MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

‘Country News’ just published an article about our heir to the throne. Here is an excerpt:

The Prince of Wales has revealed he uses homeopathic treatments for animals on his organic farm at Highgrove to help reduce reliance on antibiotics, the article stated. He said his methods of farming tried wherever possible to ‘‘go with the grain of nature’’ to avoid dependency on antibiotics, pesticides and other forms of chemical intervention.

The prince made these comments to experts at a summit at the Royal Society in London as part of a global battle against the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. ‘‘In fact, it was one of the reasons I converted my farming operation to an organic, or agro-ecological, system over 30 years ago, and why incidentally we have been successfully using homeopathic — yes, homeopathic — treatments for my cattle and sheep as part of a program to reduce the use of antibiotics,’’ Prince Charles said. Calling for ‘‘urgent and coherent’’ global action, he said antibiotics were being overused. ‘‘It must be incredibly frustrating to witness the fact that, as has been pointed out by many authorities, antibiotics have too often simply acted as a substitute for basic hygiene, or as it would seem, as a way of placating a patient who has a viral infection or who actually needs little more than patience to allow a minor bacterial infection to resolve itself.’’

The prince continued: ‘‘I find it difficult to understand how we can continue to allow most of the antibiotics in farming, many of which are also used in human medicine, to be administered to healthy animals… Could we not devise more effective systems where we reserve antibiotics for treating animals where the use is fully justified by the seriousness of the illness?’’

END OF EXCERPT

Charles seems to have a few reasonable points her. Sadly he then spoils it all by not being able to resist his passion for quackery.

  • Yes, we have over-used antibiotics both in human and in veterinary medicine.
  • Yes, this has now gone so far that it now endangers our health.
  • Yes, it is a scandal that so little has happened in this respect, despite us knowing about the problem for many years.
  • No, homeopathy is not the solution to any of the above!!!

The Prince claims he has been ‘successfully using homeopathy’. This is nonsense, and he should know it. Highly diluted homeopathic remedies are pure placebos, and to use placebos for sick animals cannot be a good idea. For those who need the evidence for these (all too obvious) statements, here it is:

A recent 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.

If we want to reduce antibiotics, we need to stop using them for situations where they are not necessary, and we must improve husbandry such that antibiotics are not required for disease prevention. To a large extent this is a question of educating those who are responsible for administering antibiotics. Education has to be rational and evidence-based. Homeopathy is irrational and believe-based.

Yet again, Prince Charles’ views turn out to be a hindrance to progress.

God save the Queen!

51 Responses to Prince Charles’ passion for quackery is a hindrance to progress

  • Prince Charles is a member of the Royal Society (founded under the patronage of Charles II).
    Given he has evidence that his use of homeopathy has successfully treated dumb animals, the Society should insist he publishes this evidence.
    Not to do so would perpetuate the understanding of most scientists that homeopathic preparations have no value.
    Any evidence the Prince has that they do have worthwhile effects should be made available to all.

    If the Prince declines to publish this vital and important evidence, the Royal Society is brought into disrepute, and should ask him to resign.

    • Some fellows should write to the president making this point. David Colquhoun?

    • But it’s the Royal Society, Richard. The fault lies in the obsequious deference of the British who unthinkingly seek the patronage of their inbred monarchs to lend credibility (hah!) to the names of their institutions: just look at all those Royal Colleges in the medical arena. I can’t see any way the Fellows of the Royal Society are likely to round on Charles: not only is he the next to senior patron by definition, he recently made a speech deploring climate change scepticism, which shows that between those large ears there are oases of scientific comprehension.

  • Why does the Royal Society insist on pandering to this man?

  • So much for the value of constitutional monarchies (Brittain) and inherited supreme leaderships (N. Korea). Heirs are not always endowed with intelligence.

  • Out of curiosity. What does the Prince’s sons have to say about their fathers support of quackery? Do they have any public stance on this? Or will it just be passed on from generation to generation.

    • there is not much info on this; but it seems to get passed on to the next generation

      • The problem with these extremely high profile people, openly supporting quackery, is that it attracts attention from all over the world. My former, litlle known, university in Australia put in a lot of effort to get him on the books as their patron – supposedly this will then give them more credibility.

        I did toy with the idea to try and contact his sons so that they can try and talk some sense into their father but that proved to be a bit more complex than what I thought. Point is: the prince might be a lost case (regarding CAM) so maybe start focusing on the next generation?

        • That’s one of the problems with pandering to an outdated “monarchy”: you have to bow and scrape to their nonsense whatever it is……is there anything to suppose that another generation will have inherited any more powers of reasoning? Their education, such as it is, only prepares them to receive homage.

  • Dr. Ernst….In my profession (veterinary medicine) we have a number of homeopathic veterinarians prescribing homeopathic remedies for analgesia/ chronic pain relief . I find it a cruel hoax perpetrated on a defenseless animal to allow practitioners to promote, sell and dispense these products . By definition the remedies have nothing in them except the carrier agent (usually water or alcohol) . The practitioners who do this are abandoning the veterinary oath to relieve animal suffering in order to make money and stroke their egos. This is a sad reality of the use of alternative practices in veterinary medicine. Could you comment on the use of homeopathic remedies in the treatment of chronic pain?

  • PLACEBO
    What a bunch of losers Edzard Ernst and his claque are. They say “oh, homeopathy, it’s a placebo! without knowing even what the word means.
    Placebo is a religious term, more evidence that Skepticism is actually a religion.
    By strict definition of the word, placebo means something that placates, so could be applied to anything meant to please the recipient. What the use of the word placebo implies is something performing its action by purely psychological means, without any identifiable physical chemistry. In other words, what I infer skeptics use of the word placebo to describe homeopathic pharmaceuticals, is that they are inert.
    The question raised from this is why don’t they just say that? Why don’t they just say homeopathic pharmaceuticals are inert?
    I suspect the answer is they are just not sure, and so their subconscious mind prevents them from using a term that is more precise and less critically applied.
    The point here is that people who are presumably approaching the subject from a scientific point of view you would think would be sticklers for precise language. The word placebo doesn’t describe anything really at all because it invokes a universal phenomenon that could be applied to anything that relies on patent mummery, which homeopathy, by the way, hourly has very little of . . little white, benign-looking pills that don’t look like anything at all! That’s exactly how the religious skeptics takes them to be without any further inquiry or explanation. If they said because it looks like it’s inert it must be inert! How does that invoke the placebo effect?
    Yo, Dumbo! If you’re trying to invoke the placebo effect, don’t use little white sugar pellets, you can’t fool anybody with that, make them big and black and full of opium!
    If homeopathy was trying to invoke a psychogenic placebo effect, would not the pharmaceuticals be designed in such a way as to invoke more respect? To enhance the placebo effect, wouldn’t it make more sense to actually include a drug that imparts a feeling such as opioids do?
    What I’m describing here is allopathic medicine!
    Given the fact that homeopathic pharmaceuticals actually do have a definable chemistry, it might lead one to conclude that the actual dispensers of the real placebo is allopathy.

    • Hmm…

      Placebo: noun: a substance that has no therapeutic effect, used as a control in testing new drugs.
      Derived from 18th century Latin, literally ‘I shall be acceptable or pleasing’

      Is it really too much to expect you to use the same definition as the rest of the English speaking world? The rest of us don’t subscribe to your irrational religious beliefs about homeopathy.

    • Well done John.

      John, I hope by now that you see that this site has a regular bunch of dopeys doing their best to try and annoy people with sarcasm and insult because, apart from that, they don’t have a clue about homeopathy. Even when numbers of people have pointed out to them their dopey uniformed comments they keep on going like punch drunk fighters.

      It is time for you to leave these people alone to get on with their chat room on Edzard’s ‘blogs’ that are not ‘scientific papers’ after all.

      • Thanks, Greg! Good on you for it. It’s reassuring to know that not everybody who reads this column are as stupid as these guys are.

      • “Well done John.

        John, I hope by now that you see that this site has a regular bunch of dopeys doing their best to try and annoy people with sarcasm and insult”

        And yet John ‘honorary degree’ started the insults. Didn’t you notice? Was that inconvenient to your bias?

    • Placebo, Are You There?, by Jean Brissonnet, translation by Harriet Hall:
      http://sciencebasedmedicine.org/placebo-are-you-there/

    • “What a bunch of losers Edzard Ernst and his claque are”

      I’m that loser. A loser who demands evidence. Who notes that evidence deniers have serious blood on their hands, those who are killed by their childish self indulgence.

      Yes – there’s lots wrong with our current medical practices. But if we have an evidence based approach we do and will improve things. If we allow charlatans to just make it up, innocent people suffer and die for absolutely no reason.

      This loser thinks you and your crowd have blood on your hands.

      “Given the fact that homeopathic pharmaceuticals actually do have a definable chemistry”

      Yup – they have the chemistry of the carrier agent and nothing more.

      And no peer reviewed (ie actual science) study has ever found homeopathy to be effective. And it isn’t as though folks haven’t tried.

      What is wrong with you people?

      I note from your profile:

      “I hold the only known honorary degree in homeopathy. It is from Hahnemann College of Homeopathy in London, England”

      That’s not really a recognised degree though is it? That’s like having the same kind of degree as ‘Doctor’ Gillian McKeith say, right?

      Can I get an honoary degree in pixie studies please?

  • there is a whole session on ‘Homeopathy and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)’ during the HRI Research Conference
    Malta, 9-11 June 2017:
    Alison Fixsen, UK. Can homeopathy offer a viable alternative to antibiotic use in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections? A review and discussion of the literature
    Dr Peter Fisher, UK. Homeopathy and antimicrobial resistance
    Petra Klement, Germany. Therapeutic effectiveness of a complex homeopathic medication in patients from 6 to 60 years with recurrent tonsillitis
    Dr Suresh Sampath, India. Pilot study on anti-bacterial activity of homeopathic remedies: in vitro evaluation for treatment of chronic otitis media
    Discussion – What role could homeopathy play in tackling AMR?

    • Antibiotics are the only curative agents that allopathy has to offer, and even here they’re being eclipsed by homeopathy, the world’s superior curative medicine. The role of homeopathy in tackling AMR is to replace molecular antibiotics with ionized pharmaceuticals. Resistance is futile. Homeopathy works. Chemistry proves it.

      • if you say so!

      • John, do you have *any* clinical studies on that ? Do you know what ionization is ? Apparently not. Are you aware that antibiotics in fact *are* ionized when they are in the body ? Apparently not. Almost everything that is dissolved in water is ionized.Get some real chemistry education, then you may come back.

        • even some common sense would be a good start

        • Yes, I am aware that in order to be more digestible, operative and converted to energy, food and medicine is ionized by the body’s own mechanisms of succussion and dilution. Although I doubt you, dear Thomas, will readily accept it, my hope is that other readers will follow it: Solubility is the genius of Hahnemannian chemistry, the hydrolytic ionization of any substance.
          Sounds to me, in the search for the operative phase of Hahnemann’s solution, you, dear Thomas, may soon be ready to surrender Avogadro’s limited molecule for Faraday’s constant ion.

          • Ok, John, the correct answer would have been: These and these data support my point of view.

            Instead you invoke Hahnemann’s chemistry, the hydrolytic ionization of any substance. Well, you can be glad that this is *not* the case, since the non-hydrolyzation of for instance Bariumsulfate renders this substance a good contrast for radiology. Hydrolyzed Bariumsulfate would kill a patient instantly.You had your chance, you failed. F.

          • John Benneth said:

            I am aware that in order to be more digestible, operative and converted to energy, food and medicine is ionized by the body’s own mechanisms of succussion and dilution.

            Please do tell…

          • You’re scraping the barrel now, John. “The body’s own methods of succussation and dilution” “The hydrolytic ionisation of any substance” “The genius of Hahnemannian chemistry..”

            These ideas exist in one place only. Your imagination.

            Try writing them up and getting them published in a reputable journal.

            In the meantime, we’ll continue to mock you.

          • no need, he is mocking himself

          • Tell me something dear John.. did you eat poisoned mushrooms? … Or perhaps you are not following your doctors orders as to medication? Gibberish like this cannot come from an unaffected mind.

          • BTW John, Ionization is NOT done by quote: “he body’s own mechanisms of succussion and dilution”. Apparently you have not the slightest idea about how a substance dissolves.

      • Come on then, John. Show us. Your fellow water-shakers have had 200 years to do it and have comprehensively failed. You obviously have something dramatic to unveil that they didn’t. Let’s see it. The unarguable knock-down proof. Not some p-hacked nonesense by Frass and his mates, not some flannel about asymptotes and nanofloaties. A robust clinical trial with overwhelming results, so overwhelming that the trial had to be halted because it was unethical to the control arm for it to continue. You know. Like often happens with real medicine. Which works. Thomas will tell you all about trials like this.

        Oh.

        You don’t have this evidence. Oh well. You’d best take your pants off your head, get off the roof, shut up and bugger off, then.

        • I have shown the evidence ad nauseam, but you angrily don’t accept it. Neither will you put it to the test or assay. All you can do is hurl childish insults.

          • ‘Course then there is the homeopathic argument for homeopathy, the similitude, like answers like, which is, “you self congratulating failures who call yourself ‘scientists’ have had over 200 years to debunk homeopathy and you still haven’t done it? What’s the hold up, Einstein? It’s all over the place, the world’s now full of it. Did you skip hydrolytic molecular dissociation in Chemistry 101? Or did someone superglue your slide rule shut?”

            Here, let me help you: You have been looking for apples ‘mongst the mustard seeds when you should have been counting the seeds.

          • who says homeopathy is not debunked?
            homeopaths?

          • John, we do not need to debunk homeopathy. That is not how science works. YOU have to PROVE that homeopathy is superior to state-of-the art treatment. In that homeopaths have failed since 200 years.

          • John, you did NOT show evidence. What you showed are bad papers with overreaching conclusions

          • We have seen what you consider to be evidence, John. And we have laughed at it. As I say. A trial which had to be stopped because of ethics as regards the control arm. As happens with treatments which work.

            We’re waiting, John. It must be out there if your magic shaken water works as well as you claim.

            Burden of proof’s on you, sunshine.

  • Typical of all losers, Lenny says that the burden of proof for homeopathy is not on him to prove his null hypothesis, but on the proponents of homeopathy to produce proof for some unnamed criteria. If that is true then why is it that I feel no weight upon my shoulders? What are you offering for proof of exactly what? Another million dollars for detection of the solute in post Avogadro ‘s solvents? Prof. Ernst offered $10,000 at one point. But when confronted with the chemical assays that detect the phase change in the solute from molecular to ion, both Randi and Ernst retracted their offers.
    Keep the complaints coming, Lenny. The burden of proof of the null hypothesis is yours to bear, Lenny. I can’t do it for you. Each man has to prove it for himself.

    • “If that is true then why is it that I feel no weight upon my shoulders?”
      TRUST ME [I’M A DOCTOR] IT’S TRUE!!
      AND WHY DO YOU NOT FEEL IT? BECAUSE YOU ARE IRRESPONSIBLE, PERHAPS?

    • I NEVER RETRACTED ANYTHING; IT WAS A TIME-LIMITED OFFER FROM ITS BEGINNING.

    • the chemical assays that detect the phase change in the solute from molecular to ion

      And that proves… what? Certainly not the efficacy of shaken water for health.

    • John, you are so ignorant, I am speechless. You have really not the slightest idea how science works, do you ? With this post this is now established beyond any reasonable doubt. You don’t even known what a null-hypothesis is and how scientific hypotheses are tested. Let me lecture you: In science you never, ever prove a null hypothesis. You reject it. The null hypothesis is that there is no difference between two conditions in your experiment. The burden of proof lies on homeopaths (yes this is you !), namely

      (a) to show by data that the null hypothesis has to be rejected.
      (b) that – by study design and prior probability – the alternative hypothesis, namely that the difference is caused by homeopathic treatement – is the most probable one.

      In simple English for a simpleton like you: If I claim the moon is made of cheese, I have to prove it.

      As for your chemistry. You have not only demonstrated that you missed ionization of substances in chemistry 101, You missed the entirety of chemistry 101.

      Taken together this proves that you are not competent to assess any scientific paper. As a result you present crap and take it for real.

    • The depth of your ignorance sometimes defies belief, John. Thomas details exactly why. But for all your sputtering and flailing about chemistry and how you imagine it supports your misconceptions regarding the effectiveness of your pet quackery, you are still unable to show any proof that homeopathy works. Thomas will be able to provide links to lots of excellently designed studies which unarguably prove the effectiveness of a particular therapy. Surely you can provide similar studies for homeopathy? Oh, no. You can’t. Because all the well-designed and properly constructed studies show it to have effects indistinguishable from inert placebo.

      Look at the soldiers marching past. Private Benneth knows he’s the only one marching in time.

      • he would not know what a well-designed study is, if he fell over it; clueless about research!

      • “Surely you can provide similar studies for homeopathy?”. Even if he could, that would not ameliorate the problem of prior probability as nicely outlined here: http://www.nature.com/news/scientific-method-statistical-errors-1.14700

        This is also the weakness of metastudies of homeopathy. All metastudies assume that the prior probability of a treatment is much larger than that of observation by chance, by error or by some unknown factor. Therefore it is not taken into account. With homeopathy, however, the prior probability is extremely low, therefore I doubt that metastudies without taking prior probability into account are the correct tool. With that low prior probability, in order to achieve sufficient power to be able to exclude observation by chance, n would have to be extremely high.

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