Thursday, May 29, 2008

Homeopathy:The Public are being misled by Omission

To be honest dear reader, I am getting rather bored with discussing the irrational attacks on homeopathy in the media and prefer to read more positive literature rather than read the biased, self-righteous and insulting comments made about homeopaths and homeopathic doctors by doctors such as Edzard Ernst and journalists such as Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre whose lack of medical education doesn’t seem to deter from writing articles and books with strongly-held opinions. I’d love to know who buys these books and why.

Anyway let’s wrap up a few points.

1. The Duel: I challenged Prof. Ernst to a duel (with only words as weapons) for accusing homeopathic doctors of lying to their patients. Guess what? No reply. The age of chivalry, ladies and gentlemen is dead – but at least I tried.

2. Attack on Homeopathy is pernicious: I must justify that and I will. The club used to try to beat homeopathy into submission is that it is not evidence based. Now to look at all health interventions on this basis would be fair and consistent. If something has the requisite quality of evidenced you put a tick next to it if it does not you put a cross but it’s only fair to look at all medical interventions this way.

Ernst, Singh, Goldacre, Baum et al have conveniently allowed the public to believe that conventional medical interventions are all evidence based and homeopathy is rubbish because it is not. Both statements are patently untrue. Interpretation of trials of homeopathy is controversial to say the least and but I won’t get into that here other than to say it is not at all ‘well established’ that the trials show that homeopathy is no better than placebo. In fact most trials in my opinion seem to show that it does have a clinical effect independent of placebo.

My first accusation is more serious – that the public are being misled by omission. These eminent doctors are conveniently not telling the public something very, very important and that is this (please forgive the capitals but if I could make light shine out of the screen though the letters in the next sentence I would) MANY, MANY INTERVENTIONS IN ORTHODOX MEDICINE ARE NOT EVIDENCE-BASED. And although these are used in serious conditions such as coronary heart disease, depression (to the tune of hundreds of millions of NHS pounds) and back pain – there is no attack on them by those that attack homeopathy and CAM. I’ve listed these before but let me say once again to Ernst et al who selectively attack homeopathy and CAM for not being evidence based.

Surgery: Show me the evidence base for spinal fusion for chronic back pain.
Paediatrics: Show me the evidence base for the use of drugs such as Prozac and Ritalin in ADHD
Cardiology: Show me the evidence for angioplasty and stents in coronary heart disease.
Psychiatry: Show me the evidence for the use of SSRI anti-depressants for depression.

and there are many, many more but I don't want to bore you with long lists.

And if you can’t… Let me say this:

You accuse homeopaths of only getting results by the placebo effect with no evidence. And if you are right (and I certainly DO NOT think you are) you should applaud rather than attack homeopaths for getting results with what you think is merely placebo. Why do I say this?

Because surely it’s better and safer to get results with what you think are just pills of sugar of milk than to get results with unproven interventions which use chemicals and even scalpels on patients?

Double standards? You bet!

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