A Candle in the Dark

A look on science, politics, religion and events

Homeopathy is dangerous

with 10 comments

This is an example of the harm that can happen when alternative ‘medicine’ is tolerated as an acceptable treatment by society. In fact, I think that the whole label of ‘alternative medicine’ is silly. There’s medicine which is shown to work in controlled studies, and there’s garbage like homeopathy.

P.S Have I already told you that India has a national department which ‘studies’ homeopathy?

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Written by parseval

May 5, 2009 at 2:19 am

Posted in pseudoscience, videos

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10 Responses

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  1. I don’t think homeopathy is a garbage. I personally have seen many of my relatives got cured for some of their chronic diseases! If a specific physician is not capable of treating/diagnosing properly, that’s an individual’s problem. You can’t just blame the whole homeopathy just like that!

    gopal

    May 5, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    • This is the problem with personal anecdotes. My father claimed that he became more sober when he drank more alcohol. Many people believed him. He died like a vegetable in an institution, not knowing who he was. I can’t help but think I know what caused this.

  2. I don’t think homeopathy is a garbage. I personally have seen many of my relatives got cured for some of their chronic diseases!

    The thing is, anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence. It’s possible that, left to themselves, your relatives would have got cured of their chronic disease *without* homeopathy. In that case, how do you test a claim that homeopathy is effective?

    The way to test the efficacy of any medicine, is to perform double-blind placebo controlled studies. Homeopathic medicine repeatedly fails to show any reproducible efficacy in these tests.

    If a specific physician is not capable of treating/diagnosing properly, that’s an individual’s problem. You can’t just blame the whole homeopathy just like that!

    Of course one can, because irrelevant of what individual physicians diagnose, the claims made by homeopathy are nonsense, from a scientific point of view.

    Some important points are:

    (i) Almost every controlled, peer-reviewed scientific study has shown that homeopathic preparations have not shown to have any positive effect, which can be reproduced.

    (ii) The whole concept of adding substances to reproduce the original symptoms to treat a disease, has no basis in science whatsoever. It goes against our modern knowledge of the germ theory of diseases, and bacteria and viruses and how they function.

    (iii) Science also tells you that homeopathy is ineffective, because the preparations are usually diluted to such an extent that the original substance is often not present.

    For example, the physicist Bob Parks said that,

    since the least amount of a substance in a solution is one molecule, a 30C solution would have to have at least one molecule of the original substance dissolved in a minimum of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water. This would require a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth.

    So, in short, homeopathy is garbage. If you’re continuing to use it, you should realize that it has no beneficial effect whatsoever beyond placebo, and can cause serious harm if used at the expense of conventional medicine, as this case illustrates.

    parseval

    May 5, 2009 at 4:44 pm

  3. It’s trickier than that.

    Homeopaths claim that it works through some mysterious mechanism they don’t fully understand themselves, not necessarily through physical/chemical effects (obviously, since preparations are often diluted until no molecules are likely to remain). They further claim that the “right medicine” is a subtle matter and needs to be decided separately for each individual by a good doctor. (And anecdotal evidence is that it does happen that way in practice: sometimes a couple of medicines do nothing, then the doctor hands out a third one and an effect is quickly noticeable.)

    If you wanted to be more than fair, the only way to judge homeopathy on those terms would be clinical trials in their ‘natural habitat’ — have a particular doctor choose medicines for his/her patients, then give half of the patients a placebo. (Dawkins discusses this at some length in one of his books, probably A Devil’s Chaplain.) AFAIK, such a trial hasn’t been done. (You can dismiss this with “of course the quacks won’t allow such a thing”, but if you talk to some of them you’ll find they do believe their homeopathy and aren’t actually anti-science…)

    svat

    May 5, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    • It’s trickier than that.

      Homeopaths claim that it works through some mysterious mechanism they don’t fully understand themselves, not necessarily through physical/chemical effects (obviously, since preparations are often diluted until no molecules are likely to remain). They further claim that the “right medicine” is a subtle matter and needs to be decided separately for each individual by a good doctor.

      Very fair point, but my qualm is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      not necessarily through physical/chemical effects

      What other effects are there?

      I mean, if such a ‘mysterious mechanism’ is found, then it’ll will revolutionize our understanding of biology & physics, because adding substances to water in such dilute limits simply can’t have any effect beyond placebo, according to current science.

      So, it’s a big claim, and I don’t see how practitioners can advertise the claim that homeopathy works as a medicine without a shred of evidence.

      If you wanted to be more than fair, the only way to judge homeopathy on those terms would be clinical trials in their ‘natural habitat’ — have a particular doctor choose medicines for his/her patients, then give half of the patients a placebo.

      I’d be happy if homeopaths start testing their products in this manner.

      parseval

      May 6, 2009 at 2:31 am

  4. if anybody thinks that chronic disease can be cured by placebo affect, then all this drugging by so called modern medicine would have created much stronger placebo affect but instead suppresses disease and makes it dangerous. what has done for all these double blind trials of several thousands of so called allopathic medicines? why they are being withdrawn periodically. i think all medicines in dozes which allopaths use to say are poisons. the affect is obviously are poisonous affect. homeopathy is the best form of medicine that works. this is my opinion after using tons of modern medicine. now i am much better after homeopathy. finally i would like to say i was a defense scientist dealing with aircraft and missiles and not a homeopath.

    rabindra

    May 6, 2009 at 12:42 am

    • if anybody thinks that chronic disease can be cured by placebo affect, then all this drugging by so called modern medicine would have created much stronger placebo affect but instead suppresses disease and makes it dangerous.

      I don’t think you understood what a blinded study means, do read the link I gave in my last comment. In such tests, neither they doctors nor the patients know if they’re receiving the actual ‘medicine’, or a dummy pill. This way, they can curb the bias.

      why they are being withdrawn periodically. i think all medicines in dozes which allopaths use to say are poisons. the affect is obviously are poisonous affect

      *Sigh*. You’re free to hold you’re opinion of course, but I don’t think you even read any of the above comments, about anecdotal and scientific evidence, and the difference between them.

      Do you know how rigorous clinical trials are, before a medicine can be sold in the market? Yes, it’s true that side-effects of some medicine aren’t detected until they are sold to the market, but the majority of drugs are tested until proven satisfactorily safe and effective.

      There’s absolutely no such testing or control for homeopathic concoctions.

      parseval

      May 6, 2009 at 1:50 am

  5. B happens after A doesn’t necessarily imply it happens because of A. Determining causality is very tricky. The effect of all other possibly intervening cues must be isolated. This is the problem with anecdotal evidence.

    sriphy

    May 17, 2009 at 6:28 pm

  6. There are a great number of clinical studies which prove the efficacy of homeopathy.

    I refer to a book, published by Guna in 2002, titled: Homeopathy: the scientific proofs of efficacy’

    A quick search on the internet will reveal a great many more..
    http://www.news-medical.net/news/2009/04/07/48049.aspx
    http://www.holisticonline.com/Homeopathy/homeo_clinical.htm
    Contact Heel in Germany, they have dozens of rigorous studies available which prove the efficacy of homeopathy.

    I am a medical doctor and homeopath and have treated thousands (yes that’s right THOUSANDS) of people successfully with homeopathy. Do not attack something which you know nothing about. Homeopathy is a vast science with centuries of successful treatments which have been recorded in thousands of publications.

    And guess what!
    Homeopathy is NOT A CURE ALL.
    So a homeopath’s child died after homeopathy failed to treat her effectively, well, it often does fail.
    And do you know what?
    SO DOES THE MEDICAL SYSTEM. In fact, medical doctors are now the LEADING cause of Death in the United States.
    So, do not attack a very effective and viable form of treatment if it has failed a single patient, doctors fail their patients ALL THE TIME.

    TheGoodDr

    May 25, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    • There are a great number of clinical studies which prove the efficacy of homeopathy.

      I refer to a book, published by Guna in 2002, titled: Homeopathy: the scientific proofs of efficacy

      One of your links was a study was on the “treatment of atopic dermatitis in dogs ” (I’m sure you’d know that most conventional medicine on the market has undergone long term clinical trials on humans), and the other was not a reliable website.

      How many of them were published in independent, peer-reviewed journals? How many were blinded studies, and were the results replicated? I think that you’ll find the answer is very very few, and are probably statistical artifacts than actual results.

      Besides, plenty of studies have shown that homeopathic medicine does not work. In face of such results, you’ll need *extraordinary evidence* in multiple, well conducted experiments to establish homeopathy’s efficacy. Such evidence simply does not exist.

      See, the systematic review by Linde et al. and its subsequent re-analyses

      Also, from the doctors at SBM: Homeopathy and Evidence-Based Medicine: Part V

      After 200 years and numerous studies, including many randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) and several meta-analyses and systematic reviews, homeopathy has performed exactly as described above. The best that proponents can offer is equivocal evidence of a weak effect compared to placebo.

      Small studies, those performed by advocates or reported in advocacy journals, and those judged to be of poor quality will tend to be “positive.” The larger the study and the better the design, the more likely it is to be “negative.” Over time, early “positive” trials and reviews will give way to negative ones, at least among those judged to be of high quality and reported in reputable journals. In the aggregate, trials of ineffective claims championed by impassioned advocates will appear to yield equivocal rather than merely “negative” outcomes. The inevitable, continual citations of dubious reports will lead some to judge that the aggregate data are “weakly positive” or that the treatment is “better than placebo.”

      You say,

      I am a medical doctor and homeopath and have treated thousands (yes that’s right THOUSANDS) of people successfully with homeopathy. Do not attack something which you know nothing about. Homeopathy is a vast science with centuries of successful treatments which have been recorded in thousands of publications.


      Contact Heel in Germany, they have dozens of rigorous studies available which prove the efficacy of homeopathy.

      I’m sorry to say, but that is simply a flat out FALSE statement. Unless the efficacy of homeopathy is shown in *placebo controlled* double blind tests, it’s simply garbage. I’m also sad that as a doctor, you are potentially harming your patients by recommending unscientific garbage. Did you not take the Hippocrates oath?

      SO DOES THE MEDICAL SYSTEM. In fact, medical doctors are now the LEADING cause of Death in the United States.
      So, do not attack a very effective and viable form of treatment if it has failed a single patient, doctors fail their patients ALL THE TIME.

      That’s an absurd and ignorant comparison. You ignore the *total number of patients* treated by medical practitioners in the US. What fraction of patients die after treatment in conventional medicine?

      The efficacy of conventional medicine has been established in peer-reviewed studies, and the number of patients it cures far outweighs those who are harmed due to adverse reactions or side-effects. No cure is 100% safe, but conventional medicine is rigorously tested to a high standard.

      On the other hand, homeopathic medicine does absolutely nothing other than placebo.

      parseval

      May 25, 2009 at 4:56 pm


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