MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

If you talk to advocates of homeopathy, you are bound to hear claims that are false or misleading; in fact, you hear them so regularly that you might begin to doubt the truth. For those who have such doubts or are in need of some correct counter-arguments, I have listed here those 12 bogus claims which, in my experience, are most common together with short, suitable, and factual rebuttals.

1) THERE IS NOTHING MYSTERIOUS ABOUT HOMEOPATHY’S MODE OF ACTION, IT WORKS LIKE VACCINATIONS

This argument is used by enthusiasts in response the fact that most homeopathic remedies are too highly diluted to have pharmacological effects. Vaccines are also highly diluted and they are, of course, very effective; therefore, so the bogus notion, there is nothing odd about homeopathy.

The argument is wrong on several levels; the easiest way to refute, I think, it is to point out that vaccines contain measurable amounts of material and lead to measurable changes in the immune system. By contrast, the typical homeopathic remedy (beyond the C12 potency) contains not a single molecule of an active substance and leads to no measurable changes in any system.

2) SIGNIFICANTLY MORE CONTROLLED CLINICAL TRIALS OF HOMEOPATHY ARE POSITIVE THAN NEGATIVE

Several websites of homeopathic organisations make this claim and even provide simple statistics to back it up. Consequently, many homeopathy fans have adopted it.

The statistics they present show that x % of studies are positive, y % are negative and z % are neutral; the whole point is that x is larger than y. The percentage figures may even be correct but they rely on the spurious definitions used: positive = superior to placebo, negative = placebo superior to homeopathy, neutral = no difference between homeopathy and placebo. The latter category was created so that homeopathy comes out trumps.

For all intents and purposes, a study where the experimental treatment is no better than placebo is not a study neutral but a negative result. Thus the negative category in such statistics must be y + z which is, of course, larger than x. In other words, the majority of trials is, in truth, negative.

3) HOMEOPATHY IS SUPPORTED BY NOBEL PRIZE WINNERS

I don’t know of a single Nobel Prize winner who has stated or implied that homeopathy works better than a placebo. Some have tried to find a mechanism of action for homeopathy by doing some basic research and have published theories about it. None of those has been accepted by science.

And if there ever should be a Nobel Prize winner or similarly brilliant person who supports homeopathy, this would merely show that even bright individuals can make mistakes!

4) HOMEOPATHY IS SAFE

Tell that to the child that has just been reported to have died because her parents used homeopathy for an ear infection which (could have been easily treated with antibiotics but) degenerated into a brain abscess with homeopathic therapy. There are many more such tragic cases than I care to remember.

The risks of homeopathy are, of course, minor compared to many conventional treatments, but the risk/benefit balance of homeopathy can never be positive because, unlike those high risk conventional treatments, it has no benefit.

5) HOMEOPATHY DOES NOT LEND ITSELF TO BEING TESTED IN CLINICAL TRIALS

The best way to disprove this argument is to point out that ~ 250 controlled clinical trials are currently available. Every homeopath on the planet boasts about clinical trials – provided they are positive.

6) HOMEOPATHY WORKS VIA QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT

I do not understand quantum mechanics and, I suspect, neither do the homeopaths who use this argument. But physicists who do understand this subject well are keen to stress that homeopathy cannot be explained in this way.

7) THERE IS NO PROOF THAT HOMEOPATHY DOES NOT WORK

The absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence, homeopaths like to exclaim. And they are, of course, correct! However, they forget that, science cannot prove a negative and that, in routine health care, we do not even look for a proof of ineffectiveness. We use those treatments that have a positive proof of effectiveness – everything else is irresponsible.

8) EVEN IF HOMEOPATHY WERE JUST A PLACEBO, IT STILL HELPS PATIENTS AND IS THEREFORE A USEFUL TREATMENT

It is true, of course, that placebo effects can help patients. But it is not true that, for generating a placebo response, we need a placebo. If a clinician administers an effective treatment with compassion, the patient will benefit from a placebo response plus from the specific effects of the treatment. Only giving placebos is therefore tantamount to cheating the patient.

9) THERE IS A WORLDWIDE CONSPIRACY AGAINST HOMEOPATHY

In a way, this argument merely suggests that homeopathic remedies are ineffective in treating paranoia. I have not ever seen a jot of evidence for it – and neither can anyone who uses this claim produce any.

10) YOU NEED TO BE A HOMEOPATH TO BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND AND ADEQUATELY JUDGE THE VALUE OF HOMEOPATHY

With this notion, homeopaths want to claim that the critics of homeopathy are incompetent. It is like saying that only people who believe in god are allowed to criticise religion. By definition, homeopaths are believers, and therefore they are unlikely to be free of bias when judging the value of homeopathy. Homeopathy is a health technology that must be evaluated like all other health technologies: by independent scientists who know their job.

11) HOMEOPATHY HAS BEEN PROVEN TO WORK FOR LITTLE CHILDREN AND ANIMALS

The argument here is that animals and children cannot possibly respond to placebo. Therefore homeopathy must be more than a placebo.

This notion is twice wrong. Firstly, both animals and children can respond to placebo, if only ‘by proxy’, i.e. via their carers. Secondly, if we consider the totality of the reliable data, we find that neither for children nor for animals is the evidence convincingly positive.

12) HOMEOPATHY HAS BEEN USED VERY SUCCESSFULLY IN MAJOR EPIDEMICS, AND THAT FACT IS PROOF ENOUGH FOR ITS EFFICACY

Yes, there are some rather fascinating historical accounts which homeopaths interpret in this fashion. But if we look a little closer, we invariably find explanations which are much more plausible than the assumption of homeopathy’s effectiveness. Epidemiological observations of this nature can almost never establish cause and effect, and the clinical outcome could have been due to a myriad of confounders unrelated to homeopathy.

27 Responses to 12 bogus arguments about homeopathy

  • 7) THERE IS NO PROOF THAT HOMEOPATHY DOES NOT WORK

    The absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence, homeopaths like to exclaim. And they are, of course, correct! 

    This is a popular claim, but I disagree with it. Absence of evidence is most definitely evidence of absence, it’s just not proof of absence.

    Proof is impossible to get anyway, the best we can hope for is increasing degrees of probability, and homoeopathy has pathetically low degrees of probability.

    Many quack-lovers don’t seem to understand “degrees of probability”. They seem to think that as long as the probability is not zero, it is on a par with the probability for the contrary. I don’t understand that. Do these people ever look at the numbers for the Lotto and see how many million players lose for every winner?

  • One comment about vaccinations: They are not highly diluted, they contain measurable amounts of the antigen. Typically in the microgram range. This is not much, but it is the amount needed. There is no parallel between vaccinations and homeopathy. The first works very well (and we understand why), the later is only bogus.

  • re number 3…
     
    The Nobel Prize winner most often cited by homeopaths is Luc Montagnier, discoverer of HIV. His support of homeopathy is very strong, but only illustrates perfectly what you say: “even bright individuals can make mistakes!”. There are others, but no other winners in “physiology and medicine” over the past century. We’re left with a list of winners of the Peace Prize, the Literature Prize and one physicist. If Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi are seriously considered supportive evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy we’re in deep trouble.
     
    Montagnier supports the water memory theory. One problem I have with that particular nonsense is that Hahnemann often used alcohol as a diluent. So there must be an ethanol memory too. (The opposite of human memory after plentiful ethanol.) Come to think of it, if I diluted ethanol to about 30C surely I ought to get drunk more effectively?!

    • The whole water memory thing makes no sense. As you say, the mother tinctures of homoeopathic products are usually made with alcohol. It is only later on that water is used, because it is cheaper. A single drop of that water is then put in a tube with lactose/sucrose pellets, and those pellets are then used to cure any disease. Sure. Those cures are so magical that they even disappear when we try to discover them.

      What is also usually overlooked is Hahnemann’s “titration”, in which no liquid is used. How important is water memory when it is not used?

      I think few people expressed it better than these: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0

      • I believe it is called “trituration”, Bart. Not “titration”.
        In the context of homeopathy I believe it is the process of diluting a solid substance with another inert powdered substance, usually lactose.

        Evaporative water memory…
        There is a hilarious history relative to the theory that water memory is transferred to the sugar pillules evena as the water evaporates.
        When the American FDA for some reason found it necessary to inspect the manufacturing facilities of homeopathic remedy supplier “Nelson’s Homeopathy” in the UK, they found not only shoddy documentation and process quality e.g. broken glass in the mixing vats. They also found that the automated machinery that dropped the potentised water, missed the pillboxes in at least one instance out of five. No one had ever complained to Nelsons of ineffective remedies, or for that matter of overly effective ones either. http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2012/08/fda-raises-serious-concerns-about-uks-nelsons-homeopathics.html

        There are several outlets where you can order ready made remedies supposedly from the strangest origins. Light of Venus , cell phones, shipwrecks and the Berlin Wall are examples. One is called Helios homeopathy. Here is their “remedy finder” where you can browse among thousands of different fantasies, one more silly than the other. Try finding volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajökull. It is one of the more recent inventions 😀 I believe that must have been triturated to make the initial delusion solution

        • I stand corrected, Björn. Thank you! It has been a while. I should re-re-read the organon again, but I am somewhat reluctant. It is not the most pleasant read.

          To add to your list, I remember that someone was selling “black hole”. I forgot whether this was prepared via dilution or trituration, and there was also no explanation as to how they harvested the original sample. I guess physicists would have a thing or two to say about that, but what do you know? They are only reductionist scientists.

          • Ha. I couldn’t resist. and I found it again:

            Cygnus X-1 (Black Hole) (Jason-Aeric Huencke): 2010

            And this is the research report :
            *****
            Proving of Cygnus X-1, Black Hole, Lux foraminis nigris

            Remedy Abbreviation: undetermined

            Northwestern Academy of Homeopathy 2010

            MASTER PROVER

            Jason-Aeric Huenecke CCH, RSHom (NA)

            PREPARATION

            The remedy was prepared by Rowan Jackson and astronomer, Peter Lipscomb, using an 8″ telescope, Meade LX90 aperture telescope. A vial of alcohol was affixed to the viewing end as the telescope was focused on Cygnus X-1’s location within the Cygnus constellation.

            COMPILATION

            Lori Foley and Sandra Haering, with students and alumni of the Northwestern Academy of Homeopathy.

            METHODOLOGY

            Twenty provers took the remedy administered in 30C potencies. The proving was double blind format in which neither the supervisors nor the provers were aware of the substance they were taking. During the proving, provers logged symptoms on a daily basis and were in daily contact with their supervisor until symptoms subsided.

            REMEDY AVAILABILITY

            NAH Pharmacy (763-746-9242)

            Helios Homeopathy Ltd, Contact (listed under “Black Hole”)

            360 Homeopathy, (1-406-600-4550)
            *****

            There is other interesting research on this list. The “Common Loon” caught my attention. I wonder, did they go up north to catch one, or did they visit the local asylum instead, perhaps the one they are staying at themselves?

          • @Bart
            How anyone could read this tripe and still believe that homeopathy deserves serious consideration as anything other than witchcraft of the most lunatic order, I can’t imagine!
             
            When I had recovered from paroxysmal laughter, I followed your link to the American Medical College of Homeopathy website. It contains a link to an article called “Provings: Then, Now and Future” by one Todd Rowe (an anagram of “odd we rot”). The hilarity moves to new heights. Try the following…

            “Dream provings. There are a myriad of [sic] methods to perform dream provings but often these involve placing the homeopathic remedy under a provers [sic] pillow for a period of time and recording dreams that arise.
            Meditative provings. Meditative provings generally involve a prolonged period of contemplation in a group format where individuals are holding a particular homeopathic remedy.
            Thought provings. Thought provings occur when students or teachers experience the symptoms of a remedy when teaching or studying it. “

            To any fans of homeopathy reading this, please compare the strenuous efforts that have been made in an attempt to prove that water has a molecular memory (it doesn’t!) with the total idiocy of determining homeopathic remedies by thinking about them, teaching about them or dreaming with them under your pillow. You don’t need clinical trials to demonstrate this is simply superstitious horse manure. If you believe this rot lies anywhere on the plane of reality, please consult a psychiatrist.

          • Cygnus X-1 is an X-ray source: an optical telescope cannot focus it onto anything, let alone a vial of alcohol. Furthermore, Earth’s atmosphere blocks X-rays hence Cygnus X-1 is detectable only at altitudes above 50 km.

            Yet again we have a homeopathic ‘remedy’ that does not, and cannot, contain what it is stated to contain.

          • I don’t understand it, FrankO. I keep terrorising everybody, including Professor Ernst with the same question: do these people actually believe this nonsense? I am extremely hard-headed here, because when I get the answer that they (often/sometimes) do, my brain doesn’t want to record the answer.

            In my native Belgium, an ex-politician just got a conviction for some unsavoury negationist comments on what the Nazis did. Hardly anyone seems to have a problem with that. One commenter said something along the lines of: “negationist comments are a crime, they are therefore not covered by freedom of expression”. However unsavoury his comments were, nobody got killed, nobody contracted a disease – incurable or not. These comments clearly upset a lot of people, but being upset is hardly a dangerous condition. Yet, nobody seems to have problems with how “truth” is legislated.

            On the other hand, homeopathy-peddling lunatics are left undisturbed, and are allowed to do whatever they want, including encouraging people to risk their lives or those of their children. Apparently, the “Legislator of Truth” has no problems with that. On the contrary. In Europe, homoeoquacks are explicitly exempted from having to provide evidence for their claims, ‘because they can’t provide them’.

            Am I so wrong for thinking this is profoundly immoral, even premeditated murder? Am I so wrong for thinking this should not be allowed?

          • @Bart
            I hate to say it, but, yes, there really are people who believe this kind of cerebrally barrel-scraping tosh. I’ve met too many of them to imagine otherwise (with a heavy sprinkling during my 10 years in your home country). Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer and Superstition by Robert L. Park cover some of this ground, but there never can be a really satisfying explanation.
             
            There are huge numbers of people who genuinely believe that if they are associated in any way with the number 13 (e.g. seat row number, building floor) they will suffer “bad luck” (undefined and for an undefined period). Can we say, coolly and dispassionately, that that is any more or less stupid than genuinely believing you can determine which illnesses a bottle of homeopathic medicine water can cure by sticking it under your pillow and recording your dreams? As I’ve said repeatedly in comments on this excellent blog (and as Edzard also once addressed): religious beliefs, superstitious beliefs, beliefs in paranormal events and beliefs in daft medical ideas all originate in humans’ propensity for self-delusion. We are all biased arrogantly to imagine that everything we think and experiences we interpret cannot possibly be wrong.
             
            Since you raise the matter, I don’t second your “premeditated murder” point of view. The numbers of believers in Big Snakeoil greatly exceeds the numbers of its salesmen. They spend their money on the hogwash and often defend their actions in the strongest terms. They are deluded. Among the practitioners there will be some deluded and some cash-grubbing charlatans. The latter are the people you so strongly deprecate, and I agree their prime motive of making money is cynical in the face of the lack of evidence to support what they sell.
             
            It could be argued that placing oneself, inebriated, at the controls of a ton chunk of metal that can be accelerated to high speeds and thereby killing another road user is premeditated murder, considering all the evidence that outlines the risk. But there is no jurisdiction I know of that regards drunk driving even as murder, never mind of the premeditated sort. Premeditated murder in legal terms usually seems to mean the deliberate killing of a specified individual. The expression is not appropriate for a homeopath or other snakeoil salesman who may leave a trail of human destruction they’re unaware of, but who have not deliberately set out to kill.
             
            While, for these reasons, I think you’re overstating the case, it’s good that you do so, because sometimes a point can be made effectively only by overstatement. People who espouse the kind of nonsense we’re discussing in this thread — even those who do so solely to make money — are invariably ignorant of both science and medicine. They stack up delusion upon delusion until they’re no longer able to react to any level of sense that’s offered to them rationally: regardless of motive! Immoral, sure. Premeditated murderers; probably not. Just devoid of reason.

        • Fasinating story about the manufacturing process – which confirms, of course, that you have no way of verifying whether what is written on the label is actually present in the little bottle.

          I would love to see an experiment where someone swapped around all the labels and tested whether anyone could identify the difference between a little bottle that no longer contains any arnica from a little bottle that no longer contains any Nat Mur!

  • 6) HOMEOPATHY WORKS VIA QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT

    Let’s suppose for a moment that homeopathy does ‘work’ by quantum entanglement (even though it doesn’t). When the remedy is taken by the patient, the corresponding entangled particles will be affected. So the real question is: where do these corresponding entangled particles reside?

    If they reside in the mother tincture then it will become increasingly contaminated by the patients who use the remedy. If they reside in the serial dilutions, which were disposed of presumably down the drain and into the sewerage system long before the patient takes the remedy, then the entangled particles in the remedy will have been affected by the sewerage system. These (and other) scenarios have disturbing implications. Yuck!

    Mother tinctures that have been made from photons, such as Light of Venus, cannot possibly contain any photons; let alone have any entangled photons imparted to a sugar pill, alcohol, or water, via the homeopathic remedy production process.

    The various claims made for how homeopathy ‘works’ are not just logically and scientifically inconsistent, they are abjectly self-refuting.

    Lastly, those who believe that a sugar pill or a small bottle of liquid can be in a quantum-entangled state with an external substance/object/entity are blissfully ignorant of many important things, including: gravitational time dilation; kinetic energy; thermal radiation; stochastic and chaotic systems; quantization; and especially, critical thinking skills.

    • [laff]
      These are complicated matters. No wonder you are confused. Take heart. Here is Dr. Charlene Werner, who explains how E=mc2 explains this mystery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hoe3ZjRV7-I
      [/laff]

      • Bart, we’ve previously mentioned “Dr” Charlene’s pitiful lack of explanatory power:
        http://edzardernst.com/2015/05/help-help-help-can-someone-please-explain/#comment-66725

        I’m not confused by buffoons; I’m endlessly amused by them.

      • Oh my goodness! I’ve watched this one before.
        00:42….”You know that light is energy, right?” Wrong.
        01:23….”The whole universal mass can be consolidated down into the size of a bowling ball…so how much mass are you?” Man in audience: “Not much!” Charlene Werner: “That’s right.” So she removes m from e=mc^2. Wrong.
        02:16…”Stephen Hawkings [she can’t even get the name right] gave us the String Theory.” Nope; that came from the 1960s when Hawking was still toying with singularities. Related, but not the same thing at all.
         
        It just goes on and on like this. A homeopath (cf. psychopath, sociopath) talking complete bollocks to an audience enthusiastically receptive to all this erudite-sounding, sciency stuff. It supports their conviction that their homeopathic medicines have a rational basis. The genuinely rational concepts of placebo effects and regression to the mean are too complicated to understand by comparison with string theory.
         
        I only wish that people whose experience leads them to believe homeopathy cures their diseases would be obliged to carry a card, analogous to an organ donor card, which states that “In case of illness, please treat only with homeopathic medicines”. That should be an eye-opener when they get seriously sick.

        • FrankO,

          Charlene stated (starting circa 01:38) “You can almost cross out, mass. So the formula ends up being the speed of light.” WTF? She claimed that E=c.

          I found it inconceivable that no one in her audience balked at the absurdity. Yet the video provides empirical evidence that her audience appreciated, rather balked at, her gross logical and mathematical errors.

          • The reason I keep bringing this one up like a demented cuckoo clock, is that while I can accept that not everyone has been to school long enough to learn what E=mc2 means, one would think that one can assume that most all people have learned elementary arithmetic, even in the education-deprived United States.
            These are the things I think an uneducated audience should have questions about:
            1. E=mc2 is one of the most famous and important formulas known to humanity. How is it that Einstein, a genius, would not know that his formula contained a useless quantity that can easily be scratched out?
            2. If m is indeed so small and unimportant, it would be (almost) equal to zero, and therefore, E would also be (almost) equal to zero. Hence: why mention it at all? What’s the use of the formula if it is meaningless anyway?
            3. If m can (almost) be crossed out, but the rest can stay, that would make mass (almost) equivalent to 1. So then, again, why is it there in the first place?
            For the slightly less uneducated:
            4. If the speed of light is a square, what are the units used to express it?

            My question would be: if the level of education of “the American” is so low as to not even understand the simplest arithmetic, why are they bothering with education at all?
            My other question would be: is it possible for a human (“Dr.” Charlene Werner) to be that stupid but still concoct this appalling story?

          • Bart, Some people use their qualifications for the purposes of furthering human knowledge and/or reducing human suffering. This is very hard work for which many of us are deeply grateful.

            Other people realise that their qualifications can so easily be used to bypass that hard graft and instead be used to make money from promoting anti-science fuckwittery — especially quackery.

            “Dr” Charlene isn’t stupid; she’s become good at the art of manipulating the ill-informed general public. I shall not comment on the average level of education in the USA because I can’t provide empirical evidence of (or explain) their apparent dire lack of skills in numeracy, arithmetic, fundamental mathematics, and critical thinking.

        • I only wish that people whose experience leads them to believe homeopathy cures their diseases would be obliged to carry a card, analogous to an organ donor card, which states that “In case of illness, please treat only with homeopathic medicines”. That should be an eye-opener when they get seriously sick.

          I have made similar suggestions in the past. For some reason, the homeofans, religionists… I suggest it to always get mad at me. I don’t understand that.

          If they really believe medicine is a conspiracy created to exterminate them, why do they become mad when I tell them they are free not to use it?

          Adults have the right to refuse treatment and, in several US states, judges will happily declare parents not guilty for the death of their children as the result of refusing treatment for them, as long as the reason is outlandish enough.

          So, what is their problem?

          The resulting deaths would, unfortunately, solve nothing. They would simply claim that the medical conspirators are poisoning them to show that they are wrong.

          • @Bart,
            Yes, it’s incomprehensible how real illness or injury suddenly drives fans of Big Snakeoil into the best medicine has to offer. (The British Royal Family do this all the time.)
             
            But homeopaths don’t need to: they can buy the Homeopathic Remedy Accident and Emergency Kit from Amazon USA. (I suspect you already know this one, Bart.) Some of the reviews make brilliantly hilarious reading.

  • ASA COMPLAINT RE HOMEOPATHY

    Dear Prof Ernst, I admire your work very much, and thought you’d be interested to know the outcome of my latest ASA complaint, about a homeopathy clinic website, making completely unsubstantiated claims (in my opinion).

    I received the following response:

    YOUR COMPLAINT ABOUT THE XXXX HOMEOPATHY CLINIC

    Thank you for contacting the Advertising Standards Authority with your concerns about claims on the advertiser’s website [name removed by me].

    The CAP Compliance team will soon be initiating a sector-wide compliance project on advertising for homeopathy, in which they will contact those advertisers on their list of homeopathy practitioners. They have therefore added this advertiser to their list of contacts and will contact them in the near future as part of their ongoing action in this area.

    As you may be aware, the Compliance team doesn’t report to complainants or publish the details of their work but please be assured they will work to address the problem.

    Thank you very much for bringing this matter to our attention.

    ***

    I was disappointed that my individual complaint would not be investigated and indeed VERY surprised by the lack of transparency regarding the work of the Compliance team. I made these points to the ASA, who responded as follows:

    ***

    Although I can fully appreciate that you would prefer us to deal with this matter formally, we must be mindful of our resources and ensure that we deal with all complaints proportionately. We are committed to providing a fair, consistent and accessible service for all of our customers, and we have to balance this by ensuring that our work is undertaken in an efficient and effective manner. The ASA’s resources are limited and as such, we have a duty to ensure that we do not spend a disproportionate amount of our time conducting investigations on matters that are currently subject to Sector Compliance. This is where the Compliance team contact all advertisers in a sector to advise them of the changes that need to be made to their ads. It is this team who have the power to impose further sanctions.

    Formal investigations can sometimes take months, during which time the ad or claims in question may still continue to appear. However, in Compliance cases, the CAP Compliance team will work with the advertiser directly to ensure the ad is either removed or amended as quickly as possible.

    In terms of Compliance action, I’m afraid that we at the ASA are not specifically kept informed about the action they have taken and for practical reasons, such as dealing with the large number of new incoming complaints, we are simply unable to keep individual complainants up to date. They themselves don’t respond to complainants or publish details of their work for similar reasons, they are only a small team and their functions are numerous.

    I appreciate that you will remain disappointed, but I hope this goes some way to explaining our procedures and to reassure you that the Compliance team will work to address the issues raised. Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us with your concerns.

    ***

    And there I was compelled to let the matter rest.

    Cathy Stillman-Lowe

    • @Cathy Stillman-Lowe
      I can tell you that from my experience from one case, the ASA seems to be an extremely well run organisation. I understan your irritation and would probably have felt the same. But on the other hand we should appreciate their need to maximise their resource utilisation. The cases they take on get a thorough and expedient handling. I had an ongoing dialog with the case manager while my case was processed, as he needed further clarification and he sent me status reports as the case progressed. It took only two months before it was finalised. That is very impressive for a public institution.
      I guess the sheer magnitude of rubbish in homeopathy advertisements necessitates this process conglomeration.

      In Sweden where I have lived and still do a lot of consultant work, the corresponding agency (“Konsumentverket” – the consumer agency) is open for any complaint from the public via a simple web-receptory but categorically refuses to give any feedback or dialog. You have to monitor their site for signs of a result and this can take years.

      • Excellent points.

        I have submitted a number of complaints to the ASA and yes, their complaints handling is first-rate.

        And I should be philosophical about their decision to handle my homeopathy clinic complaint in the way that they chose, I guess!

        Thanks.

  • The text of my original complaint is below for reference:

    ASA Complaint about [website]

    Submitted 17 May 2015

    These statements (below) should be substantiated or withdrawn. Proper scientific evidence to back them up is not provided. Indeed the statements conflict with the NHS’s own advice on these conditions (see NHS Choices).

    Migraine clinic page

    “it is now possible to completely cure your migraines and cluster headaches in a pain-free, needle-free and drug-free way once and for all.
    Step 1: The Migraine Treatment Clinic Programme begins by tracking down and then confirming what is actually causing your migraine and cluster headache symptoms.
    Note: These causes are (almost without exception) found to involve a combination of viral infections. But we have also found that there can often be bacterial and parasitical infections involved as well.”

    ‘ME Cure’ clinic page

    “Due to a major breakthrough in the treatment of ME / CFS by the ME Treatment Clinic, it is now possible to completely cure these conditions in a pain-free, needle-free and drug-free way once and for all.

    Step 1: The ME Clinic Treatment Programme begins by tracking down and then confirming what is actually causing your symptoms.
    Note: These causes are (almost without exception) found to involve a combination of viral infections. But we have also found that there are often underlying parasitical and bacterial infections involved as well.

    Step 2: The ME Clinic then treats (or should I say kills) these pathogens (viruses, parasites, bacteria etc), using very much the same principles that are used in immunology.

    Note: In other words, in the same way as someone who has been bitten by a venomous snake is treated with an “anti-venom” made from the venom of the snake; by treating the patient with derivatives of the actual causal pathogens that are causing the ME / CFS we are able to eliminate those very same agents. Thus, logic dictates, if the causal pathogen(s) which caused the original condition is/are no longer present the symptoms must disappear.”

    IBS Clinic page

    “In our experience we have found, over and over, that almost every patient’s illness is caused by a specific, or combination of specific pathogens (usually bacterial, viral, parasitical and fungal). As such, there is, in almost every case, a corresponding “specific” solution – a logical and natural cure, whether Homeopathic Treatment (often termed alternative medicine), Allopathic (generally regarded as mainstream medicine), Herbal or Naturopathic.

    In our experience, there are only three simple steps required to regaining your health:

    1) Find the Cause/Causes
    2) Confirm the correct Cure/Cures
    3) Treat (kill) the Cause/Causes

    Using Samuel Hahnemann’s homeopathic principles of treating “like with like”, we first track down and confirm the pathogens that are causing your symptoms. The next stage is to treat them with a derivative of themselves to eliminate them. This works in much the same way as you would treat a bite from a venomous snake – by treating it with an anti-venom produced from the very same venom. [Note: Essentially using an anti-version of the pathogen to kill the pathogen.]

    Once the actual pathogens, which are at the root of all your symptoms, have all been removed, they can no longer give you the symptoms (as they are no longer there) and you will begin to recover.

    If you follow these three steps there can only be one result…YOU MUST GET BETTER!”

    I do like the confidence implicit in that last phrase!

    • I don’t think that last phrase has implicit confidence, I think it is a clear warning: If you fail to get better it’s all your fault, so don’t even think about asking for a refund or otherwise complaining!

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