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skeptical - response to support for homeopathy

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  • eric krieg
    People, A friend in the Toxicology business just told me that the depleted uranium bullets in Serbia are potentially less harmful than lead bullets. They
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 11, 2001

      A friend in the Toxicology business just told me that the "depleted uranium" bullets
      in Serbia are potentially less harmful than lead bullets. They are actually U238 - an
      isotope of the more useful U235 and found fairly plentifully in the earth. The stuff is
      just an Alpha emitter - which can be stopped with thick paper. I get the impressions
      that a lot of Europeans are even more ignorant than Americans when it comes to
      anti-technology health hysteria. The real radiation risk is from coal plants - they
      generate highly radioactive and unregulated fly ash.
      I'm against nasty weapons like mines - which can disfigure children years later. But
      if you are going to fight - depleted uranium bullets are wonderful things to be shot from
      A-10s into Ruskie tanks. They helped us keep our Desert Storm casualty rate about
      one thousandth of our opponents. Oh well.

      Speaking of dopey Europeaners - that clueless (inbred too?) Prince Charles wrote
      a letter to the press effusing about non-scientific medical claims and whining about
      genetic engineering. Luckily, a few scientists made a well-worded response.

      the following is a good response from Gilbert Mertens on Charles' letter:


      Comment on the article ""When our health is at risk, why be so mean ?"",
      written by the Pronce of Wales and published by the Times of London in its
      December 30, 2000, issue.

      « Medicine has come a long way. In the centuries past, doctors could do little
      more than sit at the bedside and watch people die. But cures are not the final
      destination. We are now at the advent of a century of prediction and prevention
      of disease » (Thomas R. Reardon, American Medical Association, quoted in « From
      Quackery to Credibility : Unconventional Healthcare in the Era of High-Tech
      Medicine ». A 2000 Pharmaceutical Management Report of Informa Publishing,
      London, ISBN 1-8606-7465-8).

      Is it not a paradox that people promote the idea of putting more money in
      alternative, unconventional healthcare, at a time when both medicine and
      pharmacology are at the peak of their effectiveness ?
      Should mysticysm be allowed a new lease of life in matters of health ?

      Over the years, a considerable effort has been made to prove the healing nature
      of unorthodox therapies. A few examples are given hereafter :

      In 1986, The Lancet published the results of a double blind trial of homeopathic
      pollens (30 C H). There was a significant reduction in the symptoms of the
      homeopathic group compared with placebo. However, a second reading of the
      protocol revealed that the first group had resorted to antihistamins (Broch
      Henri, "Au coeur de l´extraordinaire", L´Horizon chimérique, 1994).

      The same year, another placebo-controlled study, intended to establish the real
      efficacy of homeopathy using Opium 15 C H and of Raphanus 5 C H, showed that
      the remedies were effective only in terms of unverifiable signs. No significant
      difference were observed between the homeopathic group, a placebo group and
      patients who were given nothing at all.

      It was not the first backlash against homeopathy. There was, for example, a
      large-scale but abortive attempt to give credibility to Hahnemann´s theories in
      1930s Germany.

      Opening the international congres of the Homeopathic Society in the name of
      the Fuehrer on 8 August 1937, Rudolf Hess offered the following stout defence on
      the creed :« The new Germany considers it politicaly necessary to proceed in
      the verification of all phenomenons whatsoever. However, certain physicians have
      not hesitated to attack and reject not only new therapies but also others whose
      origins go back to a distant past, as is today the case of homeopathy, without
      even making the effort to subject these therapies to serious examination. For
      this reason, I have taken under my protection the XII International Congress of
      Homeopathy in Berlin, to express the interest of the National Socialist State in
      all modes of therapies that are useful to the people´s health ».

      As a result of this high-grade intervention, it would appear, a well-known
      homeopath, Dr Fritz Donner (assisted by a pharmacologist and an internist), was
      ordered to come up with the necessary proofs. His findings were not published
      and they were withheld from the medical community for many years. It was only in
      1969 that a translation of the Donner report appeared in a French magazine
      (the results were never published in Germany).

      Henri Broch, who was responsible for the report coming to light, cites inter
      alia two letters of Fritz Donner to, respectively, E. Unseld, president of the
      German Association of Homeopathic Physicians, and H. Schoeler, editor-in-chief
      of the Allgemeine homöopathische Zeitung. These confirm that all of Donner´s
      findings were negative and that he came under pressure to conceal the results
      of his research. As Donner himself stated (translated from the french) : « One
      cannot inform homeopaths about the real nature of homeopathy, nor can one
      publish it in a homeopathic journal. In the best homeopathic tradition, anyone
      can come up with the most glaring absurdities and they will be published; by
      contrast, the fundamentals of an important medicine against diphtheria will never
      be published and the researcher who works on these sources will be treathened
      with immediate dismissal ».

      The Donner Report speaks for itself, although its author confesses that « I
      avoided to the maximum mentioning in my report anything that could have been
      too fatal to homeopathy ».
      (Text based on, and translated from "Les Charlatans de la Santé, by
      Jean-Marie Abgrall, Documents Payot, Editions Payot & Rivages, Paris, 1998,
      p44-46. ISBN number 2-228-89194-0)

      Homeopathy´s supporters contend that this "alternative" approach can do what
      drugs cannot : supply a sense of confidence and self-worth whose benefits will
      be felt long after "allopaths" have thrown in the towel, making it far easier
      for patients to return to normal life. Yet critical analysis of the theory keeps
      drawing a blank. (From Quackery to Credibility : Unconventional Healthcare in
      the Era of High-Tech Medicine ». A 2000 Pharmaceutical Management Report of
      Informa Publishing, London, ISBN 1-8606-7465-8).

      Much cited is a study published in The Lancet (Linde K et al.,Are the clinical
      effects of homeopathy placebo effects ? A metaanalysis of placebo-controlled
      trials. Lancet 1997, 350, 834-8419 ). This seemed to identify a positive effect
      of homeopathic treatments compared with placebo : was this at last the
      recognition of homeopathy´s merits ?

      Yet an extensive Belgian review of the most recent publications on homeopathy,
      including the meta-analysis in The Lancet, revealed serious weaknesses in all of
      these studies. In October 1998 the FNRS (Fonds National de la Recherche
      Scientifique), representing the deans of Belgium´s Faculties of Medicine and
      members of the Royal Academies of Medicine, concluded in a Common Memorandum to
      the National Government, that its analysis of the international literature on
      placebo-controlled trials of homeopathic products did not show any clear
      superiority of the homeopathic treatments over placebo.

      Studies subject to minimal quality requirements were regarded as either negative
      or positive but burdened with methodological biases that ruled out any
      definitive conclusions. In addition, a number of positive results could not be
      confirmed by independent teams --a major factor in the objective evaluation of
      science in general and of medicine in particular. The review published in The
      Lancet, while it followed a rigorous methodology, did not permit a conclusion
      either, as it did not respect the principle of pathological and treatment
      homogeneity that is essential for meta analysis. (« From Quackery to Credibility
      : Unconventional Healthcare in the Era of High-Tech Medicine ». A 2000
      Pharmaceutical Management Report of Informa Publishing, London, ISBN

      In his 1994 Position Paper on Homeopathy, William T. Jarvis, professor of
      preventive medicine at Loma Linda University and president of the U.S. National
      Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) writes : « Homeopathy was devised by the
      German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) as a reaction to practices based
      upon the ancient humoural theory which he labeled "allopathy." The term has
      been misapplied to regular medicine ever since.
      The cardinal principles of homeopathy include that :
      · most diseases are caused by an infectious disorder called the psora (itch);
      · life is a spiritual force (vitalism) which directs the body's healing;
      · remedies can be discerned by noting the symptoms that substances produce in
      overdose (proving), and applying them to conditions with similar symptoms in
      highly diluted doses (Law of Similia);
      · remedies become more effective with greater dilution (Law of Infinitesimals),
      and become more dilute when containers are tapped on the heel of the hand or a
      leather pad (potentizing).

      Homeopathy's principles have been refuted by the basic sciences of chemistry,
      physics, pharmacology, and pathology. Homeopathy meets the dictionary
      definitions of a sect and a cult--the characteristics of which prevent advances
      that would change Hahnemann's original principles. Most homeopathic studies are
      of poor methodological quality, and are subject to bias. Homeopathic product
      labels do not provide sufficient information to judge their dosages. Although
      homeopathic remedies are generally thought to be non-toxic due to their high
      dilutions, some preparations have proved harmful. The ostensible value of
      homeopathic products can be more than a placebo effect because some products
      have contained effective amounts of standard medications or have been
      The marketing of homeopathic products and services fits the definition of
      quackery established by a United States House of Representatives committee which
      investigated the problem (i.e., the promotion of "medical schemes or remedies
      known to be false, or which are unproven, for a profit"). The United States
      Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act lists the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United
      States as a recognized compendium, but this status was due to political
      influence, not scientific merit. The FDA has not required homeopathic products
      to meet the efficacy requirements applied to all other drugs, creating an
      unacceptable double standard for drug marketing. The Federal Trade Commission
      has not taken action against homeopathic product advertising although it clearly
      does not meet the standards of truthful advertising generally applied to drugs.
      Postal authorities have not prosecuted mail-order product promoters that make
      unproven claims for mail fraud. Three states have established homeopathic
      licensing boards. Some of these have been administered by medical mavericks
      with a history of difficulties with former medical licensing boards ».(« From
      Quackery to Credibility : Unconventional Healthcare in the Era of High-Tech
      Medicine ». A 2000 Pharmaceutical Management Report of Informa Publishing,
      London, ISBN 1-8606-7465-8).

      Proponents of alternative healing methods have used all sorts of techniques to
      win what they feel is well-deserved scientific credibility for their discipline.
      Some of them have tried to do double-blind studies of homeopathy's
      effectiveness, with varying degrees of success. Most have relied on patient
      testimonials. But, for the most part, they have done this by making what they do
      seem scientific by using scientistic jargon to explain it.

      One of the classic examples of this was the 'molecular memory of water'
      experiments investigated by the journal Nature in 1988. Basically, a French
      laboratory sought to investigate if water might somehow 'remember' compounds
      which were mixed into it and then diluted out. This might, of course, provide a
      'scientific' basis for the Law of Succussion, which as some scientists point
      out, leads to scientific absurdity, since as one put it, "the most effective
      remedy might be to take a drop of the stuff and then mix it into Lake
      Erie."(Pilkington, J Maya, Alternative Healing and Your Health, Ballantine
      Books, New York, 1991,p.7).

      This particular lab, whose work was sponsored by French homeopaths, claimed that
      the experiments were a success: that even after no molecules of the original
      substance were present, water would act as if the substance's properties were
      still active. When other labs failed to duplicate this result, this experiment
      attracted the attention of CSICOP (the Committee for the Scientific
      Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal). CSICOP basically "broke" into the
      lab, accused the experimenters of fraud, and then had Nature write a piece
      discrediting this avenue of research. It was very reminiscent of the later "Cold
      Fusion" episode. Homeopaths tried to make their practice seem more 'scientific,'
      and only succeeded in drawing down the wrath of the 'science police,' CSICOP".

      These days healthcare entrepreneurs come and go, many of them amassing fortunes
      before they leave the zjeatre of pseudo-science. There are more than 1.300
      entries on the ever-changing list of therapies offered by these self-proclaimed
      gurus -from absent healing and aromatherapy to healing love and healtheology,
      Mahikaro and Marma Science, network spinal analysis, psionic medicine,
      radiesthesia, rebirthing, vibrational medicine, Zen Alexander Technique and many
      more.(« From Quackery to Credibility : Unconventional Healthcare in the Era of
      High-Tech Medicine ». A 2000 Pharmaceutical Management Report of Informa
      Publishing, London, ISBN 1-8606-7465-8).
      The medical community should voice concern by insisting that alternative
      therapies can not be allowed a free ride, substituting assertions, speculation,
      and testimonials for sound clinical evidence and follow a rationale that
      violates fundamental scientific laws. While it is easy to sympathise with
      theories of disease prevention and treatment, we must be aware of having our
      interests dictated by dogmatic faith in alternative practices that have sought
      to undermine conventional medicine.

      Gilbert Mertens
      (e-mail : Dr.Fischer-Mertens@...)

      So I don't seem too smug, I would like to add for any potentially offended Europeaners,
      that my country has constantly decreasing grade school science test scores that are lower
      than that of most first world countries.

      Eric Krieg

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