Yesterday, it was announced that the new German health secretary will be Dr. Karl Lauterbach. This seems a most reasonable choice (when did the UK last have a physician in that post?), and I certainly wish him the best of luck in his new position.

Lauterbach studied medicine at the RWTH Aachen University, University of Texas at San Antonio and University of Düsseldorf, where he graduated. From 1989 to 1992, he studied health policy and management as well as epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, graduating with a Doctor of Science in 1992. From 1992 to 1993, he held a fellowship at the Harvard Medical School.

From 1998 until 2005, Lauterbach served as the director of the Institute of Health Economics and Clinical Epidemiology (IGKE) at the University of Cologne. He was appointed adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2008. He was a member of the Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der Entwicklung im Gesundheitswesen (the council of experts advising the federal government on developments in the German healthcare system) from 1999 until he was elected to the Bundestag in September 2005.

But why does his appointment put the German defenders of homeopathy in a panic? The reason is simple: Lauterbach has in the past repeatedly argued against the reimbursement of homeopathy in Germany. This is, for instance, what DER SPIEGEL wrote in 2019 (my translation):

SPD parliamentary group vice-chairman Karl Lauterbach wants to prohibit public health insurance companies from reimbursing the costs of homeopathy. “We have to talk about this in the coalition,” he told the “Tagesspiegel”. Health insurance companies in Germany are not obliged to cover the costs of homeopathic treatments. However, they can pay for it voluntarily.

Voluntary benefits by health insurers must also be economically and medically reasonable, Lauterbach argues, referring to a similar push in France. According to the French Supreme Health Authority (HAS), the funds do not have sufficient scientific effect. The Ministry of Health had previously commissioned the HAS with the examination. It is considered likely that the French government will soon abolish the coverage of costs.

“In the spirit of reason and education as well as patient protection, it is also wrong in Germany for insurance companies to pay for homeopathy for marketing reasons,” Lauterbach wrote on Twitter in reaction to the decision in France. His demand is not new. Lauterbach had already spoken out in 2010 for a ban on the assumption of costs.

Many observers expect that Lauterbach – after getting the pandemic under control (not an easy task by any measure) – will indeed stop the reimbursement of homeopathy. Germany’s largest homeopathy producer reacted swiftly and is currently running an expensive campaign with full-page advertisements in German newspapers trying to improve the much-damaged public image of homeopathy:

In the advertisement above, for instance, it is implied that homeopaths are all in favor of vaccination. Regular readers of my blog will know that this is not true…

… and so does Dr. Lauterbach!

38 Responses to Panic has gripped the German homeopathy lobby

  • I do not know whether there is a similar idiom in English but in German we call the reaction of the homeopathy lobby: “Denen geht der Arsch ganz gewaltig auf Grundeis” (literally: their asses are going quite enormously on ground ice)

    • There is the English idiom “They’re skating on thin ice”……

      • I do not think that “skating on thin ice” is the correct equivalent. “Denen geht der Arsch auf Grundeis” means “someone feels great fear or fears bad things”.

        But I am happy to be corrected. 🙂

        • Mmmm, yes, a somewhat different idea.

          Perhaps the phrase “A sense of impending doom” is nearer….

        • I’m not familiar with the German expression, but “someone feels great fear or fears bad things” is often expressed metaphorically in English by reference to the Sword of Damocles.

          Google Translate on the expression translated it to something that in my English dialect was about misbehaving donkeys (try it 🙂 )

  • The appointment of Lauterbach was very unexpected for many (including me), because he is quite a polarizing figure in Germany. Many like him – but unfortunately, many hate him. For example since early in the pandemic, he requires 24h police protection, because of constant death threats from militant COVID protesters (“Querdenker”).
    I hope that in his new position of power, he will keep following science and will enforce evidence-based regulations, as much as being a politician allows.
    His predecessor, Jens Spahn, was not a great example in this regard. In addition to not doing a great job during the pandemic and being indifferent about homeopathy, Spahn also simply refused to implement a verdict from the highest court of Germany to change the prohibitive laws on assisted suicide – a scandalous behavior, which was unfortunately overshadowed by the pandemic.
    I hope that Lauterbach will find the time to work on this issue as well – and as early as possible.
    His new job is obviously very difficult – I certainly wish him all the best and great success!

    • Karl Lauterbach once said that the job as health secretary would be his dream. The dream can turn into a nightmare.

      I wish Karl Lauterbach much success and great persistence.

  • My main argument with the advertisement is its attempt to put alternative medicine on an equal footing with real medicine, and its implication that trying to separate them is the division they talk about in the headline (or so my now somewhat rusty German tells me).

    The “get vaccinated now” message is nevertheless a good one, even if, IMO, the honesty of the message is somewhat dubious.

    • Seconded. Quite mendacious of them to claim alignment with evidence based medicine (‚Medicine is not a matter of faith‘) yet continuing to peddle magic potions

  • Germany seems poised to make the vaccinations mandatory for many. All the countries that have high vaccination rates have seen “Covid” cases skyrocket. So he wont be able to get the epidemic under control any time soon.

    • “All the countries that have high vaccination rates have seen “Covid” cases skyrocket.”
      All the countries that have lots of COVID cases have high vaccination rates.
      simple for people with a brain,
      difficult for the dumbest?

    • Correlation is not causation.

      I suppose you also believe that the decline of white storks in Central Europe correlates with declining birth rates.

    • @Roger

      All the countries that have high vaccination rates have seen “Covid” cases skyrocket

      You overlooked one step in between. Please allow me to correct you:
      “All the countries that have high numbers of vaccine-refusing people have seen Covid-19 cases skyrocket. Thus efforts are made to increase vaccination rates.”
      (And why do you write “Covid” with quotation marks? Is this to suggest that the disease isn’t real?)

      • The high rate of “Covid” cases in countries with high vaccination rates, is actually a mislabeling of vaccine injury.

        • Still digging, I see……

        • @Roger
          All those Covid-19 cases and deaths prior to vaccination were caused by what vaccine exactly? Or did those simply not happen?

          So I’ll award you 1 point for effort, but this really isn’t good enough. Hint: proper trolling involves at least a modicum of intelligence, and also a pretence of humour. This is sorely lacking on both counts, and frankly I’d almost think that you really are as stupid as you appear.

        • Roger,

          The high rate of “Covid” cases in countries with high vaccination rates, is actually a mislabeling of vaccine injury

          In the UK most of the hospital admissions for “Covid” are in people who are unvaccinated, and they also account for a disproportionate number of deaths. What is the reason for this?

          • Say doctor

            I’m seeing it differently than you.
            The most recent stats, 43 cases of omicron in US. 34 are fully vaccinated and 14 even had booster.

            The MRNA jabs after 2 shots is only 40% effective after 6 months and the 3rd booster is only 23% effective. These numbers in no way meet FDA requirements of vac has to meet minimum of 50% to be even considered. Looks like they over sold the FDA. The real question is how did this vac even pass FDA approval in their initial clinical test? Congress needs to have inquiry and investigate possible corruption at FDA.


          • the new variant has hardly reached the US; therefore the numbers are WAY too small to make sense.

          • I wonder if you are aware, Ruthy, that other countries exist?

          • Perhaps it is bad form to cavil and quibble about grammar in a medical blog, but although “different than” is used quite often, it isn’t right and it isn’t elegant.

            You can’t say “This one differs than that one because it’s twice as big” – it has to be “This one differes FROM that one….”

            “Similar TO” and “different FROM”. “To” and “From” give the idea of approaching or receding, respectively. When views differ, you have the idea of repulsion, departure, moving apart. You could say “Where my viewpoint departs from yours is….”

            So: “I’m seeing it differently from the way you see it”. (“I’m seeing it differently from you” isn’t really right either, as it compares the thing seen with “you” rather than with the thing you see).

            One might also question whether the Present Continuous is the best tense here; perhaps the Simple Present “I see it” would be better…..

            I’ll stop now.

          • @Ruthy

            “I’m seeing it differently than you.”

            Of course, you do Ruthy! So do I. Those 43 cases you are talking about are crisis actors, faking “covid”.

            I bet you never heard of P Onymous a.k.a POny, google it and you will find out that POny has be around way longer than Q Anonymous or QAnon. No one knows who or what POny is. They could be a person, man, woman or AI. POny has been predicting global events and uncovering conspiracies since 1984.

            POny says Covid is not real and is a global conspiracy where they used fakedemic (fake pandemic) to inject people with what they call a “vaccine”. In fact, the “vaccine” contains nano bots, and they make people extremely gullible and predisposed to believing dumb shit that exists on the internet. The “vaccinated” are responsible for all the misinformation that permeates the internet, they are the crisis actors, fake news creators and spreaders. Worst kind are the ones vaccinated with non-mRNA vaccines, esp. the Janssen jab and the reason for this is that the Janssen’s nano bots are very aggressive when competing with mRNA vax nano bots. Janssen’s nano bots actually end up re-wiring the neurons of its subjects and make them spread misinformation about other vaccines. They can also escape their vaccinated subjects via their farts and infect unvaccinated individuals in proximity. That is the reason why you see a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated “covid cases” a.k.a crisis actors. Everyone at the FDA, Congress and the entire government are in on the conspiracy and there will not be any investigations into this stuff. Even if they “investigate” it would just be a sham investigation to appease the public.

            Hope this makes sense to you Ruthy, unless you have Janssen nano bots using you as a sock puppet.

          • Ruthy,

            I live in the UK where we have a functioning healthcare system.

            The vaccines were never intended to prevent Covid infection altogether. Their original purpose was to lessen the severity of disease and reduce hospital admissions and deaths, and they have succeeded in that quite spectacularly.

            The vaccines have been shown to be very effective against contracting the original strains of SARS-CoV-2, and less so against the delta variant, though they still greatly reduce the severity of disease. What effect they have against omicron remains to be seen as there has been very little epidemiological data so far.

            The antibody levels have been whosn to fall with time following all the vaccines, and to rise again quite sharply after a booster, Pfizer and Moderna being the most effective. However, T-cell and B memory cell function are also important for protection and these are not reflected in antibody levels. In other words it is the body’s capacity to produce antibodies rapidly when needed rather than the baselin level of antibodies that is important.

            Some people seem to think that a vaccine that requires topping up every few months is no good. Personally I would be quite happy to have an injection every couple of weeks if that helped to protect me.

          • Ruthy

            The primary aim of the vaccines is to reduce deaths and hospitalisations. They have done this. Brilliantly. That warped antivax loons wish otherwise is their problem. What part of people becoming ill and dying so delights you?

            My wife is an ICU nurse. She is fed up with taking care of the unvaxxed COVID patients which make up 75% of the cases in her department. How do you justify your position to her and her colleagues?

          • Dear Dr. Money-Kyrle,
            I haven´t closely followed the forum entries for a while, but to my knowledge, you had (or have?) to undergo chemo therapy. I strongly assume that you have been vaccinated at least two times, may I ask if the vaccines are of benefit to you (i.e. induced immune-response), at least to some degree?
            I very much hope so, especially since the Omicron variant seems to be on the rise.
            All the best to you, I admire your patience when trying to educate people on this blog!

          • Hi Jashak,

            For the last four years I have been on pomalidomide, a thalidomide derivative that is myelotoxic, and daratumumab, a monoclonal antibody against a surface marker on plasma cells. My immunoglobulin count has been very low altogether since starting these, presumably because the suppression of my plasma cells prevents me from making antibodies.

            I had two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine with no measurable antibody response whatsoever. I had a third dose a few weeks ago, this time with the Pfizer vaccine, and I heard a few days ago that I now have some measurable antibodies against the coronavirus. Obviously with my immunosuppression I don’t know how much protection they will give me, but it is some reassurance, though with the number of cases of omicron in the UK doubling every 2.8 days at the moment I am going to have to be very cautious still.

            Our Government has announced that it is making molnupinivir available for people with a positive PCR test who are immunosuppressed, although I don’t know whether there are actually any supplies of it yet. Still, even knowing that I may soon have access to effective treatment is encouraging.

          • DavidB,

            Different comes from di + ferro in Latin, and literally means carrying away, so the natural preposition to follow has to be from – you can’t carry something away than something else.

          • “I wonder if you are aware, Ruthy, that other countries exist?”

            exactly David B
            Show me a country with numerous Omicron cases.
            Enough that would satisfy the professors need for sufficient cases.

          • Ruthy: I will not post any further comments of yours on this subject; they are simply not productive and/or too stupid.

          • Dear Dr. Money-Kyrle,
            Thank you for sharing your experience.
            As in many other countries, there are heated debates about the “personal freedom vs. solidarity” issue here, and Lauterbach has been a voice for reason and empathy since the beginning.
            It makes me sad (sometimes angry) how proud some of my fellow citizens demonstrate how egoistic, aggressive & inhumane they are. I can only imagine how you and other high-risk persons must feel when seeing these protesters.
            I hope that in addition to vaccines, more efficient treatments for persons with suppressed immunity will soon be available – promising research is certrainly on it´s way. Keep safe!

    • Countries with high vaccination rates fair don’t do much better with infections because the efficacy begins to be less effective in as little as seven days (after maximum efficacy), the mRNA vaccines are simply less effective. The mRNA vaccines are also less effective than non-mRNA vaccines against variants.
      Do they help with hospitalizations ? …. sure, but at what cost ?

      • I am considering banning people for stupidity

        • I am considering banning people for stupidity

          Please don’t. Doing so would reduce the entertainment value of this comments section. Instead, I suggest adding a flag to specific comments that indicates that the commenter made a stupid statement or that the comment contains outright misinformation or evidence-free claims.

          • yes, I meant after the initial entertainment value has subsided.

          • I have often thought it would be nice to be able to filter out some of the less interesting trolls when they get repetitively boring. Would make it easier to follow the discussion 🙂

      • Where do you get such fake news from? I think of Telegram, Facebook, Youtube. You show that the consumption of these media is not healthy for thinking skills.

  • Lauterbach gave his inauguration speech today.
    I quote:”Die Gesundheitspolitik aus meiner Sicht kann nur dann erfolgreich sein, wenn sie sich in der Wissenschaft verankert findet, in der evidenzbasierten Medizin. Das wird sehr stark die Art und Weise bestimmen, wie ich an diese Probleme, die vor uns liegen, herangehe.”

    Rough translation: Health policy can only be successful, if it is based on science and evidence-based medicine. This will very strongly determine the way that I approach the problems that lie ahead of us.

    How awesome to hear these words from our new health secretary! 😀

    • yes, how encouraging… and how obvious.
      strange than none of his international colleagues have thought of this.
      yet, he will be judged by what he does not by what he says.
      I do wish him luck!!!

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