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

Remember when an international delegation of homeopaths travelled to Liberia to cure Ebola?

Virologists and other experts thought at the time that this was pure madness. But, from the perspective of dedicated homeopaths who have gone through ‘proper’ homeopathic ‘education’ and have the misfortune to believe all the nonsense they have been told, this is not madness. In fact, the early boom of homeopathy, about 200 years ago, was based not least on the seemingly resounding success homeopaths had during various epidemics.

I fully understand that homeopath adore this type of evidence – it is good for their ego! And therefore, they tend to dwell on it and re-hash it time and again. The most recent evidence for this is a brand-new article entitled ‘Homeopathic Prevention and Management of Epidemic Diseases’. It is such a beauty that I present you the original abstract without change:

START OF QUOTE

___________________________________________________________________________

Homeopathy has been used to treat epidemic diseases since the time of Hahnemann, who used Belladonna to treat scarlet fever. Since then, several approaches using homeopathy for epidemic diseases have been proposed, including individualization, combination remedies, genus epidemicus, and isopathy.

METHODS:

The homeopathic research literature was searched to find examples of each of these approaches and to evaluate which were effective.

RESULTS:

There is good experimental evidence for each of these approaches. While individualization is the gold standard, it is impractical to use on a widespread basis. Combination remedies can be effective but must be based on the symptoms of a given epidemic in a specific location. Treatment with genus epidemicus can also be successful if based on data from many practitioners. Finally, isopathy shows promise and might be more readily accepted by mainstream medicine due to its similarity to vaccination.

CONCLUSION:

Several different homeopathic methods can be used to treat epidemic diseases. The challenge for the future is to refine these approaches and to build on the knowledge base with additional rigorous trials. If and when conventional medicine runs out of options for treating epidemic diseases, homeopathy could be seen as an attractive alternative, but only if there is viable experimental evidence of its success.

END OF QUOTE

____________________________________________________________________________________

I don’t need to stress, I think, that such articles are highly irresponsible and frightfully dangerous: if anyone ever took the message that homeopathy has the answer to epidemic seriously, millions might die.

The reasons why epidemiological evidence of this nature is wrong has been discussed before on this blog; I therefore only need to repeat them:

In the typical epidemiological case/control study, one large group of patients [A] is retrospectively compared to another group [B]. In our case, group A has been treated homeopathically, while group B received the treatments available at the time. It is true that several of such reports seemed to suggest that homeopathy works. But this does by no means prove anything; the result might have been due to a range of circumstances, for instance:

  • group A might have been less ill than group B,
  • group A might have been richer and therefore better nourished,
  • group A might have benefitted from better hygiene in the homeopathic hospital,
  • group A might have received better care, e. g. hydration,
  • group B might have received treatments that made the situation not better but worse.

Because these are RETROSPECTIVE studies, there is no way to account for these and many other factors that might have influenced the outcome. This means that epidemiological studies of this nature can generate interesting results which, in turn, need testing in properly controlled studies where these confounding factors are adequately controlled for. Without such tests, they are next to worthless for recommendations regarding clinical practice.

In essence, this means that epidemiological evidence of this type can be valuable for generating hypotheses which, in turn, need testing in rigorous clinical trials. Without these tests, the evidence can be dangerously misleading.

But, of course, Jennifer Jacobs, the author of the new article, knows all this – after all, she has been employed for many years by the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States!

In this case, why does she re-hash the old myth of homeopathy being the answer to epidemics?

I do not know the answer to this question, but I do know that she is a convinced homeopath with plenty of papers on the subject.

And what sort of journal would publish such dangerous, deeply unethical rubbish?

It is a journal we have discussed several before; its called HOMEOPATHY.

This journal is, I think, remarkable: not even homeopaths would deny that homeopathy is a most controversial subject. One would therefore expect that the editorial board of the leading journal of homeopathy (Impact Factor = 1.16) has a few members who are critical of homeopathy and its assumptions. Yet, I fail to spot a single such person of the board of HOMEOPATHY. Please have a look yourself and tell me, if you can identify such an individual:

Editor

Peter Fisher
FRCP, FFHom, London, UK

Senior Deputy Editor

Robert T. Mathie
BSc (Hons), PhD, London, UK

Deputy Editors

Leoni Bonamin
Paulista University, São Paulo, Brazil

Menachem Oberbaum
Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel

Ethics Adviser

Kate Chatfield
University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK

Editorial Advisory Board

Cees Baas
Centre for Integrative Psychiatry, Groningen, The Netherlands

Stephan Baumgartner
University of Witten-Herdecke, Germany

Iris R. Bell
University of Arizona, USA

Jayesh Bellare
Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India

Philippe Belon
Centre de Recherche et de Documentation Thérapeutique, France

Brian Berman
University of Maryland, School of Medicine, USA

Martien Brands
Centre for Integrative Care, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Michael Carlston
University of California, Santa Rosa, USA

Kusum S. Chand
Pushpanjali Crosslay Hospital, Ghaziabad, India

Martin Chaplin
London South Bank University, UK

Flávio Dantas
University of Uberlândia, Brazil

Peter Darby
Faculty of Homeopathy, UK

Jonathan Davidson
Duke University, USA

Jean-Louis Demangeat
Haguenau Hospital, France

Christian Endler
Interuniversity College Graz/Castle of Seggau, Austria

Madeleine Ennis
Queen’s University Belfast, UK

Edoardo Felisi
Milan, Italy

Peter Gregory
Veterinary Dean, Faculty of Homeopathy, UK

German Guajardo-Bernal
University of Baja California, Mexico

Carla Holandino Quaresma
Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Jennifer Jacobs
University of Washington, USA

Wayne Jonas
Samueli Institute, Alexandria, USA

Lee Kayne
Faculty of Homeopathy, UK

Steven Kayne
Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital, UK

David Lilley
Pretoria, South Africa

Klaus Linde
Technical University, Munich, Germany

Russell Malcolm
Faculty of Homeopathy, UK

Raj K. Manchanda
Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy, New Delhi, India

David Peters
University of Westminster, London, UK

Bernard Poitevin
Association Française pour la Recherche en Homéopathie, France

David Reilly
Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital, UK

David Riley
Integrative Medicine Institute, Portland, USA

ALB Rutten
Breda, The Netherlands

Jürgen Schulte
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Trevor Thompson
University of Bristol, UK

André Thurneysen
Centre de médecines intégrées, Switzerland

Alexander Tournier
Homeopathy Research Institute, UK

Francis Treuherz
London, UK

Robbert van Haselen
International Institute for Integrated Medicine, Kingston, UK

Michel Van Wassenhoven
Unio Homeopathica Belgica, Belgium

Harald Walach
University of Witten-Herdecke, Germany

Fred Wiegant
University of Utrecht, The Netherlands

___________________________________________________________________________

I rest my case.

 

11 Responses to Homeopathic Prevention and Management of Epidemic Diseases

  • Fran Sheffield from Australian “Homeopathy Plus” forced an online petition to provide homeopathy as “Ebola therapy” last autumn. It found about 2.000 signatories – and reached former WHO president Margaret Chan in 2017.
    It is not known whether this played a role at the end of her term as President…

  • Homeopaths are so funny;
    ‘Ethics Adviser. Kate Chatfield. University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK’
    Apparently she got a BA in philosophy and MSc in ‘holistic healthcare provision’ and then she did a PhD in bioethics.

    Sad to see so many people listed are affiliated with universities.

    • … which makes it very hard to convince the layman out there that homeopathy is bogus.

      • Sometimes I think homeopathy is a little bit like ‘world wide wrestling’ or whatever it’s being called. Everyone in those packed arenas knows that everything is staged, it is not real, and yet they are quite happy to pay quite a lot to be fooled. It’s as if some people wants to be fooled.

        • good point!

        • Amen! (pun intended)

        • Problem with homeopathy is that not all the people share the same understanding.

        • Good point Frank and it may apply best to the many in the passive “audience” of homeopathy who are at best only occasional users or peddlers.

          In general I tend to see homeopathy as any other religion with its deity in Hahnemann, its scriptures in the Organon and Materia Medica etc. Its prophets and Cardinals e.g. Fisher, Withoulkas, Ullmann… etc.
          The religious “scholars” are there such as Mathie, Ennis, Chaplin etc. trying their best to explain the inexplicable.

          When interacting with the more involved proponents and practitioners of homeopathy, their behaviour and reactions to critique are very much in line with those of deeply religious people.
          I find homeopathy indistinguishable from religious cults and congregations. Homeopaths are completely rigid in their belief and inert to the elements of scientific criticism.

          I tend to avoid interacting critically with them in public, except of course for the occasional amusing dialog with their loudmouthed rep’s here on this blog. 🙂

          I recently wrote a critical review on Amazon, on a book by Icelandic homeopaths.
          The scathing wrath and fury it evoked was expressed in the form of a wordy monologue on an Icelandic homeopathic Facebook site. It was to the effect that we, the skeptics, were mean and wrathful and unfair to the honest and benevolent healers with a long academic education in a noble art of healing that is persecuted and misunderstood by science, which according to the religious scholars just short of understanding how homeopathy works.
          Such sympathy soliciting defensive responses are typical and one of the reasons why so few have the energy and guts to maintain a publicly critical attitude towards homeopathy.

          • alternatively, one could argue that religion, homeopathy and show-wrestling are all expressions of our need for entertainment.

          • It is a very well written review.

            One technique that I tend to use when I believe something is fishy is to look at peoples reactions when I question them. The reaction of CAM practitioners is usually quite aggressive and tend to become ad hominem when you state the facts. And that tells me that most of them know damn well that they are misleading the public.

            But there is another field in science where I think things are almost worse than in CAM. They also have their deity and a great many prophets and as soon as you raise questions people will block you, call you names etc. Nothing to do with CAM so I won’t name it here, but I believe as a scientist one should be consistent and speak up, using appropriate platforms, when science is being abused to serve vested interests.

  • Edzard

    “One would therefore expect that the editorial board of the leading journal of homeopathy (Impact Factor = 1.16) has a few members who are critical of homeopathy and its assumptions.”

    Is that because you say so or Is that a rule?
    What does BMJ offer as equivalent?

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