Apr 13 2010

Quietus and Homeopathy Awareness Week

This is homeopathy awareness week – and like some other science bloggers I want the public to be as aware of homeopathy as possible. I want the public to be aware of the fact that homeopathy is based upon the “law of similars” – which is nothing more than the ancient superstition of sympathetic magic. I want the public to be aware of the fact that most homeopathic solutions are diluted far past the point where there is likely to be a single molecule of active ingredient left – and therefore claims for the homeopathic “law of infinitesimals” violates the law of mass action and the laws of thermodynamics.

I also do not want to silence homeopaths, as some have suggested. I want them to speak for themselves – every time a homeopath opens their mouth they make my job easier. Right now Dana Ullman, the ultimate online homeopathy apologist, is spewing incoherent nonsense in the comments at Science-Based Medicine. You also have to see Dr. Warner’s brilliant explanation for how homeopathy works (every time someone watches this video Einstein’s corpse cries.)

And now John Benneth is becoming the energizer bunny of hilarious YouTube videos. Seriously, this is beyond parody. Nothing’s better than homeopathy explained by a raving…well, take a look for yourself. I am slightly embarrassed to have Benneth as my new nemesis. I preferred Egnor – at least he was coherent at times and didn’t come off as a drunk who just rolled out of bed. With Egnor you could play “Spot the Logical Fallacy” and it would be challenging at times. Benneth makes it too easy.

So – I want the public to be as aware of homeopathy as possible. It seems the more people know about this absurd pseudoscience, the further it sinks. In the UK homeopathy is on the ropes, after the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that homeopathy is worthless nonsense that should be completely abandoned. And now the mainstream media in the US is catching on (they are usually slow to these parties, so this is a good sign).

Chris Woolston of the LA Times does a fine job evaluating a new homeopathic solution called Quietus (I guess no one at the company watched Children of Men – awesome movie, btw – in which Quietus was the name of a suicide pill). Woolston reports:

Claims: The TV ad for Quietus says that the product “has helped thousands of people with tinnitus” and will “stop the ringing fast.” The ad doesn’t explain how Quietus is supposed to work, although the website does clarify that it was “created by a rock drummer” to treat his tinnitus.

The website for Tinnitus Relief Formula says “if you do only one thing for your tinnitus … this is it!” The site also says that “many individuals will experience a reduction in symptoms in four weeks.”

Wow – a rock drummer. That’s even better than a school teacher. Tinnitus is a persistent ringing in the ears, often a symptom of damage to the auditory nerve. It is difficult to treat, which makes is ripe for exploitation. There are different kinds of spontaneous head noises, however. The Quietus website mentions pulsatile tinnitus, without further explanation, as if this is one of the types of tinnitus they can treat. But pulsatile tinnitus can be a symptom of a serious condition – a blockage in the carotid arteries that feed the brain – and may be a warning of an increased risk for stroke. There is no mention of this on the website.

There is nowhere on the website any mention of what is in Quietus or how it might work. I could not find any mention of ingredients online, and I have even seen reports that the package does not list ingredients. Of course, if it is homeopathic, it likely does not matter. Except that some “homeopathic” solutions are only slightly diluted (like Zicam) and they have real amounts of active ingredients. So it would be nice to know if there was anything in this product – but probably not.

And of course there is no evidence that Quietus works. All we have are useless cherry-picked anecdotes.

Products like Quietus also raise a salient question – apologists for homeopathy often claim that research is negative because the homeopathic “remedies” tested were not properly individualized. Homeopathy is not like drugs, where you can have a one-size-fits-all approach. Every person needs their own personalized remedy. This, of course, is just more superstitious nonsense on the part of homeopaths, and a convenient bit of special pleading to explain away negative results. This claim is also incompatible with every homeopathic remedy on the market, like Quietus, which cannot be individualized. Internal consistency has never been the hallmark of quackery and pseudoscience.

So for homeopathy awareness week, please do your part to spread the word – homeopathy is dangerous bunk.

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