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> Homeopathy - unbelievable nonsense - Part 2
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Speaking of homeopathy ... (9/1/2010)
More homeopathic nonsense (6/2/2010)
In December I mentioned that I had forced myself to sit through a presentation by a homeopath who was opposed to vaccinations. Could that be because she wants parents to buy stuff from her rather than go to a real doctor? You can go here to see a brochure promoting homeopathic immunisation, as if there really is such a thing. It's one thing to sell useless water and sugar pill "cures" to the worried well, but when you start pretending that your snake oil can prevent children catching disabling and deadly diseases you have crossed the line from just a scam to become a risk to public health. Like cholera, which is also caused by the consumption of fecal matter.
Homeopathy - so simple a child can understand (10/4/2010)
A true believer in homeopathy was ranting to me about how Professor Edzard Ernst, head of the UK's first university department dedicated to research into "complementary medicine", was not qualified to speak about homeopathy because he didn't have the necessary academic background. I pointed out that all he needed was high school chemistry, but this was rejected as apparently there are many institutions of higher learning who specialise in teaching about the magic of diluted water and you have to attend one of these places for years before you know enough to comment. I immediately revised my opinion about high school chemistry and decided to test whether someone without even this level of understanding could evaluate homeopathy.
With the help of my 7 year old grandson, I made a 12C homeopathic preparation of fountain pen ink. I pointed to the last dilution and asked Sean if there was any ink in it. He looked at me as if I was asking a silly question and immediately said "No". We then drank the glass of water. So there you are, homeopaths. A primary school kid can see how idiotic homeopathy is, so you are either stupid or committing fraud. Which is it?
More homeopathy (10/4/2010)
As the coming week is World Homeopathy Awareness Week I could hardly let it pass without making people aware of how ridiculous homeopathy is, but before I do that I would like to show how despicable some homeopaths can be and how they act with total disregard for regulators and public health. We already know how they disregard the laws of science and the legal concept of fraud.
A homeopath appeared on the ABC television show Lateline during the week. She was featured because the regulatory authority, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, had ordered her to take some action over claims she had been making. She simply refused, on the basis that as she didn't think she had done anything wrong there was no need for her to do anything. This is someone who claims that homeopathy can cure breast cancer. This is someone who claims that there is scientific proof that homeopathy is just as good at preventing disease as vaccination but much safer. I first came across Fran Sheffield when she was shilling her anti-vaccination lies on behalf of the Australian Vaccination Network, and this latest episode just reinforces my opinion of her. Watch the video below and then answer this question: If there are people in prison for non-payment of traffic fines, how is it that this woman is wandering the streets free?
I sent this message to the television program:
Referring to the item about homeopathy on April 8, I am puzzled by the fact that someone so obviously out of touch with reality as Fran Sheffield is given any credence at all. I realise that using her is a subtle journalistic ploy to illustrate the idiocy and venality of homeopaths and a nice way to point out the quackery without risking a lawsuit for defamation, but members of the public might still see her as possessing some integrity.
Having said that, thank you for at least running a story suggesting that there should be better regulatory control of this nonsense. Unfortunately, the TGA's approach seems to be to add credibility to quackery by issuing AUST L registration codes for things that do nothing and then running away when egregious abuses of the system are exposed.
And I still can't understand why Fran Sheffield isn't in prison. Must it wait until the first woman dies from breast cancer after following her ludicrous advice?
World Homeopathy Awareness Week (17/4/2010)
This has been World Homeopathy Awareness Week, and I just had to have my say about this ludicrous abuse of science, medicine and rational thought. As the publication date for my regular Yahoo!7 article fell during the week the obvious place to deal with the news was there. You can read the article here, and there is a link there to the Yahoo!7 site where you can read the comments people made.
Fraud, or just outright theft? (8/5/2010)
Here is one of the products offered for sale on the web site Homeopathy Plus!, run by noted Australian quack Fran Sheffield.
You will notice that the kit contains 84 grams of sucrose pills, and they must be very small pills because there are about 1,470 of them. They are in fact very small pills, being "hundreds and thousands" or "nonpareils" like the ones you see on your kids' birthday cakes. You will also notice that they are all 30C remedies, which means that (if anything was done beside packaging the sweets, which is highly unlikely) water with no active ingredients has been dripped on the tiny sugar balls and the sweets have then been allowed to dry out. Apparently the memory of water can be transferred to the memory of sugar.
But what do these potent pillules do?
You might think that paying 9 cents each for cake decoration sweets is a bit expensive, but remember that you get all those little bottles, the plastic carry case and a 114 (or maybe 72) page instruction sheet. Also consider that if you buy the pills as individual remedies you might get more per bottle (100 instead of 35) but the cost per pill is 15 cents.
Based on the figures given for the Home Kit there are about 17,500 pillules per kilogram, but it would be unfair to compare the selling price of these pills ($2,625 per kilogram) with the price of sugar at the local supermarket (90 cents/kilogram at Coles today) because after all these are manufactured pillules.
I decided to do a better comparison, so I have ordered some white hundreds and thousands. The place I got them from is an organic supplier (which increases the price) and I paid retail price (unlike your average homeopath who can get them wholesale). A 350 gram packet cost $8.95, or $25.60 per kilogram.
Homeopathy is more than just medical fraud, it is financial fraud as well. It is theft, and the people selling it know exactly what they are doing. How they must laugh as they put those teaspoonsful of sweets into little bottles and post them out at a markup of about 10,000% over raw material costs. And these crooks have the gall to whine about the profits of pharmaceutical companies.
New Age terrorists develop homeopathic bomb
The world has been placed on a heightened security alert following reports that New Age terrorists have harnessed the power of homeopathy for evil. ‘Homeopathic weapons represent a major threat to world peace,' said President Barack Obama, ‘they might not cause any actual damage but the placebo effect could be quite devastating.'
The H2O-bomb has been developed by the radical New Age group, The Axis of Aquarius. In a taped message to the world, their leader, Professor Hubert Pennington, said: ‘For too long the New Age movement has been dismissed as a bunch of beardy weirdy cranks and charlatans. But now we have weapons-grade homeopathy and we demand to be taken seriously.'
Homeopathic bombs are comprised of 99.9% water but contain the merest trace element of explosive. The solution is then repeatedly diluted so as to leave only the memory of the explosive in the water molecules. According to the laws of homeopathy, the more that the water is diluted, the more powerful the bomb becomes.
‘It was only a matter of time before these people got hold of the material that they needed to make these bombs,' said former UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, ‘The world is a much more dangerous place with the advent of these Weapons of Mass Dilution.'
‘A homeopathic attack could bring entire cities to a standstill,' said BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner, ‘Large numbers of people could easily become convinced that they have been killed and hospitals would be unable to cope with the massive influx of the ‘walking suggestible'.'
The severity of the situation has already resulted in the New Age terror threat level being raised from ‘lilac' to the more worrisome ‘purple' aura. Meanwhile, new security measures at airports require that all water bottles be scanned to ensure that they are not being used to smuggle the memory of an explosion on board a plane.
‘Homeopathic weapons are the ultimate Smart Bombs,' warned President Obama, ‘They are so smart that they only affect the gullible. The only defence is for everyone to remain calm, vigilant and to always wear a magic vibrating crystal.'
Thanks very much to NewsBiscuit - The news before it happens
I would like to thank RationalWiki for consolidating all the research and clinical trials showing the effectiveness of homeopathy, the conditions it can treat and its application to the management of health. Here is the list:
Homeopathy "research" (28/8/2010)
Yet another person has informed me about the prolific research demonstrating the efficacy of homeopathy. I wasn't sent to the original published papers, of course, but instead I was sent to a homeopathy web site which listed successes. One which caught my eye was a 1999 report of a study done in 1974 (yes, 1974, and apparently never replicated) showing the benefit of Staphysagria in the treatment of postcoital cystitis.
A clinical trial of Staphysagria in postcoital cystitis
Homoeopathica November 1999
by P A Ustianowski
Honeymoon or postcoital cystitis is a condition where there is a disturbance of bladder function in women who have recently started or restarted heterosexual intercourse, or altered their technique.
The symptoms of the condition are several, if not all, of the following:
Research over the years has not shown any higher incidence of frank urinary tract infection, or anatomical deformity of the genitoï¿½urinary tract, in women prone to postcoital cystitis compared to those not so afflicted.
In my capacity as Medical Director of London Nursing Homes Birth Control and Pregnancy Counselling division, I have had ample opportunity to study the pathogenesis and treatment of this debilitating condition.
The series consists of 200 women, between the ages of 16 years and 30 years, 25 per cent of whom were married. All the patients had started having regular sexual intercourse for the first time, or restarted it after a lengthy gap, during the last three months.
All the women who complained of symptoms of cystitis were examined clinically for possible foci of infection-especially in the respiratory tract and the pelvic organs, and their urine was examined chemically and microscopically. There was no sign of intercurrent disease in any of the affected individuals. In none of the cases was there any significant proteinuria, hï¿½maturia or bacteriuria.
The patients in the trial were all requested to empty their bladders as completely as possible within an hour before intercourse and half an hour after it.
Fifty percent of randomly selected patients were given individually wrapped doses of powder of Staphysagria 30c, and the other 50 per cent were given similar packages of powders of Sac lac (lactose)- indistinguishable in texture, colour and taste from the other powder-as a placebo. The patients were requested to dissolve their powders on the tongue every morning and evening daily for a month, at which time they were all seen by me.
At that stage, of the cases who had been supplied with Staphysagria 90% had completely lost all symptoms of postcoital cystitis, 8% were very much better, while 2% were unchanged. In the cases who were given the Sac lac placebo, 40% had completely lost all symptoms, 10% were very much better, and 50% were unchanged.
In some cases improvement would be anticipated after a month without any treatment whatsoever. Several investigators in this field are convinced that bladder emptying before and after intercourse is an all-important cornerstone of the treatment of this condition.
The statistics available above show a very significant difference in the results of treatment with Staphysagria as against Sac lac placebo. The only person who was aware of what the patients were supplied with was myself, and I was at pains not to disclose the treatment to the patients, or the nursing staff.
The family Ranunculaceï¿½ in the plant kingdom contains several genera of great use in homï¿½opathic medicine -such as Staphysagria, Pulsatilla and Aconitum. Most of the Ranunculuceï¿½ used in homï¿½opathic dilution have an effect on the balance between the psychic and physical spheres - restoring equilibrium in conditions of oversensitiveness and emotional lability. Staphysagria, or the wild delphinium, has for long been known as a remedy for frustrations, resentments, and the hypersensitivity consequent on them. Sexual intercourse can be construed, in some cases, as an insult or assault upon the woman. In many cases of postcoital cystitis, on close questioning the patient expresses her frustrations and resentments regarding intercourse. This is what led me in the first place to selecting this remedy for a trial.
This report on Dr Ustianowski's trial first appeared in the British Homï¿½opathic Journal of October 1974.
So, let's see what is wrong with this:
That will do for a start, but the real clue to the uselessness of this "research" is in the second sentence of the final paragraph: "Most of the Ranunculuceï¿½ used in homï¿½opathic dilution have an effect on the balance between the psychic and physical spheres - restoring equilibrium in conditions of oversensitiveness and emotional lability". The "balance between the psychic and physical spheres"? Put another way, this means that the experimenter has no clue about how psychological factors might influence the outcome. And this is in a study to do with a problem that is highly personal, quite distressing, embarrassing to talk about and can cause feelings of diminished self-worth.
If this is a good example of research in the field of homeopathy then I don't want to see a bad example.
Treating the symptoms (4/9/2010)
I must be told on a weekly basis that real doctors only treat symptoms and that alternative, holistic medicine men treat the underlying causes of disease and therefore provide cures, unlike real doctors. (Strangely and apparently inconsistently I have been told that there can be no disease or illness in the absence of symptoms, and when I mention four medical conditions that are close to me (type 2 diabetes, multiple myeloma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma) and point out that all can exist without exhibiting any symptoms at all I usually get a response which consists of a pause followed by a repetition of the "fact" that symptoms tell the story.)
I have alluded to the inconsistency that says that symptoms are all that there is but real doctors only treat symptoms and are therefore bad. Of course, out here in the real world we know that doctors always address the underlying cause of medical conditions and only treat symptoms in the case of self-limiting complaints (antipyretics for the fever associated with colds and flu, ...) or to reduce distress (painkillers, salves and creams for rashes, ...). Treating the symptoms is just the first step before getting on with the real job of fixing the problem.
Strangely, the form of quackery which is usually proposed as the best example of treating the underlying condition rather than just the symptoms is homeopathy. When it is pointed out to true believers that symptom treatment is all that there is to homeopathy they divert to rants about memory of water and Brian Josephson's Nobel Prize (for Physics in 1973, and I don't know what "theoretical predictions of the properties of a supercurrent through a tunnel barrier" have to do with medicine) and how the word "allopath" means real, bad doctor. They do not like it being pointed out that according to the person who invented the term "allopath" it means people who practice medicine according to the theory of four humours (and there aren't a lot of those people around today) and, coincidentally, everyone who is not a homeopath. Do chiropractors, acupuncturists and naturopaths include themselves in the set of "allopaths"? They should. Here is what Samuel Hahnemann, the inventor of both the term "allopath" and the "science" of homeopathy had to say:
Medicine as commonly practised (allopathy) knows no treatment except to draw from diseases the injurious materials which are assumed to be their cause. The blood of the patient is made to flow mercilessly by bleedings, leeches, cuppings, scarifications, to diminish an assumed plethora which never exists as in well women a few days before their menses, an accumulation of blood the loss of which is of no appreciable consequence, while the loss of blood with merely assumed plethora destroys life. Medicine as commonly practised seeks to evacuate the contents of the stomach and sweep the intestines clear bf the materials assumed to originate diseases.
Yeah, today's real doctors do a lot of those things, don't they? But let's get back to treating symptoms. We know that the inventor of homeopathy was against purging, cupping and other such practices (only carried out today by alternative "medicine" practitioners, who should properly be known as allopaths), but this was because he held the philosophical position that nothing should be done to treat any underlying condition. Here is what you see on the first page of Hahnemann's masterpiece, The Organon of Medical Arts (and not just anywhere on the first page - it is the very first paragraph):
The physician's high and only mission is to restore the sick to health, to cure, as it is termed.
His mission is not, however, to construct so-called systems, by interweaving empty speculations and hypotheses concerning the internal essential nature of the vital processes and the mode in which diseases originate in the interior of the organism, (whereon so many physicians have hitherto ambitiously wasted their talents and their time); nor is it to attempt to give countless explanations regarding the phenomena in diseases and their proximate cause (which must ever remain concealed), wrapped in unintelligible words and an inflated abstract mode of expression, which should sound very learned in order to astonish the ignorant - whilst sick humanity sighs in vain for aid. Of such learned reveries (to which the name of theoretic medicine is given, and for which special professorships are instituted) we have had quite enough, and it is now high time that all who call themselves physicians should at length cease to deceive suffering mankind with mere talk, and begin now, instead, for once to act, that is, really to help and to cure.
So there you have it. According to the inventor of homeopathy, no attempt should ever be made to do anything about any disease other than to treat the symptoms. Remember that the next time someone says that real doctors only treat symptoms. And remember that when someone calls real doctors "allopaths" in order to denigrate them that the only people practising allopathy today are the ones doing cupping, colonic irrigation, detoxification and other standards of the art of quackery.
And of course I have been told that Hahnemann's book has been suppressed by the Rockefeller medical cartel. That must be why I was able to read it here.
Can it get more vile than this? (12/3/2011)
Anybody in the world with a television must have been appalled at the scenes from Japan following the earthquake and tsunami. What is also appalling is the reaction from people who exploit tragedies like this. We have come to expect lunatics like Fred Phelps at the Westboro Baptist Church to come out with insane rants. In this case there have been the mildly mad who have suggested that the earthquake might in some way be related to the fact that the moon will be at its closest point to the Earth next week. I'm firmly in the "climate change is happening" camp, but I cringe at statements attempting to link earthquakes to global warming. People calling this an "act of God" and calling for prayer (the fastest-trending item on Twitter following the earthquake was #prayforjapan) miss the point that if God did this he is very evil and praying to the source of the trouble for assistance and relief seems incoherent. The idiots who have been besieging Facebook with claims that the tsunami is payback for Pearl Harbor are mad but probably harmless. The anti-nuclear contingent are out in force with scaremongering about possible damage to Japan's nuclear power reactors. (At the time of writing one of the stations seems to be in serious trouble, but the neither the nature not the extent of the problem is yet known.) I liked the comment that Japan was foolish to build nuclear reactors in seismically-active areas, although the commenter failed to go on to say where else there is in Japan.
The prize for blatant self-promotion and cynicism, however, goes to Australian homeopath Fran Sheffield, for this email sent to her subscribers.
Here's a fact. There are no "protective steps that can be taken with homeopathy". To say otherwise is not to be mistaken, not to be deluded, it is to lie. And as for treating radiation exposure with 30C x-rays, the only kind of person who would suggest that is either insane or admitting to being a complete fraud. (If you want an example of the insane sort, see how homeopathic Saturn can help with overcoming disasters. I am surprised that Ms Sheffield didn't suggest that for Japanese residents who aren't close to reactors.)
Homeopathy is rubbish, but while it is being used to treat only the walking suggestible it is relatively harmless. When homeopaths start talking about treating serious things like radiation exposure it is time to get out the pitchforks and flaming torches and tell these charlatans to shut up. It has gone beyond a joke and is now deliberately endangering people's lives.
Wow! It's WHAW! (16/4/2011)
Just in case you missed it, this has been World Homeopathy Awareness Week. This is a week when much publicity is given to the fraud that calls itself homeopathy so that people can be aware of how ridiculous it is and keep their hands well away from their wallets when charlatans start asking for money for sugar pills and water. I have had people try to tell me that homeopaths really want to help people and that is why they offer to treat diseases. I'm sorry - anybody involved in the manufacture of homeopathic nostrums knows the truth - there is nothing there that can have any effect, and in fact they don't even bother to go through the motions of making the stuff according to what it says on the label. Does anybody seriously believe that somebody actually performs the 800+ manufacturing steps required to make a 200C pillule when all they have to do is take the tiny sweets from a bulk container, put them in a little bottle and then charge 15 cents each for them?
All homeopathy is fraud. All of it. Without exception. And the people selling it know this. If they don't then they must be too stupid to tie their shoe laces. Please note that I am not casting doubt on the sanity or honesty of people who are lied to by homeopaths and fall for the lies. I don't blame the victims, I blame the perpetrators.
Signs of the times (4/6/2011)
I can imagine that there might be cash inside a homeopath's office, but surely there would not be any drugs ever, at any time. It almost goes without saying, of course, that there would be nothing of value in there. (Thanks to reader Steve Rayner for the photograph.) And what sort of university grants a Bachelor of Science with a major in homeopathy? I'm embarrassed enough that my university was the first real university in the world with a school of chiropractic but at least they have the decency to call the degree Bachelor of Chiropractic Science, thereby indicating that it isn't a real science degree.
Speaking of lawyers ... (20/8/2011)
There is a very large company in France which appears to exist solely to defraud its customers. It is Boiron, and they manufacture homeopathic "medicines". Their biggest selling product is an influenza treatment called called Oscillococcinum 200C. It is made from duck liver, and the 200C part of the name says that there is not a single molecule of anything duck-related in the bottle. In fact, it says that there is not a single molecule of anything except water in the bottle. Unfortunately, the 200C admission of uselessness and fraud is as far as truth in labelling goes. The manufacture of 200C anything requires 800 manufacturing steps, so it is highly unlikely that Boiron do anything more than make sure the water they bottle is clean and sterile enough not to cause any health problems in the marks who buy the stuff. It is also certain that the ducks of the world are safe, because one duck could provide enough liver for many decades, maybe centuries, of raw material.
To put 200C into perspective, a homeopathic preparation at 40C would only need one atom of active ingredient in the entire universe. 200C is a concentration of one atom in the number of universes which has 320 zeros in it. Or, put another way, 200C is something totally unachievable. To say that it has been made is evidence that the speaker is either deranged or lying. Boiron makes a lot of money, so we can assume they are not deranged.
Boiron have decided that they don't like it being pointed out that their best-selling product has nothing in it except water and their customers could save money by turning on a tap, so they have sued an Italian blogger for defaming them.
Here are some facts about Oscillococcinum 200C: