by h.pylori and not stress, despite generations of doctors being taught that it was stress. Homeopathy has no such mechanism for self-correction.

As usual you accept any science you like, and reject any science you don’t like. You only perceive skeptics as dogmatic because we won’t accept the tosh you present in lieu of evidence. We have explained why, but you don’t seem to like the explanation any more than you like the science showing vaccines work and homeopathy doesn’t. Problem is your end, sorry.

Show me good science proving a mechanism for homeopathy and I’ll listen. You have yet to state what evidence you would consider disproves it (though given your support for Wakefield, I doubt you are amenable to rational persuasion).

[This comment has been edited due to breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Guy,
“Chris: Nice use of ad-hominem and poisoning the well, but it doesn’t fix the fact that the balance of your argument is simple repetition of the same dogma”.

Identical to yours then.

AND….
“Your interpretation of the BMJ figures has already been debunked.”

No it hasn’t, that is just your interpretation of debunking.

AND….
“There’s no reason to think it should work, and no way it could work”.

Yes it does because we know it does. You seem to forget that science hasn’t explained the mechanism as yet, but it will, it will.
Watch this space.

Something to ponder…..
Gravity is only an observable phenomena and cannot be proven, but we know it is there, whilst the beneficial effects of homeopathy are also observable by both practitioners and their patients alike, and we also know it is there: it’s efficacy is also tested, as they have been in numerous RCT’s, and which you have conveniently ignored (a typical pseudo-skeptic tactic apparently).

AND……..
“As usual you accept any science you like, and reject any science you don’t like”.

Wunderbar. No not exactly Guy, I accept science for what it is: to increase human knowledge and understanding through observation.
I reject faulty and biased science, or the attitudes of those who adhere to Scientism, as you do.

You do have a tenacity on this which is quite admirable, but perhaps you persist in trying to convince me and others like me because we may have rattled your cage about your pre-existing beliefs and ideas.

chrisb and RGM

While discussing dogma it’s about time for proponents of homeopathy to stop claiming that conventional medicines just mask symptoms. In many cases they prevent symptoms.

As an example, I have severe asthma and have used inhalers to allow me to live a normal life. When I was young I was given cough linctus by my GP and the placebo effect definitely did not work. I missed school and was admitted to hospital repeatedly with asthma attacks. The drugs I take are very effective, I am not aware of side-effects or other issues, and the only problem I have is remembering to take my medication, but I am soon reminded if I forget. It prevents my symptoms. In fact, one of the inhalers I use is often described to new asthmatics as a ‘preventer’.

Please change your dogma.

I am very weary of refuting false claims and rebutting fallacious arguments only to have Chris repeat them.

Chris:

I say: “Your interpretation of the BMJ figures has already been debunked.”
You say: “No it hasn’t, that is just your interpretation of debunking.”

It has been debunked. Alan previously cited a much more comprehensive set of figures, and even the actual source you cite cautions against interpreting the figures in the way you do. Clearly you reject the debunking, the facts show that your rejection is invalid.

I say: “There’s no reason to think [homeopathy] should work, and no way it could work”.
You say: “Yes it does because we know it does.”

That is a statement of religious faith and does not address the fact that there is no reason to believe homeopathy should work and no way it can work. The lack of any objectively provable connection between remedies and diseases was clearly identified in Hahnemann’s own lifetime and has never been addressed (because homeopathy lacks any mechanism for self-correction). No remotely plausible mechanism of action has ever been proposed.

Your observations are fully consistent with the scientific consensus on homeopathy, which is that it is a placebo treatment. You do not believe this, but that is not the same as it being untrue.

You say: “You seem to forget that science hasn’t explained the mechanism as yet, but it will, it will. Watch this space.”

Science already has explained the mechanism. Placebo effects and confounders. As Colquhoun recently wrote in respect of acupuncture, there are by now sufficient trials that the lack of evidence of specific effect amounts to evidence of absence.

You say: “Gravity is only an observable phenomena and cannot be proven, but we know it is there”

Yes, gravity is observable and specifically measurable. Homeopathy is not. No measurement however sensitive can detect the supposed “vital force”, no scientific instrument can tell one remedy from another as normally prepared, few trials even attempt to show differential effect between “right” and “wrong” remedies. Gravity is empirically verifiable, homeopathy is not. If homeopathy was empirically verifiable we would not even be having this discussion.

You say: “the beneficial effects of homeopathy are also observable by both practitioners and their patients alike,”

These supposed “beneficial effects” are observable *only* by believers and the observations are equally consistent with the null hypothesis. In the absence of any credible mechanism, and given that the beliefs of homeopathists involve profound conflicts with other science, the more parsimonious explanation is that it is a placebo. This has never been refuted by any experiment (and I don’t think I have ever seen one which is even capable of refuting the null hypothesis).

You say: “we also know it is there”

Believers say the same of the various gods. Belief in empirically unverifiable concepts which conflict profoundly with science, is the realm of religion.

You say: “it’s efficacy is also tested, as they have been in numerous RCT’s, and which you have conveniently ignored (a typical pseudo-skeptic tactic apparently).”

False. Not only have I not ignored them, I have discussed them, and the meta-analyses of them which show the relationship between study quality and outcome (badly designed studies show more benefit, better designed studies show less) and of systematic reviews of the studies which show no convincing effect beyond placebo.

One of the more consistent features of your argument is a focus on individual observations as if they invalidate the consensus from aggregating very large numbers of observations. You, like the authors of the execrable Swiss document, invert the hierarchy of evidence, apparently because the accepted hierarchy of evidence does not give the answer you want.

When an idea conflicts with multiple different areas of science and fails to refute the null hypothesis, it is because the idea is wrong.

You say: “I reject faulty and biased science, or the attitudes of those who adhere to Scientism, as you do.”

Your definition of faulty and biased science is that it does not agree with your prejudices. Wakefield’s science is biased and faulty. You agree with it because it aligns with your prejudices. The science that shows smallpox to have been eradicated primarily by vaccination is robust and almost universally accepted as a triumph of scientific medicine, but you reject it because it does not align with your prejudices. These are only two of hundreds of examples in these three debates.

You say: “You do have a tenacity on this which is quite admirable, but perhaps you persist in trying to convince me and others like me because we may have rattled your cage about your pre-existing beliefs and ideas.”

Not in the least. I persist because it matters to me when false statements are left uncorrected. My pre-existing beliefs amount to only one: that the scientific method is the best way to separate truth from falsehood. This applies to all areas of objective inquiry. Science has nothing to say about religious belief (other than that metaphysical explanations also often violate the laws of physics), but science rightly and justly has a monopoly when it comes to judging the truth of health claims.

The scientific consensus is that you are wrong. You cannot change this consensus without bringing evidence that is irrefutably incompatible with the null hypothesis, and this is something no homeopath in history has ever done.

I just remembered where this “scientismist” business came from.

“A growing list of scientists who consider young earth creationism (YEC) a fact, and evolution as bunk………………….
tinyurl.com/mxorbcw” (the author is Bill Belew, see the Encyclopaedia of American Loons: americanloons.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/484-bill-belew.html)

So it would appear that Chris is a young-earth creationist.

We’re done here.

Hello Patrick,
Thank you for your patience.

Your comment……………
“Guy and Chris – is there a way that disagreements can be expressed in a more respectful way”?

I do try to be as respectful as I can towards Guy, and I do accept his views and opinions on Homeopathy and all else Alternative, and which he is entitled to, but he doesn’t show any respect at all towards my own views.
I would call this a day if he were to announce that I have every right to hold the views that I do (along with many others) without continual reprisals and sweeping erroneous statements that undermine everything that I stand for and believe in.

Respectfully yours.

Guy,
yes I am a young earth creationist, so I would expect you to respect that viewpoint, as I do your own viewpoints.

Chris, respect is earned not demanded.

Young earth creationism is dangerous anti-science nonsense and its advocates have an atrocious record of climate denial, homophobia, misogyny, vaccine denial and so on.

And I respect people, not beliefs. Especially bonkers ones.

Guy

You are not going to change the mind of our vocal supporters of homeopathy. Accept it. 🙁

In the UK, the priority should be to stop NHS funds being wasted supporting this worthless treatment but perhaps it is even more important to deal with the problem that the Secretary of State for Health supports homeopathy. I have little faith in politicians of any party, but to give a homeopathy supporter this important role beggars belief.

Wavechange: I agree.

Indeed Guy, respect is earned and not demanded.

But I did not request or demand any personal respect, only a respect for my views shared by millions across the globe, and which we have a right to believe and express; these views are not based on ignorance, but on careful research over many a year. The fact that you disagree with most of them is your privilege, just as a Christian may respect someone belief in the Islamic faith, and why we have a multi-cultural and tolerant society.
Judging from your most recent reply you are probably not in the diplomatic corps.

For your information, and in denial of yet another of your sweeping statements that do not really bear scrutiny, young earth creationism is supported by science, and a voluminous number of highly qualified scientists who support that viewpoint.
It is obvious that you have done little to no research on creationism, so please avoid making inflammatory and ignorant comments, which do little if anything to command any respect from anyone at all.

Thank you.

Chris: I respect people, not beliefs, especially not beliefs that are utterly irrational. The idea that the earth is 6,000 years old is contradicted by every single relevant scientific finding. If the earth was created by God 6,000 years ago then He went to a vast amount of trouble to make it appear that it is, in fact, billions of years old and the universe many times older still. He took a lot of time and trouble constructing a universe that behaves as if it started with a big bang, and arranging matters so that any other explanation cannot fit with observed facts.

The claim that young earth creationism is supported by science has been tested in court and found to be entirely without merit. Creation science is an oxymoron. It is a purely religious dogma.

The more parsimonious explanation is that science is right and you are wrong. As is also the case with homeopathy, vaccines and the rest.

Guy,
as long as your opinion on creation science is the result of many years researching the subject, then I respect your right to hold the view that you do, just as I would hope that you respect my own views, and whether or not you think they are right or wrong.

What is very distasteful, is your constant barrage and disparaging remarks of the: “I am right” and the “you are wrong” approach, and as you have amply demonstrated by your views on Homeopathy or any other Alternative Therapy; the latter of which you probably have no knowledge or experience of at all.
Yes you keep telling me that “science is right” and you are wrong, but this is entirely dependent on whose science we are looking at and not just your own version of it, and as exemplified by Dr Lionel Milgrom and others.

Science is much more than just the physical and what can be measured or quantified, but also involves the metaphysical, mythological, philosophical, sociological and religious claims to knowledge, as their truths cannot be apprehended by the scientific method.

Your own version of Science has its limitations (Scientism) because this represents and explains your posted views on science to the letter: a very restrictive and limited view of our World.

Patrick, You are absolutely right that the solution is to stick to rational arguments.

Advancing irrational beliefs using irrational arguments cited from irrational websites is the polar opposite. That’s the issue.

I am very happy to keep with rational arguments. So, when someone advances a claim of “scientism”, which is an example of “poisoning the well”, a well known form of fallacy, it is rational and correct to point out that his claim is drawn from an irrational source which is advancing fallacious arguments in support of a religious belief, itself a minority within its own religion, and not drawing scientific conclusions from observed facts. That removes the pejorative from the equation and we can return to discussing the evidence.

As Pauling famously said of an unusually poorly constructed piece of work: “That is not right – it’s not even wrong!”. Websites that include the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, alien abduction, 9/11 Truther conspiracies and the like are not sources. Any work worthy of discussion can be cited form a reliable source (a peer-reviewed journal, for example). If it can’t be cited form a reliable source, then it’s can and should be ignored.

There is enough rubbish in PubMed indexed SCAM-specific journals to keep the most ardent homeopath in Gish Gallops, there is no need to trawl the Internet’s sewers.

And if your argument is refuted (please do not confuse this with repudiated), then drop it. Don’t restate it as if it has not been refuted. That is not rational debate.

Creationism is religion, there are no non-religious creationists, so creationism and science are orthogonal. One can have a debate about the concept of “non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA in the jargon) and I am actually quite happy to place homeopathy in the same camp, i.e. as a religion, because if it ceases the pretence to be a form of medicine and instead owns up to being a dogma untestable by science – i.e. a religion – then a degree of honesty has been achieved and the debate can move on to issues like the ethics of promoting homeopathy and other forms of faith healing, in the absence of any empirical evidence of specific effect.

Faith healing is often seen as a comfort to the incurable. Some faith healers make claims beyond that. They are charlatans and are rightly despised. If homeopathy were presented as suitable for the “worried well” and we could depend on homeopaths not to overstep that boundary then I think an interesting debate could be had.

But that’s not where we’re at, and we never will be while believers insist, against – as I think you will acknowledge – a very substantial body of evidence and a strong scientific consensus , that it is a wonderful form of healing.

I return to the case of Penelope Dingle. The coroner’s findings are harrowing. Homeopathy asserted as medicine, is not in the least bit funny.

We should also closely consider the purpose and the meaning of the original WHICH investigation, which was that Pharmacists were inconsistent in their advice of homeopathy and despite it having no supporting clinical evidence. This was NOT designed to be a “witch-hunt” of homeopathy itself, although this is what has occurred.
My only involvement therefore was to counter the detractors, of which there have been many.

My presence here is therefore only to counter those who support Scientism, because this seems to be the only method by which you all claim that we can attain knowledge and evidence, and where this plainly just not the case.

[This comment has been edited as it refers to a comment which has not been published. Please make sure the comment you are replying to is on the thread. Thanks, mods.]

Patrick has deleted my post, having provided his own feedback. It would not be appropriate to discuss a deleted post.

It is likely that if you stop posting, Guy and others will stop commenting. Call that a truce if you like. I am keen to come back if we hear from pharmacists or the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, or there are other opportunities for useful dialogue.

I am passionate about science and the scientific method, having spent my adult life being educated by scientists, carrying out scientific research and teaching science. I am not familiar with the term ‘scientism’ but I assume that it is derogatory.

Come and have a friendly discussion on another topic that neither of us feel strongly about. 🙂

Chris: There is no such thing as alternative medicine. Anything that provably works, is medicine. What is left either isn’t proven to work or is definitely proven not to.

Retaliation? You seem to get your retaliation in first 🙂

Homeopathy is bunk. If you go to bat for bogus and nonsensical ideas, expect to get a robust response from the reality-based community. The earth is billions of years old, vaccines save millions of lives every year and have eradicated at least one major killer disease, medicine can cure disease or make the symptoms tolerable for most people most of the time, and homeopathy is abject nonsense. Those are the facts, and that really is an end of it.

Guy,
round 29, gong!!!

“There is no such thing as alternative medicine. Anything that provably works, is medicine. What is left either isn’t proven to work or is definitely proven not to”.

Yes, so you keep on saying, but let me remind you that “alternative healthcare” has been in existence for far far longer than “Modern Medicine”, and is still going strong today, and where much of it is growing and becoming more and more popular. This popularity has largely come about because of the efficacy of the same (results) and also because people have been let down by Orthodoxy.
Those who suffer from serious degenerative diseases have become disillusioned with having these as “managed” and/or becoming “progressively worse” rather than “cured”, and I have previously illustrated quite a number of examples of these. I just happen to be one example of thousands and thousands who have undergone this experience: experience that is either ignored or discounted by Mainstream.

You say…..
“Homeopathy is bunk”.

Yes in your opinion it is, but this just happens to be a democracy, and if I choose to undergo a “bunk therapy” that just happens to work in my particular case, then I should have the freedom to choose that option without fear of reprisals and incessant criticism and abuse.

Your animosity and biased attitude towards “alternatives” is now well established here and elsewhere, and of course you have the right to hold the views that you do, but that does not give you licence to launch scathing attacks, and make what are essentially sweeping ignorant comments on those things you know nothing about, with just one example being “expensive urine”.

Have a nice day.

Chris: You say ” let me remind you that “alternative healthcare” has been in existence for far far longer than “Modern Medicine”, and is still going strong today”

That is untrue and would not be relevant if it was true. Alternatives to medicine only really start form the time that the consensus view converged on the fact that medical science is the best way of understanding the human body. Before we had scientific medicine, there was nothing to be an alternative to: many different systems of medicine existed based on competing physiological models (meridians, tides, humours and so on). The fact that some of these outmoded ideas persist even though they are proven to be based on entirely wrong understanding of the human body is a testament to the power of human belief, not the validity of the incorrect models.

You say: “this just happens to be a democracy, and if I choose to undergo a “bunk therapy” that just happens to work in my particular case, then I should have the freedom to choose that option without fear of reprisals and incessant criticism and abuse.”

I have no caring what you do in your own home. The problem arises when you advocate your bunk therapy in public. Homeopaths have sent people unprotected into malaria zones. That’s not a free speech issue, it’s criminally irresponsible.

You claim I know nothing about homeopathy. I would suggest that the evidence is against you (again). Your mistake is to think that knowing is believing. I know quite a lot about homeopathy, it is nonsensical and conflicts with every relevant scientific finding so I do not accept it. Same applies to creationism, anti-vaccinationism, 9/11 conspiracies and many other forms of delusion. I learned a lot of this by wading through the reams of argufying on Wikipedia when people try to rewrite articles to be more sympathetic to fringe and crank theories.

Guy, your post which begins………….

“That is untrue and would not be relevant if it was true. Alternatives to medicine only really start form the time that the consensus view…..”.

Is not factually correct, and only your opinion not shared by millions of others, including me.

As long as you understand that.

Thank you.

Chris: “Alternative” medicine is defined by its being an alternative to science-based medicine. Pre-scientific practices pre-date science, but until scientific medicine came along they were all just a rag-bag of whatever folk remedies were used in any particular place.

The establishment of medicine backed by the scientific method is the point at which medical practices – of all kinds – began to be judged by objective tests. Some passed these tests and became part of scientific medicine; some failed and were largely discarded (e.g. bloodletting, purging); and some failed and carried on anyway. That is the point at which they became “alternative”.

And when you look into it you find that a good deal of “alternative” practice is actually not as ancient as people make out. Homeopathy is routinely asserted to have its roots in ancient Greek practice, but the distinctive features of homeopathy were invented from whole cloth by Hahnemann in the late 18th Century. A lot of “traditional” Chinese medical practice owes more to Mao Zedong than Confucius. A lot of new age woo was invented comparatively recently. Orgone was made up in the 1930s, reiki in 1922, chiropractic in 1895, vitamin megadoses in the 1930s, “Miracle Mineral” in 2006 and so on.

In fact history shows a steady stream of bogus medical practices coming and going, for example the patent medicines of the 19th Century or the quackery of Gerson and Hoxsey in the 20th (which is dying out, though not yet dead).

Some has been investigated very thoroughly and is only now arriving at a consensus view; acupuncture, for example, has been subject of over 3,000 papers. It’s especially interesting because before Mao it was dying out in China and had been identified as a superstitious practice to be discouraged, Mao himself did not believe and promoted it only for the “barefoot doctors” as part of the practice to be applied in areas where there was no actual medical infrastructure. The consensus view now is that if there is any benefit it is too small to be clinically useful. Meridians are obviously bunk, and the therapeutic irrelevance of acupuncture points was established relatively early, but now a range of studies with fake needles and other controls has shown that there is no consistent or specific effect; there may be some weak transient effect form nerve stimulation but it is not consistent or evidently clinically useful. So, far from discounting it because it’s “alternative”, science investigated carefully, though the eventual conclusion is no useful effect. Homeopathy was rejected even by NCCAM some time ago because the evidence, such as it is, is much weaker than for acupuncture, and the hypothecated mechanism of action is completely inconsistent with all known facts.

The fact remains that until the scientific method was developed and applied to medicine, there was no alternative medicine because there was nothing for it to be alternative to.

Guy,
“The fact remains that until the scientific method was developed and applied to medicine, there was no alternative medicine because there was nothing for it to be alternative to”.

Try suffering and death as an alternative to alternatives.

Chris: That comment may embody one of a number of popular misconceptions. For example, some alties claim that cancer and heart disease were unknown before modern medicine. This is nonsense: both cancer and atherosclerosis are seen in the fossil record going back tens of thousands of years, it’s just that people usually died of something else first. It may be a reference to the supposed suffering that medicine inflicts, which is founded on counting every woe and ignoring every benefit. Would you rather have the occasional palpitation due to asthma medication or drown in your own lung fluid? Your call.

So please do tell me on what basis you make this almost certainly spurious claim.

Guy,
hello again.
“some alties claim that cancer and heart disease were unknown before modern medicine”.

yes and quite incorrectly; you do get some weirdos amongst us whackos I’m afraid. No system is perfect of course.

“Would I rather have the occasional palpitation due to asthma medication or drown in your own lung fluid? Your call.”

Now come on Guy, you don’t really expect me to answer that do you?

“So please do tell me on what basis you make this almost certainly spurious claim”.

You wouldn’t believe me if I did, so there is no point in going there, and just to start another round of endless mud-slinging posts.

Chris: How many times are you going to leave?

No of course I don’t expect you to answer a direct question about known benefits and side effects of a drug, and the known risks of the condition itself.

But I would believe you if you stated the basis for your assertion; that is, I would believe that you do indeed believe it. Obviously I am unlikely to take any claim you make at face value, that is a different matter: the basis on which you make the claim is the basis on which you make the claim, whether it is right or wrong is a separate matter.

A rather belated response Guy to your claim that: “some alties claim that cancer and heart disease were unknown before modern medicine. This is nonsense: both cancer and atherosclerosis are seen in the fossil record going back tens of thousands of years, it’s just that people usually died of something else first”.

AND……….
“So please do tell me on what basis you make this almost certainly spurious claim”.

Cancer was known thousands of years ago Guy that is true, but was very rare in comparison to its prevalence now. Cancer is therefore looked upon now as a “modern man-made disease”, and another nail in the coffin for you altie, debunker skeptics.

The year 1900: Cancer caused only 3 out of 100 deaths in the
US. Breast cancer was basically unheard of.

– Food manufacturers began developing “better living
through chemistry” products like artificial sweeteners
(saccharin), taste additives (MSG), partially hydrogenated
vegetable shortening and margarine.

– Refined white sugar (acid and fat on a spoon) replaced
molasses as the leading sweetener in the American diet.

1911: A grain-milling process was discovered that strips
away the germ and outer layers of wheat grain (where the
nutrients are). The result: Nutrient-poor, acid-creating
white bread and refined white flour.

1921: General Mills invented a character named Betty
Crocker to convince Americans to eat more processed foods
(and increase the company’s stock value).

1935: Only one case of cancer had been reported in the
last 50 years by the Inuit (Eskimo) people of Alaska and
Canada. After they began eating processed foods, their
cancer rate exploded until it equaled that of the US by the
1970’s.

1938: From now until 1990, the average male sperm count
will drop by nearly half, and testicular cancer will triple.

1949: After being unheard of 49 years ago, the breast
cancer rate is now 58 out of every 100,000 women.

1950: From now to the year 2000, the overall cancer rate
will go up 55%. (Lung cancer due to smoking is only 1/4 of
that.) Breast and colon cancer will go up 60%, brain
cancer 80% and childhood cancer will increase 20%.

1970: Americans spend $6 billion on fast food. By 2001,
that will skyrocket to $110 billion.

1971: The US Congress declares its “War on Cancer” which
has done virtually nothing to stop the growing rates of
cancer in the US in the next 30+ years.

– The US Department of Agriculture wrote “An Evaluation of
Research in the US on Human Nutrition; Report No. 2,
Benefits From Nutrition Research” which blamed the lack of
nutrients in the American diet for most major health
problems. That report was banned from public view for 21
years, reportedly at the insistence of the processed food
industry.

1973: From now to 1991, prostate cancer will go up 126%.

1982: Teenage boys drink twice as much milk as soda. By
2002, they will be drinking twice as much soda as milk.

1990: From now to 2005, over 120,000 new processed foods
will be developed to join the 320,000 processed foods
already on the store shelves.

2000: Cancer is now the cause of 20 out of 100 of all
deaths in the US, compared to just 3 out of 100 in 1900.

2001: Americans spend $110 billion a year on fast food.
Every single day, 1 out of 4 Americans eats at least one
meal in a fast food restaurant.

2005: Breast cancer, which was extremely rare back in
1900 and only affected 58 out of 100,000 women in 1949, now
strikes 1 in 3 women in the US. That means that in just 55
short years, it has gone up 568 times what it was. Scary.
Must be a virus, huh? Or our DNA has changed a lot, huh?

History speaks for itself. If you want to be alive into
your golden years and stay pain and disease-free, stay the
hell away from processed foods of any kind. That includes
boxed, bagged, canned or jarred foods, fast food, soda and
bottled sweetened drinks.

Jack La Lanne (who is 93, but looks about 70) has an easy
rule. Here it is: “If man made it, don’t eat it.”

Guy, you said………..
“That is untrue and would not be relevant if it was true. Alternatives to medicine only really start form the time that the consensus view converged on the fact that medical science is the best way of understanding the human body”.

Nonsense, absolute and sheer nonsense. TCM has been around for thousands of years as has Ayurveda Medicine, and very successful they are too. (do some research).

Without doubt Modern Medicine has contributed much to our understanding of the human body, but not exclusively.
Tell me this: if Modern Medicine understands the human body so well, why do millions of people have to suffer the indignity of a lifetime of managed chronic disease, or that so many people still die of cancer and heart disease? or that Wavechange has to “live with” his asthma, and without his medication he would suffer; “live with” does not mean “cure”.

In addition, Modern Medicine has only had 50 years to cure cancer, after spending $billions, and the war against it was announced by President Nixon all those years ago.
Yes, they understand it so very well that it makes a very good living, by living off the suffering of others.
Not exactly the hallowed ground of worship and efficacy that you pretend it to be.

Chrisb

I’m very happy with my conventional medicines. They are not expensive, have no obvious side-effects and they help me live a normal life. It is comforting that if the need arose, I could take larger or more frequent doses without harm. Forty years ago I had a drug that offered only temporary relief and was known to be dangerous if over-used. We have moved on. I am confident that a scientific approach will bring us better drugs and perhaps a cure for the condition I suffer from.

As I have mentioned, I have had placebo therapy – in the form of cough linctus. It did not work.

Please don’t use my case to support the need for homeopathy or other worthless treatment.

Wavechange,
yes I am sure you are happy with the “meds” you are taking for your asthma, and that they do manage this disease very well, as long as you realise you are a “repeat customer” and are totally dependent on them. That is your choice of course, but it wouldn’t be mine. I could give you some advice as to how you can achieve permanent remission from asthmatic symptoms and attacks, but this would of course be to no avail, esp’ with Guy on the prowl.
Look into homeopathic remedies for asthma. Start with aconitum napthallus (aconite), a microdilution of the monkshood herb. It is good first aid for an asthma attack. Taking lots of vitamin C (bowel tolerance) will negate your need for even this natural remedy, however.

Of course all this tooing and froing isn’t achieving anything, plus I am becoming a little sick and tired now of the rants from Guy, who dismisses anything considered to be “Alternative” or “Complementary” or even “Integrative Medicine” or whatever “label” he likes to use.

Guys post and opinions on Supplements and Nutraceuticals actually made me laugh out loud, and esp’ the part where he stated that all they do is produce “expensive urine”, which of course flies in the face of the actual scientific evidence, which is voluminous. Do some impartial and objective research Guy and you will discover this for yourself. On second thoughts you probably will not, because you dare not discover and admit you were wrong, and “losing face” just isn’t the done thing. What would your peers think of you? My goodness.

I am done here now because of the intransigent opinions which are sourced in your very narrow minded and closed minds: not the hallmark of a scientist, or anyone else for that matter who is willing to investigate the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Bye Bye.

Chris: Asthma is not currently curable, but it is treatable. It may one day be curable. The only thing we can be sure of is that homeopathy won’t cure it and can’t treat it, and it’s pretty unlikely that any intervention outside of science-based medicine will do either – and the thing that will show whether any intervention works or not will be the scientific method.

There is nothing intransigent about insisting on proper standards of evidence and decent scientific investigation. Rational debate is all about the scientific method and rigorous standards of proof. Intransigence is where you insist that things are true where they are contradicted by the bulk of the available evidence, and where there is no rational explanation for them.

chrisb

You might be surprised to know that in my younger days I did try taking large doses of vitamin C for an extended period, as recommended by Linus Pauling. That was before I was taking effective treatment for asthma. I noticed no effect and it certainly did not stop me getting colds. I visit my pharmacist once a month to pick up my medications, but the last time I had a problem with asthma was nearly 20 years ago. Some people have to wear glasses to see properly, and I have to take drugs to prevent the symptoms of asthma.

Guy,
you are most likely right of course that homeopathy would not be a successful therapy against asthma: I wouldn’t know, but then I am sure a classical homeopath would be able to give a definitive answer.

However, this is the experience of one MD in the United States who is considered to be an expert in his chosen field……………………….

“A significant number of medical investigations have uncovered that, just like other diseases, people develop asthma and allergies for reasons. Asthma and allergies have been linked to nutritional factors:

Low levels of fresh fruits and flavonoids[iii]
Fried foods, protein-rich and fat-rich foods of animal origin[iv]
Low blood levels of fruit and vegetable derived antioxidants[v]
Dietary fatty acid imbalance—an excess of omega-6 over omega-3 fats[vi]
Increased intake of high saturated fat foods (meat, cheese and butter)[vii]
Bread and butter consumption, lower vegetable intake [viii]
My experience in working with hundreds of patients attempting to resolve asthma and allergies has been rewarding. The asthmatics gradually improve, and the allergic patients slowly reduce the severity of their allergies and many become entirely non-allergic. Many patients who had strong allergies to cats, dust mites and pollen, no longer have these sensitivities. From a combination of dietary advice and a limited amount of nutritional supplements, most people start to improve their condition in a few months. I have even had patients who surprisingly continued to be allergic a year late,r and then after about 20 months following my recommendations, their allergies faded away. Recoveries are the rule and not the exception”……………………..
http://www.drfuhrman.com/disease/Other.aspx

[iii]Shaheen SO, Sterne JA, Thompson RL, et al. Dietary antioxidants and asthma in adults: population-based case-control study. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2001;164(10 Pt 1):1823-8.
[iv] Huang SL, Lin KC, Pan WH. Dietary factors associated with physician-diagnosed asthma and allergic rhinitis in teenagers: analyses of the first Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan. Clin Exp Allergy 2001 Feb;31(2):259-64.
[v]Seaton A, Devereux G. Diet, infection and wheezy illness: lessons from adults. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2000;11 Suppl 13:37-40.
[vi] Oddy WH; de Klerk NH; Kendall GE et al. Ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and childhood asthma. J Asthma 2004;41(3):319-26.
[vii] Huang SL, Pan WH. Dietary fats and asthma in teenagers: analyses of the first Nutrition and Health Survey in Taiwan (NAHSIT). Clin Exp Allergy 2001 Dec;31(12):1875-80.
[viii] Farchi S, Forastiere F, Agabiti N, et al. Dietary factors associated with wheezing and allergic rhinitis in children. Eur Respir J 2003 Nov;22(5):772-80.

Now before you shoot me down in flames Guy, this is the experience of this MD with scores of testimonials from his patients to support this experience, and yes I know there are no RCT’s in sight, but experience does count for an awful lot. This is also how we learn as well.

As this is Wimbledon fortnight the ball is now back in your court, but please be civil.

Thank you.

Chris: There is no credible evidence that homeopathy is an effective therapy for anything, so it’s fair to say it’s not effective for asthma. A classical homeopath is the last person you should ask; that would be like asking Ken Ham whether the earth is really only six thousand years old.

I will ignore your appeal to authority since we’ve already been over that fallacy dozens of times. Suffice it to say that one man’s opinion is just that: one man’s opinion, however expert (Einstein disputed quantum statistical mechanics and the uncertainty principle; he was the cleverest man on the planet and he was still wrong). The test is: what is the scientific consensus.

The scientific consensus on asthma is, as far as I know, that it is primarily genetic, that there are environmental triggers that can provoke onset, and there are some interesting associations with early exposure to bacteria and antibiotics which are not fully understood.

As with any cyclical condition, it is easy prey for quacks. I don’t see any significant discussion of the role of diet as a primary preventive treatment, as Fuhrman advocates. It’s rather up to him to do the science and publish it properly (i.e. not “Alternative Therapies” and other junk journals). As an asthmatic, I will be interested to see decent sized studies when they appear in NEJM or somewhere of comparable quality. He has a few publications in reputable journals but with tiny sample sizes, so these come under the heading of “early results” – and we know form long experience that early results are generally wrong in magnitude and quite often in sign.

Wavechange,
be interested to know the “type” of Vitamin C you were taking as this can make a difference; ascorbic acid, (upsets the stomach in more than small doses) or magnesium ascorbate, or sodium ascorbate and so on.
Did you get to the bowel tolerance level (maximum saturation) and if not then I understand why it didn’t work.
I am not saying anything about what you should or could do, just curious.

chrisb

It was a long time ago. I cannot remember the composition of the ‘vitamin C’, but the dose was much greater than the RDA. The pKa of L-ascorbic acid is around 4, so in the presence of gastric acid, the salt will essentially be protonated to produce the free acid. In layman’s language, that means that it does not matter which form you take. Please don’t believe what you read on websites intended for the general public.

Chris: Vitamin C is ascorbic acid. Mineral ascorbates are not vitamin C, they are salts of ascorbic acid which are metabolised into vitamin C.

There is at best weak evidence that high doses of vitamin C can be beneficial for certain conditions in combination with other therapies, but in general the effect of excess consumption of vitamin C is that it is excreted – the body has a well developed homeostasis mechanism.

A 2010 Cochrane Review concluded:

“The failure of vitamin C supplementation to reduce the incidence of colds in the general population indicates that routine prophylaxis is not justified. Vitamin C could be useful for people exposed to brief periods of severe physical exercise. While the prophylaxis trials have consistently shown that vitamin C reduces the duration and alleviates the symptoms of colds, this was not replicated in the few therapeutic trials that have been carried out.”

In other words, people expect to feel better so they do – a placebo effect.

It’s simply an effect of pH, Guy. Not metabolism.

Indeed Guy,
A Vitamin C lesson no less…………..

Vitamin C (Ascorbate) IS ascorbic acid, and is a small molecule similar in structure to the sugar glucose. It is composed of six carbon atoms, six oxygen atoms and eight hydrogen atoms, all linked together by chemical bonds. It is actually a weak acid, also known as ascorbate and l-ascorbic acid. It is common for food supplements to consist of the salt forms such as: sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, or magnesium ascorbate; these are neutral or slightly alkaline rather than acid and actually easier on the stomach, and therefore better tolerated in higher doses, and the reason I asked Wavechange which form of Vitamin C he had been taking. This was a question directed to him so I’m not sure why you saw the need to intervene.

There is actually very strong evidence that ascorbate is beneficial in certain conditions and with or without a combination of other substances.
Vitamin C does not act in the same way as a typical drug, or even as a micronutrient and the negativity that surrounds its use stems from a lack of knowledge about the way it works within the body; the importance of dosage, so if too LOW or INFREQUENT a dose is used, then little benefit can be expected.

The Cochrane Review you mention fits neatly into this approach: too low and infrequent a dose.

I suggest you do your own research on “The Dynamic Flow Model” as explained by Dr Steve Hickey PhD. (Medical Biophysicist) and Hilary Roberts PhD. in their book “Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C”

The reason I return Guy is because of your sweeping and erroneous statements such as………….

“people expect to feel better so they do – a placebo effect.”

This is just one study of which there are many many more of course………….
http://www.cam.ac.uk/news/vitamin-c-associated-with-reduced-mortality-risk

You would do well to conduct some of your own research concerning: Albert Szent-Gyorgyi and Robert Klenner MD as well as many others in the field of ascorbate research, but the most abundant information can be found in the book I mentioned earlier.

Happy reading

Chris: Once again you cite a single positive paper as if it overwhelms the consensus based on systematic review of many papers. You’ve been told this form of cherry-picking is illogical and wrong, and why, so please stop doing it.

The quote I gave comes from a Cochrane review. Cochrane reviews survey all of the evidence – including that from proponents, provided it meets the required standards. There are other papers that show an increased mortality from high dose vitamins in cancer patients.

As Ben Goldacre memorably put it: “I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that”.

chrisb

Ascorbic acid and glucose have little in common. Please stay away from posting about chemistry and biochemistry as scientists might not take you seriously.

Incidentally, vitamin C is just one enantiomer of ascorbic acid – the one that is biologically active.

This is totally irrelevant to homeopathy, never mind the intended debate about pharmacy and homeopathy. I’m going to leave the discussion for the time being.

Wavechange,
“Ascorbic acid and glucose have little in common.”

I didn’t say they did. Please read my post again for a correct understanding.
Thanks.

I don’t appreciate the tone of this and other comments made to me. As I have said, I want to leave our discussion.

I will leave you with this to ponder:

Education – a cure for all forms of ignorance.

Warnings – a little learning is a dangerous thing

Side-effects – may cause others to show respect.

With apologies to our moderators and acknowledgement to Alexander Pope.

That makes sense – point remains, the majority of claims made for vitamin megadoses are evidentially unsupportable. As indeed are most SCAM claims.

Absolutely. Unfortunately, since vitamins have an established biochemical role, we have misguided people trying to persuade us to take more than we need – which just happens to be a way of exploiting people’s ignorance and gullibility to make money.

It’s amazing that some see the answer as effectively taking nothing (as in homeopathy) or in taking megadoses of vitamins.

Wavechange: Yes. The worried well are a fertile market for hucksters. Unfortunately the hucksters continue to press their bill of goods when their marks become genuinely ill, and that’s when real harm gets done. Actually I think there is a real harm in failure to apply critical thought, but that is debatable whereas the harm of relying on ineffective treatments is clear.

Guy,
“That makes sense – point remains, the majority of claims made for vitamin megadoses are evidentially unsupportable. As indeed are most SCAM claims”.

Then you have not read or done any research into the science as laid down in bucketloads here:
Dr Steve Hickey PhD. (Medical Biophysicist) and Hilary Roberts PhD. in their book “Ascorbate: The Science of Vitamin C”.

I suppose this “gullibility” also applies to “optimized” levels of Vitamin D, but then what would you know about that?
Nothing it seems.

The denialism here is absolutely amazing, but understandable from the two of you.

Chris: Yes I have. You are cherry-picking opinions you like, I am looking at the consensus view from systematic analysis of all results. This is a consistent enough source of conflict between us that I don’t think it needs further expansion.

Guy,
“Once again you cite a single positive paper as if it overwhelms the consensus based on systematic review of many papers”.

There are some definite comprehension issues here, and it is most certainly not coming from my side.

What I actually said, was that this was just ONE example, or would you like me to post on the HUNDREDS of examples, and create a headache for Patrick and his colleagues?

As Dr Milgrom pointed out, evading/ignoring an issue is a typical skeptic tactic, as exemplified by the two of you.

I’ll say it again: read and study the volumes of science on ascorbate in the book I have quoted by Dr Steve Hickey and Hillary Roberts. Dear oh dear.!!

Read the Science and then come back and tell me I am wrong.
I don’t think.

Chris: Like I said, you cherry pick the studies that agree with your agenda, which nobody denies exist (though are of – ahem – variable quality). I cited a Cochrane review, which is a balanced summary of all the evidence. As I say, this is a constant in this debate and does not need further expansion.

The one thing this Conversation has demonstrated to me beyond all scientific dispute is that the subject of homeopathy, like that of nutritional therapy, certainly puts more hours in the day, and suppresses the other irksome activities, of those who have become addicted to it. For this mixed blessing we should be duly grateful and content that enough is now enough.

Guy,
with reference to your comment that supplements only produce “expensive urine”…………
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-06-poor-eyesight-rectified-nutrition-eye.html

Cheers.

You ake my point very well.

“Professors John Nolan from the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) and Stephen Beatty from the Macular Pigment Research Group (MPRG), both based in Ireland, are considered to be the world-leading researchers in this field. They are about to embark on an area of science research, which has not been investigated before. This follows recent news of a landmark study by the National Eye Institute, which examined the effects of eye supplements over a five-year period in over 4,000 patients with AMD. The findings of the AREDS2 (‘Related Eye Disease Study 2’) confirmed the beneficial impact of using antioxidant eye supplements for AMD, and notably, highlighted the importance of including the macular pigments in the supplement.
Professor Nolan has been researching macular pigments for many years. He says: ‘I always believed that these nutrients had an important role to play for patients with AMD. Indeed, many of our published research studies have already shown that increasing macular pigment with supplements is very beneficial for AMD patients and can actually improve their vision.'”

So, people have been promoting something for years with a confident claim, believers have been researching it for years, and only now are they about to embark on something that will actually find out if it works, and if so why and how well.

SCAM proponents will see this as a ringing endorsement of every claim ever made by any supplement vendor, science fans will see it as yet another example of science looking carefully to see if something is true, rather than assuming it is and trying to prove it.

And of course we will also see it as yet another example of tabloid sensationalism, portraying an early result and a press release form an institution looking for cash, as if it were the result of the process rather than what it really is, an early step in a process that *may* provide a useful outcome.

Part of the problem, of course, is that with supplements being exempt form any need to provide actual evidence, the manufacturers do not actually have to do any science. R&D in “Big Herba” is a fraction of the level in “Big Pharma”, and advertising spend correspondingly higher as a proportion of revenue. For some reason, advocates of the naturalistic fallacy don’t appear to accept that this is a problem.

Right, I am off to sing Bach. BWV50 is a beast for the first basses, so wish me luck.

Guy,
you really do have a “bee in your bonnet” about this don’t you?

Just calm down and we’ll get on just fine.

Just one comment from your post………………….

” tabloid sensationalism”.

You had better inform medicalexpress that they engage in “tabloid sensationalism” and see what they have to say on that!!
Get back to me when you receive a response.

No bees in bonnets. No lack of calm.

Yes, tabloid sensationalism. It is a very well established fact that press reports of medical advances are almost always grossly exaggerated.

That’s quite a response Guy, so I must have ruffled some feathers.

I wonder how Dr Hickey would take to being described as a “scam proponent”?

I suggest we call it quits now Guy, as we are not going to see “eye to eye” on health matters at all.

My future participation here (assuming the thread is not closed by Patrick) entirely depends on whether you make further outlandish posts on such things as “expensive urine” and so on.

I’m willing to call a truce if you are, and I’ll even go as far as to say you can have the last word if you would like to.

No feathers ruffled, I see it as a public service trying to explain to you how science works. I hope that eventually the penny will drop. I love science, me.