Edzard Ernst – Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures?

It’s been a while, but after the recent accusations of bias, cherry picking and conflicts of interest from denialists who continue to use the UK Parliamentary Evidence Check to support their claims, this latest example from homeopathy’s ‘academic nemesis’ needed a blog post.


The homeopathic community and its supporters are well used to rising above the continued onslaught of the anti-homeopathy campaign. With limited resources they choose their battles carefully. Imagine their delight then when on Jan 28th 2013 three positive pieces about homeopathy hit the mainstream news :

In the Canadian National PostHomeopathy Offers Hope

From The Times of London an op ed piece: I’d rather be ‘cured’ by a placebo than rely on science and remain ill

And on CBS’s Doctor Oz show : The Heart of Homeopathy: Like Cures Like    (The video is hard to find but it’s there.)

After Doctor Oz’s chatty piece on the usefulness of homeopathy, follow up information was posted on his website along with a paragraph entitled: Could Homeopathy Be Dangerous? 
The paragraph warned about

“a wide range of adverse effects, including abdominal pain, headaches, nausea, rashes, and pancreas or liver damage.”

and that

“There have also been some reports of serious side effects, including kidney failure, seizures and death.”


Continue reading


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“Stop funding NHS Homeopathy, MPs urge”. But who are these MPs?

As predicted the media produced the expected snow – every national paper, every TV channel ran the story along similar lines: “Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS, say MPs”.  The Mail and Telegraph ran stories on Sunday night, which was interesting since the Science and Technology Committee were adamant that details of the report should not be released to the public until after 11am Monday.  Bloggers had already written detailed posts directly quoting the report and published them at precisely 11am.  Leaked?  Surely not,

The Guardian at least waited till Monday to report: “Stop funding homeopathy, MPs urge”.

And so it went on.  Anyone reading the news might have imagined that there had been an in depth investigation of the matter in parliament.

But who are these MPs doing the urging, and how does the Science and Technology Committee work? Continue reading


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The worst day for homeopathy in 200 years?

So say the denialists twittering away this morning as we all wait for the publication of the so-called Parliamentary Evidence Check.

National newspapers are already running headlines reporting that the committee calls for removal of homeopathy from the NHS.  Which is strange since there is a press embargo for at least another 2 hours…..  But then the Science and Technology committee are in charge of the press release and the press conference is being held at the Science Media Centre and restricted to national media only.

But that’s only more evidence that this whole exercise is a set up, a sham, just  more of the orchestrated anti-homeopathy campaign that’s been running in the UK for years.

Sense about Science, the Big Pharma sponsored lobby group presenting themselves as a registered charity is up to their necks in it Continue reading


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1023, Dr Evan Harris and the Evidence Check

Here’s a video from justice4homeopathy showing Dr Harris taking part in the London 1023 event.

In direct contravention of the GMC Guidelines for Practice, Sections 1.46 and 1.47 Respect for colleagues, Dr Harris gave a speech recounting his attempt at ridiculing his colleague Dr Peter Fisher, director of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, for the crowd’s amusement.  To say his line of questioning was puerile and a distraction from the issue at hand might be an understatement.  What the video does show is a public display of a bias so strong that it should surely disqualify him from being part of the Evidence Check into homeopathy.

Watch it and decide for yourself. If it doesn’t play here double click the box and watch it on youtube.

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1023 what on earth was that about?

1023 came and went on a cold Saturday morning at the end of January. Skeptics, denialists and their friends and siblings turned out to take part in a ‘mass overdose’ of homeopathic medicines.

It was a publicity stunt that only served yet again to show how ill-informed this group is about homeopathy, and how it works.  (Yes it works no matter how many bloggers are out there denying it.)

The videos posted online showed small groups around the country doing their ‘bit for science’.  Some were self-consciously earnest, some pathetic, and still others plain embarrassing.  As a mancunian myself I found the effort by the Manchester Skeptics in the Pub particularly cringe making.

But the bigger issue raised is – where do these people get their information?  Who up the chain of command feeds them their lines: “When they make a remedy they dilute it and dilute it until there is nothing left except water and then they put a drop of water on each sugar pill and that’s the remedy”.

What?????  Call yourselves scientists?  Never mind the fundamental confusion about the dilution issue – just think of the manufacturing nightmare of putting a drop of water on each sugar pill –not to mention that sugar dissolves in water….

But they wore the T-Shirts, helped bolster Boot’s sales by buying their medicine of choice.  Continue reading

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10:23 Not Quackbusters but Denialists (2) A sad day all round

Well it’s all happening in the world of Twitter.  The last blog post flew straight down the #ten23 tag line and produced a vertical trajectory on the blog counter.  In the interests of efficiency, Part 2 addresses some of the comments on that blog.

And it’s a sad day.

Sad that all the effort of 10:23 is focused on a fatally flawed understanding of homeopathy.  What follows is offered to any of the real Skeptics that might have been swept up into the Denialist camp.



“Wow, amazing. Is there any logical fallacy missing from this post?

Science has evaluated homeopathy. The results are clear: Homeopathy does not work. Nothing close-minded about that. Unless you can prove that the research is wrong (an homeopaths have a 200 year history of ailing to deliver any proof), there is nothing to discuss. You want to teach the public about homeopathy? Go ahead. But stop lying to yourself and others. Tell people the facts, and they can decide for themselves. That is what this campaign is about.”

Hmmmm Standard response that begins with the first logical fallacy.  SCIENCE  has NOT yet evaluated homeopathy.
You might say Science is still trying to catch up with homeopathy (see Articles ).
A number of attempts have been made to assess efficacy but as explained in a previous post the methodology is fatally flawed. It’s not possible to evaluate a system of medicine using a method that is incapable of accurately assessing that system of medicine.  Amazing then that there are actually some positive results at all and a real scientist would find that fact alone intriguing.

It may be that you don’t understand the homeopathic method sufficiently well to fully appreciate this and it’s a common challenge for Skeptics Continue reading

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10:23 Not Quackbusters but Denialists

Short post, tight for time – but it seems to me this is crucial in light of the upcoming anti-homeopathy campaign set to be unleashed on the UK public at the end of January.

“10:23  Homeopathy – there’s nothing in it” is just the latest and best organised in a series of orchestrated campaigns that have been run in the UK over the last several years by a group of people who call themselves Skeptics.

In fact the definition of skeptic as I pointed out in a previous post is : “A person inclined to doubt or question accepted opinions”.  The skeptics use this term to suggest that they are critical thinkers and that it’s a virtue not to be taken in by the “pseudo-science” of alternative medicine and in particular homeopathy.  As if they have really investigated the evidence with an open mind.

They describe homeopathy as “implausible”, “impossible” and therefore it cannot work.  A bit like the impossibility of getting the first airplane off the ground and all number of other advances in science and technology mentioned in the post : Evidence Check, honourable members do the honourable thing.

They use the fact that homeopathy has not “changed in 200 years” as evidence that we are morons stuck in an ancient time warp – ignoring the fact that when the therapeutic model is based on natural laws, there is no need to change the underlying principles because they work for all time.  I won’t bother to mention the constant mad scramble of Big Pharma to make new, better – or indeed ANYTHING which actually CURES a named disease. (Well OK I will, but only in passing 🙂 )  Continue reading


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Evidence Check – can anyone do maths?

Well it’s another week after the second meeting of the Evidence Check and the sound bites continue, they’ve now reached  online regional newspapers wringing every last drop out of yesterday’s news.

I wonder though, can someone not put the record straight – how much DOES the NHS spend on homeopathic medicines?  The Telegraph went for “£4 million a year on dispensing homeopathy to patients.”  But is that the cost of the medicines, or the cost of dispensing them, or both?  Because The Guardian reported that the NHS spent “£12 million on homeopathic remedies between 2005 and 2008”.  £4 million a year again, but suggests it’s only for the medicines.  Sounds like a small point I know, but it wouldn’t be if you were footing the bill.  The Minister of State, Mike O’Brien, told us that the NHS bill for homeopathic medicines was around £150,000 a year, a bit of a difference, although he went on to add that the cost of providing homeopathy, including running 4 homeopathic hospitals, paying for GP homeopathic services and referrals etc was around £12 million a year – a figure he said he got from The Guardian !  Mike O’B did remind everyone that the drug budget of the NHS (that’s not the NHS budget, just the part for drugs) is around £11billion a year, and that since homeopathy is already funded by the NHS and there is a group of clinicians who believe it works, they should continue to have the right to prescribe it.

So just to be clear, that’s £11billion for drugs compared to £150,000 for homeopathic remedies.
All right then.  Sorted. Continue reading

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Redefining the Quack

When I was sick as a child in working class industrial Manchester, I would be taken to see The Quack, aka the family GP.  He was a stern man but kind, and always looked for the simple solution before reaching for his prescription pad.  He was a dying breed back then and such a doctor nowadays is, sadly, a rare and precious thing.

Having heard my parents use the term all my life, it came with some irony that all these years later I find myself described as a Quack and it’s meant to be an insult.   I’ve been called a wide range of other descriptives as well of course, from a number of less imaginative four letter words, all the way to the whimsical “woo artist”.
The only emotion any of these words elicit in me is one of sadness. If we look to the homeopathic material medica, all the characters are in there. If only they had some good constitutional treatment they would open their minds and debate rather than debunk. Discuss rather than go for the jugular. Exchange ideas rather than employ character assassination. Continue reading


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Homeopathy = Placebo? Politics, politics, politics

Brits are very, very fearful of ridicule – most humans are, but the Brits are especially sensitive to it. For a Brit it ranks right up there at the top of things to avoid at all cost, and much of the population runs its life accordingly. And so we see everyone taking sides and hedging their bets on this issue. Homeopaths are by and large, thank goodness for humanity, immune to it. 200 years of swimming against the tide of closed minds has toughened them up.

The placebo effect is a hot topic in science.  Right now it allows a paternalistic Dr Goldacre to pronounce homeopaths well meaning but delusional – which is somehow nicer than homeopaths deliberately peddling sugar pills and ripping off the public.  It’s the hour long consultation with a caring attentive homeopath that’s responsible for the good effect – the people who see homeopaths are not really ill, and would have got better anyway.  Either way, the result is the same – however nicely it’s couched, it’s a misrepresentation of homeopathy.

The thing is, Dr G may be able to wax lyrical about the placebo effect – which given the cultural power vested in a man, (and occasionally) a woman, in a white coat with a stethoscope hanging round their neck, should be much more powerful in conventional medicine – but at the end of the day it’s all a distraction.

A typical Q and A session about homeopathy = the placebo effect goes something like this: Continue reading


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