Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Here we go again..

The latest edition of the Settle Community News may not be the magazine with the largest circulation, but it is widely read in this area. There is an article written by Ted Saunders who is objecting to a piece in a previous edition about the clinic where I work and the main focus of his article is an attack on homeopathy and what he calls 'the stirrers of Settle'. Ironically, there was an article in the Guardian yesterday by Edzard Ernst which raised much the same issues.

I have had several calls, texts and emails from people who were outraged by these articles and wanted to voice their support for me and for homeopathy.

Ted mentioned the recent report by the government Science and Technology committee which criticised homeopathy, dilutions, costs to the NHS and that homeopathy is based on faith and medicine is based on science

So, let's look at these points

They both mention the critical report of the Government Science and Technology Evidence check into homeopathy. Of the 12 members on the committee, only 3 MPs voted for this report, one lost his seat and the other 2 stood down at the last election (and one of those joined the committee after the hearings). Two of these MPs are known supporters of a group called Sense About Science who are anything but sensible about science. Of the witnesses called to give evidence only one was a homeopath, Dr Peter Fisher, the director of the London Homeopathic Hospital, the majority were journalists or academics who are known to oppose homeopathy. See my
blog dated 21st February 2010 for more information about the hearing and for an excellent summary of proceedings see the blog by 'The Voice of (Not So Young) Homeopathy'

I have written about dilutions several times on this blog, but the main thing to remember is homeopathic remedies are made by dilution and by vigorous shaking, a process called succussion. It has been known for many years that this shaking causes changes to the structure and properties of the liquid. The vast majority of this research is nothing to do with homeopathy but done by chemists and physicists who want to try and understand how this works. One of the key research papers, which I have mentioned before, is one by Louis Rey which was able to measure thermoluminescence of extremely diluted solutions of sodium chloride and lithium chloride. The solutions which were just diluted could not be measured but solutions which had been diluted and vigorously shaken were measurable. The full article can be seen

Also see my blog article about Avagadro's number for more about dilutions.

Ted also says that homeopathy is more about faith than science. I would like to point out that the NHS doesn't get it all right either. Many people put their faith in their GP and the NHS but still decide to try complementary medicine because they have not been helped by the system. I came to homeopathy after years of unsuccessful treatments for migraine, the final straw was disturbing side effects from prescribed medication, so I tried homeopathy which worked for me and I became curious to learn more about it. Side effects from medication, long term problems such as back pain, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression and sleep problems are common reasons why patients choose to try a different approach.

I would like to draw your attention to British Medical Journal Clinical Evidence which shows that only 11% of medicines and current interventions are known to be effective for the conditions they are prescribed. A staggering 51% are of unknown effectiveness.

Updated Clinical Evidence article

When you consider the NHS drug budget is about £11 billion a year, I find it amusing that critics complain about the £4 million spent on homeopathy in the NHS, particularly when over 70% of people with chronic conditions seen in the homeopathic hospitals report improvement after their treatment. Surely anything that helps over 70% of people should be encouraged. See the Bristol study for more info.

Unfortunately, attacks on homeopathy are not new. James Compton Burnett wrote a series of letters to a young skeptical doctor to explain why he believed in homeopathy. The letters were cases he had treated himself and were published in 1896 as a short book 'Fifty Reasons for being a Homeopath'. It is a very clear and simple book which shows how he first became curious and then became more passionate about homeopathy the more he learnt about it. You can find this on Google Books

Dr James Compton Burnett 1840-1901

'Homeopathy: A Rational Choice in Medicine' by Mo Morrish is a small but excellent book which counters all the arguments that skeptics throw at us. It should be essential reading for anyone who is curious about the controversy surrounding homeopathy, unfortunately, the hardened skeptics are unlikely to ever read it.
Homoeopathy: A Rational Choice in Medicine
Another book on the subject which goes into the science in much more detail is Bill Gray's 'Homeopathy: Science or Myth'. This clearly and simply explains some of the possible theories about how homeopathy might work and discusses several experiments in detail which indicate that very dilute homeopathically prepared medicines are not only measureable, but also have an effect which is certainly not placebo.
Homeopathy: Science or Myth?

I have copies of all these books and if any of you in the Settle area want to borrow them then let me know.