/ Health

Your view: do pharmacists and homeopathy mix?

Homeopathy pills in bottles

Our snapshot investigation into pharmacies revealed that 13 out of 20 failed to explain that there’s no clinical evidence that homeopathy works. It proved to be a popular starting point for discussion…

‘As soon as you talk about homeopathy, it divides opinion’, said our senior health researcher, Joanna Pearl, in her introduction to our investigation into pharmacists and homeopathy last week.

How right she was! Chrisb1 dared to open up the discussion by putting forward his view on the safety of homeopathy vs prescription medicine:

‘We should ask ourselves why prescription drugs, taken as prescribed in hospitals, are the fourth leading cause of death in the US and Canada, after cancer, heart disease and strokes. They cause about 10,000 deaths a year in Canada and about 106,000 deaths a year, and over two million serious injuries in the US.’

These statistics, and this view, were widely challenged by other commenters, including Paulj:

‘This isn’t an argument for an alternative such has homeopathy that has dubious, highly questionable evidence. Let’s improve evidence-based medicine rather than flee to non-scientific medicines.’

Guy Chapman believes there’s a reason why we have the term ‘alternative’ medicine:

‘A treatment is alternative only because it cannot be shown to work, or more likely it can be shown with good confidence not to (as with homeopathy). If it can be proven to work, it is no longer alternative, it is medicine.’

Should pharmacists sell homeopathy?

Many commenters – like Sophie Gilbert – think our snapshot investigation indicates a bigger problem with pharmacists selling homeopathy

‘Homeopathy belongs to the same realm as astrology and should not be recommended by pharmacists any more that financial advisers should recommend consulting our horoscopes to see if our investments are going to perform well in future.’

David Colquhoun agrees:

‘It is horrifying that pharmacists give such bad advice. Pharmacists are constantly pushing for a greater role in primary care. Their education seems just not to be good enough to take on that role at the moment. I have known some who are very good, but it seems they are still in a minority. I hope they take these revelations very seriously indeed.’

We even had Dr Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science and Bad Pharma) join the discussion on Twitter (@bengoldacre):

What do pharmacists have to say?

A few days earlier, we published another Convo outlining the wider research into pharmacists’ advice. Karen joined that debate and made a good point about counter staff:

‘It is very difficult to approach some customers regarding their medicines as they tend to see Counter Assistants as ‘shop girls’ and refuse to take any advice given. It is very rare you get a good response when refusing to sell something to someone.

‘We need to remember that it is the counter staff who spend the most time with our patients and as such should be subjected to the same scrutiny as our pharmacists and technicians.’

On Twitter, pharmacist Joseph Bush (@josephbush) went a step further with his suggestion:

New vs old

The discussion on homeopathy went on to question how both alternative and conventional medicines move with the times. Dieseltaylor thinks that conventional medicine often backtracks:

‘I think one of the bugbears I have is that “proper” medicine has quite a few incidents of “we know we are right” and then in the fullness of time we find that in fact the medical fraternity are quite quite wrong. All I wish for is a little less hubris.’

Ned doesn’t think this made homeopathy any more credible, however:

‘Yes, scientific medicine evolves to take account of new evidence. You can’t do that without changing your advice.

‘By contrast, homeopathy is rigidly based on the unsubstantiated theories of a 19th century crackpot. But it makes a lot of money for pharmacists with little risk of them being sued for actually harming patients, (as long as they don’t advise people against going to a doctor for an effective cure).’

So do you think pharmacists should only recommend remedies backed by scientific evidence? So far, voters in our poll are overwhelmingly in favour, with nearly 80% saying that they should. Cast your vote now if you haven’t already, and tell us what you think about homeopathy being sold in pharmacies in the comments below.

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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Following on from Dr Milgroms most recent post I discovered this useful information while we are critiquing Homeopathy, and that it doesn’t bear scientific scrutiny, and the defense of the “scientific method” and/or EBM…………………..

Pharmageddon is the story of a tragedy……………………………..

This is a clearly articulated, historically informed, riveting new book by Dr. David Healy, PHARMAGEDDON, published by the University of California Press, which provides an insightful analysis of the culture in medicine that has led prominent medical authorities to make unsupportable, contradictory public pronouncements about the presumed clinical value of patent-protected prescription drugs. Contrary to industry propaganda, in company-controlled clinical trials, statins failed to demonstrate a clinical benefit—except for those with established cardiovascular disease. Indeed, there is no evidence that any blockbuster drug saved lives or demonstrated a significant clinical benefit—these drugs merely exhibited an effect on a rating scale greater than a placebo. By contrast these drugs’ severe adverse effects are demonstrated by patients’ deteriorating health and premature deaths.

You can read more about this book here: http://archive.feedblitz.com/78317/~4150380

[This comment has been edited for breaking our T&Cs. ” “Any content you add to the site will not infringe the copyright, trademarks or any other IP rights of another person”. Please only paste an extract and give full credit, with a link if possible. Thanks, mods.]

Chris: Amazing, you found an anti medicine crank who supports your opinions. However did you manage that?

Actually that’s not entirely fair: Healy is sincere and has done some good work, but he is also rather transparently pushing an agenda, and in doing so giving ammunition to those whose view of medicine is straight from the “what have the Romans ever done for us?” school.

And as usual the excellent Ben Goldacre has summarised the issue accurately: https://twitter.com/bengoldacre/status/15857117862


Sending bravos in high potency for your comment about Dr. Healy’s PHARMAGEDDON :o)

Dr Healy as an anti-medicine crank? (I must admit you do love that word). I wonder what he would say in answer to that accusation face to face?

Dr Healy is in fact a Professor in Psychological Medicine at Cardiff University School of Medicine, Wales, so one of Medicines stalwarts, so your actually insulting one of your own kind…..nice.

He also has an MD in neuroscience and studied psychiatry during a clinical research fellowship at Cambridge University Clinical School. In 1990, Healy became a Senior Lecturer in Psychological Medicine at North Wales. In 1996 he became a Reader in Psychological Medicine, then later became Professor. His current research interests at Cardiff University include: cognitive functioning in affective disorders and psychoses as well as circadian rhythms in affective disorders, recovery in psychoses and physical health of people with mental illness.

PHARMAGEDDON concludes with suggestions for reform of our currently corrupted evidence-based medical system.

I shall buy it just to make sure he is not a “crank” Guy, but what a wonderful expose of the corrupt RCT’s and the “gold-standard” of Medicine…………..WONDERFUL, esp’ as it refutes much of the evidence that you endeavor to defend here with the “scientific method” and EBM.

Robin says:
12 June 2013

Chris, we keep going round in circles.

Attack as the best form of defence may be a useful concept in some walks of life perhaps, but it doesn’t work in a discussion where scientific evidence is at the heart of the matter.

My medicine good yours bad? Perhaps that’s the way you see the sceptical, but I thinks it has be been argued to death that medicine is not perfect. That said there is overwhelming evidence that medicine does good, more good than harm. I suspect you may question that last part but the evidence is just so clear. But that is not the point whatever you think. Bashing medicine does not help the case of homeopathy in any way shape or form. It also gives an impression of avoiding the subject of homeopathy.

We have argued evidence to death, but if you think you will change the way science evaluates data, I think you are tilting at windmills. Unless, and there is alway an unless in science, unless you can prove a better way, then people will be climbing over you to claim they thought of it first. We moved to RCTs and evidence based medicine because anecdote, “traditional use” etc clearly, did not work.

Perhaps the best way would be to prove homeopathy works, you feel you have, but it is obviously still a minority view, if you want a questionnaire that’s a pretty big one. Homeopathy has had a recent resurgence, but it nearly disappeared within living memory ( decided against a water based pun here).

I have been really disappointed in my reading around the subject and on this discussion at the lack of evidence. If we move aside from RCTs anecdotes and accusations one trait of humans is intense curiosity. Hence I find it really frustrating that there seem to be so little curiosity about how a 200 year old belief might work.

Even if you have no idea how it might work, there is much that can be done. If we don’t know how gravity works, we can observe it. We can ask questions. Do all objects of different mass respond the same, does it work the same at sea level and at mountain top, why do some gases and hot air appear to defy this force, is the force the same strength all over the world and on and on and on. Once you have done some tests you get interesting data that often poses even more questions. Why is the force of gravity different in South America than Europe?

I set out some questions about homeopathy, Alan contributed more.. Not one response. Why do you have to tap the water 10 times, what happens If you do 9 or 11 it is a really simple and obvious question? Has no one been curious enough to test this in the last 200 years? Perhaps the data is out there (pun avoided again), but I haven’t found it.

If they haven’t carried out such basic tests and don’t seem to want to test and question the basics, can you not see what that seems like a religious belief?

thank you for your thoughtful posts, and no I was under no illusion that you were beginning to “go soft” and cave in.!

Yes, I do admit we do keep going round in circles.

I will also admit that I have used attack as a form of defence of not only homeopathy, but also other health-modalities mentioned here such as acupuncture, but this was brought about for the most part by the attacks on these modalities from what I consider to be the tenuous position from the detractors: a sort of you should: “remove the plank in your eye, before considering removing the splinter in my own”.
There has been such a hullabaloo concerning what has been portrayed as an almost infallible EBM and the “scientific method”, esp’ from Guy, that my efforts have been directed at exposing the flaws of these, to account for a lack of justification in denigrating homeopathy and others. In other words “get your own house in order before”…………………..
Dr Milgrom also illustrated how the original concept of EBM had been hijacked and twisted to suit pharmaceutical and medical agendas and away from the original concept put forward by David Sackett, and how this was further illustrated by my post on Pharmaggedon.

I also posted on what I consider to be “evidence” which most of you seem to deny and refuse, but many outside medicine, and even within medicine, consider that the role of RCT’s and Systematic Reviews have been placed upon an untrustworthy pedestal; many RCT’s have results that are inconclusive, not to mention the role of bias in their published results.

I am certain that the mechanism of action for homeopathy will be discovered in the fullness of time if science is willing to lend a helping hand. However, my own experience of the role of corporate business in medicine, basically means that any deemed “competition” from alternatives is denigrated and lobbied and legislated into being ineffective. There is no level playing field in my own view.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that medicine does more good than harm
Bashing medicine does not help the case of homeopathy, no, but then bashing homeopathy, when it is the second largest healthcare modality in the World does not help either.
What we should be doing is for all factions to come together and discover once and for all why millions of people adhere to a form of therapy that most of orthodox science has rejected; after all we all play for the same team in aiding people into wellness and freedom from disease.

I disagree though that anecdote, “traditional use” etc clearly, does work and why it is adhered to in many parts of the World. I do not believe for one moment that Modern Medicine will supersede other forms of therapy as in TCM or Medical acupuncture, but as an evidence-base grows will be incorporated into the whole.

Homeopathy may be proven to work on the basis of like treats like and similar to the concept of vaccinations. Some here assume that I am anti-vax per-se, but that is actually not the case, as my only real concern has been for the “ingredients” of those vaccines.

In answer to your last point re’ the lack of basic tests and testing, I believe more and more research is being done and going to be done and in India for example, so time will tell.

A religious belief? No I do not agree with that, because so many thousands of people who have experienced homeopathic remedies have had a clear and distinct benefit, and not so easily dismissed as mere “placebo”.

Chris: You keep banging on about the problems with medicine as if this (a) is denied by medicine and (b) validates homeopathy, despite the fact that it doesn’t.

Why do you do this? Is it that you have no better argument, or are you just unable to comprehend why you are wrong?

Robin says:
12 June 2013

Chris I sense a glimmer of progress, I hope I am not wrong, there are still major difference and going over most of them seems futile at this point.

“What we should be doing is for all factions to come together and discover once and for all why millions of people adhere to a form of therapy that most of orthodox science has rejected; after all we all play for the same team in aiding people into wellness and freedom from disease”

I agree with the second part, I agree that in general most people have more in common that differentiates them. Unfortunately some of these differences can be disastrous in all fields of human endeavour, but this isn’t the place to discuss that.

We differ on the first part of your comment.
You haven’t address the point I took so long to get to……..
200 years and where is the evidence. Why should we come together now when, rationally, impartially, there isn’t much to study? Before we understood much of the physics and chemistry we know now, homeopathy might have been expected to make headway.

Let me be specific.

Has anyone investigated why 10 taps seems to be the standard, if not why not?

Robin says:
12 June 2013

Robin darn, proof read better! More in common than differentiates them, autocorrect is a pain,

Well no, I have not kept “banging on” about the problems with medicine as such, but have merely tried to illustrate the fallibility of your defence of the “scientific method” and EBM, and which you have described as the only way forward to prove that there is any “evidence” being of any worth. Both I and Dr Milgrom mentioned the narrow-mindedness and restricted dogma of scientism, which you adhere to.
Medicine of course does admit to its failings (some of the time) but it usually takes an expose of Corporate and vested interests to reveal this, by such people as Ben Goldacre and Dr Healy to bring this to the fore.

This of course does not validate homeopathy (I don’t believe I have ever mentioned that it did), but when much of medicine does not have an evidence-base, and treatments are used that do have the backing of the scientific method or EBM, it is most definitely hypocritical to critique homeopathy because you state it has no valid mechanism of action. A case of the pot calling the kettle black no less.

Guy, there are millions of people who use homeopathy who can attest to its efficacy, and therefore in my on view cannot be so easily dismissed as mere placebo. I recall the case of one Dr Isaac Jennings MD who in the 19th century had huge successes against diseases prevalent of that era: his fame grew and grew, but it wasn’t too long before these successes were exposed, because he prescribed sugar pills of an assortment of colors, and taken as prescribed he stated to his patients that they would get well. They did for the most part, but he also insisted on his patients making lifestyle changes as part of this treatment protocol, and it was actually this that allowed him to achieve his level of success. He was hounded out of his practice for being a fraud and despite his success rate.
Placebos are easily discovered for what they are, and in a very short time-frame, as in the days of the wild west and the “snake-oil salesman”. Homeopathy has stood the test of time: over 200 years. Dr Jennings efforts however were spurred on, when along with a chappie called Sylvester Graham, they discovered a large group of Christians in Pennsylvania who seemed to be totally immune to the widespread cholera epidemic of that era. The only difference they could discover was their choice of diet: mainly fresh fruit and vegetables with no meat, and excluding all stimulants such as alcohol, coffee and tea: There was no “proof” other than what they witnessed with their own eyes with no RCT anywhere to be found, and Natural Hygiene was born.

Robin, with all due respect, I am not overly concerned if anyone has investigated “why 10 taps seems to be the standard”, and a query you should address to a qualified homeopath, all that I know is that homeopathy is deemed to be effective at addressing illness and that is all I need to know; it is up to science to discover the truth of this or not..

I have mentioned before, that not all mechanisms for anything in life are completely understood, but we know that they do work; it is the role of science to investigate this mechanism rather than discount something that does work, just because we do not understand those reasons why.

“Sending bravos in high potency for your comment about Dr. Healy’s PHARMAGEDDON”.

Many thanks. It has been an uphill struggle without doubt, and the top is nowhere in sight, and I am so grateful for your own contributions and esp’ that of Dr Milgrom as well who I feel has made the most significant impact so far.
Dr Milgroms contribution has been a case of quality over quantity, where I would be the latter and he the former.

Robin says:
13 June 2013

Chris if you don’t know the answer fine, but why, when you can find reams of material on many other issues, can’t you find that single answer I was asking? Could it be because it isn’t available, anywhere? You don’t have to know how it works to start testing, only through testing might you find how it works.

I am going to be guilty of “going around in circles again” the points I will try and make have been made before, and made eloquently by others. but I am trying a different method of expressing them, in the hope it may be more accessible.

I suspect that if many sceptics had been born at the time homeopathy was suggested, and given the prevailing state of knowledge at the time that they would have had sympathy for it. Compared to what was considered medicine at that time, it had an appealing adverting proposition; natural, no side effects, not harmful, a theory of mechanism that made as much sense as that which supported, what passed for much of medicine.

The difference is within a very short space of time homeopathy would be questioned by those sceptics. Why 10 taps, why a hard but elastic surface, why not spin it, why not boil it- when I heat plant materials more things come out of the plant, what happens if we add a drop of chicken blood, does it work better at full moon (off the wall but we are imagining 200 years ago), how can we improve this, …and on and on.

In other words curiosity would drive research and testing.


Often basic unproven theory, belief in magical forces. Crude methods, purgatives, toxic treatments, basic, often brutal surgery etc

200 years pass


Evidence based Science, Evidence based Medicine: Anaesthesia, asepsis, disinfectants, antibiotics, anti-virals, vaccination, vaccine driven eradication of some diseases, analgesia, massive reductions in child mortality, extension of life span, understanding of basic biology, chemistry, physics, cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, epidemiology to help understand, for example the role of smoking, understanding of haematopoiesis, understanding the immune system, understanding of the nervous system, X-ray imaging, ultrasound, CT, MRI, PET, fMRI, minimally invasive surgery, micro surgery, reattachment of severed limbs, plastic surgery, robotic surgery, biomechanical implants, heart pacemakers, pharmaceuticals, chemotherapy, increased survival rate in cancer, advances in obstetric care, advances in palliative care, organ transplants, kidney dialysis, stem cell therapy, the human genome project, gene therapy, 3D printing of replacement body parts, and much, much more.


Basic unproven theory

200 years pass


Basic unproven theory, that now contravenes everything we know about chemistry and physics. Some RCTs that fail to demonstrate efficacy. Machines to do the shaking and drip onto sugar pills. “Research is at an early stage”. Dogmatic belief in the process.


200 years of pretty much zero progress, if not backwards now we understand more about science.

If it was that efficacious shouldn’t we be on “homeopathy v11.7.x” by now, the new version “using 95% less water to be even more environmentally friendly, but 10x more effective” etc? Don’t alarm bells ring when you see these vast differences in the rate of progress? Don’t alarm bells ring when you, as a proponent of homeopathy, don’t know, or can’t find the answer to a very simple question about the process.You have proved very capable at researching information on the internet in other cases.

After 200 years the beliefs are the same. In medicine in 1 year, one month, even one week, doctors, pharmacists and other scientist will change what they believe today when they see new evidence.

Homeopathy got left behind, and in my opinion it should stay there.

On belief vs. evidence in any field of endeavour:

“I believe it works”, “I have seen it work”, “Millions of people believe it works”

Millions of people today believe women should be subservient to men. Millions of people believe female circumcision is acceptable. Millions of people believe homosexuality is abnormal, or even an “abomination”. Millions of people believe homosexuality can be “cured” (some by homeopathy). Some will claim they have proof of these assertions.

I don’t believe “millions of people”.

Belief is not anything close to proof, in some cases it’s just desperation or dogma.

Chris, if “the top” constitutes any kind of acceptance of homeopathy then it will not be “in sight” until you radically improve the quality of evidence. It’s telling that you perceive Milgrom’s arguments as anything other than repeating the same old unpersuasive arm-waving.

Robin, your post which begins: “Chris if you don’t know the answer fine, but why……………………”

I respect your stance and views but I do not accept them. I believe you have over-simplified your case.

We shall have to agree to differ and just leave it at that.

I also found your approach (along with wavechange) here to be very polite and courteous for the most part, so I really appreciate that, in contrast to some here who have had a “bombastic and aggressive” approach.

Robin says:
13 June 2013

That was a waste of my typing then 🙂

I have tried complicated, I have tried simple, I am not sure what, if anything would satisfy.
Oh well.

Robin: yes, exactly. It’s not the fact that it’s implausible and unproven, it’s the fact that after more than 200 years it has failed to progress beyond that stage.

The reason is obvious to everyone but homeopaths. If the base assumptions are wrong, any investigation that starts from those assumptions and discards evidence showing them to be wrong, can never resolve the problem. Even if you believe the base assumption, such investigations can never prove it, only bolster your belief.

one final word………….

Bear in mind that most all life experience and learning did not have to be evidence-based to know if something worked or did not. I illustrated that point with the advent of Natural Hygiene and the immunity from cholera experienced by the Pennsylvania Bible Christians, and discovered to be through their diet and lifestyle habits.

I also fail to see how we can justifiably discount thousands of years of human experience just because it does not fit into our current paradigm of what constitutes satisfactory evidence. RCT’s and the scientific method are only very recent phenomena, and are lauded as the ultimate test as to whether anything is of any value or works at all.

However as important as they are, this exclusivity is in my view a mistaken approach because and only because they discount all other forms of evidence.

Don’t forget that David Sackett and others who founded EBM defined it as: “an approach to health care that promotes the collection, interpretation, and integration of valid, important and applicable PATIENT-REPORTED, CLINICIAN-OBSERVED and research-derived evidence. The best available evidence, moderated by patient circumstances and preferences, is to be applied to improve the quality of clinical judgments.”: originally conceived as a ‘three-legged stool’ of evidence. (Dr Milgrom).
Sackett went on to say: “Evidence-based medicine is not restricted to randomized trials and meta-analyses. It involves tracking down the best EXTERNAL EVIDENCE with which to answer our clinical questions … if no randomized trial has been carried out for our patient’s predicament, we follow the trail to the next best external evidence and work from there.”

Therefore PATIENT-REPORTED, CLINICIAN-OBSERVED evidence (which is not exclusive to Conventional Medicine) would seem to be alien to your way of thinking, and of course to the detriment of those in need. Medical Science does not have all the answers, and will continue in that vein unless they are prepared to accept and investigate the former with an open mind and with a high degree of impartiality, divorced from vested interests that currently dominate medical thought.

Robin says:
13 June 2013


OK we are not going to agree or move one iota are we?

We had already discussed if there was good data that patients experiences suggested X was beneficial it gets tested it is not ignored.

When the thousands of years of evidence is put to objective test and it fails, you would accept the faith, not the test. You find that acceptable, I don’t.

Chris, It doesn’t matter how many times you SHOUT, the settled view of science is that ANECDOTE is unreliable and SYSTEMATIC TESTING is the only way to establish whether something actually works or only appears to work.

In the case of homeopathy, it only appears to work. This is fortunate as anything else would involve a lot of work for physicists, chemists, biologists and the like in fundamentally revising everything they have found out in the past two hundred years.

“When the thousands of years of evidence is put to objective test and it fails, you would accept the faith, not the test. You find that acceptable, I don’t”.

I didn’t actually say that or even mean what you have said. What I have said, is that traditional medicines or healing modalities that have survived the test of time, have as yet not actually been tested by the “scientific method” because they are just automatically discounted or rejected. I am sure there are exceptions to this, but on the whole I believe that to be an accurate statement.
The question is: why haven’t they been tested? and the answer can be found with the vested interests that support mainstream such as the Pharmaceutical cartel who it seems will resort to any method to ensure their dominance. They act, not with the patient in mind but are self-serving in the interests of profit and little else.
You will have to prove me wrong on that score if we are to make any headway in this discussion.

Robin says:
13 June 2013


I think you have repeatedly demonstrated that when 200 years of homeopathic evidence has been put to the test and failed you retained the faith.

The circle continues, I said
“if there was good data that patients experiences suggested X was beneficial it gets tested”
So, perhaps the reason for no testing is there is no good data, no one else thinks it’s worth it, because it just sounds too stupid?

But no it’s all a conspiracy.Ok then if that’s your interpretation, I’ll be away for a while counting angels dancing on a nearby pinhead.

Chris: It’s all about that word “evidence”. In the topsy-turvy world of humpty-dumptathy I am sure a word means exactly what you want it to mean, but in science it has a meaning which is independent of belief and who is doing the test.


Homeopathic evidence HAS been put to the test and found to have a much more significant benefit than a mere placebo. We have posted on this a number of times, but you continue to ignore it, just as Guy has with the latest scientific evidence for the efficacy of Medical Acupuncture. No doubt that this would extend into any and all other types of therapy outside of the Mainstream fold, but I know differently I really do.
Nothing to do with faith Robin, nothing whatsoever.

Also this comment is simply not true at all……………….

“if there was good data that patients experiences suggested X was beneficial it gets tested”.

Perhaps you are unaware of the reasons that alternatives are not tested by Mainstream science, and very much self-evident from the lobbying efforts by the Pharmaceutical Companies within Europe and the United States. This has affected TCM, Herbal Medicine and the use of natural therapies such as food supplements, and has occurred because they are seen as “competition”; if they were “ineffective and worthless therapies” then why are millions of pounds/dollars spent on lobbying Congress and the European Parliament to quash this competition.”? The pretext for this is under the guise of “safety”, when the reality and the actual state otherwise.

I wouldn’t describe this as a conspiracy Robin, which is the usual lame excuse, but more of what is actually happening at a political level. Difficult to believe that you have placed your “head in the sand” oblivious to what is really going on.

My advice to you is to do some actual impartial research of your own to discover this.
My MEP even admitted this to me in an email, unless of course he is deluded as you think I am.

“Chris: It’s all about that word “evidence””.

Exactly Guy. Exactly.

Chris: No, if there was solid evidence of an effect beyond placebo we would not be having this discussion. This point has already been made several times.

The observations in studies are all consistent with the null hypothesis, and the chances of a positive outcome decrease in direct relation to increasing study quality. It is trivially easy to produce a positive result in a badly designed trial, well designed, well constructed trials show positive results no more often than chance alone allows.

And let’s not forget that no even remotely plausible mechanism has ever been proposed, there is no reason to expect any outcome other than placebo and no controversy, scientifically, in that finding.

Chris: So we agree it’s about evidence.

Now all you need is to produce credible evidence. The homeopaths will be happy if you do, they’ve had 200 years and not come close.

The Which? snapshot investigation into pharmacies revealed that 13 out of 20 failed to explain that there’s no clinical evidence that homeopathy works.

Perhaps the answer is to alert potential customers by having a label indication that there is no clinical evidence that homeopathy works, much in the same way that we have health warnings on cigarette packets. We do not expect a tobacconist to give guidance on smoking.

Robin says:
13 June 2013

Perhaps but don’t forget the other part of the survey 17 of 20 didn’t refer the researcher to a GP when they presented with persistent cough, and asked for homeopathy. One of the harms of homeopathy is through not getting effective medication.

Absolutely. I think I made this point once or twice in our discussions.

The warning on cigarette packets is varied and perhaps the same could apply with labelling of homeopathic products.

Robin says:
13 June 2013

Wave, perhaps that’s the direction for this conversation, suggested wording for the labels – but I suspect it might just raise hackles again!

Contents: Sugar, magic*

*doesn’t actually contain magic

Robin: Did you see the Holland and Barrett Twitter fiasco? Ask us anything, they said, tag it #AskOurOwls and if we can’t answer we’ll give you 20% off in store. Questions like “has this banned advert for homeopathy been removed yet” and “how many of your products have ASA adjudications against them”. No answers….

Robin says:
13 June 2013

Despite appearing as a Robin, I don’t tweet!

So what products, dare I ask, are you going to spend the vouchers on?

Robin: First get your vouchers. I think they have welshed on the deal. They were telling me about some magic bs superfood bar that “everyone” should try. Without a crossed grain logo? Norfolk enchants, as they say.

I’ve just read that Holland and Barrett was owned by Lloydspharmacy in the early 90s. It might be more interesting if this was still the case.

The advert that Guy refers to can be seen on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/hollandandbarrettuk

Robin says:
14 June 2013

Another thought, do over the counter homeopathic preparations have “best before” or “use by dates” and how on earth could they be justified if they did?

Perhaps the only reason I can think of would be any deterioration of the packaging and seals and thus a risk of microbial contamination might arise.

Perhaps the best before date should be 1796?


I would expect homeopathic preparations to carry information about their shelf life. In addition to the risk of microbial contamination, there is the possibility of contamination of the contents by chemicals from the packaging. Perhaps compare with bottled water and sterile water etc. used for medical purposes.

The best before date you mention reminds me of the saying that laughter is the best medicine. 🙂

Robin says:
14 June 2013


Good point, any actual chemicals leeching out of the glass or plastic packaging might contaminate the otherwise pure sugar.

Robin: If they are based on the memory of water then the shelf life is a few tens of femtoseconds 🙂

Sorry. Predictable responses.

Will not respond further as it is a waste of my valuable time.

Great stuff, but I want to see evidence that this unproductive dialogue is over. 🙂

Maybe we could all comply with Patrick’s request and focus on the topic of the Conversation.

“Maybe we could all comply with Patrick’s request and focus on the topic of the Conversation”.

Do homeopathy and pharmacists mix?

This depends in which country you reside, so in the United States Homeopathic remedies are classified as drugs so Pharmacists should know all about them.

Which? investigators visited 122 UK high street pharmacies. It might be interesting to mention global variation but focusing on the UK situation would be most relevant.

Chris: In the US they are handled under a separate arrangement, the result of industry lobbying (presumably this is only evil when big pharma, rather than big sugar, does it).

As in the UK, though, there is no requirement to prove efficacy. They made sure of that.

Robin says:
13 June 2013

Wave, it might also be interesting to see if there is any pattern or trend in the advice, eg chains vs independents.

As you’ve suggested there may be pressure in some cases for the pharmacist to sell, whatever their personal opinion.

Haring off at a tangent, I am currently reading Paul Offit’s “The Cutter Incident”. As a study of what pharmaceutical executives really think and o when things go horribly wrong, it would be hard to beat. These are people who honestly stated the problems, and thereby resolved them much more quickly than might be the case in today’s more litigious culture.

Most striking is the openness to being wrong. I keep looking for examples in the alternative world, but evidence of fault and harm seems uniformly to come from outside – from science.

Paul Offit’s “The Cutter Incident” is also about the tragedy that occurred when 200,000 people were inadvertently injected with live virulent polio virus: 70,000 became ill, 200 were permanently paralyzed, and 10 died.
That’s quite a mistake to end up admitting to, and fairly inescapable really.

I am sure there are examples of harm in the Alternative World, but these are usually, but not always, people who have already been the medical route and would have been harmed/died anyway.
It would be interesting to make a comparison between those who receive Alt’ Med treatment and its outcome, between the scale of harm from Conventional Medicine and the number of annual Iatrogenic deaths reported, including the number of reported adverse events.

Chris: It’s about the lessons learned. And why medicine, because it can cause side effects as well as effects, has to be honest about the side effects.

Homeopathy produces no effects, side or otherwise, so the lack of any systemic method for addressing incorrect ideas is less of a problem. Unless they want to claim to be anything other than a religion, of course.

Chris: Do you know how many people died of polio in the US last year? In 1952 there were 58,000 cases in the US of which 3,145 died and 21,269 suffered permanent paralysis at some degree.In 1988 there were 350,000 reported cases worldwide. By 2012 this had dropped to 223. A 99% decrease.

The contribution of homeopathy towards this achievement is precisely 0%.

the real reason for the decline of polio……………..

Polio was a very common disease in the mid 1900′s. There eventually was a decline in polio cases and it has indeed created quite a debate about whether or not it was a natural decline or another vaccine success.

Whenever vaccine doubt begins to surface there is often a common response: “Look at the success of the Polio vaccine when there was Polio outbreaks in the late 40′s and early 50′s.” However, scientific data shows a different story that we must take into consideration when carefully analyzing what actually stopped Polio.

The Pertussis Polio vaccine was implemented in the 1940′s and 50′s and many believed it to be the cause of the decrease in Polio cases, including the reason behind why we do not see Polio cases today. But Is this the real reason why Polio has disappeared?

The following is stated in a paper written by Dr. Sheri Tenpenny, one of the leading researchers of vaccine safety and effectiveness………………………………

“Polioviruses are transient inhabitants of the gastrointestinal tract. Up to 95% of all polio infections are completely asymptomatic. Approximately 5% of polio infections consist of a minor, nonspecific illness consisting of an upper respiratory tract infection (sore throat and fever) and gastrointestinal disturbances (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea). This influenza-like illness, clinically indistinguishable from the myriad of other viral illnesses, is characterized by complete recovery in less than a week with resultant life time immunity. Less than 1% of all polio infections result in paralysis. Most importantly, the vast majority of individuals who contract paralytic poliomyelitis recover with complete—or near complete—return of muscle function. Any weakness that is still present 12 months after onset of paralysis is usually considered permanent.“

So it first appears as though we may have been mislead about how dangerous Polio really is. When Polio outbreaks were happening in the late 50′s and early 60′s, many of the adverse effects were due to the lack of clean conditions. The truth is over 90% of the cases where people contracted Polio, the symptoms experienced were very minute. Most symptoms included a slight fever, headache, sore throat, and vomiting. The recovery time was 24 – 72 hrs. Once recovered, the person now has a life time immunity to Polio. 5% of people who contracted Polio had less symptoms and recovery time was much less. They would see some sore throat and possibly a fever. Rare cases saw diarrhea. Then we get to 3% of people who had a bit more extreme cases where they may have seen some limb weakness and partial paralysis that would be experienced for 2 – 10 days. This only happened when areas of the brain that controlled limbs were irritated by a form of viral meningitis. All cases saw a complete recovery and life long immunity. Now we get to the worst cases of them all. Less than 2% of cases saw some form of more serious paralysis. Of that 2% though 50% saw complete recovery over time from the paralysis.

As you really begin to look at the numbers, the amount of very serious cases is actually a very very small number. Yet when we hear the word Polio today, we tend to think of an extremely dangerous illness that causes certain paralysis. This is very much similar to AIDS in that fear drives us to act in and think in ways that is worse than the actuality of the disease itself. It also seems to be the case that the fear and emotion around the disease is so strong that we have a hard time truly looking at it logically.

Let’s move onto how Polio declined and how it relates to the vaccine. Why not start with a statement of fact that will set the tone for what will be looked at below.

In 1977, Dr Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine, testified along with other scientists that mass inoculation against polio was the cause of most polio cases throughout the USA since 1961. (Science 4/4/77 “Abstracts” )

The above statement states the truth of the vaccine in a nutshell.


The MERCK Manual
Dr. Sheri Tenpenny.

Chris: Your denialist nonsense is getting very boring. The WHO has the facts. Polio has been virtually eradicated thanks to mass immunisation. Salk was on a guilt trip for many years, understandably. As with smallpox, once eradication is complete mass immunisation, with its side effects (much rarer since OPV was developed) will no longer be needed.

Diseases eradicated to date by homeopathy: Zero.
Cases of disease provably cured by homeopathy: Zero.

Guy, Yes it is about the lessons learned, or in many cases NOT learned, as has been demonstrated here very ably, the evidence for which you have all ignored (a tactic of pseudo-skeptics apparently)…………………

I suggest therefore that you return to read all of Dr Milgroms posts (quite thoroughly) as to why this is the case, with the facts and figures you all so conveniently ignored for your own agendas.

Something to ponder as this seems to be applicable to all of you…………….

“It is exceedingly difficult to secure an honest hearing for any criticism of authority. Established beliefs are well nigh invulnerable because they are accorded infallibility by the masses who are educated to believe they will be damned for thinking, and because of this, few will tolerate opposition of any Nature to anything they have been educated to believe. People who have their thinking done for them are always intolerant…………John Tilden MD.

You may believe what you will Guy about polio and its eradication, but that doesn’t change the facts of the matter, which you have again ignored….(a pseudo-skeptic tactic apparently).

I am not in denial about anything Guy, more the other way round me thinks!!

By Patricia Doyle, PhD
The Hidden History Of The Polio Vaccine…………………..

No one realizes that at the same time polio cases began to wane, the first world was improving sewage and water systems. I would liken the reduction in cases to improved potent water supplies and to improved sewage treatment.
I remember in the early 1950’s the city of Yonkers, NY came to the suburb of Yonkers, Sherwood Park, east yonkers and actually required us to hook up to the sewer system. At that time our home was using a cess pool and well water. Many homes, mostly older, in my area used the cess pool and well water systems.

Polio is actually spread via feces/oral route. I would wager that President Roosevelt got his polio swimming in the Hudson river which is where many of my neighbors got their polio. I remember seeing signs which read “No Swimming due to Polio” in Alpine NJ along beaches on the Hudson River. The Hudson was notorious for having raw sewage enter it.

Happy reading.

Chris: Lessons learned include the yellow card scheme and the kind of statistical analysis and monitoring that shows MMR doesn’t cause autism.

Well done on learning a new word to help you avoid reality. Truth remains: medicine eradicated smallpox, medicine is close to eradicating polio. There is not one single proven case of homeopathy curing or preventing any disease, ever.

Chris: An interesting fact you “forgot” to mention. Between 1956 and 1961 at least 400,000,000 doses of Salk vaccine were administered without a single case of paralysis. The significance o vaccination as a source of paralysis since 1956 is wholly dependent on the fact that polio epidemics stopped – because of the vaccine.

It’s a bit like saying disc brakes make cars more dangerous because a few people run into the back of a car that stops sharply.

Chris: More detail you omitted. Salk testified that immunisation caused more polio than it prevented in 1977 as part of his long-standing campaign to get the Salk vaccine reinstated in place of the less effective and provably significantly more dangerous Sabin vaccine, which had been found to cause infectious polio. OPV is a live strain so while it measurably reduces infection rates it can result in iatrogenic disease. For this reason, as wild incidence drops a country will tend to move back to the inactivated (Salk) vaccine.

Instead of reading crank sites, try Wikipedia, which has a decently comprehensive article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polio_vaccine

“Well done on learning a new word”……………

Now now Guy, let’s not get too personal about this.

I suspect that my vocabulary is at least on a par with your own, if not slightly higher I would say.

Chris: if you are tired of being called on citing obvious cranks as authorities, try not doing it. Free clue: a site is unreliable if it advocates any or all of the following: holocaust denial, truther conspiracies, new world order, illuminati, lizard overlords, antisemitism, climate change denial, creationism. The list is not exhaustive.

Wild polio was eradicated in America in 1979, I believe. The Sabin live vaccine always had the potential to cause iatrogenic disease and the Salk virus is now used in the US. I can trace no known case of Salk virus causing polio after 1956, but this is not based on an exhaustive search. What do you prefer, tens of thousands of cases, thousands paralysed and hundreds dead every year, or fewer than a dozen cases a year? Perhaps you believe the higher figure is “better” because wild polio is “natural” and vaccination is evil?

I note that you have no answer to the fact that homeopathy has never provably prevented or cured a single case of a single disease, ever, but it’s amusing that you accept uncritically every coincidence offered as evidence of homeopathy while dismissing as coincidence the eradication of fatal diseases that can be traced back many hundreds of years, just after concerted efforts were made to eradicate them using effective vaccines.

Chris: You used the term “pseudoskeptik”, a term which accurately describes climate change “skeptics” but emphatically not skeptics of quackery, but is nonetheless routinely used by advocates of quackery for the dual purpose of poisoning the well and relieving cognitive dissonance. You used this pejorative for, I think, the first time in this debate, and you used it in the classic way advocates of quackery use it. Having used a pejorative, you don’t then get to accuse me of personalising things by letting you know I spotted your game.

As to vocabulary, that is not really relevant. We could always play the oldest school game (948AD for me).

I have a question though. Earlier you stated that a pertussis polio vaccine was pioneered in the 40s ad 50s. I discounted your argument as inaccurate because I know of no vaccine for pertussis and polio combined before the turn of the millennium, and I assumed you meant the DPT vaccine, which would be a non sequitur in context. Am I right or do you have a source for that? I wondered in part because Offit doesn’t mention it.

“I note that you have no answer to the fact that homeopathy has never provably prevented or cured a single case of a single disease, ever”……………….

but pharmaceuticals do not “cure” disease either as they mainly “manage” disease and the most serious diseases at that.
You must have missed my post so I’ll reprint it for you, and that of Dr Milgroms which stated (amongst other things)…………………..

according to the BMJ [1], over 50% of conventional medical procedures funded by the National Health Service (NHS) have little or no basis in science. So, funding these procedures must be even more nonsensical than funding homeopathy, especially as they are much more expensive.

[1] See the BMJ sitehttp://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/ceweb/about/knowledge.jsp.

Apparently, there is no scientific basis for homeopathy. However, by end of 2010, 156 Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) of homeopathy (on 75 different medical conditions) had been published in peer-reviewed journals. Of these, 41% had a balance of positive evidence, 7% had a balance of negative evidence, and for 52% no conclusions could be drawn either way [5].

[5] The Evidence for Homeopathy. British Homeopathic Association.http://www.britishhomeopathic.org.

…………………………….the really interesting statistic here is the number of trials for which no conclusions can be drawn; greater than 50%. Because when one then looks at similar statistics for RCTs of conventional medicine, something odd appears……………………….

Data obtained from an analysis of 1016 systematic reviews of RCTs of conventional medicine, indicate that 44% of the reviews concluded the interventions studied were likely to be beneficial (positive), 7% concluded that the interventions were likely to be harmful (negative), and 49% reported that the evidence did not support either benefit or harm (non-conclusive) [6].

[6] El Dib RP, Atallah AN, Andriolo RB: Mapping the Cochrane evidence for decision making in health care. J Eval Clin Pract 2007;13:689–692. Cartwright N, and Munro E. The limitations of randomized controlled trials in predicting effectiveness J Eval Clin Pract 2010;16:260-266.

• Homeopathy fairs no better or worse in RCTs than conventional medicine. Therefore, rejecting homeopathy on the RCT data is false and biased as many conventional drugs/procedures should on that basis be similarly rejected but are not.

• There is something fundamentally wrong with the RCT (and those who claim it to be a ‘gold standard’), when around 50% of all RCTs fail to deliver a clear result [6]. So all that the available scientific evidence suggests is at the very least, there is disagreement over the effects of homeopathic medicines and how ultra-high dilutions work.

So as with many conventional medical procedures, the scientific evidence so far can only indicate homeopathy is of uncertain efficacy. And even if homeopaths were just ‘peddlers’ of placebos (a thoroughly unprofessional comment made by the Chief Medical Officer Prof Dame Sally Davies, as around 400 of her colleagues, fellow medical doctors, practice homeopathy in the NHS: she should apologise to them), homeopathy would still be far cheaper than Prozac, currently favoured by the NHS and, as I am sure most pharmacists are well aware, recently shown to be no better than placebo [7]!

[7] Kirsch I, et al.: Initial severity and anti-depressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. PLoS Med 2008; 5:e45.

Add this to the by-now, well-known systemic, systematic fraud perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry (e.g., the real peddling of unlicensed anti-depressants to minors by GSK last year [8]), and the long-term abuse of science that has been going on in medical and pharmacological research [9-11])

[8] GlaxoSmithKline to pay $3bn in US drug fraud scandal. BBC News On-line, 2nd July 2012,

[9] Titus SL, Wells JA, Rhoades LJ: Repairing research integrity. Nature 2008;453:980–982.

[10] Fanelli D: How many scientists fabricate and falsify research? A systematic review and meta-analysis of survey data. PLoS One 2009;4:e5738.

[11] Naish J: Faking it. Prospect August 2009:63.

So what is it exactly that you do not understand about this?
I thought this was fairly conclusive evidence.

Guy, re pseudoskeptic…………
“Pseudoskepticism (or pseudoscepticism) refers to a philosophical or “scientific position” which appears to be that of skepticism or scientific skepticism but which in reality fails to be so, for whatever reason. The term is usually used pejoratively”.

The word is simply a synonym of “denialism”, as there is a vast amount of REAL EVIDENCE which is simply willfully ignored by these pseudoskeptics.

Chris: That is precisely what I said. Pseudo skepticism is denialism – holocaust, climate change and evolution all have opposition from pseudo skeptics.

There is nothing false about skepticism over he claims of homeopathy. In fact if anyone is in denial it’s the homeopaths, who routinely engage in vaccine denialism, germ theory denialism and of course are in deep denial about the lack of any plausible reason to think homeopathy could or should work.

But I suspect that you’re using the SCAM definition of denialism, which means “wilfully refusing to take the word of SCAM peddlers as to the value of the goods they are peddling”.

“I stated that a pertussis polio vaccine was pioneered in the 40s ad 50s. I discounted your argument as inaccurate because I know of no vaccine for pertussis and polio combined before the turn of the millennium, and I assumed you meant the DPT vaccine, which would be a non sequitur in context. Am I right or do you have a source for that? I wondered in part because Offit doesn’t mention it”

The only thing I stated Guy was the information provided by Prof Stewart. I suggest you read the link I provided. Also whether this was a combined vaccine or not is largely irrelevant to the information I provided.

“Chris: That is precisely what I said. Pseudo skepticism is denialism – holocaust, climate change and evolution all have opposition from pseudo skeptics”.

Wiki describes it as I stated: “The description is occasionally used – and in this case correctly – to refer to those who declare themselves merely “skeptical” of a concept, but in reality would not be convinced by any evidence that might be presented”………….

…………………………..in other words my reference to you and others of a similar ilk who are in denial. You mention the holocaust and climate change and so on, but these are only “common targets” and not exclusive to the reference of being a Pseudoskeptic.

Robin says:
14 June 2013


Isn’t it the case that it’s not the size of your vocabulary but what you do with it?

If what you do with it is repeatedly go way off topic and attack medicine and not have any, even tenuous link to the subject that I can see, it is a wasted of everyone’s time. Can you steer things back to homeopathy/pharmacists advice please?

Chris: I have repeatedly stated the kind of evidence that would prompt me to reconsider.

Interestingly, no homeopath I have ever asked has been prepared to state a realistic test that they would accept as disproving homeopathy.

In other news, Nelsons shipped product with between none and some of the magic water applied, for a fair period by all accounts, and nobody noticed. Not only that, they knew about it and apparently didn’t bother to do anything. It’s almost as if they know there is nothing in it.

just to correct you this was not an “appeal to authority” or just because an authority thinks something, it must therefore be true.
I was merely pointing out the actual research made by Prof” Stewart (reams of it) and ignored by the authorities.

Chris: In pointing out the remarks made by a single authority who backs your views (as opposed to the supermajority who dispute them), you were indeed engaged in a fallacious appeal to authority.

We are not making any progress here. You don’t understand why fallacious arguments are fallacious, you cited obvious cranks as authorities, and you repeat claims that have already been rebutted such as your misinterpretation of the BMJ Clinical Evidence paper. But of course it’s everybody else who has a closed mind.

Chris: I said “I note that you have no answer to the fact that homeopathy has never provably prevented or cured a single case of a single disease, ever”

To which your response was first to repeat the canard that pharmaceutiocals do tno cure disease. This is a fallacious argument because:

1. Pharmaceuticals are not claimed to cure all disease so failure to do so is irrelevant.
2. Pharmaceuticals provably do cure some disease (e.g. antibiotics).
3. Pharmaceuticals prevent disease (vaccines)
4. Where a disease cannot be cured there is nothing wrong with managing symptoms, ask any diabetic.
5. The failure of pharmaceuticals to cure all disease can never be a justification to support homeopathy, which does not provably cure any disease at all.

You then cite Milgrom in repeating the claim that “over 50% of conventional medical procedures funded by the National Health Service (NHS) have little or no basis in science.”

This has already been extensively discussed and comprehensively debunked: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/your-view-do-pharmacists-and-homeopathy-mix/comment-page-1/#comment-1318025

You then extrapolate this debunked idea to give us: “So, funding these procedures must be even more nonsensical than funding homeopathy”

This is wrong for two reasons: first, using the lack of evidence for something to support something else that has no evidence is logically inconsistent; second, even if there were lack of evidence of the type you claim for some mainstream procedures, few, if any, conflict with other knowledge to the profound degree that homeopathy does.

If homeopathy were right we would have to be wrong about the nature of matter, human physiology, biochemistry and much else. And not just a little bit wrong, spectacularly wrong.

You then state: “Apparently, there is no scientific basis for homeopathy. However, by end of 2010, 156 Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) of homeopathy (on 75 different medical conditions) had been published in peer-reviewed journals. Of these, 41% had a balance of positive evidence, 7% had a balance of negative evidence, and for 52% no conclusions could be drawn either way”

This is wrongheaded for two reasons.

First, the existence of studies (with, it should be noted, a one in twenty chance of a false positive on chance alone) cannot address the fact that no plausible mechanism has ever been identified.

Second, you cite a source with a vested interest in promoting homeopathy which, unsurprisingly, omits crucial information. It has never been denied that it is trivially easy to produce an RCT supporting homeopathy, what is difficult is sustaining this support when errors and bias are removed. As Linde et. al. noted in 1999, the appearance of support is fatally weakened by the fact that the degree of support declines with increasing experimental rigour.

You say: “the really interesting statistic here is the number of trials for which no conclusions can be drawn; greater than 50%. Because when one then looks at similar statistics for RCTs of conventional medicine, something odd appears”

You are engaging in numerology, and in a rather amusing way. Think about it for a moment. Homeopathy claims that 50% of trials of medicine give a false positive result. In the next breath homeopathy wants us to believe that the 50% of trials of homeopathy with a negative result are false negatives.

The thing that exposes flawed studies of medicines, is science. That same science shows that there are provable and specific effects for medicines which do not exist for homeopathy. You want to cherry pic the parts of the body of knowledge that support your agenda, and reject the rest based on uncritical acceptance of the claims of homeopaths because the profit motive is only evil when big pharma use it.

You then claim: “Homeopathy fairs no better or worse in RCTs than conventional medicine. Therefore, rejecting homeopathy on the RCT data is false”

Here’s why you are wrong. The way we fix flawed studies in medicine is by using better studies. These support some medicines and not others. More rigorous studies are markedly less likely to support homeopathy than less rigorous studies. So you want to use the process by which we eliminate ineffective medicines, to eliminate all medicines effective or not, but to apply the opposite when it comes to homeopathy. That is completely inconsistent.

It also ignores the fact that medicines can be shown to induce objectively testable and specific changes in the body, while homeopathy cannot and would cause a massive scientific upheaval if it ever did.

You say: “There is something fundamentally wrong with the RCT (and those who claim it to be a ‘gold standard’), when around 50% of all RCTs fail to deliver a clear result”

No, that means the products tested don’t necessarily have a clear benefit. The RCT remains a sound method to establish whether a treatment works or not, where it is ethically appropriate (there is no way could you ethically try homeopathy instead of polio vaccine, for example).

You then state: “So all that the available scientific evidence suggests is at the very least, there is disagreement over the effects of homeopathic medicines and how ultra-high dilutions work.”

No, there is no significant scientific disagreement at all. Terms such as “super-Avogadro” and “ultra high dilutions” have virtually no currency outside of homeopathy. This is just another example of “teach the controversy” – there is no controversy. Scientifically, the idea that any effect could persist at normal homeopathic dilutions is risible, the results of studies of homeopathy are all consistent with the null hypothesis and never refute it, there is no reason to even suppose it should work, and this is not in the least bit controversial other than to believers.

You conclude with: “So what is it exactly that you do not understand about this? I thought this was fairly conclusive evidence.”

Chris, I understand it fully. It is a series of fallacious, wrong and logically inconsistent arguments. The fact that you thought it was fairly conclusive is plain, the fact that it is anything but is also plain. All you have done is to show us your faulty reasoning again. Professor Dame Sally Davies is entirely right: homeopathy is nonsense and should not be funded by the NHS. Doctors who practice homeopathy should be the ones to apologise. Davies articulates the scientific consensus, doctors who practice homeopathy are simultaneously practicing two theories which are mutually incompatible, only one of which, medicine, has any credible basis in empirically testable fact. It’s like a rocket scientist dabbling in phlogiston theory on the side. It makes no sense at all.

Once again, the three problems with homeopathy, which you either deny or fail to address, are:

1. There is no reason to suppose it should work. Like does not cure like as a general rule, provings are vague, unspecific and unrepeatable, any objectively provable connection between most remedies and the diseases they supposedly cure is purely coincidental.

2. There is no remotely plausible way it can work. Homeopaths can’t even decide if the remedy itself is physically necessary.

3. There is no good evidence it does work other than as placebo. The more rigorous a test is, the more likely it is to show no effect beyond placebo.

Scientifically, our understanding of homeopathy is consistent both internally and externally. Placebo effects, cognitive bias etc., can all be shown to work in other areas. The null hypothesis does not violate any other known laws, does not conflict in any way with other findings.

The claims of homeopaths doe conflict with other findings, do not stand up to independent scrutiny and do not yield any useful results or predictions that are confirmed in other areas.

I understand that you are a nutritionist / naturopath. You have chosen to nail your colours to the mast of homeopathy, despite it being the most easily refuted of the many bogus treatments available. If you want to defend your beliefs in debate, I recommend you choose defensible beliefs rather than indefensible ones.

Sorry, forgot to post the link……………………
Polio Was NOT Eradicated By The Vaccine
From Patricia Doyle, PhD

Chris: wow, you cited a tiny minority view from an antivaccinationist published on a whacknuts site that also promotes truther, holocaust denial and generic anti semiotic conspiracies. I never expected that!

Well here’s a tidbit to get your teeth into…………..

Okay you didn’t accept the info’ on polio despite the facts (predictably): so best to attack the source then instead of the actual message………………..

A compulsory “immunization” program was set up in England in 1853 using Jenner’s methods against smallpox. (McBean p.13) [8] Before that time, the highest number of deaths in a 2 year period in England from smallpox was about 2000. Results of this “immunization”:

year —— deaths
1857-9 — 14,244
1863-5 — 20,059

In response, in 1867 Parliament enacted a stricter vaccination law, and 97% of the people were inoculated. Result:

year ——- deaths
1868 ——– 44,840
– Null, Part III, p23 [22]

Please note the corroborating evidence at the base of the page.

Chris: Please cite figures from a reliable source. Null is a crank with a long history of torturing the facts to support his anti-science, anti-medicine agenda. He also has no known expertise in this subject, indeed his credentials in any subject are questionable.

Polio has been endemic through most of human history. It became epidemic largely as a function of urbanisation, which facilitated the spread of the disease. By the early to mid 20th Century it was one of the most dreaded diseases in the West. It has been virtually eradicated due to mass immunisation (see e.g. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8306.2005.00460.x).

Here are the figures since 1975 as reported by the WHO; note that the major initiative to eradicate polio worldwide began around 1988:

E=Estimated based on reported & known under-reporting – from the mid 1990s the estimated and reported figures converge as the number of case workers increases and the size of the infected populations decreases and becomes geographically confined.

The figure in brackets is the number of countries in which cases were reported

1975 R 49,293
1980 E 400,000 R 52,552
1985 R 38,637
1988 E 350,000 R 35,251
1990 R 23,484
1993 E 100,000 R 10,487
1995 R 7,035
1996 R 4,074
1997 R 5,185
1998 R 6,349
1999 R 7,141
2000 R 2,971
2001 R 496 (19)
2002 R 1,922 (10)
2003 R 784 (15)
2004 R 1,257 (19)
2005 R 2,030 (18)
2006 R 2,022 (19)
2007 R 1,387 (12)
2008 R 1,732 (19)
2009 R 1,783 (25)
2010 R 1,413 (22)
2011 R 716 (19)
2012 R 291 (9)
2013 R 65 YTD (6)

So fewer cases are now found per year worldwide, even with hugely more diligent reporting, than might have been expected to die in the US alone in the years before the vaccine. Science recognises the risk in live vaccines and has switched back to inactivated vaccines in many countries where polio is no longer endemic (e.g. the US).

Polio immunisation is a success. A resounding success. In fact, it’s a triumph of human endeavour. Lord Nuffield, the automotive magnate, had a charitable trust providing iron lungs at the height of the polio epidemics in the 1950s. Wards full of people on ventilators have gone the same way as tuberculosis wards. Vaccines did this. To pretend anything else is dangerous and irresponsible.

According to germ theory denialists, antivaxers and other anti-medicine types, this is pure coincidence. As is the fact that other communicable diseases not subject to such extensive eradication programmes have not shown similar decline.

Chris, you plainly hate the very idea of vaccination. In order to support your belief you seek out those who agree, and find them. You do not pause to question whether their opposition might be founded in some agenda, or whether they have a history of being wrong (e.g. HIV/AIDS denial, germ theory denial). As a result you constantly reinforce your own pre-existing belief without ever challenging it, getting ever deeper into the long grass of conspiracist whacknuttery on sites like whale.to.

If someone is cited as an exert by whale.to, you are best advised to ignore them. If they are also lauded by people like Alex Jones and Jeff Rense, run a mile. These are crank website inhabited by crazy people, if anything presented on these sites is correct it is only because it is really quite hard to be wrong 100% of the time, due to the laws of chance.

You cannot convince rational people of an agenda rejected by rational inquiry by citing irrationalist websites. All you do is irritate everyone and make yourself look credulous.

Now to smallpox. Smallpox emerged in human populations probably about 10,000 years ago. During the 18th Century it killed roughly 400,000 people in Europe annually and by the early 1950s there were around 50 million cases annually worldwide. WHO estimates for a single year – 1967 – show 15 million reported cases and two million deaths.

Inoculation (“variolation”) can be traced back to the 10th Century in China and there are written records of it as far back as 1500. In the early 18th Century Mary Montagu had her children inoculated and they survived a subsequent epidemic, but of course the practice was not properly understood so there were also iatrogenic outbreaks and there was a view that inoculation was “against God’s will” and that people should bear their tribulaitons as Job had done. Modern-day antivaccination hysteria can trace its roots back to the late 18th Century.

Jenner himself was variolated in 1756. His contribution was to understand the link between smallpox and cowpox (as we now know, a weaker strain of the same variola family of viruses – obviously before the advent of the electron microscope nobody could see the virus, so it was empirical science). Jenner was the first to demonstrate the link in a robust way, and to publish a workable protocol.

Systematic vaccination started in the early to mid 19th Century, the Dutch East Indies had a well controlled vaccination programme by 1817, but British efforts in India were hampered by local preference for traditional inoculation and suspicion of the needle. In 1842 inoculation was banned in the UK. Mandatory vaccination was introduced in the UK and various US states beginning in 1843. By 1900 it was eliminated from some countries in Europe and largely from the US. By the start of WWI it was reduced to a low level in most industrialised countries.

By 1950 it was understood that the virus was endemic only in humans with no non-human carriers, and a determined effort towards systematic eradication began, the Smallpox Eradication Unit was formed in 1966 and in 1967 the Raška reporting methodology was established to track progress. The system of “ring vaccination” was developed, whereby outbreaks were contained and eliminated without the need for systematic vaccination in countries where the disease had been essentially eliminated.

The last outbreak in Europe was in 1972, the last case of variola major in the wild was in 1975, the last case of variola minor in 1977.

The global eradication of smallpox had its roots in effective but unsafe variolation, achieved a proper foundation with the invention of an effective and safe vaccine by Jenner, and culminated in a specific and targeted programme of vaccination that contained the disease until it was finally extinct in the wild.

Along the way we buried the notion that it was caused by a “smallpox demon” or the goddess Shitaa, we worked out that wearing ugly masks to fool the smallpox goddess (who only targeted beautiful children) was not effective, we identified a virus as the cause (which germ theory denialists still refuse to accept) and we worked out why the disease was amenable to eradicaton in the wild.

The only people who seriously dispute this course of events are antivaccinationists and cranks.

If you would like a bit of truth re’ vaccinations then I suggest you read this and dig out his papers…………….
By GORDON T. STEWART, M.D Emeritus professor of Public Health, University of Glasgow
Consultant physician, NHS (Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine), Emeritus Fellow, Inf Dis Soc of
America. Former consultant, New York City, US NIH, WHO, UNICEF etc.


1951 Infectivity and virulence of tubercle bacilli. Lancet 2; 562

1952 do J Hygiene, Cambridge 50; 37.

1962 Organisation of Clinical Trials Lancet 1, 1394

1968 Limitations of the germ theory Lancet 1; 1077

1969 Determinants of sickness in US Marine recruits Amer J Epid 89;254

1969 Resistance factors in the control of tuberculosis J Inf Dis 120; 389

1976 Immunisation against whooping cough Brit med J 1; 93.

1976 Immunisation against whooping cough ibid 1; 583

1976 (with WR Bassili) Whooping cough: epidemiological evaluation of immunisation and other factors in the control of infection. Lancet 1; 474.

1977 Vaccination against whooping cough: efficacy versus risks. Lancet 1; 234.

1977 Whooping cough vaccination. Lancet 1; 804

1978 Whooping cough vaccination Brit med J 2; 768

Pertussis vaccine: the United Kingdom’s experience: Invited position paper at the NIH Symposium on Pertussis at Bethesda, Md.,1978. US Government Printing Office: 1979.

1979 Toxicity of pertussis vaccine. frequency and probability of adverse reactions. J Epid Comm Health 33; 150

1979 Infection and immunisation Scot med J 24; 47

1979 Deaths of infants after triple vaccine Lancet 2; 353

1979 Whooping cough in Hertfordshire, UK Lancet 2; 473

1979 Whooping cough in Shetland, UK Brit med J;

1980 Vaccination and notification rates for whooping cough Lancet 1; 1299

1980 Pertussis vaccine: benefits and risks. New Eng J Med 302; 634.

1981 Whooping cough in relation to other childhood infections. J Epid Comm Hlth 35; 139

Pertussis vaccine and acute neurological illness in children Brit med J 282, 1968

(with John Wilson)

Medicine and the Community. Chapter 3 in “Legal Issues in Medicine” ed MacLean, SMM, Gower Pub Co., Aldershot, UK.

1982 ABC of whooping cough Brit med J. 284; 1263

1983 Whooping cough in the United States and Britain New Eng J Med 308; 464

1983 Whooping cough and pertussis vaccine Brit med J 287; 287

1983 Whooping cough and pertussis vaccine: Report commissioned by the Chief Scientist, Dept of Health and Social Security (UK) on Risk-benefit of pertussis vaccines in UK, 1964-82 (pp 135).

Whooping cough and pertussis vaccine: Risks and benefit debate. Amer J Epid 119; 135

1982 Age-specific immunisation schedules. Lancet I ; 806.

Pertussis vaccine: is the policy right? World Medicine 19; 17

1984 Admission of children to hospitals in Glasgow; relation to unemployment and other

deprivation variables including vaccinations. “““““`Lancet 2; 682

1984 Whooping cough and pertussis vaccine: a comparison of the risks and benefits in Britain from 1968 -83 (Invited contribution to the WHO/IBAS Symposium on pertussis, Geneva: (see Developments in Biological Standards 1985; 61; 395: Karger, Basel), .

1986 Viruses in acute childhood encephalopathy Lancet 3, 405.

1990 Safety of pertussis vaccine Lancet 335; 1162.

1995 Public Health: Whither or Whether? Soc of Public Health, Year Book (By invitation), 3.

1996 Review: Enforced vaccination against hepatitis B. Bull Med Ethics No 115, 15.

1997 Invited Comment to the Lord Chancellor (UK) on Access to Justice (Medical aspects).

1999 Ethics and Risk-benefit in Vaccination. By invitation to EURO Conference 12-14 June 1997 in Rome, Italy. Archives of Clinical Bioethics, 1999; II (1); 56-60 (English version).

1999 Immunisation with gp 160 in HIV-1 infection. (with C Fiala) Lancet 354; 948.

Chris: Once again, problems with medicine have no relevance to the fact that homeopathy is implausible nonsense.

And once again you have gone looking for something to confirm your prejudices and found a “lone voice in the wilderness” to support you. This is called confirmation bias and it lies at the heart of the abject failure of SCAM to self-correct for error. If you believe vaccines are evil and search for plausible-sounding references, you can find them If you ask whether vaccines are evil you will find an extensive literature on risks and benefits an a solid consensus that they are one of the most effective public health measures ever devised.

You can’t eradicate polio by denying the germ theory. You can eradicate it by immunisation, and we are very close to that point right now.

Vaccine denialism is one of the most irresponsible traits of SCAM. It probably causes more harm than the bogus treatments themselves, even aristolchia and heavy metal poisoned Chinese herbs.

I suggest that we call a truce. Most reading our shenanigans must be pretty sick and tired of our posts.

We are never going to agree, so further discussion/debate is rather pointless.

I would hope that you agree to this.

Respectfully yours.

Topically, this is apparently Homeopathy Awareness Week in the UK. I’m happy to have done my bit to make people aware of why people falsely believe homeopathy to be valid.

It seems to be world homeopathy awareness week. 🙁

I am surprised that the supporters of homeopathy have not pointed out that the concentration of dihydrogen oxide is extremely high – around 55.5M – prior to succussion.

Robin says:
15 June 2013

Aargh that bent my poor brain, does that mean snowball homeopathy would be more efficacious, if so by how much ? And does the final “tap” as it hits count? It is quite complicated.

Robin says:
15 June 2013

Which begs more questions..

But first, unless we have an SI unit of snowball, (esp degree of compression) we’ll have to accept an approximation, and assume a standard temperature, pressure etc this science stuff is hard.

I wonder what data on the thermo labile properties of the “memory of water” exist? If you are shipping it around the world, or even locally, it is an important consideration, which of course is considered with medicines.

I am optimistic it doesn’t make much difference what temperature a homeopathic remedy is stored at.

If the temperature is raised to 373K we don’t need to worry too much about the memory of water.

While ordering my prescription online, I decided to check my GP surgery’s website to see if they had any mention of homeopathy. A search revealed nothing but among the many links, I found one to a website named ‘Quackwatch’, which provides some very useful information on the subject.

Wavechange: I have already decided to make my fortune with humpty-dumptathy. I heal people by defining them as well. When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

Give us a break with the sarcasm chaps and just leave it at that eh?

You are right. We don’t want to be told off again, but what I said about my GP surgery website is true. When I collect the prescription I will try to ask the pharmacist in Tesco what homeopathic products they sell. What does your local pharmacy sell?

Robin says:
15 June 2013

Chris there is a serous point buried in there. What’s is the shelf life of a homeopathic product? If you can’t measure anything in pill (other than perhaps water alcohol and sugar) that is freshly made how do you know how long it can be stored and kept and retain any claimed efficacy? Temperature affects things governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and will affect the stability of pharmaceuticals. Ice is less dense that water so should have a lower molarity I think! You have commented it is for the scientists to work out any mechanism. Understanding all the chemistry and physics is important.

How is it measured and tested? People seem to be treated with homeopathy quite often on a daily basis. One could assume this infers that whatever is the claimed active ingredient is destroyed/inactiveded within the body within 24hrs. How is that measured etc etc.

Some of this is old ground so let’s not head down another rat hole, but the question was valid and relevant even if not couched in terms you like.

Hopefully on a lighter note, is your last line a hint you live in a certain south eastern county? 🙂

Hi Robin,
that is a very good point.

From the Hahnemann Pharmacy Web site…………………..

How long is the shelf life of homeopathic remedies?
Homeopathic remedies last indefinitely. There is no shelf life, because they do not spoil or lose their potency if stored correctly. The FDA has given homeopathic medicines an explicit waiver from the requirement to put expiration dates on bottles of medicine.

Yes I have commented it is for the scientists to work out any mechanism. Understanding all the chemistry and physics is important, but I think you are making a comparison between perishables such as pharmaceuticals and other products, which do not apply here.

Yes again this is old ground, so let’s not head down another rat hole, and indeed the question is valid and relevant, so unless the FDA are wrong, we have to investigate further.

Hopefully on a lighter note, is your last line a hint you live in a certain south eastern county?

Chris: I would be interested in the assays by which they feel able to make these claims. Please provide laboratory measurements that definitively show a difference between various remedies at the normal potencies and proves that this measurable quantity does not decay with time.

I expect it will also be useful for anyone hoping to build a perpetual motion machine.

Robin says:
15 June 2013


Quite a claim, and the proof?

The FDA doesn’t require an expiration date for something they don’t accept has an active ingredient with any efficacy?

So no need to ever make a fresh remedy of anything ever again, after all you keep the initial dilution and dilute it as required enough to treat millions.

And let me see
A) if it never deteriorates what happens if someone tips it down the sink, we are all being treated with homeopathy against our will?
B) why give more than one dose to anyone – what is the mechanism of breakdown in the body? So it lasts forever in a bottle but not in a person
C) does paper homeopathy work forever if you recycle the paper?

So chemistry and physics don’t apply to homeopathy……

Just bizarre and hilarious.

Robin, again, how can people repeat these things without the penny dropping? Everything consumed by humans degrades with time, except homeopathic remedies? In what way is that not magical thinking?

Robin says:
15 June 2013


As I think has been stated here several times before you can’t argue with “it just does”.

Homeopathy is just so amazing – whole new realm of physics, chemistry and biology just waiting for one shred of evidence any of it is real.

Tick rock 200+ and counting.

I am beginning to think we don’t need pharmacists commenting, but anthropologist, sociologists, psychologists maybe even psychiatrists to help us understand why some people are drawn to the irrational, the magical, and feel the need to evangelise. Parents who treat their seriously ill child with homeopathy and withhold medical treatment, leading to the child’s death cannot be thinking with any degree of clarity. What is the power of magic water that can do that to some people ?

Robin: What you say is true, of course. But I find it worrying that for a non-trivial minority this kind of subjective nonsense that is refuted by reality is actually more compelling than reality. The exploitation of the honesty if scienc to promote dishonest alternatives is merely frustrating, the promotion of irrational quackery is dangerous and worrying.

People distrust doctors because they point out that homeopaths, reiki practitioners and other charlatans are -well, charlatans.

The scientific method gives us the tools to rise above the animal, for the first time in all the billions of years of earth’s history, and some people would rather cling to a delusion sold by a plausible quack than embrace the crowning glory of human achievement, the thing that has given us the very technology they use to promote their new-age drivel.

I could never be a psychologist, “You believe /what?/ Get a grip!”

Robin says:
15 June 2013



There is so much beauty in the amazing things we know about the world. There are so many incredible things in biology, physics and chemistry that might once have been considered crazy, but there is overwhelming evidence for. The evidence builds, it comes together to make a coherent story. It does not stagnate.

I don’t feel the need for magic or blind faith. Much less for an alternate reality.

Robin: Aye. It’s a little sad that people seek to create artificial beauty and wonder when such real beauty and wonder exist.

for the hard of hearing, I’ll repeat what I have already mentioned………………..

“There is no shelf life for Homeopathic medicines, because they do not SPOIL or lose their POTENCY if stored correctly. The FDA has given homeopathic medicines an explicit waiver from the requirement to put expiration dates on bottles of medicine”…………………for those very same reasons.

Robin says:
17 June 2013

One last hope of being on topic.

You said “When I collect the prescription I will try to ask the pharmacist in Tesco what homeopathic products they sell.”

I was in my local Tesco this weekend. The pharmacist on duty was not aware of the Which? survey, So I explained the findings

I asked what he advised, and he promptly said there was no evidence to support any effect of homeopathy, and also pointed out there was none for cough mixtures either. So with prompting I think that was fair. Not sure why he wasn’t aware, either Tesco/RPS hasn’t reminded everyone or he hasn’t been able to keep up with the volume of information that I assume they have to deal with in their profession.

Chris: Since they have no potency to lose, I guess they cannot lose it. As to whether they spoil, that would be the same as any other lactose product I guess.

If you want me to believe they have a potency, and that this is permanent, then you’ll need to supply an objective test.

“Chris: Once again, problems with medicine have no relevance to the fact that homeopathy is implausible nonsense”.

Yes, so you keep on telling me, But I’m not buying it.
“found a “lone voice in the wilderness” to support you. This is called confirmation bias and it lies at the heart of the abject failure of SCAM to self-correct for error. If you believe vaccines are evil and search for plausible-sounding references, you can find them If you ask whether”…………….

Someone has to make their voice heard Guy if there are concerns as to a vaccines safety. Prof’ Stewarts’ warnings were ignored, and of course the rest of medicine just goes along with the herd mentality.

“You can’t eradicate polio by denying the germ theory”.

But this is just it Guy……..the germ theory is only a theory. Recall what pasteur said on his death bed and what Bechamp commented afterwards.

“Vaccine denialism”……………who me Guy?

If you had read my posts you would know that I am not antivaxx, just anti-unsafe ingredients, and the claims made for the effectiveness of vaccination.
Please try and convey what I have said a little more accurately. Thank you.

“aristolchia and heavy metal poisoned Chinese herbs”.

I didn’t know that you were an expert on Chinese herbs?: you’ll have to tell me more.

Chris: Whether or not you are “buying it” isn’t really relevant, it is an obvious fallacy and that fact stands on its own.

You keep picking lone voices that say what you want to hear, and ignoring the consensus. You keep being wrong. The two are connected.

“I am not antivaxx, just anti-unsafe ingredients” is classic antivax conspiracist claptrap. The rationale changes as bogus claims are refuted, the bogeyman always remains. The people who claim to be “anti unsafe ingredients” have completely failed to modify their rhetoric in the light of the fact that (a) thiomersal was almost completely removed from childhood vaccines a decade ago and (b) this made *absolutely no difference whatsoever* to the rates of autism diagnosis.

We do not know what causes autism, we do know that it is probably genetic, that signs are visible from birth and there is some evidence of signs in utero. Meantime, cranks peddling the “anti unsafe ingredients” and the Nirvana fallacy of demanding a 100% safe vaccine (because, after all, vaccine preventable disease are /natural/ and thus 100% safe, right?) have caused fatal outbreaks of pertussis and measles.

Aristolchia: http://www.pnas.org/content/109/21/8241 (commentary: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/herbal-medicine-and-aristolochic-acid-nephropathy/ http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120409164305.htm)

Heavy metal toxicity in Chinese herbs: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21824641 (commentary http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081023101226.htm)

I make no claim to expertise, but it is hard not to be aware of these cases if you are interested in the field of alternatives to medicine.

your post which begins with: “Chris: Whether or not you are “buying it” isn’t really relevant”………….

You are entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to mine, so please stop “stoking the fires” as a good chap.

Chris: You are indeed entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. That is what this entire debate has been about. You have been asserting opinion as if it were fact.

Sorry Guy, I only deal with facts or evidence that is persuasive and mostly overwhelming in its favor.

Careful, “deranged” is getting a bit on the personal side.

In addition, my opinion is actually based on the facts, not on anything conjectural, and where it has been fairly obvious that you have ignored these.

Scientism, of which you are a member, is restrictive and narrow-minded in terms of human knowledge and experience, including you misinterpretation of the original concept of EBM proposed Sackett and others, to suit your own agenda.

It is also clear that you are clearly following the “party line” and the major influence of the medical “herd mentality”, preventing you from seeing “out of the box”.

Enough said.

Chris:The issue is that for you “persuasive” means it has to agree with your pre-existing opinion. Since your pre-existing opinion is wrong, this approach is 100% guaranteed to ensure that you become increasingly wrong – and frustrate anyone who tries to help you stop being wrong into the bargain.

It’s not herd mentality, it’s consensus. It changes when good science shows it to be wrong (as with ulcers and h. pylori, vioxx and many other examples). Homeopathy has no mechanism for self-correction, no plausible mechanism, and no credible evidence of effect beyond placebo.

The reason that Gary Null is treated like a paranoid crackpot by the scientific community is because he’s a paranoid crackpot, not because of some sinister conspiracy.

have you ever read anything or all of what is contained within whale.to? No, obviously not, because you are dismissive of the website and its name, and not of its contents which contain many facts and not opinion.

This is not “rocket science” Guy, so do some objective reading and discover this for yourself.

If not, then you are in denial and therefore a “denialist”, as I have stated previously.

Chris: of course I have. Some of it is, in Pauling’s terminology, “not even wrong”, some is (as Asimov put it) wronger than wrong, some is simply insane, much of it (e.g the protocols of the elders of Zion) is long debunked conspiracist twaddle. Any accurate information is only there by chance.

If you cite as an authority a website that supports the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, you should not be surprised if people dismiss you as a fool.


I am reminded of the mentals of Nat m. when I read the detractors’ comments.

If it were not for homeopathy, I doubt that you could put up with this drivel. I admire your fortitude!

SAHC: Yes, religious belief has historically been quite successful at self-maintenance. Less so at resisting empirically verifiable fact, of course. The earth is billions of years old, we evolved from lower for,s via a common ancestor with apes, the world is now warming due to human influence, homeopathy is a placebo only.

All opposed by true believers, none even remotely controversial for the reality-based community,

Robin says:
15 June 2013


If there was any credible evidence homeopathy could cure anything, let alone mental illness, that might be insulting. But there isn’t so it isn’t.

But I am sure you felt a placebo effect as you posted.

Thank you SAHC

I do keep on trying, (in vain) but as my wife tells me…………….I can be very trying…………something applicable to this lot me thinks.!!!!

Indeed drivel it is, but if we combine this with dogma and Scientism, we could have a very good basis for a homeopathic remedy to cure all of their their ills.!!!!
Like cures like no less.

Chris: Scientism is another straw man used by those whose treatments fail scientific tests. It is functionally equivalent in meaning to the term “objective verifiability”.

Yes, we believe a claim should not stand unless those making it – whoever they may be – can prove it properly. This is a feature, not a bug.

“Scientism is another straw man used by those whose treatments fail scientific tests.”

Let’s have a look-see at that definition shall we:

August Comte (1798-1857) criticized ungrounded speculations about phenomena that cannot be directly encountered by proper observation, analysis and experiment. Such a doctrinaire stance associated with science leads to an abuse of reason that transforms a rational philosophy of science into an irrational dogma (Hayek, 1952). It is this ideological dimension that we associate with the term scientism.

I don’t believe I ever mentioned that Chinese Herbs are perfect and there is bound to be some toxicity within some of them but this is only of a minor nature and not widespread.
Chinese Herbs have been around for several millennia, but it is still widely practiced, if that tells you anything at all?

Chris: Misdirection. My point was that the naturalistic fallacy is exactly that: a fallacy.

Chris: Have you noticed how the authorities you prefer tend to pre-date modern science?

I do not claim that science is exclusive, only that the scientific method provides the best mechanism yet devised to separate truth from delusion.

The scientific method has given us electronics, lasers, the internet, satellites, immunisation, television, the jet engine, radio, radar and much more.

I am trying to think of what homeopathy has given us in the last 200 years.

“Hopefully on a lighter note, is your last line a hint you live in a certain south eastern county”?

Yanottameen and Innit?

Not saying, or you might arrange a visit from “the boys” perhaps.?

Robin says:
15 June 2013


if you’d like a new conspiracy theory I have been secretly testing a web based variant of a paper homeopathic treatment on you, hidden in the posts. I suspect it doesn’t work 🙂

Here’s a nice (and pertinent) quote from Tim Farley for you all:

“Skepticism is the intersection of science education and consumer protection. We help people learn from science to avoid spending their money on products and services that do not work.”

nice quote:

“Skepticism is the intersection of science education and consumer protection. We help people learn from science to avoid spending their money on products and services that do not work.”

Such as the 50% of medical procedures that have an “uncertain efficacy”?


1. The figure of 50% has been debunked several times.
2. The leading figures in the AllTrials initiative are all skeptics.
3. Problems with medicine validate homeopathy precisely as plane crashes validate magic carpets.

You know it would be so easy to write a script for a comedy, and everyone can have a good laugh at your dogma here, and which you keep on reiterating, as if it was going to make any difference to my own life-experience and the anecdotal evidence of millions.

Blah blah yawn yawn.

Nighty nighty, its late, and I need my beauty sleep for a bit of self-healing.

Chris, when you say dogma, I wonder what you mean? You seem to like whale.to; according to that site:

AIDS is not caused by HIV
The holocaust did not happen
Cancer is a genocidal conspiracy
Black salve cures cancer
Apricot kernels cure cancer and the reports of cyanide toxicity are a conspiracy
Drinking your own urine cures cancer
Coffee enemas cure cancer
Herbs cure cancer
Hulda Clark’s zapper cures cancer
Surgery does not cure cancer
Vaccines cause autism
Chelation therapy cures autism
David Icke is a genius

And so on.

But asking for evidence is “dogma”.

The Cary thing is, you believe you ar a health professional. People might ask your advice, and trust it when offered. That is genuinely worrying.

Robin says:
15 June 2013


Phew, that was quite a post!

“, as if it was going to make any difference to my own life-experience and the anecdotal evidence of millions.”

So you make a statement showing your dogmatic approach and accuse someone else? Homeopathy good medicine bad.

That encapsulates the issue.

Anecdote is not proof. Bring proof, bring evidence we will listen. Failed trials are not good evidence. Rant and we’ll try and persuade you that you are wrong.

just to clarify my position for you so that you may fully understand.

I do not have a “dogmatic approach” as you call it: more of an approach that is questioning dogma: the mistaken dogma of EBM and the “scientific method” which you seem to hold onto as the only method of procuring reliable and trustworthy evidence. Scientism (which you seem to cling to) excludes all other forms of evidence, but in my own view, and that of millions of others, is a huge mistake.

This comment of yours is not only overly-simplistic but also dead wrong: “Homeopathy good medicine bad” !!!

Did I actually say that? No. I have mentioned that medicine has much to offer and in many circumstances is of huge benefit to us all.

Also: “anecdote is not proof”…………….not proof to you perhaps but it is to me, and I will tell you why……………
I would understand your rejection of “anecdotal evidence” or information obtained from personal accounts, examples, and observations if this type of evidence only occurred in isolated and infrequent cases, but the anecdotal evidence I know of has occurred in thousands and thousands of individuals where health has been restored from the same systemic or isolated condition.

I am one of them, and nothing you could ever possibly say or do will ever alter that result.
I understand your views on what constitutes “evidence” but in my own personal experience, and that of thousands of others, it is a preoccupation that has more to do with proof than patient-outcomes.

again, placing words in my mouth…………”I believe I am a health professional”, which I have never mentioned or even alluded to. Where do you get these ideas about me from?

All websites that carry information does not mean that it is entirely accurate or true.
Some of whale.to is a bit extreme, that I will grant you, but that does not negate the rest of it.

People do ask me for my opinion on Natural Hygiene and water-only-fasting yes, and I give it, because I am considered to be very knowledgeable about both…..32 years in its study, with a library on the subjects.

Chris: Yes you have alluded to it earlier in this conversation. I do hope you don’t advise people to water fast for more than 24 hours or for reasons other than a medical requirement pre-surgery.

“Some of whale.to is a bit extreme” is putting it mildly. It is a dumping ground for lunacy. Citing it as a source indicates a total lack of any kind of standards of reliability. The fact that it carries the kinds of lunacy I listed – and many others – absolutely does negate the rest of it. As a source, it is slightly less reliable than David Icke.

Chris: That word dogma. You keep using it, but I don’t think it means what you think it means. Here’s the definition: “Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.”

The doctrine of similars is dogma.
The doctrine of infinitesimals is dogma.
The doctrine of serial dilution is dogma.
The selection or preparation of “remedies” is based on dogma and ritual.

The insistence that homeopathy does not “work” by placebo and other inferential and cognitive confounders is also dogma. There is no credible evidence to support any mechanism other than placebo effects, yet believers dogmatically assert that it is something else for which no empirical evidence exists. Their sole basis for rejecting the null hypothesis is dogma.

All the while those you accuse of dogma describe perfectly achievable tests which would cause us to revise our view if they bore out the claims of homeopathy. We are pretty sure these tests will never be done, because we are pretty sure how they would turn out, but we’re prepared to accept that if they did work we’d have to rethink.

Medicine does not work by dogma. Any new claim must be tested and proved. Any old claim can be challenged. Ulcers are caused by stress was dogma (appeal to authority handed down), ulcers are caused by h.pylori is science (objectively testable hypothesis, verified experimentally). See the difference?

“I do hope you don’t advise people to water fast for more than 24 hours or for reasons other than a medical requirement pre-surgery”.

None of your business Guy, but then your belief system would not be able to distinguish between actual fasting and starvation.

Don’t go there, you will only be speaking in ignorance.

Chris: If your advice depends on belief, then it’s bad advice. I looked for evidence that water fasting has any recommended use beyond preoperative requirements, and found nothing of consequence. Feel free to cite good quality studies, I’d be interested.

I did note that water fasting is a part of several religious practices. I was amused. Water, religion, homeopathy. A closed circle!

for the up to date information on the benefits of water-only-fasting I suggest you purchase a copy of the book: “Fasting and Eating For Health” by Dr Joel Fuhrman MD: the scientific references are at the rear of the book.
Dr Fuhrman has many of his patients referred to him by Mainstream Doctors including cardiologists, whose patients elect not to undergo a recommended angioplasty or by-pass operation. Water-only-fasting cleans out the arterial plaque responsible for these patients conditions, permanently lowers high blood pressure, whilst simultaneously strengthens the heart muscle.
This is just an illustration of one disease condition, but of course there are many more.
Please do not speak in ignorance of the facts, it doesn’t really do you any favors.