Monday, October 28, 2019

The Homeopath Hoax

Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS and the NHS national medical director, Stephen Powis, wrote to the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) about the possible reaccreditation of the Society of Homeopaths.

In the letter, dated 22 October, they said the accreditation gave a “false impression” to the public that the society’s treatments were clinically and scientifically established.

“In response to your current consultation, we are writing to register serious concerns about the Professional Standards Authority’s possible reaccreditation of the Society of Homeopaths,” Stevens and Powis said.
“While the Society of Homeopaths may appear to meet some of the PSA’s procedural standards, the basis of their practice remains fundamentally flawed.”
They added that homeopathic remedies were not scientifically validated and recommended to treat any health conditions.
Stevens added that he believed homeopathy was no replacement for tried and tested medical treatments. “Anything that gives homeopathy a veneer of credibility risks chancers being able to con more people into parting with their hard-earned cash in return for bogus treatments which at best do nothing, and at worst can be potentially dangerous,” he said in a statement.


Anonymous said...

And your point is? Is it, perhaps, to announce that the Guardian is now the official voice of the SPGB, or is there a reason for this posting other than to demonstrate the inability of the Guardian to use the British spelling of homoepathy? The small group of IMO cranks who promulgate homoeopathy are probably nearly all well-meaning. There are other groups who are much better organised who remove 'hard-earned cash' from sick people and indeed the NHS who aren't quite as well-meaning.

ajohnstone said...

Unfortunately, the Guardian is one of the very few daily media that does not have a paywall, or numerous ads slowing the download down. That is why the blog,(not the SPGB), relies upon it for copy and pasting news items.

IMO? Got me with that one.

For sure, when it comes to depleting the NHS budget, Big Pharma is number one and homoeopathy (spelt the way you like it) is small peanuts but the homoeopath businesses no doubt share the same profit motivation that the drug industry do. It is presently a $4 billion industry and projected to be $17 billion in 2024.(at least by one conservative estimate)

But can I turn the question back to you...What is your point, apart from a lecture on spelling?

Anonymous said...

Happy to answer that, and to note that I spelt the word incorrectly as well.

My point was that I do not see how this article on homee, hoomoe, homm - an alternative type of medicine - relates to the abolition of commodity production, but you answered the question in your reply. Yes, the profit motive for a homoeopathy practitioner is the same as any other business, in the same way that a subcontracting sparky on a zero hours contract on a building site has the same motivation as Scottish Power.

But to me, the article boils down to this: "homeopathy (sic.) is shite". So why report this in a socialist blog? I am of the opinion (though by all means correct me if I am wrong) that if, in a socialist society, there are still people who want to study to be, or to consult, a practitioner of any kind of relatively benign alternative medicine, there will be the freedom to do so.

IMO=in my opinion.

ajohnstone said...

IMO - ah, I thought it was an adjective acronym like CAM

But the issue is not a matter of opinion nor preference. It is a scientific determination, proved by the evidence of innumerable studies. And whether it is denying the existence of what James Randi calls WOO-WOO or the insistence on the alleged existence of racial superiority, socialists will call into the service of informed experts to challenge them.

Nor is it a benign practice if it substitutes for tried and tested medicine and does not treat the illness cause or alleviate its symptoms.

I recall personally of someone I know whose son got chickenpox, getting a taxi into town during the middle of the night, buying some over-priced homeopathic treatment, money they had little of to spare, when all was required and could be done was a damp flannel to lower the son's temperature.

Such beliefs in socialism will wither away like religion, nationalism and other irrational ideas.

Legitimate investigation will no doubt continue into herbal and other remedies.

Nor is it proper to use the term "alternative" medicine. There is only medicine that works and if it is shown not to, it is by definition not medicine. When it comes to aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen we rightly describe these as "alternative" painkillers

Anonymous said...

Disappointing that you express a belief in science in such an unscientific manner. A "scientific determination, proved by the evidence of innumerable studies", eh? Bollocks. I think you've just made that up: never mind innumerable, if you can identify a mere 15 clinical trials where the null hypothesis to be disproven is that homoeopathy works I'll give the SPGB £150. Just list them in a reply. That will show that the SPGB's arguments are not just pulling things out of thin air, like I think you've just done for the sake of gain-saying over someone asking what I thought was a legitimate question. I'd an idea that we'd come to some synthesis of ideas. More fool me. Moreover, I admire your confidence in the ability of the scientific community to resist completely the interests of large corporations, but shouldn't a socialist blog be outlining that impartial empirical investigation is difficult under capitalism? The cost of homoeopathy is mostly in the consultation - the first one is an hour or so - and not in paying for, in my view, a sugar-filled placebo containing bugger all's worth of active ingredient diluted millions of times. Not a model easily embraced by capitalism - no expensive, and highly profitable, medication popular with a medical orthodoxy in hock to the corporates. Furthermore, a supposedly qualified alternative practitioner listening for an hour is perhaps more efficacious than taking the medication. At least the apparent success of this is worth investigating in an unbiased manner in a responsible system of society - your assertion that homoeopathy will "wither away" under socialism reminds me of a trotskyist speaker with a slight knowledge of Wilhelm Reich saying in a lecture that in a socialist society no-one will get cancer.

I replied to this blog because it seemed to me that a news item that merely reflected a mainstream view was out of place in a socialist blog, and was interested to know why.

But your response, though it doesn't answer this question, is more interesting. You echo the view of the status quo, bung in an anecdote about people too simple-minded to take responsible steps for their child's healthcare as an argument that homoeopathy is not benign, and then tell us that aspirin (the seventh most prescribed medicine in Britain, and most prescribed as a pain-killer) is "rightly" described as an "alternative" (rightly by whom? Not by the NHS, for whom it costs over £20 million a year in prescriptions).

And anyway, who is it who determines for you what is "proper"? And under whose authority are we allowed, or not allowed, to use the term "alternative"? It's a term used by the NHS to describe homoeopathy. Get on the blower and tell them off - they are flouting authority in a disgraceful manner by being both improper and not right. That'll learn 'em.

ajohnstone said...

5. Lancet: the analysis of 110 homeopathy trials and 110 matched conventional-medicine trials (found homeopathy to be no more effective than placebo):
6. European Journal of Cancer: meta-analysis of 6 studies (found homeopathy to be no more effective than placebo):
7. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: a double-blind randomized controlled trial (found homeopathy to be no more effective than placebo).
8. National Health and Medical Research Council (Australian Government): meta-analysis of over 1,800 studies (found homeopathy to be no more effective than placebo):
9. Klaus Linde, Nicola Clausius, Gilbert Ramirez, Dieter Melchart, Prof Florian Eitel, Larry V Hedges, Dr Wayne B Jonas MD The Lancet, Volume 350, Issue 9081, Pages 834-843, 20 September 1997

ajohnstone said...

10. Jacobs J, Guthrie, B, Montes G, Jacobs L, Colman N, Wilson A, DiGiacomo R. Homeopathic Combination Remedy in the Treatment of Acute Childhood Diarrhea in Honduras. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2006 Oct;12(8):723-732.
11. Professor Matthias Egger in the Department of Social and Preventative Medicine at the University of Berne in Switzerland, entitled Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy.
16. Ernst, E. Homeopathy: what does the "best" evidence tell us? Medical Journal of Australia. 2010 Apr 19;192(8):458-60. "The findings of currently available Cochrane reviews of studies of homeopathy do not show that homeopathic medicines have effects beyond placebo."
17. Cochrane systematic reviews of studies on homeopathy for ADHD, asthma, induction of labour, dementia, and side-effects of cancer treatments concluded that there is no strong evidence for any of these uses of homeopathy.
18. The Swiss report on homeopathy: a case study of research misconduct David Martin Shaw University of Glasgow, United Kingdom "Homeopaths often argue that there are further systematic reviews which allegedly do show that homeopathy works. Examples are a recent [earlier] Swiss Health Technology Assessment or the review by Mathie. The problem is that these articles do not fulfil the formal criteria for a systematic review, originate from homeopaths, are open to bias and can be criticised on important methodological grounds."
19. Effectiveness of Homeopathy for Clinical Conditions: Evaluation of the Evidence. Overview Report. Prepared for the National Health and Medical Research Council (of Australia) by OPTUM. October 2013. "There is a paucity of good-quality studies of sufficient size that examine the effectiveness of homeopathy as a treatment for any clinical condition in humans. The available evidence is not compelling and fails to demonstrate that homeopathy is an effective treatment for any of the reported clinical conditions in humans."
21. Hill C, Doyon F. Review of randomized trials of homeopathy. Review of Epidemiology 38:139-142, 1990.

With longer on Google, I am sure I can find many more studies. Some are not clinical trials but reviews of such.(apologies for any duplication)

The blog has posted very many times on the failure of Big Pharma and how it is motivated by the market and not by health concerns.

We have also numerous times pointed out the weakness of the NHS as also being subjected to the whims of market forces. NICE for instance.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ajohnstone said...

Oops sorry for that slip of the keyboard. You can re-send if you wish. Never meant to delete especially that you have agreed to sent the Party some money. It will be greatly appreciated.

As for you comment that the studies have not produced null effect, I think that may well be down to the conservative nature of scientists when they declare their findings and also differentiating between that well known placebo effect. I think they all concur that there is little evidence of any significant effect that justifies using it as a treatment.

Perhaps you might be interested in reading a related article.

Anonymous said...

As I said, I've looked for a test that shows, significantly, that homoeopathy doesn't work, but have yet to find one (hypothesis: homoeopathy works, the idea being to show that it is 95% likely that this hypothesis is incorrect). It's easy to find comparitors against other drugs/placebo, and it's also - strange to relate - easy to find studies with a statistically significant success of homoeopathic treatment, not all of which have been shown to be flawed.

But what I find odd is that the Socialist Party describes homoeopathy as a hoax. It may be useless, perhaps a waste of money, even dangerous (if people with little brains believe it to be a cure-all and stop playing with electric toasters in the bath long enough to try and use it to cure their child's pyrexia). But a hoax requires hoaxers. The hoaxers, one would think, would be those people who make money from homoeopathy, viz., the practitioners. So...

Is it the Socialist Party line that homoeopathic practitioners know that their stuff doesn't work, and spend years training solely to rip people off, a kind of global conspiracy of people who are after a fast buck, but only after they've spent a few years studying what they know to be useless training? What a dim view of humanity, even dimmer than mine.

ajohnstone said...

It is also very easy to find refutations of those studies that provide homeopathy positive results. Perhaps you can link those that have succeeded in being peer reviewed and remain unchallenged.

The Socialist Party has never made an analysis of homeopathy so there is no official stance. But this blogger would describe it as a business and a lucrative one, not just income from clients but by various governments subsidies to it.

Priests also undergo long years of study and the fact that like homeopaths they believe does not mean it is true. I just looked at the courses and the degree and depth of study is in no way comparable to gaining medical qualifications.

It does not mean they are themselves hoaxers but they hold a faith in an original hoax. Homeopathy have been called a cult by some critics.

I lived in India for some years and encountered the alternative health services and indeed it is a career opportunity for those who cannot make the grade for medical training. They offer a cheaper and more accessible healthcare service but as a substitute for fully trained and equipped healthcare, again there is no comparison.

Anonymous said...

My interest in this subject is in finding a test as I've described previously. It's not hard, with a search engine, to find clinical trials that have demonstrated statistical significance, but so what? This was not my question. I'm intrigued that the socialist party is so imprecise in its terminology. Hitherto I have found the SPGB rigorous in its insistence on precision.

For example, what do you mean by saying that "it is a business"? I suppose you can, if you can describe Britain's 7th most mainstream drug as "alternative". But perhaps you mean that it is analogous to a business. Unfortunately, this isn't helpful in this context: a business requires a few things, for example, owners, or, if a private or public company, shareholders. You can't name a chairman of the board of this business.

Similarly, a hoax cannot be a hoax without a hoaxer.

But I'm asking you, since you describe it as a hoax, OK, then, name a hoaxer or two. Was Hahnemann, the inventor, a hoaxer? Was that his purpose? I guess you don't see the practitioners of homoeopathy as hoaxers, as you categorise them along with priests as believers in something that is not true. So that rules them out.

If homoeopathy was "a business" in the same way as Thomas Holloway's when he produced his pills then even then I'd think the term "hoax" to be imprecise. Holloway sold pills of little medicinal value - when "The Communist Manifesto" first appeared thousands of pounds were spent on advertising these pills. Was he a hoaxer or, like your homoeopathic practictioners, a believer in a false doctrine? I mean, he attained wealth beyond that of Hahnemann or any of these so far unnamed hoaxers whom you associate with homoeopathy.

And the business analogy would work if there was a small group of people making large amounts of money from this business from, say, government subsidies. Large amounts at the macro level, perhaps, but it seems to be shared out a bit - the money doesn't mostly go into the pockets of a small group of people, which would be a motivation for a hoaxer. Compare the amount of money spent on homoeopathy by the NHS with the ten billion spent in the Blair era on reorganising IT: "one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector", as the Public Accounts Committee put it. A few pockets, by contrast, were lined with that money, I'm sure.

And yes, some people have called it a cult. But you haven't. You called it a hoax. So if homoeopathy is a hoax then give us the name of at least one living hoaxer, please.

ajohnstone said...

I would consider Boots the Chemist and other pharmacy businesses hoaxing the public when they place shelves of homeopath medicines,

From Wiki

Edzard Ernst, the first Professor of Complementary Medicine in the United Kingdom and a former homeopathic practitioner,[258][259][260] has expressed his concerns about pharmacists who violate their ethical code by failing to provide customers with "necessary and relevant information" about the true nature of the homeopathic products they advertise and sell.

Profits trumphs Truth.

In 2013 the UK Advertising Standards Authority concluded that the Society of Homeopaths were targeting vulnerable ill people and discouraging the use of essential medical treatment while making misleading claims of efficacy for homeopathic products.

In 2015 the Federal Court of Australia imposed penalties on a homeopathic company, Homeopathy Plus! Pty Ltd and its director, for making false or misleading statements about the efficacy of the whooping cough vaccine and homeopathic remedies as an alternative to the whooping cough vaccine, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

NHS subsidised homeopath hospital