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Homeopathy: pharmacists dispense with professional guidance

Homeopathy remedy

As soon as you talk about homeopathy, it divides opinion. But the debate raises wider issues when some pharmacists fail to explain there’s no clinical evidence that certain alternative remedies work, like homeopathy.

There are people who swear by homeopathic remedies, and everyone’s entitled to their opinion. However, if you ask your pharmacist whether a homeopathic remedy works you’d expect their response to be based on scientific evidence. This is the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) official advice:

‘The pharmacist should advise on the lack of evidence on the efficacy of homeopathic products… and provide advice relevant to the patient’s condition.’

Some pharmacists say homeopathy works

However, in our snapshot investigation, 13 out of the 20 pharmacies our trained mystery shoppers visited failed to follow this guidance. For example, one pharmacist said that homeopathy does work and another said it’s very good and will help. The RPS does not endorse homeopathy as a form of treatment. And even though membership of the RPS is voluntary, our expert panel was clear that any pharmacist who recommends a homeopathic remedy should make it clear it’s their personal opinion.

On visits rated satisfactory and good by our expert panel, pharmacists were very clear about the lack of evidence. One said, ‘it’s all anecdotal, you know, it’s homeopathy, so there’s no science behind it.’

Separate personal experiences from professional advice

There was also no excuse for pharmacists who did not give the correct advice when asked about homeopathic treatment for a cough that had lasted over a month. 17 of them failed to spot this potentially serious undiagnosed condition – only three advised us to see a GP when asked for a homeopathic remedy for this cough. And our visits actually took place during a nationwide NHS campaign urging people to see their GP if they’d had a cough for more than three weeks.

We have to be able to rely on pharmacists to give us clarity over what we buy. It may be difficult if they have personally had positive experiences with homeopathic treatment. But they need to clearly separate the anecdotal, and their own views, from the evidence base. That surely has to be the hallmark of professionalism.

Should pharmacists only recommend remedies backed by scientific evidence?

Yes - pharmacists should only recommend remedies backed by science (68%, 715 Votes)

Maybe - as long as pharmacists make clear it's just their personal opinion (17%, 179 Votes)

No - pharmacists should be free to recommend any remedy, including homeopathy (15%, 158 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,052

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Robin says:
30 May 2013

Chris, for the purpose of clarity let me explain. Your post accused someone of making up the term surgical oncologist, you made (or maybe just repeated?) incorrect assumptions about the origin of the name Orac, you later used the words ” you do love with coming up with these terms”. I interpreted that as suggesting Guy invented the term. I did say I was struggling to understand your meaning to hopefully put the reason for my question in context. Your reply has made it clear you didn’t mean to suggest Guy invented the term, and I hope you realise now why I read it that way. I am sure I don’t always make my points crystal clear, but it is important we strive to do so. Even when we understand each others points there is obviously still a gulf between our interpretation of the evidence – if we can minimise that gulf by clearer communication it can only be to the good.

indeed quackery is a real and serious problem, but that depends on what you mean by quackery and to whom or what do you level that accusation.
Predictably, in short, and for you and people like you, it means anything that is not Mainstream. So in your opinion, and if you allow yourself to be honest with yourself, anything outside of Mainstream is therefore quackery, and despite the studies and scientific evidence to the contrary.
A very narrow-minded viewpoint.

WHICH conducted this survey of Pharmacists to assess the advice given out of Pharmacists, not to examine the efficacy or otherwise of Homeopathy. Any critique should therefore be centered around any Pharmacists and not the remedy.

WHICH have merely taken the stance as laid down by the RPS and no other source as if the RPS’s advice and recommendations are the only source of reliable and accurate information

This point…..
“There is nothing flippant or irresponsible about addressing quackery”: is absolutely true, and where I would endorse that recommendation, but this depends entirely on what exactly is construed as quackery. Thousands if not millions of believe that Homeopathy is not quackery and because of its use as a remedy in addressing their ailments, unless of course all of these users are prone to be gullible and allow the placebo effect to dominate: a condescending and patronizing viewpoint.

What you identify as “crank” websites do actually provide truthful information, although I must admit that some of them are prone to sensationalism, and if you had bothered to read/study any of them this would substantiate my point; but your mindset will not allow you to do so because you
have determine a priori what they are and how they operate and the information that they contain.
Not a very intelligent or impartial approach I must say.
I also understand why this is the case, because this would greatly undermine your “belief system” and challenge your preconceived notions and ideas about health and disease.

Splitting hairs again……………..
“And you keep asserting that crank websites provide truthful information. They don’t. As with the reports of the King case, the news reports say that NCAHF produced witnesses who lacked credibility, the crank websites say the court found Barrett lacked credibility, which is not what the court found”.

The end result was the same though Guy, and something you are in denial of: Barrett and his associate were found to be biased with no credibility by the Court, not least of which was the fact that Barrett had been out of medicine for so long, he did not know what he was talking about.
FACT: Barrett has lost almost ALL of the court cases he has brought against any alternative therapy because of this, and not because of the lack of efficacy of the therapy.

If there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine, then that would be fine of course, but Caroline was reporting an association or possible link; the studies that have found there not be a causal association were slanted studies designed to fail, where there are at least 5 independent studies in 5 separate countries that have provided identical findings to that of Andrew Wakefield.
I refer to an earlier post of mine where there has been no studies to compare those who are vaccinated and those that were not, so pray tell how we can eliminate the possible causal effect unless any serious studies are conducted.
It is not in the interest of the vaccine manufacturers to discover any link, because this would make them liable to offer financial compensation in damages if proven, whilst having a devastating effect on their profits.
You haven’t learnt anything if you haven’t yet realised that money is the name of the game here. I f you really believe that vaccine manufacturers have the sole interests of humanity at heart, and that their income is only secondary to disease-prevention then you are deluded.

I would agree with you here………………
“There is no scientific evidence that vaccination causes autism”, but you omitted “as yet”.

Let me remind you, the anti-vaccination lobby exists because of the overwhelming and common experience and consensus of those who have experienced their children suffering from various kinds of damage shortly after vaccinations, when prior to this the children were of normal development.

It really is that simple. The purported link is partly the understandable application of the post-hoc fallacy (ignoring the fact that in most cases the autistic behaviour is actually identifiable pre-hoc), and partly a deliberate fabrication by the antivaccination lobby who will do anything to stop the march of vaccination.

Strange how the incidence of autism has grown incrementally with the increasing use of vaccines though isn’t it? Coincidental perhaps?
The main reason why anyone talks about vaccines and autism is that some parents have noticed changes in children shortly after the children were vaccinated. Their kids seemed to be developing normally, then suddenly stopped interacting with people and lost language abilities — a condition called “regressive” autism.
Scientists often hedge about saying whether their findings prove or disprove anything. That’s because the scientific method proceeds by constantly modifying theories rather than accumulating “proofs.”
“Until scientists can prove exactly what causes autism, it’s difficult to definitively disprove anything”…………….Lee Sanders, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine,

Whatever else, autism rates continue to rise, and unless the medical community discover the actual cause, any correlation between vaccines and autism cannot and should be discounted.

Hoodwinked? who me? no…………………..just open-minded, which some here are most definitely not.

Chris, you are the polar opposite of open-minded, because you reject out of hand any claim made with the basis of credible scientific evidence but accept without question the claims of people with an obvious agenda, just because you are sympathetic towards the agenda.

In respect of vaccines, you have been had. The antivaxers pretend that every single VAERS report is a provable damaging effect of a vaccine, but they are wrong. And not accidentally wrong, since it is trivially easy to find out the truth. The HPV figures to 2009 demonstrate this perfectly. 44 fatality VAERS reports track to 29 actual deaths, not one of which was actually attributable to the vaccine.

VAERS is deliberately conservative, in a way you assert the medical establishment is not. It tracks any adverse health event which occurs after a vaccine is given. These are then analysed for patterns and where there is anything prompting concern the cases are investigated in detail. That’s how they know that the HPV vaccine doesn’t kill, though it may cause fainting.

HPV vaccine preventable cancers kill 15,000 women every year in the US alone. That’s a nasty, drawn out, painful death. Even if the worst case estimates were true, it would still be good odds. But the worst case estimates aren’t true because they are not honest.

Same applies to the “vaccine-autism link”. All the evidence points to it not being vaccines. The causes appear to be genetic, and onset appears to be well before the vaccine schedule. If some link is found at some point in the future, it will only account for a tiny handful of cases of diagnosed autism because almost all cases right now can be established before the vaccines. These vaccines prevent thousands of deaths of children every year. You are ignoring the benefit, ignoring the death toll from preventable disease before vaccines, in order to promote a hypothetical risk which is looking less and less likely with time.

Nor is the antivaccine story consistent, except in that it’s always the vaccines. They claimed it was thiomersal, but after thiomersal was removed there was no change in autism diagnosis rates. Another ad-hoc hypothesis was generated, and the chelation cranks carried on their trade regardless. It is hard to express how wrong it is to subject a child to chelation therapy when there is absolutely no credible evidence that their condition has any root in heavy metal toxicity. Provoked testing is an invalid and exploitative practice.

Yet people will do these bizarre and harmful things to their children based on the claims of people whose reputation rests on rejecting anything that can be scientifically proven, if it runs counter to their preconceived ideas. And scientists are supposedly the closed-minded ones. Go figure.

And your agenda is pretty obvious when one examines your defence of Wakefield. His work was fraudulent, clearly so, yet you still apparently believe it and disbelieve the scientific consensus.

There is nothing anybody can do to make you less angry about the application of the scientific consensus, if you refuse to accept it for what it is. There’s a lot of history in agenda-driven denial of scientific consensus: the tobacco industry, the chemical industry over CFCs, the power industry over acid rain and global climate change. They were all, like you, unshakeably convinced that they alone bore the truth, but they were all wrong, and increasingly obviously so.

The idea that because science can’t disprove something, it should be assumed to be true and action taken which brings easily quantifiable and significant risks, rather than action which introduces small and hypothetical risks, is simply not rational.

I believe I am as open-minded as anyone, but you you are placing words in my mouth that I have never said or uttered. I absolutely do not reject out of hand any claim made with the basis of credible scientific evidence at all, in fact I do accept Mainstream (credible?) or any other evidence if as a result of that evidence a particular therapy or treatment modality is demonstrated to work.

I am dubious/skeptical of many mainstream scientific trials and studies, because of bias and to which Ben Goladacre has alluded to, such as “ghost writers” and only publishing those studies that are shown to be favorable to a drugs outcome whilst disregarding the rest which are not. When will you ever realize that profit is the name of the game and health comes in a not very close second.
Just one example is the use of Nutritional Medicine or Orthomolecular Medicine which has been proven to be effective against disease but discounted by Mainstream through bias. The therapeutic use of Nutraceuticals and Vitamin D3 would be a case in point.

The only agenda I have is: “does it work and is it effective”, although people do not generally suffer from a drug-deficiency over a nutritional deficiency.

No Guy, I am open-minded enough to realize a possible link between vaccination and autism: I have an open mind on the issue, as did Andrew Wakefield when he suggested a “possible link” requiring further investigation into the causes of “regressive autism” which occurred coincidentally after vaccinations.

You may believe what you wish, as I have the right to believe what I wish re’ any health modality, but what I object to quite strongly is the gradual erosion of my health-freedoms by vested interests, that do not agree with millions of people who wish to pursue that avenue of therapy.

You are clutching at straws now, so I would give up while you are still behind.

HPV vaccine may and probably is very effective against cancer, but you are missing the point: and that POINT is: the legacy for many who are damaged by vaccines; the forgotten minority in favor of the majority. This is not acceptable and never will be.

One more point though is that Vaccination is NOT Immunization, so I would advise you to read the book with the same title by Tim O’Shea (2013 edition) and supported by the relevant science.
There is only one kind of immunity and that is natural immunity which is achieved by battling the infectious diseases itself. Vaccination is merely the artificial triggering of temporary responses to manmade pathogens. Vaccines also do not provide long-term immunity: only temporary at best.

Have a nice day.

Chris: OK, so you only reject out of hand the scientific consensus view in respect of anything discussed here to date, where it conflicts with your ideology. I concede that does leave you agreeing with the science where convenient. So you reject the strong consensus that vaccines prevent serious and fatal disease, you reject the strong consensus that they do not cause autism, but you selectively accept the fact that immunity is not always permanent and that there can be rare side effects.

The result of course is even more biased than if you rejected all the science. And that, unfortunately, is a consequence of the undermining of science by vested interests in he last few decades, leading to a popular belief that science is just an opinion rather than the truth, which is that science represents the best way we have of understanding the universe.

Guy, you say……………..
“I only reject out of hand the scientific consensus view in respect of anything discussed here to date, where it conflicts with your ideology”.

I didn’t say that. You are just playing on words and meanings now which doesn’t amount to much.
I actually agree with the science if it is proven to work, and work effectively, and wherever it is sourced: remember, I mentioned: “According to the US government’s Office of Technology Assessment (US OTA) — only 10% to 20% of all procedures currently used in medical practice are supported by controlled clinical studies. That’s it — just 10-20 percent”!

So much of Medical practice is based on faith and hope. Take the case of SSRI’s, which are said to work on the theory of “correcting chemical imbalances”. The efficacy of SSRIs in mild or moderate cases of depression has been disputed.[3][4][5]………………………..
^ a b c Jay C. Fournier, MA; Robert J. DeRubeis, PhD; Steven D. Hollon, PhD; Sona Dimidjian, PhD; Jay D. Amsterdam, MD; Richard C. Shelton, MD; Jan Fawcett, MD (January 2010). “Antidepressant Drug Effects and Depression Severity”. The Journal of the American Medical Association 303 (1): 47–53. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1943. PMID 20051569.
^ a b Kramer, Peter (7 Sept 2011). “In Defense of Antidepressants”. The New York Times. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
^ a b Ronald Pies, MD (April 2010). “Antidepressants Work, Sort of-Our System of Care Does Not”. Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 30 (2): 101–104. PMID 20520282. Text “doi:10.1097/JCP.0b013e3181d52dea” ignored (help)

A Duke University study recently discovered that exercise (yes exercise) is equally if not more effective at combating depression than Prozac. So why take a poison when you can exercise your way out of depression.

So all in all the scientific support for medical procedures is lacking in 80% of cases and procedures. So this is what you refer to as “science”?

Yes, the truth is that science is our best way forward in understanding the Universe, but unfortunately this is not the case with “Medical Science”.

Here’s another whopper……………
If Medicine relies on science then why the following?…………………………..

As the 5-year relative survival rate for cancer in Australia is now over 60%, it is clear that cytotoxic chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival. To justify the continued funding and availability of drugs used in cytotoxic chemotherapy, a rigorous evaluation of the cost-effectiveness and impact on quality of life is urgently required.

PMID: 15630849 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]


Chris: Incidentally, your comment in being open-minded enough to recognise a possible link between vaccines and autism? It rings hollow. Science was open-minded enough to consider the possibility of a link, so it investigated very carefully and not only found none but found strong disco firming evidence. Then you cite websites to support your claim to open-minded view which start from the premise that there is a link,quote-mine the sources, and conclude, hey presto, that there’s a link. Even though the sources conclude there isn’t.

Which, to wrestle it back more or less on topic, is precisely how homeopaths go about the pretence of scientific support for homeopathy. Which may well Elaine why homeopathy and anti vaccination activism are so often associated, since both employ similarly relentless disregard for the obvious.

‘there is a comprehension issue here: you refer to selected studies that disproved a possible link between vaccinations and autism, but I referred to studies that suggested there is a possible link and corroborated Andrew Wakefields findings.
Therefore the findings are inconclusive, and until such time as this link can be actually proven or not, then that “possible link” should not be discounted. This is the way that science works does it not?

No I did not support my claim to an open minded view, which began with the premise that there is an actual link, unless you think that WebMD is a biased website?

As I have said before and will repeat again: whatever the science is or not for Homeopathy, this is about as conclusive and on a par with the “science” purported to support much of the practice of Medical procedures.
The problem with Mainstream is that it begins any investigations with the premise that it is right and cannot be wrong, and this is the dominating influence that permeates our society, and why WHICH sought the advice of the RPS when investigating Pharmacists advice on something they know very little to nothing about.

Chris: Here is a neutral summary of current evidence.


Wakefield is not “vindicated”, even if there were a provable link he would not be “vindicated” because his work was unethical and fraudulent. His claimed strongest evidence was a test asserted to find traces of the virus strain of measles in the intestinal tissues of autistic children. The tests were done by a lab in which he had a financial stake, and they turn out to have been incompetent. The full text of Bustin’s demonstration of why these results were not as Wakefield claims is here (open access) http://www.intechopen.com/books/recent-advances-in-autism-spectrum-disorders-volume-i/why-there-is-no-link-between-measles-virus-and-autism

Anything Andrew Wakefield was right about, as it may subsequently transpire, albeit improbably, will be by accident. His tests were wrong, his methods were wrong, his motives were wrong. These are the reasons he was struck off, not his conclusions.

Robin says:
31 May 2013

“The problem with Mainstream is that it begins any investigations with the premise that it is right and cannot be wrong, ”

Incredible. I assume you mean mainstream homeopathy as it’s stuck to its unproven rituals and delusions despite all the evidence?

Your statement has no relevance to the scientific method whatsoever, and yet again is just utterly wrong, indeed it is the exact opposite of the reality.

There is no evidence that the earth is carried on the back of a giant turtle. There is a considerable body of evidence to support the view this is not true . Despite that I could be persuaded if some really, really compelling evidence turned up, but on the balance of probabilities it is incredibly unlikely. Now replace “the earth is carried on the back of a giant turtle” with “homeopathy works”.

In a series of experiments physicists found data suggesting that neutrinos were travelling faster than light. Rather than be closed minded and assume they couldn’t be wrong, they made their data available for others to review. This made the news around the world. They acted in an open unprejudiced way. A rational explanation was found. An awful lot of science is testing your own work, study design and results seeking flaws, inconsistencies and other possible explanations.

Consider the headline making claims made for cold fusion. But unlike your assertion, the people making that claim was subjected to incredible scrutiny and shown to be incorrect. Science is not a love in, it is competitive. Competition to get funding, competition to the get the best co-workers. This means that is is far from a cosy, smug self-serving club as you so often suggest. There is debate, there is argument, there is ultimately data and evidence. There is ultimately consensus. Homeopaths, in contrast, start with consensus and try to fit the data to suit their view.

Robin says:
1 June 2013

“and why WHICH sought the advice of the RPS when investigating Pharmacists advice on something they know very little to nothing about.”

Now that you have probably alienated all the pharmacist (possible exception of those who believe in homeopathy)…

Having studied for a minimum of three years a wide array of subjects including human physiology, biochemistry and pharmokinetics, you don’t think they can grasp the principle of diluting not very much in a lot of water until nothing is left, within a very short space of time?

I can’t speak for Which? But I will be as bold as to suggest that they were investigating what answers pharmacists would give in a given set of circumstances. They had a hypothesis to test, by asking the RPS in what professional way their membership would be expected to respond to that set of circumstances. Someone with a cough lasting for weeks should not be seeking the advice of a sugar or water sales person but a medically qualified expert.

Cold fusion and homeopathy have a fair bit in common (though they differ in that cold fusion might contain the germ of something scientifically useful; my friend Séamus thought so at the time, anyway, and he is a staggeringly clever man.

Robin says:
1 June 2013

Yes I was trying to point out that when something that isn’t related to homeopathy makes claims to have broken the current laws of physics, it is subjected to the exact same process of scrutiny and critique. There is no conspiracy against alternatives to medicine, they simply have’t produced good quality evidence. Science is open to new ideas, but only accepts them when they can be supported by evidence.

Was it Richard Dawkins who said keep an open mind but not so open your brain falls out?

Robin: It was Carl Sagan I believe,

Robin: The problem with debates with homeopaths is that they become circular. Early in the discussion it was pointed out that the idea that mainstream has idées fixes while homeopathy is “open-minded” is an exact reversal of the truth. Examples such as peptic ulcers and h. pylori show that medicine is as willing as any other field of scientific inquiry to discard a wrong idea.

Homeopathy has no mechanism for self-correction, while the mechanism for self-correction is what distinguishes science from its precursor, natural philosophy.

The idea that science and medicine are closed-minded rests entirely on the fact that it uses evidence so does not necessarily support ideological agendas. Honestly testing the MMR-autism link and finding no significant confirming evidence, and strong disconfirming evidence, is somehow not “open-minded” because it did not put the conclusion first.

When science investigates homeopathy, creationism and so on it is not “open-minded” because it does not give parity of esteem to religious dogma and scientific discovery. To us, the reason is obvious and is what defines science. To them it is bias, because they perceive their bias as neutrality.

Robin says:
1 June 2013

True, I am getting the feeling that I am trapped on a journey along a mobius strip of disinformation, obsfurcation and dare I say it, branching tangentially into areas unrelated to the topic, that is of the homeopathic supporters making.

I think the “cult” or religion of homeopathy as you describe it, is a problem. If we tolerate unsubstantiated ideas and allow people to be treated with it here it gives an undue credibility to the concepts. Even if the most well meaning homeopaths would agree it should not be used to treat serious conditions, or even to the extent of being used in only self-limiting conditions with little risk of harm, others would continue to abuse the thin veil of credibility this creates to do greater harm.

I am sure you will be aware of this one, others may not be and this certainly suggests that homeopaths are carrying out unregulated, unethical trials in Africa to test homeopathy as a primary treatment for HIV infection. It is difficult to image how deaths cannot result from such behaviour.


I can only speculate that if the law would allow it they might do the same in the UK.

Carl Sagan came out with some sage words, as well as being a very capable and inspiring communicator.

I can’t remember where I read it, but there was a comment recently about the “health freedom” movement and how they basically want to be allowed to behave as “big pharma” would behave if there were no regulation. I think that is scarily accurate.

for your information the “health freedom movement” just ask that they are allowed to pursue any established health-treatment modality of their choice, and not allow the suppression or erosion of that choice, by opposing vested interests, which is occurring more and more frequently.

This has nothing to do with not permitting the regulation of alternative therapies, and the choice that health-freedom brings about, which most of us would agree would be a necessity in the prevention of fraud.

I suggest you read this at least twice..

Chris: That is, of course, abject nonsense. What they argue for is a laissez-faire approach to their bogus claims, and free access to victims without any tiresome regulatory interference. Though of course they are adamant that no such freedom should apply to evidence-based medicine, because allowing medicine to make fraudulent claims as well would not be a level playing field.

Health freedom is entirely about the freedom of quacks to prey on the sick. It’s not about freedom of choice for the consumer because the consumer already has freedom of choice, it is about making sure that any attempt to ensure properly informed choice (for example by pointing out that magic water can’t cure disease, or that cracking your neck may leave you paralysed or dead) is as difficult as possible.

It is most definitely not abject nonsense Guy. What precisely do you know about us? Very little I wager.
The Health-Freedom Movement is working to help promote natural and sustainable healthcare through the use of ‘good science and good law’.
Please read this very carefully…………….

Chris: your naivety is touching. Do you really think the”alliance for natural health” are an honest broker in this? When it is in the direct financial interests of its members to minimise the intrusion of the reality-based community on their commercial operations? They behave exactly as “big pharma” would if we (unwisely) allowed them to.

my naivety may be touching, but your prejudice and bias is rather predictable.
The ANH are a non-profit organisation.

Your interpretation and understanding of the ANH is erroneous.

They are entirely funded by voluntary donations, and not the mouthpiece of the supplement industry or any other vested interest.
You have gotten your facts wrong.

Please do a little more research before pronouncing judgement on an organisation that you obviously know little if anything about.

Guy, you say………..
“Wakefield is not “vindicated”, even if there were a provable link he would not be “vindicated” because his work was unethical and fraudulent. His claimed strongest evidence was a test asserted to find traces of the virus strain of measles in the intestinal tissues of autistic children. The tests were done by a lab in which he had a financial stake, and they turn out to have been incompetent”

In response…………
“The important thing to say is that back in 1996 — 1997 I was made aware of children developing autism, regressive autism, following exposure in many cases to the measles mumps rubella vaccine. Such was my concern about the safety of that vaccine that I went back and reviewed every safety study, every pre-licensing study of the MMR vaccine and other measles containing vaccines before they were put into children and after. And I was appalled with the quality of that science. It really was totally below par and that has been reiterated by other authoritative sources since”.

“It is a very, very sad time when the mainstream is constrained, first by example by the head of HHS, saying do not give the other side of this debate equal air time. Do not give it consideration. They actually said this, and so it will not be covered, the other side will not be covered and then, on the other hand, just carrying the public relations message forward of the CDC and the pharmaceutical industry and saying, for example, that the mercury-autism debate is over when 74 percent plus of the studies that have been published support a link. That is the facts of the matter, that is the science behind it, and yet the public is being told that the science is in, it’s all over, there’s no problem, not to worry. No. The public have been deceived time and again, so it is a blessing that we have an alternative media that doesn’t need to pander to its sponsors”.

“Wakefield is not vindicated”: is true at this moment in time, but I suggest you read this to obtain the real facts of the matter…………………………

Chris, your defence of Wakefield is touching but utterly misguided (and I did know that when you said your “last word” it would not be unless it stood unchallenged in all its counterfactual glory!).

The facts of the matter are precisely as I stated them. There is no credible evidence of a causal link between vaccines in general and thimerosal or MMR in particular, and autism. There is strong disconfirming evidence in the shape of genetic identifiers and behavioural markers that clearly predate vaccination. Of course Wakefield believes he’s right and argues his case passionately. He has failed to carry scientific consensus and his arguments are significantly weakened by the fact that his research contained elements that were unethical, incompetent and embodied concealed conflicts of interest.

Imagine what the antivaxers would do if they found evidence of that kind of malfeasance in the science supporting a vaccine. Imagine what they would do if someone active in the development of vaccines was struck off after publishing fraudulent research based on unethical tests funded by the industry. That’s what Wakefield did, yet he gets a free pass because his result is what they want to hear, and they don’t want to hear the much more complex truth.

It doesn’t help that many antivaxers are cranks of the worst kind. Attacks by the misleadingly named Australian Vaccination Network on the parents of a girl who died of pertussis are just one example. They live in an echo chamber, constantly stating and re-stating their own opinions until they become convinced that they are facts and that the failure of real life to support those opinions is evidence of some vast conspiracy. They are medicine’s Truthers.

To exploit normal scientific humility as giving support to a conclusion which has not been supported by any of the large and careful studies conducted into this precise issue is wilful blindness. It is a massive distraction from what should be done, which is an open (i.e. scientific) investigation of the actual causes.

“I demand you prove that this is 100% not the case, and until you do I will assert that it is the case despite the fact that you may have reached 99.99% certainty it is not” is the antivax position.

“What is the case, to the best of our understanding?” is the science position, and it naturally weights its efforts according to their probability.

You do not seem to be able to understand the essential difference between the two. The problem is your end.

CDC does not have a vested interest in any particular outcome. It investigated “morgellons” at the cost of several millions of dollars despite the fact that it was obvious to everyone that it was delusional parasitosis.

Right now autism looks like a genetic disorder and a trigger in early gestation seems likely, from my reading of the literature. The science is not settled. The lack of involvement of vaccines pretty much is. The rise in autism is explained by wider diagnosis, the vaccine hypothesis is contra-indicated by the lack of any statistical correlation between vaccination rates, use of thimerosal or any other relevant factor. Demanding greater certainty is fine, asserting the least likely explanation because of the lack of certainty, is not.

your post which begins thus:”your defense of Wakefield is touching”…………..is answered here………….if you care to read it thoroughly……………….

and……”Right now autism looks like a genetic disorder, and a trigger in early gestation seems likely”……………..but pure conjecture on your part.

Then how do you explain the rapid rise in cases of autism in recent decades, if solely due to “genetic causes”?…………have our genes somehow deteriorated to that extent? a bit like the nonsense with the BRAC1 gene being responsible for breast cancer, when in fact the causes are through iodine and Vitamin D3 deficiencies, both of which favorably regulate our genetic expression.

In 1993 Ghent and Eskin (2) published a landmark paper on the treatment of severe fibrocystic disease of the breast with iodine supplements. This paper was the result of more than 30 years of marvelous research by Dr. Bernard. A. Eskin of the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. First in animals and then in humans he proved fibrocystic disease of the breast is the result of low dietary iodine. He has shown also that this can go on to develop into breast cancer.(2-8) I feel Dr. Eskin’s research represents a major step toward conquering breast cancer and likely other cancers.
2. Ghent,W.R., Eskin,B.A., Low,D.A., Hill, L.P.. Iodine replacement in fibrocystic disease of the breast. Can J Surg 1993; 36:453-460.
3. Ghent,W.R., Eskin, B.A.. Iodine deficiency breast syndrome. In: Medeiros-Neto G, Gaitan E, editors. Frontiers in Thyroidology, Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress, 1985. New York: Plenum, 1986: 1021-1026.
4. Eskin,B.A., Grotkowski,C.E., Connolly,C.P., Ghent,W.R.. Different tissue responses for iodine and iodide in rat thyroid and mammary glands. Biol Trace Element Res 1995; 49:9-19.
5. Eskin,B.A.. Iodine metabolism and breast cancer. Trans NY Acad Sci 1970; 32:911-947.
6. Eskin,B.A.. Iodine and breast cancer. Biol Trace Element Res 1983; 5:399-412.
7. Eskin,B.A.. Dietary iodine and cancer risk. Lancet 1976; 8:807-808.
8. Eskin,B.A., Krouse,T.B., Modhera,P.R., Mitchell,M.A.. Etiology of mammary gland pathophysiology induced by iodine deficiency. In: Medeiros-Neto G, Gaitan E, editors. Frontiers in thyroidology, Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress. New York: Plenum, 1986: 1027-1031.

There is of course much more supporting evidence than this if you research this thoroughly.
Not that you will of course.

Mainstream and its advocates always play the “genetic and viral causes” if there is no seemingly rational medical explanation, when in fact there is.

You are not going to convince me otherwise, unless you can provide tangible irrefutable proof to the contrary.

Chris, the problem with you is that you apply radically different standards of evidence to things you want to hear and things you don’t want to hear.

You desperately wan to believe that Wakefield, antivaxers generally, homeopathy and all manner of other crank ideas are true, because the alternative is accepting he great tragedy of science: the laying of a beautiful hypothesis by ugly fact.

To quote Neil Degrasse Tyson, the thing about science is that it goes on being true whether you believe it or not.

Robin says:
3 June 2013

This is a new low
“a bit like the nonsense with the BRAC1 gene being responsible for breast cancer,”

If anyone took this opinion seriously, and I really hope no one would, you would be undermining one of the significant advances in our understanding of breast cancer. By all means state your case but please bear in mind that lives are at risk and your views are extreme, in regard to this matter.

Robin: Denial is not just a river in Egypt…

Robin says:
3 June 2013

And a bit like some arguments rivers generally flow down hill to the lowest point, I fear that may not have been reached.

If anyone had any doubts about how believers in SCAM might cause harm they should be gone by now.

“Chris, the problem with you is that you apply radically different standards of evidence to things you want to hear and things you don’t want to hear”.

Is your erroneous interpretation of what I have stated. I have also commented that I accept much of Mainstream Medicine, which does of course provide invaluable services, whilst simultaneously accepting the evidence of my own experience, and that of thousands upon thousands of others who have received real benefit from those health-modalities outside of Mainstream.
On the other hand, my adversaries in this debate accept Mainstream, although occasionally admitting to its imperfections, but dismiss out of hand anything that smacks of being alternative and refer to this as “quackery”: a rather condescending stance and unscientific in the extreme.

You also have an uncanny ability to explain away my position on health by misinterpreting and misrepresenting most all things I have said: twisting the content and meaning of my posts to suit and fit in with your own agendas. So for example…………
I have never sought to justify or believe that the ideas of Wakefield or the antivaxxers, homeopathy or anything else you care to mention is true, just for the sake of being true: now that would be correctly interpreted as religion/faith, and blind dogma, but I have done sufficient research to know that while some of this is true, others (such as Wakefield), there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he may be innocent of the charges brought against him, and as outlined in the legal letter addressed to the BMJ, Fiona Godlee, and Brian Deer, from his Attorneys. I provided the link to this in full, and which you have all conveniently ignored.

Robin, your comment…………..
“a new low”.
“a bit like the nonsense with the BRAC1 gene being responsible for breast cancer,”

What you seem to be blissfully unaware of is that it is NOT your genes that dictate your health, but rather the “expression” of your genes. You have the ability to easily turn genes on and off with your lifestyle and emotional state. One clear example of this is vitamin D, which literally regulates the expression of one out of every 10 of your genes. Even yours.
Even women who have mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which is said to increase the risk of breast cancer to 80 percent, can make positive lifestyle changes that may lower their risk significantly. For instance, omega-3 fats like those in krill oil have been found to influence these genes in a positive way.
While women with BRCA defects have a 45-65 percent increased risk of breast cancer, only about TWO PERCENT of diagnosed breast cancers are caused by BRCA faults/mutations. So this genetic defect is nowhere close to being a primary cause of breast cancer, and where amputation in acting as a prophylactic, is considered by many to be rather extreme and superfluous.

I can provide the science if you wish, but then you probably wouldn’t believe it if I did.

Robin says:
3 June 2013

If you want to debate breast cancer I suggest you find an appropriate forum. Where I am sure you will encounter some robust discussion of your views.

You regularly go off topic so far and in so many different directions you distract from the subject in hand.

For anyone seeking further information on Breast Cancer can I recommend the Cancer Research UK website, which has high quality, scientifically validated information.

Chris: The difference between genes and gene expression is a nicety which is rather more detailed than this debate allows for. Wikipedia has a good description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BRCA1

Note especialy: “Certain variations of the BRCA1 gene lead to an increased risk for breast cancer as part of a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome. Researchers have identified hundreds of mutations in the BRCA1 gene, many of which are associated with an increased risk of cancer.”

So, BRCA1 (or specifically a mutation in BRCA1) is diagnostic of susceptibility to breast cancer. Rather like loosening the wheel nuts on your car: it doesn’t mean you will crash inevitably on any given journey but it increases the probability of crashing and the probability rises closer to 100% the longer you leave it.

So to quackery. We don’t dismiss quack cures because they are not mainstream, it is the other way around: they are not mainstream because they are quack cures. Homeopathy is not mainstream because it lacks any plausible scientific basis and all observations are consistent with the null hypothesis. Chiropractic is not mainstream because it performs no better than any other form of manipulation therapy, is consistently more expensive, contains pseudoscientific concepts and anti-vaccination proselytising, and has a small but significant risk of stroke induced by evidentially unsupportable manipulations of the neck. Acupuncture is on the fringes but likely to eb rejected in the end due to a convergence of the evidence away from any specific effect – the jury is still out but the defendant should pack his toothbrush.

Science is a process, not an opinion. Most supplements, some complementary and all alternative medicine are based on opinion, not science. Science is the process by which you suggest an idea and it is honestly tested, pseudoscience is the process by which you suggest an idea and then deliberately set out to find confirming evidence. Science does not care whose the idea is, only whether it stands up to the normal process of testing.

This seems to be clear to most of us. What am I failing to explain, given that you still don’t seem to understand this?

Hello everyone, we’ve published a new Conversation, rounding up some of your comments about this topic: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/your-view-do-pharmacists-and-homeopathy-mix/

elyss says:
1 June 2013

“…everyone’s entitled to their opinion.”

No, they’re not. Not if those opinions are clearly and demonstrably wrong.

not Mr Ernst again?
You’ll have to do better than that.

Chris: LOL! And homeopathy does better than Prof. Ernst? I think not!

dw says:
1 June 2013

There’s plenty of evidence that homeopathy “works” — through the placebo effect.

So you admit that it “works” then dw?

Chris, in the other thread I thought we’d reached agreement that it’s a delusion and were only debating whether it’s a harmless or harmful one?

I am not a Homeopath, but any agreement we have made is minimal at best.

If Homeopathy is a delusion, then it is a delusion that has stood the test of time (200 years or so).
Perhaps it would be more constructive if we had some contributors who had received the benefit or otherwise of Homeopathy, and if they thought it was a delusion.

For your information…………………………….

Legislation on homeopathic medicines is now harmonized across the EU. Homeopathic remedies are now officially a category of drug, and are controlled by the very same Directive as pharmacological drugs (licensed medicinal products).

May 2012: Homeopathy has been vindicated by the Swiss Government’s Health Technology Assessment (HTA) report. This has now been published in full—Swiss Government finds homeopathy effective and cost efficient.
The results of the Swiss Health Technology Assessment (HTA) report on homeopathy were published in English at the end of last year. Entitled ‘Homeopathy in Healthcare’, and edited by Dr Gudrun Bornhöft and Prof. Peter Matthiessen, it is part of the Swiss Government’s 1998 ‘Complementary Medicine Evaluation Programme’ (PEK). This was set up to evaluate homeopathy and other complementary an alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for their ‘efficacy, appropriateness and cost effectiveness’.

The HTA report fully vindicates homeopathy after the massive furore and much comment in 2005, on completion of the PEK study. The PEK report (summary only, in English), produced 2 years before the planned completion of the HTA report, included results of the much smaller quantitative sub-study of the homeopathy project, which had evaluated experimental trials. Despite the fact that the homeopathy reviews indicated: ‘effectiveness likely’—the top category on a 3-tier scale, and studies on a particular indication (upper respiratory tract infections/allergy) indicated ‘probable effectiveness’, the overall conclusion of the sub study was that the evidence had demonstrated ‘no significant difference to placebo’ for homeopathic treatment (Shang et al, 2005). A Lancet editorial followed, declaring ‘The end of homeopathy’, and skeptics (such as we have witnessed here) went into overdrive with scathing attacks on homeopathy, which, in the UK, led to the farcical Science and Technology Sub-Committee’s so-called: ‘Evidence Check: Homeopathy’ sessions.

The much more comprehensive HTA is an established scientific procedure that not only examines efficacy, but also examines ‘real-world effectiveness’, appropriateness, safety and economy. In contrast to the subsidiary sub-study result, which was considered ‘of little relevance for the political decision’, the HTA found that ‘the individual CAM interventions, especially homeopathy, were effective, under Swiss conditions safe and, as far as could be judged from the trial situation, also cost efficient’.

The TRUTH About Homeopathy – Dispelling the MYTHS that Surround It!……………………

But of course all of this will be rejected by all you lovely Mainstreamers who reject ANYTHING remotely entitled or considered to be “alternative”.

Chris: Who to believe? The chief scientific advisor to the government, the chief medical officer, the donsensus of systematic reviews, NHS choices and the House of Commons science and technology committee? Or a homeopathy propaganda website running a campaign that even th eSociety of Homeopaths doesn’t support?

Tough call. Not.

Now if you were to cite one credible scientific evidenc supporting the doctrines of homeopathy that might be different, but first it would hav to exist, and right now I am pretty confident it does not.

Apologies for typos, blame Apple.

Robin says:
3 June 2013

“If Homeopathy is a delusion, then it is a delusion that has stood the test of time (200 years or so)”

Well we can agree on that.

I have just spotted a brief update on advice from pharmacies, in the September issue of Which? magazine.

The General Pharmaceutical Council and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society have met with Which? and high street pharmacy representatives to discuss the findings of Which? and various actions will be taken to improve advice from pharmacies. I hope you told them that we don’t want any more talk of homeopathy, Joanna. 🙂

I have recently seen advertising from the NHS recommending that we make use of pharmacists and not pester GPs.