MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The objective of the ‘Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine’ in Bristol, UK is to “offer an Integrative Medicine (IM) approach to healthcare that seeks to deliver the best complementary care and lifestyle approaches”. Specifically, they

  • “Aim to maximise individual choice and care to improve health, wellbeing and quality of life
  • Support a whole person care approach through a working collaboration between people and practitioners to improve health and well-being
  • Work to raise awareness about IM and increasing the availability of quality IM services for service users and their referring clinicians
  • Support ‘Self Care Strategies’ across the South West by promoting and supporting self-care and self-management of health and well-being by using healthy living solutions
  • Offer a centre for academic excellence for IM education and training, research and evaluation.”

Academic excellence does not normally entail telling porkies – but the Portland Centre seems willing to make an exception for a good cause: homeopathy. At least, this is the impression I got when reading their recent post entitled HOMEOPATHY, THE FACTS (surprisingly similar title as my latest book: HOMEOPATHY, THE UNDILUTED FACTS). The 6 ‘Portland facts’ turn out to be so surprising that I could simply not resist copying them here:

START OF QUOTE

1 It’s more than just a placebo

Homeopathy has been used successfully on babies, young children and animals. In these cases, the patients have no idea what medication they are taking, so the placebo argument does not hold.

2 Homeopathy costs the NHS very little

The total amount spent on Homeopathy in the NHS is approximately £4 million per year, representing less than 1% of the total NHS budget. In contrast, the NHS spends £282 million annually on anti-depressants which one study suggests only benefit 11% of patients diagnosed with depression.

3 Homeopathy is more than a passing fad

Homeopathy has been used for over 200 years and has been available on the NHS since the health service was formed in 1948. It is an important part of the health systems in many European countries including France, Germany and Italy.

4 Homeopathy is safe

When used approximately the practice is extremely safe as it produces no dangerous side-effects and can be used in conjunction with conventional medicines. In comparison, the European Commission estimated in 2008 that adverse reactions to conventional drugs kill 197,000 EU citizens each year.

5 Many treatments have limited evidence

A clinical evidence surgery carried out by the British Medical Journal found that out of 3000 medical treatments 50% were classified as having “unknown effectiveness”.

6 In support of high dilutions

What I can say now is that the high dilutions are right. High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules. It’s no pseudoscience. It’s no quackery. These are real phenomena which deserve further study,” Professional Luc Montagnier, French virologist and Nobel Laureate speaking in 2010.

END OF QUOTE

Regular readers of this blog will not really need any comments; in their absurdity, the 6 ‘Portland facts’ speak almost for themselves. For those who are not regulars, let me briefly add a few words (in doing so, I follow the numbering above).

1) The most comprehensive and independent review of the evidence in the history of homeopathy has failed to confirm that homeopathy has any therapeutic effects beyond placebo. This applies to kids as much as it applies to animals. Placebo effects in animals and kids are well documented.

2) Much more important than the costs of homeopathy is the fact that the continued use of homeopathy on the NHS makes a mockery of the principles of EBM. Either we believe in evidence (in which case, homeopathy has no place in the NHS), or we don’t (in which case, anything goes and we regress to the dark ages of healthcare).

3) Appeal to tradition is a classic fallacy and not an argument in support of anything.

4) Most, but not all, homeopathic remedies are safe. However, homeopaths are often very unsafe, for instance when they insist to treat life-threatening conditions with their placebos, or when they advice against vaccinating children. Conventional medicines can certainly cause harm but, on balance, they unquestionably generate more good than harm – and this is clearly not the case for homeopathy.

5) Tu quoque is another classic fallacy and no argument in favour of homeopathy. EBM is a relatively new concept and progress in conventional medicine is now breathtakingly fast. By contrast, homeopathy did not progress since the days Hahnemann invented it.

6) The appeal to authority is yet another classic fallacy. The ‘Montagnier story’ merely shows that even Nobel laureates can make foolish mistakes, particularly if they venture outside their area of expertise. Poor Montaigner lost all credibility since he embarked on high dilutions.

I hope that you had as much fun reading the ‘Portland porkies’ as I had commenting on them. I think they are hilarious, particularly if we consider that the Portland Centre is the direct successor of the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about this institution:

“Bristol Homeopathic Hospital was a hospital in the city of Bristol in south-west England, specializing in homeopathic treatments. It was founded in 1852 but had a history as a dispensary dating back to 1832.[1] It later became a National Health Service hospital.

From 1925, the hospital was based in its own building, Cotham House,[2] in the Cotham area of Bristol. On 7 January 2013 the hospital moved operations from Cotham to the South Bristol Community Hospital.[3] In-patient services had been provided at Cotham House until 1986, when they were moved to the Bristol Eye Hospital, with out-patients continuing at Cotham House.[2][3]

Homeopathic services ceased at the Hospital in October 2015,[4][5] partly in response to a campaign against the public funding of homeopathy lead by the Good Thinking Society[6] and public figures such as Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst. University Hospitals Bristol confirmed to the Clinical Commissioning Group that it would cease to offer homeopathic therapies from October 2015, at which point homeopathic therapies would no longer be included in the contract.[5]

Homeopathic services in the Bristol area were relocated to the Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine, described as “a new independent social enterprise.”[5] In response to a FOI request, Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group revealed that “there are currently no (NHS) contracts for homeopathy in place with the Portland Centre.”[5]

END OF WIKI QUOTE

Of course, this Wiki page is slightly misleading on at least one issue (No, I don’t mean the fact that I am called a ‘public figure’ rather than a professor and expert in alternative medicine who has published more on the subject than anyone else): Hospitals are never closed in response to a campaign (as far as I know) but hospitals might get closed because of what a campaign discloses. In the Bristol case, the campaign disclosed that there is no good evidence for homeopathy (see above) and therefore no good reason to carry on wasting scarce NHS funds on it – perhaps just a slight but, I think, important difference!

Back to the 6 ‘Portland porkies’.

As we have seen, they are nowhere close to real facts – but they certainly are funny.

While studying the services offered by the Portland Centre, I found a course on ‘creative writing’. Aha, I thought, this must be the explanation: the 6 ‘Portland porkies’ are not the result of research, study or knowledge. Far from it! They clearly are the fruits of exceedingly creative writing.

So, well done Portland Centre: at least one of your aims seems to be within reach!

10 Responses to Six hilariously funny ‘facts’ about homeopathy

  • Those interested in the Portland’s supporter, the Crossfields Institute, will be interested to know that:
    “Crossfields Institute, Thempra Social Pedagogy, Jacaranda and the Social Pedagogy Professional Association (SPPA) are delighted to announce the launch of an Ofqual regulated qualification in England in Social Pedagogy: Crossfields Institute Level 3 Diploma in Social Pedagogy is now open for registrations.” Don’t rush.

    Portland’s claims are simply a matter of marketing nonsense. Just so long as patients know that. At least the NHS no longer funds the clinic.
    Hey ho.

  • Once again a homeopathic set of claims with evidence entirely consistent with homeopathic dilution. I guess that makes the claims very powerful. If it were not for that contamination with the creative writing course, just think of how homeopathicly powerful the message would be. Unfortunately to see the power of such a claim all you have to do is speak with a fan of homeopathy. Undiluted facts have little power over them. Some will die for their beliefs.

  • “Founded in 1844 and incorporated by Parliament in 1950 the Faculty of Homeopathy supports registered medical professionals with their homeopathic practice. We are the only homeopathic organisation to be recognised by professional bodies such as the General Medical Council (GMC)”

    How can this get changed and un-recognised? It would take away any legitimacy they think they might have.

    • Step one: Why do you not write to the GMC and as ” Does the GMC in any sense recognise the ‘Faculty of Homeopathy’?
      The FoH may be making a false claim, and if so, ASA (and Nightingale Collaboration) might take it up.

      With that answer, I could put up a motion to the BMA’s Annual Conference (called ARM), and if passed, that would be BMA policy.

      There is a wider issue: If a patient were to complain to the GMC that their doctor had prescribed homeopathic remedies without explaining that the consensus of medical opinion is that any benefit derives from placebo effects – GMC would have to respond. (Doctors are required to obtain fully informed consent).
      But it should be a patient which does this. Otherwise the GMC looks the other way.

      • Richard Rawlins said:

        Step one: Why do you not write to the GMC and as ” Does the GMC in any sense recognise the ‘Faculty of Homeopathy’?

        They indeed do. The FoH is recognised by the GMC as an official Designated Body for the purposes of revalidation – but only for those FoH members who do not have any NHS sessions.

      • I might actually do that. Do something useful for once in my life!

  • ‘4 Homeopathy is safe

    When used approximately the practice is extremely safe as it produces no dangerous side-effects ‘

    I would suggest that homeopathy is at it’s most dangerous when used approximately.

    • Quite. Take the giant shitstorm now descending on US “baby-killer” Hylands. Make Zicam look total pikers in comparison.

      Clearly the “precautionary principle” is only for ebil allopathic medicines. After all, in Altie World, as long as as you never admit you could be wrong, you never are.

      (Bonus irony: watching antivax alties bend over so far backwards to excuse Hylands they actually form Moebius loops. Yep, you guessed: Vaccines must’ve done it!)

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