Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Homeopathy = placebo

As long as I can remember I have had an open mind for the unusual and still I believe thinking outside the box is mandatory for anyone with the slightest interest in science. As an aside, as a doctor working in the Intensive Care Unit, or confronted with patients that have significant comorbidity, I occasionally need to find an alternative approach as the usual treatment is either insufficient, or too dangerous for the patient. I'll spare you the details. The point is I subscribe to having an open mind.

All this is a somewhat complicated introduction to a form of "alternative medicine" I feel requires a mind so open the skull has disappeared and the brain is lying on the floor. Not only does it violate the notion that when you make a scientific claim it has to have some plausibility, but every inquiry into its efficacy has shown it does not rise above the placebo-effect. You may know it under its awe-inspiring name: homeopathy.

Finally the Science and Technology Select Committee, in the UK, concluded:
By providing homeopathy on the NHS and allowing MHRA licensing of products which subsequently appear on pharmacy shelves, the Government runs the risk of endorsing homeopathy as an efficacious system of medicine. To maintain patient trust, choice and safety, the Government should not endorse the use of placebo treatments, including homeopathy. Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS and the MHRA should stop licensing homeopathic products.(h/t Orac)
In The Guardian, Martin Robbins from The Lay Scientist, responds to their verdict:
Sadly, the criticism is likely to fall on deaf ears. Rather than take the opportunity to reassess their approach, homeopaths are filling blogs and tweets with dark imaginings of vast, Big Pharma-controlled conspiracies against their noble art, painting a vivid picture of the fantasy world that they appear to inhabit.
Steven Novella noticed the same ruling and commented:
The committee listened to proponents and critics, and found that homeopathy proponents cherry picked out-dated and fatally flawed studies to support their position, including a lecture series that wasn’t even a systematic review. Meanwhile, the best reviews of the best evidence clearly show that homeopathy is no better than placebo – which means it doesn’t work.
In another post Novella documents, this and other signs, that appreciation of science is awaking, which seriously damages the anti-science movement. Coincidentally this blast from the past at Bad Science.

In case you are still wondering: how does it work?

Now it is official. The purveyors of anti-science have discovered the newest incarnation of the placebo. What may it be you ask, quoth Orac:
Why homeopuncture, of course:
There is always a new non-therapy (a.k.a. placebo) to promote. Sigh.

1 comment:

  1. A recent WNYC Radio Lab episode ran interview with a number of placebo researchers from places like Harvard Medical School. Real scientists seem to get that the placebo effect is nothing short of amazing. If homeopathy, which is totally non-toxic, gets results in even a small percentage of people, it would be immoral and unethical to block access to it.

    Of course, there are published studies showing homeopathy getting results with animals and infants but skeptics hate results...requires thought and explanation...can't have any of that...much better to push double-blind tested toxic chemicals that rarely show more than 40% efficacy...yeah, that's real science.