Another nail in the coffin of Medicine's own Zombie reveals
Professor Paul Glasziou, a leading academic in evidence based medicine at Bond University, was the chair of a working party by the National Health and Medical Research Council which was tasked with reviewing the evidence of 176 trials of homeopathy to establish if the treatment is valid.
A total of 57 systematic reviews, containing the 176 individual studies, focused on 68 different health conditions - and found there to be no evidence homeopathy was more effective than placebo on any.
Still it persists, not only in the UK but also in the US. And a simple google search about health insurance payments for homeopathy will reveal that the homeopathy industry is very busy writing long winded explanations of how to con your insurance company into covering homeopathy.(Key trick: have your homeopath recommend a Nurse Practitioner which have prescription authority in many states, and who will write you a prescription for homeopathy along with a statement of medical necessity).
Professor Glasziou writes in his BMJ Blog:
One surprise to me was the range of conditions that homeopathy had been evaluated in, including rheumatoid arthritis, radiodermatitis, stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth) due to chemotherapy, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. What subsequently shocked me more was that organizations promote homeopathy for infectious conditions, such as AIDS in Africa or malaria.
One wag posted to the Blog comments:
Prof Glaziou, I've been washing a homeopathy bottle every day for the last month, but the residue just keeps on getting stronger. Any advice?
The title is wrong. Its as effective as a placebo which is fairly effective for tons of medical conditions.
The stereotypical pediatrician "GTFO of my office with your viral ear infection, here have a script for antibiotics, now leave".
Due to the enormous dangers of antibiotic over prescription, properly licensed and regulated and tracked, homeopathy could be the ideal treatment for viral ear infections, viral cough/pneumonia, common cold, short term non-serious digestive problems. Maybe its good for extremely minor psych problems.
Then you have the side issue of very profitable psych medications that are less effective than placebo (I know at least one indecisive MD who can't make up her mind if a "real" placebo would generate side effects at the same rate as real medication...)
Ah ha! Found it! This is kind of BS-ish. I had to click like 5 times from the clickbait article to find the actual study at
First of all see page 16.
They found 14 studies where homeopathy was more effective than placebo, but they didn't like those results so spiked them and we're getting reports of "no studies" and all that bullshit of the highest level. I don't like the weather report that says its gonna rain this morning so I'll spike it and tell everyone there's no report of rain this morning, therefore the wetness on your face isn't rainwater because I said so. What a pile of BS. Note that I don't agree with the "science" of homeopathy, I laugh at its attempts at chemistry, but its opposition are apparently biased corrupt liars, which doesn't help their case.
Its like trying to prove the Catholic Church is always nice guys by providing examples such as the Inquisition and Crusades and the recent molestation coverups. Thats kinda missing the point that was trying to be made, even if on long enough term average the Catholics are in fact nice guys. I mean, its the old saying that with friends like this, who needs enemies?
Anyway, see page 18-20 for the list of illnesses.
Some of the data is extremely damning if you go in with an open mind instead of deciding the conclusion before starting the study, like this one. For example, they get pretty defensive about how its so wrong that homeopathy is effective at treating burns... well, duh... keep the patient hydrated, flush the wound with sterile water, what a shocker than homeopathy "works" even if it didn't meet the pre-determined result. You could do stupider things to a burn. And lying to a patient about how the magic water will help heal faster and help with the considerable pain is a win.
Ditto the anxiety results. There's a lot of ritual and pomp for any medical procedure and a calm voice and calm surroundings and affirmation goes a long way, even if the patient is basically just drinking an expensive glass of water.
Homeopathy would get a lot better reception with doctors if they changed the name to water therapy and dropped the scientifically illiterate theories and made it officially talking to a psych or religious leader or astrological seer while sipping a nice COTS bottled water. That seems to do sick people a lot of good. Yes its quite useless medically if you have a broken leg or cancer, but generally speaking as an addition to "actual treatment" nothing bad ever happened by drinking a glass of water while talking to a shrink or priest. And I'm sure like most medical stuff, homeopathic products are overpriced, so just use bottled water.
but they didn't like those results
They didn't like those results. No. They didn't like the studies: the design was flawed. It's kind of like if you have a room full of all the engineers that helped design and build the World Trade Center telling you about the loading of the steel beams in the WTC and how it would not be able to support the weight of 30 stories if it was heated above 1000 degrees C and you'd have structural failure, and then you went and rounded up a bunch of hobos and most of them swore that because the building fell straight down it must have been a controlled demolition. At one point you have to choose which group to believe. They chose to believe the former and throw out the latter.
Homeopathy would get a lot better reception with doctors if they changed the name to water therapy
Not true. I can't speak for all doctors but I can speak for myself. I think homeopathy has its use for people who want to use it. I also think it is irresponsible and anti-ethical for practitioners and salesmen of homeopathy to create false expectations or to mislead their customers.
I am also no fan of homeopathy, but want people to hold "mainstream" medicine to the same skeptical standards. The standards used here are pretty damn low, and they are still much stricter than the usual drug gets. I mean an alternative title would be "Lack of funding for large RCTs limits number of positive RCTs using homeopathic treatments".
It is well known fact that all you need to do is keep trying over and over until you get a statistically significant result, that criteria is meaningless. Counting the number significant vs not is also meaningless because people trained in the dark art of medical research know not to publish "negative" results, while those studying homeopathy probably dont know any better or care. This is called the file drawer effect. The guy running this study seems unaware of these issues.
but want people to hold "mainstream" medicine to the same skeptical standards
Agreed. And today everything is complicated - much more than ever before. It's difficult to stay current even in a narrow, specialized field of medicine, much more in broader general practice. And unfortunately we're learning that snake oil salesmen also exist in the form of pharmaceutical companies - even large, established and legitimate ones. Previously accepted drugs and treatment methods have come into question. Pharmaceutical companies have been caught doing very unethical [the-scientist.com] things to push their drugs. Some claims have been proven falsified. Even in mainstream medicine. A doctor simply doesn't have time to stay on top of all of that and hope to try to catch out these charlatans at the same time - usually when a pharmaceutical company representative tells you about this great new treatment you take them at face value because they are supposed to be professionals you can trust.
But this is the whole point behind evidence based medicine. Some people dedicate themselves to looking back at what we're doing and asking "is it REALLY working?". Not only for homeopathy, but for previously common and accepted medical procedures. We should never lose sight of that - after all the goal is not to push treatments and pills onto people, but to actually help them get better.
But I will tell you though it's very hard as a physician to see a patient come in that you know for sure you could have helped but who now is beyond help because instead of coming to you they spent the last 6 months or so using homeopathy or some other thing. It's a shame and it's hard to deal with. It makes you angry and it happens quite often, unfortunately. But modern medicine has moved beyond being this sort of "paternalistic" profession where we tell people what to do and how to live their lives. Nowadays we're supposed to recognize that individuals have every right to choose their own treatment or even no treatment at all. We ourselves cannot recommend or allow inappropriate treatments, but what the patient chooses to do is all part of patient autonomy.
But modern medicine has moved beyond being this sort of "paternalistic" profession where we tell people what to do and how to live their lives. Nowadays we're supposed to recognize that individuals have every right to choose their own treatment or even no treatment at all. We ourselves cannot recommend or allow inappropriate treatments, but what the patient chooses to do is all part of patient autonomy.
no, you can still tell your patients how to live their lives - thats part of your job - but you are not responsible if your patient doesn't follow your advice, ie, your patient can't sue you because they got cancer after you advised them to quit smoking. your responsibility is to make sure your patients get all the information they need to make the best choice and to know the risks associated with each choice, but they're responsible for making their own choices and accepting the consequences of those choices.
no, you can still tell your patients how to live their lives - thats part of your job
No, I can suggest to them what my profession scientifically (ie demonstrated through research and literature) believes to be their best options. I "tell" them nothing. There's a fine difference, but it's there. I give advice, I don't tell people what to do.
your responsibility is to make sure your patients get all the information they need to make the best choice and to know the risks associated with each choice, but they're responsible for making their own choices and accepting the consequences of those choices.
Yes, this part I agree completely. But once again the difference is that before, the doctor would speak to a patient with the authority of a parent towards a child. "This is the best option for you - take it or leave it". Now, the doctor speaks to the patient as a professional adviser to a client. "What I recommend you do is this, for this reason and that reason. If you don't do this, then probably X will happen and... etc". There is a real difference there.
you're confusing "telling" with "ordering". you tell them - give them the information - but can't order them to do anything. and yes, your personal feelings, ethics, and morals have no place in patient treatment, just cold, objective information. it doesn't matter what your personal feelings are about, lets say abortion, because its not your life, if the patient is seeking one then its your duty to help them get all the information and risks as well as help them be as safe as possible during the procedure, if they choose to get it done, via referrals to specialists or whatever. self-sovereignty is the human right that still gets infringed upon more than any others, even though its probably the most critical of all of them.
I'm sure like most medical stuff, homeopathic products are overpriced, so just use bottled water.
Ah but there is scientific evidence that expensive placebos work better than cheaper ones:http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/05/health/research/05placebo.html?_r=0 [nytimes.com]
The pills had a strong placebo effect in both groups. But 85 percent of those using the expensive pills reported significant pain relief, compared with 61 percent on the cheaper pills. The investigators corrected for each person’s individual level of pain tolerance.
another study: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-expensive-placebos-work-better-20150127-story.html [latimes.com]
Both of the placebos improved motor function compared with a base line test. But when patients got the $1,500-per-dose placebo, their improvement was 9% greater than when they got the $100-per-dose placebo, the researchers reported.
So if the story's study didn't "administer" the homeopathic treatment "properly" (involving $$$) naturally it wouldn't do better than a placebo ;).
Its as effective as a placebo which is fairly effective for tons of medical conditions.
That's not the problem. Everyone has the right to choose what to do about their illness. The problem is that homeopathy is MARKETED as better than placebo. Which is false.
It's not false if the treatment costs more than the average placebo.http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-expensive-placebos-work-better-20150127-story.html [latimes.com]
In another test, 67% of the patients were judged “very good” or having “marked improvement” after they took the expensive placebo, compared with 58% of patients after they took the purportedly cheap placebo.
revious studies have shown that pill size and color also affect people’s perceptions of effectiveness. In one, people rated black and red capsules as “strongest” and white ones as “weakest.”
Placebos can work even if you know you're taking a placebo:http://www.nhs.uk/news/2015/07July/Pages/The-placebo-effect-can-still-work-even-if-people-know-its-a-placebo.aspx [www.nhs.uk]http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/placebos-work-even-when-you-know-10-12-23/ [scientificamerican.com](the second study with sugar pills might be flawed though, since sugar is far from an inert substance in my opinion).
 Perhaps researchers using sugar as a "placebo" is why placebos seem to be getting stronger in some cases: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26307858 [nih.gov]http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34572482 [bbc.com]It's possible that more people are addicted/sensitive to sugar nowadays so more people experience the effect where the pain-relief from getting a sugar placebo is combined with the "addict relief" of getting sugar.
That is correct. The marketing is precisely what makes these treatments effective.
The problem is as Dunbal related in another fork of this thread: when people go to homeopathic remedies before they go to more effective medical treatments.
The problem is not that homeopathic remedies are marketed as better than placebos. They are better placebos -- for people who believe that they are. The problem is when homeopathic remedies are incorrectly marketed as better than non-placebo treatments.