Woomeisters successfully lobby National Health Service to omit critiques of homeopathy

An  article in Wednesday’s Guardian by Sarah Boseley tells a truly disgusting tale of lobbying for homeopathy.

Draft guidance for the website NHS [National Health Service] Choices warning that there is no evidence that homeopathy works was suppressed by officials following lobbying by a charity set up by the Prince of Wales.

Homeopathy, which involves the use of remedies so heavily diluted with water that they no longer contain any active substance, is “rubbish”, said chief medical officer Sally Davies in January to the House of Commons science and technology committee. She added that she was “perpetually surprised” that homeopathy was available in some places on the NHS.

But the government’s NHS Choices website, which is intended to offer evidence-based information and advice to the public on treatments, does not reflect her view. A draft page that spelled out the scientific implausibility of homeopathic remedies was neutered by Department of Health officials. It is now uncritical, with just links to reports on the lack of evidence.

Lobbying by opponents, and the response from DH officials who did not want to take on Prince Charles’s now defunct Foundation for Integrated Medicine and other supporters of homeopathy, is revealed in correspondence from the department discussing the new guidance. It was released under the Freedom of Information Act to Prof David Colquhoun of University College London, a Fellow of the Royal Society and prominent science blogger.

There is no evidence that Prince Charles was involved personally in the lobbying. . .

NHS Choices has offered information on homeopathy since at least 2007, but it has been heavily criticised for its failure to state that there is no proof that homeopathy has anything other than a placebo effect on patients.

The page was taken down early in 2011, pending what a statement on the site said would be “a review by the Department of Health policy team responsible for complementary and alternative medicines”. But critics were disappointed by the page that went up in October 2012, which still does not raise any issues about effectiveness.

David Mattin’s original draft (he’s now left the National Health Service) stated strongly that there was no evidence that homeopathic remedies were better than placebos, and that “if the principles of homeopathry were true it would violate all the existing theories of science that we make use of today; not just our theory of medicine, but also chemistry, biology, and physics.” Immediately, Prince Charles’s lobby, the Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health (which disbanded in 2010 after financial malfeasance on the part of officials), as well as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (Woo Central), raised objections, and Mattin’s draft was altered by officials of Britain’s Depatment of Health (DH).

The Guardian report gives the sordid details, and the DH did not respond to a request for comment.

This is worse than creationists watering down the teaching of endorsement, for homeopathy causes deaths. One of my European friends had cancer of the salivary glands, which was treated homeopathically (unsuccessfully, of course), resulting in the progression of cancer to a more serious stage.  It is the obligation of NHS choices to point out that homeopathy has no scientific basis and is no better than placebos.  Anything other than a full statement of these facts is irresponsible and, in fact, is complicit in murder.

Homeopathy kills.

h/t: Chris

39 Comments

  1. Griff
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    That people are conned into using this form of “medicine” is bad enough, that my tax is used to subsidise it irritates the hell out of me.

  2. Christopher
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    When I read this on Wednesday, I immediately went to the complaints section of the NHS Choices website and sent in a clear and direct reproach. I’d urge others to do the same.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      Could you post the link for the complaints section?

      • kevinj
        Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        you can add a rating at the bottom of each page and it then asks you if you want to leave a comment.
        Not sure about formal complaints but adding comments helps give a bit of balance back (unless they consult the quacks again and get them deleted).

      • Michael Clarke
        Posted February 15, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        Here is the link

        http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/homeopathy/pages/introduction.aspx

  3. gbjames
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    sub

    • jimroberts
      Posted February 16, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      sub

  4. Posted February 15, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    This is part of why it would be nice to have a good theory of demarcation: what separates science from pseudoscience. Unfortunately, that project is notoriously difficult. But this draws our attention, I think, to the project’s importance.

    In particular cases, it might be enough simply to point out that homeopathy, vaccine denial, Christian science, etc. kill people, but as far as general policy, an explanation of what makes something science would be helpful. I’m curious to know, Jerry, what yours is, if you have one.

    • Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Irving Langmuir made a good start at a demarcation. See, for instance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathological_science. I like the term “Pathological Science”, which fits to a tee. Ed Parks’s (voodoo science) blog is also a good source.

    • RFW
      Posted February 15, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Proponents of quack therapies may reply “but oh! at least it doesn’t harm people.” The truth is that the devotees of quack therapy may put off seeing a real doctor for help, and some progressive ailments (e.g. cancer) may advance so far that they become incurable.

      Homeopathy thus kills, but indirectly. And in the UK at least, every death attributable to homeopathy-inspired delay in seeking proper treatment can be laid at Prince Charles’ palace door.

      Other quack therapies may be directly harmful, but I’m not familiar enough with them to say which.

      I wonder if the Queen realizes that her son and heir is too stupid to be King, and that’s why she’s staying on the throne instead of abdicating in Charles’ favor.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 16, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        And in the UK at least, every death attributable to homeopathy-inspired delay in seeking proper treatment can be laid at Prince Charles’ palace door.

        Which is :
        Clarence House
        London SW1A 1BA
        Telephone : (+44) (0)20 7930 4832.
        As if “Big Ears” would listen.

  5. Nick Evans
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Guardian being a little slanted with their description. The relevant website says:

    “Many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left.”

    “If you think you have a health condition, you should see a GP first. Do not use a visit to a homeopath as a replacement for a visit to a GP.”

    “The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advises the NHS on the clinical and cost effective use of treatments. NICE currently has not included homeopathy in its list of recommended treatments for any health condition.”

    “The practice of conventional medicine is regulated by special laws that ensure that practitioners are properly qualified and adhere to certain standards of practice. This is called professional statutory regulation.

    There is no professional statutory regulation of homeopathic practitioners in the UK. This means that anyone can practise as a homeopath, even if they have no or limited formal training or experience.”

    “Many homeopathic remedies are so diluted that they contain no substances that are unsafe, or that may interfere with other medicines. But some homeopathic remedies may contain substances that are not safe to take with other medicines that you are already taking.

    You should talk to your GP before stopping any treatment prescribed by a doctor or avoiding procedures such as vaccination in favour of homeopathy.”

    It’s pretty clear where the NHS stands.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted February 15, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Nah, that’s weak. Kind of like the American National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s page on homeopathy. Lots of controversy and challenges, even [s]everal key concepts of homeopathy are inconsistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics,/i>,but no clear statement of its total uselessness.

      • Nick Evans
        Posted February 18, 2013 at 5:34 am | Permalink

        I agree it should be stronger. But the Guardian is wrong to say it’s uncritical, and that it doesn’t raise any issues about ineffectiveness.

  6. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    The NHS is a wonderful service, it’s helping keep me alive right now and I’m more than willing to pay my tax’s to help support such a great institution.

    That said, it irritates me no end that the NHS still supports, even if reluctantly, even if only a small percentage of funds is spent on it, such a wasteful and ridiculous idea as homeopathy.

    If I want water, I have a tap in my kitchen that supplies me with copious amounts. It’s clean, fresh and most importantly, far cheaper than homeopathic water.

    • SmoledMan
      Posted February 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Yeah really?

      http://rt.com/news/hospital-cover-up-uk-190/

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted February 16, 2013 at 1:57 am | Permalink

      ‘Homeopathic water’? I think that’s an oxymoron. It would have to consist of water that has been so diluted that there’s nothing left but… ? You see the problem ; )

      • gbjames
        Posted February 16, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

        Very dry air?

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted February 16, 2013 at 5:35 am | Permalink

      Fortunately the water from my tap has had contact with every other element and compound since it was first created billions of years ago. Ergo, it contains a memory of any substance I might need to cure any ailment. Why waste money buying homeopathic remedies when I have them all on tap?

      I’ll try not to think too hard about some of the substances it will have come into contact with as I quaff it down.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 16, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        I’ll try not to think too hard about some of the substances it will have come into contact with as I quaff it down.

        Dylan Thomas, apocryphally, had a comment for that : “Fish piss in it.”

  7. Sastra
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    When you look at the arguments used to defend homeopathy they start out sounding scientific (“These studies have shown…”)

    When the studies are demonstrated to be seriously flawed, then the argument shifts to the scientific nature of testimonials (“We have empirical evidence…)

    When the evidence is shown to be below the standards of science, then the argument shifts to the importance of non-scientific ways of knowing (“Personal experience is reliable.”)

    When personal experience is shown to be unreliable, then the argument shifts to a person’s right to choose (“Let the customer freely decide!”)

    When free decisions are shown to be hampered by bad information, then the argument shifts to science’s inability to explore areas outside its domain (“Homeopathy is based on deep insights into the fundamentally spiritual nature of healing!”)

    When it is pointed out that this is now religion, not science — then they go back to square one (“No, these studies have shown…”)

  8. Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Homeopathy is an incredibly deeply entrenched delusion in the UK. Many (many) people I know who have rejected at least formal religion believe in homeopathy and/or other related idiocies, dowsing being a popular one.

    I think that all these beliefs: homeopathy, dowsing, astrology etc. are in fact very closely related to religion and in some cases substitute for it.

    • SmoledMan
      Posted February 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      The best homeopathy is eating your vegetables.

  9. Ken Pidcock
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    There is no evidence that Prince Charles was involved personally in the lobbying. . .

    Yeah, but he could have pushed back against it in an instant.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 16, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      There is no evidence that Prince Charles was involved personally in the lobbying. . .

      . . . But since he’s a skilled and experienced manipulator of the press (or he hires such people), you’d expect that, particularly if he were up to his ears in it.

  10. @eightyc
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Ummmmm……Jesus tweaks each individual water molecule after the active ingredient has been diluted out infinitely.

    That’s how water retains its memory.

    Come on people! get with it! lol.

    • Posted February 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps that was homeopathic wine he was pushing?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 16, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        We’re back to Dylan Thomas again, aren’t we?

  11. Posted February 15, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    If you want to send a complaint, I would recommend sending something directly to the Department of Health – you can do so with this link (make sure you put “For the attention of the Complaints Manager” in the subject line):

    http://www.info.doh.gov.uk/contactus.nsf/memo?openform

  12. david middle
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    complaint lodged

  13. Hempenstein
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    If those who take stock in homeopathy would put a drop of the fully balanced liquid diet of their choide in a glass of water, dilute it infinitely, and then set about subsisting on that, it might put an end to this nonsense.

    • RFW
      Posted February 15, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

      That misses the point of homeopathy. It’s not the dilution that does the magic, but, rather, that the substance diluted, if taken in significant doses, would cause symptoms like those someone is trying to cure.

      Conventional medicine administers drugs that produce opposite symptoms and is therefore called, in contrast to “homeopathy” called “allopathy.”

      But this skates over the surface of Hahnemann’s nonsense: drugs today are not really allopathic. You take an antipyretic for fever not because it produces chills but because it reduces the fever. There is a big difference between producing contrary symptoms and eliminating undesirable symptoms.

      Keep in mind Hahnemann’s dates: 1755-1843, when most drugs were simply ineffective.

  14. marlonrh
    Posted February 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Here’s an old funny skit about homeopathy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0

    (and here’s hoping I’ve posting the address only)

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted February 15, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

      😀

    • Posted February 16, 2013 at 1:51 am | Permalink

      “… a vague sense of unease…”

      Classic.

      /@

  15. marksolock
    Posted February 16, 2013 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  16. Posted February 17, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I found this homeopathy site very informative: http://www.howdoeshomeopathywork.com/

  17. Posted February 18, 2013 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    This is depressing, and I’ve complained about it too.

    On the plus side, homeopathy was ridiculed on prime time TV the other day, by comedian Ben Miller. This link will work for those who can get BBC iPlayer to work, but only until Thursday 21st February, I think.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01qqw83/Room_101_Series_2_Episode_7/?t=21m53s


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29,483 other followers

%d bloggers like this: