/ Health

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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Deja vu though Nancy. You eventually reach a point where banging your head against a brick wall really hurts, and becomes a pointless exercise. These people are prejudiced and biased against anything considered to be alternative, and whether it works or not. Bear in mind they never answer our posts with any degree of rationality, such as why 45,000 Medical Doctors practice Homeopathy within Europe.

I was going to post an actual case on the absolute 100% cure of “Eisenmenger Syndrome” (considered to be incurable by Mainstream) using high dose Ascorbate (24 Grams per day), and the role of Vitamin D3 supplementation (food sources are inadequate) in the cure (yes cure) of infant heart failure, when the alternatives would be a heart-transplant or death, and in answer to Davids post on the futility of taking supplements. We should try to understand that many here suffer from the: “all you need is a balanced diet” Syndrome: an emerging Medical condition it seems.

We will never change any of their minds Nancy and regardless of the evidence put forward, but I may just persevere a little longer.
What peeved me the most recently were the posters acting as Judge and Jury of Dr Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off the Medical register as a scapegoat in the vaccine/regressive autism fiasco (I researched this thoroughly) because they are spoon-fed and just tow the party line. Some of these are supposed to be “scientists”…huh? excuse me!!
Good to have you here.

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Chris: “Judge and jury” on Wakefield? Not hardly.

The support from those who howl “abuse” over vaccines is a perfect example of the crank mindset. Everything is weighed according to the support it gives for their pre-existing agenda.

It’s a perfect microcosm of the battleground mentality of cranks. They don’t do nuance. That’s why science has such trouble laying their zombie arguments to rest: science *only* does nuance. A substantial body of evidence, including extensive comparison of records over several decades and several countries, provides no support for a link between MMR and autism. The response of the cranks is “see? there is doubt, you cannot *prove* it is safe!” – and then they subject their children to chelation therapy, God help us, in order to “cure” them.

So yes, to an irrational individual, trying to convince rational people of an irrational agenda will always look like banging your head on a brick wall. You could always try not doing that.

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

Dr. Nancy Malik says:
27 May 2013


based on my experience with dealing with skeptics for the last 5 years, you may or may not agree:

One should not argue with skeptics, or for the matter of fact, with anyone. Argument is a lost battle. There is no winner in an argument.

When I started 5 years, I was not that cool. But very quickly I realise it’s futile to argue with them (as you are feeling now) bcoz they are naysayers. Then I thought how to deal with them. So whenever they asked me questions, I started searching for the answers, if I don’t know them. More they ask me, more I got motivated to reply them but with evidence.

Then I realise they kept on asking more or less the same questions every time. That forced me to document my answers (what I said onlie foul langune) every time.
Then I realise the data is growing bigger. So I categorise the data that would make it look coherent and put up as blogposts.

Now I have reached a state where I do enjoy with them but do they? I doubt because I found many of them getting hot-headed with me especially on twitter and ultimately back out. They kept on trying different ways to confront me. But I never use foul language. I listen only to their questions that forced me to search and learn new things.

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Nancy: Whether or not you and Chris should keep arguing with skeptics rather depends on whether you want to proselytise your religion and look ridiculous in the process, or whether you want to stop looking ridiculous by shutting up until you have some actual credible evidence (which I confidently expect to arrive some time around the heat death of the universe).

Actually Chris has seriously undermined what little credibility the pro-homoeopathy side of this debate might have salvaged, by supporting Wakefield and defending a site that one of the most famous sources of abject nonsense on the internet.

Needless to say, I am very happy he came along!

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For those who spend time on multiple forums there is a certain sense that the most effective way to suborn a discussion is to “bat badly for the other side”. Not something that I have ever done BTW.

In passing I should mention you can buy software and multiple access points to the internet to become various characters. The software when loaded up will keep track of all a particular persona so you keep you story and style straight. The concept is designed to allow you to steer opinions or bury them with much generated cross-talk.

The Which? threads are highly conducive to burying as topics relevant cannot easily be seen and dealt with separately. Added to which as the posts are not numbered referring back to specific posts is a nightmare.

Now I have signed the alltrials petition which has surprisingly few signatories currently. I look forward to seeing people confirm here they have signed and from Which? that they will be publicising this with its general readership.

Paul Morgan (@drpaulmorgan) says:
27 May 2013

You – despite multiple requests on many different discussion groups and fora – are yet to produce anything resembling credible evidence to show any benefit for homeopathy. You constantly harp on about studies you think show evidence of benefit, failing totally to understand such basic concepts as the placebo effect, observer bias, and regression towards the mean. Your repeated Gish Gallops of poor quality studies may impress some, but ultimately are always exposed as being worthless.
Let’s just stick to the scientific facts and evidence. Homeopathy has no basis in science. It is pre-scientific in its origins and has not advanced since, despite attempts by some to claim that water has a memory (it doesn’t) or that quantum effects are at play (they’re not). For homeopathy to work would mean scrapping all the laws of chemistry, physics and biology that have been shown to be based in evidence. Hahnemann’s “laws” of homeopathy have never been proved in any way, unlike, for example, Newton’s laws of motion. Finally, when studies of homeopathy are subjected to appropriate scientific scrutiny and the important factors I mentioned earlier are taken fully into account, the evidence is clear – it’s just a placebo, and a very expensive one at that. It’s called critical appraisal, something which homeopaths fail to either understand or accept.
You claim that skeptics have used foul language to you online, but when challenged to provide evidence of this, none is forthcoming. You mistake robust challenges to your views as being abusive when they are no more than robust and expose the lack of credibility to your arguments.
The data you claim shows increasing evidence for homeopathy sadly does no such thing. Adding more and more poor studies to a catalogue of poor studies simply shows homeopathy for what it is – worthless. All you and others are doing is exposing homeopathy for the nonsense it is and thereby allowing others to help expose it and in the process consign it to the annals of history. Keep up the good work!

[This comment has been edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

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I agree that it would be a good idea to have post numbers. Obviously it is possible to see and quote the date and time of posts, but having numbers would be a great help. I’m not sure how best to make suggestions about how to improve Which? Conversation.

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Perhaps a Conversation? on how to improve Which? Conversation.

I would suggest: An edit feature as I often see a typo or remember something I should have sais just as soon as my post appears, Post numbers as I try to read all comments before I post but in Conversations like nuisance calls and beating the call centre, so many of the posts said the same thing it was difficult to get to the last read post. I know there is a date and time on each post but my drug muddled and ages brain can not remember such detail – a post number would be best. Also if I am subscribed to a conversation and access it through a link in the email, I should be directed to the post of that specific email.

I like the thumbs up/down as sometimes you just wish to agree or disagree with the post.

Members should also be able to suggest topics for Conversation and also suggest criteria for reviews I noticed in a ‘cleaning the stairs’ topic that many mentioned the weight of a vacuum cleaner, considered important for hand held cleaners but not for regular ones. Yet many mentioned the weight of regular cleaners as they used them for stairs.

anarchic_teapotr says:
27 May 2013

“Then I realise they kept on asking more or less the same questions every time”

Yes dear. Did you ever work out that it’s because they are very important questions and you never answer them?

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A Conversation about how to improve Which? Conversation is the one I’m waiting for, Figgerty. 🙂
I’m sure many of our regular contributors feel the same and the major upgrade earlier this year has shown what can be done. You can send in suggestions for topics.

Meanwhile, back on topic…. I keep looking at this Conversation to see if there is any input from pharmacists. I’m going to look out for homeopathic ‘remedies’ when I next collect a prescription at the pharmacy in my local Tesco. I don’t recall seeing any among the bottles of cough linctus and anti-smoking products. Maybe they are hidden under the counter, like packets of cigarettes in a newsagent’s shop.

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Thank you Nancy I do agree with you, and the response after our chat was rather predictable don’t you think. For example, Homeopathy as a “religion” nonsense, and the false accusations about Andrew Wakefield. The truth will out in the not too distant future, and the BMJ, along with Fiona Godlee and Brian Deer will be forced to recapitulate; some predict that this will be the end of the BMJ, as I do.

You may find this of interest as to who these skeptics really are and what they stand for…………….

If you have noticed, no one refuted our evidence with any substance as they probably just gave the posts a quick read and responded like automatons, programmed as Skeptics are.

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I would like to know how YOU know: “Adding more and more poor studies to a catalogue of poor studies simply shows homeopathy for what it is – worthless”.

So HOW do you know this? Are you an expert on “studies” or Homeopathy perhaps? What qualifies you to state that they are “poor studies”?

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Chris: Paul knows this because he is scientifically literate. Unfortunately being scientifically literate and believing in homeopathy appear to be mutually exclusive. Sorry about that.

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Chris: Homeopathy meets, as far as I can see, every criterion of a religion. You should embrace this. It would give you, in the US at least, some protection from criticism from the reality-based community.

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Perhaps Which? Conversation would be improved if only intellectuals were allowed to take part. Instead we have to put up with the rabble that make up our consumers!!

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You are just being provocative today, Figgerty. Sometimes I wish we could restrict access to those who are prepared to use capitals and punctuation where appropriate, but the most important requirement is that we be do our best to be nice to each other.

Take a hundred lines: ‘I must stick to the topic’. I will do two hundred after lunch. 🙂

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I did not post in Which? Conversation for a long time after I became a member – because I was afraid of making a fool of myself with bad grammer and poor punctuation. I shed the fear when I disagreed strongly with another members viewpoint and thought WTF, I’m going to have my say. I’ve started and I’m continuing.

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In my experience, conversations often go off topic. Sometimes they are more interesting because of that.

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Absolutely, but here is not the place to discuss life, the universe and everything. Having said that, most of the posts have related to homeopathy in general rather than the subject on the card.

For me, it is rewarding to see a physicist promoting use of scientific principles to other disciplines as part of a much needed campaign against pseudoscience.

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Sorry – engineer, not physicist.

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Hi all, if you’d like to make any suggestions for improving Which? Conversation, please contact us: https://conversation.which.co.uk/contact-us/ We keep a folder of all suggestions and then we discuss when and whether we can implement them. We acted on some of your suggestions in this year’s update to the site. You can also send us suggestions for new debate topics with the same contact us form.

Thanks for the suggestion of post numbers. You can click on the time of each comment and get a specific link for that comment. Eg. Here’s a link to your comment diesel.

Each comment has a unique ID. I know that not quite the same as how forums do things with specific post numbers, but perhaps it will help you in the future.

Again, if you have any suggestions, please email us.

Paul Morgan (@drpaulmorgan) says:
29 May 2013

It’s clear that the concept of critical thinking is one that appears to be alien to several contributors to this discussion. If you are unable and/or unwilling to apply critical appraisal to articles you read and then link to in the assumption that they are supporting evidence for your claims, then expect to have your views strongly challenged and to be soundly criticised. “Scopie’s Law” was described to explain this phenomenon, originally referring to the website “whale.to” but has since come to be applied to many other websites of similar questionable worth. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/6408927/Internet-rules-and-laws-the-top-10-from-Godwin-to-Poe.html
Many in the scientific and skeptical communities would apply Scopie’s Law as a variant to several other websites that fit the description of being “quacky”. This would include websites such as “Natural News”, anything related to Jim Humble and his so-called “Miracle Mineral Solution”, anything related to David Icke and, of course, The Bolen Report.

Rebecca Fisher says:
30 May 2013

Poor Saint Andy Wakefield. His house is up for sale. For just shy of one and a half million dollars.

To see what $1,450,000 buys you in Austin, take a look here.


Tell you what – it’s nicer than John Stone’s house.

Paul Morgan (@drpaulmorgan) says:
30 May 2013

It’s called applying critical thinking skills. The process of critical appraisal is fundamental to understanding scientific literature and research. Often, the initial assessment of a paper is to assess the type of study being reported on, There is a clear hierarchy of quality of studies ranging from a single case report (the lowest quality), through case series to cohort studies up to double-blind randomised controlled studies and meta-analyses. I suggest you visit the website http://www.cebm.net/ which gives an excellent guide to how to understand scientific evidence and the levels of evidence.
Once the type of study is identified, one can then look at other details such as how the randomisation process occurred etc.
The overwhelming majority of studies of homeopathy fail at the stage of assessing the type of study. Very few trials of homeopathy are double-blind, randomised placebo-controlled trials. Those that are generally show homeopathy to be no more than placebo.
It’s remarkably easy to become an expert in homeopathy, when one understands chemistry, physics and biology at the level expected of children sitting science GCSEs. Hahnemann’s “laws” are not laws in the same way as, for example, Newton’s law of gravity is. They were thought up in a pre-scientific era and have never been proven. It is a matter of applying basic science to show how ridiculous Hahnemann’s laws of potentisation and serial dilution are. Homeopathy is a system of therapy built on foundations made of sand.
It beggars belief that homeopathy still exists, but perhaps the fact it does has multiple causes. Modern science cannot explain everything and medicine cannot cure everything, so it is understandable that some people fall prey to quacks and charlatans. However, when the published literature is critically appraised, homeopathy has been shown to be no more than a placebo. That homeopaths still live in denial of the evidence and of basic science merely shows how credulous they and their supporters are. This is a common feature in the parallel universe of so-called “alternative” medicine, being seen in other “treatment” modalities such as reiki, chiropractic, etc. Belief in benefit from homeopathy is delusional in the true sense of the word – a delusion is a false belief, no matter how strongly held that belief is. That medicine cannot cure everything validates homeopathy and other forms of quackery in the same way that a plane crash validates flying carpets.
Some will try to rationalise by claiming that homeopathy works because water has a memory. There are three fundamental problems with this claim. Firstly, water does not have a memory – at least not one that is longer than a few femtoseconds. Even the memory of Dory (the regal tang fish in “Finding Nemo”) is more durable than that of water. Secondly, the water is often mixed with alcohol in various quantities during preparation and the eventual solution is dripped onto sugar pillules. Strangely, homeopaths never explain how this water memory they claim survives in the presence of alcohol or when the water is dripped onto sugar. Finally, back to the basic problem – homeopathy does not work.
Others will try to claim that homeopathy is some sort of nanomedicine or that it works through “quantum” effects. When you read a homeopathy article using such phrases, one might as well not bother at that point. Use of the term “nano” by homeopaths generally shows that they don’t know what they are talking about. “Nano” is often used as a prefix to describe something very small, being a progression in numeric terms from “milli” through “micro” to “nano” (and onwards to “pico” and “femto”. Homeopathic dilutions go way beyond these points. At a dilution of 12C, the molar limit is hit, i.e one litre of solution should contain, on average, 0.6 molecules of the “remedy”. Many remedies are diluted far more, typically 30C. The homeopathic “remedy” which is allegedly the most popular in the USA is Oscillococcinum 200C – given the extreme dilution of this, there are not enough atoms in the entire observable universe to have a reasonable chance of finding a single molecule of the original duck liver! Of course, we should not forget that Oscillococcinum is a fantasy that resulted from bubbles seen on a contaminated microscope slide. It is a fictitious entity. You may argue that not all homeopathic “remedies” are so dilute – a fair point. However, the lack of evidence of benefit for those less-dilute remedies remains a major problem. Many homeopaths deny germ theory and still think in terms of scientifically nonsensical theories of “vital force” and “miasms”.
As for talking about “quantum” effects, homeopaths who start talking about quantum physics simply show they have no idea what “quantum” means in terms of real science. Use of such words amounts to either fooling themselves or trying to fool others by the use of pseudoscience.
The bottom line remains that, after over 200 since its inception, the evidence shows that homeopathy does not work beyond a placebo effect and there is no scientific rationale as to why it should. It should be consigned to the annals of history. If any homeopath is so convinced of the validity of a therapy they offer, they should enter to take the James Randi Million Dollar Challenge.

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I had forgotten, but am happy to confirm, that Andrew Wakefield’s findings have indeed been confirmed by multiple independent investigators.

Specifically, in his original paper he concludes: “We did not prove an association between measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine and the syndrome described”

This does seem to be in line with the findings from other studies, which also consistently find no association.


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“This does seem to be in line with the findings from other studies, which also consistently find no association”.

Writing in the BMJ, research microbiologist David Lewis, of the National Whistleblowers Center, explains that he reviewed histopathological grading sheets by two of Dr. Wakefield’s coauthors, pathologists Amar Dhillon and Andrew Anthony, and concluded there was no fraud committed by Dr. Wakefield:

“As a research microbiologist involved with the collection and examination of colonic biopsy samples, I do not believe that Dr. Wakefield intentionally misinterpreted the grading sheets as evidence of “non-specific colitis.” Dhillon indicated “non-specific” in a box associated, in some cases, with other forms of colitis. In addition, if Anthony’s grading sheets are similar to ones he completed for the Lancet article, they suggest that he diagnosed “colitis” in a number of the children.”

In a press release, Lewis continued:

“The grading sheets and other evidence in Wakefield’s files clearly show that it is unreasonable to conclude, based on a comparison of the histological records, that Andrew Wakefield ‘faked’ a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

Now that these records have seen the light of day, it is time for others to stop using them for this purpose as well. False allegations of research misconduct can destroy the careers of even the most accomplished and reputable scientists overnight. It may take years for them to prove their innocence; and even then the damages are often irreparable. In cases where mistakes are made, every effort should be taken to fully restore the reputations and careers of scientists who are falsely accused of research misconduct.”

A team from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina are examining 275 children with regressive autism and bowel disease – and of the 82 tested so far, 70 prove positive for the measles virus … the team’s leader, Dr Stephen Walker, said: ‘Of the handful of results we have in so far, all are vaccine strain and none are wild measles.

This research proves that in the gastrointestinal tract of a number of children who have been diagnosed with regressive autism, there is evidence of measles virus. What it means is that the study done earlier by Dr Wakefield and published in 1998 is correct.

That study didn’t draw any conclusions about specifically what it means to find measles virus in the gut, but the implication is it may be coming from the MMR vaccine. If that’s the case, and this live virus is residing in the gastrointestinal tract of some children, and then they have GI inflammation and other problems, it may be related to the MMR.”

Here is a list of 28 studies from around the world that support Dr. Wakefield’s controversial findings:

The Journal of Pediatrics November 1999; 135(5):559-63
The Journal of Pediatrics 2000; 138(3): 366-372
Journal of Clinical Immunology November 2003; 23(6): 504-517
Journal of Neuroimmunology 2005
Brain, Behavior and Immunity 1993; 7: 97-103
Pediatric Neurology 2003; 28(4): 1-3
Neuropsychobiology 2005; 51:77-85
The Journal of Pediatrics May 2005;146(5):605-10
Autism Insights 2009; 1: 1-11
Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology February 2009; 23(2): 95-98
Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 2009:21(3): 148-161
Journal of Child Neurology June 29, 2009; 000:1-6
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders March 2009;39(3):405-13
Medical Hypotheses August 1998;51:133-144.
Journal of Child Neurology July 2000; ;15(7):429-35
Lancet. 1972;2:883–884.
Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia January-March 1971;1:48-62
Journal of Pediatrics March 2001;138:366-372.
Molecular Psychiatry 2002;7:375-382.
American Journal of Gastroenterolgy April 2004;598-605.
Journal of Clinical Immunology November 2003;23:504-517.
Neuroimmunology April 2006;173(1-2):126-34.
Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol Biol. Psychiatry December 30 2006;30:1472-1477.
Clinical Infectious Diseases September 1 2002;35(Suppl 1):S6-S16
Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2004;70(11):6459-6465
Journal of Medical Microbiology October 2005;54:987-991
Archivos venezolanos de puericultura y pediatría 2006; Vol 69 (1): 19-25.
Gastroenterology. 2005:128 (Suppl 2);Abstract-303

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Guy, I applaud you for your tenacity, and you have more than proved to my own satisfaction that you are most definitely a “medical party-liner”, as I used to be, but sometimes we have to see “out of the box” and be prepared to challenge our views of the World, and as I was.

There is of course no blame to be attached here, because you are a product of your own sociological/cultural/environmental and educational belief system, and as are most. No doubt you would demonstrate as much zeal if you had been born and raised in a culture of TCM or Ayurveda Medicine: much depends on where we are born, and the cultural influences to which we are exposed in our formative years.

The only thing I would have hoped for in this exchange, would have been at least a small degree of impartiality, but sadly has not been the case.

Robin says:
27 May 2013

Scientific analysis and the advances brought by such endeavours are not reliant on anyone’s background, upbringing or beliefs, but rather on good quality evidence, repeatable by other independent observers.

Despite the long, patient chain of explanations made in this thread you don’t seem to have grasped the difference between belief and evidence. Nor is what you call evidence acceptable to the majority of people in the UK. The use of evidence as you seem to understand it, went out of fashion along with witch trials and the like.

In this context your request for impartiality makes no sense. As has been explained, ad nauseum, if evidence is produced you would be able to convince sceptics, that’s the entire point, they are impartial as to the outcome of any scientific question, they just demand proof not opinion. You may think you have provided evidence, and I refer you back to the many comments firmly debunking that idea. If it works it should be quite simple to prove it, in 200 years it has not been possible. It is not a case of not knowing how it works, it just hasn’t been shown to work. You and others will probably continue to infer or believe there is some conspiracy or injustice. The topic of this conversation is homeopathy, and in that context the injustice is that for the UK taxpayer funding ineffective homeopathic treatments, to the individuals mislead by claims that there is evidence, who as a result may not seek known effective treatments.

If there is lack of impartiality it is coming from the supporters of homeopathy which is sad.

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Chris: Your analysis is predictably self-serving. I am no fan of the pharmaceutical industry, because I have read Ben Goldacre’s books. That does not mean I believe that poor evidence in one area justifies another thing supported by massively worse evidence,. which seems to be your position.

Homeopathy is ridiculous on so many levels that its value as a teaching tool for critical thinking should not be underestimated. That is, however, its only value.

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Thanks for all your effort and even more for your patience. As someone who has tried to help new biological sciences undergraduates improve their critical thinking skills, I don’t think that homeopathy is a very good topic because the argument is so one-sided, a bit like trying to decide whether smoking is beneficial or harmful.

Whether the public should be swallowing vitamins and other supplements is a far more interesting issue because of their established biochemical role, the fact that few need them, and that in many cases they are little more than a harmless waste of money.

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Robin, yes I understand what you mean now: Scientific analysis of “good quality evidence, repeatable by other independent observers”.

So for example you mean the 5 separate and independent studies, made in 5 separate countries, that corroborated the findings of Dr Andrew Wakefield, but rejected by the GMC and the BMJ?

Robin says:
28 May 2013

You really don’t understand and have just proved it (again).

Endless repetition of faith based opinion against overwhelming evidence to the contrary seems to be your preference.

Using Wakefield as an example, along with the Royal family as you started off with, speaks volumes about your low standards of “evidence”. Perhaps you believe diluting your argument makes it stronger?

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Chris: you are , quite simply, wrong. There is no credible link between MMR and autism.

In October 2004, a meta review assessed the evidence given in 120 other studies and considered unintended effects of the MMR vaccine. The authors concluded that although the vaccine is associated with positive and negative side effects, a connection between MMR and autism was “unlikely”.

In February 2005, a study compared autism in Japan before and after the 1993 withdrawal of the MMR vaccine: the autism rates continued to increase, which means that the withdrawal of MMR in other countries is unlikely to cause a reduction in future autism cases.

A 2007 review of independent studies performed after the publication of Wakefield et al.’s original report found that these studies provide compelling evidence against the hypothesis that MMR is associated with autism.

A review of the work conducted in 2004 for UK court proceedings but not revealed until 2007 found that the polymerase chain reaction analysis essential to the Wakefield et al. results was fatally flawed due to contamination, and that it could not have possibly detected the measles that it was supposed to have detected.

A 2009 review of studies on links between vaccines and autism discusses the MMR vaccine controversy as one of three main hypotheses which epidemiological and biological studies fail to support.

In February 2012, the Cochrane Library published a review of dozens of scientific studies involving in all about 14,700,000 children, which found no credible evidence of an involvement of MMR with either autism or Crohn’s disease.

There is no credible evidence of an MMR-autism link.

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

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Guy, for your information, the decision to exonerate Prof. Walker-Smith is a clear indication that the GMC’s case against the Royal Free doctors was “manufactured” to discredit any association between bowel disease, autism conditions and some of the parents’ reported link to the MMR vaccine. The allegations leveled at Prof. Walker-Smith and the Royal Free team now have to be viewed with total skepticism as nothing more than a witch hunt by vested interests at the highest level in Government, media and the pharmaceutical industry.

This decision shows that:

1. The 1998 Lancet paper was an early report of cases seen in consecutive order on the basis of clinical need and nothing whatever to do with the separate Legal Aid Board funded project.

2. The children reported in the 1998 Lancet paper were very ill and did warrant serious clinical investigation and the investigations conducted were entirely appropriate for the children’s needs.

3. The allegations of fraud based on this misconstruction, propagated by journalist Brian Deer, politician Evan Harris, the Murdoch press and the British Medical Journal (and rubberstamped by the GMC) are therefore also unfounded.

The decision vindicates Prof. Walker-Smith (one of two world pioneers of paediatric gastroenterology) after years of false allegations, which supports the ethicality of the Royal Free research and the integrity of the much disputed 1998 Lancet paper. The children were genuinely sick and properly investigated.

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Chris: No, the exoneration of Prof Walker-Smith only shows that he was not responsible.

The counts found against Wakefield were:
1. He was being paid to conduct the study by solicitors representing parents who believed their children had been harmed by MMR, and failed to declare this conflict of interest.
2. He ordered investigations “without the requisite paediatric qualifications” including colonoscopies, colon biopsies and lumbar punctures on his research subjects without the approval of his department’s ethics board and contrary to the children’s clinical interests, when these diagnostic tests were not indicated by the children’s symptoms or medical history.
3. He “Act[ed] ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ in failing to disclose … how patients were recruited for the study”.
4. He conducted the study on a basis which was not approved by the hospital’s ethics committee.
5. He Purchased blood samples—for £5 each—from children present at his son’s birthday party, which he joked about in a later presentation.

The main thing that got Wakefield struck off and disqualified from practice in the UK was the twelve cases of abuse of developmentally challenged children.

It is not surprising, given the extremely serious nature of these charges, that others who appeared to be involved in the fraudulent research were caught up in the maelstrom. It is most regrettable. The fact that they have been exonerated and Wakefield has not is no accident: he was the one doing the invasive tests on autistic children without proper approval and consent.

The children were not “properly investigated”. There was no credible reason for the tests and (most importantly) they were not sanctioned by the ethics board which exists precisely to prevent maverick doctors from conducting treatments and tests which are not robustly justified and clearly in the interests of the patient. This is an extension of the Helsinki Protocol on clinical trials.

I feel sorry for Wakefield, up to a point; he was a decent doctor at one point, my own doctor trained with him and they used to play rugger together. At some point he fell for one of the oldest problems in science and medicine: substituting self-belief for self-criticism. It is a sobering lesson for any doctor engaged in research on human subjects. It doesn’t matter how sincerely you believe in the result, the ethical review board is there to make sure that your actions are appropriate and in the patients’ best interests.

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Joanna – Do you know if the Royal Pharmaceutical Society or the regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council, is intending to take any action as a result of the Which? investigation?

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Thanks Wavechange for trying to get us back to the kernel of the nut.

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So much time is spent trying to control what people can and can’t do and to fit people into boxes which are inappropriately shaped. Science does not fit in a box either – it is constantly changing.

What I find inexcusable was the difficulty the parents who were worried about the MMR had in getting separate injections for their children. The Minister, his daughter and the beef-burger should remain a constant reminder of the arrogance of government.

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@LessIsMore: There is nothing wrong with preventing people from committing fraud or giving bad and misleading health advice. Pharmacists’ regulations have, as far as I can see, always mandated proper regard for evidence, professional integrity and ethics.

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Hello everyone, I’m glad this debate has been so vigorous, however, I’m afraid I’m going to have to warn some of you again.

Please do not write in a way that personally attacks another commenter. You should only be debating the points at hand, not criticising other individuals. This is happening on both sides – try and rise above the pop shots and engage with the points made as best you can. This will increase the respect for your POV, but more importantly, it will produce a more valuable debate.

I’d also like to make a plea for you to stay on topic. This debate is about homeopathy and the fact that pharmacists have failed to explain that it is not backed by science. We’re very happy for you to steer away from this very strict topic, but please try and stay in the vicinity.

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Yes Guy, there is nothing wrong with preventing people from committing fraud or giving bad and misleading health advice, as long as that includes both Mainstream and Alternative.

Btw, Oh my goodness me. Health Freedom is not a lobby by quacks in evading evidence and scrutiny. Health Freedom is as it states: the freedom to choose the type of healthcare that is appropriate for a particular health condition, that I choose to undergo, and not forced into having any treatment of care against my will.

Re’ Health Freedom…………

If you would like a good laugh, I suggest you read this article concerning “Cherries”, which Americas FDA (Food As Drugs Agency) are labeling as “drugs”……………..

You are not allowed to advertise any fruit/vegetable or product with any health claim (even though that claim is backed by Science) because if you do, that fruit or vegetable or product automatically becomes a “drug” and you are forced to discontinue any advertising of any health benefits.
So if you advertise that Vitamin C can cure scurvy, then Vitamin C automatically becomes a “drug”.
This seem sensible to you?

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Chris: As I have pointed out, many skeptics are active in exposing and even trying to fix the issues with medicine. Problems with overstated evidence in medicine absolutely do not justify using an alternative that not only has much worse evidence, but is utterly implausible.

Health claims require robust evidence. Specific claims to treat or cure disease require a specific type of evidence. That’s a level playing field. The health fooldom lobby want the freedom to do everything they say the drugs industry would do if it were not regulated. Only an idiot would allow that.

As for edge cases? Hard cases make bad law, and crank website claims would make even worse law.

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So, here is the original source (not some natural woo site hyping it to the skies): http://www.fda.gov/Food/ComplianceEnforcement/WarningLetters/ucm081724.htm

So, they are making specific claims to treat or cure disease, which exceed what is permitted by law. Do you think all manufacturers should be allowed ot make claims to treat ore cure disease which exceed what is legally permitted? Or do you think that this should apply only to those who make products that invoke the naturalistic fallacy?

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“Problems with overstated evidence in medicine absolutely do not justify using an alternative that not only has much worse evidence, but is utterly implausible”………………………only means the evidence that does not support your view of what constitutes “evidence”. A very narrow minded view.

Health claims for various items such as “cherries” are actually backed by scientific evidence in effectively treating a condition, which is actually identical in the way that a prescribed pharmaceutical only “treats” disease, and does not cure it. Remember I mentioned that many drugs used for specific diseases only “manage” the illness/disease, and do not cure them. But according to you the latter is quite acceptable, where the former is not.

The primary study, published by Michigan State University……….

The Health-freedom lobby only want the choice to pursue a healthcare modality that has been demonstrated to work, and work for quite some time, and not have these privileges removed or eroded by vested interests that perceive them as “competition”: a reasonable stance and request.

I agree with you there could easily be some crank health-websites out there that are fraudulent, and need to be avoided or closed down, but then fraud seems to be endemic in most walks of life, so this wouldn’t be unusual. The websites you refer to are quite few and far between, but one of the better ones which publishes on the science is Mercola.com and Doctoryourself.com, both of which support their views on Natural health via scientific presentation.
All of this is ignored by our Mainstream fraternity because it doesn’t fit in with their perception of treating or overcoming ill-health issues.
My future-son-in-law has Ewings sarcoma and has gone the Mainstream route of Oncology, where they have been very helful, but his Oncologist, when asked about incorporating the “Budwig Protocol” as a way of combatting his cancer replied: “I have heard it is very good at treating cancers, but I am not allowed to recommend it, because it is not based on Pharmaceuticals”.

So most health claims for natural products (even cherries) are supported by science and scientific studies, but this is still not allowed to be advertised.
No of course I do not think that all manufacturers should be allowed to make claims to treat or cure disease which exceed what is legally permitted, but that would only mean that the law needs to be changed in favor of actual scientific and accurate evidence.
You are not aware then Guy of the corruption and influence of Big Pharma in lobbying Congress to have health and other laws made in their favor…………..

and in Europe…………..

On the subject of the main topic……………………..
Dated 22/05/201
“Ten homeopathic flu vaccines have been licensed for use by Canada’s health regulator. They join a growing list of homeopathic vaccines available to Canadians, including ones to prevent polio, measles and pertussis (whooping cough). All of the vaccines have passed tests that deem them to be “safe and effective when used according to instructions on the label.”
The latest licences have been granted to a range of homeopathic flu vaccines called Influenzinum, which have been manufactured by various companies, including BJ Pharmaceutical, Boiron and Homeocan………………………

No doubt you will dismiss this as nonsense or “not evidence-based” or other such nonsense.

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Chris: Do you actually know what a logically valid argument looks like? Appeals to authority, distraction fallacies, straw men… there’s not one argument you ave raised that is not fallacious on some fundamental level!

Mainstream is mainstream because that’s the way science works. Evidence is reviewed and discussed in the literature, and as the observed facts and the theories converge, so consensus forms.

Science is very good at assessing outliers and establishing whether they are evidence of a profound change in how things should be viewed, or merely errors. Homeopathy falls firmly into the category of errors, and will continue to do so until you have produced work that is as robust as the work which conflicts with your beliefs. If I were you I would start with a much easier challenge such as squaring the circle or creating energy from nothing.

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Health Canada has given ­homeopathic remedies approval under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act and issued a Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) for this product. This number lets the public know that the product has undergone and passed a review of its formulation, labelling and instructions for use and permits the manufacturer to market the product in ­Canada. Boiron Laboratories has performed clinical trials on its product, Oscillococcinum, and found it to be effective, as have the many Canadians who can attest to its ­efficacy.

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Chris: They have indeed. That makes them idiots, it does not make homeopathy valid. Health Canada is about politics, this discussion is about science. The two are fundamentally different.

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Let me remind all of you: “Boiron Laboratories has performed CLINICAL TRIALS on its Homeopathic product, Oscillococcinum, and found it to be EFFECTIVE, as have the many Canadians who can attest to its ­efficacy”. This has nothing to do with politics.

Guy, “Mainstream is mainstream because that’s the way science works”.!!

Mainstream is actually Mainstream because that’s the way MONEY works. Are you aware of the “Flexner Report”? which under the influence of the Rockefellers effectively closed down all of the Medical schools in the United States if they did not conform to the “drug and surgical model” of disease and its remedy? (the German model) and forced them to close them by withdrawing funding: this included Homeopathic and Naturopathic schools, ensuring an absolute monopoly. Money was the name of the game then, and still is now.

The AMA (American Medical Association) attempted to outlaw Chiropractic for example because it was a healthcare modality that was seen as competition.
For over 12 years, and with the full knowledge and support of their executive officers, the AMA paid the salaries and expenses for a team of more than a dozen medical doctors, lawyers and support staff for the expressed purpose of conspiring (overtly and covertly) with others in medicine to first contain, and eventually, destroy the profession of chiropractic in the United States and elsewhere.” They didn’t succeed and Chiropractic won-out through the legal system.

Some of you would do well to read a copy of: “When Healing Becomes A Crime” by Kenny Ausubel, which lists all of the dubious and unlawful activities (and there are many) of the Mainstream body the AMA.

“Do I actually know what a logically valid argument looks like”?

“Appeals to authority” can be a valid support for an argument/debate, because authority figures are normally very experienced and highly qualified in their specialty: they offer opinions based on that experience which can support an argument. Would I rather have my plumbing fixed by a “do-it-yourselfer” or would I seek out highly qualified advice with someone who has expertise.?
You are now “clutching at straws”; and no I am not offering “straw men” arguments: or a type of argument that is based on an informal fallacy by misrepresenting your position. There is nothing “fallacious” about my position or argument at all. That is how you perceive my position and not how I perceive my position.

Robin, WHICH do say that “some pharmacists fail to explain there’s no clinical evidence that certain alternative remedies work, like homeopathy.”…………………………….
Is an opinion, and a reiteration of “Mainstream opinion” and not based on anything except an opinion. Such is the mindset that permeates our society. Unless the RPS endorse it, then it must be wrong and bogus right? Wrong. Such is the stranglehold that Mainstream thinking has on Western society.

“SCAM as religion”?
Well, allow me to enlighten you Robin on other forms of Religion…………………

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!

It is estimated that 20% of all antibiotics prescriptions are written for the treatment of sinus infections, which are indeed bacterial. In fact, it’s accepted gospel that antibiotics are the sine qua non of treatment for bacterial sinus infections. And to prove the point, the vast majority of people with sinus infections get better after treatment with antibiotics.

Unfortunately, although antibiotics for sinus infections may be medical gospel, the treatment was also part of the 80% of medical procedures that had never been tested…until now. And the verdict isn’t good. According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the accepted gospel turns out to be unacceptable. In their study of 166 adults with sinus infections, the researchers found that those who took the antibiotic amoxicillin didn’t feel better any faster than those who received a placebo. People in both groups experienced about the same amount of relief after three days…………………………..
Jane M. Garbutt, Christina Banister, Edward Spitznagel, Jay F. Piccirillo. “Amoxicillin for Acute Rhinosinusitis – A Randomized Controlled Trial.” JAMA. 2012;307(7):685-692. http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/307/7/685.short

To quote the report, “There is now a considerable body of evidence … that antibiotics provide little if any benefit for patients with clinically diagnosed acute rhinosinusitis.” They then added, “Yet, antibiotic treatment for upper respiratory tract infections is often both expected by patients and prescribed by physicians.”

More Medical Religion………….

Medical doctors now have multiple scientific studies performed by their own people, that confirm that angioplasties are expensive and essentially useless, and their response is not to stop using the procedure, but to speed up access to it?!!

I should also mention that off-label prescriptions account for at least 21 % of pharmaceutical sales, amounting to at least 150 million prescriptions annually. And in fact, once a drug has been approved for any condition, physicians can prescribe it for any other application they choose without repercussions. About seventy-five percent of the time, there’s a complete lack of clinical evidence supporting the efficacy or safety of the off-label application.

The New England Journal of Medicine, “The FDA may be conceding to drug manufacturers the responsibility for regulating their own off-label marketing practices. … I believe that the FDA must take an active role in fostering evidence-based practice, eliminating subversion of the approval process, and requiring a balanced and fair presentation of the scientific evidence.”
Medical Doctors then can prescribe drugs based on purely “anecdotal evidence” or even on the basis of the barest of rumors or even wishful thinking. In contrast, natural health practitioners are not allowed to prescribe comparatively benign herbs and Nutraceuticals that have long and verifiable track records of safety and efficacy — often stretching back decades and involving millions of people.

When you mentioned SCAM Religion, you omitted to mention Medical Religion.

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Oscillococcinum – a quack product made from ducks.

Maybe the next homeopathic product could be made from tripe. 🙂

No-one denies the problems with conventional medicines and work continues to overcome them.

Robin says:
29 May 2013

Breathtaking volte- face (again):

“Appeals to authority” can be a valid support for an argument/debate, because authority figures are normally very experienced and highly qualified in their specialty: they offer opinions based on that experience which can support an argument. Would I rather have my plumbing fixed by a “do-it-yourselfer” or would I seek out highly qualified advice with someone who has expertise.? ”

then very shortly after

“Unless the RPS endorse it, then it must be wrong and bogus right? Wrong. Such is the stranglehold that Mainstream thinking has on Western society.”

So an authority is right when it supports your view and wrong when it does not and this supports your argument, and you get to choose which authority is correct?

Your first of many appeals to authority, your very first post, cited the British Royal Family, in what way do they meet your stated criterion of “highly qualified in their specialty” in regard to advice issued by pharmacists?

You are demonstrating you would adhere to “mainstream thinking” by using a professional plumber to attend to your plumbing requirements. Thus suggesting you trust them as a source of expertise. As they are so proficient at moving water around perhaps they should branch out into homeopathy?

You seem to wilfully miss the point. RPS members are supposed to behave in a certain way – this Which survey found evidence, remember that..evidence, that many were not. The RPS doesn’t stop pharmacists talking about homeopathy they just expect them to adhere to their guidelines and make it clear there is no evidence to support efficacy of homeopathy over placebo and hence no mislead the public.

Why would you expect the UK public, or its own membership, to disregard the expert opinion of the RPS, which is a professional body for those who issue and prepare medication for the public, as opposed to disregarding any other authority you pick?

Amusing as many of the wandering off into tangential arguments may be there is so little content of the original conversation subject left it is difficult to see how it can have any effect. Hang on a minute…

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Oscillococcinum – a quack product made from ducks: yep, which is no better than the ingredients of medical vaccines.

Here’s a list……………

Bovine serum (from an ox or cow)
Formaldehyde (a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in building materials and to produce many household products). Also a carcinogen.
Egg protein.
Gelatin (derived from collagen obtained from various animal by-products)
Human Albumin.
Lactose. (Intolerance in many)
Phenoxyethanol (can cause diarrhea and vomiting and can affect the central nervous system (United States Food and Drug Administration, 2008).
Polysorbate 80 (Can cause allergic reactions such as redness or rash (Coors et al., 2005, p. 596).
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) (When large quantities are eaten, MSG can cause nerve damage and can affect brain functioning (Sears, 2007, p. 210).
Thimerosal (contains mercury)

Quite the “Witches brew eh?

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Obviously we should get rid of vaccines and effective medicines because the increased life expectancy they have helped to create is causing many problems for society.

Robin says:
29 May 2013

Of course water consumed in high volumes, over a short period of time can be lethal too, so best we avoid that completely too. Don’t start me on the toxicity of Oxygen lest we all give up breathing

darn I went off topic.. apologies.

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I did not say that when an authority supports my view that it is automatically correct, anymore than another authority is right when they offer a differing viewpoint. I am just illustrating that there is more than one side to a coin, and where you are rejecting the other side of the coin (my side)

I also did not say that The Royal Family are an “authority” on anything, except to say that they have endorsed the use of Homeopathy for decades and I suppose they do this because it is a bogus therapy? experience and personal use counts for something, does it not?

This is just flippant nonsense and you know that…………………..
“You are demonstrating you would adhere to “mainstream thinking” by using a professional plumber to attend to your plumbing requirements. Thus suggesting you trust them as a source of expertise. As they are so proficient at moving water around perhaps they should branch out into homeopathy”?

No I haven’t missed the point Robin. The WHICH report found that the Pharmacists questioned were at fault in offering non-comformist and conflicting advice given by the RPS. (An infallible society perhaps)?
Pharmacists should adhere to RPS guidelines that is true as they are………..well………..pharmacists! so the fault lies with the Pharmacists, not with Homeopathy. RPS guidelines on Homeopathy are erroneous, so the guidelines should state that pharmacists are not qualified to offer advice on Homeopathy at all, so shouldn’t give any.

The UK public do not have to disregard the expert opinion of the RPS, I didn’t say that, but if they wany advice on Homeopathy they should go to a Homeopath. You are approaching this as if the RPS is the ONLY authority.

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“Obviously we should get rid of vaccines and effective medicines because the increased life expectancy they have helped to create is causing many problems for society”.

Just one example……………….
Mass vaccination had little effect on smallpox. Smallpox disappeared in countries with little or no vaccination, such as Australia and New Zealand, as well as countries with widespread vaccination………………..
Dick G. Smallpox: A Reconsideration of Public Health Policies. Progress in Medical Virology 1966: 8: 1-29

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched its Intensified Smallpox Eradication Programme in 1967, its strategy involved mass vaccination of 100% of the populations of countries where smallpox still existed. It soon became clear that this was not working and a different approach was found to be more successful: the ‘surveillance-containment strategy’. This did not rely on mass vaccination but instead depended on quickly finding new cases and isolating them to prevent spread. This was accompanied by selective vaccination of close contacts. This approach proved far more effective than the policy of mass vaccination, and the last case of wild smallpox was diagnosed in Somalia in 1977. Two years later, WHO declared the world free of smallpox…………………………………..

Hopkins, Jack W. 1989. The Eradication of Smallpox: Organizational Learning and Innovation in International Health. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Brilliant, Lawrence B. 1985. The Management of Smallpox Eradication in India. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Fenner, F., D. A. Henderon, I. Arita, Z. Jezek, and I. D. Ladnyi. 1988. Smallpox and Its Eradication. Geneva: World Health Organization.

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Chris: In your zeal to promote the anti-vaccination line, you are denying the facts. See where it says that as smallpox retreated, there were targeted campaigns of isolating infected individuals and *selective vaccination of close contacts* – that’s the clue. Immunisation prevented spread beyond the shrinking pool of infected individuals.

Smallpox was eradicated by scientific medicine, with immunisation being a part of the eradication programme. There is no significant informed dissent from this view.

Homeopathy, by contrast, has never provably prevented or cured a single case of a single disease. That’s why there is no real controversy over pharmacists using medicine, but there is controversy over their selling homeopathy.

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Chris: Oscillococcinum is the canonical quack remedy.

Joseph Roy invented it based on “oscillococci”, bacteria he claimed to have identified in Spanish flu victims. He subsequently identified the same “oscillococci” in cancer victims and many other patients, leading him to suppose they were the cause of much human suffering. He claimed to have isolated them in the liver of a duck, and based on this the modern product is prepared from the heart and liver of a (different breed of) duck.

It is a 200C remedy, that is a dilution of one part in ten to the four hundredth power. There are around ten to the eightieth power atoms in the entire known universe.

Oh, and oscillococci do not exist. And flu is not caused by any bacterium.

Everything about it is wrong. And yet it “works” exactrly as every other remedy “works”, through placebo effects and a mechanism of institionalised confirmation bias that would result in the conclusion that it “works” regardless.

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Chris, is this the same Boiron that had to settle class actions for consumer fraud in the US and amend its packaging to remove references to “active” ingredients that don’t exist in the finished product at any detectable level?

Robin says:
29 May 2013

And in what way does that address your volte face? You claim one authority is correct and another wrong, for no logical reason other than it suits you. Remember you made a plea for impartiality, in what way does your position demonstrate impartiality and rational unbiased assessment of the evidence? My point is valid a plumber has as much authority as a homeopath.

“experience and personal use counts for something, does it not?”
Not if it is not supported by credible evidence, just because someone firmly believes something doesn’t make it true.

You now divert the discussion off to vaccination despite a request from the mods to keep the discussion on topic.

I am glad we agree that pharmacist should follow the recommendations of the RPS. I utterly disagree with your assertion: “RPS guidelines on Homeopathy are erroneous, so the guidelines should state that pharmacists are not qualified to offer advice on Homeopathy at all, so shouldn’t give any.” . There is no evidence homeopathy is effective beyond that of placebo, so they are correct in what they say.

If the public want to discuss homeopathy they should consult a homeopath? You are approaching this as if homeopaths are the ONLY authority. They aren’t an authority BTW. That is a very dangerous stance to take, the whole point of the survey was that some pharmacists were missing signs that could represent serious illness. Suggesting the public avoid medical experts and seek health care advice from a homeopath is irresponsible.

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Your point being?

Placebo? same old diatribe, or here we go round the mulberry bush. None of you it seems have investigated my links on Homeopathys best research, but then why would you? as you have fixed dogmatic impervious opinions.

Robin, the English was quite clear: one authority has equal standing as any other, it is just that you discount the authorities that I post on. That is the distinction.

So we need credible evidence for experience of personal use. Well you go look for all the credible evidence you want using the “Gold standard” RCT no doubt but testimonials (thousands of them) are very credible for me and thousands like me. If it works it works………….that’s it. Voila. Leave science to wallow in their wanton proof. The proof my dear is in the pudding.

I did not mention vaccination FIRST………..Wavechange did. I just countered his argument with science, which you have all ignored, and/or twisted to suit your own agenda. Smallpox was not eradicated by vaccination: you are just towing the party line and reiterating your own dogmas and ignoring the evidence.

It is claimed by medical historians that the vaccination process wiped out smallpox throughout the world. However, the truth is that compulsory vaccination was abandoned because more deaths were caused by the vaccinations than there were cases of smallpox. A slight of the hand trick was used to foster the claim that smallpox was eradicated by the vaccination practice. Everyone who had been vaccinated and who developed smallpox was diagnosed as having chicken pox!

This is the truth on smallpox vaccination……………………..not that you will believe it of course……………………

Homeopathy does not work by placebo; you have just ignored the evidence really, or evidence that does not fit in with your criteria as to what does constitute evidence.

Why on earth would I want to visit a Medical expert when I would only need to visit a Homeopath for certain aliments (more safely) that medical experts cannot address.? (Research Iatrogenic deaths within the Medical profession) and compare this with Iatrogenic deaths via Homeopaths.

Mainstream has much going for it, that I will admit: trauma, ER; Surgical intervention, Anesthesia; Diagnostics and so on, but I would rather stay alive for longer. My Mother died of neglect within the NHS. Anyone seen the news lately re’ The Mid-Staffordshire Hospital Trust? and that’s just for starters and only the tip of the iceberg.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Robin says:
29 May 2013

I haven’t discounted what you put forth as evidence, I just find it wanting, by a country mile. As did a Cochrane review amongst others.

“Homeopathy does not work by placebo” is two words too many.

I had already read a lot of the studies you refer to, and you’ve guided me to a few more. If anything they have only served to confirm my opinion that there is no credible evidence for any effect of homeopathy above that of placebo. The reasons have been stated repeatedly already.

You state testimonials are very credible for you. That has been obvious throughout, but testimonials are not proof. This demonstrates that you accept lower standards of evidence than most people, including every medical regulatory body. Bloodletting, for example, was very popular for quite a long time, and I am sure it got some great testimonials and, this might please you, the Royal Family were fans for quite a long time.

Because trials of homeopathy have failed to reach standards that will convince most people, homeopaths have taken a position that it is the process that is wrong, that is just twisted logic.

“any known detectable level. This doesn’t mean the product is ineffective and not very useful”
Wow, just wow. Have you heard of the parable of the Emperors new clothes?

If you believe something that can’t be seen, can’t be measured, or detected in any way, has no rational explanation how it might work, you are taking it on faith, perhaps that’s why people draw comparisons to a religion?

On the plus side we have established a little more common ground, you accept medicine, as opposed to magic, has a role to play in treating the majority of health problems. Although we probably differ in the extent of our opinion, we also agree medicine, note just medicine, no need for “mainstream” it is either medicine or it isn’t, is not perfect. We know it is not perfect and that is one of the main reasons some people keep challenging to see the evidence, and thus contribute to the advancement of medicine for everyone’s sake. The demand for evidence applies to anyone making claims equally, be they pharmaceutical companies, homeopaths, hypnotists, hyper-galactic trans-planar eyelid therapists etc. The all trials campaign is a good example of how everyone can push for higher, not lower, standards of evidence and transparency.

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Chris: It’s not the testimonials for which we require evidence. We already know that they can be explained by perfectly mundane factors such as natural course if disease, cognitive biases and placebo effects.

The thing that requires evidence is the bizarre claim that taking something that has no objectively provable connection to a symptom, and diluting it until nothing remains, will somehow cure the disease that produces the symptom. Further, the even more extraordinary claim that a different single preparation of none of something is required for individuals with identical disease.

Remember, your prophet says this is the sole principle of cure. Not an adjunct, the sole principle.

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Extraordinary Evidence: Homeopathy’s Best Research………………….

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Chris: Best? No wonder you have completely failed to make any progress in changing the scientific consensus then.

You’ll notice how (unlike your polemical sources) the Wikipedia article on homeopathy covers both sides of the debate, giving weight according to the objective quality of evidence. Which is why homeopaths hate it, just as fans of remote viewing hate our reality-based perspective on that.

The conclusions are robust and well sourced, and that is why Which? rightly concluded that advising homeopathy is inappropriate for pharmacists and why it is shocking that so many are prepared to profit form unevidenced treatments in this way.

I read a great phrase today: “While the idea of equal time for opposing opinions makes sense in a two-party political system, it does not work for science, because science is not about opinion. It is about evidence. It is about claims that can be, and have been, tested through scientific research — experiments, experience, and observation — research that is then subject to critical review by a jury of scientific peers. Claims that have not gone through that process — or have gone through it and failed — are not scientific, and do not deserve equal time in a scientific debate.”

Science is not one “side” of a debate. Science is the outcome of a debate. There are no physical processes which violate the laws of thermodynamics, whatever free energy suppression conspiracists might think. No particle can have both its position and its momentum known simultaneously whatever Einstein might think about God’s gaming habits. No flames contain phlogiston. This is not a point of view, it is the settled consensus of science after decades or centuries of patient exploration. To overturn this consensus will require work of at least equivalent quality.

I have an opinion. My opinion is that there is no reason to think homeopathy should work, no way it can work, and no good evidence it does work.

The scientific consensus is slightly different. It is that no plausible reason has been advanced why it should work, the proposed mechanisms conflict with well-established scientific principles and have failed to be supported by credible evidence and often display a profound ignorance of the relevant science (e.g. Milgrom’s “quantum flapdoodle”), and the clinical observations are all consistent with the null hypothesis.

The science with which homeopathy conflicts is of a very high quality. High enough that, say, finding silicates in water held in a glass vessel (which is an expected result ad indeed a known problem with sensitive chemical experiments) is not going to change it. What you need is not more of the same kind of unpersuasive evidence, but different evidence of a massively more rigorous kind. You have to start refuting the null hypothesis rather than just repudiating it.

Science is not a court of law, it is a process. Homeopathy is rooted in immutable certainties, and just like pretty much every other 18th Century theory rooted in immutable certainties, it has been left behind by the scientific process, which has found that its immutable certainties are neither certain nor immutable.

Hahnemann was born around thirty years after Newton died. Darwin was born when Hahnemann was middle-aged. By middle age, Darwin knew enough to be contemptuous of homeopathy, as did Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. Hahnemann pre-dates the acceptance of Avogadro’s work. Mendeleev was a child when Hahnemann died. Hahnemann was wrong in a way that was understandable then; the excuse for this error passed not long after he did.

Science started showing homeopathy’s assumptions to be fundamentally wrong by the mid 19th Century, and by the end of the 19th Century it would have been clear to any scientist that homeopathy needed to completely revise its theories to account for observed fact. But homeopathy has no way of doing that.

In the US, osteopaths started out as a branch of chiropractic, but they reviewed their core doctrines, embraced scientific evidence, changed track and are now essentially indistinguishable from doctors. Homeopathy cannot re-examine its core doctrines, because they are what defines homeopathy. Homeopathy without the doctrine of similia would be like the Catholic Church without Christ.

So to pharmacists again.

Pharmacists should not propose faith healing, reiki, crystals, ju-ju, or vodun. They should not promote “live blood analysis”, “miracle mineral solution”, black salve or coffee enemas. They should not promote creams claimed to enlarge the breasts or p***s, supplements claimed to make adults grow, vitamin megadoses or anything else promoted by nutritionists and rejected by dieticians.

It does not matter who makes the product, the pharmacist should stick with evdence-based advice and leave the quackery to Holland and Barrett.

Which is why homeopathy has no place in a pharmacy. It has not earned its place there. We have a hard enough time squeezing out the ridiculous hype of products that do work, albeit not as well as the makers would like you to believe.

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“No wonder you have completely failed to make any progress in changing the scientific consensus then”.

It’s called “closed minds” Guy.

“Polemical sources”, meaning a person engaged in or inclined to controversy, argument, or refutation.
Nope, not really. I am not being controversial or argumentative or involved in refutation just for the sake of it. My position is defending a subject which you have disagreed with: a defensive position in stating my case and supported by millions.

The BMJ……………
“Civil servants suppress evidence on homeopathy on NHS website after lobbying from prince’s charity”.
“The way in which lobby groups and powerful people can influence government has come to light after an article on homeopathy on the public information website NHS Choices was stripped of all evidence questioning its effectiveness as a result of intervention by a charity set up by the Prince of Wales………………….

“The Department of Health commissions the NHS Choices website from the private information company Capita to provide “objective and trustworthy information” to help patients make decisions about their health and treatment…………..

“But evidence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by David Colquhoun, emeritus professor of pharmacology at University College London and a fellow of the Royal Society, indicates that the health department can edit the content if it contradicts its own policies, even if that content is based on evidence………………….

Emails obtained from NHS Choices by Colquhoun show that …………………..

This is a whopper to end all whoppers……………………

“Pharmacists should not promote creams claimed to enlarge the breasts or p****, supplements claimed to make adults grow, vitamin megadoses or anything else promoted by nutritionists and rejected by dietitians”………………..

………………………….as long as you know that Dietitians recommend “foodless foods” to the Royal Marsden Hospital cancer patients, in the mistaken belief that nutrition is based on calories, and white sugar products such as “Mars bars” will give them energy………………………

A new study published in the journal “Cancer Epidemiology, Mile Markers, and Prevention” is presenting evidence of the link between the consumption of refined carbohydrates and cancer. This case-controlled study looked at the dietary habits of over 1,800 women in Mexico, and found that those who got 57% or more of their total energy intake from refined carbohydrates showed a 220% higher risk of breast cancer than women with more balanced diets.

Researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah were one of the first to discover that sugar “feeds” tumors. The research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said, “It’s been known since 1923 that tumor cells use a lot more glucose than normal cells. Our research helps show how this process takes place, and how it might be stopped to control tumor growth,” says Don Ayer, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah.


Dr. Thomas Graeber, a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology, has investigated how the metabolism of glucose affects the biochemical signals present in cancer cells. In research published June 26, 2012 in the journal Molecular Systems Biology, Graeber and his colleagues demonstrate that glucose starvation—that is, depriving cancer cells of glucose—activates a metabolic and signaling amplification loop that leads to cancer cell death as a result of the toxic accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS)……………………………

Nicholas A Graham, Martik Tahmasian, Bitika Kohli, Evangelia Komisopoulou, Maggie Zhu, Igor Vivanco, Michael A Teitell, Hong Wu, Antoni Ribas, Roger S Lo, Ingo K Mellinghoff, Paul S Mischel, Thomas G Graeber. Glucose deprivation activates a metabolic and signaling amplification loop leading to cell death. Molecular Systems Biology, 2012; 8 DOI: 10.1038/msb.2012.20

So Dietitians recommend high sugar content foods to cancer patients!!
Nutritionists give more sensible advice esp’ those connected with “Functional Medicine”.

You make me laugh, you really do, but I am enjoying your sense of humor immensely.

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Chris: Yet another classic homeopathy reversal.

You assert that scientists and skeptics have closed minds because we will not accept your religious dogmas.


We will, just as soon as you bring credible evidence, plausible mechanisms and all the other things that are missing.

But not before.

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Media Skeptics : A Popcorn Gallery.
Scientism. It’s a relatively new kind of quasi-religious mania that’s associated with a notion of evidence-based medicine that has very little to do with real scientific studies and everything to do with a pop-culture obsession. It denies the existence of an evidence base it doesn’t like, and creates a mythology of an evidence base where one doesn’t really exist. Sound fascinating?

In the past number of years many of us have encountered websites and posts from people who belligerently and rabidly attack any form of medicine that doesn’t revolve around drugs and surgery, ie. conventional medicine. The word “quackery” gets thrown around a lot. So does “placebo”. And “evidence-based,” as if homeopathy wasn’t, right from the start.
Verbal attacks are predictably aimed at homeopathy, acupuncture /Traditional Chinese Medicine, chiropractic, osteopathy, naturopathy and any other form of holistic or complementary medicine. The term “alternative” medicine was actually coined by the drug industry so that they could play semantics with the notion that if something was an alternative to medicine is wasn’t medicine at all…………………………

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Chris: So now you have given up even pretending to discuss the subject at hand and have fallen back on the usual “nasty atheists won’t let us promote our religion unchallenged” nonsense.

You lose, matey.

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From a comment on plans to withdraw funding for Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital:

If we dilute their funding enough, it’ll make it more effective…

It’s hokum. Pure and simple

Robin says:
28 May 2013

Perhaps now is an appropriate point to remind everyone how this conversation starts, I.e. with a pretty clear statement about the lack of efficacy of homeopathy, it’s there in bold at the top of the page.

“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.”

This sets the context: are pharmacists followings he advice of a professional body, are they acting ethically, should they be allowed to promote a product which has been shown to have no effect other than as a placebo?

So why are homepaths claims so unconvincing to the majority? Many supporters of homeopathy fall back on conspiracy or “ignorance” or people ignoring their “evidence”. The reality has been stated over and over again, many poor quality studies, cherry picking data, an often rigidly dogmatic faith based ideology and so on. Many studies show lack of effect but are often ignored. If homeopathy worked to the extent claimed it should be really, really simple to prove it. The fact, and it is a well established fact, that it has not been proven after 200 years is the reason the RPS quite rightly expects the membership to be honest, and not make claims that cannot be substantiated to anything approaching even a basic standard of proof. To do otherwise is unethical, misleading and fraudulent.

Pharmacists in the UK are usually treated as respected experts, they have actively sought a bigger role in primary care. It is a matter of deep concern that this study suggests many may not be worthy of our trust. If they make such poor judgments, without making it clear it’s just their personal opinion, not accepted by the majority of pharmacists, how can we trust their judgment in other areas? The report also found failure to make sensible recommendations about conditions such as long term coughing, even during a health promotion campaign on that very subject. As was asked above, I wonder what the professional bodies response has been, if anything?

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True, homeopathy believers accuse unbelievers of being “ignorant” of homeopathy. Actually I think most of us find that the more we know about it, the less plausible it gets!

Robin says:
29 May 2013

I find it hard to think the theory could get less plausible. “The light of Venus” as a homeopathic treatment?

The big difference is when medical science is sceptical, e.g. H.pylori and stomach ulcers, as soon as good evidence emerged it was accepted and well deserved Nobel prizes resulted. And that is against a background of big profits from antacid medications, which rather belies the conspiracy theorists. Ultimately it is another opportunity for the pharma companies to manufacture the treatments and diagnostic test and make a profit (primary outcome) and along the way help people. (I am not rosy eyed about pharma). Medical concepts, as opposed to use of specific drugs, tend to move to acceptance quite rapidly as evidence grows.

Contrast that with 200 years and nothing convincing.

I had never really thought about SCAM as religion but I can see there are close parallels in behaviour and fervour it is an interesting comparison.

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I have been reading Information Sheet 17(2012) produced by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which covers homeopathy: http://www.rpharms.com/museum-pdfs/17-homoeopathy-2012.pdf

Here is an extract:

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) recently reviewed the evidence surrounding the efficacy of homoeopathy and concluded that there was no evidence from randomised controlled trials for the efficacy of homoeopathy over placebo, and no scientific basis for homoeopathy. These views were presented in the Society‟s written and oral submissions to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee for its evidence check on homoeopathy in November 2009. Given the lack of clinical and scientific evidence to support homoeopathy, the RPS does not endorse homoeopathy as a form of treatment.

One of the reasons given for RPS pharmacists getting involved with homeopathic products is that customers may ask for advice.

My suggestion is that if the owners of the shop want to sell homeopathic products these are put on open shelves, along with the packs of 16 aspirin tablets, indigestion pills and the like, which are deemed safe for the public to buy. If the RPS genuinely does not endorse homeopathy as a form of treatment, their members should not have anything to do with it.

The same applies to the NHS.

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Perhaps we should call for a separate debate on the lack of perfick magickal qualities of a lot of drugs of the “mainstream” variety? Are doctors warning or adequately warning their patients that these may have unpleasant side effects? How many people are aware that you can officially report unlisted side effects – so that it can be a warning to other patients and that the pharmaceutical company gets to know about it – not just your GP? There’s a form but few people seem to know about it.

Life isn’t tick box – we’re all different and our bodies react differently to different substances.

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The yellow card system of reporting drug interactions etc. used to be the restricted to professionals, but anyone can now report suspected problems: https://yellowcard.mhra.gov.uk

I have contacted a drug manufacturer when I had a problem that a GP seemed uninterested in. The appropriate change was made to the leaflet, though I will never know whether my input had any effect.

I do not know whether pharmacists routinely report problems.

Maybe we should be reporting that homeopathic ‘remedies’ are ineffective. 🙂