“Orthodox Medicine Opposing Homeopathy”

[BPSDB]This is a constant refrain from the homeopaths: that orthodox doctors are in some sort of conspiracy against them. This supposes that doctors would prefer their patients to not recover rather than prescribe homeopathy. I know doctors have a bit of a reputation for arrogance but the belief that they would prefer patients to die rather than prescribe a treatment that works just because they don’t understand how it works seems to be going a bit far. In fact, the evidence in support of this thesis is thin even by homeopathic standards.

Firstly, the exact way that anaesthetics work is not fully understood but doctors have been using them sincve the mid-nineteenth century because they demonstrably work.

In her 50 facts, Louise Mclean offers only three in support of the conspiracy theory.

In Fact 29 she tells us how many homeopathic establishments there were in the US a hundred years ago. I presume she is implying the number is much lower today because of the ‘opposition’ of conventional ‘medics’. I suppose I could employ a Famous Web Search Engine to check the numbers but frankly my reaction is a great big “So what?”. Even if her numbers are accurate, this hardly proves anything either way as to the efficacy of homeopathy. In medieval England there were hundreds of blood-letting barber-surgeons. Would you accept that this is proof of the efficacy of blood-letting? And that the reduction in numbers to zero (I hope it is zero) is due to a medical conspiracy? Of course not. The reduction is due to the fact that evidence based medicine works much better. The same applies to homeopathy but Mclean cannot accept this.

Sh continues with this conspiracy theory in Fact 30, saying that the American Medical Association had “great animosity” towards homeopathy after its foundation in 1847 and “it was decided to purge all local medical societies of physicians who were homeopaths.” No reference or link, as usual so I had to find my own.

According to this the original aims of the A.M.A. were threefold:-

1. To advance the science of medicine
2. To develop a program of medical ethics
3. To improve the health of the public

I suppose item 1 would have had the homeopaths worried, since they eschewed theory, regarded the human body as a black-box into which went medicines and out came symptoms, and regarded Hahnemann’s writings as Holy Writ, not to be disputed.

I looked a little further and found the original Code of Ethics. No specific mention of homeopathy although I note that doctors were to “discourage druggists and apothecaries from vending quack or secret medicines, or from being in any way engaged in their manufacture or sale.” Given Mclean’s (inaccurate) criticism of Big Pharma for not listing their ingredients one would assume she would agree with banning secret medicines. I assume she takes the “quack” bit to refer to homeopaths. If the cap fits, she should wear it.

Finally (for this post!) in Fact 31 she claims that Big Pharma does not want the public to know how well homeopathy works. Fact is, Big Pharma -capitalist bastards that they are – would be quite happy if homeopathy did work. Homeopathic remedies are far cheaper to produce than pharmaceuticals. Their profits would be so much greater.

The fact remains that in well run trials, homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebo and this is the reason orthodox medicine oppses homeopathy. It simply does not work. No Big Pharma conspiracies need be invoked.

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6 Responses to ““Orthodox Medicine Opposing Homeopathy””

  1. Warhelmet Says:

    I don’t think that you can mix and match the US and the UK situations in the same article. It’s something that homeopaths and health freedom advocates do all the time. And the American Medical Association’s influence stretches how far? Do the AMA control things outside of US borders? I don’t think so.

    The decline of homeopathy in the US may have something to do with the AMA, but homeopathy underwent a similar decline in the UK, which obviously had nothing to do with the AMA.

  2. Nicholas Swetenham Says:

    In the UK we have the BMA (professional association) and GMC (regulatory body).

    The difference between the 19th century situation and now is that both US and UK have highly-regulated professional doctors who use effective treatments (regardless of mechanisms) and who constantly change their practice based on evidence.

    The existence of alternative practitioners might be less widespread that in the 19th century, but they are a nonetheless very widespread. The political will to get rid of them is less strong, however, since proper medicines exist so only a minority of patients will suffer the consequences of not seeking proper medical care, and will usually do so through strongly held and perhaps irrational beliefs rather than being ‘fooled’ by a ‘quack’. In the UK at least, the fact that alternative practitioners exist does not seem to restrict access to conventional medicine except through choice.

    This raises the question of whether it is fruitful to fight destructively against alternative medicine, since irrational belief is likely to persist and pop up and other ways. Dangerous treatment recommendations should be regulated in both alternative and conventional medicine, and excellence in grade school education giving students the tools they need to reason will help people make informed choices.

    A culture war between homeopaths and allopaths (forgive the term) might polarise debate, whereas increased discussion might reduce the dangerous excesses of homeopathy.

  3. jaycueaitch Says:

    What do you mean by “fight destructively” exactly? I’m all for discussion – but that means subjecting all ideas and theories to rigorous analysis – something homeopaths and other CAM practitioners are not keen on. They prefer to use Britain’s oppressive libel laws to stifle criticism.

  4. A Second Year of Steam « Letting Off Steam Says:

    [...] two three four <a href="http://jaycueaitch.wordpress.com/2009/05/29/scientific-studies/&quot;.five six [...]

  5. Ochiudo Says:

    Nice article. I’m having a fun discussion with a homeopath on my blog, she is convinced that nanotechnology lies credibility to the dilution-bullshit and keeps posting papers published by quacks in quack papers. I am entertained by how they moved on from “It’s quantum mechanics!” to “It’s nano-technology!”.

    Have you heard of the british 10:23 campaign? They aim to make it international in February 2011, educating people all over the world about what homeopathy really is and the fact that it doesn’t work.
    As far as I know, in the US the JREF (James Randi Educational Foundation) is organizing some events – Why not contact them and help make this BIG?

  6. Maria_Myrback Says:

    As part of the 10:23 campaign the JREF has a petition to get homeopathic products out of stores. Please visit here to take action:http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-retail-pharmacies-to-come-clean-about-homeopathic-products
    Every signature helps!

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