WILLIAM ALDERSON, Consultant & Co-founder, Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century wrote to the CamdenNewJournal The independent London newspaper
02 November, 2017
• DAVID Reed has made a number of the usual errors objecting to NHS spending on homeopathy (Claims made for homeopathy are a nonsense, October 26).
A study of 6,544 consecutive patients at the NHS Bristol Homeopathic Hospital found 70.7 per cent reported benefit from homeopathy.
Note these patients had been referred only after conventional medicine had failed them, so any suggestion that this was simply a placebo effect is absurd. For them homeopathic treatment was the “best medical care” whatever Mr Reed’s prejudices about it may be.
Mr Reed refers to several unscientific reports from Australia, the UK and Europe. That by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council is being taken to the ombudsman for its blatant breach of normal standards.
No other study conducted by the NHMRC had set such a high bar for reliability, one which excluded all but five studies.
The NHMRC concealed the fact that it reviewed the evidence twice, and it has refused Freedom of Information requests to release the first version. In addition the signed disclaimer of the original chair of the committee omitted to mention that he was a member of Friends of Science in Medicine, an anti-homeopathy group.
The report by the Commons science and technology committee failed to review the evidence. In particular, it ignored the basic science evidence showing that homeopathic medicines were biologically active and distinguishable from dilutions or plain water.
Its claim that homeopathy was no more effective than placebo was based on a meta-analysis of 110 trials which, without proper explanation, actually excluded all but eight trials. Other researchers found that this particular selection had the unusual property of suggesting that homeopathy is no better than placebo.
The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council set out “to reinforce criticism of the health and scientific claims made for homeopathic products”, hardly an unprejudiced basis for a report.
Unsurprisingly the EASAC statement “cherry picks” the evidence, systematically selecting negative publications and citing almost exclusively hostile commentary and opinion pieces.
The views of the Swiss Federal Health Office were not only contradicted by the report they commissioned, but were rejected by the Swiss people.
Mr Reed says the principle of “like cures like” is nonsense, when it is actually the only possible general relationship of a curative treatment to an illness.
If there is no general relationship there can be no science; and if the relationship is one of opposites, then what is the opposite of a cough, acne or asthma?
The problem is that substances which can cause illness, such as belladonna, can be highly poisonous, as Mr Reed rightly notes, so Samuel Hahnemann, a leading chemist of his time, sought to find the smallest dose that would work.
Nobody was more surprised than him to find that banging the medicines as well as diluting them made them more effective, but it is only now that we are starting to understand the physics underpinning this discovery.
As for the reported joke about Lake Geneva, it was made by a contemporary critic of homeopathy, and Hahnemann himself explained why it was nonsense.
Finally Mr Reed claims that homeopathic pharmacies are a “major money-making businesses”. None of them come anywhere near the size of the main conventional pharmaceutical companies; nor do they have the same record of harming and killing patients as conventional pharmaceutical companies.
In 2006 it was calculated that £2billion was spent by the NHS dealing with the adverse effect of prescribed drugs, when its drugs budget was £11billion.
The MHRA reports that there were over 30,000 adverse drug reaction reports in 2013 and in 2014, and around 1,600 fatal reports in each year.
The cost to the NHS of homeopathic medicines is less than £100,000, and they produce no adverse reactions.
Quite simply homeopathy is cheap, safe and effective, and patients who find that it works for them should have the right to choose it, even if Mr Reed and others like him prefer not to.