Monday, 1 June 2009

Homeopathy Kills


I'm usually quite an amiable person. If someone comes up to me with an idea that sounds like bullshit, I'll usually smile politely and say something like "That's very interesting, it's great that it works for you" and then continue about my day, thinking nothing of it. Occasionally though, these ideas have an impact on my life, sometimes through the ones that I love.

Illnesses run in my family. Really annoying ones. I'm scared of breast cancer, bi-polar depression and IBS. When a dear aunt of mine went to see a "specialist" for the third one, we thought little of it, as we know how annoying it can be. She came back all excited, she had some special drops to take 3 times a day, it was all very thrilling. She'd get out a tiny handbag sized bottle, tilt her head all the way back and drip the potion down her throat, feeling better almost instantly. A few weeks later, however, she discontinued use of this "specialist" as it was costing her an arm and a leg, and actually wasn't doing much. "That's private healthcare" we all muttered.

Since finding out she'd gone to see a homeopath, the rest of the family have been rather bored of hearing anecdotal evidence of it working for other friends. "Yeah, great, works for you" is the uninterested response from them. More recently though, I've been hearing and reading things about it that are beginning to upset me, and piss me off a bit.

It's annoying for my aunt, with a frustrating but not life-threatening condition, living in London with a decent salary and all the trappings to be drawn in by homeopahthy and pseudo science - annoying because we have at our disposal a wide range of resources to check the facts. What gets my goat (and the farmyard animals of many others) is stuff like this, where quacks are either deliberately or naively recommending tripe to the vulnerable, whose illnesses are life threatening.

It's not just homeopathy, there are other practices, like chiropractic and acupuncture, claiming to cure things without any substantial evidence. Evidence, that-thing-wot-doctors-need-to-make-people-feel-better. You know, EVIDENCE, so that when I'm in a lot of pain, I can be relatively assured that the thing that someone suggests as a way to be in less pain is going to work. EVIDENCE.

In the words of the great Mr. Minchin:

"What do you call alternative medicine that works...? Medicine!"

I'm bored of quacks furiously defending their chosen professions without backing it up with evidence. I'm not talking about the testimonies of the people it has worked for, I mean a serious double or triple blind trial, with no self-serving interests involved. I genuinely want to believe that some of these alternative medicinal practices work, so that they can be provided on the NHS - IF THEY WORK. I hate all this "Alternative versus Biomedical" assertions. If everyone's trying to help people, and that is their goal, why are the BCA so reluctant to make their evidence public in the Simon Singh case? (scroll down for the bit about the "plethora" of evidence - by "plethora" do they mean "absence"?)

Urgh! I'm annoyed now. Where's my Bach's Remedy and Relief? Oh wait. It's turned into a bottle of brandy. That'll do.

8 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  2. *part 1*
    "I mean a serious double or triple blind trial, with no self-serving interests involved."
    are you fucking kidding me?? take your head out of your ass! who do you think funds these trials which you claim are free of self-serving interest? fucking pharmaceutical companies! who pays the salaries of & forks over princely bonuses to the "unbiased" scientists who run these trials? umm...big pharma. who then rewards the pushers of their pills (sorry, MD's) if they get their patients hooked on the "new & improved" but more expensive version of the same USELESS drug they were already selling? hope you can answer that one yourself...
    WAKE THE FUCK UP! you know what I'M tired of carmen? people like you who think you're so fucking clever & have it all worked out & feel the need to pollute the web w/ your 2 worthless cents. people like you who are being played on and preyed upon by the entire "evidence based" BS that western thinking has been shoving in your gaping mouth since you were born. learn to think for yourself! i used to work as a sales rep for J&J Pharma for 6 years, making great money, getting paid to travel, it was incredible! a mate worked for a tobacco company (as a sales rep) & i'd to tear into him for whoring himself out to an evil billion dollar corp. that lied to and killed people. what a fucking hypocrite i was being. thankfully he pointed that out. we've both since changed careers but my point is that as someone who's been to the devil's house & done his dirty laundry- i saw the stains that the public don't see.

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  3. *part 2*
    allopathic medicine is NOT what it claims to be. i cannot emphasize enough what big money does to otherwise honest hardworking intelligent people. the world and what you learn in school isn't as black/white as you seem to think.
    honestly, my (indirect) experience w/ alternative med has been incredibly rewarding. my sister suffered from chronic headaches for years. YEARS! her Rx pills helped temporarily but she wanted a solution, not a fucking blanket. one of her neighbors is a chiro & after 6 visits to him her headaches have completely gone. GONZO. NO MORE. i've been through years of post secondary, have an hons. degree in biology-- i know what evidence-based means. i've chewed the fat w/ this chiro & although he can't say "X caused Y caused Z & that's definitely why my adjustments helped", he's been able to talk me through what his thinking was w/ my sister, why chose to adjust what he did, & why it may have worked. i KNOW as well as he does that although he's helped my sister eliminate her headaches (not block the pain for a bit), there's no way he can dream of getting this or any of the other remarkable health stories he's seen unfold during his career published because it is purely anecdotal. he's pointed out that there are relatively few scientific papers published in support (or in refute) of chiro. guess why! b/c nobody funds for research! there are no multi-billion dollar corporations who care what chiro or other AltMeds have to offer because there's no money in it for them! it's easier to let doubt linger & hope that w/ time the public cry out to have all these "quacks" put behind bars & get rid of AltMed. well fuck you and anyone else who would take that option away from me & have my sister on pills the rest of her life.
    i am not condoning some of the potential dishonesty you or your family seem to have encountered w/ your ventures in alternative med... (i'm sure you've seen dishonest people in ANY profession) but what you cannot do is group all of alt.medicine together (osteo, chiro, accupunc, etc.) and slander them without having any idea of what you're talking about. pick up a fucking book or better yet go and TALK to a few good practitioners from each discipline, understand what they do and WHY they do it and then form your opinion! DO NOT just go read & vomit back out what some other uninformed mudslinging biased circle-jerking "intellect" yuppie has posted on an anti-AltMed forum. go to a source and do some critical thinking.
    end rant.

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  4. Dear bp,

    Hello, wow. Some really interesting points. Thank you for posting :-)

    My mother is actually a fully qualified massage therapist, and I can vouch for the efficacy of it, as she gives me free treatments every so often to help with my stress levels - I can say with confidence that they do help. I am not deriding all forms of CAM. Simply calling for more studies to be done so that we don't have a need for "alternative" medicine - all treatments that are shown to be effective can be labelled under the term "medicine".

    Also, I didn't mention osteo, as there is evidence to suggest it works for back problems.

    I live in the UK, we have a National Health Service, which is free to all UK citizens. The only people who benefit from double blind trials here are patients, not big pharma. I appreciate that in other parts of the world this is a different case. Unfortunately for me, I am unable to speak for other parts of the world, and from your post I would assume you are American? I am not intricately familiar with how your medical care system works, and I hope you are able to post a reply to enlighten me a bit.

    There are some very good books on the subject, and I've been to quite a few lectures and debates on CAM. I highly recommend Bad Science by Dr Ben Goldacre and Trick or Treatment by Dr Simon Singh and Dr Edzard Ernst (who is one of the UKs leading authorities on CAM).

    I would hope that I am able to understand why people turn to CAM. I've spoken to a lot of people who have gone through massive amounts of stress with conventional medicine, but felt that "Reconnecting with their angels" or Reiki or Homeopathy was the treatment that worked.

    In an earlier post, I looked at a few different studies as to why women in particular turned to CAM, and their single biggest reason was that conventional medicine just didn't work for them. The issue I have with this, is the exploitation and marketing of non-treatment in the form of the placebo effect, which can lead to misdiagnosis or even reluctance to seek the advice of a conventional doctor. There was a tragic story in the papers recently of a toddler who died from eczema because her parents refused to take her to a conventional doctor, and treated her with homeopathy alone.

    http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Homeopathy-Parents-Charged-Over-Baby-Daughter-Glorias-Death-In-Australia/Article/200905115276109

    I am sorry you feel that my "2 cents" are worthless. Perhaps you could post some links to back up a few of your points and I can revise my opinions on this matter?

    Yours Faithfully,

    Carmen

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  5. None of Big Pharma's sins give any kind of validity whatsoever to homeopathy.

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  6. i think one of the problems is that ANY trial, let alone a double/triple blind one, is INCREDIBLY expensive. i'm sure the NHS is obviously unwilling to take on this job because they are stretched as it is. and private companies, i'm sure, are unwilling to invest in trials that might not get them profits.

    i think BP was right in saying it's not as black and white as you make out. one cannot simply click their fingers and a trial will happen. the same as the applications of alternative therapies: i think the key is the use of these therapies ALONGSIDE conventional medicine. i dont think you mentioned the effect of placebos in your post, but alternative therapy can fill the gap where a patient feels their illness is out of their control. it can give them hope and a lot of the time this "hope" can ease an illness. i've been treated by a herbalist, homeopath and osteopath (only because i work at a alt. therapy clinic!) and none of them PROMISE an actual cure; they stress the importance of things like "in homeopathy, we *believe* XYZ will help with this problem"-- rather than "this is what will cure you." I didnt feel tricked as you'd suggested and knew what i was getting into, but it gave me some hope with a frustrating ailment. of course, some practitioners can be con-men, but what can i say? i guess it's important to do your research and to be recommended by someone.

    i think that bearing in mind the difficulty in running any decent trials, alternative therapies will certainly have to take a backseat and be available only for people who can afford it. it's definitely a practice to be used alongside conventional western medicine, and i do think it's important for GPs to let their patients know what options are out there- even if its to give them a little hope. being pushed around the NHS can be very depressing and sometimes people just need a good chat to someone who cares. and yeah, sometimes that might be a homeopath who you're paying £30 a session to!
    ps. yea i was snoopin' around twitter, lols

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  7. I thought this might be helpful:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&cmd=DetailsSearch&term=chiropractic&log$=activity

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  8. @Katie
    Thanks for your comment. You're right, it can be a very complicated subject, and for the purposes of spouting a rant I made it into a black and white subject.
    Homeopathy works, but only as a placebo. The reason I have a problem with this is that it's degrading and patronising to the intelligence of the patient.
    I am not a doctor, but I am someone who cares a lot about health as an occasional patient, and I would much rather know the truth about a treatment than be lied to by someone I put my trust in. Doctor's are in a position of authority, and charlatans that seek to abuse those in need should be publicly denigrated in my opinion.

    There is a wonderful organisation I heard of a few months ago called the Cochrane Collaboration (www.cochrane.org) who painstakingly go through thousands of published studies every year to give us the best possible idea of treatments that can help us. I strongly recommend you have a ganders :-)

    I'm really intrigued that the herbalists you work with don't actively tell patients they will be cured, it's not something I've personally come across and I wish there were more responsible herbalists like yours!

    @Beacon Schuler
    Right on as always *thumbs up*

    Thank you for the comments, I'm really sorry I took so long to respond!

    Carmen x x

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