By Vicki Hyde
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. 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 what’s the harm? 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?”