A recent post of mine started an interesting discussion about the research of the NCCIH. Richard Rasker made the following comment:
The NCCIH was initially established as the Office for Alternative Medicine (OAM) for mostly the same reason that Edzard’s department at Exeter was founded, i.e. to study alternative modalities, and determine once and for all which ones were effective and which ones weren’t. Unfortunately, OAM and its subsequent incarnations were taken over by SCAM proponents almost right away, with its core mission changed into validating (NOT ‘studying’) SCAM modalities – a small but crucial difference that will all but guarantee that even long-obsolete and totally ineffective quackery will continue to be ‘researched’ and promoted.
So what’s the score now, after more than 30 years and well over 4 billion dollars in taxpayers’ money? How many SCAM modalities have they managed to ‘validate’, i.e. definitively proven to be effective? The answer is: none, for all intents and purposes. Even their research into herbal medicine – one of the most effective (or should I say: least ineffective) SCAMs out there – is best described as woefully lacking. Their list of herbs and plants names just 55 species of plants, and the individual descriptions are mostly to the tune of ‘a lot of research was done, but we can’t say anything definite’.
I think I can contribute meaningfully to this important comment and topic. Several years ago, my Exeter team – together with several other researches – systematically reviewed the NCCIH (formerly NCCAM)-sponsored clinical trials. Specifically, we focussed on 4 different subject areas. Here are the conclusions of our articles reporting the findings:
Seven RCTs had a low risk of bias. Numerous methodological shortcomings were identified. Many NCCAM-funded RCTs of acupuncture have important limitations. These findings might improve future studies of acupuncture and could be considered in the ongoing debate regarding NCCAM-funding. [Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies Volume 17(1) March 2012 15–21]
2. HERBAL MEDICINE
This independent assessment revealed a plethora of serious concerns related to NCCAM studies of herbal medicine. [Perfusion 2011; 24: 89-102]
3. ENERGY MEDICINE
In conclusion, the NCCAM-funded RCTs of energy medicine are prime examples of misguided investments into research. In our opinion, NCCAM should not be funding poor-quality studies of implausible practices. The impact of any future studies of energy medicine would be negligible or even detrimental. [Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies Volume 16(2) June 2011 106–109 ]
In conclusion, our review demonstrates that several RCTs of chiropractic have been funded by the NCCAM. It raises numerous concerns in relation to these studies; in particular, it suggests that many of these studies are seriously flawed. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21207089]
The overall conclusion that comes to my mind is this:
The NCCIH has managed to spend more money on SCAM research than any other institution in the world (in the 20 years that I ran the Exeter research unit, we spent around £2 million in total). The NCCIH has wasted precious funds on plenty of dubious studies; arguably, this is unethical. It has misappropriated its role from testing to validating SCAMs. And it has validated none.
As some of the above-cited papers are not easily accessible, I offer to send copies to interested individuals on request.
Yesterday, someone (hopefully) unknown to me (hiding under the pseudonym ‘Queristfrei’) tweeted this rather bizarre comment [in German, my translation]:
This trivialisation of the unjust GDR state, in which people died for political reasons, shows how “lost” the people are who @amardeo, @Skepges, @EdzardErnst and the @Skepges respect and defend. That’s historical fabrication to the power of ten! #GWUP
Normally, I would have discarded the comment as just one of those many irrelevant idiocies posted by cranks that I am constantly exposed to on social media. However, the mention of the GWUP, the German skeptics organisation, links it to the current woke-motivated destruction of the GWUP and thus gives it special significance.
‘Woke’ and the various related terms are in fashion and polute discussions on far too many subjects. To be blunt, I don’t like ‘woke, WOKE, anti-woke, unwoke, wokerati’, etc. – so much so that, for the purpose of this post, I will invent an umbrella term that captures all of these words: ANTI-UNWOKERATI, AUWEI for short (yes, there might be a German root in this abbreviation. I know it is a silly acronym but, in my mind, the subject deserves nothing serious).
As already mentioned, I am anti-AUWEI which means I am as much anti-woke as anti-antiwoke. Or, to put it differently, I feel that the world would be a better place, if ‘woke’ had never become en vogue. Here I have listed (in no particular order) several reasons why I dislike AUWEI:
- AUWEI means different things to different people and is thus a fertile basis for misunderstandings.
- Every Tom, Dick and Harry uses the AUWEI terminology pretending to be an expert without expertise.
- Much of what is said and written in the name of AUWEI is pure bullshit.
- AUWEI has become an ideology.
- Even worse, it is a straight jacket of the mind that makes us pre-judge a subject regardless of the evidence.
- Worse still, it is abused by all the wrong politicians.
- AUWEI serves many as a replacement for evidence.
- Even worse, it often seems to be an alternative to critical thinking.
- Most AUWEI-obsessed people seem to have lost their humor (or never had any).
- AUWEI renders complex issues falsely simple.
- AUWEI inhibits free thought.
- AUWEI inhibits nuances and puts you in one camp or another – black or white.
- AUWEI is unnecessarily devisive.
- AUWEI invites intolerance and unproductive dispute.
Personally, I like to make up my own mind about things; to do this, I want to see the evidence. Once I have understood it, I go where the evidence leads me – not where AUWEI dictates me to go.
There are many AUWEI subjects that do not interest me and perhaps even more that I find outright silly. Personally, I don’t want AUWEI to tell me that I must have an opinion on them or quietly follow that of my AUWEI ‘peers’.
No, really; AUWEI is not for me.
The French ‘National Assembly’ has yesterday adopted a major law aimed at reinforcing the prevention and combat against sectarian aberrations in France. This marks a significant step forward in strengthening the protection of citizens against abuse and manipulation by charlatans, gurus and other sectarian movements.
This bill, the result of particularly fruitful work and debate in both chambers, reflects the Government’s commitment to meeting the expectations of the victims of these sectarian movements.
Some of the key measures voted through by parliamentarians include:
- The enshrinement in law of the powers of MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Combat against Sectarian Aberrations);
- The reinforcement of the penal response with the creation of the offence of placing or maintaining in a state of psychological or physical subjection;
- The creation of an offence of incitement to abandon or refrain from treatment, or to adopt practices which clearly expose the person concerned to a serious health risk;
- Support for victims, with the extension of the categories of associations that can bring civil action;
- Information for the judiciary, with the introduction of an “amicus curiae” role for certain government departments in legal cases relating to cults.
Despite sometimes heated debates, particularly around article 4, fuelled by the opinion of the Conseil d’Etat, the adoption of this law by the National Assembly bears witness to a shared desire to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals while providing better protection for our fellow citizens against sectarian aberrations.
This bill is part of a multi-annual national strategy for 2023-2027 resulting from the conference on sectarian aberrations held in spring 2023. It is a major step towards strengthening the penal arsenal and protecting victims.
Sabrina Agresti-Roubache, Secretary of State for Citizenship and Urban Affairs, commented:
“Long-awaited by victim support associations, this text aims to strengthen our legal arsenal in the fight against sectarian aberrations. I’m delighted that all the articles have been adopted, particularly Article 4, which creates an offence of incitement to abandon or abstain from treatment. There have been some passionate debates in the Chamber, but I’d like to reiterate the basis of this bill: the State is not fighting against beliefs, opinions or religions, but against all forms of sectarian aberrations, these dangerous behaviors which represent a threat to our social cohesion and put lives at risk.”
Obviously, we shall have to see how the new law will be applied. But, in any case, it is an important step into the right direction and could put an end to much of so-called alternative medicine that endangers the health of French consumers.
Other nations should consicer following the Franch example.
Millions of US adults use so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). In 2012, 55 million adults spent $28.3 billion on SCAMs, comparable to 9% of total out-of-pocket health care expenditures. A recent analysis conducted by the US National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) suggests a substantial increase in the overall use of SCAM by American adults from 2002 to 2022. The paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, highlights a surge in the use of SCAM particularly for pain management.
Data from the 2002, 2012, and 2022 National Health Interview Surveys (NHISs) were employed to evaluate changes in the use of 7 SCAMs:
- massage therapy,
- guided imagery/progressive muscle relaxation.
The key findings include:
- The percentage of individuals who reported using at least one of the SCAMs increased from 19.2% in 2002 to 36.7% in 2022.
- The use of yoga, meditation, and massage therapy experienced the most significant growth.
- Use of yoga increased from 5% in 2002 to 16% in 2022.
- Meditation became the most popular SCAM in 2022, with an increase from 7.5% in 2002 to 17.3% in 2022.
- Acupuncture saw an increase from 1% in 2002 to 2.2% in 2022.
- The smallest rise was noted for chiropractic, from 79 to 86%
The analyses also suggested a rise in the proportion of US adults using SCAMs specifically for pain management. Among participants using any SCAM, the percentage reporting use for pain management increased from 42% in 2002 to 49% in 2022.
Limitations of the survey include:
- decreasing NHIS response rates over time,
- possible recall bias,
- cross-sectional data,
- differences in the wording of the surveys.
The NCCIH researchers like such surveys and tend to put a positive spin on them, i.e. SCAM is becoming more and more popular because it is supported by better and better evidence. Therefore, SCAM should be available to everyone who wants is.
But, of course, the spin could also turn in the opposite direction, i.e. the risk/benefit balance for most SCAMs is either negative or uncertain, and their cost-benefit remains unclear – as seen regularly on this blog. Therefore, the fact that SCAM seems to be getting more popular is of increasing concern. In particular, more consideration ought to be given to the indirect risks of SCAM (think, for instance, only of the influence SCAM practitioners have on the vaccination rates) that we often discuss here but that the NCCIH conveniently tends to ignore.
Mercury is a highly toxic chemical that threatens the health of humans and the environment. When it is released into the environment, it enters the food chain where it accumulates, particularly in fish. Exposure to high levels of mercury can cause harm to the brain, lungs, kidneys and the immune system. For these reasons, dental amalgam fillings which contain mercury have long been criticized. This is particularly true in the realm of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) where, as discussed repeatedly, amalgam has long been a subject of both concern and misinformation, e.g.:
- Is removal of dental amalgam a good idea?
- Dental Amalgam
- Three Trends In “Alternative Dentistry” Part 3: Amalgam Removal and Avoidance
- Three Trends In “Alternative Dentistry” Part 1: The Concept of Projections—Of Meridians and Temporo-Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJD)
- Holistic dentistry?
In the EU, dental amalgam might soon be merely of historical interest.
It has been announced that the EU Parliament and Council reached a provisional political agreement on the Commission’s proposal to address the remaining uses of mercury in products in the EU in line with commitments set out in the EU’s Zero Pollution Ambition.
In spite of viable mercury-free alternatives, around 40 tonnes of mercury are still used in the EU annually for dental amalgam as current rules only forbid the use of dental amalgam for treating teeth in children under 15 years old as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Negotiators agreed to phase out the use of dental amalgam in the EU by 1 January 2025 except if deemed strictly necessary by the dental practitioner based on the duly justified specific medical needs of the patient.
EU countries that have not yet adjusted their reimbursement system to cover alternatives, may postpone the phase-out up until 30 June 2026, to avoid negative repercussions for low-income individuals that would otherwise be socio-economically disproportionally affected by the phase-out.
The export of dental amalgam will also be prohibited from 1 January 2025, whereas the manufacturing and import into the EU will be banned from 1 July 2026.
After the agreement, rapporteur Marlene Mortler (EPP, Germany) said: “After an intensive week of negotiations, we were able to reach an agreement today to ban dental amalgam containing mercury. This is an important step towards a mercury-free future. I am very pleased with the result – because we have ensured that such dental amalgam may only be used in medically necessary cases. Some Member States have been granted an exemption in order to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the amalgam phase-out. After all, the ban on dental amalgam must not mean that low-income EU citizens can no longer afford adequate dental treatment in these countries. Another key point of this agreement is the decision that lamps containing mercury may only be exported to countries outside the EU until 30 June 2026. This will ensure that products that are already banned in the EU are not sold to third countries and have environmentally harmful consequences there.”
The deal still has to be adopted by the EU Parliament and Council, after which the new law will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force 20 days later.
Yestderday, it was announced that King Charles has cancer. He had been in hospital for surgery for his enlarged prostate. Initially, the news was positive, as it was confirmed not to be prostate cancer. However, during the investigations, a cancer was discovered that apparently is unrelated to the prostate. Since the announcement, many journalists and other people have written to me asking what I think about it and what treatment Charles is likely to receive. I therefore decided to write a short post about the matter.
As a physician and human being I am very sorry whenever I hear that anyone has fallen ill, particularly if the condition is serious and potentially life-threatening. That this includes Charles goes without saying. Equally it is self-evident that I wish that all goes well for him, that the treatment he reportedly has already started is not too arduous, that he keeps in good spirit, that he has empathetic support from all his family and recovers quickly and fully.
Charles will, I am sure, have the best treatment anyone could wish for. Will he use so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), for example, the Gerson therapy, one of the SCAMs he once promoted as a cure of cancer? Of course not! He will receive the most effective, evidence-based care that is currently available. Will he thus not try any SCAM at all? I am confident that he will use SCAM wisely, namely not as a cure but as a supportive measure. In my book on this very subject, I go through all the relevant evidence and conclude that, while SCAM is most certainly not a cancer cure, it can have a place in supportive cancer care. Depending on the symptoms that develop during and after the conventional treatments, certain SCAMs can, according to fairly sound evidence, be helpful in improving wellness and quality of life.
Going through a battle against cancer is often a most humbling experience. Therefore, I am hopeful that, as he recovers from his ordeal, Charles will see that modern medicine – he once described it as being out of balance like the leaning tower of Pisa – is not just effective, empathetic and caring but also not nearly as unbalanced and unholistic as he often proclaimed it to be. In that sense, the experience might reform our king, and – who knows? – he might, after all, turn out to be not the self-proclaimed enemy but a true friend of the Enlightenment.
I have to admit that I came across the ‘ARCIM’ (Academic Research in Complementary and Integrative Medicine) Institute only yesterday when writing the post about Buteyko. Naturally, the institution interested me, and I tried to find out more about it. As pointed out previously, the aim of the ARCIM research institute, founded in 2010, is to research complementary and integrative medicine, in particular anthroposophic medicine, on a scientific basis according to rigorous scientific standards established by the Equator Network criteria (http://www.equator-network.org/).
On the ARCIM’s website we furthermore learn that:
- ARCIM exists since 2010.
- Consists of a team of 8 co-workers.
- Its director is the physician Jan Vagedes.
- Who have published a sizable amount of papers.
- Is funded by the following sponsors: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Mahle-Foundation (Mahle Stiftung), Software AG (Software AG), DAMUS-DONATA e.V.
- Is located in the buildings of the ‘Filderclinic’.
This begs, I think, several questions:
Why is the Federal Ministry of Education and Research sponsoring the ARCIM?
As anthroposophical medicine is based on concepts that fly in the face of science, this seems a legitimate question. Sadly, I have no answer to it.
What is the ‘Filderclinic’?
The Filderklinik in Filderstadt-Bonlanden is one of six anthroposophically orientated hospitals in Germany. It is operated by the non-profit organisation Filderklinik gGmbH. The main founders of the Filderklinik, which has existed since 1975, were Hermann and Ernst Mahle, the founders of the Mahle Group. The Mahle-Stiftung GmbH is the main shareholder and also the largest sponsor of Filderklinik gGmbH. The hospital employs around 915 staff and has 300 beds.
Who is Jan Vagedes?
Jan Vagedes is a specialist for paediatrics and adolescent medicine, neonatology and a doctor for anthroposophic medicine. He studied in and graduated from the LMU in Munich (my alma mater) in 1997. He is the Founder and Scientific Director of the ARCIM Institute, a research associate at the University Children’s Hospital Tübingen, and Head of paediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Filderclinic.
He has no ‘habilitation’ (PhD and in Germany precondition for a professorship). Medline currently lists 42 articles in his name most of which are in 3rd class journals. His first Medline-listed article is dated 2012. As the ARCIM was established in 2010, this means that, when he was appointed as its ‘scientific director’, he had exactly zero published science to his name.
Why did he get the job?
I have absolutely no idea?
(If you know more than I do, I’d be grateful to hear about it.)
After the nationwide huha created by the BBC’s promotion of auriculotherapy and AcuSeeds, it comes as a surprise to learn that, in Kent (UK), the NHS seems to advocate and provide this form of quackery. Here is the text of the patient leaflet:
Kent Community Health, NHS Foundation Trust
This section provides information to patients who might benefit from auriculotherapy, to complement their acupuncture treatment, as part of their chronic pain management plan.
What is auriculotherapy?
In traditional Chinese medicine, the ear is seen as a microsystem representing the entire body. Auricular acupuncture focuses on ear points that may help a wide variety of conditions including pain. Acupuncture points on the ear are stimulated with fine needles or with earseeds and massage (acupressure).
How does it work?
Recent research has shown that auriculotherapy stimulates the release of natural endorphins, the body’s own feel good chemicals, which may help some patients as part of their chronic pain management plan.
What are earseeds?
Earseeds are traditionally small seeds from the Vaccaria plant, but they can also be made from different types of metal or ceramic. Vaccaria earseeds are held in place over auricular points by a small piece of adhesive tape, or plaster. Applying these small and barely noticeable earseeds between acupuncture treatments allows for patient massage of the auricular points. Earseeds may be left in place for up to a week.
Who can use earseeds?
Earseeds are sometimes used by our Chronic Pain Service to prolong the effects of standard acupuncture treatments and may help some patients to self manage their chronic pain.
How can I get the most out my treatment with earseeds?
It is recommended that the earseeds are massaged two to three times a day or when symptoms occur by applying gentle pressure to the earseeds and massaging in small circles.
Will using earseeds cure my chronic pain?
As with any treatment, earseeds are not a cure but they can reduce pain levels for some patients as part of their chronic pain management programme.
What the authors of the leaflet forgot to tell the reader is this:
- Auriculotherapy is based on ideas that fly in the face of science.
- The evidence that auriculotherapy works is flimsy, to say the least.
- The evidence earseeds work is even worse.
- To arrive at a positive recommendation, the NHS had to heavily indulge in the pseudo-scientific art of cherry-picking.
- The positive experience that some patients report is due to a placebo response.
- For whichever condition auriculotherapy is used, there are treatments that are much more adequate.
- Advocating auriculotherapy is therefore not in the best interest of the patient.
- Arguably, it is unethical.
- Definitely, it is not what the NHS should be doing.
This review aimed to investigate and categorize the causes and consequences of ‘quack medicine’ in the healthcare.
A scoping review, using the 5 stages of Arksey and O’Malley’s framework, was conducted to retrieve and analyze the literature. International databases including the PubMed, Scopus, Embase and Web of Science and also national Iranian databases were searched to find peer reviewed published literature in English and Persian languages. Grey literature was also included. Meta-Synthesis was applied to analyze the findings through an inductive approach.
Out of 3794 initially identified studies, 30 were selected for this review. Based on the findings of this research, the causes of quackery in the health were divided into six categories:
- and psychological.
Additionally, the consequences of this issue were classified into three categories:
- and social.
Economic and social factors were found to have the most significant impact on the prevalence of quackery in the health sector. Legal and technical-organizational factors played a crucial role in facilitating fraudulent practices, resulting in severe health consequences.
The authors concluded that it is evident that governing bodies and health systems must prioritize addressing economic and social factors in combating quackery in the health sector. Special attention should be paid to the issue of cultural development and community education to strengthen the mechanisms that lead to the society access to standard affordable services. Efforts should be made also to improve the efficiency of legislation, implementation and evaluation systems to effectively tackle this issue.
The authors point out that, in the health systems, particularly those of developing countries, a phenomenon known as “Quack Medicine” has been a persistent problem, causing harm in various branches of health care services. They define quackery as unproven or fraudulent medical practices that have no scientifically plausible rationale behind them. Someone who does not have professional qualification, formal registration from a legitimated institution, or required knowledge of a particular branch of medicine but practices in the field of medicine, is a quack, according to the authors’ definition. Finally, they define quack medicine as a fraudulent practice of quacks claiming to possess the ability and experience to diagnose and treat diseases, and pretending that the medicine or treatment they provide are effective, generally for personal and financial gain.
The authors rightly point out that, in some countries, there may be a lack of willpower, determination and effort among political leaders to deal with and prevent fraud and charlatanism in various fields, especially in the health system. This can be due to conflict of interests, corruption network, or insufficient infrastructure and resources, such as financial capacity and human resources. In some cases, they stress, policy makers may choose to tolerate small levels of unproven medical practices if the cost of prosecuting and correcting the situation outweigh the financial benefits. This can lead to a cycle of continued fraud and a lack of effective interventions to address the issue. In many countries laws against quack medicine do exist. However, their effectiveness depends on proper and strict implementation. More efforts and measures must be taken to implement the existing laws. Inadequate enforcement of laws and approval of pseudo-medicine can result in people receiving improper care.
The authors recommend that the healthcare systems, prioritize addressing economic and sociocultural factors in order to effectively combat this issue. In developing solutions, attention must be given to cultural development and community education, and efforts should be made to strengthen mechanisms that provide access to affordable, standard healthcare services for all. Lastly, it is crucial to enhance the performance of systems responsible for legislation, implementation and evaluation of laws and regulations related to quack medicine.
Guest post by Udo Endruscheit
Switzerland is probably the European country with the strangest complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) regulations in the health insurance system. A total of five different CAM methods have been included in the benefits catalogue of basic insurance for several years. However, this is subject to a strange proviso. How did this come about?
As almost everywhere in Europe, there was a desire in Switzerland in the 1990s to include CAM in the public healthcare system, with homeopathy naturally once again taking pole position. Initially, the urge to include five CAM modalities in basic care was granted, but only provisionally. A major project called the “Complementary Medicine Evaluation Programme” (PEK) was launched in 1999 to evaluate the procedures. Even back then, the criteria of efficacy, appropriateness and cost-effectiveness were prerequisites for reimbursement in health insurance. PEK was intended to create clarity here.
One part of PEK has been the well-known Shang/Egger (2005) study on homeopathy “Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy”, which was to become a bone of contention without precedent. However, this did not change the negative result for homeopathy.
In any case, clear conclusions were drawn in Switzerland not only from this study, but also from the results of the other evaluations: the provisional inclusion of the methods in statutory basic insurance was terminated.
This in turn enraged the supporters of CAM methods, who thought they had already reached their goal with the provisional decision in their favour. Apparently, they had not even considered the possibility that scientific evaluations could actually lead to a sudden end to their wishes, which they believed had already been fulfilled.
In fact, in 2009, the friends of ineffective methods succeeded in bringing about one of the referendums for which Switzerland is known under the catchphrase “direct democracy”. And they prevailed – around two thirds of the votes cast were in favour of CAM and its inclusion in the Swiss Federal Constitution. However, it should be borne in mind that the two-thirds figure is put into perspective if the approval, including the low voter turnout, is converted to the proportion of the total electorate. This leaves just 17 per cent who voted for the CAM. And a closer look at the issue of the constitution also reveals that no unconditional protection space has been created for CAM. This is more or less a kind of good behaviour clause for CAM methods, but not rules that could render laws null and void.
The Swiss government was faced with the question of how to avoid simply ignoring the result of the referendum, while at the same time complying with the still valid requirements for reimbursement in basic insurance. So the representatives of the five CAM directions were actually asked to come to the Federal Office of Public Health with their proof of efficacy and economic efficiency. This was done in 2011.
Of course, this was a little bizarre at this stage – and of course nothing came of it. Or actually it did: once again, no proof could be provided. Meanwhile, a lot of time had passed again and a new Federal Council was forced to take up the matter.
The latter, Alain Berset, came up with the plan that the necessary proof of efficacy could actually be postponed until after the methods had been included in the catalogue of basic insurance benefits. In other words, he gave the methods a governmental leap of faith (which, in view of the long-year history of the case, meant closing several eyes) and postulated that this should be the matter until someone applied for an evaluation of one of the methods.
This is what happened in the year of our Lord 2017. Apparently everyone was able to make their peace with it, which is hardly surprising after ten years of moving around and around. Only the umbrella organisation of health insurers, Santesuisse, grumbled about it and predicted that the announced cost neutrality of such a measure could hardly be expected. Which Santesuisse did indeed prove in a dossier two years later.
The exhausted Swiss have so far left it at that. Homeopathy remained untouched. This was also unfortunate for the reason that the fairy tale of the clever and innovative Switzerland, which knew how important the wishes and preferences of its patients were, was propagated in Germany. The rather strange result of more than ten years of struggle was even passed around by German homeopaths under the name “Swiss model”. Even the leading Swiss press was embarrassed by this and published a clarifying article. And unfortunately, the Swiss began to get used to the existence of hocus-pocus in their basic insurance and to take it for granted.
Until now. Even in Switzerland, the fact that homeopathy is coming under increasing criticism everywhere has probably not gone unnoticed. And the Swiss are actually a rather critical and resistant people. And so it happened that a single brave inhabitant of the country recently decided to exercise his right to demand a new evaluation of homeopathy. The Federal Office of Public Health must have been surprised – or perhaps they were desperately waiting for it? Perhaps. In any case, the application was accepted without hesitation. Meanwhile, a notification has been issued that the hearing procedure for the evaluation has been initiated. The representatives of homeopathy (the service providers), the representatives of the Swiss medical profession and the representatives of the health insurance companies – the aforementioned Santesuisse – will be heard. The final decision will then be made by the Swiss government’s Department of Home Affairs.
How many attempts at an evaluation has this actually been – the third? The fourth? We can’t keep up … We have seen the consequences of scientific questions being decided by majorities. It is to be hoped that Switzerland will not add another chapter to the drama that has been going on since 2005. Mr Berset’s successor, who has been in office since the beginning of the year, should only be given a brief reminder: in Switzerland, too, homeopathy has no effect beyond contextual effects. And that is not enough to prove efficacy, appropriateness and cost-effectiveness.
But cheers to the courageous descendant of William Tell, who is about to single-handedly bring down homeopathy in the Swiss healthcare system!