May 23 2007

UK Scientists Take On Homeopathy

I have written a great deal recently about so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), how it basically is composed of a hodge-podge of beliefs and therapies that have only in common that they fall below the standard of scientific, evidence-based, and ethical medicine. Monday I described how CAM thrives by carving out a double standard for itself – one in which the usual standards of common sense, let alone science, do not apply. I have also called upon scientists and scientific healthcare practitioners to not sit idly by while the CAM barbarians storm the halls of academic and scientific medicine – to boldly and proudly defend the scientific traditions that have made modern medicine as safe and effective as it is today.

Well, scientists in the UK have heard my call. (OK – so maybe they had the idea on their own.) The group, led by Professor Gustav Born, of Kings College London, have written an open letter to the administrators of the National Health Service (NHS – Britain’s nationalized healthcare system) to stop paying for homeopathy.

Born writes:

While it may be tempting to dismiss homoeopathy expenditure as relatively small across the NHS, we must consider the cultural and social damage of maintaining as a matter of principle expenditure on practices which are unsupported by evidence.

What a concept – not paying for treatments that do not work, not supporting a culture of anti-science within medicine, acting out of principle. In today’s environment such concepts are all but revolutionary. They are heresy to the politically correct, multi-cultural, “open-minded,” post-modern, purveyors of utter nonsense.

A year ago Born and his colleagues wrote an article decrying the double standard in the NHS. Homeopathic remedies, for example, do not have to provide evidence for efficacy, while “conventional” medicines do. As a result there has been a slow decline in the coverage of homeopathy in the UK at the local level. Now Born is pushing for total rejection by the NHS.

Born and his colleagues have my full unabashed support. We can only hope that he is successful, and then we can continue the momentum and turn this into a full backlash against nonsense in healthcare. We should do everything we can to spread Born’s efforts across the pond to the US. We should, in fact, have nothing short of the goal of the total eradication of homeopathy from the world. That would be a good start.

For those who many not know, homeopathy is a pre-scientific philosophy of illness that purports to treat symptoms by giving infinitesimal doses of a substance that causes the symptoms. However, the dilutions used are often so extreme that they contain not a small dose (as this BBC article about Born’s efforts against homeopathy incorrectly states) but rather a non-existent dose. These “law of similars” and “law of infinitesimals” are magical ideas that have more in common with ritual and witchcraft than to science. It is almost redundant to state that copious research has shown homeopathic remedies are worthless. I have always thought that homeopathy would be the “low hanging fruit” in terms of opposing the worst of the worst in CAM.

So here is a toast to Dr. Born and his supporters. Cheers and well done.

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