MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The Daily Star reported that 9 children have died in Tripura Para of Sitakunda during the last week. At least 46 other children in the remote hilly area are suffering from the same unidentified disease which has not yet been identified. The children aged between one and 12 suffer from fever and other symptoms include body rash, breathing problems, vomiting and blood in stool.

None of the fatalities was taken to a hospital, and two of them were treated homeopathically. The three-year-old Rupali had fever and a rash all over her body for three days. “We took her to a man who practices homeopathy. He lives some two kilometres away. He had given Rupali some medicines”, said her uncle. Asked why they did not take the child to a hospital, Pradip said the next health complex was 15 kilometres away from their home. Besides, they did not have money to buy medicines which would have been prescribed by doctors.

Shimal Tripura was also among the children who died. His father Biman Tripura said the two-year-old boy had been suffering from fever for six days. Shimal was also taken to a local man who practices homeopathy.

“The disease could not be identified immediately,” said a spokesperson. Asked whether the disease could be transmitted by mosquitoes, he said, “It does not seem so. If it was, then why only children were being affected?” A medical team from the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research in Dhaka was dispatched for Sitakunda, he said, adding that the local primary school was shut down to prevent the spread of the disease.

I have often pointed out that homeopathy can be deadly – not usually via its remedies (highly diluted homeopathic have no effects whatsoever) but via homeopaths who do not know what they are doing. It seems that here we have yet further tragic cases to confirm this point. Nine children were reported to have died. Two of them received homeopathic remedies and 7 seemed to have had no treatment at all. This looks like a very sad statistic indicating that homeopathy is as bad as no treatment at all.

33 Responses to Death by homeopathy?

  • More a statement regarding poverty in Bangladesh than an indictment of homeopathy. Reading between the lines, a visit to the homeopath was seen as very much a second choice because the affected families could not afford proper treatment.

  • This post is tailor-made for Iqbal. Iqbal do you copy?

    • Edzard Ernst

      you linked wrong statements

      “The disease could not be identified immediately,” said a spokesperson. Asked whether the disease could be transmitted by mosquitoes, he said, “It does not seem so. If it was, then why only children were being affected?” A medical team from the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research in Dhaka was dispatched for Sitakunda, he said, adding that the local primary school was shut down to prevent the spread of the disease.”

      And then you run a headline: Death by homeopathy.

      Try to focus on these:

      http://www.nbcnews.com/id/14958124/ns/health-childrens_health/t/how-drug-mix-up-killed-babies-happened/
      https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/05/19/heres-how-little-baby-miles-died-after-an-error-at-sick-kids-hospital-in-toronto.html
      “Around 6,000 children and young people die a year in the UK. Over two-thirds of these are aged under five, and the majority are under the age of one.”
      http://www.bbc.com/news/health-27260371
      http://www.cpr.org/news/story/colorado-mom-story-daughters-hospital-death-key-others-safety
      “A Department of Health inquiry is to reveal that up to 600 babies are dying needlessly every year due to errors made by doctors and midwives.”
      https://www.slatergordon.co.uk/media-centre/blog/2015/11/mistakes-by-doctors-are-causing-up-to-600-stillborn-baby-deaths-every-year/

      • please explain in what way the link was wrong.

        • Dr. Ernst; your assumption is that if the children had been seen by a medical practitioner that they would have lived. This is one possibility but the other possibility is they would have died even under medical care. Iqbal’s stats indicate that children do die even when they are under medical care and living in wealthy countries such as the UK. The other possibility is that the homeopath that treated the 2 children did not have the skills to do so but this does not mean that ALL homeopaths lack medical skills; many homeopaths ARE medically trained in addition to their homeopathic training.

          • “your assumption is that if the children had been seen by a medical practitioner that they would have lived”
            WHERE DID I STATE THIS?

          • Edzard

            I am very doubtful that the homeopath sitting in a remote corner would have access to all remedies. It is surely possible that he would have offered aspirin/paracetamol as a symptom reliever.

          • Greg, this is about probabilities. If you fall into the hands of somebody practicing pseudomedicne the probability that something bad happens is far higher than if you have real medical treatment. I have read case descriptions of Hahnemann himself in the original. If somebody declares a patient cured from hemorrhoids despite actually *observing* a protruding hemorrhoid then one is a terribly idiotic doctor.

      • @Iqbal

        You obviously do not understand how to find and interpret public health data. Even if the figures in the sources you quote were correct, they do not show what you think they do.

        If I give you the correct data, will you please try to explain them?

        Let us look at the facts:
        The following figures from 2015 are for deaths per 1000 births in children under five years:

        Homeopathy popular:
        Bangladesh 37.6
        India 47.7 deaths
        Pakistan 81.1 deaths

        Homeopathy much less popular:
        United Kingdom 4.2 deaths

        Homeopathy not popular at all:
        Iceland 2.0 deaths

        Now, why do you think child mortality rates are so very much higher in countries where homeopathy is very popular and extensively used, often instead of proper health care, compared to the UK where homeopathy is much less used and up to 40 times higher than in Iceland that has one of the lowest child mortality rates despite use of homeopathy being uncommon?

        Why do you think child mortality has decreased steadily in countries where medical care (“allopathic” as you may wish to call it) has been steadily improving and is now ubiquitously used instead of homeopathy?

        Why do you think Iceland has one of the lowest child/infant mortality rates in the world despite having what is considered to be one of the best “allopathic” systems worldwide. Can you explain that?

        On Gapminder.org I have prepared a graphical representation of these public health data so you can examine them for yourself. It will open if you click the link below. If you click on the little triangle (Play button) in lower left you can see how the data has changed over time:
        http://bit.ly/2usuWAR (Note that the Y-axis is logarithmic)

        Is this further proof that homeopathy use contributes to child mortality… or what?

        • Wow, you’re an incredibly wrong.

          “why do you think child mortality rates are so very much higher in countries where homeopathy is very popular and extensively used, often instead of proper health care, compared to the UK where homeopathy is much less used and up to 40 times higher than in Iceland that has one of the lowest child mortality rates despite use of homeopathy being uncommon?”

          Homeopathy in India are less popular than the allopathic hospitals. On the other hand, in UK the 4.2 detaths vs 47.7 deaths in India, Can you understand the differences in geographical extension and popoulation in the two countries?

          Please.

          • Gandahar, can YOU understand that the mortality ratesgiven are normalized to deaths per thousand births and that therefore differences in size and population do NOT influence the value ? Please ?

            Having clarified that, I do not need to present data on. It does not work this way. You claim superiority, you have to back up your claim. Given what I have seen from India in the abstracts of the last World Homeopathic Congress in Leipzig, you will not be able to do that. This was the a collection of the worst studies I have ever seen. Homeopaths and science are two colliding universes.

          • @Gandahar

            Oh dear.
            Did you not learn mathematics in school?
            See if you can find a teacher or someone with education in your village and let him or her explain this to you and help you understand. It may help to use beans or small stones to help you understand how ratios and rates work.

          • Björn Geir
            .
            “Did you not learn mathematics in school?”

            I don’t know if he studied maths in school or not but you surely did not learn to apply mathematical formula.

            Popularity( adjective) x population of India = 47.7 deaths/1000
            Less popularity (lower adjective?) x population of UK =4.2 deaths/thousand.

            I am suitably impressed. And you are a doctor! God help your patients and friends (Thomas Mohr).

          • Oh dear!
            Iqbal has proven to us once more, that her/his love for logical reasoning is not returned 😀

      • Iqbal, do you realize that your smoke screens only serve to make you look like an idiot ? You never ever presented data on the safety of homeopathy. J.W. Begbie did (despite your claims of a different strain – which are utterly wrong). The data show that with homeopathy you have the natural mortality which clearly is a lot higher than mortality under real medicine.

        • Thomas, you never ever presented data on the ALL safety and ALL effectiveness of the ALL allopathic treatments. Except in quirurgical, the real data show enough that with allopathy probably you die under modern instruments and super-skeptical-bacterial murders. Yes, you “real medicine” is in the major cases unsafe and lot of plain wrong pseudoscientific and irrepicable theories. Thank you.

        • Thomas Mohr

          “…… do you realize that your smoke screens……..”

          Millions of patients killed and maimed across the world every year by the allopathic medical system is a smoke screen for you?

          At which number does it become fire?

          • The only smoke I see is that coming from your blazing straw man, Iqbal.

            And as has been pointed out time and time again (presumably one day it might soak in) the fact that airplanes sometimes crash does not validate belief in magic carpets.

          • Lenny

            “……. one day it might soak in) the fact that airplanes sometimes crash does not validate belief……….”

            You are slightly off the mark: for USA the figure is over 16 aircrafts with 300 people each crashing every week with zero survivors.

            And this is a figure from John Hopkins.

            You should jump on a magic carpet, just to stay alive.

  • Lenny
    It is possible for it to be both.
    This man was ‘trained’ no was practising as a homeopath.
    Homeopathy is Mum o jumbo.
    There are instances where people- Indian versions of James Randi if you like- have been attacked and even murdered for travelling around the country, and appearing on TV, exposing magic scams. This is serious stuff.

    • Oh absolutely. But my point is that these unfortunate people were driven into the notional care of a worthless quack by circumstance, not choice. Even in the unlikely event of the homeopath recognising serious illness for which his nostrums would have no effect and advising the patients to see a doctor, this would not and could not have happened.

      • For me this is the point – I’ve yet to meet a homeopath (even those trained as physicians) that declared any disease not suitable for treatment with homeopathy. The argument that it was too far and too expensive might not have been the same if the homeopath correctly had stated that hoemopathy couldn’t and wouldn’t help in this situation – regardless of geography and poverty! Admittedly we will never know in this specific case – just as for every single case of homeopathy treated patients…

        • I know of one. TV presenter Caron Keating presented to her homeopath with a breast lump. He sent her straight to her doctor. He also died at no great age of a variety of ailments so his nostrums didn’t help him either.

  • Apologies that my iPad sometimes turns my jumbo into mumbo jumbo.

  • Edzard: where did you state this? In the title of the blog: ‘Death by Homeopathy’.

    • ” if the children had been seen by a medical practitioner that they would have lived”
      WHERE DID I STATE THIS?
      THE TITLE OF THE BLOG WAS NOT ‘Death by Homeopathy’ BUT ‘‘Death by Homeopathy?’
      I DON’T SUPPOSE YOU ARE SMART ENOUGH TO SEE THE DIFFERENCE?

      • Edzard

        Greg is looking at the headline EXACTLY as you expect most to infer from the slyly constructed message. 20 years of training in running down complementary medicine has honed your skill in such matters.

        DEATH BY ALLOPATHY/VACCINATION?

        “According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, 393 children between the ages of 1-18 years died suddenly without a clear cause of death determined. Most of these children were toddlers, aged 1-4 years; an incidence of 1.4 deaths per 100,000 toddler aged children. Research and awareness of SUDC remains limited.”

        393 deaths in USA alone. And this has been going on for years. Added up for the world and the figure would run into hundred thousand dead children between ages of 1-4 years!!

  • You have stated numerous times here, here, and here that HOMEOPATHY IS DANGEROUS, if not due to the ‘harmless’ remedies, the idiotic practitioners. Are you now saying this is not a fact but a theory of yours?

  • Thomas, if this particular story is about probability: 9 children die, 2 were seen by a homeopath – what is the PROBABILITY CALCULATION for the 2 children seen by a homeopath that died when all 9 children (the ‘sample’) died?

  • Wow.. the comments sections here appear to be a full-blown article in and of itself.

    It is very disappointing that, while someone truly honest might make an effort to write up a sensible comment and puts all his care and creativity in composing it, addressing or making or simply stating a VALID and RATIONAL comment,
    someone else can produce an apparently similar volume of commentary while putting up less (or even much less) effort (probably due to a prepared bag of tricks, readily-citable “trials” etc.), with the intention to sparkle MASSIVE disapprehension (yes, you read that right, I coin the term here and now to describe the case of engaging in ).

    I would really like to say a few things about rational thinking and mathematics, if it is so much needed or asked for.

    My preliminary conclusion from the series of comments above: Homeopathy is compared with conventional medicine, in an effort to prove that it is better (emphasis on the “alternative” side of homeopathy).

    RED-FLAG evidence for trolling: Any appeal to the “complementary” side of homeopathy. This is a perfect escape hatch folks, but as I read it above, it appears as though some people would REALLY have conventional medicine REPLACED with homeopathy whenever possible. Besides, conventional medicine kills more people than homeopathy (actual argument elaborated on some actual comment above…). From this point on, the commentary this far suggests that homeopathy is ALTERNATIVE and NOT COMPLEMENTARY. The way some people here write their comments and express their conviction and strength of beliefs is taken to mean we MUST replace conventional medicine with homeopathy as soon as possible as this will save lives (I suggest a trial of creating a small “homeopathy” town somewhere, as close as possible to a natural environment –so much for the appeal to nature–, provide ONLY seriously homeopathic care and record the overall health condition over a long time… oops.. I am already seeing the misrepresentation about, e.g., smaller incidence of cancers in the end of the, say 50-year, interval, which is, of course, attributable SOLELY to the homeopathic care. I am sorry but at THIS level of care, people won’t have enough overall life expectancy to develop cancer in significant proportions within the population… apart from that, some things just happen, really, they don’t have to be attributed to a specific intervention).

    Ok, now the rational thinking part:

    Example of a POINT: Homeopathic preparations (the strong stuff, over 12C) are usually tested against placebo and WILL usually be tested against placebo. It is so easy to supersede placebo just by mathematics and statistics and luck, that scientific magazines of ALL kinds (alternative or conventional) are full of positive trials, randomized, blinded, or whatever, not only for homeopathic remedies, but for everything. Anything can be better than placebo, even another placebo, and that is one significant thing alternative medicine has actually taught to the entirety of the scientific community BUT Mathematicians. This is the reason why there is no need to put up a scientifically reviewed magazine for comparing placebos over other placebos just for the favor of the mathematics of the process. It’s because there are so many alternative medicine studies already, that do just that. They main thing they usually prove is that placebo is occasionally better than placebo.

    Second POINT: If someone is so eager to replace conventional medicine with homeopathy, they must start bringing forward high-quality evidence (trials) of homeopathic preparations versus drugs, not placebo. When these start suggesting a better effect, this CAN make a strong point for the overturn. Throwing around dice and keeping only the convenient results is not something that conventional medicine needs. They can do it too, and whether they do it more, or less, really makes LITTLE difference. Both sides can cry “wolf”, you see.

    Third POINT: I assume homeopathic preparations are used to treat only self-limiting conditions. I have never seen any real condition being treated with homeopathy. That is, of course, not on fairly-documented papers. The occasional blog (there are LOTS) can always be found with testimonials just about anything. Lactose intolerance, for example, is incurable and intreatable by homeopathy. If anyone thinks it can be treated with homeopathy, it would be interesting to know how. But… let me move the goalposts a bit. Pellets are typically lactose, so you ingest lactose, but usually, it does not affect you, so, by definition, you don’t have lactose intolerance. So much for a shallow argument.

    Fourth POINT: What do I mean by the third point? I mean that most conditions homeopathy attempts to treat are variable by nature (the only fair use of the word nature in SUCH a context). Actual conditions that have an underlying cause (a true mechanism) are not affected by homeopathic interventions. This is a fact by personal assertion at this point. So, this leaves a couple of options to people supporting homeopathy. Deal with the fact, or keep misrepresenting. A great illustration can be made at this point through links. Let’s see how.

    One option stems from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16392436 and is greatly summarized in the available abstract: “Pumpan in a dosage of 3 x 10 drops daily over 6 weeks does not differ in its effect on systolic and diastolic blood pressure significantly from placebo”. I don’t know what Pumpan is, so you can move the goalposts freely, but it appears to be truly homeopathic. So the 1st option is to deal with the fact! Homeopathic preparations cannot affect systematic hypertension, a true condition with an underlying mechanism.

    Second option: Keep misrepresenting. Really, I don’t care to cherry-pick, i type Pumpan in Google and a Russian article comes up: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11763522. The extremely interesting methodology is that “35 patients with different forms of IHD (ischemic heart disease) … received conventional treatment combined with pumpan given for 7-11 weeks”. And the result was that “the addition of pumpan to the standard therapy reduced frequency of anginal attacks, improved intracardiac hemodynamics, psychic and adaptive indices”. A positive result, so I see. It appears that they just added pumpan to conventional treatment, and they witnessed the improvements? Owing, of course, only to pumpan. And conventional treatment was just for the ethics of it. Who knows, I cannot read Russian anyway.

    Ooops. I looked into Pumpan (http://en.medico-online.com/ovr6_pumpan.html) and it appears they use D1, D6, D12. This involves active ingredients, not homeopathy. So, now homeopathy works just by calling it that? How much more misrepresentation?

    Third option (bonus): When nothing relevant happens but science begs for results, just pick random events.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24199982 shows just that (this came up when I typed cholesterol and homeopathy in Google… first result, no cherry-picking here either). Just by the abstract, things are clear. “Assessments were made at baseline and after 90 days of treatments”. What is this joyous utilization of so HUGE time intervals? 90 days allows for just about ANYTHING to happen. So something WILL happen. Once again, groups received conventional treatment, and conventional+homeopathic. The all-time-classic escape hatch of not using placebo when standard treatment is available because it is unethical is a problem, isn’t it? So, one of the main results is that some blood lipid profile was improved when homeopathy was combined. 90 days.. still, this could be random. Chronic periodontitis calls for better oral hygiene, which calls for less sugar and other dietary improvements. There is serious confounding. Let me see, I opened the article full text (sadly for some, coincidentally, I do have access). Let’s see, HDL sounds important:

    With Homeotherapy: HDL Before: 49.30 +/- 10.11 HDL After: 52.57 +/- 7.22 p = 0.073
    Just Conventional: HDL Before: 52.18 +/- 13.75 HDL After: 51.29 +/- 8.99 p = 0.663

    Ok, confident results. Great! Let’s talk statistics now. These are NOT significant alterations, these are mathematical artifacts. The standard deviations themselves are almost ten times larger than the difference between endpoint averages between methods. Some other paramers, such as total cholesterol and LDL or triglycerides are slightly more significantly lowered, but they were so in both interventions, only slightly more in the combined one. This could mean just about anything anyone would want to make of it. But the main question is, why make a trial on “chronic periodontitis” and focus on blood lipid profile? Just pick something at random that appears to improve in such a time-frame that it could be due to just about anything? We would expect to see such behavior only in conventional medicine trials, right?

    Ok, so much for rational thinking. Now on to some mathematics.

    Let’s look at the facts, really:

    ##START OF MATHEMATICS

    – 1.4 deaths per 100.000 toddlers is a lot? This is stated as a LARGE incidence?
    >823.7 per 100.000 people died in the USA, regardless of cause, in 2014 (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm).
    One would expect this more dramatic number to be shown up. It would make a point. 1.4 / 100.000 is just too low to make ANY point (and is kept low thanks to conventional medicine).

    In any case, this only clarifies the understanding of the term “mortality” by people supporting homeopathy —>
    Specific Mortality: The rate of deaths caused by allopathy per 100.000 people by a specific cause. So, when people die when treated with allopathy, death is attributed to allopathy. When people die without allopathy, death is attributed to allopathy. When people stay alive, this is never attributed to allopathy. So much for common sense!

    – 9 children died, 2 children attended a homeopath.
    >The probability that someone will die by anything is simply irrelevant to any discussion. Probabilities and statistics regarding death are created, usually, after death(s) has(have) occurred. The true question is, if the energy failed to be restored in the two children that visited the homeopath, it must be that he was not well-trained to prescribe better, right? With all due respect, Mr. Ernst, I would suggest a better title for your article, to stand up to homeopathic standards: “Unfortunate turn of events costs homeopathy big chance to prove its effectiveness”.

    I noticed people turn on when probabilities are laid on the table, they have a thing for it. Okay, let’s give probabilities to the people: 2 children DID attend a homeopathic practitioner out of 9. They died too. What chances was homeopathy given to save a life? 2/9 = 22.22%. What can we make out of it? But, of course, a truly unrandomized, unblinded trial (one of the favourite kinds of homeopathic studies):

    ACUTE EFFECTS OF HOMEOPATHIC INTERVENTION ON THE TREATMENT OF UNKNOWN DISEASE IN CHILDREN.
    One out of five (20%) patients was specifically allocated to a homeopathic prescription (H) based on symptoms and 4 out of five patients were left untreated, serving as a control group (G). Patients were chosen based solely on symptoms, representing an unknown disease, in order to minimize bias. In total, 7 people were left untreated and 2 were given suitable homeopathic treatment. Both group sizes had to be kept low because of the dangers involved in treating an unknown disease, and for purely ethical reasons. The disease was left to take a full course until resolution or death. The study lasted 7 days, at the end of which all patients were exhaustively examined for symptoms. Vital signs in G and H groups were not significantly different. No difference in any clinically important biological parameter was observed at the end of the trial. No acute resolution effects were observed in the H group or the G group. Patients of group G died by the end of the 7-day period, which was taken as indication of a non-self-limiting and non-self-resolving disease. Patients of group H also died by the end of the 7-day period. The results of the present trial suggest that commonly practiced homeopathy, as observed under real-life conditions and against an actually life-threatening non-self-limiting disease, does not increase survival rate in children when compared to lack of intervention.

    In other words, homeopathy might be effective when used for:
    -…a very long time (so that nothing will be relevant anymore in the end points).
    -…anything that resolves itself anyway.
    -…a large number of times (so some positive cases will come out anyway).

    There is also something else that might be effective when used in the above manners. Allopathists have a special term for that, it is called “placebo”, a latin verb in fact. A true coincidence is the apparent correlation between lack of a biological effect, and the tendency to employ pure Latin naming conventions (short for, when it doesn’t work, we call it in latin). And what is with that “allopathy” word. That’s Greek. Where is the latin counterpart?

    I believe THIS was what Mr. Ernst was too respectful to formulate, with respect (literally!) to the event, thus distilling it in the end-line of his article. After such a line of comments, I really cannot help but present the full statement. I apologize if it is inconvenient to anyone, but this is what Probabilities offer. If homeopathy supporters don’t like Mathematics or Probabilities, a wise mathematical suggestion would be to stick with… Latin (though calling things by latin names has never been proven to increase their effectiveness for anything).

    ##END OF MATHEMATICS

    With all due respect, primarily for Mr. Ernst.
    My apologies for the lengthy comment.

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