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

In the realm of homeopathy there is no shortage of irresponsible claims. I am therefore used to a lot – but this new proclamation takes the biscuit, particularly as it currently is being disseminated in various forms worldwide. It is so outrageously unethical that I decided to reproduce it here [in a slightly shortened version]:

“Homeopathy has given rise to a new hope to patients suffering from dreaded HIV, tuberculosis and the deadly blood disease Hemophilia. In a pioneering two-year long study, city-based homeopath Dr Rajesh Shah has developed a new medicine for AIDS patients, sourced from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) itself.

The drug has been tested on humans for safety and efficacy and the results are encouraging, said Dr Shah. Larger studies with and without concomitant conventional ART (Antiretroviral therapy) can throw more light in future on the scope of this new medicine, he said. Dr Shah’s scientific paper for debate has just been published in Indian Journal of Research in Homeopathy…

The drug resulted in improvement of blood count (CD4 cells) of HIV patients, which is a very positive and hopeful sign, he said and expressed the hope that this will encourage an advanced research into the subject. Sourcing of medicines from various virus and bacteria has been a practise in the homeopathy stream long before the prevailing vaccines came into existence, said Dr Shah, who is also organising secretary of Global Homeopathy Foundation (GHF)…

Dr Shah, who has been campaigning for the integration of homeopathy and allopathic treatments, said this combination has proven to be useful for several challenging diseases. He teamed up with noted virologist Dr Abhay Chowdhury and his team at the premier Haffkine Institute and developed a drug sourced from TB germs of MDR-TB patients.”

So, where is the study? It is not on Medline, but I found it on the journal’s website. This is what the abstract tells us:

“Thirty-seven HIV-infected persons were registered for the trial, and ten participants were dropped out from the study, so the effect of HIV nosode 30C and 50C, was concluded on 27 participants under the trial.

Results: Out of 27 participants, 7 (25.93%) showed a sustained reduction in the viral load from 12 to 24 weeks. Similarly 9 participants (33.33%) showed an increase in the CD4+ count by 20% altogether in 12 th and 24 th week. Significant weight gain was observed at week 12 (P = 0.0206). 63% and 55% showed an overall increase in either appetite or weight. The viral load increased from baseline to 24 week through 12 week in which the increase was not statistically significant (P > 0.05). 52% (14 of 27) participants have shown either stability or improvement in CD4% at the end of 24 weeks, of which 37% participants have shown improvement (1.54-48.35%) in CD4+ count and 15% had stable CD4+ percentage count until week 24 week. 16 out of 27 participants had a decrease (1.8-46.43%) in CD8 count. None of the adverse events led to discontinuation of study.

Conclusion: The study results revealed improvement in immunological parameters, treatment satisfaction, reported by an increase in weight, relief in symptoms, and an improvement in health status, which opens up possibilities for future studies.”

In other words, the study had not even a control group. This means that the observed ‘effects’ are most likely just the normal fluctuations one would expect without any clinical significance whatsoever.

The homeopathic Ebola cure was bad enough, I thought, but, considering the global importance of AIDS, the homeopathic HIV treatment is clearly worse.

25 Responses to Homeopathy: a new climax of irresponsibility

  • The study looks as if it is science to the uninitiated. For the purposes of the authors that is all that is required to add it to the pile of positive studies. Since many clinicians never read past the abstract/conclusions, this is convincing. From my personal experience, I was never introduced to how to read the literature until a specialty residency. This may have changed but judging from the number of integrated medicine programs here in the US, I suspect not.

    • you may be right; I have often tried to alert people to the lack of training we get in critical thinking.

      • Edzard on Friday 03 April 2015 at 13:19
        you may be right; I have often tried to alert people to the lack of training we get in critical thinking.

        I think it is much worse than that. In my experience, which is probably not less than unique, we are actively discouraged from childhood onwards not to ask questions, and not to think critically, meaning that before we can even start attempting to think critically, we have to overcome the indoctrination that prevents us from doing that in the first place.

  • Unless I’m reading that abstract wrongly it fails even in its own terms. The statistics for the group are worse over time but they highlight the minorities that showed fluctuations towards reduced disease. That is not the way science is done.

    Put their sentences in a more representative order and add some essential extra words;

    Thirty-seven HIV-infected persons were registered for the trial, and ten participants were dropped out from the study [for reasons that are not admitted by the authors]

    The viral load increased from baseline to 24 week

    Out of 27 participants, [only] 7 (25.93%) showed a sustained reduction in the viral load from 12 to 24 weeks. [20 were stable or worse]

    16 out of 27 participants had a decrease (1.8-46.43%) in CD8 count.
    [Only] 9 participants (33.33%) showed an increase in the CD4+ [18 did not]

    [48% of patients showed reduced CD4% whereas only] 52% (14 of 27) participants have shown either stability or improvement. [More deteriorated than improved.]

    Conclusion: The study results revealed improvement in immunological parameters, treatment satisfaction, reported by an increase in weight, relief in symptoms, and an improvement in health status, [but only if we apply the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_sharpshooter_fallacy%5D which [absolutely does not] opens up possibilities for future studies.

    Morons!

  • Why weren’t these patients on standard triple cocktail therapy? To not be so is unethical. Or were the patients in a developing country withot access (yet submitted to regular blood analysis including CD4 counts).

    • It looks to me like, flagrant disregard of the Helsinki Declaration on human experimentation.

      Quite disgusting.

      Did they really have access to labs but no ARVs?

  • Beyond merely mocking this study for it’s spplalling quality is it worth doing a bit more?

    Helsinki Declaration;

    http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/b3/index.html

    Contact page for the journal;

    http://www.ijrh.org/addresses.asp

    Thoughts?

  • This goes beyond lunacy, faith in the unproven and irresponsibility into the arena of total negligence with patients’ lives.

    • FrankO on Friday 03 April 2015 at 20:10
      This goes beyond lunacy, faith in the unproven and irresponsibility into the arena of total negligence with patients’ lives.

      I have asked the question before, and I’ll probably ask it again in the future, but do these “persons” actually have faith in their favourite hobby, or are they merely moral monsters? The recent discussion about acupuncture, and seeing how homoeoquacks seem to have no problems using the same type of lies as the most vicious of religionists, I can’t help but starting to think that the body of evidence is pointing away from faith and belief towards pure and unadulterated greed. I don’t like to think like this, but how long can one ignore the facts and grant the benefit of the doubt?

      • in my long experience with alt med proponents, they are naïve and believe what they say. but as someone once said: conviction makes a quack not less but more dangerous.

        • Edzard on Saturday 04 April 2015 at 10:24
          in my long experience with alt med proponents, they are naïve and believe what they say. but as someone once said: conviction makes a quack not less but more dangerous.

          That’s why I am always thinking about “lying” and about quacks being moral monsters. While I can certainly see that and why a swindler will continue to claim her/his innocence when he/she is found out, I have difficulties accepting that this swindler will still believe her/his own claims.
           
          To me, it would be like a magician who believes her/his own tricks are not tricks but real. Would that not be an indication that there is something severely wrong with them in the psychiatric department?

          • generalisations are obviously problematic. there is an entire spectrum ranging from the naïve believer to the cynical crook. but in the 20 years that I was fully immersed in alt med, I met mostly the former.

          • Edzard on Saturday 04 April 2015 at 12:27
            generalisations are obviously problematic. there is an entire spectrum ranging from the naïve believer to the cynical crook. but in the 20 years that I was fully immersed in alt med, I met mostly the former.

            In other words, it is likely that – because I have very little personal contact with quacks, and only with the odd victim (however serious) – I am mostly aware of the high-profile ones which are more likely to be genuine con-artists, and not so much of the genuine, naïve believer, and as a result, my views are overly influenced by the sociopaths. That makes a lot of sense.
             
            I think it is time to make some adjustments in my thinking, and practice keeping in mind that most alternologists are not by definition Health Ranger clones, only misled believers.
             
            It also throws a different light on my favourite section in “A Scientist in Wonderland” about the spiritual healers. It makes it even more remarkable.
             
            Thank you for that insight!

          • Uri Geller?

          • FrankO on Saturday 04 April 2015 at 15:15
            Uri Geller?

            Was big news in Belgium just a few years before I had my “magical period”. I am not really sure he would qualify as a quack though, because he was not really advertising himself – I think – as a healer.

          • To me, it would be like a magician who believes her/his own tricks are not tricks but real. Would that not be an indication that there is something severely wrong with them in the psychiatric department?

            @Bart
            I thought my terse ‘Uri Geller’ comment would appear as an obvious response to the quote above, but the system has pushed it down to the point where it looks irrelevant.
             
            Geller is — to my mind, at least — a perfect example of a conjuror who ended up believing his tricks were real. He also made a lot of money out of them. However, whether he is a deliberate charalatan, exploiting gullible people for profit, is far from black and white clarity.
             
            Edzard says most practitioners in the Big Snakeoil industry are naive believers rather than cynical crooks, and I second that comment from my own (far more limited) experience. Their clients, considerably more numerous than the practitioners, certainly have to be believers (or else insane donors of cash to people they consider offer worthless treatments!). Hanlon’s razor applies.
             
            I doubt that many, if any, Snakeoilers actively set out to do their clients harm. From their limited perspectives and confident self belief they imagine they are doing at least the same good as properly educated and qualified physicians and surgeons. The problem is the limitations in their comprehension of just how much more massive detail there is to learn and understand before they can sensibly offer any magic potions or witchcraft manipulations to people who are sick.
             
            The damage done by Big Snakeoilers is probably inadvertent far more often than calculated. They seldom have the knowledge to make accurate medical diagnoses, so are well placed to miss patients who need proper medical attention. And their self belief/belief in their chosen Snakeoil may become so deeply entrenched they continue to imagine they’re doing the right thing, even when a patient’s condition is obviously worsening. The same problem lies behind recommendations to abandon properly effective treatments in favour of witchcraft (the theme of this thread’s OP). As many comments have already stated: the practitioners of Big Snakeoil seldom witness the deaths.
             
            The obvious exception to all this is fully qualified medics who refer patients to altmed therapists. I know one of these personally (a GP who uses homeopathy), and it’s pretty obvious from conversations that she limits her aqua therapy solely to heartsink patients and the worried well. That’s a world apart from the callous medics who ran the HIV trial that started this thread.

          • FrankO,

            Regarding the far too frequently disordered comments, which causes much confusion and miscommunication: I get the impression that the software hosting this website is perhaps using the collected timestamp from the commentators’ computers rather than using its received UTC timestamp for its ordering. I have no desire nor incentive to wade through the client-side HTML and Javascript to determine the likely source of this ongoing problem. There are many websites exhibiting this problem so I’m surprised that it is being globally ignored rather than having been fixed.

          • I doubt that many, if any, Snakeoilers actively set out to do their clients harm.

            While I cannot prove this lack of intent, I think that in our legal system, it goes without saying. I would add to this that since it is not usually good business policy to kill or even harm one’s customers, there is a good chance that it is true.

            That said, I would submit that when the provider *knows* that her/his treatments are bogus, there is something premeditated going on. I usually call it premeditated murder. Maybe I should call it “premeditated murder without intent to kill” or something ridiculous like that.

            It is very possible that Uri Geller did/does not set out to harm his victims, but I would argue that he intends to profit from them, knowing that he is lying. The tricks he uses are tricks. He is the one performing them. Maybe it is a limitation of my ability to understand what is going on, but does a trickster not have at least appearances pleading against him?

  • I know homeopaths and other CAM-practitioners are not known for their stern adherens to moral principles, but if they were this study should obviously be disregarded on the fact that it is a paid-and-bought study from a commercial homeopathic remedy manufacturer…

    As homeopaths clearly don’t understand good practices in clinical trials I also wonder about the blatant lack of information regarding the proving of the investigated nostrums (the Homoeopathy pathogenetic trial) – at least a publication of the list of symtoms ought to be needed…

    Since we in Europe recently withdrew a large number of (real) drugs based on the misconduct of an Indian CRO I also wonder why the supplier of their data analysis is remaining anonymous…

    The numbers of patients in the study also differs between parts of the text and the patient flow chart…

  • Homeopathy works by the placebo effect and other perverse conclusion: allopathic medicine and its aggressive treatments often leave us sicker than “do nothing”. So homeopathy or “do nothing” work. Due to the collapse of the Cartesian model of medicine.

    I could speak of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: are all the same. With minor variations, all act on COX 1 and COX 2. Some are very harmful. In addition to the psychotropic drugs: drugs used in psychiatry for everything.

    • bruno maia on Wednesday 08 April 2015 at 00:46
      Homeopathy works by the placebo effect and other perverse conclusion: allopathic medicine and its aggressive treatments often leave us sicker than “do nothing”. So homeopathy or “do nothing” work. Due to the collapse of the Cartesian model of medicine.

      I could speak of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: are all the same. With minor variations, all act on COX 1 and COX 2. Some are very harmful. In addition to the psychotropic drugs: drugs used in psychiatry for everything.

      You *could* say a lot, including nonsense, which is what you just did.
       
      Just because a Ferrari is more polluting than a bicycle, does not mean that the bicycle is faster. Homoeopathy is nonsense, and whether or not genuine medicine works, is irrelevant to the nonsensical nature of homoeopathy.

      Furthermore, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You either reject science, or you don’t. The science that is making medicine more powerful every day, is the same science that shows that homoeopathy is quackery. So, you’d better make up your mind: do you accept science and reality or do you reject them?

    • Yes, drugs that have effects have side effects. Try treating infectious diseases with placebos and see how much harm homeopathy can cause. Then there are asthma attacks. Doing nothing in not a better option.

  • Dr. Rajesh Shahs Life Force Homeopathy Clinic is not only in-efficient but also a business run by him much less than a practice of a Doctor that it should be. Dr. Rajesh Shah has a team of persons lead by one Mr. Madhav Agarwal who takes care of his “business expansion”. Mr. Madhav Agarwal’s job is to make his team of persons post videos of fake person and post fake comments of patients claiming successful treatment with Dr. Rajesh Shah’s Life Force Homeopathy. Dr. Rajesh Shah will never be available for a patient and shall meet a patient who is ready and willing to pay a premium price which is very uncalled for a practicing “doctor”. Dr. Rajesh Shah is always involved in marketing strategies with Mr. Madhav Agarwal and is only concentrating on promoting himself and his Life Force by social and internet media, when his patients think he is busy with some other patients. Dr. Rajesh Shah’s patients are treated by trainee and intern doctors who not only lack expertise but are also being young and still on the path of achieving the desired expertise. Basically a patients life is voluntarily at risk, on the behest of Dr. Rajesh Shah. His team of “marketing” which includes Mr. Madhav Agarwal only concentrates upon portals like “just dial” , “Google” etc and strives to promote and market themselves as best in the market, when the reality is far from what is being portrayed. Infact all the positive comments upon such portals are made by themselves thereby throwing dust in the eyes of innocent patients. The team of persons of Mr. Madhav Agarwal are constantly active on such portals and forum and the minute any negative is posted about Dr. Rajesh Shah’s Life Force, they shall post a positive comment by a fake patient ID, needless to say a fake experience.
    I sincerely urge and request people to be cautious before approaching Dr. Rajesh Shah’s Life Force for any treatment.

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