Aug 21 2009

WHO Says No to Homeopathy

The World Health Organization, which does not have a good track record when it comes to pseudoscience in medicine (being too much of a political organization), has recently made a number of statements against the use of homeopathy for HIV, TB, malaria, influenza, and infant diarrhea. The WHO was apparently pressured to take a clear position on the use of homeopathy by a group of UK physicians. In their press release today they state:

As a group of early-career medics and researchers from the UK and Africa, we wrote to the WHO in June this year raising concerns about the aggressive promotion of homeopathy for these serious diseases, which puts lives at risk (www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/project/331/).

We have received the following responses:

Dr Mario Raviglione, Director, Stop TB Department, WHO: “Our evidence-based WHO TB treatment/management guidelines, as well as the International Standards of Tuberculosis Care (ISTC) do not recommend use of homeopathy.”

Dr Mukund Uplekar: TB Strategy and Health Systems, WHO: “WHO’s evidence-based guidelines on treatment of tuberculosis…have no place for homeopathic medicines.”

Dr Teguest Guerma, Director Ad Interim, HIV/AIDS Department, WHO: The WHO Dept. of HIV/AIDS invests considerable human and financial resources […] to ensure access to evidence-based medical information and to clinically proven, efficacious, and safe treatment for HIV… Let me end by congratulating the young clinicians and researchers of Sense About Science for their efforts to ensure evidence-based approaches to treating and caring for people living with HIV.”

Dr Sergio Spinaci, Associate Director, Global Malaria Programme, WHO:Thanks for the amazing documentation and for whistle blowing on this issue… The Global Malaria programme recommends that malaria is treated following the WHO Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria”. (These guidelines do not include any use of homeopathy.)

Joe Martines, on behalf of Dr Elizabeth Mason, Director, Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development, WHO: “We have found no evidence to date that homeopathy would bring any benefit to the treatment of diarrhoea in children…Homeopathy does not focus on the treatment and prevention of dehydration – in total contradiction with the scientific basis and our recommendations for the management of diarrhoea.”

The office of Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, stated on 14th August 2009 that these responses “clearly express the WHO’s position”.

This is good news, as homeopathy is dangerous quackery but deeply entrenched in Europe.

For more information on why homeopathy is nonsense here are a few posts I have written about it – here, here, and here.

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19 responses so far

19 Responses to “WHO Says No to Homeopathy”

  1. alcareruon 21 Aug 2009 at 8:01 am

    Indeed it is. Here in France it’s subsidised by the state when prescribed. Any pharmacy you go into has ads for hp remedies and many people swear by them.

    To be fair, it’s at 35% of cost down from 65% 2 years ago and in more good news the medical community is requesting that it be removed completely from the list of subsidised medication (as it is, in fact, not a medication!). So at least there are steps in the right direction, but any changes are being stubbornly resisted by unions representing homeopaths. In a strange reversal, the major manufacturer of homeopathic products in the world is a French company, Boiron. Their turnover last year was over 430 million euros, 260 million in France alone!! Big pharma, indeed.

    It’ll be very difficult to change these attitudes, I fear.

  2. Skepticoon 21 Aug 2009 at 10:19 am

    “We have found no evidence to date that homeopathy would bring any benefit to the treatment of diarrhoea in children…Homeopathy does not focus on the treatment and prevention of dehydration…

    Well, homeopathy is just water, so to be fair, if you drank enough of it it might prevent dehydration.

  3. daedalus2uon 21 Aug 2009 at 11:18 am

    Skeptico, in the context of diarrhea you need electrolytes and sugar. The organisms that cause the infectious diarrhea that kills children destroys the transporters that convey sugar and electrolytes from the gut. The oral rehydration solution depends on invoking transport by a different transporter that couples transport of sodium ions with glucose.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_rehydration_solution

    Plain water is not effective and causes loss of sodium. Plain salt water is not effective because it doesn’t contain the glucose needed for the co-transport.

  4. mindmeon 21 Aug 2009 at 12:24 pm

    The count down begins now for when the British Homeopathic Association sues a branch of WHO in the UK for libel…

  5. bmcon 21 Aug 2009 at 1:10 pm

    “The count down begins now for when the British Homeopathic Association sues a branch of WHO in the UK for libel…”

    Okay, that there’s funny.

  6. Skepticoon 21 Aug 2009 at 11:20 pm

    daedalus2u – get a sense of humor.

  7. HCNon 22 Aug 2009 at 12:23 am

    Skeptico, at least you did not encounter Rolfe on the JREF forums. She is always reminding everyone that homeopaths use sugar pills any time someone uses the “cure for thirst” bit (she also chimes in on the real spelling of thiomersal anytime the word thimerosal is used!).

    Also, I assumed that daedalus2u was making a joke. I’m warped that way.

  8. Bronze Dogon 22 Aug 2009 at 2:13 am

    I remember Rolfe. He was one of the guys who got me passionate about hating Homeopathy when I was new to the topic.

  9. HCNon 22 Aug 2009 at 3:34 am

    Rolfe is a she. She uses the name of a favorite cat as a username. I also got passionate about homeopathy because of her, and of course there is this website that she is a major contributor of: http://vetpath.co.uk/voodoo/

  10. daedalus2uon 22 Aug 2009 at 7:56 am

    I do have a sense of humor, but only about some things. If you look at the link on oral rehydration therapy, you will see that it saves on the order of 2 million lives per year from childhood diarrhea. ORT is cheap, generic and can be produced from household food products at very low cost, cheaper than completely ineffective homeopathy.

    I know that plain water can be used to avoid dehydration. In the context of diarrhea, plain water is not suitable for well known physiological reasons.

    Homeopaths are trying to sell their products to ignorant poor people to treat childhood diarrhea. If they succeed, and people use homeopathy instead of ORT, then more children will die from diarrhea.

  11. Bronze Dogon 23 Aug 2009 at 2:40 am

    Rolfe is a she. She uses the name of a favorite cat as a username.

    Oops. My mistake :P Forgot about that. It has been years, after all.

  12. DeeTeeon 24 Aug 2009 at 2:23 pm

    More reasons why homeopathy in Africa is a bad idea:
    http://www.layscience.net/node/589

  13. wertyson 26 Aug 2009 at 12:35 am

    Strange we haven’t heard from DUllman MPH yet. No doubt he could demonstrate the error of the WHO’s seemingly sensible positions !

  14. DrJayPrakashon 28 Aug 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Just a few days ago a mother (from slums) entered to my clinic with her child reporting diarrhea since last 7-8 days, she told me she has changed 3 doctors but no one was able to even reduce the frequency of stools, the stools are hourly and greenish.

    I give her a single remedy one dose immediately and 3 doses 12 hourly for next 36 hrs. and ask her to report after 48 hours. after two day she came to me and very happily ask about my fee and she paid, telling me my child was cured just after first dose.

    There was no hospitalization and no extra fluid supplement by me.

    Now the WHO does have any explanation why he cured?

  15. woodleon 02 Sep 2009 at 5:00 am

    @DrJayPrakash, I’m assuming from your tone that YOU have an explanation why she was cured?

    And does the word “anecdotal” mean anything to you?

    And just as importantly, why do I get this overwhelming feeling that I will forever associate your name with “greenish stool”?

  16. DrJayPrakashon 05 Sep 2009 at 6:51 am

    According to The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, ‘medications to treat diarrhea in adults can be dangerous to children.’

    -http://pediatrics.about.com/od/weeklyquestion/a/05_diarrhea.htm

    The treatment of modern drugs would be life threatening it’s OK, but if any other therapy has treatment without any risk then why WHO says no to homoeopathy why not to Modern medical science?

    They dont want to try, to understand, to know about homoeopathy is it just because the homoeopathy is lacking a definite theory of how does it works. It will prove very good for science to know this “How” but Why they don’t understand the theory doesn’t protect a life only the application will do. and that is happening.

  17. DrJayPrakashon 05 Sep 2009 at 7:08 am

    @All

    Here are some data of up to 100 cure in case of swine flu epidemic

    http://www.nesh.com/main/nejh/samples/winston.html

    Some body could tell me why WHO don’t recommend homoeopathy, why they don’t says no to modern medicine?

    Is it because the homoeopaths don’t have any scientific explanation how does it work? I mean it the theory of “How” will definitely enhance our knowledge and will help to do something better but Why WHO don’t understand the theory of Why never save lives only application will do so.

  18. Steven Novellaon 05 Sep 2009 at 9:36 am

    The New England Journal of Homeopathy is hardly a respected scientific journal. And the homeopaths keep trotting out the historical data – 100 or so years old – that is impossible to verify. If homeopathy had a 100% cure rate for H1N1 flu it would be easy to demonstrate this is a controlled trial.

    The historical data is useless. If that’s the best you have, it is easy to understand why the WHO and the scientific community reject homeopathy.

  19. [...] ineffective homeopathic treatments for malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS. This forced the WHO to make the following clarifications (among others) regarding their position: Dr Mukund Uplekar: TB Strategy and Health Systems, WHO: [...]

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