Tuesday, April 13, 2010

World Homeopathy Awareness Week

Right now, we're smack in the middle of World Homeopathy Awareness Week, which runs from April 10 - 16. As you can imagine, the science blogging community is taking the opportunity to raise awareness about the lack of evidence supporting homeopathy and the utter ridiculousness of its claims.

From Sandwalk:

Homeopathy Kills
Here's what can happen if a homeopath treats his own daughter. He ends up in jail, she ends up dead.

The "Science" Behind Homeopathy
Here's John Benneth explaining the "science" behind homeopathy. This is woo of the highest order. [...] There are no reputable scientists who believe what John Benneth claims. If he's implying that there's scientific support for homeopathy, then what he's saying is not true.

From Pharyngula:

More Magic DNA Snake Oil
Drink a DNA solution? Are they insane? That's just going to get broken down and do nothing, and besides, it's not as if your body contains some shortage of Klotho genes — every cell in your body has a copy. Of course, even that objection is pointless, because you aren't actually drinking any DNA. This is a homeopathic solution.

And of course Respectful Insolence has a couple of posts up in honour of the event: Part 1, Part 2. (There is some overlap with the above links as well)


Sarah Walder said...

I feel it is time for a more advanced research model. The truth about Homeopathy lies in a research model which disables such an individualized action modality to be proven effective or ineffective.
I have seen homeopathy work with myself and others even before I believed in its ability to function.

Let's find a more advanced way to test and then begin this discussion again. Science is all about moving forward so let's stop fighting amongst one another when all we all want is the truth.

The truth as I see it at this point is:
- Homeopathy has not yet been aptly proven or disproven by scientific data.
- People who visit homeopaths are getting better. We can see this through the many case studies.
- We need a more advanced method to aptly test this modality.

Anonymous Coward said...

OK homeopathy bot, I'll disregard your first paragraph because it is complete and utter nonsense. Not even the good kind of nonsense, which can be debated, but the kind that consist of poorly constructed sentences peppered with pseudo-scientific jargon totally devoid of meaning, whose purpose, one can only imagine, is to make the reader think that whoever wrote this crap knows big words and thus must be an expert. Yet ultimately it only highlights the fact that the ideas which are meant to be conveyed are so feeble, that they must be coated in layers of high fructose corn veneer so that one may not taste the candied poop underneath. Too bad here at the bayblab we are experts in fecal matter. But I digress.

To address your points specifically:

-There is an overwhelming mountain of evidence which shows that homeopathy is not better than placebo, if you would only bother looking it up.
-Case studies are not a reliable measure of efficacy because they are not controlled. There is also ample evidence of placebo curing diseases.
-We have ample methods to test this, it's called a double-blind randomized trial.

Here are my questions:

-How can a substance diluted in water until no molecules remain retain any activity.
-If water has memory, than why are homeopathic pills sugar. Does sugar also have memory.
-Since the earth is a closed system and water cycles, then it should contain the memory of every type of chemical/molecule that has ever been present on earth so why bother with the dilution.
-If dilution drives potency, then doesn't one risk poisoning by drinking water with your homeopathic medicine?

Anonymous said...

oooo... burn by the science bot,

Dr. Nancy Malik said...

Real is scientific homeopathy. Evidence-based homeopathy medicine for everyone

Anonymous Coward said...

Fake is your doctorate. Homeopathic medicine and surgery hospital should be a scary thought for everyone.

Kamel said...

I light of existing, and anticipation of future, comments of the "I tried it and it works" variety, this seems as good a place as any to remind readers of my short series of posts on why anecdote and personal experience aren't the most reliable guide for claims of a medicine's effectiveness. You can read all parts here.

Also, for those who don't know, Nancy Malik is a homeopath who spams blogs critical of homeopathy with more or less the exact same comment. I will say I sort of agree with her: evidence-based homeopathy for everyone! I just won't hold my breath waiting for it.

David said...

From what I've seen, homeopathic treatments seem to have little evidence for their efficacy.

That said, we should not discount the potential for alternative treatments in medicine. Herbal remedies, for instance, may have (albeit not standardized) potent pharmacologic properties.

It is important to have healthy skepticism. A friend asked me if a health supplement he bought would increase his energy. My analysis was no - but that it might have other, more nebulous and long term benefits.

Matt said...

First of all, saying that homeopathy kills because two true believers allowed their child to die of a treatable disease is like saying ibuprofen kills because someone thought they could use it to cure cancer. It's misplaced or over-exuberant faith in particular treatments (and especially ineffective treatments) that causes problems, not those treatments themselves. Trying to treat critical ailments with unproven or "gentle" therapies, especially when very effective treatments exist, is foolish.

Second, I'm conflicted about the effectiveness of homeopathy. On one hand, I'm a scientist and very much a skeptic. There is little or no solid experimental evidence supporting homeopathic treatments, and some aspects of it seem ridiculous (such as the whole dilution thing). On the other hand, I have had experience, albeit anecdotal, with homeopathy being very effective (on warts). I realize this may have been due to a placebo effect. However, I had tried many other more conventional treatments with no effect, and I had no faith that the homeopathic treatment would work (I was, in effect, humoring my doctor). Not everything that's outside our current scientific understanding is necessarily invalid.

Kamel said...

Matt, the problem is that even if we ignore the fact that explanations of homeopathic efficacy are nonsense (or, as you put it, "outside our current scientific understanding") we know it doesn't work. It's been tested. You said yourself that there's no evidence supporting it.

The understanding argument is a red herring. It doesn't matter if the explanation is "water memory" or magic fairies or something scientifically sound - it's been shown that homeopathic remedies work no better than placebo.

The only thing these highly diluted compounds can reliably treat is thirst.

Dr. Nancy Malik said...

Studies in support of Homeopathy published in reputed journals

1. Scientific World Journal

2. Lancet

3. Neuro Psycho Pharmacology
http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v27/n2/abs/1395862a.html // Bacopa Monnieri for memory

Kamel said...

Dr. Malik,

I hope you can find more than 3 references! But let's take a look.

#3 has nothing to do with homeopathy, as far as I can tell. (and in almost all measures, it showed no significant effect anyway)

#2, while saying that their results are incompatible with the hypothesis that homeopathic effects are completely due to placebo, also says "we found insufficient evidence from these studies that homeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition." You also failed to mention the more than half dozen rebuttals to this specific paper.

#1 may actually show effects of homeopathic dilutions (I haven't read the full paper yet).... on frogs! Surely you're not advocating treating humans something that has only shown efficacy in frogs?

My challenge to you (or anybody) is to pick a condition for which a homeopathic preparation is indicated, then point us all to the clinical trial evidence supporting its effectiveness beyond placebo.