I must have published well over two dozen articles in the peer-reviewed literature (and many more on this blog) warning of the indirect risks of homeopathy. The most obvious example of such risks is the advice many homeopaths give about vaccinations. Here is, for instance, a quote from an abstract I published in 1996:
… the question whether the homeopath is risk-free in all cases needs discussing. As a case in point, the attitude of some homeopaths towards immunization is quoted as an example of particular concern… the notion of totally risk-free homeopathy is untenable.
Almost a quarter of a century later, it seems that my cautions might finally be heeded. Several of today’s daily papers –THE GUARDIAN, THE DAILY MAIL, THE TIMES and THE DAILY TELEGRAPH – report that the message seems to have reached the higher echelons of the NHS in England. Here are a few short excerpts of what the TELEGRAPH tells its readers.
NHS leaders have gone to war on homeopathy by attempting to have the practice blacklisted amid fears it is fuelling anti-vax propaganda. The chief executive and medical director of NHS England have written to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), the statutory body that oversees healthcare regulation, urging it to strip accreditation from the Society of Homeopaths (SoH). They argue that endorsing the society affords it a “veneer of credibility” that lures vulnerable patients towards “bogus treatments”.
In particular, the health chiefs accuse homeopaths of propagating “mis-information” about vaccines. It follows the release of a major report last week which showed the uptake of pre-school vaccines is declining…
Mr Stevens said last night: “Anything that gives homeopathy a veneer of credibility risks chancers being able to con more people into parting with their hard-earned cash in return for bogus treatments which at best do nothing, and at worst can be potentially dangerous. Whether touted as a miracle cure or as protection from serious diseases – like so-called homeopathic vaccines – homeopathy is no replacement for rigorously tried and tested medical treatments delivered or prescribed by properly-qualified professionals, and by stopping people seeking expert help, misinformation and ineffective remedies pose a significant risk to people’s health.” His letter points out that both the NHS and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), take the position that homeopathic remedies are not scientifically valid.
What can I say?
I am, of course, tempted to say: I told you so!
But, on second thought, I prefer: BETTER LATE THAN NEVER.
And then I am bound to add: next, have a look at some other SCAM providers. Perhaps start with:
In the name of public health, I thank you.
Welcome news, I am sure influenced by the professors tireless efforts. Well done!
I have repeatedly called for the BMA’s Board of Science to review and report on the use of Reiki , therapeutic touch and other ‘energy therapies’ in the NHS – so far without success.
Misleading the public, lack of critical thinking, loss of intellectual integrity and a willingness to dupe the gullible and vulnerable seem not to figure too highly in the BMA’s concerns – and many of its members are only too happy to have patients so inclined to go elsewhere for the consolation, hope, love and attention they desire – from a wide variety of alternative practitioners. Now characterised by Mr Stevens as ‘chancers’.
Hahnemann was a good doctor who probably saved many from the harm caused by the extremes of bleeding, emetics, laxatives, expectorants and polypharmacy so prevalent in his time. But he “lost his way”, as a biographer put it, and set off on the path of occultism – and sadly, many accolytes have followed.
I was planning to have the GMC assess whether Dr Peter Fisher was fit to practice as a registered medical practitioner, given he failed to obtain properly informed consent from his patients. The emphasis of the NHS CEO on the harm caused by a mindset which accepts bizarre and false claims about not only therapy, but prophylaxis is welcome.
Homeopaths need not be too concerned about their careers. Those with a genuine desire, vocation and ability to assist patients should be able to realign their consciences and insights and serve healthcare as counsellors for those in emotional need. It always was offensive that the PSA gave a sense of credibility to the SoH.
My only concern is that so many journalists still do not understand. Only last night on the BBC News Papers Review the presenter commented on Mr Steven’s initiative saying “there is not much evidence homeopathy has any effect…”.
Firstly she failed to distinguish between ‘Homeopathy’ as a practice of diagnosis and inquiry and ‘homeopathic remedies’.
There is evidence that an hour’s consultaion with a homeopath makes some patients feel better. We ascribe this to placebo responses.
Secondly, there is no evidence whatsoever that any homeopathic remedy has ever had any effect on any specific pathological condition.
None. No evidence – not “not much”.
Journalists must face up to facts and report accordingly, not with sensitivity to persons of importance.
Speaking of which, surely any Royal Highness who publicly endorses homeopathic remedies by granting promotional warrants to purveyors of remedies, and thereby assists marketing of valueless remedies, should rethink the harm they are doing by their thoughtless support.
If Homeopathy is both useless and dangerous, how do you explain its huge use in India? 300,000 Homeopaths, 250,000 of which are trained Doctors treating 20, 000 patients a day. No one would pay money if it didn’t work and why would a quarter of a million trained Doctors think it does?
If bloodletting is both useless and dangerous, how do you explain its huge use during centuries? No one would pay money if it didn’t work and why would millions of trained Doctors think it does?
Just take a look at this: http://www.china-profile.com/data/fig_WPP2008_L0_1.htm
Can you think of a way to reconcile this abysmal life expectancy in India with what you apparently consider to be adequate healthcare? If so, please enlighten us.
Those look like some pretty underemployed homeopaths if they’re each only treating, on average, about one patient a fortnight.
But more seriously, the thing about India is it has a huge population, so if you just look at the numbers they look huge. If you look at the percentage of the population using homeopathy, though, you get a different picture. For example, a government survey in 2014 found that:
“Inclination towards allopathy treatment was prevalent (around 90% in both the sectors). Only 5 to 7 percent usage of ‘other’ including AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga or Naturopathy Unani, Siddha and homoeopathy) was reported both in rural and urban area.”
Note that that 5 to 7 percent is for all CAM, not just homeopathy.
I think that the main problem with homeopathy in India is that it is not merely tolerated by the government; it has gained a status as an official form of healthcare (alongside ayurveda, IIRC), and is promoted as such – much like TCM is promoted in China, and probably for much the same reasons: national pride, and a dire shortage of real doctors.
Apart from these reasons of political expediency, it has several other advantages: it is exceedingly cheap, childishly simple, and its ‘remedies’ are totally harmless, at least in principle. And as long as everyone ignores the (Indian) elephant in the room (i.e. that it is utterly useless quackery), everybody is happy, even if it means that lots of people receive placebo treatments instead of effective medicine, no matter if said people have very real, life-threatening conditions.
But IMO, the most disparaging thing about this is that it isn’t just these non-western governments who deceive their population en masse by their recognition and endorsement of quackery – we see similar developments in the US, where uneducated quacks also manage to get an ever firmer foothold in the world of real medicine, with government blessing and all. To me at least, it is a very scary prospect to end up in hospital or in a doctor’s office one day, only to discover that I’m the hands of a dumb quack.
Have you ever been to India? It is a very entertaining place, if a little daunting to the unprepared traveller. Wherever you go people are doing strange and completely incomprehensible things. Homeopathy is the least of it. How about the Karma theory of driving (if you have a road accident it is a result of how badly you have lived your life and has nothing to do with your driving skills, though it might mean that you will come back as an insect in your next life)? If you don’t believe me take an intercity bus journey, look out for all the crashed buses rusting by the roadside, assess your driver’s skill (and sobriety) and look at how all the other passengers crammed in are nevertheless happy to take the journey. Oh yes, and check the accident statistics afterwards.
Or if you want a seriously weird time go to Varanasi.
Let’s just take the cosmetics industry, for example (it could easily be food or fashion). How much do you think somebody would be prepared to pay for a cream or supplement that “might help to improve the visible signs of aging in the skin”?
Once you have thought of a figure go down to your local pharmacy or the cosmetics section of a department store and check out the prices of lotions, serums, RNA creams, collagen extracts, jojoba shampoo and all manner of preparations containing minerals, specially formulated vitamins and exotic plants, none of which have been shown to be any more effective than simple soaps, detergents, moisturisers and protecting your skin from the sun, and some of which have a well-established potential to do harm.
Now have a look in your bathroom cabinet.
What was that again?
I explain this phenomenon by the same mechanism that induces so many to faith in one or another of many religions.
It’s they way some folks’ minds work.
Many folks around the world, not only in India, donate considerably to a wide variety of belief systems which have no evidence at their core.
I have no evidence that any well trained doctor seriously believes in homeopathy – but many may be ‘chancers’ as Mr Stevens has described them, and are prepare to act as quacks.
You tell us.
Why would millions of trained Doctors think it does ?
Simple. Teaching of critical thinking is woefully inadequate in India.
Any evidence to support your “millions of doctors” claim?
And are you still relying on the the Ad Populum fallacy? Come on, RG.
If you followed the thread, I made no such claim. I was asking the question to EE, he is the one that stated the “millions of doctors” claim.
My question, by the way was unanswered.
Unfortunately the system in this blog makes it a little hard to follow which post belongs to which thread, and I suspect this has caught Lenny out here.
Pete asked why a quarter of a million trained doctors in India would think that homeopathy works.
EE chose to answer this with another question by asking why millions of trained doctors over the centuries would think that bloodletting works, making the point that medical training does not necessarily prevent you from holding false beliefs.
You seem to be wanting EE to answer his own rhetorical question. This is superfluous here. The widespread use of blood-letting by qualified physicians all over the Western world over many centuries is a historical fact, and based on Galen’s teaching over 2,000 years ago (whether it amounts to millions of doctors is a different question, given that populations were much smaller through most of that period). It is also a (much more recently) established fact that blood-letting does more harm than good in nearly all situations.
Why our predecessors held the mistaken beliefs that they did is in itself a very interesting question, though possibly beyond the remit of this thread. Is that what you are actually asking?
I no longer answer RG’s idiotic stuff
I used to think he was a troll, just saying provocative things for the fun of it, but he seems to be quite consistent and I think what he says does represent his true beliefs. Even if he never learns anything from my replies to his posts I hope others reading them will.
Leaving RG aside, I do find that much of what is posted on this forum puts me in mind of a small child who has built a rocket ship out of cardboard boxes and fully expects to fly to the moon in it (especially on the subject of Gerson therapy). It is very difficult knowing where to begin when people have strongly-held beliefs and no education in the relevant areas.
I’ll thank on one hand for believing who I am… to some small extent.
On the other hand…. again, you make my point. It’s worth repeating… Doctors think they know everything, and they don’t.
Doctors don’t think they know everything. A doctor who doesn’t know their own limits is a poor doctor and also very dangerous. There are doctors like that and there are systems in place to protect the public from them (albeit not always foolproof and maybe less so in some parts of the world than in others). But they are a minority.
On my first day of medical school I was told that half of what I would be taught during my course would turn out to be wrong by the time I graduated, but since they didn’t know which half I had to learn it all anyway. By the time a doctor has completed their post-graduate specialist training and reached a senior position they are well aware of how little they know and how quickly that knowledge goes out of date.
Do you ever question yourself? Do you know the limits of your own knowledge? If you believe something, do you ever ask yourself how do you know it is true, and how certain of it you are?
A few interesting admissions you make about the rapid changes in knowledge, I wouldn’t have guessed to the extent you indicate. That might seem a bit overboard… but I appreciate your honesty.
I know for quite certain that MD’s in the US are reeducated and kept current via the AMA (protocol), and via Pharma. Both have their own agendas.
Doctors simply don’t have the time or motivation to keep current, as they are kept busy overseeing patients daily. Do you think they will use their time off to keep current ? The answer is no, when not prescribing, they are busy golfing or sailing their yachts.
Do I know it all ?? … heck no Doc.
I only know what life has taught me. That in my experience, I’ve leaned that MD’s have either been as much wrong as right. Most times, they just don’t have good solutions, of this I’m certain…. sorry.
Doctors in the UK have annual appraisals and five-yearly revalidation in order to keep their licence to practise, and providing evidence of continuing medical education is an essential component of that process. Part of the appraiser’s role is to identify educational needs and to ensure that appropriate courses are taken. Pharma-sponsored indoctrination sessions don’t count. An NHS Consultant’s timetable includes study time (though the job itself often overspills into it), and nearly all Consultants practising in the private sector also have NHS appointments. In any case they need to show valid appraisals and evidence of continuing medical education to maintain their admitting rights at private hospitals and also their insurer recognition. Free time for golf and sailing doesn’t really enter into the equation, though I think that was more common 20 or 30 years ago.
lol…. hilarious Edzard
You answer what suits your purpose.
I’ll answer the question for you.
Why would millions of doctors, over centuries believe that bloodletting was beneficial ?
Because Doctors think they know everything, but in the end they don’t.
interesting comment from Steve Scrutton
You have a strange notion of the meaning of the word ‘interesting’, Professor…
whenever I cook something inedible for a Brit, he/she is bound to say ‘interesting’.
I’m with Alan. The most interesting thing in this mish-mash of bromides that have been mentioned on this blog ad nauseam was this: “The mainstream media is [sic] funded by pharmaceutical companies to the extent that these papers would not survive if their advertising was withdrawn.”
I’m used to the accusation that medical journals are funded by pharmaceutical companies, but “mainstream media”? Come on, surely the various daily newspapers and mainstream TV news organizations aren’t funded by Big Pharma? If so and it’s a problem for SCAM proponents, why doesn’t Big Snakeoil use some of its billions in the same way?
it shows, I think, that homeopathy does not work for paranoia.
“why doesn’t Big Snakeoil use some of its billions in the same way?”
If big snake oil had billions to spend…. they’ed get FDA (or MHRA}approval. Then they’ed have a license to kill too.
You don’t think $210 billion is big enough business for Big Snakeoil to buy up a few publications?
@ Frank Odds
Frank, I missed where the $210B figure came from, perhaps you could help me with that. I guessing that number is highly inflated.
I think professor Odds is busy with the Sunday family dinner so I’ll help you out.
If you go back to professor Odd’s comment and look closely you will see that the “$210 billion” text has a line under it (it is underlined), this is called a link. If you move your pointer over it you will see the pointer change to a hand-sign. This means you can perform an action on it that is called “clicking”. You click by pressing the leftmost button on your mouse, but you will have to do this while seeing the hand-sign. This will cause another webpage to open. Professor Odds put this “link” there so you could see where he gets the information from, the one that you are now asking for. You simply click on the link and your question will be answered.
Bjorn Geir has incorrectly second-guessed what I was doing: I was writing a comment on another thread. But he has told you what I would have said in response to your question: please click on the link I provided for the evidence in support of the $210 billion figure.
You might also revisit this very recent blog post by Prof. Ernst which discusses the finances of the SCAM world in more detail*. And you can take a look here (estimate of $196.87 billion by 2025), or
here (2013 estimate of $34 billion for the US alone).
You said “I guessing that number is highly inflated.” which makes me guess that you don’t like being confronted with an inconvenient truth and prefer to ignore the message.
*Sadly, the thread was effectively hijacked by a person called Jeroen Staring whose completely off-topic comments may have distracted you from reading its message.
So I missed the link, that’s why I asked…. folks.
First of all, you people here lump homeopathy and CAM together when it suits you, but separate them also when it suits you. It becomes a bit unclear at times what exactly we are talking about, I’ll admit to being guilty of the same.
The article of this specific thread to which we are responding specifically refers to Homeopathy.
Complimentary and Alternative medicine broadens the scope of the subject. In fact, Acupuncture is now an accepted part of Western Medicine…. so lets be honest and admit here that the terms used in our conversations on this page get more than a bit convoluted at times.
The article referenced in the link you reference ($210B) refers specifically to CAM… not Homeopathy.
The $210B figure is not only an estimate, it is a future estimate six years into the future. Lets keep it simple, and keep the conversation in the here and now. Frank referred to a $210B number that is fictitious. I stand my my accusation that the number is inflated.
interesting article about facebook selling advertising space for bogus homeopathic vaccinations
I have seen advertising for CEASE therapy from a UK homeopath on Google though. The delightful Carolyn Steven who the subject of an Advertising Standards Authority ruling over claims for a bizarre skin conductance device.
From what I’ve seen UK homeopaths tend not to use paid for online advertising.