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?
I wonder to what degree "placebos work" is that if you're paying attention (which people who know they're doing a "medical trial" are liable to do) you can become hypersensitive to the effects of a VERY small amount of sugar -- about a tablet worth -- so if the placebo is a sugar tablet, this could skew results, especially for something like how it was found that "more-expensive placebos work better". Naturally people pay closer attention when there's more money involved!
[Then again, I notice very small effects that most people don't. My doctor has about decided I'm a freak, but has also started to pay attention when I point out some ridiculously minor effect. If you have thyroid patients, you'll find microscopic exam of their thumbnails fascinating, I shit you not.]
They shouldn't use sugar. Sugar isn't an inert substance.
The widespread use of sugar as a placebo may be a reason why placebos seem to be getting stronger in the USA:http://www.nature.com/news/strong-placebo-response-thwarts-painkiller-trials-1.18511 [nature.com]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34572482 [bbc.co.uk]
Perhaps more people in the USA are addicted or sensitive to sugar. Think of the relief many addicts have when they finally get their fix/drug.
That's exactly my point. To be a valid test, placebos must be chemically inert (including being unavailable to gut bacteria). Sugar is about as far from biochemically inert as you can get, and in my experience, even a tiny amount can have an effect.