Homeopathic remedies in NZ pharmacies

By Grant Jacobs 25/01/2010 58


Why?

Why should pharmacies, which generally promote themselves as sellers of tested and reliable treatments, offer homeopathic remedies?

pharmacy-ancientRecently I wrote about a protest against Boots selling homeopathic remedies in England. A quick inspection of several pharmacies here in Dunedin, New Zealand show they do the same.

One of the products even stated it was a “homeopathic product without approved therapeutic implications (“Sleep Well”, Martin & Pleasance; my emboldening). They’re basically saying their product has no support to be used as therapeutic remedy. So then why is a pharmacy carrying it?

Are pharmacies here guilty of the line of reasoning that if the public is willing to pay for it, give it to them, regardless of if it does them any good or not?

Shouldn’t we expect pharmacies to at least make some effort to limit themselves to goods that have been shown to work?

Perhaps it is time that we insisted that claims made of a remedy can be backed with evidence? (See Time for disclaimers on remedies?, ’alternative’ or not.)

These products are implausible several ways: the amounts of the ingredients, what the treatments claim to do and the way the remedy is taken.

Here I will deal with just the first: how much is in the bottle/pill and is this amount meaningful?

The ingredient lists on these homeopathic remedies do not give the amounts of substance in them. They tell us, say, that it is a 30C dilution, but not how much was diluted. Those buying it no idea how much of the substance is in the bottle or pill. The amounts should be given in proper unit measures that specify the actual amounts, not a dilution factor. If there is nothing of the substance present, they should not be able to claim the remedy contains that substance.

For example, Naturo-Pharm offer a product, Wartoff, that contains nitric acid. ’Nitric acid 24x’ it says on the bottle of pills, but 24 times how much? (The substance can’t be described properly either. Nitric acid, proper, is a liquid. And if it were as a liquid, that’s one ingredient I’d want in highly dilute form, given that nitric acid is a strongly corrosive acid.)

Homeopathy involves extreme dilutions. I’d couldn’t do better than point to the video I featured in my previous article on homeopathy and this wonderful piece by Matt Parker writing at Times Online. Read it, it’s great.

Having pointed to these, let me add that dilution is the elimination of the original material. It’s getting rid of it.

What the repeated dilution process does is to repeatedly eliminate the “active ingredient” until there is less and less of it. A 1C dilution gets rid of all but 1 in 100 molecules of the original ingredient. 2C gets rid of all but 1 in 100 of the 1 in 100 remaining from the first dilution, leaving you with 1 for every 10,000 of the original sample. 3C leaves you with 1 for every 1,000,000 of the original. Repeat this and get to the point of only a handful of molecules of the original ingredients being left, as they do, and further dilution eliminates the original ingredient entirely.

This is clearly silly. You put stuff in, then do an overcomplicated, clumsy way of getting rid of it. You might just as well not put anything in, in the first place.

That’s why 1023‘s by-line is “there’s nothing in it”: if the remedy is truly homeopathic, whatever the initial solution started with the large number of serial dilutions will have eliminated it.

Quoting these dilution factors, rather than the amounts of the substance, lets the producers claim the remedy contains that substance even when it cannot possibly. Misleading labelling.

Ingredients should be listed by the actual amounts present, not dilutions. Ingredients that cannot be demonstrated to be in the remedy should not be listed.

So what’s this stuff doing in pharmacies?


More articles that might interest you in Code for life:

British homeopathy sceptics group aims for sugar high (with Dawkins video)

Time for disclaimers on remedies?, “alternative” or not

Deleting a gene can turn an ovary into a testis in adult mammals

Monday potpourri: maps, malaria in the USA, cholera in Dunedin and vaccines

Autistic children and blood mercury levels

Metagenomics-finding organisms from their genomes

Genetic tests and personalised medicine

(Image source: wikipedia.)


58 Responses to “Homeopathic remedies in NZ pharmacies”

  • “Naturo-Pharm offer a product, Wartoff, that contains nitric acid. “Nitric acid 24x” it says on the bottle of pills”

    If they’re giving nitric acid homeopathically for warts, does that mean that Naturo-Pharm are saying that normal concentrations of nitric acid causes warts?

  • I assume that the preparations have been made in accordance with the relevant European Pharmacoepia monograph ( Homoeopathic Preparations in 6.7 edition ) or equivalent, and so can be audited by Medsafe – as are other pharmaceutical preparations.

    EP is usually also incorporated into British Pharmacoepeia, but I haven’t checked the Homoeopathic section. Homoeopathic remedies have to pass through similar quality and safety approval protocols as other preparations for the EP, including herbal and conventional drugs.

    I can’t see the problem, as homoeopathic remedies are very popular in Germany and other parts of Europe. The details of the dilutions, nomenclature, and labelling are fully spelt out on the EP, and I assume something similar is used by Medsafe in NZ. As far as I’m aware, customers don’t have to purchase them, but presumably there is a demand – just as there is for preparations from the.Chinese Pharmacoepia..

  • Richard,

    Somehow I don’t think so! I hope to come back to this particular remedy in a later article. (I’ve broken up a longer article that started to ramble, partly as I’m very short on time, and partly as I want to just say one or two things per article to keep them simpler.)

  • Bruce,

    I can’t see the problem

    My second sentence reads: “Why should pharmacies, which generally promote themselves as sellers of tested and reliable treatments, offer homeopathic remedies?” That’s clear enough isn’t it? Later I wrote: “Shouldn’t we expect pharmacies to at least make some effort to limit themselves to goods that have been shown to work?” Etc., etc.

    Popularity has nothing to do with if something is beneficial (or safe, for that matter). I hope to give examples in a later article. I’ve got too much on my plate to write a long article on this, so readers are getting this in bits… you’ll just have to wait 😉

    Likewise, auditing something as “not causing harm” is not the same thing as saying it is effective. If you read the Medsafe guidelines you’d find that they are very careful about insisting that homeopathic products cannot make therapeutic claims. If a product is unable to make a therapeutic claim, why should it be in a pharmacy? I may elaborate on this later.

    There can be harm, a point I hope to deal with in a later article.

    Regards the standards you mention, they’re besides the point I was making. I wrote that the amounts should be specified. The companies can dress up their dilution ratios in “standards” ’til the cows come home, but dilution ratios by themselves cannot give the amount of the ingredients. (They’re a ratio, not a concentration.)

  • I don’t see the problem, although I’m not a fan of homoeopathy. There is no direct harm – I’d be interested if you can show that extreme dilutions of anything is harmful, without scuttling your argument that the preparations are ineffective. Besides, even if you’re right that they do nothing, there’s always the placebo effect.

    People do all sorts of crazy things, leave them be.

  • rainman,

    As I wrote earlier readers are getting this in bits… you’ll just have to wait 😉

    I didn’t write that the remedies cause harm directly, I wrote “there can be harm”. That harm is indirect doesn’t make it go away or say that it should be ignored.

    The placebo effect is not a justification for an over-the-counter product to my mind. (I can see it can having a place in a consultancy setting, with an MD issuing a prescription, however.)

    Your sentence “I’d be interested if you can show that extreme dilutions of anything is harmful, without scuttling your argument that the preparations are ineffective” isn’t necessarily logical and I hope you can see why. (Hint, try being specific: harmful for what, ineffective for what.)

  • The only part of your article in bold stated ” Those buying it no idea how much of the substance is in the bottle or pill.” I assumed it was important. The EP monograph I mentioned covers the preparation, and thus what is claimed to be in the bottle.

    Presumably people asking for the homoeopathic products are familiar with such units. I’m not, but a brief glance at the EP monograph indicates the compositions and labelling are standardised. My point was that pharmacies sell products that are in pharmacopoeias because that indicates the products are standardised and have passed a fairly rigorous approval process – not that they have efficacy.

    Homoeopathic medicine solutions aren’t dispensed in gravimetric amounts, nor are several other items in the EP, using non-intuitive units such as IU, eg vitamins, antibiotics, vaccines etc – usually because the stocks may have variable potency, so biological assays are performed to obtain a standardised amount..

    If you have evidence of harm, or of mislabelling of any medicine, contact Medsafe immediately, I’m confident they’ll review your data, and rescind permission.

  • Bruce,

    I’m extremely busy so can’t reply in full.

    I believe I’ve already explained the points you raise, I’d suggest going back and reading what I wrote. You reply doesn’t address the key points I made in the article: Effectiveness vs. presence in pharmacies, and high dilution citations able to misleadingly represent ingredients as being present that are not.

    Quick pointers, in run-on fashion (!):

    The EP monograph is not the label on the bottle. I can’t see that it’s reasonable to ask that consumers have “deeper knowledge” or read some other source in order to simply know what’s in a preparation. The ingredient list should be able to be read (accurately) in stand-alone fashion. It strikes me as quite misleading to write ‘XXX’ 30C, if the reality is “none of ‘XXX'” and hence that ‘XXX’ shouldn’t be listed. What’s stopping homeopathic remedies being described using conventional measures? (Can’t see anything is; if so, they’d be avoiding the issue to point at other things.) I’ve already explained re “harm” (See reply to rainman immed. above your comment; I did not write what either you or rainman are implying me to have written.) Bear in mind: MedSafe may be (legally or for PC reasons) limited to only look at safety from an immediate/direct POV & that just because “rules” are one way, doesn’t mean they are ideal or can’t or shouldn’t be improved upon.

    For clarity, can you disclose if you have a vested interest, e.g. are an alternative medicine practitioner or distributor or the like?

  • You could also argue that pharmacies sell all kinds of remedies that make people feel better – aspirin for headaches, a wheat pack for over-exerted muscles, anti-dandruff shampoo etc. Since some people think homeopathic remedies make them feel better – whether they actually do or not – why is it such a bad idea for pharmacies to sell them?

  • ” For clarity, can you disclose if you have a vested interest, e.g. are an alternative medicine practitioner or distributor or the like? ”

    I have no vested interest, but your question is a typical ad hominem, so I won’t trouble you again.

  • Claire,

    As I wrote earlier readers are getting this in bits… you’ll just have to wait 😉

    You’ll have to be patient :-)

    Some of the homeopathic remedies are targeted at less innocent things than anti-dandruff shampoo.

    Regards aspirin, I believe some argue it really ought to be a prescription medicine; it has a number of contraindications for example and shouldn’t be taken by “everyone”.

  • but your question is a typical ad hominem

    Thanks for clarifying, but there is no need to make it out to be ad hominem: it wasn’t. I asked—not stated—for clarity as I wrote. I also took care to be polite in asking.

  • Why’d you leave the “homeopathy works” comment in?

    A lot of people are confused between homeopathic and herbal I have found.

    As for “but homeopathy doesn’t hurt anyone”: I have one link to add: http://whatstheharm.net/

  • Hi Katherine,

    I presume you’re referring to “Dr.” Nancy Malik’s comment?

    I can’t delete comments just because I differ on opinion. (Part of me would like too!, but in a fair discussion, you have let others have their say even if you don’t like their message. At least if you’re going to be a fair moderator. Sometimes I idly wonder if on the basis of “balance of argument should be on evidence” type thinking you should shut them out, too, but it’d be too easy to get lazy and stack the deck the way the various “denial” groups often seem to. Better stop here, or we’ll end up in a big philosophical discussion about moderation, which isn’t the topic here…)

    Other people are of course free to reply to her. (It doesn’t have to be me doing all the work here!)

    I hope get to the “what’s the harm” aspect, I as wrote earlier, I’ve just got a lot to do. It might take a few days as I’ve things on that have much higher priority than this blog.

    Thanks for the link. (For what it’s worth, It’s one I’d already seen and was considering using.)

    I’ve a reply to Nancy somewhere that seems to not have gotten out, I’ll track that down sometime, too.

  • Darcy,

    Oi!

    Just kidding :-)

    I do actually have this covered, it’s just the time to put it together that’s getting in the way. Thanks for covering it in the meantime. Appreciated.

    I broke a longer post up to get something out, but haven’t found time to shape the remainder of it. You’ll probably find I later post a competing article :-)

    It’s a good point about homeopathic vs. herbal, the “natural” claims. Personally I like to think people should realise that if they’ve eliminated all of what “ingredients” they started with, it’s got nothing in it. That’s a reason I’d like to see more straight-forward labelling.

    I wrote about synthetic vs. natural in an earlier article about a chiropractor’s claims.

  • Nancy,

    All accounts I’ve read report that homeopathic remedies—when tested properly—do no better than placebo.

    CAM stands for ‘complementary and alternative medicine’. (Allopathic medicine is conventional medicine.)

    For clarity for New Zealand readers: My understanding is that “Dr” Malik’s degree is a Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery (BHMS), taken in India. This is not the degree registered medical practitioners here have, but one associated with homeopaths.

    [Excuse the delayed arrival of this comment.]

  • So as I understand you, your argument is based around this point of view:
    “The placebo effect is not a justification for an over-the-counter product to my mind.”
    Why do you take this view? If homeopathic dilutions can thus relieve symptoms, it surely has a place on sale. A pharmacist sells cures, not chemicals.

    I’m guessing that advertising “placebo remedies” would not cut the mustard in a marketing sense, however, an infinite dilution is an accepted method accepted by vendor and vendee to gently pull the wool, and facilitate a placebo cure. As we know, a placebo real, and this is a proven way to deliver it.

  • Tim: “A pharmacist sells cures, not chemicals”. No actually Tim, a pharmacist sells chemicals that may offer an effective cure. Knowingly pulling the wool, selling something that has no medically proven benefits and claiming it does, ain’t gonna cut the mustard in a marketing sense, an ethical sense or any other sense…

  • Tim (and other readers), I hope to explain things beyond my article in an upcoming post. It’s there in bits and pieces, but I haven’t time to put a lengthy thing right now, so people are just going to have to wait :-)

    “The placebo effect is not a justification for an over-the-counter product to my mind.”

    That’s not the central point of “my argument”. I explained in a reply to Bruce what the main points of the article were. (Should be obvious from the article anyway.) This placebo issue was raised by readers, not me.

    If homeopathic dilutions can thus relieve symptoms

    I pointed out that homeopathic remedies can’t do that. (Remedies that don’t contain any active ingredients can’t treat anything or “relieve symptoms”.)

    There is no such thing as an infinite dilution.

    It doesn’t make sense for someone to buy a placebo for themselves (think about it).

    (Excuse me if I come across as curt, time’s short.)

  • >>It doesn’t make sense for someone to buy a placebo for themselves (think about it).

    I disagree. All that is required is that they believe it will cure them. This belief does not need to originate from an authority like a medical practitioner or a pharmacist.

  • Here is a cheap way Tim. Home grown.

    Print some labels with well known and “proven” Homeopathetic remedies, Horse Chestnut (for Haemoroids), Marigolds (for wounds), Silver Nitrate (for anxiousness, nervous excitement), Mercury (for a wide range of ailments – seriously!!)** and then fill tap water into 50ml bottles. As required, depending on the ailment, select your label, attach to a randomly selected bottle and voila.

    Zee Cure!

    ** see wiki, “list of homeopathy preperations”

  • rainman,

    I was referring to where the person knows it’s a placebo, in which case it obviously makes no sense for them to buy it. The labels should show accurately if it contains nothing but water or sugar, and it’d follow from that, the consumer would know it’s “got nothing”, etc. Hence my suggestion of revising how they’re labelled.

    But just for the sake of it, extending what I was writing to include when the consumer doesn’t know it does nothing, simply brings up the points I’ve already put earlier. Aside from basic consumer protection (goods must work to their intended purpose, etc), there’s the matter of the responsibility that I believe pharmacists should be carrying, which was one of my original points, etc, etc. It’s pretty out of line to sell something you know doesn’t work. Peter’s reply to Tim says it well.

    I am talking about pharmacies, leading their credibility to something that has none.

    My current impression is that currently no-one is carrying the responsibility for the effectiveness of CAM remedies, that everyone is looking the other way, which if true is pretty pathetic.

    I’ll hope to elaborate on this and other things when (if?) I get my later posts out. There is quite a bit more subtlety to the full story. The regulations have a number of elements that seem to be allowing this situation to exist.

  • Rainmain,

    I actually think it might be ethical in some cases to offer a placebo but is it

    a) ethical when the pharmacist could reasonably a expect a research drug to work better?
    b) ethical to sell a ‘remedy’ to someone for $20 when they know similarly offered vial of tap water would have the same effect but not line their pockets as heavily?

  • Several people have asked “where is the harm”. The harm occurs when people use homeopathic remedies for conditions that can progress to the point of being life threatening – bacterial infections for example. Also there are enough examples of patients REPLACING live saving medical treatments with homeopathic treatments and subsequently becoming seriously ill or dying. Wee meaning but poorly informed parents have lost children by placing trust in homeopathic remedies.
    I suspect most homeopaths, on at least some level, know their remedies don’t work. Just try asking a homeopath what they would recommend to treat a child with pneumonia. Most would, I hope, recommend consulting a “conventional” doctor for antibiotics.

  • You might be interested in the NZ Skeptics’ latest campaign, which we hope will include TV3 filming of a mass “overdose” in Chrstchurch on January 30

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: News, Health, Features

    Mass Overdose Planned

    On January 30, a concerted global mass overdose will take place, but
    no-one will die because the “medication” of choice will be
    homeopathic. Homeopathic medicine consists of water or water dripped
    onto sugar tablets; the UK-based 1023 campaign aims to highlight that
    fact and protest against pharmacies touting such a product as
    medicinal.

    To mark the occasion, the NZ Skeptics have released a new Skeptics
    Guide to Homeopathy, available as a flyer off their website
    (http://skeptics.org.nz). It outlines the development of homeopathy
    from a relatively harmless attempt to help people some 200 years ago
    through to the multi-million industry of today. Throughout that time,
    homeopathic practice has held to the idea that diluting substances
    many, many, many times makes for a more potent treatment, reinforcing
    that with the idea that water somehow “remembers” the health-giving
    extracts it once had in it.

    “We do have members looking to take part in the overdose, but many
    have said that they can´t in all good conscience bring themselves to
    buy the stuff in the first place,” says NZ Skeptics Chair-entity
    Vicki Hyde.

    When Billy Joel’s daughter attempted to commit suicide last month,
    she chose to take an overdose of homeopathic medication, and thus
    suffered no ill effects. Hyde points out that while that case was
    fortunate, there are many cases where people have been harmed by the
    use of homeopathic products in the place of real medicine.

    “We´ve got a Coronor´s Court record of the death of a baby from
    meningitis; it had been treated with homeopathic ear drops and the
    mother was very reluctant for any hospital admission. And the website
    whatstheharm.net lists many cases from around the world where people
    have died or had horrible outcomes as a result of a mistaken reliance
    on homeopathy.”

    Hyde has seen concerns raised about the increasing numbers of New
    Zealand pharmacies — “the health professionals you see most often” —
    selling homeopathic preparations and even homeopathic first aid
    kits, alongside other alternative health offerings.

    “I try to ignore the herbs of dubious quality, the effusive claims
    for magnetic bracelets, the offers to feel my feet to see what ails
    me – all those things which seem a core part of pharmacy stock and
    trade. I do wonder about the business and medical ethics though.
    After all, what’s worse – a pharmacist who apparently can’t
    distinguish between tested, regulated medicines and the hope-and-
    hokum variety; or the pharmacist who does know the claims are not
    founded and doesn’t care because such stuff sells?”

    Such dubious practices became a particular concern when an Auckland
    pharmacy began selling homeopathic “meningococcal vaccine” and
    “hepatitis B vaccine”. Even some in the homeopathic trade protested
    against that misleading labelling.

    Over the past 30 years, a large number of studies have compared
    homeopathic treatments with placebos (materials known to have no
    effect on the condition being treated). These have shown consistently
    that there are no benefits to homeopathy beyond the psychological
    value of the placebo effect where people feel better because they
    think they are getting treatment. Additionally, many of the
    conditions allegedly treated by homeopathy are ones which
    spontaneously improve.

    Hyde is concerned that homeopaths rarely explain their odd beliefs to
    their clientele. Most people, she contends, would think twice about a
    product that claimed greater strength through dilution to the point
    where no active substance was present any more.

    “After all, you´d be dubious if someone said they´d make you a stiff
    gin and tonic and then proceeded to add a Pacific Ocean of tonic to a
    drop of gin – that´s the sort of dilution homeopaths use. Selling
    these preparations allows for a huge mark-up, and any responses are
    credited to the preparation, rather than the placebo effect. It´s a
    win-win for the industry, particularly with very little regulatory
    oversight or consumer come-back.”

    Hyde notes that society has fought long and hard for a patient´s
    right to informed consent, for ethical standards for health
    practitioners and for evidence-based medicine that does not rely on
    deception or luck to work effectively.

    “We should demand those standards be met by the alternative health
    industry and then they could truly claim to be producing medicines.”

    For more information:

    1023: Homeopathy, there´s nothing in it
    http://www.1023.org.uk/

    NZ Skeptics
    http://skeptics.org.nz

    Homeopathy flyer:
    http://skeptics.org.nz/download/flyhomeop.pdf

  • So Grant, perhaps I need to spell out my point more clearly:

    your explanation to Bruce stated:

    My second sentence reads: “Why should pharmacies, which generally promote themselves as sellers of tested and reliable treatments, offer homeopathic remedies?” That’s clear enough isn’t it? Later I wrote: “Shouldn’t we expect pharmacies to at least make some effort to limit themselves to goods that have been shown to work?” Etc., etc.

    So if we accept the placebo effect is real, then a homeopathic remedy is at least as reliable as many over the counter ‘chemicals’.

    So then your argument does boil down to:
    “The placebo effect is not a justification for an over-the-counter product to my mind.”

    You state that: There is no such thing as an infinite dilution.
    You are being pedantic, it’s meaning is widely understood and self evident i the contect of homeopathy.

    And: It doesn’t make sense for someone to buy a placebo for themselves (think about it).
    Of course it doesn’t, that’s why it’s called homeopathy!! Doh!

    (Excuse me if I come across as curt, time’s short.)

    I am assuming the topic is (at least partially) tongue in cheek, so be as curt as you like! 😉

  • Peter

    I may be wrong, but I do believe I have read in the press that GPs sometimes prescribe placebos for some classes of patient, that presumably are unresponsive to other treatments.

  • Tim,

    So then your argument does boil down to

    The last bit of my words your quoted were:

    “Shouldn’t we expect pharmacies to at least make some effort to limit themselves to goods that have been shown to work?” Etc., etc.

    I didn’t bring up the placebo thing, other readers did; that’s their argument. Mine was about (a) the things don’t work (b) pharmacists’ responsibilities as a result. As before, the placebo thing is a sideline, an excuse, a red herring or what-have-you. It’s not about “the placebo effect”, it’s about that they don’t work.

    You state that: There is no such thing as an infinite dilution.
    You are being pedantic, it’s meaning is widely understood and self evident i the contect of homeopathy.

    They may well believe the impossible (too many people seem to), but I don’t think I’m being pedantic to point out it’s nonsense so that it’s clear to other readers. I tend to bear in mind that there are many more people reading than are commenting when I write and write with them in mind. I’d rather educate people than “accept” than some people believe in nonsense. Certainly there isn’t a place for pharmacists in promoting this is true. I might write a complete post explaining this fully (but have patience, I’m busy). In the meantime:

    Homeopathy was concocted without an understand of atoms or molecules, which was in it’s infancy at that time. Homeopathy used a notion of infinite regress of matter, that things can get infinitely smaller.

    We now know that matter is made of atoms or molecules. If you dilute far enough, you’ll remove all the atoms/molecules of your ingredients, not a more dilute solution as homeopathic beliefs originally had it to be. E.g., from the article: “get to the point of only a handful of molecules of the original ingredients being left, as they do, and further dilution eliminates the original ingredient entirely.”

    (Most!) modern homeopaths accept that infinite dilution isn’t possible and came up with a “replacement” idea of water having a memory of what was once in it. Water having a memory is a nonsense, of course!

    And: It doesn’t make sense for someone to buy a placebo for themselves (think about it).
    Of course it doesn’t, that’s why it’s called homeopathy!! Doh!

    What’s with the “doh”?: I was pointing out it’s silly myself! :-)

    By the way, the name comes from homeopathy’s so-called “law of similars”, e.g. homo- = same, -pathy = treatment.

    I am assuming the topic is (at least partially) tongue in cheek, so be as curt as you like! 😉

    No, why should the topic be tongue-in-cheek?

  • On the issue of homeopathy ‘doing no harm’ – there are documented cases in the UK & Africa of homeopaths selling preparations that they claim will protect against malaria & cure AIDS. Given that a malarial infection due to Plasmodium falciparum can be & often is fatal, then harm will certainly result from such practices if the consumer takes such ‘remedies’ instead of mainstream medical treatments that are known to be effective.

    The other thing, Grant, that I’ve never really understood about homeopathic preparations in pharmacies: homeopaths make much of the fact that the effectiveness of what they do is based on individualised treatments, tailored to the patient after a lengthy consultation period. So what’s the point of selling the stuff in pharmacies when there’s no possibility of such individualisation? Simply cashing in on people’s enthusiasm for alternative ‘treatments’??

  • Hi Alison,

    You’re busy commenting tonight! :-) Loved your dog story by the way. Kids and their answers, eh? Readers here should check it out. (Click on the link on Alison’s name).

    Saw Orac’s recent post on the “testing” of homeopathic treatments for AIDs in Africa and mentioned it briefly in the addendum to an earlier article on homeopathy: http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/2010/01/20/british-homeopathy-sceptics-group-aims-for-sugar-high-with-dawkins-video/ There’s a link in there to Orac’s article. (His posts are well worth reading, although readers might want to prepare a coffee first as Orac’s articles tend to be long…!)

    You’ve got to be sceptical of the whole thing of selling in pharmacies (or at all, really).

  • I can’t explain how Homeopathy works but it does if correct remedy is given- same applies to conventional medicine. You can probably persuade an adult to feel better after taking a placebo or even a child but an animal does not fake it and we have had excellent responses from using it on a variety of animals but mainly dogs and pigs.

  • Clem,

    I note you haven’t backed your claim – at the moment it’s an empty claim, i.e. no evidence has been offered to support it.

    You might want to remember just in the way that what tested on animals (i.e. other mammals) very often also works in humans, what doesn’t work on humans will very often not work on other mammals either if they share similar physiologies.

    In any event basic science (i.e. never minding studies on homeopathy) trivially shows that homeopathy cannot do anything. (Dilute the starting mixture until the active substance has gone, and obviously you have no active substance to cause an effect, etc.)

    re: studies on homeopathy,

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1874503/

    (There are several more recent surveys)

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-archive/science-technology/s-t-homeopathy-inquiry/

    There’s also a similar report from a Northern Ireland physicians’ national body. These survey the literature on homeopathy,
    summarising their findings.

    There’s more explanation on my blog if you hunt around.

  • Apparently, in order not to be covered by the Medicines Act 1981, homeopathic treatments can have no claim to therapeutic use. Which brings to question why those who claim to be a pain-relief are able to be sold in pharmacies…

  • Hi Sarah & welcome – now I’ve approved your first comment your comments will come through without having to be approved.

    You wrote “Apparently, in order not to be covered by the Medicines Act 1981, homeopathic treatments can have no claim to therapeutic use.” That’s my understanding, too.

    One way they seem to try get around it is to use suggestive names that imply what it is that they “remedy”, like Wortoff, ThrushMed, Flu-Guard, QuitSmoke, FevaMed – that last is targeted at infants. (Taken from an earlier post.)

    I haven’t seen one claiming to offer pain relief. Must have a nosey in the local pharmacies next time I’m that way.

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