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

I have written about the use of homeopathy in France before (as I now live half of my time in France, this is a subject of considerable interest to me). After decades of deafening silence and uncritical acceptance by the French public, it seems that finally some change to the better might be on its way. Recently, a sizable number of prominent doctors protested publicly against the fact that, despite its implausibility and the lack of proof of efficacy, homeopathy continues to be reimbursed in France and scarce funds are being wasted on it. This action seems to have put pressure on officials to respond.

Yesterday (just in time for the ‘HOMEOPATHIC AWARENESS WEEK’) the French minister of health was quoted making a statement on homeopathy. Here is my translation of what Agnès Buzyn was quoted saying:

“There is a continuous evaluation of the medicines we call complementary. A working group* at the head office of my department checks that all these practices are not dangerous. If a therapy continues to be beneficial without being harmful, it continues to be reimbursed… The French are very attached [to homeopathy]; it’s probably a placebo effect. If it can prevent the use of toxic medicine, I think that we all win. I does not hurt.”

Agnès Buzyn

  • I would like to know who they are, how they can be contacted, and whether they would consider recruiting my assistance in evaluating alternative therapies.

So, if I understand her correctly, Agnès Buzyn believes that:

  1. the French people are fond of homeopathy;
  2. homeopathy is a placebo-therapy;
  3. homeopathy does no harm;
  4. homeopathy can even prevent harm from conventional medicine;
  5. on balance, therefore, homeopathy should continue to be reimbursed in France.

My views of this type of reasoning have been expressed repeatedly. Nevertheless, I will briefly state them again:

  1. true but not relevant; healthcare is not a popularity contest; and the current popularity is essentially the result of decades of systematic misinformation of consumers;
  2. correct;
  3. wrong: we have, on this blog, discussed ad nauseam how homeopathy can cause serious harm; for instance, whenever it replaces effective treatments, it can cause serious harm and might even kill patients;
  4. if doctors harm patients by needlessly prescribing harmful treatments, we need to re-train them and stop this abuse; using homeopathy is not the solution to bad medicine;
  5. wrong: the reimbursement of homeopathy is a waste of money and undermines evidence-based medicine.

So, what’s the conclusion?

Politicians are usually not good at understanding science or scientific evidence. They (have to?) think in time spans from one election to the next. And they are, of course, keenly aware that, in order to stay in power, they rely on the vote of the people. Therefore, the popularity of homeopathy (even though it is scientifically irrelevant) is a very real factor for them. This means that, on a political level, homeopathy is sadly much more secure than it should be. In turn, this means we need to:

  • use different arguments when arguing with politicians (for instance, the economic impact of wasting money on placebo-therapies, or the fact that systematically misinforming the public is highly unethical and counter-productive),
  • and make politicians understand science better than they do at present, perhaps even insist that ministers are experts in their respective areas (i. e. a minister of health fully understands the fundamental issues of healthcare).

Does that mean the new developments in the realm of French homeopathy are all doomed to failure?

No, I don’t think so – at least (and at last) we have a vocal group of doctors protesting against wasteful nonsense, and a fairly sound and accurate statement from a French minister of health:

HOMEOPATHY, IT’S PROBABLY A PLACEBO EFFECT!

 

90 Responses to Finally! An official statement about homeopathy from a French health minister

  • Politicians are usually not good at understanding science or scientific evidence.

    That is largely a problem caused by democracy in a poorly educated society, isn’t? What I find rather worrying in this specific case is that she is a medical doctor. That seems to indicate that she is a bad doctor, is willfully ignoring her knowledge or both.

    • I did not know she was a doctor!
      that is worrying

      • It’s worse. She is not only a doctor, but also a haematologist, cancer researcher and university professor. If anything, she seems to be living proof that qualifications are not all they are cracked up to be. She is also from my generation, one year younger than I am. My own experience at Ghent university in Belgium was not good. If anything, she seems to be at least a very serious indication that there is still a lot of work to do. She brings back bad memories.

        • I just found this quote of her (www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)32869-6/fulltext):
          “I want to see scientific rationality brought into our political decision making.”
          It seems to me that she has quickly abandoned her ideals [Boiron is very influential in France!]

          • Terrible, isn’t it, how fast politics can destroy someone’s resolve. Hopefully, my native Belgium will help keep her on the right path. It seems that its Maggie De Block, who is also a doctor, has more resolve. Which is actually refreshing after recent governments all but encouraged quackery (and, although it is now decades ago, I have never forgotten how they named an incompetent to head the anatomy department in Ghent, just to keep a very competent woman away). One has to be grateful for Mickey Mouse steps, I guess.

            Who knows what Agnès Buzyn is really thinking? I sort-of dare hope/fantasise she wants to use all the quacks as lion food in the zoo.

          • Placebos cannot cure and cannot harm. They are truly powerless in and of themselves.

            Is it rational politics to enact policies costing public money but producing no public benefit (or harm)?

            In the case of placebos, a profit is generated for private businesses selling nonsense under false pretences.

            This is good and rational if it helps reduce prescription of toxic treatments?

            What if it doesn’t?

            Why not simply prohibit the prescription of toxic and/or useless treatments?

            Or at the very least oblige doctors to inform their patients when recommending toxic and/or useless treatments?

          • they are already obliged – it’s called ‘informed consent’.
            NO doctor can administer chemotherapy [an example of a toxic drug] without it.
            …and ‘toxic’ drugs are, of course, extremely useful when administered responsibly.
            if they are administered irresponsibly [or uselessly which is the same] the doctor is to blame.

          • Why not simply prohibit the prescription of toxic and/or useless treatments?

            I understand what you mean, but you have to be careful because people may misunderstand it. I hear the demand for non-toxic treatments all the time and sometimes, I can’t help but giggle. It occurs to me that non-toxic treatments are not unlike surgery with scalpels that don’t cut, and I would definitely like my surgeon to use the sharpest scalpel he/she can find.

          • I assume Buzyn does not think it is rational to prescribe placebos for cancer rather than toxic life-savers, as in chemotherapy.

            Prescribe placebos in preference to toxic, useless treatments? No. Better not to prescribe useless treatments at all, toxic or otherwise. Let the state not pay for useless treatments just because patients believe otherwise.

  • Britain, let’s not forget, currently has a ‘Health Minister’ who uses the ‘popularity’ argument.

  • know what happens when we let popularity define medicine:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrzMhU_4m-g

  • Prof. Ernst, I do not understand why you interpret Agnès Buzyn´s statement as “some change to the better might be on its way”. Why so optimistic?! According to your translation, she seems to be well aware what a placebo is, that homeopathy indeed is a (quite expensive) placebo, but still she concludes that it “does not hurt” and “everybody wins” when it is prescribed.
    As we know, many (a cynic might even say most) political decisions are made not based on rational conclusions, but are made because of popularity. So if it´s true that the french people do not mind -or even like- homeopathy, I very much doubt that a person like Ms. Buzyn would want to be responsible for any unpopular decisions against it (thus her conclusion).
    And the protests of doctors agains CAM, which have occured for many years in many countries, did not seem to have led to dramatic changes in other EU countries, e.g. like Germany or Austria, as you as a member of the “Münsteraner Kreis” of course know better than most people.

    • I think that protest of experts (not just doctors) has changed a lot. the best example is the UK where NHS expenditure for homeopathy has dropped by >90% in recent years.
      I do not interpret Agnès Buzyn´s statement as “some change to the better might be on its way”” . I did write: “at least (and at last) we have a vocal group of doctors protesting against wasteful nonsense, and a fairly sound and accurate statement from a French minister of health.”
      the two together are encouraging after so many years of apathy in France, I feel – but perhaps I am an incorrigible optimist [as a researcher into alt med, you have to be!].

      • I think it is encouraging. While Agnès Buzyn’s message is certainly worrying given that she is a doctor, she also has to deal with Boiron, one of the world’s biggest quack firms, and a popular one at that. As a politician, that can’t be an easy situation to deal with. Small, almost imperceptible steps may not be ideal, but they might also be the only possibility open to her.

  • it’s a shame for us, french doctors.

  • Brazil’s leading medical journal just published a special edition on homeopathy and homeopathic research. Homeopathy is not alternative medicine…it is MEDICINE! http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0104-42302018000200093&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en

    • you are pulling our leg, aren’t you?
      this journal is about as objective about homeopathy as the ‘Vatican Gazette’ about Catholicism.
      “Brazil’s leading medical journal’ – you truly are priceless!

    • Brazil’s leading medical journal

      “Revista de Homeopatia”. Really?

  • “HOMEOPATHY, IT’S PROBABLY A PLACEBO EFFECT!”

    The probability is 1.0.

    ‘Placebos are harmless’. That may be generally true, but it is the use of placebos and the mindset which endorses and tolerates the use of placebos which is so harmful to attempts to advance scientific evidence-based medicine – and that is to be deprecated.

    If a patient gives fully informed consent (‘this pillule is a placebo…’) but finds taking a placebo triggers beneficial emotions and feelings – so be it. But for a state health minister to endorse such nonsense is unethical. And as she is a doctor – unethical squared. She should resign as a minister, or doctor (or both), or face up to the elephant in her consulting room. That is the standard of intellectual and moral probity she owes patients and the French public.

    • But for a state health minister to endorse such nonsense is unethical. And as she is a doctor – unethical squared. She should resign as a minister, or doctor (or both), or face up to the elephant in her consulting room. That is the standard of intellectual and moral probity she owes patients and the French public.

      While I wholeheartedly agree in principle, my conviction wavers in fact: what would resignation accomplish except for a continuation of the sorry policies France has had so far?

      • It would set an example of the standard of probity citizens have a right to expect from ministers.

        • True, but would citizens even notice? As far as I can tell, resignations on principles go largely (or entirely?) unnoticed. I may be wrong. I would hope I am.

  • So what is the worst that could happen id she actually stood up to Boiron? She could suggest that if peoplw really want thier placebos, then they must pay for them themselves. Now th
    at a compromise to me–who would immediately ban them an proscute Boiron for fraud an theft.

    • who would immediately ban them an proscute Boiron for fraud an theft

      As far as I know, homeoquackery – just like religion and a few other rackets – is getting a free ride by law, meaning that even if you can prove that it is nothing more than a thinly and badly disguised swindle (which should be easy, provided you find a judge with half a brain), you will probably be out of luck because of legal safeguards against prosecution.

      Unfortunately, in a democracy, being right is not enough, you have to convince the lawgivers and they are voted in by largely ignorant and uninterested voters, and they are usually expert ignoramuses themselves. As Minister Jim Hacker said in ‘The greasy pole’: “Ministers are not experts. They are chosen expressly because they know nothing.”

      • how is it that, in North America, there is one class action against Boiron et al, and in Europe none?

        • how is it that in North America, there is one class action against Boiron et al, and in Europe none?

          Actually, as far as I know, there have been several. US people love to sue each other, but whether these actions are successful, is an open question I think.
          I see that, here in Toronto at least, Boiron’s quackery is still available everywhere. I haven’t looked closely at them recently due to lack of time, but next time I go to Loblaws, I will try to remember to take a few pictures. I remember they are forbidden from making precise claims on the packaging, but they circumvent that by providing (dis)information on the shelves where the products are displayed for sale.
          The most hilarious thing they do, is a message in almost microscopic letters on the package sending the buyer to Health Canada’s website for more information about their products. Needless to say that Health Canada’s website contains no such information.

          Also, where Europe is concerned, I remember that they are exempt from doing tests “because double-blind trials don’t work for homeopathy”. I have the references somewhere, but if legislation in Europe hasn’t changed in the past few years, it should be relatively easy to find it on the site of European Union.

          Oeuf corse, the claim is wrong. Double-blind trials work perfectly for homeopathy, they show that it is nonsense with – on the whole – indistinguishible from placebo.

        • how is it that, in North America, there is one class action against Boiron et al, and in Europe none?

          I just happened to come across this unsuccessful case against a well-known peddler of quackery and other ‘natural’ nonsense:
          https://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/florida/flsdce/0:2014cv61909/447288/45

  • When you know the huge conflicts of interests in the French medical system (including the Mediator case, the infected blood scandal, mandatory vaccines, etc…) , reimbursement of sugar pills may look like a lesser evil.

    • you says we have to chose between corrupt medicine and quackery. why not make sure we have good medicine [in recent years, I have seen better medicine in France than anywhere else – and I had more occasion than I ever wanted to study it close-up]

      • Yes, indeed, you can see good medicine in France. This does not mean that political decisions on medicine are made in the interest of the citizens.

        • This does not mean that political decisions on medicine are made in the interest of the citizens.

          Political decisions rarely are, why would medicine be any different? In democracies, political decisions are usually constructed in ways that are thought to increase the chance of winning the next vote. Changes in the interest of the citizens are usually both inadequate and slow, because the citizens tend to dislike decisions that are in their interest, but they do happen, in ways that are somewhat comparable to evolution by natural selection: only when we look back do we see how far we have come.

          • What I mean is that there is less consequences when the political decision is about sugar pills than about real interventions with possible benefits and harms. In this cases conflicts of interest may be criminal.

          • I am not sure that it is a difference between criminal and non-criminal. arguably, wasting scare funds is criminal too.

          • In this cases conflicts of interest may be criminal.

            When an honest attempt is made to make people better, that is hardly criminal. Mistakes *are* being made. That’s what humans do. Mistakes are not criminal unless they are intentional, and they are not mistakes in that case.
            When people are being lied to, such as promoting homeopathy over vaccines or chemotherapy or insulin, that is criminal.
            The Mediator scandal seems to have been a sad event, but not having studied the case, I would first ask how many people have had better and longer lives thanks to Mediator, before I start to accuse them. I have the impression (I may be wrong, evidence is welcome) that accusations were a bit cheap. When compared to the damage homeopathy is doing by encouraging people to forgo treatment, the latter seems – a priori – far more criminal to me.
            Mandatory vaccines are – as far as I can see – a complete non-issue. Just look at what happens when people get exemptions for religious and other reasons: people start dying. I think I’d prefer to be mandatorily vaccinated than unknowingly being infected and dying as a result. What good is freedom when it doesn’t give you a chance to live? This is one example of the government making the correct decision in the best interest of the citizen, and being accused of wrong-doing. Politicians can’t win, even when they are doing the right thing.
            The French blood scandal seems to have more flesh on the bones, but when I hear about the government not acting on *assumptions* I can’t help but think that a scandal is being created where there should not be one. Even governments are not clairvoyant and it is not particularly honest to accuse them of not making use of scientific *knowledge* that did not exist or was not widely accepted at the time decisions were made.
            Once again, homeopathy is far more criminal, at least from a moral standpoint.

  • You want to put all the French politicians in jail, don’t you? I was talking about homicides.

    • You want to put all the French politicians in jail, don’t you? I was talking about homicides.

      This comment seems to belong somewhere else. Nobody was talking about putting French politicians in jail, and nobody was talking about homicides either.

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benfluorex
    Each decision should be in the interest of the patients. If there is COI, it can’t be. Obviously, having such a COI as to say that homeopathy should be reimbursed suggests that in more difficult questions, with real treatments, there is a risk to create more damage.

  • From the article referred to:

    However, Servier is suspected of having marketed Mediator (benfluorex) at odds with the drug’s medical properties.

    That says a lot, doesn’t it? In a civilised society, people are – in principle and hopefully – not punished for someone else’s suspicions.

    • “The drug is thought to have caused between 500 – 2,000 deaths”. How many deaths with homeopathy?

      • “The drug is thought to have caused between 500 – 2,000 deaths”.

        How many lives has it saved? And how was the combination of deaths/lives saved worse (or better or similar) than competing products? Put another way: how many people would have died without the Mediator treatment?

        Note that I am not defending anyone. I am only pointing out that the information in the media – as usual – is sensationalist and less than objective.

        How many deaths with homeopathy?

        Nobody knows: homeopaths are very thorough in their avoidance of records and statistics. Lack of knowledge is not proof of guilt, but it is also not proof of innocence, and given the zeal with which homeopaths avoid records and statistics, there are good reasons to suspect they know that their practices are no good. Suspicion is not enough for conviction, however. And let’s not talk about the fact that they are impressively unqualified for practicing medicine in the first place. Medicine is about reality, not poetry.

        • Mediator can’t be said to have saved any live. It was sold for “glycemic control” but it was an anorectic drug not better than other amphetamines, and had specific side effects on the heart and vessels that were highly predictable.
          Homeopathy could cause death if it induced a delay in cancer treatment, but there is no proof of that. It may be that homeopathy believers do not believe in conventional medicine, and for that reason, would have delayed treatment anyway.
          Another way to see the problem, a thought experiment : you have a chronic disease, you must see only one GP, the guy believes in homeopathy, and he prescribes you sugar pills and a potent drug with side effects. To get reimbursed from the consultation, you must buy at least one product. Which one would you choose? I’d choose the sugar pills.

          • “I’d choose the sugar pills.”

            Then you’re blindly failing to take account of the detail. What is the chronic disease? Is it expected to shorten your life? Cause a lot of pain? What is the “potent drug with side effects”? How efficacious is it proven to be in relieving the symptoms of your chronic disease? What are the side effects? Do you have any pre-existing conditions that make severe side effects more likely in your own case?

            In other words, it’s the specific risk:benefit ratio that’s important in judging appropriate medication, and any competent doctor will be aware of that in recommending an individualized treatment for you. (Yes, real medicine takes account of individual circumstances.)

            Your thought experiment is over-simplified nonsense. Any GP who “believes in homeopathy” has failed to understand her science training. A recent paper suggests that doctors who prescribe homeopathy tend to be less competent at prescribing conventional medicine. (This story has also been reported here and here and here.)

            Unlike you, I’d personally shy away from any qualified medic who recommended homeopathy, particularly if they didn’t provide any opportunity for ‘informed consent’ — including a statement that there’s no evidence for any effects of homeopathy beyond placebo.

          • I would not be so absolute. I have not studied the case in any depth, but my first impressions based on the article you referred to (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benfluorex) are different. The very first reference in that article, a study made in 2006, conludes this:
            Benfluorex as an add-on therapy was superior to placebo in lowering A1C with a between-group difference of 1% in type 2 diabetic patients whose disease was insufficiently controlled with sulfonylurea alone and in whom metformin was contraindicated or not tolerated.
            1% does seem ridiculously small and it seems unlikely that this would have any clinicallly noticeable effects. It may well be one of those statistical flukes homeopaths so eagerly exploit.

            Also, it was used in the *hope* it would make a difference in patients who are not reacting well to more conventional medications, as well as to help them lose weight. In other words, these were patients who were already in more trouble than the average diabetic and could therefore use every bit of help available.

            What seems far more troublesome – again, at first sight – is this:
            It was also hugely misprescribed, with doctors routinely handing out Mediator as an appetite-suppressant for people with common or garden weight problems.
            Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-12155639

            Doctors should not prescribe treatments, any treatments, when they are not necessary. They should prescribe the ‘best available’ treatments. But what can they do with patients who are unwilling or unable to do their part of the work?

          • Unlike you, I’d personally shy away from any qualified medic who recommended homeopathy

            Which is exactly what I have done myself a week or two ago. There is no way I am going to seek advice from someone who has proven herself/himself to be incompetent.

          • Frank Odds
            In my thought experiment, I am the patient, not the scientific expert. If the GP is stupid enough to believe in homeopathy, should I trust him when he prescribes a drug? And if a national policy tend to favor homeopathy, should I believe it for the rest? Especially when I know that huge conflict of interests are at stake?
            BB van Boekstaele
            Mediator was an anorectic drug, that’s how it lowered glycemia. Other anorectic drugs were illegal in France, but not Benfluorex. Why were we using the only drugs with these lethal side effects, except because the company was French?

          • BB van Boekstaele
            Mediator was an anorectic drug, that’s how it lowered glycemia. Other anorectic drugs were illegal in France, but not Benfluorex. Why were we using the only drugs with these lethal side effects, except because the company was French?

            Asking questions is a Good Thing, but just because you can ask a question does not make someone guilty. What you need is answers to those questions in the form of demonstrable evidence of evil intentions. If you don’t have that, your opinion is just an uninformed guess/wish, of the same level as homeopaths who claim their system works, without ever providing anything that even smells like demonstrable evidence.

  • BBvB
    For homeopaths, the fact that the customers are satisfied is evidence. When you get money from something, you can accept any kind of evidence.

    • say no more!

      • @ Frank Odds
        “Unlike you, I’d personally shy away from any qualified medic who recommended homeopathy”
        Why do you say that? I am just saying that homeopaths are to be avoided. But if I were forced to chose among their prescription between the sugar pills and the drug, I’d choose the sugar pills.

        • @Gerald Mansoif

          I already gave my reasons. You already said: “I am the patient, not the scientific expert.” But patients nowadays have many web resources on which to look things up, and doctors sometimes complain that patients know more about available treatments than they do themselves, thanks to Google. You come over as someone who thinks all drugs are inherently bad and that “huge conflict of interests are at stake”, which is neither rational nor reasonable.

        • Frank,

          Why would doctors complain about patients knowing more about available treatments than they do? I’d personally shy away from docs that don’t want more information, or patients interested in actively participating in their treatments.

          • Why would doctors complain about patients knowing more about available treatments than they do? I’d personally shy away from docs that don’t want more information, or patients interested in actively participating in their treatments.

            Because the majority of these treatments would be quackery, and the doctors would face the near-impossible task of informing them of that. A good example of this is the sad case of ‘liberation therapy’ for multiple sclerosis.

          • so you think it would be best for patients NOT to inform their docs about quack treatments they might be trying (or thinking of trying) – because educating patients would be difficult? do you think that strategy would better, or worse, for the welfare of the patient?

          • so you think it would be best for patients NOT to inform their docs about quack treatments they might be trying (or thinking of trying) – because educating patients would be difficult? do you think that strategy would better, or worse, for the welfare of the patient?

            No, these doctors would want to know, and they would want to inform their patients. But there aren’t enough doctors and if they have to spend more and more time educating patients, they will also see fewer and fewer patients, which is not all that conducive to solving the problem of not having enough doctors.

          • solving the problem of not enough doctors isn’t the primary concern – practicing good medicine is. if seeing fewer and fewer patients is what it takes to practice good medicine (and good medicine includes educating patients regarding quack treatments), then that’s obviously what needs to be done.

            not educating patients when they suggest bogus treatments would be sub par medicine practice. knowingly providing sub par medicine is quackery. i hope you’re not advocating quackery because there’s a shortage of doctors.

          • i hope you’re not advocating quackery because there’s a shortage of doctors.

            No, I am pointing out a problem. Pointing out a problem is not quite the same as advocating something, is it?

          • sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference between complaining and pointing out a problem, isn’t it? especially when you were explaining why doctors are complaining about having to practice medicine.

            good to hear you’re in the latter camp.

          • sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference between complaining and pointing out a problem, isn’t it? especially when you were explaining why doctors are complaining about having to practice medicine.

            good to hear you’re in the latter camp.

            Either my English grammar is terrible, or you have a very poor understanding of English. Possibly both.

    • BBvB
      For homeopaths, the fact that the customers are satisfied is evidence. When you get money from something, you can accept any kind of evidence.

      So then, why the fuss about Mediator?

  • Frank,
    You don’t read what I write, you just pick up some words out of context.
    BBvB
    The fuss is that some customers complain (those who suffer from pulmonary hypertension, and are not dead yet).

    • BBvB
      The fuss is that some customers complain (those who suffer from pulmonary hypertension, and are not dead yet).

      I see, and because the ones treated by homeopathy are all dead already, they don’t complain and there is therefore no fuss to be made about homeopathy, yes?

      • BBvB
        The ones treated by homeopathy and not dead yet do not complain to be killed by sugar pills.

        • There is definitely some truth in that. Because of homeopathy, patients will wait longer before they get treatment, and when they finally do, they will accuse their doctors who are desperately trying to save them of incompetence, and praise the homeopath for anything they can dream up. And when they finally die in agony, their favourite homeopaths will gladly accuse the doctors and their ‘toxic pharmaceuticals’. The homeopath wins, the patient loses, but no homeopath will let any sleep over it, and instead enjoy a well-swindled snooze alongside his private swimming pool.

  • Another thought experiment.
    You are forced to see a psychic surgeon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychic_surgery
    Would you prefer him to work bare hands or with a scalpel?

    • Another thought experiment.
      You are forced to see a psychic surgeon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychic_surgery
      Would you prefer him to work bare hands or with a scalpel?

      I would not want a psychic surgeon to be in the same building, let alone the same room.

      • Now you see my point, with a health minister who is supporter of homeopathy, wouldn’t you worry more on the question of 11 mandatory vaccines, since the benefit and the risks of each vaccine are highly complex issues, and there are more important COI?

        • No. Just because one party may profit from a decision, doesn’t mean the decision is to the detriment of the population. In your example of vaccines, the population is a clear winner. In your example of psychic surgeons, the population is a clear loser.

          • “In your example of vaccines the population is a clear winner.”
            Not so easy. You have to calculate the benefit and the risk of each vaccine. To calculate the benefit you must know the annual death rate of the population before mandatory vaccination (the easiest in the calculation) then how full vaccination of the population would impact this death rate (much more difficult, as most vaccines are actually not able to eradicate the virus, many of them because they only provide transient protection), and the most difficult is to evaluate the risk related to vaccination of the population, (mainly related to autoimmunity) which is individually very low, but there is no way to measure a risk that would still exceed the benefits. Moreover mandatory vaccination will be a way to distort competition in favor of a French company, as there will be limited choice in te vaccines. Finally, in case of damage, the costs will not be for the company, but for the population. So, in this example the winner is certainly the French company, not the population.

          • Not so easy.

            Indeed. The risks associated with vaccination are so incredibly low, that it is often no longer possible to determine them, i.e. they are or are almost below the limit of detection.
            In addition, you do NOT only have to calculate the death rate. This is not merely a matter of being alive or being dead, it is also a matter of having a certain quality of life. While the death rates of measles were once staggering (and still are in certain regions) the cases of brain damage caused by measles were much more numerous.
            And yes, there are ways to calculate benefits, even benefits that are smaller than the risks, and if the risks exceed the benefits, the product will not make it to market, and if it does, continued monitoring showing that the risks exceed the benefits will lead to its withdrawal.

            Moreover mandatory vaccination will be a way to distort competition in favor of a French company, as there will be limited choice in te vaccines.

            Which would not go undetected for very long if at all: it would be extremely strange if France had significantly different statistics than the other countries surrounding it.

            More general: vaccines do not eradicate viruses. They encourage the natural protection mechanisms of the body to protect us against them. That’s quite different.

            By the way, I am still waiting for the evidence of intentional wrong-doing in the Mediator scandal. Please provide it. I am sure I am not the only one who is interested in seeing it.

  • BBvB
    Under limits of detection does not mean that the risks are below the benefits. This means that you cannot measure them, which is completely different.
    You can observe epidemics even in vaccinated populations. Even if the vaccine is poorly efficient it will be very difficult to make a conclusion by comparing different countries.
    I am waiting for the evidence of intentional wrong-doing by homeopaths, it may just be that they believe that the sugar pills are efficient, exactly like Servier was not able to take into account the side effects of Mediator, which were obvious.

    Frank Odds
    Watch carefully the curves: in half of the cases, decrease began BEFORE vaccination. For hepatitis B, the number of reported cases continued to increase after the first vaccine campaign. For pertussis, it came back.

    • Under limits of detection does not mean that the risks are below the benefits. This means that you cannot measure them, which is completely different.

      Well done. It seems you understood what I wrote.

      You can observe epidemics even in vaccinated populations.

      Such deep insights. Come to think of it, is that not exactly what the information given by official sources says?

      Even if the vaccine is poorly efficient it will be very difficult to make a conclusion by comparing different countries.

      Well then, if you cannot conclude anything, the differences are hardly relevant, are they?

      I am waiting for the evidence of intentional wrong-doing by homeopaths, it may just be that they believe that the sugar pills are efficient, exactly like Servier was not able to take into account the side effects of Mediator, which were obvious.

      Not quite. Homeopaths have run out of time. They have had over 200 years to show plausible evidence that their system works. They still haven’t. So, either homeopaths are all idiots, or their refusal to provide evidence is intentional, i.e. malevolent. In science, we investigate first, and conclude later. The Mediator case, as far as I know, is still being investigated, but I may be wrong. If I am, please tell me how you know.

      Alternatively, we could give Mediator as much time as homeopathy and come back in 200 years to see what we find, yes?

  • The differences are hardly relevant, are they?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236292/
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15365133
    Mediator, in French:
    http://www.rolandsimion.org/spip.php?article169
    In 200 years, there will be no more Mediator, but there will still be homeopathy, because there will still be idiots, and as long as as they use sugar pills instead of drugs, I don’t care.

    • I don’t know what you are trying to communicate here. The first two links seem to indicate that the risks associated with vaccination are extraordinarily low, and the third page contains the word ‘Mediator’ exactly once and doesn’t even talk about the product.

      As for homeopathy, since there is no adverse event reporting system, we can only know what spontaneous, well-documented case reports in the medical literature show us. In combination with published studies about the lack of beneficial effects, the net result of homeopathy seems to be rather less than beneficial. Even idiots – one could argue, especially idiots – are entitled to some protection. You may not care about that, but some people do.

  • BvBB
    Well, if you don’t know what I mean, at least you should understand that, in the same manner, homeopaths do not know what means the Avogadro number (too many figures, and why is 23 not in line with 10?).
    I mean that homeopaths are more dangerous when they prescribe thyroid hormones or diuretics for losing weight than when they prescribe sugar pills.
    So there are two different questions: 1) the inherent stupidity in believing in homeopathy 2) the danger of drug prescription by stupid individuals (who are MDs in France). That’s why I was talking about a lesser evil.

    • So there are two different questions: 1) the inherent stupidity in believing in homeopathy 2) the danger of drug prescription by stupid individuals (who are MDs in France). That’s why I was talking about a lesser evil.

      I’m not sure I concur. While I certainly would agree that there are (plenty of) stupid doctors, I would submit that even the most stupid doctor is less dangerous than a homeopath. However, since we don’t know and cannot know how dangerous homeopaths really are, there is no reliable basis of comparison. It seems just logical that someone who has no education (homeopath) is more likely to cause (serious) harm than someone who does have an education (doctor).

      I am also still interested in getting evidence of the evil intentions by the makers of Mediator. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence, is there?

  • 1) In France, homeopathy is only prescribed by medical doctors. So, in theory, homeopaths have education. And yes, they use also real drugs which can harm the patients.
    2) Mediator: the aim of the company was to make money by selling a drug that was not better than the competitors, and in addition, had serious side effects that they didn’t want to consider. As always, judgement is altered by COI.

    • In France, homeopathy is only prescribed by medical doctors.

      I did not know that, Can you point me to an official reference for this?

      Mediator: the aim of the company was to make money by selling a drug that was not better than the competitors, and in addition, had serious side effects that they didn’t want to consider. As always, judgement is altered by COI.

      I am well aware of that claim. I was not asking for it to be repeated. Just because someone makes a claim, does not make it true. What is the evidence that the company had evil intentions?

    • Homeopathy may be prescribed or taken by anyone. Even in France people are taking remedies all the time, prescription or not.
      I have a remedy by my side right now, in the form of a glass filled with Mensam Periodica 2-2000C* water that has been diluted in nature and potentised by the pumps and in the pipelines. Potent stuff, I tell you !

      *The potency is of course varied but this remedy is the most omnipotent of them all because it has been potentised through time from all the elements and all possible combinations thereof. No need to order from Helios, Nelsons or any other homeopharmacy after this discovery of mine. Just open your water tap, it’s free.

  • @ BBvB, EE
    From the author:
    “Recently, a sizable number of prominent doctors protested publicly against the fact that, despite its implausibility and the lack of proof of efficacy, homeopathy continues to be reimbursed in France and scarce funds are being wasted on it.”
    That’s what the article is about.
    @ BBvB
    “It may well be that their guilt will be demonstrated in the future, but that time isn’t now.”
    It may well be that the guilt of homeopaths will be demonstrated in the future, but that time isn’t now. For the time homeopathy is prescribed in France, if you wait for justice, you’ll have to wait for long. If you wait for French justice to make your own judgement…

  • That’s what the article is about.

    I get that. It still escapes me why reimbursement would be centrally important. Sure, there are good reasons to protest against the waste it represents, but the central issue is whether or not homeopathy is beneficial, and we know it is not.

    If you wait for French justice to make your own judgement…

    There is a non-trivial difference here. This isn’t about whether or not treatments work, but about whether or not the parties engaged malevolently in the promotion of something that doesn’t work. I am not convinced that this has been proven, and justice systems around the world seem to be of the same opinion.

    While there have been a few individual (exceedingly rare) cases where people engaging in homeopathy have been convicted, there is – as far as I know – not a single country that has banned the practice of homeopathy, despite the mountains of available evidence that show it performs no better than placebo. Worse, (almost) all countries have enacted legislation to protect homeopaths from prosecution.

    I think that granting the people involved in the Mediator scandal the presumption of innocence until their guilt has been proven, is not excessive.

  • Reimbursement is centrally important because we tolerate homeopathy as a question of freedom. Like people are free to believe in religion, miracles and hosts, people are free to believe in sugar pills. But citizens don’t have to pay for this.
    In the Mediator scandal, the accusation relates to negligent homicide. Feel free to say that homeopaths are crooks, I don’t see any problem with that, but there is still no trial of homeopaths for swindle.

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