Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Two splendid articles from Ben 'Bad Science' Goldacre on Homeopathy.

Key points:

1. In meta-analyses of genuine double blind trials homeopathy is not shown to be any more effective than placebos.
2. Homeopathy is in some cases still helpful - either via the placebo effect or, as was the case during a 19th Century Cholera outbreak in London, simply because it is less harmful than some of the other treatments on offer.
3. However, homeopaths' assaults on allopathic medicine are harmful of their own accord: there's evidence to show that homeopaths often advise against taking regular medication, which can be very harmful, particularly when the advice relates to things like Malaria prophylactics.

My own experience with homeopathy was that:

1. It - in all proability - did not help my arthritis.
2. The homeopath, and she is alone in this degree of certainty out of all the medical professions I have seen, claimed straight-up that she would cure me.
3. The homeopath advised me not to take Sulphasalazine. No real harm here, but it was a drug which did, end the end, help me for a short while. It also didn't do me any harm.
4. The same homeopath did, by all accounts, rid a friend's sister of her migraines.

As an aside - it really is a mistake to say something is 'just the placebo effect'. The placebo effect can have some remarkable results. Something, which leads into all sorts of fascinating discussions about the relationship between the mind and the body.

As I said to my GP recently about my most recent course of treatment, and the improvement it has ushered in: "well it might be the placebo effect, but please don't convince me of this".

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