MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES CANNOT POSSIBLY  PLACEBOS BECAUSE THEY WORK IN ANIMALS!

How often have we heard this argument?

And how often have we pointed out that it is wrong on more than one level?

On this blog alone, we have done so here, here, here and here, for instance. But homeopaths and their followers seem to be strangely immune to facts. Presumably, they will therefore also ignore a recent paper that re-confirms what has already been said so often.

This new systematic review assessed the efficacy of homeopathy in cattle, pigs and poultry. Only peer-reviewed publications dealing with homeopathic remedies, which could possibly replace or prevent the use of antibiotics in the case of infective diseases or growth promotion in livestock were included. Search results revealed a total number of 52 trials performed within 48 publications fulfilling the predefined criteria. Twenty-eight trials were in favour of homeopathy, with 26 trials showing a significantly higher efficacy in comparison to a control group, whereas 22 showed no medicinal effect. Cure rates for the treatments with antibiotics, homeopathy or placebo varied to a high degree, while the remedy used did not seem to make a big difference. No study had been repeated under comparable conditions. Consequently, the use of homeopathy cannot claim to have sufficient prognostic validity where efficacy is concerned. When striving for high therapeutic success in treatment, the potential of homeopathy in replacing or reducing antibiotics can only be validated if evidence of efficacy is confirmed by randomised controlled trials under modified conditions.

I think this, together with the previous systematic reviews on the subject, speaks for itself, and there is little to add – except perhaps the bravely outspoken letter by Oliver Kamm in THE TIMES which alludes to the above named paper:

START OF QUOTE

Using highly diluted substances to cure ailments is a better idea than the medieval practices of bloodletting by leeches or administering hemlock as an anaesthetic. That’s the best you can say for homeopathy: it isn’t outright dangerous. As medicine, however, it’s junk. Study after study has confirmed that homeopathic remedies are inert and no more effective than either a placebo or just allowing an illness to run its course.

Now research published in the Veterinary Record concludes that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of homeopathic treatments in livestock, either, as a way to prevent or treat infectious diseases. Two scientists from the university of Kassel in Germany reviewed studies of the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments in cattle, pigs and poultry. They say the “evidence in favour of homeopathy lacks reproducibility and therefore cannot claim to have sufficient prognostic validity”.

Over 200 years, homeopaths have failed to substantiate their claims. It may seem bizarre that anyone in the 21st century could take seriously the notion of homeopathic treatments for animals. But that is to reckon without the Prince of Wales and his lifetime enthusiasm for zaniness on science, medicine, aesthetics and linguistics. He once gave a speech declaring himself proud for having been “accused once of being the enemy of the Enlightenment”. A few months ago he stunned a conference of scientists and public officials by disclosing that he uses only homeopathic remedies when treating his cattle and sheep on his country estate at Highgrove.

Prince Charles’s knowledge of science may be a joke but his contributions to public debate aren’t funny. They bestow prestige on atavistic superstitions that have no place in modern healthcare and animal welfare. NHS guidelines are clear there “is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition”. Likewise in veterinary medicine. Out of more than 20,000 vets licensed in the UK, around 50 practise homeopathy. That is 50 too many. The same is true of the roughly 500 farmers who employ homeopathy. They can’t even claim a placebo effect as the animals are unaware of their purported medical treatment.

Yet the quacks are undaunted. The British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons even claims success in curing dogs of cancer through homeopathy. This is nonsense — and if it persuades farmers and pet owners to forgo evidence-based treatments, it’s also wanton cruelty. It’s past time to shut these people down.”

END OF QUOTE

4 Responses to And again: no good evidence that homeopathy works in animals

  • This is an article written by Oliver Kamm, (born 1963) – a British journalist and writer. Since 2008 he has been a leader writer and columnist for The Times. Before that he had a 20-year career in the financial sector. (Wikipedia).
    He is clearly a thoughtful analyst of affairs.

    It will be interesting to see what follow up there is.
    Certain it is that there are no RCTs which demonstrate that homeopathically prepared remedies have any worthwhile effect in any animal. In some animals, e.g., humans, the placebo effect (which I opine is essentially an auto-hypnotic effect) is all too clear, but the HP remedies have no effect.

    HRH PC has today delivered the ‘Thought of the Day’ on Radio 4, expressing his concern for persecuted religious minorities. His concern is shared by many, and his theological stance is recognised. His contributions to scientific debate are not so widely appreciated, and as Kamm suggests, may be harmful.

  • Prince Charles’s knowledge of science may be a joke

    On the other hand, I have a certain affection for his outspoken criticism of modern British architecture.

    I have not been in the UK for over 10 year so things may be improving but much of what I saw of modern British architecture from the 1980s to the early 2000s was horrifying.

    • Sad, but true. Worse than that in my opinion, had Prince Chuck’s livestock suffered from infectious diseases and due to ineffectual treatment, spread to other animals residing in properties adjacent to his own, what possible defense would he have in homeopathy when the case went to trial?

  • Thank you for posting this article and link. As a practicing veterinarian in the USA, I continually have to battle against the noise pseudoscience brings to my practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please answer the following: *

Gravityscan Badge

Recent Comments

Note that comments can be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted.


Click here for a comprehensive list of recent comments.

Categories