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

Have you ever noticed that, according to its proponents, many forms of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) must be applied a long time before there is a noticeable benefit?

As so often, homeopathy is a good example. If you consult a homeopath, she will, in all likelihood, explain that it would be unwise to expect immediate effects. The treatment needs to be taken for weeks; perhaps she even needs to change the prescription once or twice. And the longer you have suffered from your illness, the longer it will take to get rid of it. Sometimes it takes years!

Those homeopathy-fans who have experienced instant effects will, of course, disagree. But these cases are almost certainly due to the placebo response which is known to be fast. The majority of patients will be told to persevere and show patience.

And unquestionably some patients will eventually experience a reduction of symptoms. Thus the homeopaths is proven correct: homeopathy takes time to work!

But hold on, how plausible is this explanation?

Let’s assume a child is cured of asthma after many months of religiously taking the prescribed homeopathic remedies. Is the cure due to the treatment, or might there be other phenomena at play? The most obvious explanation by far is the fact that children frequently grow out of diseases like asthma. So, this and other self-limiting conditions are not good examples.

What about a disease that is clearly not self-limiting? What about a MS patient who feels much improved after taking his homeopathic remedies for three months? Again, the best explanation for the improvement would be the natural history of the disease. The severity of the symptoms of many conditions fluctuate in such a way that there will be periods of relative well-being followed by deterioration.

And what, if we are dealing with a disease that normally gets progressively worse over time, if untreated ? What if a cancer patient claims to be cured after months of homeopathic therapy? Such cases do not exist! The few such ‘cures’ that have been reported have explanations that are unrelated to homeopathy. They are due to one of the three phenomena:

  • false diagnosis,
  • concomitant treatments,
  • spontaneous recovery.

It turns out that the notion of homeopathy (or any other SCAM) requiring a long period of time until the benefit kicks in is mostly a myth.

Well, perhaps not entirely!

The benefit of SCAM does unquestionably need time before a significant benefit ($$$, £££) for the SCAM provider kicks in. So, let’s not sneer at the notion. Let’s be positive. Let’s recognise the reason why the myth is being kept alive. We all must make a living!

 

45 Responses to So-called alternative medicine (SCAM) must be used for a long time before the effects kick in

  • Sadly, your totally rational, medically and scientifically sound, and only real explanation of sCAM will not be recognised as such by the sCAM loons.

    Recent demonstrations by anti-vaxxers and anti-5G illustrate the lunacy among us from normal looking humans.

    I despair for humanity.

  • Ah, but Frank, the genuine scamists do recognise and know perfectly well what they are up to – they just don’t want you to know, or Edzard to expose their scam!

    That’s why on the tin labelled ‘Homeopathy’, ‘Reiki’ ,’acupuncture’ or whatever, the disclaimer and information “This product is a scam and functions as a placebo because it is a placebo”, is in homeopathically diluted print.

    (‘Tin’ being a metaphor for canister, jar, diploma encrusted consulting room and chair/couch – whatever it might be.)

  • In the course of the years, I asked a dozen or so people who consulted homeopaths about their experiences. The picture emerged that most homeopaths indeed try very hard to turn people into returning customers, regardless of the actual course of the ailment:
    – If the ailment improves relatively quickly after starting treatment: “Look, it is working already! Now keep taking the remedy, otherwise you run an increased risk of relapse!”
    – If the ailment gets worse after starting treatment: “Yes, this is quite normal with homeopathy, we see it all the time. It means that your body is responding to the treatment! So keep going, and eventually you will notice improvement!”
    – If nothing seems to happen for several weeks: “Don’t give up, homeopathy is a very gentle treatment, so it often takes a while to start having an effect. So keep taking those globules!”
    – If nothing happens even after several months: “Oh, that’s a shame, but not uncommon – I probably didn’t get the symptoms quite right, and thus prescribed the wrong remedy. But nil desperandum, there are lots of other remedies that fit your symptoms. When shall we schedule another two-hour consultation (€ 180,-) in order to get a better picture of your symptoms?”

    And oh, after you visited a homeopath, they sometimes take the initiative to call you after several weeks or months “Just a follow-up call to check if everything is still OK”.

    One particularly sad case was an adolescent boy with ulcerative proctitis (a nasty, incurable condition similar to Crohn’s disease) where the parents paid a homeopath several thousand pounds over the course of two years – of course without any noticeable effect whatsoever. Every small decrease in symptoms was hailed as a success of the treatment, and at every relapse the poor kid was told to hang in there, and keep going. And even when they threw in the towel after two years and returned to real, effective medication (immunosuppressants and anti-inflammatory drugs IIRC), the homeopath still contacted them twice to tell them that he might have found a better remedy, and if they might reconsider another attempt …

    • @Richard Rasker

      Sir, you are a liar.

      You are caught out by a crass ignorance of homeopathic posology.

      Why do you imagine you can just make up straw homeopaths to support your delusion and denial?
      Is it that you imagine anything you do not understand is fair game?

      You disgust me.

      • I shall take your comments as a compliment.
        Your vehemence if not your truthfulness betrays the notion that not only is homeopathy a fraud, but that many homeopaths are fully aware of this.

        As for my individual points: I merely relay what homeopaths told their hapless victims. Many, many examples of these can be found on the Internet, promulgated by homeopaths themselves, e.g. this one:

        The homeopathic aggravation after the administration of the curative remedy is the reaction of the organism, as it responds to the gently stimulating action of the medicine.

        Even more hilariously stupid is this one, where homeopaths are apparently afraid that “homeopathic aggravation” is confused with an undesirable side effect of the remedy – and they go through great pains to deny that this may be the case. What’s even worse: they do correctly identify one valid cause of aggravation, i.e. the reduction or even cessation of the use of real medicine, but in no way do they address the reason for this (that homeopaths often dissuade people from using real medicine), nor do they even acknowledge the risks that are inherent in this.

        I would be amused by the inventiveness and imagination of these clueless people, were it not for the fact that they defraud, damage and occasionally even kill people with their fairy tales. And yes, I have seen the latter outcome from up close.

      • Will on Sunday 31 May 2020 at 00:29

        I would agree with your assessment.

        Richard Rasker has imagined and written his views. Maybe he could have checked the experiences of Prince Charles and Mr Boris Johnson after being infected with Corona Virus: the cost, the treatment experience and the outcome.

        The follow up on their health after 180 days would be another evaluation.

        • yes, of course!
          both were treated with homeopathy [but only according to idiots who don’t mind a bit of lying]

          • That is incorrect.

            Prince Charles had to resort to isolation, ONLY. Effect of earlier reliance on homeopathy?
            https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-52088684

            Mr Johnson went all the way: including ventilator. And at one time the doctor’s almost gave up?
            https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-52262012

            Check both links. The cost reference becomes visible.

          • why am I not surprised that you get things wrong with every comment you make?
            Boris was not ventilated!

          • I KRISHNA,

            Prince Charles had to resort to isolation, ONLY. Effect of earlier reliance on homeopathy?…

            Mr Johnson went all the way

            At the start of a Covid-19 infection it is not (so far) possible to predict the outcome, except in probabilistic terms, since it is so variable. Both Prince Charles’s and Boris Johnson’s illnesses followed a course within the range of what was expected. Even if Charles’s previous use of homeopathy had influenced his risk of severe illness (and so far nobody has produced any evidence supporting the notion that this can happen) it would not be possible to say whether it was responsible for it having followed a more benign course than in the case of our Prime Minister. That is simply the way that numbers behave. Sadly a very large proportion of people are functionally innumerate.

          • @ EE,

            An interesting case of a Homeopath Dr. Mulgaokar who died of Covid 19. I think he delayed treatment by probably treating himself with homeopathy and then succumbed to covid in a Hospital.

            https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/mumbai-gamdevi-homeopath-dies-of-covid-19-three-days-before-his-57th-birthday/articleshow/76127084.cms

            It goes to show that only Homeopathy does not cure big diseases.

          • … nor small ones.

          • Ahhh! is Iqbal back? Cool!

            If that is our old friend, he certainly hasn’t changed much. Kind of missed him. He could be quite amusing at times, Desperate to understand why we cannot agree with his love and devotion of homeopathy.

            I just love it when homeopathy aficionados point to the old monarch and her presenile progeny as proof that homeopathy works. By the same logic, NOT using homeopathy provides good health and longevity – in some people. My father in law is 93 and keeps a clearer head than most 60-year olds. My wife’s grandfather died at 104 of old age. Neither of them had met a homeopath nor taken a homeopathic remedy. (I guess whisky doesn’t count?).

            And we had a few cases here of people over ninety getting Covid-19 and surviving, against all odds. None of them was treated with homeoremedies. So, by homeopathic logic, NOT using homeopathy helps cure the Coronavirus – QED.

          • Björn Geir on Friday 05 June 2020 at 23:50

            I believed you would be busy trying to find out what went wrong in the “herd immunity” program tried out in your country? Who takes responsibility for the dead citizens?

            Sweden:4656 fatalities.
            Denmark: 587 fatalities.

            In UK, I am positive, it is the patients who are responsible for their fate.

            The science seems not to be working. Keep your father in law safe from covid infection. WHO does not offer him any safety statistically.

          • I Krishna,

            Björn Geir on Friday 05 June 2020 at 23:50

            I believed you would be busy trying to find out what went wrong in the “herd immunity” program tried out in your country? Who takes responsibility for the dead citizens?

            Sweden:4656 fatalities.
            Denmark: 587 fatalities.

            I have just checked the official statistics for Bjorn Geir’s country, and so far there have been a total of 10 fatalities recorded from Covid-19.

            The science seems not to be working.

            What on earth do you mean by that? The science is incomplete, and in any cases all that scientists can do is advise on the basis of current evidence. Policies, however, are set by politicians, not scientists, and politicians have different priorities.

            The alternative to science is make-believe and prejudice. Do you really think that this will lead politicians to make better decisions?

          • he probably meant his ‘science’ is not working

          • Dr Julian Money-Kyrle on Saturday 06 June 2020 at 22:36

            “I have just checked the official statistics for Bjorn Geir’s country, and so far there have been a total of 10 fatalities recorded from Covid-19.”

            You are correct. I wrongly assumed him to be from Sweden.

            Now that you the expert is here to answer, could you explain what went wrong with the “scientific herd immunity” approach (used routinely in implementing vaccine protocols) in Sweden. Incidentally it is the only European country that went against the “lock down” approach followed by other countries. Sweden completely followed the advise of epidemiologist.

            https://www.livescience.com/results-of-sweden-covid19-response.html

            “Policies, however, are set by politicians, not scientists, and politicians have different priorities.”

            Normally, when things go out of control, politicians blame scientists. This is the first time I find scientist (?) blaming politicians.

            https://www.france24.com/en/20200517-sweden-s-covid-19-strategy-has-caused-an-amplification-of-the-epidemic

            Or maybe, you can scientifically compare this data, with 40,000 fatalities in UK with the lock down approach (does UK figure include the deaths in elderly homes ?) , handled by the extremely scientific NHS.
            The “lock down” was the political decision: Dr Ernst wrote a detailed message asking for clarity on “taking it on the chin” approach, initially recommended by some scientists in UK.

            Why should a medically backward country like Cuba deliver superior results with homeopathic (?) placebos. Or they are doing something different that we don’t know about?

          • if you used your brain just a little bit for a short moment, you could easily find a dozen or more reasons that have nothing to do with homeopathy. alas, you prefer to imitate a broken record, ignorant and unable to think or learn.

          • Now that you the expert is here to answer, could you explain what went wrong with the “scientific herd immunity” approach

            Herd immunity requires a high proportion of people to have either had the disease or been vaccinated. The proportion depends on how infectious the disease is but we think for coronavirus it is 60 – 80%. No country has had anything close to that number of cases.

            the lock down approach (does UK figure include the deaths in elderly homes ?) , handled by the extremely scientific NHS.

            The NHS has not been handling lockdown. Their job has been to pick up the pieces.

          • 🙂 In my country, the politicians stepped aside and let experts and scientists do the work. It worked very well in most of them, contrary to many other countries where politicians have screwed up the situation, e.g. notably the US. In Sweden, the chief epidemiologisttook another route than most of his colleagues and failed. The cost was not only in lives but it turns out the economy took an unexpected hit as well.
            I suspect our friend is trying to denigrate the herd immunity concept in general, a favourite pastime of the anti-vaccine crowd. The situation in Sweden in no way contradicts the principle of herd immunity.

          • Correction: the beginning of my last comment should read:
            ? In my country, as in several other similar societies, the politicians…

        • Maybe he could have checked the experiences of Prince Charles and Mr Boris Johnson

          Let me get this straight: two people whose names have on occasion been mentioned in one sentence with ‘homeopathy’ have recovered from Covid-19 – and THIS is somehow proof that ‘homeopathy works’?
          So homeopathy doesn’t even require the good ‘ole shakin’-n-dilutin’ any more – merely printing or mentioning the word conveys healing effects to anything in the vicinity?

          I must admit that I’m at a loss for words here – something that doesn’t happen often. You may well have entered hitherto uncharted realms of stupidity with your ‘reasoning’. Then again, homeopaths never cease to amaze me in this respect.

          • Edzard on Wednesday 03 June 2020 at 10:59

            Regret error regarding ventilator.

            Mr Johnson was in ICU for 3 days after 10 days of isolation.

          • Richard Rasker on Wednesday 03 June 2020 at 11:23

            Please read slowly and carefully.

            The 2 people mentioned went through Corona virus infection and came back alive.

            Prince Charles has in the past supposedly uses homeopathy and had to ONLY isolate himself to remain alive. NHS could offer him nothing beyond suggestion on isolation. He is 71 years and statistically, at high risk.

            Mr Johnson, does NOT use homeopathy, had to isolate himself, followed by 3 days in ICU. He is 55 years and statistically at lower risk to Prince Charles. The cost of his treatment was many times higher than that of the Prince.

            Let us wait for six months for final outcome.

          • are you trying to say this is a controlled experiment? you seem to be the most clueless person I have met for a very long time

          • @I KRISHNA
            Ah, I think I understand. So you think that Prince Charles’s past use of homeopathy was instrumental in his suffering only mild symptoms and recovering swiftly?

            Or in other words: on the one hand you dismiss the ubiquitously verifiable facts that I state as ‘lies’, and on the other hand you consider a single case of a known homeopathy user recovering from Covid-19 as a significant piece of evidence for the beneficial effects of homeopathy? Even though approximately 80% of Covid-19-infected people suffer mild or even no symptoms at all?

            Well, let me put it like this: I’m not disappointed with regard to being amazed once again about the utter, arrogant stupidity of homeopaths – your contribution is definitely one for my archives, and perhaps even for my book-in-progress.

            Well done, that man.

          • Richard Rasker on Wednesday 03 June 2020 at 16:33

            over 25,000.

            https://www.ecampnd.com/homeopathy/A_Chorus_of_Fifty_in_Harmony.pdf

            During Spanish flu (1918-20) in America, the ones to remain alive, specially went to homeopaths. Those who wanted to die, went to allopaths. Not too different to what you see today.

            In 2020, Check data for Cuba and compare with UK: Dr Ernst wrote a blog on it regarding homeopathic remedies in use:

            Cuba supplies homeopathic medicine for Covid-19

            As of 06.06.2020 Cuba :83 fatalities. UK 40,465 fatalities.

            How much money does UK spend upon its medical infrastructure and Cuba?
            How does your science and investment in medicine compare with Cuba based upon the outcome?

            How do you explain the outcome?

          • Yes, it could be due to homeopathy.
            But then again there are about 100 more likely explanations.

          • Edzard on Saturday 06 June 2020 at 16:15

            I missed to mention that you are in the midst of the first wave and the health system is already cracking up. UK has supposedly lost over 200 of medical staff.

            The way medical systems have crashed around the world, with doctors running around like headless chickens :

            “Still, I was struck by the similarity between 1918 and now, at least in terms of doctors frantically trying to repurpose every drug under the sun that might be used to treat victims of the pandemic, regardless of whether there existed good evidence or not that the drugs being tested were likely to work. We like to think that we’ve progressed so much in the last century, and we have in many ways. Sadly, though, in our desperate response to a pandemic, physicians now share much in common with physicians then”

            https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/covid-19-out-of-control-science-and-bypassing-science-based-medicine

            Remember, in 1918 it was the second wave that led to most fatalities. Is your system ready for the second wave, especially if it was to turn out to be more virulent than the first one?

            It does seem that Cuba will stick with the 1 of 100 possibilities. What do you plan to recommend? Import doctors and medicines from Cuba? Using data as evidence, would you?

          • @I KRISHNA
            Just tossing statistics and numbers around like you do is meaningless. Then again, homeopathy appears to have a particular fondness for meaningless and even ridiculous numbers, e.g. dilution ratios that exceed the total number of particles in our universe.

            But I digress. The only thing that homeopathy does, is waste people’s time and money. It does NOT help against infectious disease – just look at India, where homeopathy is a state religion: this country still has almost the lowest life expectancy and the highest infectious disease prevalence in all of Asia. And Covid-19 infection rates there are growing exponentially. So maybe homeopathy is the CAUSE of this steep rise in infections in India?

            And please note that ridiculous as this latter hypothesis may sound, it may actually hold some truth: people who received homeopathic sugar crumbs as ‘homeopathic prophylaxis’ were given a false sense of security, causing them to neglect or ignore other, effective coronavirus countermeasures such as social distancing.

          • Richard Rasker on Sunday 07 June 2020 at 11:29

            You reconfirm Will’s response to you on 31.05.2020. I can only add that you also have no knowledge about the subject you are writing about.

            “….dilution ratios that exceed the total number of particles in our universe.”

            This is a very old argument pushed around by chemists passing out 30 years ago. Take out time and read about homeopathic potencies: these start at Q level: mother tincture. And, you are discussing medicine or Chemistry? Should there be a difference between the two? Reading about Ultra dilute successed solutions would be interesting.

            “It does NOT help against infectious disease – just look at India, where homeopathy is a state religion: this country still has almost the lowest life expectancy and the highest infectious disease prevalence in all of Asia.”

            You are digressing and you lack information or as Will said……. India is the largest producer and exporter of allopathic drugs for the world. Allopathy is the mainline medicine used as most government hospitals are free. The number one company Sun Pharma, probably has a turnover exceeding all homeopathic drug manufacturing companies put together.

            Homeopathy is also used along with Ayurveda and other medicine streams. Homeopathy has never claimed that it eradicates diseases: it cures a patient with a disease, one at a time. Allopathy continues to claim eradication of infectious diseases: name one other than Small pox.

            “And Covid-19 infection rates there are growing exponentially. So maybe homeopathy is the CAUSE of this steep rise in infections in India?”

            Now you are showing your lack of knowledge about Flu also. Since when has “infection” become the reason for concern? The more people infected, the better it is. it would help reach 85% level for “herd immunity” fast. It is the fatalities that are of concern. To reach UK’s level, India has to lose 830,000 patients. The actual figure: 7400.

            “……homeopathic sugar crumbs as ‘homeopathic prophylaxis’ were given a false sense of security, causing them to neglect or ignore other, effective coronavirus countermeasures such as social distancing.”

            Really: this is the outcome for an area in Bombay, given homeopathic remedy, where social distancing is impossible. Dr Ernst wrote a detailed message.

            “COVID-19: homeopathy gone berserk in Mumbai”.

            The outcome consequent to distribution of homeopathic remedy:
            https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/once-a-covid-19-hotspot-mumbai-s-dharavi-reports-no-deaths-in-last-week/story-G0QGuXIJvesO157IAYZdPI.html

            “Dharavi has an area of just over 2.1 square kilometres (0.81 sq mi; 520 acres)[3] and a population of about 1,000,000. With a population density of over 277,136/km2 (717,780/sq mi), Dharavi is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.” Wikipedia.

            This is my last response to your ill informed messages.

          • @I KRISHNA

            I can only add that you also have no knowledge about the subject you are writing about.

            I have extensive and even near perfect knowledge about homeopathy, and the core of that knowledge can be expressed in only four words: IT DOES NOT WORK.

            Please memorize these words.

    • Nasty and arrogant comment , “incurable condition” before “returned to real, effective medication”. Are you awareness of your stupid contradiction Richard?

      • Lollipop,

        I don’t see a contradiction. For instance diabetes is an incurable condition (except by pancreas transplant in certain circumstances) but insulin is real and effective.

      • Are you awareness[sic] of your stupid contradiction Richard

        Are you aware of your rather limited insight, Lollipop?

        Please allow me to explain: ‘effective’ does NOT necessarily equal ‘curative’. There is no cure for proctitis and Crohn’s disease, but the symptoms of these conditions (mostly chronic inflammation, cramps and severe tissue damage) can be managed quite effectively with medication, thus enabling a life where people are not constantly living in pain, and constantly in need of a bathroom within a few dozen yards.

        Perhaps you have fallen for the old quackery sneer of “just suppressing symptoms”?

        If so, please explain what is wrong with ‘just suppressing symptoms’, especially if that is the best we can do. And please don’t insult our intelligence by claiming that homeopathy or any other type of quackery can often provide a cure. They can’t.

        • Translated in your context:

          1. “effective’ does NOT necessarily equal ‘curative'” = Placebo effect.

          2. “but the symptoms … can be managed quite effectively with medication” = Placebo effect FORTE.

          3. ” thus enabling a life where people are not constantly living in pain, and constantly in need of a bathroom within a few dozen yards.” = Placebo effect PLUS.

          Mr. Rasker, Are you so unethical to mantain your bussines based on simply placebo effects?

          • Lollipop,

            If you think that steroids and powerful immunosuppressive drugs, not to mention painkillers, elemental diets and (as a last resort) the use of surgery work through the placebo effect then you don’t understand what the placebo effect is, nor do you know anything about Crohn’s disease.

          • … or both.

          • @Lollipop
            You appear to have rather poor understanding of things such as placebo effect, medicinal efficacy, and even basic reading skills.
            Or would you say that for instance a plaster cast for a broken tibia is a ‘placebo’? After all, it doesn’t actually cause healing of the fracture, it merely helps suppressing several symptoms such as pain and discomfort, not to mention severely disabling crooked healing due to insufficient immobilization.

            Are you so unethical to mantain your bussines based on simply placebo effects?

            No, I am not a homeopath. Whatever gave you that idea?

  • “It will work, but possibly not within your lifetime…..”

  • Ernst, dear chap

    You are making it up as you go along.

  • It is remarkable that many proponents of homeopathy appear to know so little about it.

    • homeopathic remedies contain nothing; therefore the experts know everything about nothing.

      • Hahaha. And the non-expert knows almost nothing about nothing.

        A person in the comments on a YouTube video, claiming to be an “allopathic” medical student, wrote this week that a woman ‘tested positive’ for Covid-19, then was treated homeopathically, then ‘tested negative’. I have asked 1) What test was applied – did she have antibodies then not have them? and 2) by what mechanism he considers the homeopathic remedy works. He has ignored 1) and to 2) responded that it works by the same mechanism as allopathy (as if medicines work by one mechanism). Are most proponents of homeopathy, including medical students, so profoundly, profoundly ignorant? It appears so, in India at least…..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

If you want to be able to edit your comment for five minutes after you first submit it, you will need to tick the box: “Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.”
Recent Comments

Note that comments can be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted but you must tick the box: “Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.”

The most recent comments from all posts can be seen here.

Archives
Categories