Category: Homeopathy

What’s the deal with that Swiss government homeopathy report?

A letter in today’s Irish Times bemoans a recent column on homeopathy. The column had drawn attention to a report by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council that was dismissive of homeopathic treatments. But according to our letter-writer

The report of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ignored any positive research on homeopathy, including the Swiss government report, a five-year study which found in favour of homeopathy and recommended its inclusion under its health insurance. This Swiss report concluded that, “There is sufficient evidence for the preclinical effectiveness and the clinical efficacy of homeopathy and for its safety and economy compared with conventional treatment.”

The Swiss government, eh? I keep hearing about it. So, what’s the deal with their homeopathy report?

Well, this is the deal with their homeopathy report:

swiss med wkly

Ah.

From the introduction:

In 2011 the Swiss government published a report on homeopathy. The report was commissioned following a 2009 referendum in which the Swiss electorate decided that homeopathy and other alternative therapies should be covered by private medical insurance. Before implementing this decision, the government wished to establish whether homeopathy actually works. In February 2012 the report was published in English and was immediately proclaimed by proponents of homeopathy to offer conclusive proof that homeopathy is effective. This paper analyses the report and concludes that it is scientifically, logically and ethically flawed. Specifically, it contains no new evidence and misinterprets studies previously exposed as weak; creates a new standard of evidence designed to make homeopathy appear effective; and attempts to discredit randomised controlled trials as the gold standard of evidence. Most importantly, almost all the authors have conflicts of interest, despite their claim that none exist. If anything, the report proves that homeopaths are willing to distort evidence in order to support their beliefs, and its authors appear to have breached Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences principles governing scientific integrity.

So basically more of the same ol’ homeopathy mumbo-jumbo.

The full critique is worth a read. Check it out here.

But our letter writer goes on:

There was no representation for homeopaths and no expert on homeopathy on the NHMRC. Would this be acceptable, for example, in oncology or orthopaedics?

Well, would it be acceptable in oncology or orthopaedics? No, I dare say it wouldn’t. But this is because oncology and orthopaedics are pretty ordinary enterprises. They are not controversial. They are not famous for making claims that are described by scientists as laughably implausible. They are not known for their ridiculous assumptions about the way nature works, or for flying in the face of not only medical science, but that of physics and chemistry too. Homeopathy, by contrast, is controversial. And massively so.

(Also, a review of either oncology or orthopaedics would require expertise in medicine and, critically, in research methods relevant for medicine. Let’s just say homoepaths are not exactly famous for their expertise in methods.)

So, indeed, it would be quite unacceptable for a review of homeopathy to be conducted by a bunch of homeopaths. In fact, it would be quite scandalous. Like with that Swiss government report which, let’s face it, has been discredited for some time now. Not that that stops the homeopaths going on about it.

A bit like homeopathy itself, really.

The homeopathic drugs DO work. Because they’re drugs

homeopathicdrugs

So, how can it be that homeopathy sometimes seems to work? Well there are a few possible explanations:

  1. The universe is broken
  2. Placebo etc.
  3. They’re cutting the stuff with real penicillin

Full marks to those of you who selected #3. Because, that’s right, it’s yet another example of alternative drug pushers contaminating their products with undeclared industrial additives. Continue reading “The homeopathic drugs DO work. Because they’re drugs”

Homeopathy, vaccination, autism: Together again

As you can see above, this here blog caught the attention of the Irish Times yesterday, with founder skeptic Paul O’Donoghue using it as the hook for his latest column in the science section. [Greetings, Irish Times readers! By the way, here’s some stuff just for you. And here’s some more.] O’Donoghue was referring to my recent post on homoeopathy which looked at the claims made in the latest awareness campaign by the Irish Society of Homeopaths. For what it’s worth, you can read my entire archive of homeopathy-related posts by clicking here.

But the main point of yesterday’s Irish Times article was to draw attention to a particularly disturbing manifestation of homeopathy’s by now almost endearing dilutions-of-grandeur problem; namely, CEASE therapy, an approach that claims to use homeopathy to create “a very effective way to treat autism with amazing results“.

One corollary of the CEASE approach is the oft-cited and oft-refuted claim that MMR vaccinations cause autism. Now this issue is just so darned convoluted, it is difficult to deal with adequately in a short blog post. Further, it has been dealt with extensively just about everywhere else (summary: there is a vast amount of research evidence showing that MMR vaccination does not cause autism in any way, shape, or form).

But I think some points are worth recording because they are overlooked with surprising frequency whenever this debate comes up. Here are four in particular that I feel should be given more prominence: Continue reading “Homeopathy, vaccination, autism: Together again”

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