MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

homeopathy

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If I had a £ for each time I was asked during the last few days whether King Charles is going to treat his cancer with homeopathy, I would have my pockets full of cash. The question seems reasonable because he has been singing the praise of homeopathy for decades. But, as I have pointed out previously, he is unlikely to use homeopathy or any other unproven cancer cure; on the contrary he will certainly receive the most effective therapies available today.

In any case, the homeopathic treatment of cancer is currently a most popular topic. As if on command, an article appeared on my screen that promises to address the subject:

“Homoeopathy and Cancer – An Alternative Approach towards the path of Healing”

Here is the abstract of this remarkable paper:

Homoeopathy is a holistic system of medicine rooted on the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur”. It has gained attention for its potential therapeutic benefits. It offers a holistic approach that addresses both the physical symptoms and emotional well-being of individuals. While this alternative approach of healing has been explored in various health contexts, a notable gap remains in understanding its application in the realm of cancer care. This review seeks to fill this void by exploring the broader landscape of homoeopathy’s principles and applications. Through a critical examination of existing research and evidence, it aims to offer valuable insights into the potential role of homoeopathy as a complementary approach in cancer care and symptomatic relief. This review underscores the need for further research and a more nuanced understanding of homoeopathy’s place in healthcare, particularly in the context of cancer patients and their well-being.

I am sure you are as impressed as I am and keen to learn more. In the article itself, the authors offer some brand-new, cutting-edge science to back up their views:

According to Samuel Hahnemann, “When a person is ill, it is originally merely the spirit-like, autonomic life force (life principle), which is always there in the organism, that is mistuned by the dynamic effect of a morbific agent inimical to life.Only the life principle, tuned incorrectly to such an anomalyis capable of causing irregular functions the body. Cancer may initially be treated as a one-sided disease because the expanded pathology weakens the Vital Force. According to Hahnemann, “Diseases that seem to have just a few symptoms are called one-sided because only one or two prominent symptoms are indicated. This makes these diseases, which primarily fall under the category of chronic diseases, harder to cure. According to Arthur Hill Grimmer, the biggest challenge in treating advanced cancer cases is getting therapeutic individualization of symptoms. Even with all the typical symptoms, it is quite difficult to create a potent homoeopathic prescription. Burnett considered both the characteristic aspects of the patient as well as the ‘action’ or‘organ affinity’ of the remedy he prescribed.

Eventually, the authors (who are affiliated with prestigeous institutions: Rajasthan Ayurved University, Jodhpur; Swasthya Kalyan Homoeopathic Medical College & Research Centre, Jaipur) arrive at the following conclusion:

In the scientific literature, homoeopathy’s use in the treatment of cancer is still largely unexplored. Pioneers have offered intriguing perspectives on disease origins and treatment challenges. The miasmatic perspective offers a distinctive approach that emphasises individualised strategies based on symptoms and characteristics. Some studies suggest an improvement in quality of life of the individuals suffering from cancer. In the dynamic landscape of cancer treatment, more studies are warranted to enhance the scope of holistic, patient-centered care through homoeopathy.

Yes, homeopathy is a joke. This paper (and the many similar publications out there) could thus be intensely funny – except for the fact that these charlatans are playing with the lives of many vulnerable and desperate patients. I sincerely hope Charles manages to stay well clear of homeopathy and its irresponsible practitioners which clearly is one precondition for making a full recovery.

Guest post by Udo Endruscheit

Switzerland is probably the European country with the strangest complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) regulations in the health insurance system. A total of five different CAM methods have been included in the benefits catalogue of basic insurance for several years. However, this is subject to a strange proviso. How did this come about?

As almost everywhere in Europe, there was a desire in Switzerland in the 1990s to include CAM in the public healthcare system, with homeopathy naturally once again taking pole position. Initially, the urge to include five CAM modalities in basic care was granted, but only provisionally. A major project called the “Complementary Medicine Evaluation Programme” (PEK) was launched in 1999 to evaluate the procedures. Even back then, the criteria of efficacy, appropriateness and cost-effectiveness were prerequisites for reimbursement in health insurance. PEK was intended to create clarity here.

One part of PEK has been the well-known Shang/Egger (2005) study on homeopathy “Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy”, which was to become a bone of contention without precedent. However, this did not change the negative result for homeopathy.

In any case, clear conclusions were drawn in Switzerland not only from this study, but also from the results of the other evaluations: the provisional inclusion of the methods in statutory basic insurance was terminated.

This in turn enraged the supporters of CAM methods, who thought they had already reached their goal with the provisional decision in their favour. Apparently, they had not even considered the possibility that scientific evaluations could actually lead to a sudden end to their wishes, which they believed had already been fulfilled.

In fact, in 2009, the friends of ineffective methods succeeded in bringing about one of the referendums for which Switzerland is known under the catchphrase “direct democracy”. And they prevailed – around two thirds of the votes cast were in favour of CAM and its inclusion in the Swiss Federal Constitution. However, it should be borne in mind that the two-thirds figure is put into perspective if the approval, including the low voter turnout, is converted to the proportion of the total electorate. This leaves just 17 per cent who voted for the CAM. And a closer look at the issue of the constitution also reveals that no unconditional protection space has been created for CAM. This is more or less a kind of good behaviour clause for CAM methods, but not rules that could render laws null and void.

The Swiss government was faced with the question of how to avoid simply ignoring the result of the referendum, while at the same time complying with the still valid requirements for reimbursement in basic insurance. So the representatives of the five CAM directions were actually asked to come to the Federal Office of Public Health with their proof of efficacy and economic efficiency. This was done in 2011.

Of course, this was a little bizarre at this stage – and of course nothing came of it. Or actually it did: once again, no proof could be provided. Meanwhile, a lot of time had passed again and a new Federal Council was forced to take up the matter.

The latter, Alain Berset, came up with the plan that the necessary proof of efficacy could actually be postponed until after the methods had been included in the catalogue of basic insurance benefits. In other words, he gave the methods a governmental leap of faith (which, in view of the long-year history of the case, meant closing several eyes) and postulated that this should be the matter until someone applied for an evaluation of one of the methods.

This is what happened in the year of our Lord 2017. Apparently everyone was able to make their peace with it, which is hardly surprising after ten years of moving around and around. Only the umbrella organisation of health insurers, Santesuisse, grumbled about it and predicted that the announced cost neutrality of such a measure could hardly be expected. Which Santesuisse did indeed prove in a dossier two years later.

The exhausted Swiss have so far left it at that. Homeopathy remained untouched. This was also unfortunate for the reason that the fairy tale of the clever and innovative Switzerland, which knew how important the wishes and preferences of its patients were, was propagated in Germany. The rather strange result of more than ten years of struggle was even passed around by German homeopaths under the name “Swiss model”. Even the leading Swiss press was embarrassed by this and published a clarifying article. And unfortunately, the Swiss began to get used to the existence of hocus-pocus in their basic insurance and to take it for granted.

Until now. Even in Switzerland, the fact that homeopathy is coming under increasing criticism everywhere has probably not gone unnoticed. And the Swiss are actually a rather critical and resistant people. And so it happened that a single brave inhabitant of the country recently decided to exercise his right to demand a new evaluation of homeopathy. The Federal Office of Public Health must have been surprised – or perhaps they were desperately waiting for it? Perhaps. In any case, the application was accepted without hesitation. Meanwhile, a notification has been issued that the hearing procedure for the evaluation has been initiated. The representatives of homeopathy (the service providers), the representatives of the Swiss medical profession and the representatives of the health insurance companies – the aforementioned Santesuisse – will be heard. The final decision will then be made by the Swiss government’s Department of Home Affairs.

How many attempts at an evaluation has this actually been – the third? The fourth? We can’t keep up … We have seen the consequences of scientific questions being decided by majorities. It is to be hoped that Switzerland will not add another chapter to the drama that has been going on since 2005. Mr Berset’s successor, who has been in office since the beginning of the year, should only be given a brief reminder: in Switzerland, too, homeopathy has no effect beyond contextual effects. And that is not enough to prove efficacy, appropriateness and cost-effectiveness.

But cheers to the courageous descendant of William Tell, who is about to single-handedly bring down homeopathy in the Swiss healthcare system!

The Austrian ‘Initiative für Wissenschaftliche Medizin‘ (Initiative for Scientific Medicine) did a great job by summarizing the non-scientific training events dedicated to pseudomedicine organized, supported or promoted by the ‘Österreichische Akademie der Ärzte‘ (Austrian Academy of Physicians), a partner of the Austrian Medical Association. They sorted them by date in descending order, listing the DFP points (points required for postgraduate education) awarded and the link to each specific event. The content of the programme of such events, if available, is also often “interesting”. The pseudomedicine methods are provided with links to psiram.com, where these methods are described in more detail.

So, restricting ourselves to the period of 20 years (2003-2023) and merely looking at a selection of all possible so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), we find in this treasure trove of quackery the following:

  • Anthroposophic medicine – 218 events
  • Homeopathy – 1 708 events
  • Orthomolecular medicine – 645 events
  • Neural therapy – 864 events
  • TCM diagnostics – 1214 events

In total, thousands SCAM events were organized, supported or promoted by the Academy, and I am not aware of any national physicians’ organization that has done anywhere near as much for quackery.

On their website, the Austrian Academy of Physicians state that they were founded by the Austrian Medical Association as a non-profit organisation with the aim of promoting and further developing medical education in Austria… The aim is to lead the way in medical education issues in order to achieve continuous improvement in the medical profession. For the Academy, continuing medical education is an essential component of medical quality improvement…

This may sound alright but, in my view, it raises several questions, e,g,:

  • Does the Academy believe that continuous improvement in the medical profession can be achieved by promoting, organizing or conducting such a huge amount of courses in quackery?
  • Do they not know that this is the exact opposite of medical quality improvement?
  • Are they aware of their ethical responsibility?
  • Do they know that the promotion of quackery puts patients at risk?
  • Have they heard of evidence-based education?

It is easy to criticize but less obvious to improve. In case the people responsible for postgraduate education at the Academy want to discuss these issues with me, I would therefore be delighted to do so, for instance, via a series of evidence-based lectures on SCAM.

 

 

It has been reported that the New York State Department of Health has issued a $300,000 penalty as part of a Stipulation and Order signed by a Nassau County midwife who created false immunization records. Roughly 1,500 school-aged children from throughout the State are affected by the vaccine scheme, which has resulted in their immunization records being voided. All affected children must be fully up to date with all age-appropriate immunizations, or be in the process of receiving their missing vaccinations, before they can return to school.

“Misrepresenting or falsifying vaccine records puts lives in jeopardy and undermines the system that exists to protect public health,” State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “Let it be clear, the New York State Department of Health takes this issue seriously and will investigate and use all enforcement tools at its disposal against those who have been found to have committed such violations.” State Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa said: “By intentionally falsifying immunization records for students, this licensed health care professional not only endangered the health and safety of our school communities but also undermined public trust. We are pleased to have worked with our partners in government to bring this wrongdoer to justice. We remain committed to upholding the highest standards of health and well-being within our educational institutions.”

The vaccination scheme began at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, just three months after the June 2019 elimination of non-medical exemptions for required school immunizations. Breen supplied patients with the “Real Immunity Homeoprophylaxis Program,” a series of oral pellets marketed by an out-of-state homeopath as an alternative to vaccination. The homeopathic pellets are not authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Department as an immunizing agent against any disease.

Breen was found to have administered 12,449 fake ‘homeopathic’ immunizations to roughly 1,500 school-aged patients as pretext for submitting false information to the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS). The agreed-upon settlement reached between the Department and Breen is the first of its kind addressing a scheme to create false immunization records. It includes a $300,000 monetary penalty and requires that Breen never again administer a vaccination that must be reported to NYSIIS. In addition, Breen is permanently excluded from accessing NYSIIS under any circumstances.

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We have discussed the absurd and dangerous idea of homeoparophylaxis several times before, e.g.:

Suffice to stress just this:

Homeoprophylaxis is a criminally stupid way to endanger lives!

A we have heard from our homeopathic friend, Dana Ullaman, homeopathy works well for plants. Unfortunatley, he was unable to provide any good evidence for his claim. To show what a nice guy I am, I herewith help him out and present a recent study on the subject:

Given the seasonal climatic characteristics, forest fires in “cerrado” areas in Central Brazil are not infrequently, with permanent damage. Due to its physicochemical qualities acting in biological regulation processes, water has been considered the primary vehicle for propagating signals from homeopathic ingredients, as suggested by previous studies carried out with solvatochromic dyes. Therefore, such inputs could, in theory, be inserted into watercourses to stimulate the regeneration of the biome destroyed by fire. This hypothesis motivated this case study.

A slow dispersion device was developed aiming at promoting continuous environmental regeneration, containing hydrocolloid and calcium carbonate as a solid base soaked in a homeopathic complex specifically designed for this purpose, composed of Arsenicum albumArnica montanaStaphysagriaIgnatia amara, and Phosphorus, all at 30cH. The case occurred in Nascentes do Rio Taquari Park, between Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil. It is a “cerrado” area, with multiple springs that feed the Paraguay River, occupying an area of 26,849 hectares over the Guarani and Bauru aquifers.

After the fire in early September 2020, the devices were fixed at 9 strategic points in the park (P1 to P9) over 10 days, between September 29, and October 11, 2020, in water courses close to the main springs. To assess the restoration signs of the post-fire environment, the technicians responsible for monitoring the park made observations of flora and fauna recomposition in different locations close to four device-insertion points (P3, P5, P7, P8).

Signs of recovery were observed 40 days after the fire was over. A rapid pioneer plant restructuring was noted, with a significant regrowth of grass, herbaceous and shrub species, such as Mutamba (Guazuma ulmifolia), Murici (Byrsonima spp.), Inga (Inga sp.), Brachiaria (Brachiaria sp.), Jaraguá grass (Hyparrhenia rufa), Colonião grass (Panicum maximum), Gabiroba (Campomanesia sp.), and Pixirica (Miconia sp.). Some species, such as Mimosa (Mimosa sp.), Colonião grass (Panicum maximum), and Jaraguá grass (Hyparrhenia rufa), were not detected in the area before the fire, probably by the seed bank stimulation caused by the heat. There was rapid forest regeneration (4 months after the fire) and restoration of most of the burned trees, both for resisting the fire and for being free of invasive species highly aggressive to native plants, which were controlled by the action of fire. Concerning the fauna, a vast animal population was detected, especially birds, highlighting the “Tuiuiú” (Jabiru mycteria) and “Socó” (Tigrisoma lineatum) close to a water body with a waterfall area (P3). Both species belong to the “Pantanal” biome close to the park. Such species began to frequent the park’s lakes, being observed until February 2023 (the last survey date). The park’s inventory of lichens and fungi showed an unusual tolerance to fire in species that adhered to burned trees and remained active.

In this way, it is suggested that installing slow dispersion devices in watercourses can contribute to the regeneration of other “cerrado” biome areas subjected to fire, protecting the local biodiversity. More studies of this nature are needed to know the real impact of this method on the recovery of different biomes.

Convinced?

I suspect Dana might be (he seems to be particularly prone to confirmation bias) – but rational thinkers do probably have questions; let me just mention two:

  • Was there a control area with which the findings were compared?
  • Was the outcome measure objective?

As the answers are NO and NO, I fear that we need to disappoint Dana yet again:

homeopathy is a placebo treatment no matter whether we apply it to humans, animals or plants.

Only a few years ago, measles – a potentially lethal disease – were deemed to be almost eradicated. Now we hear that, in the UK and the US, cases of measles have been rising again. The latest UK outbreaks are centered in the West Midlands and London. The UK Health Security Agency has thus declared a national incident after the outbreaks in the UK West Midlands. Health officials are encouraging people to have the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab, after figures showed uptake at the lowest level for more than a decade.

I have long warned that the rise in measle cases is due to proponents of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Particularly implicated are:

  • doctors of anthroposophical medicine,
  • chiroparactors,
  • homeopaths,
  • naturopath,
  • other healthcare professionals who employ these methods.

A recent case seems to suggest that this is as true today as it was years ago.

A midwife in New York administered nearly 12,500 bogus homeopathic pellets to roughly 1,500 children in lieu of providing standard, life-saving vaccines, the New York State Department of Health reported yesterday. Jeanette Breen, a licensed midwife who operated Baldwin Midwifery in Nassau County, began providing the oral pellets to children around the start of the 2019–2020 school year, just three months after the state eliminated non-medical exemptions for standard school immunizations. She obtained the pellets from a homeopath outside New York and sold them as a series called the “Real Immunity Homeoprophylaxis Program.” The program falsely claimed to protect children against deadly infectious diseases covered by standard vaccination schedules, including diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (covered by the DTaP or Tdap vaccine); hepatitis B; measles, mumps and rubella (MMR vaccine); polio; chickenpox; meningococcal disease; Haemophilus influenzae disease (HiB); and pneumococcal diseases (PCV).

You might say that this is just one silly midwife, but I’m afraid you would be mistaken. Here is the very first websites that appeared today on my search for measles/alternative medicine:

Few studies have examined the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. A professional homeopath, however, may recommend one or more of the following treatments for measles based on his or her knowledge and clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type, includes your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate remedy for a particular individual.

    • Aconitum , for symptoms that come on suddenly including fever, conjunctivitis, dry cough, and restlessness. It is best used very early in the course of the disease.
    • Apis mellifica , for individuals with swollen lips and eyes and a rash that is not fully developed. Warmth increases itchiness as well as swelling.
    • Belladonna , can be used either during early stages of measles or after the rash has erupted. It is useful for those who have difficulty sleeping and symptoms that include fever, headache, and drowsiness.
    • Bryonia , for individuals with a delayed rash who have a dry, painful cough, headaches, and muscle pain that worsens with movement and warmth. This remedy is most appropriate for people with a rash primarily on the chest, a dry mouth, and a desire for cold drinks.
    • Euphrasia , for nasal discharge, red eyes, and tears associated with measles. This remedy is most appropriate for people who have a strong sensitivity to light.
    • Gelsemium , for the early stages of measles when there is a slow onset of fever and chilliness, cough, headache, weakness, and a watery nasal discharge that burns the upper lip. This remedy is most appropriate for people who are apathetic and have little or no thirst.
    • Pulsatilla , can be used at any stage of the measles but often used after fever has resolved. This remedy is most appropriate for people who may have thick, yellow nasal discharge, a dry cough at night, a productive cough in the daytime, and mild ear pain. Symptoms are frequently mild.
    • Sulphur , for measles in which the skin has a purplish appearance. The individual for whom this remedy is appropriate may have red mucus membranes with a cough and diarrhea that is worse in the mornings.

Similar nonsense can easily be found on ‘X’; here are but a few examples of the dangerous BS that fans of SCAM posted recently:

  • Measles are extremely mild, alternative medicine is better than petroleum-based drugs that don’t even promise to cure anything, and JK Rowling is a Christian.
  • 1. Can we now talk about the fact that MMR does not produce life long immunity? 2. Can we talk about the Hep A, tuberculosis and measles that are now community spread due to not vetting the health of illegals? 3. Can we finally discuss actual homeopathy remedies that work?
  • I so regret obeying our local school district and having my kids vaccinated. Homeopathy has SAFE medicines to prevent childhood illnesses such as chicken pox, measles, polio, small pox, etc, and more SAFE medicines to cure these illnesses. 
  • My kids had chicken pox and pertussis & covid. Cured all 3 with homeopathy. Never had measles.
  • How to Treatment of Measles with Dr.Reckweg R.No.62 Homeopathy Medicine

I think it is high time that:

  1. we realize that SCAM providers can be dangerous through the irresponsible advice they tend to give,
  2. we change their attitude through educating them adequately and, failing this, penalize them for endangering our health.

I had the rare pleasure to give an interview for the ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine’. As it was, of course, in German, I took the liberty to translate it for my non-German speaking readers:

You have researched so-called alternative medicine over several decades, including homeopathy. What is your conclusion?

We are talking about far more than 400 methods – to draw one conclusion about all of them
is completely impossible. Except perhaps for this one: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Does this apply to homeopathy?

Highly diluted homeopathic remedies are popular because they have no side-effects. But there is also no effect. They are touted as a panacea. This is certainly not the case, on the contrary, they are
ineffective. And any therapy that is ineffective and promoted as a panacea is also dangerous.

How do you explain the fact that so many people swear by homeopathy?

There are several reasons for this. In Germany, homeopathy has an unbroken tradition, it was, for instance, promoted by the Nazis and later in the Federal Republic of Germany. It has a reputation for being gentle and effective. It might be gentle, but it is certainly not effective. It is also supported by lobby groups such as the manufacturers. And most people who use it don’t even understand what it actually is.

In any case, the placebo effect helps. What’s so bad about that??

Nothing at all, on the contrary: it is to be advocated. When we talk about placebo effects, we subsume many things under this umbrella that do not actually belong to it, such as the extensive, empathetic conversation that homeopaths often have with their patients. Besides, a common cold goes away whether you treat it or not. If you then use homeopathy, you can easily get the impression that it worked. Every good, empathetic doctor tries to maximize the placebo effect. To put it bluntly: you don’t need a placebo to generate a placebo effect. Patients also benefit from it when I give an effective remedy with empathy. In addition they benefit from the specific effect of my therapy, which should make up the lion’s share of the therapeutic response. If I withhold the most important thing I mistreat my patient.

But there are diseases for which there are no good remedies.

I often hear that argument. But there is practically always something we can do that at least
improves symptoms. Otherwise you should also say that instead of lying and recommending homeopathy – and thinking that, although there is nothing in it and it doesn’t work, but the patient, being an idiot, should take it nevertheless. It is unethical to use placebos as much as it is to use homeopathy.

Neurophysiologically, the placebo effect is becoming better and better understood.

The Italian neuroscientist Fabrizio Benedetti in particular has done very good work.  But he also warns that this does not justify the use of homeopathy, for example.

Are there any studies on whether the placebo effect of homeopathy with its esoteric superstructure is greater than that giving just a piece of sugar?

There are analyses of what makes a particularly effective placebo. From this, we can learn that effective therapies in evidence-based medicine must be applied with empathy and sufficient time in order to maximize the ever-present placebo effect. So-called alternative medicine often does this quite well, and we can learn something from it. But the reason is that it often has nothing else. Homeopaths are a serious danger because they see homeopathy as a panacea. If someone has homeopathically treated their cold “successfully” for years and then gets cancer, they might think of turning to homeopathy for their cancer. It sounds crazy, but many homeopaths do offer cancer treatments on the internet, for instance. That sends shivers down my spine.

How should doctors and pharmacists react to the demand for homeopathic remedies?

Pharmacists are not primarily salespeople, they are a medical profession – they have to adhere to ethical guidelines. In this respect, evidence-based information of their clients/patients is very important.

Thomas Benkert, President of the German Federal Chamber of Pharmacists, has stated that he would not be able to stop giving advice if he always had to explain the lack of proof of efficacy.

He should perhaps read up on what his ethical duty to patients is.

What if doctors or pharmacists themselves believe in the effect?

Belief should not play a role, but evidence should.

Are you pleased with Lauterbach’s plan to no longer reimburse homeopathy?

I think it’s a shame that he justifies it by saying it’s ineffective. That is true. But the justification should be that it’s esoteric nonsense and therefore ineffective – and dangerous.

In the end, the Bundestag will decide.

I think Lauterbach has a good chance because things have started to move. Medical associations in Germany have spoken out against the additional designation of homeopathy, for example, and overall the wind has changed considerably.

What is it like in the UK, where you live?

The UK healthcare system, NHS, said goodbye to reimbursement of homeopathy about five years ago, even before France. The pharmacists’ association has distanced itself very clearly from homeopathy. However, most pharmacists still sell the remedies and many continue to support them.

You have also had disputes with the current head of state, King Charles. How did that come about?

A few years ago, he commissioned a paper claiming that so-called alternative medicine could save the British health service a lot of money. I protested against this – Charles accused me of leaking it to The Times before it was published. My university launched an investigation, which eventually found me innocent, but it led to the demise of my department. That caused me to retire two years early.

So Charles managed to close down the only research unit in the world that conducted critical and systematic research into so-called alternative medicine. Most researchers in this field only want to confirm their own prejudices and not disprove hypotheses. This is a serious misunderstanding of how science works. If someone reports only positive results for their favorite therapy in all conditions, something is wrong.

Some people say that homeopathy should not be researched because nothing positive can come out of it anyway.

There are certainly some SCAMs that are so nonsensical that they should not be researched, as is currently the case with homeopathy. I put it this way because I have researched homeopathy myself and, from my point of view, the situation was not so crystal clear 30 years ago.

Would you say that you have approached the matter with a sufficiently open mind?

No one can be completely unbiased. That’s why it’s important to do science properly, then you minimize bias as much as possible. When I took up my position at Exeter in 1993, I was perhaps somewhat biased towards homeopathy in a positive sense, because I had learned and used it myself, as well as other alternative medicine methods. The fact that the results then turned out to be negative in the vast majority of cases initially depressed me. But I have to live with that.

Every researcher prefers positive results, also because they are easier to publish. It was clear to me that, if I had succeeded in proving homeopathy right, I wouldn’t get one Nobel Prize, but two. Who wouldn’t want that?

(The interview was conducted by Hinnerk Feldwisch-Drentrup.)

I am sure that I am not the only one who feels with or friend, regular contributor, and expert in uncritical thinking, Dana Ullman. His heart-warming defence of homeopathy entirely depends on the notion that homeopathy is nano-medicine. As Dana’s views are more and more discredited, the poor man understandably gets more and more desperate. This development has now gone so far that Dana seems on the brink of cracking up.

Who would not feel with him?

What we urgently need to save Dana’s sanity is a new concept that could be used to defend the indefensible.

In the nick of time, here comes a lone researcher of homeopathy from India. Amarnath Sen has just published his hypothesis that will surely save the endangered mental stage of our friend, Dana Ullman. Here is the abstract:

The apparent absence of drugs in ultra-diluted homeopathic medicines and contested clinical trial results plague homeopathy. In this paper, it is argued that other than drugs, homeopathic medicines contain proteins as components of microbial lysates (products of lysis or disintegration of microbial cells), given that ubiquitous microorganisms from the surrounding environment are unknowingly and unavoidably incorporated into the homeopathic medicines during their preparation and are killed and lysed in ethanol/water drug vehicle forming immunomodulatory microbial lysates during ‘potentization’ (dilution and vigorous shaking) of the medicines. The drugs present in the homeopathic medicines bind to the proteins, which are the major ingredients of the microbial lysates. The drug/protein interaction modulates the conformations and in effect, the immunogenicity of the proteins (designated as modulated proteins). In ultra-diluted medicines even in the absence of drugs, unmodulated proteins are modulated through interactions with allosterically coupled modulated proteins (protein-protein interaction). The modulated proteins of characteristic immunogenicity present in the homeopathic medicines mediate antigen-specific mucosal (sublingual) immunotherapy like vaccine therapy via ‘similia principle’. In addition, immunomodulatory microbial lysates present in the homeopathic medicines mediate non-specific immunotherapy and also provide adjuvants for antigen-specific immunotherapy. The proposed hypothesis without invoking any controversial concept can explain the basic ‘laws’ of homeopathy. Incidentally, immunomodulatory activities of homeopathic medicines reported by different workers support the hypothesis. As immunotherapy in homeopathy is accidental and hence, in crude form, clinical trial results may occasionally show inconsistencies. However, probing and refining homeopathy from the perspective of immunotherapy may bring forth a simple, reliable and affordable immunotherapy for various diseases.

Convinced?

Me neither!

The concept is clearly as bonkers as all the others trying to explain homeopathy. Yet, I am optimistic that it might save our friend Dana Ullman. After all, it is not more silly than the notion that homeopathy is nano-medicine – and remeber: even an US judge certified Dana:

The Court found Mr. Ullman’s testimony to be not credible. Mr. Ullman’s bias in favor of homeopathy and against conventional medicine was readily apparent from his testimony. He admitted that he was not an impartial expert but rather is a passionate advocate of homeopathy. He posted on Twitter that he views conventional medicine as witchcraft. He opined that conventional medical science cannot be trusted.

So, there is hope!

Amarnath Sen and is ‘concept’ might just do the trick and restore Dana’s state of mind.

he German press reported yesterday that the country’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach plans  to remove homeopathic treatments from the benefits catalog of statutory health insurance companies. “Services that have no medically verifiable benefit should not be financed from contribution funds,” states a recommendation paper by the minister. “For this reason, we will remove the option for health insurance companies to include homeopathic and anthroposophic services in their statutes, thereby avoiding unnecessary expenditure by health insurance companies.” However, private supplementary insurance should still be possible.

Lauterbach had already announced last year that he would review the funding of homeopathic treatments. “Although homeopathy is not significant in terms of expenditure, it has no place in a science-based healthcare policy,” the SPD politician told “Der Spiegel” last October. The measure would save merely a maximum of ten million Euros. This is because firstly not all health insurance companies offer the option to reimburse homeopathy, and secondly, because not that many Germans use homeopathy.

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Before I was joined about a decade ago by a group of excellent and effective skeptics, I seemed to be a lone, lost voice in Germany cautioning against the misunderstanding that homeopathy and anthroposophical medicine were backed by evidence. Thus, you probably think that I am rejoicing at this spectacular success. At first glance, it does indeed seem to be great news for those who support evidence-based medicine. But sadly, I also have second thoughts.

We should, I think, be concerned that Lauterbach intends to leave homeopathic and anthroposophical remedies reimbursible via private supplementary insurance. Most Germans have such insurance which means that, despite Lauterbach’s grand announcement, very little will probably change. Homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine, both pure placebo therapies, will still be able to pretend to be real medicine.

Moreover, we should be concerned about Lauterbach’s reasoning. It is, of course, laudable to point out that homeopathic and anthroposophic remedies are not demonstrably effective. But clearly, this is only half of the truth. The full truth is that they are based on totally ridiculous assumptions, that, in other words, they fly in the face of science. Only if we manage to get this message across, will we inform the public responsibly, in my view.

A total ban then? No, personally, I don’t want to ban homeopathic or anthroposophical remedies. If someone loves esoteric nonsense or placebos, he/she should, in my view, be able to buy them. But he/she should use their own money for the purchase. We should remember that wasting notoriously scarce public funds from either statutory or private health insurances is not just uneconomical but foremost unethical.

 

 

He came to my attention via the sad story recently featured here about patients allegedly being harmed or killed in a Swiss hospital for so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). What I then learned about the doctor in charge of this place fascinated me:

Rau states about himself (my translation):

Early on, Dr Rau focused on natural therapies, in particular homeopathy and dietary changes. The healing success of his patients proved him right, so he studied alternative healing methods with leading practitioners. These included orthomolecular medicine, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and European holistic medicine. With his wealth of knowledge and over 30 years of experience, Dr Rau formed his own holistic theory of healing: Swiss Biological Medicine – Dr Rau’s Biological Medicine. It is based on the principles of detoxification, nutrition, digestion and sustainable strengthening of the immune system.

Career & studies:

  • Medical studies at the University of Bern
  • Final medical examinations in Switzerland and the USA
  • Subsequent work in rheumatology, internal and general medicine
  • Member of the Swiss Medical Association FMH since 1981
  • 1981 to 1992 conventional physician & medical director of a Swiss spa centre for rheumatology and rehabilitation medicine
  • 1983 to 1992 Doctor at a drug rehabilitation centre
  • 1992 to 2019 Establishment of the Paracelsus Clinic Lustmühle as medical director and partner
  • until 2020 Head of the academic network and training organisation “Paracelsus Academy”

Rau also states this:

  • 2019 mit dem Honorarprofessoren-Titel von der Europäischen Universität in Wien ausgezeichnet (2019, he was awarded the title of homorary professor at the European University in Vienna)

This puzzles me because there is no such institution as the ‘Europäische Universität in Wien’. There is a Central European University but this can hadly be it?!

Now, I am intrigued and see what the ‘honorary professor’ might have published. Sadly, there seems to be nothing on Medline except 2 interviews. In one interview, Rau explains (amongst other things) ‘live blood analysis’, a method that we have repeatedly discussed before (for instance, here and here):

Darkfield microscopy shows a lot. We take 1 drop of blood and look at it under a very large-scale magnification. The blood is life under the glass. Once it’s on the glass, there isn’t oxygen or light or heat. This is a giant stress for the blood. So we see how, over a time, the blood reacts to this stress, and how the blood cells tolerate the stress. You can see the changes. So we take a drop of blood that represents the organism and put it under stress and look at how the cells react to the stress, and then we can see the tolerance and the resistiveness of these cells. Do they have a good cell-membrane face? Do they have good energetic behavior? Do they clot together? Is there a chance for degenerative diseases? Is there a cancerous tendency in this blood? We see tendencies. And that’s what we are interested in, tendencies.

Question: If you saw a cancerous tendency, what would that look like?

Rau: Cancerous tendency is a change in the cells. They get rigid, so to say. They don’t react very well.

Question: And how long does blood live outside the body?

Rau: It can live for several days. But after 1 hour, the blood is already seriously changed. For example, a leukemia patient came to my clinic for another disease. But when we did darkfield, I found the leukemia. We saw that his white blood cells were atypical. Look at this slide—the fact that there are so many white blood cells together is absolutely unusual, and the fact that there are atypical white blood cells. This shows me that the patient has myeloid leukemia. The patient had been diagnosed as having rheumatoid lung pain, but it was absolutely not true. The real cause of his pain was an infiltration of the spinal bone by these lymphocytes.

This is, of course, complete nonsense. As I explained in my blog post, live blood analysis (LBA) is not plausible and there is no evidence to support the claims made for it. It also is by no means new; using his lately developed microscope, Antony van Leeuwenhoek observed in 1686 that living blood cells changed shape during circulation. Ever since, doctors, scientists and others have studied blood samples in this and many other ways.

New, however, is what today’s SCAM practitioners claim to be able to do with LBA. Proponents believe that the method provides information about the state of the immune system, possible vitamin deficiencies, amount of toxicity, pH and mineral imbalance, areas of concern and weaknesses, fungus and yeast infections, as well as just about everything else you can imagine.

LBA is likely to produce false-positive and false-negative diagnoses. A false-positive diagnosis is a condition which the patient does not truly have. This means she will receive treatments that are not necessary, potentially harmful and financially wasteful. A false-negative diagnosis would mean that the patient is told she is healthy, while in fact she is not. This can cost valuable time to start an effective therapy and, in extreme cases, it would hasten the death of that patient. The conclusion is thus clear: LBA is an ineffective, potentially dangerous diagnostic method for exploiting gullible consumers. My advice is to avoid practitioners who employ this technique.

And what does that say about ‘honorary professor’ Rau?

I think I let you answer that question yourself.

 

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