Mail online – ‘Homeopathy works!’

Irresponsible reporting from the Mail? Big surprise. I rather doubt that they will publish my comments, so I have reproduced them below. 1000 words isn’t really enough to highlight what’s wrong with their article, but it’s a start. I will track down the reference to make more informed comment if time and circumstances allow.

Here’s the article:

‘Homeopathy works!’

Homeopathy really does work and doctors should recognise its healing effects, say researchers.

A study found that allergy sufferers who were given homeopathic treatment were ten times more likely to be cured than those given a dummy pill instead.

Doctors should be more positive about the alternative medicine, which is the only complementary therapy available on the NHS, the researchers said.

Their study attempts to settle the controversy over homeopathic treatment, which critics say is not effective because of the tiny level of active substance used in most remedies.

It works on the principle that a substance which in large doses will cause the symptoms of an illness can be used in minute doses to relieve the same symptoms.

Critics argue that the active substance is so diluted that homeopathic remedies have no more effect than placebo or dummy treatment.

The study put homeopathy to the test in 50 patients suffering from nasal allergies. They were given either a homeopathic preparation or a placebo.

Each day for four weeks patients recruited from general practices and a hospital in London measured their nasal air flow and recorded symptoms such as blocked, runny or itchy nose, sneezing or eye irritation.

Both groups reported that they got better – but on average patients who received homeopathy had a 28 per cent improvement in nasal air flow compared with 3 per cent among those in the placebo group.

The study was carried out by doctors in Glasgow, led by Dr David Reilly of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, one of five specialist hospitals in Britain. He said the difference in results from the two treatments was statistically significant.

Dr Reilly said this was the fourth trial carried out by his hospital, all with similar results. In addition, there were positive findings in 70 per cent of a further 180 clinical trials.

‘I hope this will encourage doctors to examine the volume of evidence supporting homeopathy – they might be quite surprised at the positive outcome in many trials,’ he said.

He added that it would take consistent scientific investigation to persuade some doctors, but attitudes were changing.

About 20 per cent of doctors in Scotland have basic homeopathic training compared with one per cent 15 years ago.

‘It isn’t just about the remedies, which can be put to the test in trials, but about a greater holistic approach in encouraging self-healing and self-recovery.’

Dr Bob Leckridge, president of the Faculty of Homeopathy – the body for doctors, vets, nurses and other health professionals – said: ‘This latest research builds on existing evidence that homeopathy works, something that hundreds of doctors and their patients have known for 200 years.’

And my comment:

First of all, even if this study did show that homeopathy “works” it only does so for the treatment being tested – this headline is misleading, since a body of evidence shows that all other homeopathy is no more effective than placebo.
Secondly, this study has a small sample size (~25 actually taking the homeopathic preparation) that makes any statistical conclusion drawn quite tenuous, particularly when the drop-out rate of participants is taken into account.

Finally, it would be useful if the original research journal could be cited so the methodology can be properly assessed. Homeopathic research has a habit of overstating positive claims and obfuscating negative ones, so the literature needs to be read to be properly assessed. After all, resorting to homeopathy to the exclusion of conventional treatments has led to deaths – look at the recent Gloria Thomas manslaughter case. Making sweeping claims for the efficacy of homeopathy on the basis of one study is utterly irresponsible.

If the mail doesn’t accept your comments please feel free to post them below, after all it is Homeopathy Awareness Week – people need to be made aware…

Speaking of which, you might also be interested in this investigation that tests one of the most basic foundations of how homeopathy is supposed to work: Ultramolecular homeopathy has no observable clinical effects. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled proving trial of Belladonna 30C

Ultramolecular homeopathy has no observable clinical effects.
A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled proving trial of
Belladonna 30C

17 thoughts on “Mail online – ‘Homeopathy works!’

  1. Some excellent points there Paolo.

    This one in particular caught my eye: it would be useful if the original research journal could be cited so the methodology can be properly assessed. This is one of the things that so frustrates me about the mainstream media (and particularly the Mail) – their refusal to give me a clue as to where this research comes from. I’ve been trying to track down some research into body wraps that the Mail covered a few weeks ago and I’m finding it very frustrating.

  2. Pingback: Homeopathy Awareness Week: Bloggers versus Journalists « jdc325's Weblog

  3. And the “ten times more likely to be cured” figure comes from… who knows?

    50 people tested!!! Now that’s what I call research – but I guess people with allergies are rare and hard to find.

  4. I note that the Mail website states that “no comments have been submitted” for this article. Hogwash. I submitted a more comment which can be summed up as “[citation needed]”.

    • What I think you mean is that homeopathy provides a placebo when Conventional Medicine refuses to offer treatments for which there is no evidence. I suppose this could be considered an advantage if you don’t have a problem with the ethical considerations of lying about the reason for any efficacy experienced during treatment.

      However, this does not mean that homeopathy works, it means that placebo has an effect, which we were already aware of.

  5. It must get really boring to read/hear people saying that homeopathy doesn’t work beyond the placebo effect, especially when you’ve chosen to devote a large part of your life to it.

    The thing I don’t get is that patient welfare is supposed to be a common goal. If there is overwhelming evidence that suggests that what you are doing is nothing more than a placebo, why not do something constructive, like get onto a serious course, perhaps start with a double award GCSE science and work your way up? And then when you say “homeopathy cures” you’ll be talking about a succussed martini, or a bag of jelly beans to alleviate a sugar craving.

    Just a thought.

  6. Carmenego

    If you really have nothing better to do (or are an insomniac, or have low blood pressure)), you could read all 20 pages of ‘discussion’ we’ve had with Nancy on Think Humanism! We even named the thread after her!

    • Nancy, if homeopathy is evidence based, where is the evidence? Milgrom does not deal with evidence, he deals with theory. Even when dealing with theory he is only dealing with the limits of plausibility, not with anything approaching the real and physical world that homeopathy claims to influence.

      By the way, you claim the title “Dr.” in many of the places you post, yet your Google profile and Zoominfo profile state that your only education is BHMS, Homeopathy from Homoeopathic Medical College & Hospital, Chandigarh. This qualification is a Bachelor degree and does not entitle you to use the prefix “Dr.” or “Doctor”. In short, you appear to be deliberately deceiving people about your qualifications. Why should anyone trust your opinion of homeopathy, when you are apparently not trustworthy?

  7. Nancy

    Another fly by, Nancy? Did you realise you had already posted (as NM) your nonsense in this thread?

    We’re STILL waiting for you at Think Humanism so we can do the test of a homeopathic potion you promised you’d do (and which you claimed you could pass).

    Are you EVER going to keep your promise – or do you now think you can’t tell the difference between a homeopathic potion and water?

    BTW, citing Milgrom as evidence immediately loses you the argument. Homeopathy is utter woo nonsense.

  8. Pingback: Mail online – ‘Homeopathy works!’ Part II « Zygoma

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