Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing

The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing

By The Quackometer

The Society of Homeopaths (SoH) are a shambles and a bad joke. It is now
over a year since Sense about Science, Simon Singh and the BBC Newsnight
programme exposed how it is common practice for high street homeopaths to
tell customers that their magic pills can prevent malaria. The Society of
Homeopaths have done diddly-squat to stamp out this dangerous practice apart
from issue a few ambiguously weasel-worded press statements.

The SoH has a code of practice, but my feeling is that this is just a
smokescreen and is widely flouted and that the Society do not care about
this. If this is true, then the code of practice is nothing more than a thin
veneer used to give authority and credibility to its deluded members. It
does nothing more than fool the public into thinking they are dealing with a
regulated professional.

As a quick test, I picked a random homeopath with a web site from the SoH
register to see if they flouted a couple of important rules:

48: . Advertising shall not contain claims of superiority. . No advertising
may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named diseases.

72: To avoid making claims (whether explicit or implied; orally or in
writing) implying cure of any named disease.

The homeopath I picked on is called Julia Wilson and runs a practice from
the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough. What I found rather shocked
and angered me.

Straight away, we find that Julia M Wilson LCHE, RSHom specialises in asthma
and works at a clinic that says,

Many illnesses and disease can be successfully treated using homeopathy,
including arthritis, asthma, digestive disorders, emotional and behavioural
difficulties, headaches, infertility, skin and sleep problems.

Well, there are a number of named diseases there to start off. She also
gives a leaflet that advertises her asthma clinic. The advertising leaflet

Conventional medicine is at a loss when it comes to understanding the origin
of allergies. ... The best that medical research can do is try to keep the
symptoms under control. Homeopathy is different, it seeks to address the
triggers for asthma and eczema. It is a safe, drug free approach that helps
alleviate the flaring of skin and tightening of lungs...

Now, despite the usual homeopathic contradiction of claiming to treat causes
not symptoms and then in the next breath saying it can alleviate symptoms,
the advert is clearly in breach of the above rule 47 on advertising as it
implicitly claims superiority over real medicine and names a disease.

Asthma is estimated to be responsible for 1,500 deaths and 74,000 emergency
hospital admissions in the UK each year. It is not a trivial illness that
sugar pills ought to be anywhere near. The Cochrane Review says the
following about the evidence for asthma and homeopathy,

The review of trials found that the type of homeopathy varied between the
studies, that the study designs used in the trials were varied and that no
strong evidence existed that usual forms of homeopathy for asthma are

This is not a surprise given that homeopathy is just a ritualised placebo.
Hopefully, most parents attending this clinic will have the good sense to go
to a real accident and emergency unit in the event of a severe attack and
consult their GP about real management of the illness. I would hope that
Julia does little harm here.

However, a little more research on her site reveals much more serious
concerns. She says on her site that 'she worked in Kenya teaching homeopathy
at a college in Nairobi and supporting graduates to set up their own
clinics'. Now, we have seen what homeopaths do in Kenya before. It is not
treating a little stress and the odd headache. Free from strong UK
legislation, these missionary homeopaths make the boldest claims about the
deadliest diseases.

A bit of web research shows where Julia was working (picture above). The
Abha Light Foundation is a registered NGO in Kenya. It takes mobile
homeopathy clinics through the slums of Nairobi and surrounding villages.
Its stated aim is to,

introduce Homeopathy and natural medicines as a method of managing HIV/AIDS,
TB and malaria in Kenya.

I must admit, I had to pause for breath after reading that. The clinic sells
its own homeopathic remedies for 'treating' various lethal diseases. Its
MalariaX potion,

is a homeopathic preparation for prevention of malaria and treatment of
malaria. Suitable for children. For prevention. Only 1 pill each week before
entering, during and after leaving malaria risk areas. For treatment. Take 1
pill every 1-3 hours during a malaria attack.

This is nothing short of being totally outrageous. It is a murderous
delusion. David Colquhoun has been writing about this wicked scam recently
and it is well worth following his blog on the issue.

Let's remind ourselves what one of the most senior and respected homeopaths
in the UK, Dr Peter Fisher of the London Homeopathic Hospital, has to say on
this matter.

there is absolutely no reason to think that homeopathy works to prevent
malaria and you won't find that in any textbook or journal of homeopathy so
people will get malaria, people may even die of malaria if they follow this

Malaria is a huge killer in Kenya. It is the biggest killer of children
under five. The problem is so huge that the reintroduction of DDT is
considered as a proven way of reducing deaths. Magic sugar pills and water
drops will do nothing. Many of the poorest in Kenya cannot afford real
anti-malaria medicine, but offering them insane nonsense as a substitute
will not help anyone.

Ironically, the WHO has issued a press release today on cheap ways of
reducing child and adult mortality due to malaria. Their trials, conducted
in Kenya, of using cheap mosquito nets soaked in insecticide have reduced
child deaths by 44% over two years. It says that issuing these nets be the
'immediate priority' to governments with a malaria problem. No mention of
homeopathy. These results were arrived at by careful trials and observation.
Science. We now know that nets work. A lifesaving net costs $5. A bottle of
useless homeopathic crap costs $4.50. Both are large amounts for a poor
Kenyan, but is their life really worth the 50c saving?

I am sure we are going to hear the usual homeopath bleat that this is just a
campaign by Big Pharma to discredit unpatentable homeopathic remedies. Are
we to add to the conspiracy Big Net manufacturers too?

It amazes me that to add to all the list of ills and injustices that our
rich nations impose on the poor of the world, we have to add the widespread
export of our bourgeois and lethal healing fantasies. To make a strong
point: if we can introduce laws that allow the arrest of sex tourists on
their return to the UK, can we not charge people who travel to Africa to
indulge their dangerous healing delusions?

At the very least, we could expect the Society of Homeopaths to try to stamp
out this wicked practice? Could we?