This recent review claimed to evaluate the evidence on the use of human and veterinary homeopathy, evidence level 1a studies were considered. Focusing on the external evidence on the use of homeopathy in infections, some evidence level 1a, 1b, 2c studies, and a case report, are described in more detail.
In conclusion, evidence for the effectiveness of human and veterinary homeopathy in general, and in particular, of homeopathic treatment for infections, is available. Especially, individualized homeopathy demonstrates effects at all quality levels according to Cochrane criteria, even in the methodologically high-quality studies. As in most areas of veterinary medicine and medicine, further good/excellent studies are necessary. In compliance with the principles of homeopathy, further methodologically high-quality trials focusing on the homeopathic treatment of infections are the next logical step. The selection of the simile (individually fitting homeopathic medicinal product) by appropriately trained homeopathic doctors/veterinarians is essential for the effectiveness of homeopathy. Implementation of studies at university facilities is a prerequisite for quality assurance. Consequently, further integration of homeopathy at universities is a necessary requirement for the patients’ best interests.
Who wrote this bizarre paper?
The authors who state to have no conflicts of interest are
Steiner with his wife (right) and Ita Wegman, his lover (left).
Anthroposophic medicine was founded by Steiner and Ita Wegman in the early 20th century. Currently, it is being promoted as an extension of conventional medicine. Proponents claim that “its unique understanding of the interplay among physiological, soul and spiritual processes in healing and illness serves to bridge allopathy with naturopathy, homeopathy, functional/nutritional medicine and other healing systems.” Its value has repeatedly been questioned, and clinical research in this area is often less than rigorous.
Anthroposophic education was developed in the Waldorf school that was founded by Steiner in 1919 to serve the children of employees of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Pupils of Waldorf or Steiner schools, as they are also frequently called, are encouraged to develop independent thinking and creativity, social responsibility, respect, and compassion.
Waldorf schools implicitly infuse spiritual and mystic concepts into their curriculum. Like some other alternative healthcare practitioners – for instance, doctors promoting integrative medicine, chiropractors, homeopaths and naturopaths – some doctors of anthroposophic medicine take a stance against childhood immunizations. In a 2011 paper, I summarised the evidence which showed that in the UK, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, Waldorf schools have been at the centre of measles outbreaks due to their stance regarding immunisations.
More recently, a study evaluated trends in rates of personal belief exemptions (PBEs) to immunization requirements for private kindergartens in California that practice alternative educational methods. The investigators used California Department of Public Health data on kindergarten PBE rates from 2000 to 2014 to compare annual average increases in PBE rates between schools.
Alternative schools had an average PBE rate of 8.7%, compared with 2.1% among public schools. Waldorf schools had the highest average PBE rate of 45.1%, which was 19 times higher than in public schools (incidence rate ratio = 19.1; 95% confidence interval = 16.4, 22.2). Montessori and holistic schools had the highest average annual increases in PBE rates, slightly higher than Waldorf schools (Montessori: 8.8%; holistic: 7.1%; Waldorf: 3.6%).
The authors concluded that Waldorf schools had exceptionally high average PBE rates, and Montessori and holistic schools had higher annual increases in PBE rates. Children in these schools may be at higher risk for spreading vaccine-preventable diseases if trends are not reversed.
As the world is hoping for the arrival of an effective vaccine against the corona virus, these figures should concern us.
New German Medicine?
German New Medicine?
What on earth is that?
German New Medicine (GNM) is the creation of Ryke Geerd Hamer (1935-2017), a German doctor. The name is reminiscent of the ‘Neue Deutsche Heilkunde’ created by the Nazis during the Third Reich. Hamer received his medical licence in 1963 but was later struck off because of malpractice. He then continued his practice as a ‘Heilpraktiker’. According to proponents, GNM Therapy is a spoken therapy based on the findings and research of the Germanic New Medicine of Dr.Hamer. On the understanding that every disease is triggered by an isolating and shocking event, GNM Therapy assists in finding the DHS (shocking moment) in our lives that preceded the dis-ease and in turn allowing our bodies to complete its natural healing cycle back to full health. Hamer believed to have discovered the ‘5 laws of nature’:
- The Iron Rule of Cancer
- The two-phased development of disease
- Ontogenetic system of tumours and cancer equivalent diseases
- Ontogenetic system of microbes
- Natures biological meaning of a disease
Hamer also postulated that:
- All diseases are caused by psychological conflicts.
- Conventional medicine is a conspiracy of Jews to decimate the non-Jewish population.
- Microbes do not cause diseases.
- AIDS is just an allergy.
- Cancer is the result of a mental shock.
None of Hamer’s ‘discoveries’ and assumptions are plausible or based on facts, and none of his therapeutic approaches have been shown to be effective.
These days, I do not easily get surprised by what I read about so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), but this article entitled ‘Homoeopathy And New German Medicine: Two German Siblings‘ baffled me greatly. Here are a few short excerpts:
… German New Medicine (GNM) like Homoeopathy is one of the gentle healing methods. As siblings, they have some common features as well as their own unique features. So, let’s explore a unique relationship between these two siblings.
1) Holistic aspect:
Both therapeutic methods are believed in holistic concept of body. The disease condition in Homoeopathy and conflict in GNM are very similar in expression as they are reflecting on mental as well as physical level also. In Homoeopathy, Mind, Body and Soul are one of the important trios to understand the Homoeopathic philosophy. While in GNM, Psyche, Brain, Body are important aspect in learning the GNM. Let’s see these trio in their founder’s language,
Dr. Hahnemann in his oragnon of medicine, 6th edition mentioned about a unity of materialistic body and vital force. Last lines of aphorism 15 are as follows, “…although in thought our mind separates these two unities into distinct conceptions for the sake of easy comprehension.
• German New Medicine:
Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer, founder of GNM said that, “The differentiation between psyche, brain and the body is purely academic. In reality, they are one.”
2) Disease origin concept:
In Homoeopathy, disease originates from the dynamic disturbances and followed by functional and pathological changes.
• German New Medicine:
In GNM, morbid condition starts from conflict in the psyche level and later it reflects on body. The common feature is the disturbance is at the all levels of man.
3) Cause of disease:
In Homoeopathy, among the web of causations, psyche (mind) is also considers as a cause of disease.
• German New Medicine:
So, in GNM, psyche is playing important role in cause of disease. When Conflict starts, its dynamic effect perceived first at mind level.
In Homoeopathy, diathesis is a predisposition for disease condition. i.e. According to the diathesis every individual suffers with their own individual morbid dispositions. Rheumatic diathesis, gouty diathesis, etc. are the examples of diathesis.
• German New Medicine:
In GNM, every individual suffers from the disease condition after the receiving conflict. It is different and depending upon the type of conflict they are receiving. E.g. lung cancer- death fright conflict, cervical cancer –female sexual conflict…
Some similarities and with some own characteristics, these two healing methods are developing at a good length in medical science. The main aim of these both methods is – “to serve the suffering humanity in gentle way”…
Could it be that the author forgot the most striking similarities between GNM and homeopathy? How about these points:
- There is nothing truly gentle about either methods.
- Both are based on bizarre fantasies, far removed from reality.
- Both pretend to be a panacea.
- Both lack proof of efficacy.
- Both have the potential to kill patients (mostly through neglect).
- Both mislead consumers.
- Both are deeply anti-scientific.
- Both dissuade patients from using evidence-based healthcare.
- Both are in conflict with medical ethics.
- Both have cult-like features.
- Both are far from being recognised by proper healthcare.
- Both have been repeatedly in conflict with the law.
- Both were invented by deludes fanatics.
The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) is the UK’s professional organisation of ‘lay-homeopaths’, therapists who treat patients without having studied medicine. They prefer the term ‘professional homeopathy’, but there is little professional about them, it seems. The SoH has a long track record of endangering public health by promoting anti-vaxx nonsense.
A few months ago, it was reported that Linda Wicks, chair of the Society of Homeopaths (S0H), has shared a series of petitions claiming that childhood immunisations are unsafe. Mrs Wicks also posted a petition supporting Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced former doctor who falsely linked the MMR vaccine to autism claiming that the scientific establishment’s rejection of his flawed research was ‘the greatest lie ever told’.
In 2018, I pointed out that the SoH was violating its own code of ethics. At the time, two new members were appointed to the Society’s Public Affairs (PAC) and Professional Standards (PSC) committees, and both were promoting the deeply anti-vaxx CEASE therapy.
Today, THE TELEGRAPH reports that Sue Pilkington, the SoH’s ‘Head of Standards’, has been promoting anti-vaxx propaganda online. On April 14, she posted anti-vaxx content made by the ‘Children’s Health Defense’ – an organisation accused by NBC News last year as being one of the largest global creators of spreading misinformation’. The page advised that any new vaccine could trigger “lethal” immune reactions.
In a separate post on Facebook, Pilkington shared a post that describes vaccines as “poison” – alongside medical advice declaring that no child should be vaccinated, if any member of their family has a skin disorder. Pilkington also tried to contact Health Secretary Matt Hancock, attempting to share with him a video of content from an American comedian claiming that it’s ‘realistic’ for vaccines to cause autism.
As though this were not enough nonsense, Pilkington also promotes homeopathy as a solution to the current epidemic. On her homeopathy business website, she has section on coronavirus which states the following: “The current primary homeopathic remedy advised for Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) symptoms is Gelsemium with a possible following remedy of Eupatorium Perforatum, Bryonia or Belladonna depending on how the symptoms progress”. Other homeopathic remedies are in common use for people with influenza and pneumonia, according to Pilkington, these do not “prevent viruses” but may “reduce the severity and length of illness”. She also claims that homeopathy has a “great track record of success in epidemics” – referencing both the Spanish influenza pandemic and the bird flu pandemic.
“In our opinion, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) has a simple choice to make: remove the SoH and their uninformed vaccination paranoia from the register, or continue to allow homeopaths to make these dangerous claims with the tacit approval of the PSA.” said Michael Marshall, projector director of the Good Thinking Society.
A government health spokesperson was quoted in today’s TELEGRAPH article stating this: “Vaccine misinformation in any form – book, film, website or otherwise – is completely unacceptable.” The spokesperson added that NICE does not recommend homeopathy for the treatment of any health condition and noted that vaccines “save lives and are a foundation of public health.”
In response to the recommendation, the health ministry announced the formation of a working group of medical experts to suggest proposals for further regulation of homeopathy. A spokesman said that medicines whose efficiency is not clinically proven should not be procured using public funds, nor prescribed to treat the sick.
Russia has proved a profitable market for foreign suppliers of homeopathic medicine such as French company Boiron, which opened its Russian subsidiary in 2005. “Today, the Russian market is our company’s fourth largest in terms of turnover, after France, the US and Italy. Russia has always been interesting for Boiron because of the large population, and a relatively high incidence of illness and lower level of medicine consumption in comparison with Europe,” general director of Boiron in Russia Irina Nikulina said.
According to figures from Russian pharmaceutical market analysts DSM Group, Boiron sold 35 percent of all the homeopathic medicine sold in Russia last year, or 2.88 billion rubles (USD 49.5 million) worth of medicine. Boiron produces Russia’s most popular homeopathic medicine, called Oscillococcinum, which is marketed to relieve flu symptoms and accounted for 18.98 percent of all homeopathic medicines sold in 2016.
The many international initiatives aimed at minimising the harm done by homeopathy are slowly beginning to yield results. It took many years for politicians to realise that the supposedly harmless homeopathy is, in fact, not harmless at all. Homeopathy causes harm by:
- wasting people’s money,
- distracting patients from effective treatments,
- the ill-conceived advice homeopaths give to patients,
- making a mockery of evidence-based medicine,
- violating the principles of medical ethics,
- undermining rational thinking in society.
One therefore has to applaud Russia’s ‘Commission against Pseudoscience’, hope that the working group does produce robust advice, and support similar initiatives in other countries.
Hard to believe but apparently true: it has been reported that the state government of Kerala distributed homeopathic medicines to people across the state as ‘immunity boosters’. A total of 4.5 million samples have already been distributed.
No, these reports were not dated 1 April!
They are only two days old.
Dr. B Vijayakumar, a member of the State level expert group of the Indian Homoeopathic Medical Association (IHMA’s) revealed that homoeopathy has had a long history in treating and preventing epidemics ever since its inception including those such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Chickenpox and Typhoid. “Its effectiveness in the management of viral diseases has proved beyond doubt many a time. Homeopathy, being one of the most sought after the alternative system of medicine all over the world.”
VK Prasanth, MLA who has been the former mayor of Thiruvananthapuram was the first to launch the distribution of homeopathic medicine in his constituency. “The centre has recognised the homoeopathy medicine to boost the immunity and thereby work as a preventive. When I associated with it, first I was criticised, but now the medicine is in high demand across the state.” said Prasanth.
The Indian Homoeopathic Medical Association (IHMA) is part of the Kerala Government’s RAECH (Rapid Action Epidemic Control Cell, Homoeopathy) programme which officially looks after all the epidemic activities in Kerala.
The government of Kerala even has a ‘Department of Homeopathy. Its stated vision is:
- Permanent establishment of Homoeopathic Health care facility to all Panchayaths in our state.
- To open more specialities OP’S in vulnerable locations like coastal belt, tribal areas, metros etc. And Speciality IP’s In our district Hospitals.
- To extent elaborate laboratory facilities in our district hospitals.
- To formulate Research & Development wing in Department of Homoeopathy.
- Computerization of all Dispensaries.
- As per the Central Govt. Decision and Direction by Supreme Court primary Health care in the periphery i.e. Panchayats shall be designed in such a way that all the three systems i.e. Homoeopathy, Allopathy and Ayurveda Should come under one roof.
We have, of course, discussed the track record of homeopathy in epidemics before on this blog. It is simply not true that the evidence is convincing. It is also not true that homeopathy has ever been shown to boost any parameter indicative of the immune response. It is finally also untrue that there is good evidence that any homeopathic remedy is an effective treatment of any viral infection (or any other condition).
There are uncounted different forms of bogus so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs), and many have been discussed on this blog. What do I mean by ‘bogus’? A bogus SCAM is one, in my view, that is being promoted for conditions for which it does not demonstrably generate more good than harm.
Ten popular examples are:
- alternative cancer ‘cures’,
- applied kinesiology,
- Bach Flower Remedies,
- detox treatments,
- paranormal or energy healing techniques,
- slimming aids.
These treatments are diverse in many ways: history, basic assumption, risks, etc. But they nevertheless tend to have certain features in common:
- Most SCAMs originate from the ideas developed by a single, often charismatic individual who proclaimed to have seen the light. Think of Gerson, Bach, Palmer, Hahnemann, Still.
- They are recommended by enthusiasts as a panacea, a ‘cure all’.
- They are heavily promoted by celebrities, hyped by the press and marketed via books or the Internet, but they are far less or not at all supported by published studies in the peer-reviewed medical literature.
- The clinical trials of SCAM that have been published are flimsy, lack independent replication, yet are celebrated by proponents as though they represent robust evidence.
- SCAMs target either the most desperately ill patients who understandably tend to cling to every straw they can find. Or they go for the ‘worried well’ who have nothing truly wrong with them and plenty of cash to waste.
- Proponents of SCAM use scientific-sounding terminology, while simultaneously displaying a profoundly anti-scientific attitude.
- Entrepreneurs of SCAM are efficient at selling false hope at excessive prices.
- SCAMs sometimes seem to work because many of the therapists are skilled at maximising the placebo-response.
- SCAM is awash with conspiracy theories, for instance, the notion that ‘the establishment’ is supressing SCAM. (If a SCAM ever showed real promise, it would rapidly scrutinised by researchers and, if effectiveness were confirmed, adopted by conventional medicine. The notion of an alternative cure for any disease is idiotic, because it presupposes that conventional healthcare professionals shun a potentially valuable treatment simply because it emerged from elsewhere.)
- Most SCAMs can do direct harm. For instance, oral treatments can be toxic or interact with prescription drugs. Or spinal manipulations can cause a stroke. Or acupuncture can cause a pneumothorax.
- SCAMs are dangerous even if they do not cause direct harm. There are many examples of people who died needlessly early because they used SCAM as an alternative to conventional medicine (Steve Jobs is a prominent example).
- Moreover, SCAMs cause harm by undermining the principles of EBM and, more importantly, by undermining rational thinking in our society.
- SCAM practitioners violate fundamental rules of medical ethics on a daily basis. One could even argue that the ethical practice of SCAM is rarely possible.
I know Dr Thompson personally since many years. She is one of the UK’s leading homeopaths and we rarely agreed on anything. Yet I had always considered her to be on the responsible side of the homeopathic spectrum. I am sorry to say that I just changed my mind.
The reason is this video and letter.
In the video, she explains that she has been infected with the coronavirus, has self-treated the condition with homeopathy and promptly recovered. In the letter to all patients, she states the following:
… In terms of Homeopathic Medicines, the medicine Anas Barb 200c, two tablets twice weekly, can be used during this time, increasing to two tablets once a day if you do have exposure to the virus or have symptoms and have to self-isolate.
Other Homeopathic Medicines that are being recommended include:
- Arsenicum Album 30c: three times daily if anxiety is strong
- Gelsemium 30c: twice daily if weakness and headache predominate
- Bryonia 30c: two-three times a day for dry cough particularly if movement aggravates the cough.
If cough becomes more problematic you can use Antimonium Tartaricum 30c three times daily.
If fevers are a problem and particularly if they are periodic (coming at certain times of the day) use China officinalis 30c three times daily…
I find this amazing and alarming. There is, of course, not a jot of evidence that any homeopathic treatment will effectively treat or prevent any viral infection, and certainly no evidence that it cures coronavirus infections. To claim or imply otherwise displays a staggering ineptitude and lack of professionalism. To extrapolate from a personal experience to a quasi recommendation for patients is, in my view, ridiculously unscientific and overtly unethical. As a doctor Thompson should be able to differentiate between experience and evidence and has the professional duty to go by the latter.
I am truly glad to hear that Dr Thompson has had a mild course of the disease and recovered swiftly. But we know that all too often this is not the case and that patients can become seriously ill and some even die of the coronavirus. To give the impression that homeopathy can keep them safe is clearly both incorrect and irresponsible.
As THE TIMES stated yesterday, homeopaths are ‘risking lives with bogus coronavirus treatments’.
It’s high time to stop them.
It is hard to believe that the largest professional organisation of UK homeopaths, the ‘British Homeopathic Association’ (BHA), can be so irresponsible as to publish this on their website under the title ‘Coronavirus – advice from the UK homeopathic Community‘:
Can homeopathy help?
Homeopathic medicines have been used extensively for flu-like symptoms and in epidemics around the world. If you decide to take a homeopathic medicine, this should be in addition to the various measures outlined above and should not be your only approach. Selection of the most appropriate homeopathic medicine is based on an individual’s unique symptoms. However, Gelsemium 30c and Bryonia 30c are commonly used for flu-like symptoms and have a long-established, traditional usage over many years.
Homeopathic options can form one part of your approach to the current Covid-19 outbreak but should always be used alongside other measures. If you have current symptoms or are concerned that you may have been exposed to coronavirus, it is important to call 111 to seek appropriate advice, in keeping with current guidelines.
You start to feel internally very cold and suddenly pretty unwell – Aconite 30c
You have flu with stomach upset, your body is hot but you feel cold; you are better being warm and are
mentally restless and anxious – Arsen alb 30c
You have a raging hot temperature, a red face and a cold body – Belladonna 30c
Everything aches, especially when you move and you want to be left alone in bed with the curtains drawn –
You are ‘wiped out’, have no energy, droopy eyelids and are feeling shivers up and down your spine –
With the flu you have great sensitivity to noise and touch, are worse for the slightest uncovering: it is as if you
have a hangover – Nux vomica 30c
You have aching and restlessness, are better moving around, yet worse on continued exertion and much worse
in the cold and damp, much better for heat – Rhus tox 30c
In later stages of the illness, the medicine may change, for example:
Your head feels congested when you are up and about but is better lying down – Natrum carb 30c
Your sinuses are blocked and painful – Hepar sulph 30c
You feel very low and the slightest thing can provoke tears – Pulsatilla 30c
This is, in my view, not just stupid, it is dangerous, unethical, reckless and in no way compatible with the responsibility of a professional organisation of a healthcare profession.
Guest post by Richard Rawlins
Ever since its inception, Homeopathy has struggled to establish principled medical ethics amongst its practitioners. For sure, Samuel Hahnemann was good doctor who achieved much by denying his patients the bleeding, emetics, expectorants, laxatives and poly-pharmacy conventional at the turn of the nineteenth century. But he then lost his way in spiritism and vitalism, devised a system of care which could not, and did not, provide any benefit beyond placebo responses, and inveigled many colleagues to share his delusion. Many derided him.
As medicine in all developed countries became better regulated, so the associated ethics became better focussed. “First do no harm” is common to all systems, but in the UK, the four ‘A’s of avoiding adultery with a patient, alcohol whilst in a clinical situation, advertising, and association formed the next domain. ‘Association’ meant having a professional medical relationship with anyone not also a GMC registrant. Times, and standards have changed, but quackery, charlatanism and health care fraud has always been unethical. The problem for society has been the GMC’s reluctance to take any action against its registrants who lack integrity, promote quackery, or seek to defraud. The general response has been “we only act on complaints by a patient, health authority or fellow registrant – and complaints have to be specific.”
So it is that about 400 registrants of the GMC continue practising homeopathy with impunity. Sir Simon Stevens has now all but banned homeopathy from the NHS, but a medically qualified practitioner, in the private sector can do as they please, no matter how vulnerable and gullible the patient.
Doctors are of course required to obtain fully informed consent to treatment, and that should mean advising patients that homeopathic remedies are but placebos. Many patients so treated will declare they “feel better” and are content – but in practice, no explanation is offered to patients attending homeopaths. A classic charlatonnade (a charade promulgated by a charlatan).
But perhaps the vicissitudes of Covid-19 is exposing the hypocrisy of the GMC’s position, and might yet enable some redress for patients seeking redress for unethical medically qualified homeopathic attention.
The Guardian and Sunday Times of 22nd March 2020 reported that Dr Mark Ali allegedly made £1.7M profit in one week from selling kits to test for COVID -19.
“The GMC said no doctor should try to ‘profit from the fear and uncertainly caused by the pandemic…We would be concerned to learn that doctors are exploiting patient’s vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge, in order to profit from fear and uncertainty…’ “
The rationale for that fear is surely irrelevant – any health practice which takes advantage of the patient’s vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge is unethical. Simple.
“We also expect doctors… not to offer or recommend tests that are unproven, clinically unverified or otherwise unreliable.”
This is in the context of the serious issues of SARS-CoV-2 (the name of the corona virus which causes the illness COVID-19) – but it is helpful that the GMC’s ethical principles have been clearly stated.
May we take it the GMC will be equally as stringent with their registrants (doctors) who take advantage of the patient’s vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge, and recommend tests such as homeopathic provings “that are unproven, clinically unverified or otherwise unreliable.”?
And if not, why not?
All homeopathic remedy prescriptions are ‘tests’: “Take this, see how you go, I’ll adjust if needed…”. The German word pruefung used by Hahnemann (meaning ‘testing’ or ‘examination’) has been translated into English as ‘proving’. But the word for ‘to prove’ is beweisen, and that is not the word Hahnemann used. The use of ‘proving’ in English implies merit which is not deserved. All part of the delusion.
Clearly, any doctor who recommends homeopathic remedies, but does not explain the conventional view of the remedy, lacks integrity and is unethical – by definition. If the doctor is GMC registered (which a ‘doctor’ does not have to be – e.g., dentists are not) – they should be subject to sanction by the GMC. The GMC should do its duty to protect the public, and not wait for a crisis to stir them into action.
Sadly, if practitioners are not GMC registered, caveat emptor.