Indian doctors have just published the case of a 38-year old man with cirrhosis of the liver due to compensated non-alcoholic fatty-liver-disease. He presented with acute worsening of his chronic liver disease. The acute event was not discernible even after extensive work up. Eventually, a transjugular liver biopsy revealed features suggestive of severe alcoholic hepatitis.

The patient and the family denied occult alcohol use when questioned over multiple times. According to the authors, the culprit ‘alcohol’ was found to be the homoeopathy medicines: the patient had been consuming a homeopathic remedy over a month for treatment of Gilbert’s syndrome. The researchers retrieved and tested the homoeopathy drug for alcohol content and found it contained 18% of ethanol. This, they felt, confirmed their diagnosis of alcoholic liver disease caused by the regular consumption of a homeopathic remedy.

Why did the patient help from a homeopath? Gilbert’s syndrome doesn’t usually require any treatment at all. Two weeks into his new treatment, the patient claimed he was feeling drowsy and slurring his speech, as if intoxicated. The liquid homeopathic formulation was therefore reduced at this stage. A further two weeks passed when his eyes yellowed, his urine darkened, and his legs began to swell. A liver tests confirmed a spike in his bilirubin 10 times above normal, with liver enzymes also elevated. All signs were thus pointing to an acute form of hepatitis commonly associated with alcohol binges. With the patient adamant he hadn’t touched alcohol, the doctors looked for other causes of hepatitis. None were found. When the patient admitted using homeopathy, his doctors thought to have found an explanation for the problem.

Despite starting the patient on a range of treatments and referring him to a liver transplant centre for further management, the damage to the patient’s liver proved to be irreversible. One month and 12 days later, the patient developed multiple organ failure and passed away. The authors of this case report point out “at risk patients and the general population need to be educated regarding the fact that complementary and alternative medications are not without side-effects.”

I do agree with their comment, but I very much doubt that their diagnosis of homeopathy-induced liver disease was correct. If the alcohol in the homeopathic remedy truly had been the cause, the patient would have needed to consume well in excess of one litre of it per day. The authors do not tell us about the volume of consumption, but I doubt that a patient would be able to afford such an orgy in homeopathy.

Highly diluted homeopathic remedies contain nothing, it is often said. This is not entirely true. In the case of solid preparations (globuli), they do contain sugar, and in the case of liquid remedies, they contain alcohol. Yet, as a source of either ingredient, they are neither practical nor economical. I fear therefore that the medical team of the diseased man are mistaken when accusing homeopathy of being the cause of their patient’s death.

40 Responses to A fatal case of homeopathic liver disease?

  • If you were REALLY serious about your concerns about liver disease, then, you’d be an outspoken opponent of glyphosate.

    There is no irony in the fact that this one problem with a homeopathic medicine took place in India where anyone can get virtually any drug over-the-counter. The hyper-regular deaths from conventional drugs is never “news,” while the super-exceedingly rare problems with ANY homeopathic medicine becomes “news” because it is so friggin’ rare. No irony here…keep your talking points (you’re being very funny with your hyper-biases).

    • this blog is about SCAM, Dana!
      that’s why I report about homeopathy etc.
      there are many who write about liver disease and glyphosate and many other things.
      but I am not one of them.

    • DU must have slept through epidemiology classes during his MPH studies?

      • coffea C30!

      • Just to get the facts straight, the study referred to in the article our favourite homepath cited contains a long shot guess based on a possibly random association and wild conjecture. It claims an association, which is in no way supported by the findings. I can think of several confounders behind an association between trace amounts of Glyphosate and a lifestyle related liver problem, i.e. non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This association is weaker than that between the annual number of films Nicholas Cage played in and the annual number of people who drowned by falling into a pool 😀

        To fulfil the red-banner rule, here you can find the evidence for my claim:

    • Let’s drill down into that, Dana.

      We’ll consider the risk versus benefit of a remedy, be it homeopathic or otherwise.

      When a conventional drug or procedure is shown to be harmful in certain situations, when risk outweighs benefit, or when it is shown to be ineffective, it is no longer used. The data is respected.

      Tell us when homeopaths have stopped using a particular remedy when it has shown to be harmful or ineffective. Show us when they have respected the data.

      And show us where on the UC San Diego website that you link to where they endorse homeopathy.

      They don’t. Shouldn’t they? You seem to like what they say about glyphosate.

      If glyphosate is demonstrated to be harmful by subsequent larger studies, let’s see what happens.

      The data will be respected.

      Meanwhile you and the other homeopaths will continue to yammer.

      Carry on, Dana. Your histionic flailings continue to be as inconsequential as ever.

    • In regards to a homeopathic remedy killing someone because it contained alcohol doesn’t make much sense since they contain so little. I know we’d all prefer it to be the booze, the fact of the matter is a miniscule amount of the ionized solute is quite capable of turning relatively innocent ethanol into a deadly weapon. I was brought onto the scene of a man, suffering from post-alcoholism, internal tumors and pancreatis (see Clarke,Calcarea Arsenicosa) who died after drinking a small bottle of homeopathic Calc. Ars., an LM, which caused the tumors to suddenly suppurate. These high potency soluions can cut like razors (see Kent, Hepar)
      But I must say, I’m intrigued to know why the report on the homeopathic treatment of malaria in Uganda, and its mention of someone named Ullman in malaria research, has not been pounced on by Prof. Ernst et al.
      Don’t tell me the Homeopathic Bully has silenced the skeptoids . .
      What fun!
      The proposed model of an “expressive” reaction is intriguing because of the extrusion of the different types of plasmodia used in Ruchira’s Kenyan version of a supramolecular “vaccine, indicates here that classic pathological similitude of the target are confused by the “scent” of different strains of plasmodia from similar species that interrupts the sexual metamorphosis of the little buggers, once again suggesting that rather than simply triggering the host’s immune response, these supramolecular solutions actually have a primary action on pathogens such as Plasmodium falciparum.

      • 18% alcohol is quite a lot, John. That’s the strength of a fortified wine.

        “These high potency solutions can cut like razors”

        Only if you drop the bottle and are careless with the broken glass.

        • Lenny, how can you state that 18% alcohol is a lot when only 1, 2, 3, 4 drops are taken (depending on who is taking it)?

          In comparison the multi pints of beer, or bottles of wine, or shots of vodka, or whatever alcoholic ‘beverage’ are consumed by millions of people every day, a drop of remedy is zilch (unless you are allergic to alcohol)?

          It seems like you are taking the piss again?

          John: what are you talking about: ‘cut like razors’?

          • Greg

            He may well not having been taking it As Directed and discovered that he felt much better if he necked a bottle of the stuff every day. As people do feel better after a large glass of sherry. But, as Edzard says in the OP “I very much doubt that their diagnosis of homeopathy-induced liver disease was correct. If the alcohol in the homeopathic remedy truly had been the cause, the patient would have needed to consume well in excess of one litre of it per day”

          • Lenny,

            I much prefer a glass of Sherry to necking a bottle of homeopathic medicine, and, I am guessing, John would too.

            Does anyone know whether this is the first time that Edzard Ernst has defended homeopathy from an attempted slur?

            John: I am interested to know about homeopathy high potency remedies cutting ‘like razors’. ‘Like razors’ is a simile, so what does ‘cutting like razors’ actually mean in regard to the action of high potency remedies inside the human body?

        • Overdoses, what in homeopathy are called “aggravations”, happens a lot and are quite debilitating. The only explanation is the ionized solute. If you don’t believe it, prove your hypothesis, put it to a mediated test, Lenny, drink a whole bottle of Calcarea Arsenicosa LM 12 in liquid (Dana should be happy to sell you a bottle) then refill it with distilled water and bang it against a firm surface, like a book or your head a few times, drink it and have someone standing by to give us an honest report, call an ambulance or write your obituary for your honest reaction. If you’ve really tried homeopathics, you’d know they’re more than placebos. They can lay you out like a board.
          Or read “Proving of the Xray” by Allen . It will make you sick just reading it.

          • Homeopathic aggravations have often been described anecdotally. However, few attempts have been made to scientifically verify their existence. This systematic review aimed at comparing the frequency of homeopathic aggravations in the placebo and verum groups of double-blind, randomised clinical trials. Eight independent literature searches were carried out to identify all such trials mentioning either adverse effects or aggravations. All studies thus found were validated and data were extracted by both authors. Twenty-four trials could be included. The average number of aggravations was low. In total, 50 aggravations were attributed to patients treated with placebo and 63 to patients treated with homoeopathically diluted remedies. We conclude that this systematic review does not provide clear evidence that the phenomenon of homeopathic aggravations exists.

          • “Or read “Proving of the Xray” by Allen . It will make you sick just reading it.”

            It made me laugh, John. It still astonishes me how homeopaths read this twaddle and believe it. Anyway.

            What size bottle of Calcarea Arsenicosa LM12? They come in 10, 20, 30, 50 or 100ml.

          • John

            1. If 6C X-Ray gives people symptoms from taking one dose, what about getting a full blast of the real X-Ray, will people get sick from that too?

            2. If people get symptoms from one dose of 6C X-Ray, is it safe to be giving it to sick patients?

            I have loads of questions for you but let’s take it easy with one or two at a time. Would you please start off with my first question re: cutting like razors.

            Thanks John

  • I guess I wouldn’t be so sure that he wasn’t chugging homeopathic remedies. They wouldn’t be more expensive than drinking alcohol if he had a supplier who was making remedies in bulk and charging him roughly the cost of the liquor.

    There are many people who eat bizarre diets. Usually they have some sort of psychological disorder, but if he was very ill, that would count.

  • I believe the patient that suffered may have actually died from HCV infection (hepatitis C). HCV can mimic cirrhosis of the liver.

  • Has Edzard turned the corner on homeopathy?
    I fear therefore that the medical team of the diseased man are mistaken when accusing homeopathy of being the cause of their patient’s death.

    • “cutting like razors” = suppuration. Read the ref by Kent

      • John, it seems like so far you have been treated decently since returning to this site, and it is good to know that you are ok.

        i have read Kent and he is my teacher, but the homeopathy books, Kent’s included, are not Statutes. Your equation: ‘“cutting like razors” = suppuration. Read the ref by Kent’ makes no sense to me at all in terms of explaining what are are meant to explain: the effect/action of the remedy in the body. Suppuration is a gross result of the disease process (the last stages in the chain of the process).

        Thanks for trying to answer the question though, it is good of you.

    • Frankly, Greg, I don’t see how he could not have turned the corner somewhere in the recesses of his mind. Physical evidence for the description of homeopathic diluents chemically, their physical description and mechanism of action has become so overwhelming that it is now impossible to reasonably deny it.

      • have you considered a career as a stand-up comedian, John?

      • “Physical evidence for the description of homeopathic diluents chemically, their physical description and mechanism of action has become so overwhelming that it is now impossible to reasonably deny it.”

        Meanwhile, in the Real World..

      • John,

        If it was not you that wrote what you wrote:’Frankly, Greg, I don’t see how he could not have turned the corner somewhere in the recesses of his mind. Physical evidence for the description of homeopathic diluents chemically, their physical description and mechanism of action has become so overwhelming that it is now impossible to reasonably deny it.’, my response would be: that is a ludicrous statement to make.

        John, where the Nobel prize for this extraordinary discovery of physics that you claim is ‘impossible to deny’?

      • John, I would like to know what your views are because you and Dana have, over the years, been two of the main arguers in the ‘for homeopathy’ camp on this site. It is good to know that there are people out there standing up for homeopathy but my reading of your and Dana’s comments is that it is a particular type of homeopathy that you seem to be proponents of: the type that almost implies that homeopathy is a miraculous medicine that can cure virtually any disease or condition (cancer, serious infections etc). For the benefit of readers, this is not the truth of the matter.

        The majority of books on homeopathy in existence are superfluous, Hahnemann and Kent explained the philosophy and practice of homeopathy perfectly well, and both of them grappled with the difficulties encountered in using homeopathy successfully but Kent worked out a schema of possible outcomes of treatment that stands good today.

        In regard to your irrevocable evidence of homeopathic potencies: please cite it here.

  • I actually have Gilberts syndrome along with 3- 5% or so of the population. Many of this huge number will have few symptoms .However an unknown number will have debilitating symptoms and there has been no or little research on this. Hence Dr’s rarely offer any advice on GS. There are 1000s of us in GS online groups who all state the same sorry experience. Endless consulations over ill health, a casual GS diagnosis and no advice at all on GS from a Dr . So many of us go to CAM often in desperation where we have some possibility of getting some basic advice . Often we have to find out for ourselves actions that can help GS. This is unsatisfactory. Where is GS in evidence based medicine? There is no evidence that GS causes anything than minor symptoms but to me and many others with GS this is clearly wrong.
    I wonder where else EB medicine is lacking ? Or is this just the only instance?
    You lot won’t kill off CAM so long as EB medicine excludes common conditions such as GS.
    In trying to suppress CAM you will only continue to drive people to it and you just be able to won’t figure out why.
    Thank you Edzard for at least bringing GS up.

  • Can it be resolved Lenny?

  • There is one more problem: as far as I understood, patient was obese. And I remembered my mom: she visited endocrinologist because excessive sweating and endocrinologist told her that its normal for morbidly obese like her. She had and probably still has fatty liver, but person doing ultrasound told her it was very common and there was no need to worry. Her thyroid and other tests were with in the limits of norm, so the only thing endocrinologist could do was to advise her to loose weight. Probably he was rude, but probably not (it did not look like him, but I am not morbidly obese). So my mom went straight to homeopath, who promised easy cure. And did not say anything about loosing weight. It was a couple of years ago, and my mom had got forzen shoulders because of her obisity and lack of exercise, not homeopathe, and there was nothing endocrinologist could do for her, however I do not thing homeopath is absdolutely blameless.

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