homeopathy is ‘personalised’?

By Alison Campbell 31/12/2011

Orac has just put up a post deconstructing various claims by a US homeopath. One of those claims really tickled my fancy:

The problem is that homeopathy is aimed at treating the individual with a single remedy, chosen specifically for him or her. It is not for treating masses of people with the same pill. Twenty people could have the “same” flu, but each one would need a different remedy (not necessarily Oscillococcinum) and be rightly cured because each one would manifest illness in a way that is utterly unique to him-/herself. We always treat the person, not the disease. As such it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to replicate homeopathic treatment the way pharmaceutical companies try to do in drug trials.

If this is the case, you really have to wonder why many pharmacies even bother to offer those rows of homeopathic ‘remedies’ on their shelves. After all, if our homeopath is correct, those commercial potions couldn’t possibly work…

(The article is well woth a read – the various metaphors this practitioner uses in attempts to explain the unexplainable are rather entertaining.)

0 Responses to “homeopathy is ‘personalised’?”

  • Alison – it’s not just US homeopaths who make this claim. I’ve been out of the country for 4 months so I’m only just catching up with NZ magazines. Did anyone pick up on the article in snoring in the September 2011 Consumer magazine? IMO the review of homoepathic products destroys Consumer NZ’s reputation as a organisation NZers can trust. The article says:
    – quote-
    Homeopathic products

    The SnoreStop products (SnoreStop Tablets – $25, SnoreStop2 Tablets – $31, SnoreStop Naso Spray – $23) are specifically for snorers with respiratory congestion and the products’ labelling rightly says they aren’t for sleep apnoea. Their claim of effectiveness was backed up by a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial published in a scientific journal. The NaturoPharm Snoremed Relief Spray ($21) wasn’t backed by any evidence.
    Expert verdict

    Our medical herbalist thought that for some people these homeopathic products may work – especially SnoreStop2 because it had extra active ingredients and so it was more likely to work better. However, she points out that all homeopathic remedies may work wonders for one person and do nothing for another. Homeopathy is best prescribed on an individual basis, after extensive consultation.

    Our other experts thought these products were unlikely to work, especially for moderate to severe snorers. One expert said that the efficacy of homeopathic remedies had not been demonstrated convincingly in evidence-based medicine.

    All had concerns about the SnoreStop study. There were no objective measurements used: the findings were based on unreliable reporting (by the snorer’s partner). And the study was conducted over a short time – 10 days.

    – end quote –

    • Hi Lynley – no, I hadn’t seen that one; we do get Consumer but I don’t always read right through it.

      Had to chuckle at the medical herbalist’s statement (Consumer employs a medical herbalist???) that a homeopathic product (SnoreStop 2) has ‘extra active ingredients’!

  • My impression, Alison Campbell, is that you and your cronies seek out information on homeopathy only in order to take pot shots. You are the blogsphere bullies – the ones that hang around the cyber school yard, looking for the kid who is different to pick on. Maybe you were bullied yourself in school and this is your chance to get back. I suggest therapy, counselling, or maybe even homeopathy as a solution.

    I don’t believe you have any genuine interest in understanding this subject, but I will explain, in any case.

    There is a difference between homeopaths and homeopathic products.

    Yes, homeopaths do individualize – and normally have their own extensive pharmacies (often 3000 remedies or more) from which their patients receive their remedies.

    Most homeopaths have no connection with the bottles on the shelves, the homeopathic products.

    Yes, though, they occasionally do work, when the remedy the person really needs happens to need is contained within them. Also, it is possible to get a close remedy, which helps the person enough but does not actually cure them.

    Please either try to open your minds or leave the homeopaths and those who are open to listening to them alone.

  • @noncynic,

    As one of Alison’s ‘cronies’ who has written a few times on homeopathy and have spent a little time coming to gripes with it (e.g. http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/tag/homeopathy/) you might wish to note the (main) thing being ‘attacked’ is the practice, and the claims, not the people as such. That said, I do wonder what it takes for people to fall for such nonsense but I think that a fair question to ask.

    Of course practitioners can individualise—‘mainstream’ medics can too—but that doesn’t mean the products they offer can’t be tested under controlled trials – the point at issue. (Homeopathic products in this case, but this applies to all remedies.)

    Essentially what you are repeating is a line used to encourage homeopathic practitioners and their clients to ‘overlook’ or dismiss the results of controlled trials that show that homeopathy doesn’t work.

  • Lynley & Alison,

    On a tangential note, one confusing factor can be that some products that brand themselves as ‘homeopathic’ in fact are not and contain non-homeopathic amounts of well-known active ingredients. My own way of viewing this is that it shows that homeopathy is all about marketing (and essentially nothing else). One example I can recall was a suncream, branded as ‘homeopathic’, that contained decidedly non-homeopathic amounts of zinc oxide.

    Related to this the labelling of these products needs to be clearer, something I’ve previously aired my thoughts on. Among other things using standard IUPAC measures would help as would a refusal to allow products to list concentrations that are nonsensical and that what be listed be the final constituents, not initial ingredients.

    About what the medical herbalist it cited as writing: I’d want to know specifically what each product contains rather than “it had extra active ingredients” (I can’t help but think this can also be read as what the marketing material says). Certainly, what the medical herbalist goes on to say suggests a presumption (or bias to) that homeopathic remedies work and/or not appreciating placebo effects, etc. – not things you’d want in someone contributing to a consumer review.

    I don’t get Consumer (or any other magazine – budgets!)

  • Oh I have an open mind all right – I would be happy to change my opinions on homeopathy if its proponents could provide clear, solid evidence that it actually works better than placebo on non self-limiting conditions. Seeing a plausible, testable science-based mechanism by which homeopathy could work would be useful too.

    But so far that’s not forthcoming. And instead we have some homeopaths claiming that they can cure malaria, for example: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/homeopathy-for-malaria/ – an extremely dangerous practice with no evidential basis whatsoever.

    Incidentally, if ‘most homeopaths have no connection’ with commercial homeopathic products, then shouldn’t they be calling for the removal of these standardized (& by their own logic ineffectual) products from the shelves?

  • noncynic,

    Assuming you are not one of these “hit and run” defenders of homeopathy, who wander onto any blog criticising homeopathy, deliver a few insults instead of engaging in a meaningful discussion, could you please explain how homeopaths decide which treatment is appropriate for their client?
    Or do they keep trying different solutions until the self limiting disease cures itself, all the while taking money for each new “cure”?
    Also what do you think the limits of homeopathy are? Do you believe it is an effective preventative for malaria? If so, then surely there is no opportunity to try different treatments – the homeopath must get it right the first time, otherwise the traveller is vulnerable?
    How about AIDS? DO you believe homeopathy can cure AIDS? This is what some homeopaths have claimed, and they have actively discouraged people from using conventional anti-HIV medications?
    What about a cure for a heart attack? Or would this need to be personalised? I don’t think there would be much time to attempt personalisation if a person had collapsed in front of you?

    Or do you take the more sensible approach – that homeopathy only works for self limiting conditions?

  • regarding my previous post – the final sentence should read

    Or do you take the more sensible approach – that homeopathy only “works” for self limiting conditions?

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