The Higher Administrative Court of Bremen has rejected as inadmissible the application for a judicial review by a Bremen physician against the deletion of the ‘HOMEOPATHY’-title from the further training regulations of the Bremen Medical Association (decision of June 2, 2021). Thus, the new regulation for postgraduate training of the Bremen Medical Association without the additional designation of homeopathy has been upheld.
“We are very pleased that the Court shares our legal opinion and has rejected the plaintiff’s application,” said Heike Delbanco, Chief Executive Officer of the Bremen Medical Association. “This is also a clear signal for other German medical associations where comparable lawsuits against the removal of homeopathy from the canon of additional designations are pending.”
The Assembly of Delegates of the Medical Association had decided in September 2019 on a new training regulation, which – unlike the previous regulation – no longer provided for the postgraduate training in homeopathy. After the expiry of a transitional period, the qualification of homeopathy can therefore no longer be acquired at the Bremen Medical Association; however, titles already acquired can continue to be held.
A physician from Bremen, who holds the title of homeopathy, brought an action before the Higher Administrative Court against the cancellation of the additional title. He claimed that the removal of the additional designation from the continuing education regulations interfered with his fundamental right to freedom of profession and his fundamental right to property and complained of a violation of the general principle of equality. The medical association considered the action inadmissible.
The Higher Administrative Court now rejected the application, since a violation of the plaintiff’s rights could not be recognized. The plaintiff can continue to use his title HOMEOPATHY also under the new regulations.
The expectations presented by him – in particular, the expectation to find suitable practice representatives and to be able to sell his practice on retirement at a profit – do not justify any legal positions protected by fundamental rights and consequently also no obligation of the Bremen Medical Association to enable physicians to obtain the additional title of homeopathy in future.
As several further medical associations in Germany have banned homeopathy in the same way as Bremen and were consequently also taken to court by homeopathy enthusiasts, one can be optimistic that these cases will also go against homeopathy.
You may have noticed that my patience with homeopathy, homeopaths, and other providers of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) has diminished. In fact, I do not think much of quacks of all shades and no longer muster much understanding. It is better, so I mean after approximately 30 years of discussions with snake oil salesmen and other charlatans, to offer such people Parole. Facts are facts, and no one should be allowed to ignore that without contradiction.
That was not always the case.
When I began as Chair of Complementary Medicine at Exeter in 1993, I was optimistic. It was clear to me that my task of scrutinizing this field would not be easy and could occasionally bring me into conflict with enthusiasts. But I was determined to build bridges, to remain polite, and to muster as much understanding as necessary.
And so I began to build a multidisciplinary team, conduct research, and publish it. My goal was to do as rigorous science as possible and, if avoidable, not to step on anyone’s toes in the process. Especially with regard to homeopathy, my general attitude was quite positive. Accordingly, my articles were as favorable as the evidence allowed. My goal was to emphasize the good aspects of homeopathy wherever possible.
What, you find that hard to believe?
Then you are in good company!
Homeopaths like to claim that I was out to malign not only homeopathy but all of SCAM from the beginning. That this assumption is not true, I tried to demonstrate in an article entitled ‘Homeopathy and I’. In this paper, I merely extracted typical passages from my publications. From them, you can probably see how my attitude slowly changed over the years. See for yourself (sorry for the length of the list):
- 1. homeopathic remedies are believed by doctors and patients to be almost totally safe (Ernst E, White A. Br J Gen Pract 1995; 45: 629-30)
- 2. it might be argued that arnica … is ineffective but homeopathy may still work (Ernst E. BMJ 1995; 311: 510-1)
- 3. homeopathy, I fear, has soon to come up with … more convincing evidence (Ernst E. Forsch Komplementarmed 1995; 2: 32)
- 4. future evaluations of homeopathy should be performed to a high scientific standard (Ernst E. Br Homeopath J 1995; 84: 229)
- 5. the best way forward is clearly to do rigorous research (Ernst E, Kaptchuk TJ. Arch Intern Med 1996; 156: 2162-4)
- 6. the most pressing question, ‘Is homeopathy clinically more effective than placebo’, needs to be answered conclusively (Ernst E. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1997; 44: 435-7)
- 7. there is evidence that homeopathic treatment can reduce the duration of ileus (Barnes J, Resch KL, Ernst E. J Clin Gastroenterol 1997; 25: 628-33)
- 8. the published evidence to date does not support the hypothesis that homeopathic remedies … are more efficacious than placebo (Ernst E, Barnes J. Perfusion 1998; 11: 4-8)
- 9. the claim that homeopathic arnica is efficacious beyond a placebo effect is not supported by rigorous clinical trials (Ernst E, Pittler MH. Arch Surg 1998; 133: 1187-90)
- 10. … the trial data … do not suggest that homeopathy is effective (Ernst E. J Pain Sympt Manage 1999; 18: 353-7)
- 11. … the re-analysis of Linde et al. can be seen as the ultimate epidemiological proof that homeopathic remedies are, in fact, placebos (Ernst E, Pittler MH.J Clin Epidemiol 2000; 53: 1188)
- 12. … homeopathy is not different from placebo (Ernst E, Pittler MH. J Clin Epidemiol 2002; 55: 103-4)
- 13. … the best clinical evidence … does not warrant positive recommendations (Ernst E. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2002; 54: 577-82)
- 14. the results of this trial do not suggest that homeopathic arnica has an advantage over placebo (Stevinson C, Devaraj VS, Fountain-Barber A, Hawkins S, Ernst E. J R Soc Med 2003; 96: 60-5)
- 15. this study provides no evidence that adjunctive homeopathic remedies … are superior to placebo (White A, Slade P, Hunt C, Hart A, Ernst E. Thorax 2003; 58: 317-21)
- 16. … this systematic review does not provide clear evidence that the phenomenon of homeopathic aggravations exists (Grabia S, Ernst E. Homeopathy 2003; 92: 92-8)
- 17. … the proven benefits of highly dilute homeopathic remedies … do not outweigh the potential for harm (Ernst E.Trends Pharmacol Sci 2005; 26: 547-8)
- 18 Our analysis … found insufficient evidence to support clinical efficacy of homeopathic therapy (Milazzo S, Russell N, Ernst E. Eur J Cancer 2006; 42: 282-9)
- 19. … promotion can be regrettably misleading, or their effectiveness? (Ernst E. J Soc Integr Oncol 2006; 4: 113-5)
- 20. … homeopathy is not based on solid evidence and, over time, this evidence seems to get more negative (Ernst E, Pittler MH, Wider B, Boddy K. Perfusion 2006; 19: 380-2)
- 21. the evidence from rigorous clinical trials … testing homeopathy for childhood and adolescence ailments is not convincing enough for recommendations in any condition (Altunc U, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Mayo Clin Proc 2007; 82: 69-75)
- 22. … context effects of homeopathy … are entirely sufficient to explain the benefit many patients experience (Ernst E. Curr Oncol 2007; 14: 128-30)
- 23. among all the placebos that exist, homeopathy has the potential to be an exceptionally powerful one (Ernst E. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2008; 65: 163-4)
- 24. … recommendations by professional homeopathic associations are not based on the evidence (Ernst E. Br J Gen Pract 2009; 59: 142-3)
These quotes speak for themselves, I think. But what was the reason for the change? As far as I can judge in retrospect, there were three main reasons.
1. The data became clearer and clearer
When I started researching homeopathy, at least the clinical evidence was not clearly negative. In 1991, Jos Kleinjen had published his much-noted systematic review in the BMJ. Here is its conclusion:
At the moment the evidence of clinical trials is positive but not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions because most trials are of low methodological quality and because of the unknown role of publication bias. This indicates that there is a legitimate case for further evaluation of homoeopathy, but only by means of well performed trials.
Subsequently, more and better clinical trials were published, and the overall picture became increasingly negative. Kleinjen, who had become somewhat of a hero in the realm of homeopathy, re-reviewed the evidence in 2000 and concluded that there are currently insufficient data to either recommend homoeopathy as a treatment for any specific condition or to warrant significant changes in the provision of homoeopathy.
The 24 citations above reflect this development quite nicely. Today, there is no longer much doubt that highly-diluted homeopathic remedies are pure placebos. This is perhaps most clearly expressed in the now numerous statements of high-ranking international bodies.
2. The lack of understanding on the part of homeopaths
So the evidence is now clear. But it may not fully explain why my patience with homeopaths diminished. To understand this better, one must consider the utter lack of insight of today’s homeopaths (think, for example, of the incredible Ebola story).
It is of course understandable that a homeopath would be less than enthusiastic about the increasingly negative evidence. But homeopaths are also physicians or at least medically untrained practitioners (lay homeopaths). As such, they have an obligation to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence and act accordingly. That they quite obviously do not do so, is not only regrettable but also highly unethical and shameful. In any case, I find it difficult to have much patience for such people.
3. Personal attacks
In the many years that I have now been scrutinizing SCAM, I have become used to being attacked. The attacks and insults I have received, especially from homeopaths, are legion. For example, when we published our arnica study, we were threatened with letter bombs. However, one should keep one thing in mind: ad hominem attacks are a victory of reason over unreason. If one is personally attacked by one’s opponent, it only shows that he has run out of rational arguments.
Perhaps the most impressive example of an attack was not directed against me personally, but across the board against all who dare to doubt homeopathy. Christian Boiron is the boss of the world’s largest homeopathic manufacturer, Boiron. In an interview he was once asked what he thought of homeopathy critics; his answer: “Il y a un Ku Klux Klan contre l’homéopathie” (There is a Ku Klux Klan against homeopathy).
Yes, many of these attacks even have something comical about them; nevertheless, they are not likely to increase my patience with homeopaths. This does not mean, however, that I will soon hang my opponents from the nearest tree in the old KKK tradition. I’ll gladly leave such tasteless ideas to Christian Boiron.
The Indian AYUSH ministry has a track record of doing irresponsible stuff. Now they have published guidelines for treating Mucormycosis (black fungus) with homeopathy. Allow me to show you the crucial passages of their announcement:
… With the increasing cases of special variety of fungal infection, Mucormycosis (black fungus) the present information have been prepared with experience of senior clinicians in treating specific fungal infections and researchers of the system, for efficient treatment of suspected and diagnosed cases of Mucormycosis with Homoeopathy. This condition requires hospital based treatment under supervision and Homoeopathic medicines can be prescribed in an integrated manner. Since mostly immune compromised patients get this infection, strict monitoring of blood sugar and other vitals is required…
As a system with holistic approach, homoeopathy medicines may be selected based on the presenting signs and symptoms of each patient(4). Fungal infections are amenable to homoeopathic treatment. Various research studies undertaken on various fungi in-vitro model showed that homoeopathy medicine could prevent the growth of the fungus(5-8). Clinical studies have shown encouraging results on fungal infections (9-10). The medicines given here are suggestive based on their clinical use.
Note: -Apart from these lists of medicines any other medicine and any other potency may be
prescribed based on the symptom similarity in each case.
END OF QUOTE
Mucormycosis (black fungus) is a disease of immunocompromised patients. Five types can be differentiated:
- rhinocerebral (most common),
- gastrointestinal (rare).
Rhinocerebral mucormycosis commonly causes headaches, visual changes, sinusitis, and proptosis. Pulmonary mucormycosis commonly presents as a cough. Late diagnosis may result in dissemination, leading to high mortality. Treatment consists of amphotericin B, surgery, and immune restoration.
It is believed that the current surge of mucormycosis in India has an overall mortality rate of 50% and is triggered by the use of steroids which are often life-saving for critically ill Covid-19 patients. It almost goes without saying that homeopathy has not been shown to be effective against this (or any other) condition. As to the AYUSH ministry, the less they interfere with public health in India, the better for the survival of patients, I fear.
By guest blogger João Júlio Cerqueira
A word of caution to all the skeptics out there defending Reason, Science, and the Truth. This is a summary of a long story and only about one of many battles. It is not a very beautiful story but it is what it is. I’m a medical doctor, influenced by some of the great minds of our time, all of them familiar to you, Edzard Ernst, Steven Novella, David Gorski, Harriet Hall, Kimball Atwood and so much more (thank you all, for everything that you do).
I started reading skeptic blogs in 2013 and was amazed by the lack of critical thinking about science production and the lack of knowledge about pseudoscience in the medical community. And if this was bad in the medical community, in the general population it should be close to apocalyptic…
In 2017, I was confronted by a medical doctor that imported the great pitches of international charlatans. From alkaline diet, bioidentical hormones, colonic cleansings all through the “health benefits” of drinking diluted saltwater…yes, this is a real thing. He was transformed into a television celebrity, wrote one of the bestselling books in my country, and only a few people were horrified by what was happening. How? How can someone that says that kind of stuff could have this kind of reach in the media? He even sold foot detox!
So, frustrated by the lack of action of the regulatory institutions and the lack of critical approach by the media, I decided to create a blog that I called SCIMED. Using what I had learned through the years with “the masters of skepticism”, I tried to teach and convince people why pseudoscience is useless and dangerous. Why those selling pseudoscience are a danger to society and are only after the wallet of scientifically illiterate people.
Thanks to hard work and a lot of luck, the blog started to have a decent public projection. Started to get invitations to interviews in the media, invited to speak at conferences, started to write in the opinion section of mainstream journals, appearing on television, invited to do a TEDx talk, was invited to be one of the subscribers to the first world manifesto against pseudoscience and even had the pleasure to be a speaker in a conference side by side with Edzard Ernst, one of my heroes!
It was like something was changing. Well, it was not.
With public projection, came the problems…people calling my employers to get me fired, physical and death threats, constant harassment by email or in social media, doxing, and false accusations about my personal and professional life. You name it. And I endured…I considered it the dark side of defending Science and Truth.
In April of 2019, I was invited to represent my country´s Medical College in a debate about pseudoscience on television, prime time. I was very excited and emotion clouded my reason. I didn´t think about the consequences. And well, it was a shitshow.
The audience was dominated by alternative health practitioners. The moderator was sympathetic with alternative health practices. And of course, the people representing the alternative health practitioners didn’t play by the same rules. They used deception, lying, testimonials, and all the logical fallacies you can think of.
But what really took me over the hedge was a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner with connections to the Chinese Government, a constant presence in the mainstream media, that started to sell “acupuncture anesthesia” as something valid. Talking about how he, more than 20 years ago, used this practice to help perform surgical procedures. For me, that was a disrespect for all the people that suffered at the hands of Mao´s Chinese dictatorship. All the people that suffered excruciating pain, being operated on without general anesthesia only to sell East Snake Oil to the West. The “miracle” of acupuncture and Eastern medicine. The propaganda.
We exchanged words in the debate and that continued into social media. In the days after, I was called everything you can imagine by the defenders of alternative therapies. And this man took the opportunity to write that I was “short, ugly and bald” and that I have an “inferiority complex” because of that. That I´m a lousy doctor that cannot compete with his clinics. That only a masochist woman would want something with me.
But I endured. I could not stop feeling disgusted by the lack of shame of these people. I could not let go. Like Gaad Sad, I feel physical pain when someone is bullshitting. It makes me physically sick that people can say outrageous things with a serious face.
So, I wrote a blog post to explain the myth and the horror of acupuncture anesthesia and to dismantle other claims said by that man, like “all babies born with fire in the
liver…if you treat that problem, you can prevent infertility and cancer metastasis in the future!”. Preventing metastasis of a non-existing cancer… And I used a lot of adjectives: dumb, ignorant, charlatan, and snake oil salesman.
In November of 2019, this man goes to a wannabe Joe Rogan show and tells all sort of outrageous things like “Chinese people are so many because Traditional Chinese Medicine was very advanced for those days” or “until recently Traditional Chinese Medicine was more effective treating cancer than Conventional Medicine” or “Homeopathy works but they don´t want you to know…see this Documentary”. Again, I used sarcasm, irony, and a lot of adjectives.
And then, legal problems…
Soon after I wrote this last blog post, I received a letter from the court saying that I was being sued by this man. I hired a lawyer and made a lengthy response to all the accusations, more than 100 pages. Nevertheless, I have been charged with seventeen defamation crimes, awaiting trial, for defending the truth. For defending the people that Institutions refused to defend.
My country, Portugal, legally recognizes “Non-Conventional Therapies” like Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Osteopathy, Chiropractic, and Naturopathy. My country, instead of defending the consumer, took the option to give these people the legal right of robbing people. I thought that the COVID-19 pandemic would change that a little bit since pseudoscience contributed zero for solving the problem, alternative practitioners embraced negationism about COVID-19, and Traditional Chinese Medicine was put in the corner. It was Science that came to the rescue with vaccines.
But now, when the pandemic is finally getting managed in my country, the snakes are starting to come out of hibernation to sell snake oil. And the media are giving them credit, again, like nothing has happened…nothing has changed, except for me.
Right now, I face four legal battles, for defamation. Besides this man, I have another lawsuit from a Nurse that promotes Reiki and Traditional Chinese Medicine, other from a Naturopath/Quantum Doctor and, lastly, from a Medical Doctor that was the head of the “Doctors For the Truth”, an organization part of an international network of Health Professionals that still denies the science about COVID-19.
So, this is my prize for all the hours battling liars and charlatans. The regulatory institutions don´t care. The mainstream media and Social Media don´t care. They are like brokers. They always win no matter if the stock market goes up or down. They will use you just to fuel the battle between science and pseudoscience and make money out of it. Why do you think the “Disinformation Dozen” still exists, besides some gestures of goodwill by the Social Media giants?
What I learned and you should learn…
I learned that it is pointless trying to convince people to change their minds on social media… People don´t follow reason, follow emotion, and something closer to religious belief. People want to be right, don´t want to learn what is right. Facts don´t change the minds of believers.
I learned that “True Skeptics” are unicorns. Everyone is a rational, skeptical person that values truth, reason, and science until you hit some nerve, some irrational belief that they hold dear. And then the “skepticism” goes down the drain. The more topics you talk about, the lonely you will be. And then you became a unicorn or, in the words of Malcolm Gladwell in the book “Talking to Strangers”, a Holy Fool: the truth-teller that is an outcast.
The COVID-19 pandemic just made things a lot worse…People started to getting hit by the pandemic in their quality of life and you start seeing hardcore skeptics doubting the most basic science and common sense. You even see some of your personal heroes like John Ioannidis going down the rabbit hole. Making the same basic mistakes that he spent his life point out about science production!
You start to see the animal inside us taking ground, what William James argued: if something improves your chances of survival, is not that the “truth”? The pragmatic, utilitarian truth? We saw irrationality in all its splendor, people negating reality, trying to conserve their way of life, making sense of events they don´t control. Fighting for control. Reason went to sleep and a lot of skeptics ceased to be…
So, I came to ask for your help… After two years of enduring the Sword of Damocles over my head, the energy to continue is running out. The SLAPP (Strategic lawsuit against public participation) they call it, is making a dent in my will to continue to fight against irrationality and charlatans.
So, I came to ask for your help, the International Skeptic community, for covering the legal expenses. I already asked for the support of my country’s skeptical community but it was not enough…only after two years of this marathon probably will take another two, I took this decision. I´m not proud of this, I´m angry that these people, besides robbing the sick and fragile giving them false hope are now making those who fight them spend money and probably pay “compensation” for not be silent about charlatanism. You can support me through Paypal or Patreon. Thank you in advance and I will keep you up-to-date.
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By guest blogger Michael Scholz
For several years, the “flower essences” invented by Dr. Edward Bach had a difficult time in the European Union and especially Germany. The manufacturers were regularly taken to court for violating the EU Health Claim Regulation. This now culminates in the fact that the manufacturer, Nelsons, who sells the “Original Bach Flowers” in Germany, was forced to rename its popular “Rescue” remedies.
The “Rescue” remedies were promoted with statements such as “calm and strong through the day” and “recommended use in emotionally exciting situations, e.g. at work” or to “face emotional challenges”. The competitor, Annoyax Nutripharm, regarded this as a health-related statement that is prohibited according to the EU Health Claim Regulation. Since the “Bach Flower Remedies” are not considered to be medicinal products in Germany, they are treated as food supplements, according to a ruling by the Oberlandesgericht (Higher Regional Court) Hamburg in 2007.
As it is strictly forbidden to advertise food supplements with health-related claims that are unproven, Annoyax Nutripharm filed a lawsuit against Nelsons that all the way to the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal High Court of Justice) in Karlsruhe. Since the case concerned European law, the judges in Karlsruhe referred it to the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg.
The judges wanted two questions clarified: 1. Are the “Rescue” remedies to be regarded simply as Brandy due to their alcohol content of 27%? (in which case, health-related claims would be strictly forbidden). 2. Does the product’s name “Rescue” itself constitute a violation of the Health Claims Regulation?
The Luxemburg judges ruled “No” and “Yes”. “No”, it is not Brandy, although the „essences“ consist of a considerable quantity of alcohol, the recommended dose is too small to be intoxicating. But “Yes”, the term “Rescue” does indeed violate the Health Claim Regulation. So the plaintiff won – and what is the result?
When the Health Claims Regulation was enacted in 2005, a transition period until 2022 was established. This applied to all products that were sold using the same brand name and composition before 2005. This now gave the defendant – Nelsons – the opportunity to use Edward Bach’s 135th anniversary for launching an advertising campaign that praises the court-ordered renaming as „modernization“ for the 21st century. And as you see, the new name is a paragon of creativity, innovation & modernism, indeed (//irony:off): “Rescue” becomes – drum roll – “Rescura”. Yes, I looked just like that too…
This pyrrhic victory for the plaintiffs shows how important it is to protect the European citizens against misleading advertising. And – far more important – it is now established through a ruling of the Federal High Court of Justice that “Bach Flowers” are an esoterical concept devoid of medical evidence.
Vaccinations lead to masturbation! This surprising claim comes from Zita Schwyter, a Swiss anti-vaxxer, and practitioner of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Is there any evidence for a link? The only evidence I could find seems to suggest that the causal link (if there is one) goes in the opposite direction: “Women engaging in mutual masturbation were nearly two times more likely to decline the free vaccine.”
In her practice, Schwyter offers homeopathic treatments, hara massage, “vaccination consultations”, quantum medicine, ‘Matrix Energetics’, colon cleansing, and other SCAMs. Schwyter claims that vaccinations cause “vaccination disease” with symptoms such as sleep disorders, dyslexia, stuttering, autism, brain tumors, the tendency to masturbate, allergic reactions, cancer, swelling and redness at the injection site, or aching limbs. According to Zita Schwyter, chronic diseases and autoimmune diseases have only been on the rise since vaccination was introduced, and that, according to her fallacious thinking, implies a causal relationship.
On the website of her practice, Schwyter tells us that “Fühlen Sie sich in guten Händen und vertrauen Sie Ihre Gesundheit der ganzheitlichen Gemeinschaftspraxis vor Ort an. Ein professionelles Therapeutenteam mit einem fundierten Fachwissen, jahrelangen Ausbildungen und weitreichenden Erfahrungen erwartet Sie.” (Feel in good hands and entrust your health to the holistic group practice on site. A professional team of therapists with in-depth expertise, years of training and extensive experience awaits you.) And elsewhere, she states that “Durch meine berufliche Laufbahn verstehe ich mich deshalb als kompetentes Bindeglied zwischen Schulmedizin und Naturheilkunde, spezialisiert auf dem Gebiet der Homöopathie. Die richtige Person also, die Ihre Beschwerden ganzheitlich erfassen, richtig interpretieren und Sie mit dem angemessenen Behandlungskonzept zu besserer Gesundheit führen kann.” (Through my professional career, I therefore see myself as a competent link between conventional medicine and naturopathy, specializing in the field of homeopathy. The right person, therefore, who can grasp your complaints holistically, interpret them correctly and lead you to better health with the appropriate treatment concept.)
Homeopathy, Schwyter claims on the same site, can effectively treat the following conditions:
- Joint pain
- Hay fever
- Varicose veins
- Reynauds syndrome
- Gynecological diseases
- Pregnancy pains
- Chronic headache
- Chronic bowel inflammation
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes mellitus
- Metabolic disorders
- Liver/gall bladder problems
- Acute and chronic childhood diseases
- Growth and development disorders in children
- Susceptibility to infections
- Otitis media
- Convalescence from acute diseases
- Chronic injury sequelae
- Sleep disorders
- Learning difficulties
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Diseases resistant to conventional medicine
- And much more
Call me a skeptic, but somehow, I doubt Schwyter’s competence, expertise, and professionalism. But I do admire her humor!
Mind-body interventions (MBIs) are one of the top ten so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) approaches utilized in pediatrics, but there is limited knowledge on associated adverse events (AE). The objective of this review was to systematically review AEs reported in association with MBIs in children.
Electronic databases MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, CDSR, and CCRCT were searched from inception to August 2018. The authors included primary studies on participants ≤ 21 years of age that used an MBI. Experimental studies were assessed for whether AEs were reported on or not, and all other study designs were included only if they reported an AE.
A total of 441 were included as primary pediatric MBI studies. Of these, 377 (85.5%) did not explicitly report the presence/absence of AEs or a safety assessment. In total, there were 64 included studies: 43 experimental studies reported that no AE occurred, and 21 studies reported AEs. A total of 37 AEs were found, of which the most serious were grade 3. Most of the studies reporting AEs did not report on severity (81.0%) or duration of AEs (52.4%).
The authors concluded that MBIs are popularly used in children; however associated harms are often not reported and lack important information for meaningful assessment.
SCAM is far too often considered to be risk-free. This phenomenon is particularly stark if the SCAM in question does not involve physical or pharmacological treatments. Thus MBIs are seen and often waved through as especially safe. Consequently, many researchers do not even bother to monitor AEs in their clinical trials. This might be understandable, but it is nevertheless a violation of research ethics.
This new review is important in that it highlights these issues. It is high time that we stop giving researchers in SCAM the benefit of the doubt. They may or may not make honest mistakes when not reporting AEs. In any case, it is clear that they are not properly trained and supervised. All too often, we still see clinical trials run by amateurs who have little idea of methodology and even less of ethics. The harm this phenomenon does is difficult to quantify, but I fear it is huge.
“Time to say good-bye? Homeopathy, skeptics and thoughts on how to proceed” is the title of an article by two Swiss homeopaths which is almost touchingly naive. Here is its abstract:
Although homeopathy is frequently used by many health professionals, there are ongoing debates concerning its effectiveness. Currently no unifying explanation how homeopathy works exists. Homeopaths are frequently challenged by skeptics, and in public opinion, the swan song for homeopathy is frequently sung.
Content: Regarding the efficacy of homeopathy, several well-designed RCTs, observational studies, case studies, and case reports, have been published, demonstrating its clinical efficacy. Regarding its mode of action, the discovery of the working principle of homeopathy would be a major advance towards a thorough scientific recognition of homeopathy. Basic research has already discovered some milestones, e.g., significant and reproducible effects of homeopathic preparations in plants.
Summary: To overcome the distrust of skeptics and public opinion, the support of basic research is indispensable. Second, homeopaths should continue to design prospective randomized clinical studies in order to create robust clinical evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy. Third, they should continue to publish their treatment outcomes, as these publications document clinical effectiveness beyond doubts about its mode of action.
Outlook: These measures will not only support homeopaths in continuing their clinical work, but may lead to a better recognition of this treatment in both the scientific world and the public.
To this, I might add the following comments:
- “ongoing debates concerning its effectiveness”: this debate has been ongoing for 200 years but it has now come to a conclusion, namely that homeopathy is a placebo therapy.
- “no unifying explanation how homeopathy works exists”: we do know, however, that the laws of nature, as we understand them today, must be wrong if homeopathy did work.
- “Homeopaths are frequently challenged by skeptics”: the main challenges currently come not from skeptics but from health experts who rightly insist on sound evidence.
- “several well-designed RCTs, observational studies, case studies, and case reports, have been published, demonstrating its clinical efficacy”: arguably, this might be correct but misses the crucial point that the totality of the reliable evidence fails to show that homeopathy is efficacious for any condition of humans or animals.
- “the discovery of the working principle of homeopathy would be a major advance”: yes, so much so that it would require rewriting whole sections of the textbooks of physics and chemistry.
- “Basic research has already discovered some milestones”: these ‘milestones’ are so imposing that nobody outside the realm of homeopathy has ever recognized them.
- “the support of basic research is indispensable”: not so much indispensable as non-existent, I would say.
- “design prospective randomized clinical studies in order to create robust clinical evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy”: homeopaths believe research to be a tool for creating evidence that supports their creed; I have often tried to remind them that it is a tool for testing hypotheses – to no avail, it seems.
- “publish their treatment outcomes, as these publications document clinical effectiveness”: I have also often tried to explain to them that treatment outcomes can be due to many factors other than the specific effect of the applied therapy – again to no avail.
- “These measures will not only support homeopaths in continuing their clinical work, but may lead to a better recognition of this treatment in both the scientific world and the public”: these measures, if applied rigorously, will merely confirm what we already know, namely that homeopathy does not work beyond placebo.
The UK ‘Advertising Standards Authority‘ (ASA) received a complaint about an advertisement that stated:
“Homeopathy is used throughout the world to keep healthy … People in the UK have been using it to successfully help with migraine, anxiety, chronic pain, woman’s [sic] health issues, depression, eczema, chronic fatigue, asthma, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other conditions”.
The ‘Good Thinking Society‘ had challenged whether:
- the ad discouraged essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, namely migraines, chronic pain, women’s health issues, depression, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis; and
- the claim “People in the UK have been using [homeopathy] to successfully help with anxiety, chronic pain … eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome … IBS” was misleading and could be substantiated.
The response of the ASA has just been published. Here are the key excerpts from the ASA’s assessment:
The CAP Code required that marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. For example, they must not offer specific advice on, diagnosis or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment was conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified medical professional. Among other conditions, the ad referred to “migraines”, “chronic pain”, “woman’s [sic] health issues”, “depression”, “asthma”, and “rheumatoid arthritis”, which we considered were conditions for which medical supervision should be sought, and therefore advice, diagnosis or treatment must be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified medical professional. We noted that the practice was run by a GMC-registered GP, who we considered was a suitably qualified health professional. However, the individual homeopaths were not registered and did not hold the same qualifications. Therefore, Homeopathy UK had not shown that all treatment and diagnoses conducted at the practice would be conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified medical professional. Because Homeopathy UK had not supplied evidence that treatment would always be carried out by a suitably qualified health professional, and because reference to the conditions listed in the ad could discourage consumers from seeking essential treatment under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional, we concluded that the ad had breached the Code.
On that point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
We considered that consumers would understand the claim “People in the UK have been using [homeopathy] to successfully help with anxiety, chronic pain … eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome … IBS” to mean that homeopathy could be used to successfully treat those conditions … when we reviewed the evidence provided by Homeopathy UK, we considered that the studies provided did not meet the standard of evidence we required for the types of claims being made, both in terms of adequacy and relevance…
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Homeopathy UK to ensure their future marketing communications did not to refer to conditions for which advice should be sought from suitably qualified health professionals. We also told them to ensure they did not make claims for homeopathy unless they were supported with robust evidence.
Am I reading this correctly?
The ASA seems to be saying that homeopaths are not suitably qualified health professionals and, as no therapeutic claims are supported by robust evidence, that claims for homeopathy are improper.
Many people believe that homeopathy is essentially plant-based – but they are mistaken! Homeopathic remedies can be made from anything: Berlin wall, X-ray, pus, excrement, dental plaque, mobile phone rays, poisons … anything you can possibly think of. So, why not from vaccines?
This is exactly what a pharmacist specialized in homeopathy thought.
It has been reported that the ‘Schloss-Apotheke’ in Koblenz, Germany offered for sale a homeopathic remedy made from the Pfizer vaccine. This has since prompted not only the Chamber of Pharmacists but also the Paul Ehrlich Institute and Pfizer to issue statements. On Friday (30/4/2021) morning, the pharmacy had advertised homeopathic remedies based on the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine. The Westphalia-Lippe Chamber of Pharmacists then issued an explicit warning against it. “We are stunned by this,” said a spokesman. The offer has since disappeared from the pharmacy’s website.
On Friday afternoon, the manufacturer of the original vaccine also intervened. The Paul Ehrlich Institute released a statement making it clear that a vaccine is only safe “if it is administered in accordance with the marketing authorization.”
The Schloss-Apotheke had advertised the product in question with the following words:
“We have Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19-Vaccine in potentized form up to D30 as globules or dilution (for discharge) in stock.”
The chamber of pharmacists countered with a warming under the heading “Facts instead of Fake News” on Facebook and Instagram:
“Whatever they might contain: These remedies are no effective protection against Covid-19.”
Pharmacy manager, Annette Eichele, of the Schloss-Apotheke claimed she had not sold homeopathic Corona vaccines and stressed that effective vaccines of this kind do not exist. According to Eichele, only an additional “mini drop” of the original Biontech vaccine had been used and “highly potentized” and prepared homeopathically. According to Eichele, Corona vaccinations that had already been administered were thus to have a “better and more correct effect with this supplementary product, possibly without causing side effects … but this is not scientifically proven”. The homeopathic product had been produced only on customer request and had been sold less than a dozen times in the past weeks. Ten grams of the remedy were sold for about 15 Euros. On Twitter, Eichele stated: „Wir haben nichts Böses getan, wir wollten nur Menschen helfen!“ (We have done nothing evil, we only wanted to help people). I am reminded yet again of Bert Brecht who observed:
“The opposite of good is not evil but good intentions”.