Germany is, as we all know, the home of homeopathy. Here it has an unbroken popularity, plenty of high level support and embarrassingly little opposition. The argument that homeopathy has repeatedly been shown to merely rely on placebo effects seems to count for nothing in Germany.
Perhaps this is going to change now. On January 30, a group of experts from all walks of life have met in Freiburg to discuss ways of informing the public responsibly and countering the plethora of misinformation that Germans are regularly exposed to on the subject of homeopathy. They founded the ‘Information Network Homeopathy’ and decided on a range of actions.
No doubt, some will ask where does their financial support come from? And no doubt, some will claim that we are on the payroll of ‘Big Pharma’. The truth is that we have no funding; everyone gives his/her own time free of charge and pays for his/her own expenses etc. And why? Because we believe in progress and feel strongly that it is time to improve healthcare by relegating homeopathy to the history books.
One of the first fruits of the network’s endeavours is the ‘Freiburger Erklärung zur Homöopathie’, the ‘Freiburg Declaration on Homeopathy’. I have the permission to reproduce the document here in full (the translation is mine):
HOMEOPATHY IS NEITHER NATUROPATHY NOR MEDICINE
Despite the support of politicians and the silence of those who should know better, homeopathy has remained a method which is in clear opposition to the proven basics of science. The members and supporter of the ‘Information Network Homeopathy’ view homeopathy as a stubbornly surviving belief system, which cannot be accepted as part of naturopathy nor medicine. The information network is an association of physicians, pharmacists, veterinarians, biologists, scientists and other critics of homeopathy who are united in their aim to disclose this fact more openly and make the public more aware of it.
NO SPECIAL STATUS FOR HOMEOPATHY
During the more than 200 years of its existence, homeopathy has not managed to demonstrate its specific effectiveness. Homeopathy only survives because it has been granted special status in the German healthcare system which is, in the opinion of the experts of the network, unjustified. Drugs have to prove their effectiveness according to objective criteria, but homeopathics are exempt from this obligation. We oppose such double standards in medicine.
Homeopathy has also not managed to demonstrate a plausible mode of action. Instead its proponents pretend that there are uncertainties which need to be clarified. We oppose such notions vehemently. Homeopathy is not an unconventional method that requires further scientific study. Its basis consists of long disproven theories such as the ‘law of similars’, ‘vital force’ or ‘potentisation by dilution’.
SELF-DECEPTION OF PATIENT AND THERAPIST
We do not dispute the therapeutic effects of a homeopathic treatment. But they are unrelated to the specific homeopathic remedy. The perceived effectiveness of homeopathics is due to suggestion and auto-suggestion of the patient and the therapist. The mechanisms of such (self-) deceit are multi-fold but well-known and researched. Symptomatic improvements caused by context-effects must not be causally associated with the homeopathic remedy. We assume that many physicians and alternative practitioners using homeopathy are unaware of the existence and multitude of such mechanisms and are acting in good faith. This, however, does not alter the fact that their conclusions are wrong and thus potentially harmful.
MEDICINE AND SCIENCE
We do not claim that the scientific method which we uphold can currently research and explain everything. However, it enables us to explain that homeopathy cannot explain itself. The scientific method shows the best way we have for differentiating effective from ineffective treatments. A popular belief in therapeutic claims nourished by politicians and journalists can never be a guide for medical activities.
AIM OF THIS DECLARATION
Our criticism is not aimed at needy patients or practising homeopathic clinicians; it is aimed at the school of homeopathy and the healthcare institutions which could have long recognised the nonsensical nature of homeopathy, but have chosen not to interfere. We ask the players within our science-based healthcare system to finally reject homeopathy and other pseudoscientific methods and to return to what should be self-evident: scientifically validated, fair and generally reproducible rules promoting top-quality medicine for he benefit of the patient.
Dr.-Ing. Norbert Aust, Initiator Informationsnetzwerk Homöopathie
Dr. med. Natalie Grams, Leiterin Informationsnetzwerk Homöopathie
Amardeo Sarma, GWUP Vorsitzender und Fellow von CSI (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry)
Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor, Universität Exeter, UK
Prof. Dr. Rudolf Happle, Verfasser der Marburger Erklärung zur Homöopathie
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Hell, Vorsitzender des Wissenschaftsrates der GWUP
Prof. Norbert Schmacke, Institut für Public Health und Pflegeforschung, Universität Bremen
Dr. rer. nat. Christian Weymayr, freier Medizinjournalist
Very many congratulations.
I trust the UK’s government’s forthcoming review of homeopathy (under Minister of Health Alaistair Burt MP) will take note.
I urge homeopaths (both lay and medically qualified) to put their talents, time and interests into training as counsellors for patients needing relevant support.
I urge that homeopathically prepared (HP) remedies are no longer prescribed.
We are fast moving to a time when to prescribe HP remedies will be regarded as fraud pure and simple.
With no dilution!
Nice one! Well done that network.
Brilliant! And many congratulations. The first paragraph of this post could be rewritten after replacing Germany with India, and it’d still be true. Homeopathy may have been born in Germany, but in nurturing it India has been second to none, having persistently provided official blessings and infrastructural support to homeopathy by shovelfuls.
(I’d dearly, dearly love to see a survey that can enumerate the nationality/national origin and/or place of training of homeopaths on Twitter. I believe the Indian contingent would turn out to be substantial –which would, of course, be a sad indictment of science education and public understanding of science in the country… but nevertheless.)
It’s well past the time physicians and scientists of India came together to put in place a document along the lines of this Freiburg Declaration. But will it happen in foreseeable future? Given the overall support for pseudoscience & quackery of all manners, I won’t hold my breath.
Thank you, Kausik
“renegading” should be “relegating” …your spelling checker lied to you.
Good article – when homeopathy was invented, George III was still king!
And “requites” should be “requires”, although the former is, in a way, quaintly apposite.
thanks – I’ll get there eventually.
It´s possible to sign our declaration here: http://www.gwup.org/inhalte/79-aktuelles/nachrichten/1754-freiburger-erklaerung
This is wonderful and needs to be published widely. However, it should also include Naturopathy and other alternative nonsense, including fraud perpetrated by Chiropractors.
Interesting. Could you cite the papers which have ‘disproven’ homeopathic precepts please.
@ Veronique Wechtler on Saturday 20 February 2016 at 19:41,
If you are this person (http://www.dundee.ac.uk/humanities/staff/profile/v-roniquewechtler), please advise how you managed to get a degree without understanding basic logic?
The onus of proof is on those making the claims, and, to date, no proof has been found. Given the absurd nature of homeopathy and the fantasy world it occupies, as well as breaking the laws of physics, no one has to disprove anything about it. The proof is still wanting.
Why don’t you you research the millions of unnecessary deaths caused by medical doctors via incorrect and over prescription of drugs or how pharmaceutical companies are in charge of their own research when it comes to effectiveness and side effects and why it is that no one ever researches what happens when a person is prescribed more than one drug. Your claims on “critical thinking” & “science base evidence” falls well short in this department which i can only conclude you have a strongly biased attitude. I wonder who pays for your retirement now Dr Ernst since you were disgracefully dismissed and all funding removed from your last position? You select the research that suits your agenda and ignore the ton of research that opposes your views. How about a more balanced view? perhaps you are not the right man for the job, after all you have never been in the trenches on the front line treating patients because they could really teach you a thing or two and challenge your narrow mind that failed to expand due to lack of real life experiences. Your dogma opinions are a dime a dozen.
WHAT A DELIGHTFUL AND INTERESTING COMMENT!!!
let me try to provide some answers.
“Why don’t you research the millions of unnecessary deaths…?” BECAUSE MY EXPERTISE IS ELSEWHERE.
“…no one ever researches what happens when a person is prescribed more than one drug…” THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE.
” I wonder who pays for your retirement…” THE UNIVERSITY PENSION FUND [NOT THAT THIS IS ANY OF YOUR BUISINESS].
“…since you were disgracefully dismissed…” PURE FANTASY ON YOUR PART – OR IS IT WISHFUL THINKING?
“…you have never been in the trenches on the front line treating patients…” PURE FANTASY AGAIN!
“…your narrow mind that failed to expand …” AD HOMINEM ATTACKS ARE A VICTORY OF REASON OVER UNREASON.
Faults of normal medicine do not make Homoeopathy working as homoepaths say it does…
chris doyle said:
Why don’t you?
The work on incorrect prescription and over-prescription is being done. You can explore some of this in the book ‘Testing Treatments: better research for better health care.’ The authors have made the whole text available free online at http://www.testingtreatments.org You might also like to look at the work of the Cochrane Collaboration doing metastudies. This is at http://www.cochrane.org
There was disgrace in the way Edzard Ernst was forced to resign but the disgrace was not on his part. An influential opponent of his scrupulous uncovering of the facts about homoeopathy put pressure on his employers over an alleged breach of protocol. He was cleared of wrongdoing but felt that his department was being frozen out while he remained.
It is very disappointing that Chris Doyle has not done any research on the facts of this case or into Professor Ernst’s intellectual and fact-driven journey from supporter to opponent of homoeopathy.
If Mr Doyle would like to analyse the evidence supplied by the UK Faculty of Homoeopathy itself, he will find it very unconvincing.
Congratulations to all involved in getting this off the ground. From what I hear from German and Austrian friends, it is going to be an uphill task to persuade the public that homeopathy is ineffective and a waste of money. Even intelligent well educated professionals will bring forward the old arguments that they got better after homeopathy, that their insurance company provides it so it must be OK, that it has a long history, or worst of all, that it was invented (or as some like to say, discovered) in Germany, so it must be better than any other form of medicine.
I suspect that economic arguments may be more effective than most others given that many people even in Germany are beginning to feel the pinch financially. Plain logic doesn’t seem to have much appeal to a large section of the public.
I also have a nasty suspicion that the so-called review of homeopathy in the UK is going to be nothing but a well funded campaign by the homeopathy lobby, given that many in the government as well as HRH Prince Charles are clearly in favour of it regardless of the fact that spending on it takes away money which could be used to treat sick people properly.
I wonder if the tide is turning.
I recently analysed the evidence that the Faculty of Homoeopathy (in the UK) adduced in support of homoeopathic treatments. These studies were the best they could find but even these produced only vague conclusions, hedged around with qualifications. To cherry-pick, you first need some cherries…
It is about time that this nonsensical,irrational quackery ends. How sad that in my country (South Africa) , the DURBAN university college (DUT) offers a SIX year course training students in the mumbo- jumbo of homeopathy!
I often wonder what these graduates ( with the title Dr) , are taught over the 6 year period. They certainly cannot appear as expert witness in a forensic case, they cannot manage a patient in intensive care, they cannot deliver a baby, do a blood transfusion, certify a patient as dead Etc Etc Etc .There is absolutely no rational aspect to homeopathic treatment. James Randi has a foundation that is prepared to give anybody, anywhere $1 million if they can demonstrate proof that any homeopathic remedy can cure ANY disease in ANY person. Strange that no homeopath has ever taken up his challenge…
Orthodox scientific medicine is not only EVIDENCE based- it is science based…( and plausible)
Man you guys need a reality check. If you guys have no belief in this, then ALL you guys need to go back to school. If anything, MD’s REALLY need to leave who does not think it doesn’t work.
Sigh… There was a time when words used to mean something.
Could you try English, please?
Which school? Hogwarts?
I went to “school” – a decent state grammar school, a now Russell Group university, a decent school of nursing and another Russell Group university – which equipped me to work out for myself that homeopathy cannot work.
Please go away and re-write our entire understanding of physics, chemistry, biology, logic and the rest, collect all the prizes which will come your way as a result and then we might start to think there could possibly be something in homeopathy.
I have had my dog’s life saved twice by ‘natural remedies……..how could I not believe in them?
Please do give us some detail.
“Natural remedies” are not homeopathy: homeopathic remedies contain no active ingredients, if made correctly.
I’m a retired GP based in the UK. The power of suggestion and belief is very effective. All clinicians will know this. Patients may experience immediate pain relief even before the tablet arrives in the stomach. The placebo effect is present in all clinical encounters. As far as hard evidence goes clearly there isn’t any for homeopathy but getting some relief by using the power of the mind seems ok to me. The physical act of taking a medicine has a strong symbolic meaning. Added to this no side effects and a positive encounter with an empathic listener seems to make a difference in how some people experience suffering. Just a thought..
a good and compassionate thought!
non-specific effects cannot be a justification for using quackery of any sort – simply because, if we are compassionate and empathetic to our patients, they will benefit from these phenomena anyway. if we then give an effective treatment, they will benefit twice. therefore, just giving a quack placebo is cheating the patient.
Yes. Of course I do get that but there are some long term conditions for which our medically proven drugs are quite ineffective. Chronic pain for instance. Sometimes the conventional approach does more harm. Perhaps there could be a place for some of the alternative approaches when the patient has reached the point where the medical professional has no more to offer?
I disagree about two things:
1) that we cannot do anything for lots of conditions. chronic pain is a good example; I know of dozens of treatments that are more promising than homeopathy.
2) that homeopathy cannot do any harm
– it undermines rational thinking
– trust in homeopathy costs patients’ lives
– not all homeopathic remedies are highly diluted and some can do harm therefore
– it advice of homeopaths can amount to a public health risk, for instance on immunization.
All good points. Especially re immunisation. Regarding chronic pain management of course there are many treatments we can offer but sometimes nothing seems to work. Regarding your ‘rational thinking’ concept: I use hypnosis for pain patients and of course this approach has a strong evidence base but it’s efficacy is entirely based on the imagination, the use of metaphor and belief. Not the rational mind at all. I think we are maximising the placebo effect. It’s a pity many orthodox medics reject this approach despite the evidence. Not very rational?
You will know the tree by its fruit (results) and a man by his deeds!
It’s sad that modern ignoramuses–oops!–people in their blindness take thorns for flowers neglecting the obvious results without asking. Unfortunately, nowadays people are expected to pretend more tolerate, including calling ‘quack trade’ as politically-correct ‘alternative medicine’ (CAM) industry, and calling fraud and lies as ‘alternative truths.’
In spite of heaps of bogus, distorted and biased information, a clever man should make only PROPERLY INFORMED and WEIGHTED decisions, considering costs/risks/benefits ratio! And learn!
I think that ‘alternative’ medicine is but a lie, including so-called ‘homeopathy’, which is allegedly based on another ephemeral false irrational anti-scientific principles (‘laws’) implemented into false irrational shaking practise (‘water and sucrose memory’) and excused via even more occultish idea (‘psora’).
Perhaps, in pre-scientific times of a ‘homeopathy’ founder Hannemann, it was relatively ok comparing to rather brutal ‘medicine’ then, BUT NOT NOW!
As for ‘homeopathy’ and other silly peddlers pushing ‘health-related non-drug products’, the very question is:
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE for selling uncontrolled garbage as medicine?
It’s fancy, that even mainstream real doctors go into ‘alternative’ to earn some extra bucks–at expense of swindled patients; yet they are so twice-shy when asked about active ingredients, pharmacodynamics, and pharmacokinetics, let alone specific verifiable data.
BECAUSE liars KNOW they are telling LIES for selling LIES!
I think there is a misunderstanding about the nature of the healing process. Only the body can heal itself if provided with all that it needs to heal and the blocks to healing removed. What the bodies healing mechanisms require for healing is not drugs but nutritional supplements and the blocks that need to be removed are chemical and psychological toxins . The innate homeostatic and healing processes continue to heal until the day we die but many factors interfere with this process so that dysfunctions within the system slowly increase until disease manifests. The controls for this astonishing and complex healing process cannot be present in chemistry which moves at a rate that could not possible meet the requirement of almost instantaneous transfer of information. Matter is not all physical but MEI or matter-energy-information. Reducing healing to matter only is misinformation and totally inadequate to explain the complexity of healing. Living systems are matter-energy-information and body-emotions-mind-consciousness. Within this complexity are control systems probably at the deepest level. The hand goes up because of a the smallest energy input from the mind . Thought is enough to lift my hand. A touch of a button can open and close the heaviest of doors. Homeopathy should not be dismissed by those stuck in matter who clearly believe that mind, consciousness, God , awareness, love, compassion are somehow just properties of chemistry or don’t really exist. Science can’t measure these qualities so that the scientist doing research cannot even mention about his inspiration and how his thoughts have helped him to organise his life and research. Scientists can become pretty stupid when they insist that only that which is measurable is real . Their research is real but the living human scientist who does the research is by definition not real because so much of that person is not measurable.
Wow! At last some sensible profundity. I had begun to despair that anyone here could fathom the significance of matter-energy-information and body-emotions-mind-consciousness. For too long people have been stuck in the iterative loop of body-machine-malfunction-repair, failing to comprehend the truly important issues of vibration-cerebro-faecal and retro-in-collum-stultitia. Nutritional supplements are indeed the only sensible way to deal with the chemical and psychological toxins that cause ebola and malaria, the matter-energy-information malfunctions that result in mitral valve regurgitation and the homeostatic-spiritual blockages that lead to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Indeed, the hand goes up because of the smallest energy input from the mind. The muscles of the arm that raise the hand are there purely for decoration, and the chemistry that underpins both the mind and the muscles is a nonsense created by dumb-assed scientists. The combined hands of God, consciousness, love and compassion are clearly the sole reality visible throughout human existence, which is why so many loving, compassionate amputees regrow their limbs, so many mindful, conscious people with severed spinal cords recover their abilities to walk.
Thank you, Bernard, for showing us the light, so that we may repent of our foolish insistence on imagining that what we can touch, feel and prove is real.
THAT was a thing of beauty, Frank.
@ bernard on Monday 29 February 2016 at 11:53,
“The hand goes up because of a the smallest energy input from the mind . Thought is enough to lift my hand. A touch of a button can open and close the heaviest of doors.”
On reading this, I was overwhelmed with the degree of ignorance of normal, everyday functions; things that happen all the time and to which we don’t give much thought. Not only does bernard not give much thought, he gives the impression of being in fairyland.
The naivete is breath-taking in its lack of real-world understanding, however, let’s start;
* A thought does not lift a hand. The thought triggers actions in a number of muscles, which when coordinated, carry out the function of a hand lifting. There is a feedback mechanism in the body that detects the range of motion and ceases he action when complete.
* A switch does not “open and close the heaviest of doors”; it too triggers motors of some sort into action to complete the action. There is another switch (a limit switch) which stops the action of the initial switch so the action ceases when it should.
* Both organic and artificial switches provide the trigger but do not have an action in determining how the actions are completed.
* In the first case, energy is expended by the actions of muscles converting body chemicals (potential energy) into action (kinetic energy)
* In the second case, the same thing happens, usually with contactor (an industrial electrical relay) operated by something like a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) or some type of microcontroller, which has been activated by the “button”. The contactor allows the potential energy (electricity) to be converted to kinetic energy (movement of the door)
Then, curiosity made me look for more. The link bernard provides is, indeed, to his website and it didn’t take much to find out more, in his own words;
In 1971 I walked out of my job in Miami, USA for another life.
I had been specializing in gastroenterology and had gone to America to continue my studies and to live my dream. It seemed to me that America would allow me to do this. In fact it allowed me to live my dream in every way and within 9 months I realized that my dream was still not making me happy.
For the next six years I traveled around the world seeking answers to my unhappiness and eventually returned to South Africa in 1978, wanting to do things differently.
I started an integrative medical practice determined not to use drugs if possible and treat patients by improving health rather than treating their diseases.
I knew intrinsically by then that the body wants to heal, and that if it is not doing that, then it just needs help and support.
As my experience grew I added and tried various tools, approaches and natural medicines to manage of ill health.
In my journey around the world I had also come to the realisation that my unhappiness had very little to do with the world or the people around me, but had all to do with my attitude and philosophy of life.
This journey continues today.
Dr Bernard Brom has a medical degree from the University of Cape Town. He has studied homoepathy, studied and taught Chinese medicine and acupuncture and he is an expert in low-energy laser and other energy treatments. He is experienced in nutritional therapy and lifestyle management, with a special interest in the psychospirirtual aspect of illness. He is a founder and an editor of the SA Journal of Natural Medicine; chairman of the SA Society of Integrative Medicine; and still runs a busy practice.
Well, there you have it; the transition from seemingly rational to alt-med loon. There are gems on his website about such things as HIV; if a person has a healthy “lifestyle”, the development of AIDS can be delayed by up to five to seven years, based on the difference in outcomes between South Africa and the USA and other affluent nations. (Does anyone else see the flaw here?)
He isn’t the only nutter there either. Let me introduce;
Complementary medicines cannot be regulated under the same requirements as pharmaceutical drugs. It is inappropriate, and it is irrational. Complementary medicines are not drugs. They are not used in the same way as drugs are, and they do not carry the same risks.
Hmmm, no risks? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-01/supplements-linked-to-at-least-6-australian-organ-transplants/7207472
She also says;
“Efficacy may be difficult to measure in some cases, especially when using the criteria of allopathic drugs, which are single chemical substances. Many CAMS are combination products, based on extensive research by well-qualified people. Many Chinese medicines, for example, are never used as single herbs as they work synergistically with others.”
Based on EXTENSIVE RESEARCH BY WELL-QUALIFIED PEOPLE too. Unfortunately, she doesn’t cite any and the alt-med lie continues.
Sorry bernard, you and your lot are A-grade nutbags who are a danger to people with whom you come into contact.
I would be interested in what “medical degree” Dr Blom has from the University of Cape Town.If he does indeed have a legitimate M.B.,Ch.B, then it just goes to how how even nutbags can fool the examiners and get through medical school.I think he needs therapy!