MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Yes, I admit it: over the years, I had formed a vague impression that homeopaths lack humour. Certainly, many comments on this blog seemed to confirm the notion. But now I changed my mind: some homeopaths are intensely funny.

Yesterday, I found a tweet which read: “NCH and homeopathy to be highlighted at the 2016 American Public Health Association’s conference in Denver”. The tweet provided a link which took me to an abstract authored by Alison Teitelbaum from the US National Center for Homeopathy (on their website, this organization tell us that they “inform legislators and work to secure homeopathy’s place in the U.S health care system while working to ensure that homeopathy is accurately represented in the media”).

The abstract in question summarized a presentation for the up-coming APHA-meeting in Denver. It is so hilariously comical that I simply have to share it with you (for those readers are homeopaths, I have added [in square brackets] a few footnotes explaining the humorous side of it):

Background: Over the last 25 years there has been a marked increase in consumer demand for information about complimentary [1] and alternative medicine, including homeopathy. Anecdotal data [2] suggest that homeopathic consumers are very satisfied with homeopathic medicines, and use them to treat acute, self-limiting conditions, however very little data exists in the published literature examining either topic [3]. Therefore, the purpose of this project was to evaluate homeopathic consumers’ use and satisfaction with homeopathic medicines.

Methods: Survey of nearly 20,000 consumers [4] who had purchased at least 1 over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic medicine in the past 2 years.

Results: [5] More than 95% of respondents indicated they were very or extremely satisfied with the most recent OTC homeopathic medicine they had purchased and used [6]. More than 96% of respondents indicated they were very or extremely satisfied with the results of OTC homeopathic medicines that they had used in general [7]. Over 98% of respondents reported that they were very likely to purchase OTC homeopathic medicines again in the future [8]. More than 97% of respondents indicated that they were very likely to recommend homeopathic medicines to others [9]. Finally, more than 80% of respondents indicated using OTC homeopathic medicines for acute, self-limiting conditions, such as aches and pains; cold and flu symptoms; and digestive upset [10].

Conclusion: These results support anecdotal evidence [11] that homeopathic consumers are satisfied with OTC homeopathic medicines [12], and are using them to treat acute, self-limiting conditions [13]. Additional research is needed to further explore the use of OTC homeopathic medicine in the US for trends, access, and overall awareness about homeopathy [14].

[1] complimentary medicine = healthcare that costs nothing; complementary medicine = healthcare that complements real medicine; homeopathy should belong to the former category because it contains nothing.

[2] please note how ‘anecdotal data’ becomes ‘anecdotal evidence’ by the time we reach the conclusion; little does the author know that THE PLURAL OF ANECDOTE IS NOT ‘DATA’ BUT ‘ANECDOTES’!!!

[3] this statement implies that the author cannot cope with a Medline search, because there are plenty of articles on this subject.

[4] ‘nearly 20 000’ perfectly reflects the scientific rigor of this project (is it really too demanding to provide the exact figure?)

[5] how come we do not learn anything about the response rate of this survey (did ‘nearly’ everyone reply? or did ‘nearly’ everyone not reply?)?

[6] considering that only homeopathy-fans were included, this figure should be 100%!

[7] considering that only homeopathy-fans were included, this figure should be 100%!

[8] considering that only homeopathy-fans were included, this figure should be 100%!

[9] considering that only homeopathy-fans were included, this figure should be 100%!

[10] ‘more than 80%’ of an unknown rate of responders is about as much as a tin of peas. But I am nevertheless relieved that the majority used placebos merely for self-limiting conditions; the 20% who might have used it for life-threatening conditions are probably all dead – sad!

[11] see footnote number 2

[12] this is like doing a survey in a hamburger joint concluding that all consumers love to eat hamburgers.

[13] except, of course, the unknown percentage of non-responders who might all be dead.

[14] I would re-phrase this last sentence as follows: MORE SUCH PRESENTATIONS ARE NEEDED TO PROVIDE COMIC RELIEF TO OTHERWISE DRY AND BORING MEETINGS ON PUBLIC HEALTH.

13 Responses to I was wrong about homeopaths! They do have sense of humour after all!

  • Replace “homeopathy” with “mummy” (yes I mean pulverized bodies of mummified ancient egyptians) and the year of te survey to say 1550 and you will likely get almost the same figures. The survey is an argumentum ad populum and terefore a huge logical fallacy.

  • Edzard – I just did a scientific survey on nearly 5 drinking friends.
    The anecdotal evidence of this research – work is ongoing as I speak – indicates that-
    1. More than 100% of them are very happy being in pubs.
    2.More than 100% are very happy with the beery products and service they receive.
    3.415% of them indicated that they were likely to purchase more beer in the future, possibly even at this moment
    4.619% of them felt that it was way past the point where beer should be available for free on the NHS.
    5. And pork scratchings. Only 93% here though, since one of them is a vegetarian. But I shall adjust/cherry-pick the figures here at some point.

  • Miss Teitlebaum’s presentation seems to be but a poster, but although I see the funny side, it is a most serious matter that the APHA (“For Science. For Action. For Health.”) should give house room to such tripe, piffle, poppycock, balderdash, twaddle, codswallop and tosh.
    Not that I’m biased.

    I am aware that in general Americans “don’t do irony” but APHA do seem to have made an exception here.
    It is most unkind and unprofessional of them to make fun of Miss Teitlebaum’s struggle with science.
    Am I right – ‘annecdotal evidence’ is an oxymoron – or is it simple nonsence?
    Miss T needs help, not ridicule.

  • work to secure homeopathy’s place in the U.S health care system

    The yellow and black bin?

    Astonishing, Ms Teitelbaum don’t even try to pretend this “research” is anything but a bald-faced exercise in market research. Normally they throw in a “Quantum” or two to show they’re being Scientific. And this witless sales-boosterism is being presented to an audience of medical professionals at a major US healthcare conference? Will no doubt go down a treat in those parts of US healthcare that have absolutely zero compunction in putting profits over patients.

  • Edzard Ernst : this post is to show your bias against homeopathy or a result of poor analysis that you have been accused of?

    “NCH does not have professional homeopaths or other medical professionals on staff. NCH does not provide medical or therapeutic advice (including second opinions or recommendations for a particular remedy or potency). Nor do we assist practitioners with questions regarding their cases.”

  • Further to footnote 13, as the consumers used homeopathy for self-limiting conditions they ought to be equally as happy doing nothing which, in pharmacological terms, is what they did.

    • Quackery is our world’s finest recycler. While real medicine constantly discards and moves on, there’s nothing in trail of that detritus that AltMed isn’t delighted to pick up and sell as its own; in this case homeopathy as the perfect expression of Voltaire’s observation that: “The art of [pre-scientific] medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”

      Nothing could be easier to fool than those who want to be fooled.

  • Evidence that the Indian state of Uttarakhand has a wonderful sense of humour.
    The Department of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy and Homeopathy has announced that it is to spend an initial 28 million pounds on a hunt for a mystical plant in the Himalayas which is said to bring people back to life and glows in the dark.
    ‘If we are determined we will certainly find it’, said the minister for the department.

  • Is there an Indian state of Uttatoshanmulaki?

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