[Mb-civic] Homeopathy - natural remedies or quackery?
michael at michaelbutler.com
Sat Sep 10 14:05:24 PDT 2005
Homeopathy - natural remedies or quackery?
Tell Matsadi Masango homeopathy doesn¹t work and she will say you don¹t know
what you are talking about.
Five years ago, 34-year-old Masango turned to homeopathy after orthodox
medical treatment failed to treat incapacitating symptoms of food allergies.
Today she is symptom-free and she believes homeopathy is the reason.
Masango, of KPMG¹s corporate communications and advertising division, began
showing signs of health problems early in 2000 chronic itchy skin rashes,
puffy, rheumy eyes, swollen lips and painful joints. She was often so tired
she could not get out of bed and became unable to work.
'There was very little I could safely eat'
She saw a GP who sent her for blood tests. When the results came back, he
gave her a long list of all the foods to avoid. It depressed her just to
look at it.
³It seemed there was very little I could safely eat,² she says.
The doctor prescribed drugs that included cortisone. Her symptoms improved
for a while then returned.
Six months later, she consulted a homeopath who said there could be no
overnight cure, as homeopathy treated causes of health problems, not just
symptoms. She also said Masango was likely to get worse before she got
better. That she certainly did.
³At one stage, I got so bad, I thought of giving up the treatment,² Masango
says. ³The homeopath persuaded me to persevere for six months.² She is glad
she did. Almost to the day, six months later, Masango¹s symptoms vanished,
never to return.
Homeopathy is 'scientifically implausible'
Orthodox doctors and scientists will dismiss that as ³anecdotal evidence²,
not the rigorous scientific evidence they say proves that a medicine works.
They still believe homeopathy is ³scientifically implausible², a
³pseudoscientific remnant from the age of alchemy² in a word, quackery,
despite its widespread global use.
The Quackwatch website on the Internet describes homeopathy as "the ultimate
fake" <http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/homeo.html> , its
medicines ³the only category of quack products legally marketable as drugs².
Yet homeopathy is the world¹s second most widely used form of medicine (see
What is Homeopathy below). In Britain, there is even a hospital that
practises only homeopathic medicine London¹s Royal Homeopathic Hospital.
In South Africa, homeopathy is recognised by the health department and the
Allied Health Professions Council. There are around 300 homeopaths
registered to practise.
The debate about the efficacy of homeopathy resurfaced last month when The
Lancet, the prestigious British medical journal, published an article saying
a review of the scientific literature showed homeopathy to be ineffective,
and its medicines no better than sugar water.
It also ran an editorial headlined ³The end of homeopathy², saying the time
for more studies was over and doctors needed to be ³honest with patients
about (its) lack of benefit².
The author of the article is Dr Matthias Egger from the University of Berne.
Along with Swiss colleagues from Zurich University and a British team at the
University of Bristol, he reviewed 19 electronic databases from 1995 to 2003
and compared 110 trials of homeopathic remedies against a placebo with 110
trials of conventional medicines also tested against a placebo.
Egger claimed to have found no convincing evidence the treatment worked any
better than placebo the dummy substance used in clinical medical trials.
Not surprisingly, homeopathic doctors quickly begged to disagree.
Dr Peter Fisher, clinical director of the Royal Homeopathic Hospital in
London, said Egger¹s figures ³did not add up².
His conclusion was based on not 110 clinical trials, but eight clearly not
Fisher said that it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that Egger was
³being selective to try to discredit homeopathy².
Certainly the timing appears suspect, following so closely on the back of a
report in the Complementary Therapeutic Medicine Journal of June 2005 that
concluded: ³patients seeking homeopathic treatment had a better outcome
overall compared with conventional treatment, whereas total costs in both
groups were similar².
That study included a World Health Organisation report, in draft form, set
up to examine traditional medicine, which said most related studies
published in the last 40 years had shown homeopathic remedies to be superior
to placebo and ³equivalent to conventional medicines in the treatment of
illnesses, in both humans and animals².
Dr Neil Gower, national secretary of the Homeopathic Association of South
Africa, says The Lancet study reflects ³unbalanced research and analysis² of
homeopathy and raises more questions than answers.
Of course one would expect Fisher and Gower to say those kinds of things,
and it should not be left to the homeopathic community to comment on the
validity of research conducted on their own profession. Others have been
just as quick with objective comment. One is Dr Joyce Frye of the University
She said The Lancet study¹s authors appeared to begin their work ³with a
bias firmly in place².
Their analysis clearly showed effects of homeopathic treatment yet they
found ways to disregard those, she said. Out of the millions of trials in
conventional medicine, their primary outcome relied on the comparison of
ridiculously small numbers.
Frye said the authors ³began their work with the assumption that the effects
observed in placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy could be explained by a
combination of methodological deficiencies and biased reporting. Sound
research is not conducted from this starting position².
Dr Iris Bell, a medical doctor at the University of Arizona, added that
Egger¹s approach was ³incomplete in attempting to evaluate homeopathic
medicine, as it did not include criteria that would apply to high quality
homeopathic research reflecting the nature of homeopathic practice².
Kisane Brasler, a 40-year-old mother of 20 from Sunninghill, Johannesburg,
would like to see more co-operation between orthodox and complementary
medicine. She turned to homeopathy three years ago after months of orthodox
treatment failed to treat raised, painful joints in her hands that made them
look like ³those of an 80-year-old².
Homeopathy helped, and her hands now look normal.
She knows she has a health problem she will have to deal with for the rest
of her life and says it ³makes sense to use a natural medicine that is
nutritionally based with no bad side effects².
Brasler says both orthodox medicine and homeopathy have benefits and neither
has all the answers.
Each works well for some people and some conditions, but not for everything
(Article continues with 'What is homeopathy?' section )
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