MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Dr Peter Fisher (I have mentioned him several times before, see for instance here, here and here) claimed in his recent editorial (Fisher P, Homeopathy and intellectual honesty, Homeopathy (2017) – not yet available on Medline) that 43 systematic reviews of homeopathy have so far been published, and stated that “of these 21 were clearly or tentatively positive and 9 inconclusive”. In my book, this would mean that the majority of systematic reviews fail to be clearly positive. But Fisher seems to view this mini-statistic as a proof of homeopathy’s efficacy.

As evidence for his statement, Fisher cites this article from his own journal (‘Homeopathy’). However, the paper actually says this: “A total of 36 condition-specific systematic reviews have been identified in the peer-reviewed literature: 16 of them reported positive, or tentatively positive, conclusions about homeopathy’s clinical effectiveness; the other 20 were negative or non-conclusive.”

Odd?

Confused by this contradiction, I try to dig deeper. Medline provides currently 66 hits when searching systematic reviews of homeopathy. But this figure includes papers that are not really systematic reviews and excludes some relevant articles that are not Medline-listed.

The NHMRC report which Fisher also cites (see below) considered 57 systematic reviews of homeopathy. In his editorial, Fisher stated that the NHMRC report “seems to have missed some systematic reviews of homeopathy”. This can only mean that Fisher knows of more than 57 reviews. Why then does he claim that there are just 43?

Odd?

Yes, but Fisher’s editorial seems odd in several other ways as well.

  • He accuses the NHMRC-authors of ‘malpractice’.
  • He finds ‘shocking evidence of bias’.
  • He alleges that the EASAC-report ‘cherry-picks evidence’.
  • He accuses the EASAC-authors of ‘abuse of authority’.

Definitely odd!

Why does Dr Peter Fisher go this far, why is he so very aggressive?

I know Peter quite well. He is usually a fairly calm and collected sort of person who is not prone to irrational outbursts. This behaviour is therefore out of character.

So, why?

The only explanation that I have for his strange behaviour is that he feels cornered, has run out of rational arguments, and senses that homeopathy is now on its last leg.

What do you think?

9 Responses to The Queen’s homeopath seems to sense that homeopathy is on its last leg

  • Run out of rational arguments? I must have missed them.

  • Dr Fisher (still licensed by the GMC, and therefore obliged to follow the ethical principle of ensuring patients give fully informed consent), quotes an article by Mathie which concludes:
    “Conclusions: Despite important growth in research activity since 1994, concerns about study quality limit the interpretation of available RCT data. The question whether homeopathic intervention differs from placebo awaits decisive answer.”

    But this is an irrelevant question. A consultation with an empathetic caring homeopath will often induce beneficial placebo responses. That is incontrovertible. That is how and why ‘homeopathy’ gives the appearance of ‘working’.
    But the important question is: “Do homeopathic preparations have any effect? Any benefit? Any point?”

    And the article quoted by Dr Fisher, and the others he refers to, do not offer any clarification.
    If Dr Fisher fails to properly inform his patients of this (no matter how high and mighty they are), he is practicing unethically.
    (Note: proselytisation of a faith to patients is also unethical practice.)

    • Oh no he is isn’t! He isn’t because clearly the GMC don’t think he is despite your efforts. Think of the response if they really ever tried to pander to retired out of touch Drs such as yourself, who are just trying to cause trouble.

      JK. Winner of the 2017 JKham awards for services against pompous posts on Edzard’s blog

  • As usual an excellent post and commentary. In regards @RR I however I still find the concept of explanation via the “placebo-effect” disconcerting and damaging to rationality and logic. IF it exists at all (dubious) I HATE the thought of letting Homeopathy bask in its (albeit minimal) ‘glory’. It is still a suggestion of efficacy at some level….and in actuality there is simply nothing but delusion and fraud.
    Studies seem to be pointing to placebo-effects as simply being mis-labeled regression-to-the mean, altered perceptions or coincidence….nothing more.

    • (i) Dr Peter Anthony Goodwin Fisher is registered with a licence to practise number 2279666.
      (ii) Ensuring that patients give fully informed consent to treatment is an ethical obligation.
      (iii) Insisting that obligation is enacted only causes trouble to scoundrels.
      (iv) Writing anonymously is disdainful.
      (v) ‘Placebo effects’ may not be well defined, but they are the best rational explanation we have to date for non-specific contextual responses. The fact is, a number of patients do report ‘feeling better’ after consulting with a homeopath.

  • Thank you Dr Rawlins for advising us all of Dr Fishers full name and practise number. I note that this practise number ends in 666 so maybe you should watch out. I note that you also posted on Halloween.
    I would propose that fully informed consent to do trick or treat is a good idea. Usually people who want to take part hang pumpkins outside of where they live.
    After all knocking on a stangers door for a treat isnt great without consent.
    However knocking on Dr Fishers door for a homeopathic consultation is rather different.
    Your statement below is a little bit strange when all of his patients have already given him consent.

    ‘ii) Ensuring that patients give fully informed consent to treatment is an ethical obligation.’

  • Frank: You are seeing things back to front with your Warts man comment.
    Ad hom hoc bollocks.

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