Tag: "alternative medicine"

Comments on homeopathy - are we doomed to the dark ages again?

The 1023 event took place yesterday. In short a few hundred skeptics went outside about half a dozen Boots stores in the UK and "overdosed" on homeopathic pills by each downing a whole bottle. They did this in order to demonstrate there's nothing in homeopathic pills other than water and sometimes sugar and to emphasise that they have no effect.

It managed to get some coverage on the BBC which is nice, although obviously the BBC didn't do a very good job reporting it. More interesting however is some of the comments that people left, the stupidity of some people on the BBC's have you say section always seems to surprise me, I'm going to politely put down some of the more memorable. As usual we have the anti-science brigade out on parade. Ungrateful that this evil science thing has more doubled their average life spans.

A Tiger Moth from Stoke writes:

Id like these scientists to show me

a radio wave
take a tape measure and physicaly measure the milky way
Id like them to show me an atom in my hand so I can see it
Id also like them to show me the proof of the big bang actually show me proof I can see feel and touch

1) Radio waves are invisible, our eyes do not see radio waves if they did they'd have to be a fair bit bigger. They can see visible light, hence the name, but even then we cannot obviously see the actual wave, although light interacting with our eyes will behave more like a particle. We can however build detectors that can "see" radio waves the same way as our eyes can see visible light. You might of heard of them, they're called radios.

2) Obviously building a tape measure across the whole galaxy would be expensive, and it would be difficult to source the raw materials required. However we can see how big the Milky Way is, all it takes are standard candles such as RR Lyrae stars, careful observation and a bit of mathematics.

3) Individual atoms are too small to be seen by the eye. There are numerous ways to infer the existence of atoms, such as watching the jumping movement of small particles in water, due to the motion of the molecules making up the water, or by bouncing electrons off atoms etc.

4) Obviously you cannot feel or touch the Big Bang, it happened in the past. We can show you a photograph of the afterglow of the Big Bang, all you need is a microwave telescope in orbit. However you can feel the products of the Big Bang, most of the hydrogen in your body was created just a few seconds after the Big Bang.

Obviously Tiger Moth likes to make use of logical fallacies, without actually addressing the topic at hand. The fact he throws out such pre-childish statements I think demonstrates his mental capabilities.

thing is its just observation and assumption
am baffled as too why scientists tho should spend time having a tantrum over what they dont belive in sounds like havin a demo against the tooth fairy

Observation and assumption, which is not what the above are examples of. Is better than plain asseration which the proponents of homeopathy partake. And this isn't scientists having a tantrum over what they don't believe in, scientists are too busy doing actual science, these are people who are fed up with irrationality getting a free ride. Belief is irrelevant, what does the data show? The data shows homeopathy doesn't work. Belief is not required.

To all those who say homeopathy is fake and believe only in "normal" medicine, just remember it was not long ago that people believed earth to be flat.

Yes Scrambled Eggs from London, and not long ago people believed in fairies. Guess what that still doesn't make homeopathy work.

To those who swear by the scientists, you do remember that scientists once believed the world was flat, and that the planets and sun went around earth? And you still believe everything they say?

Actually Rachael it was science that proved the Earth was spherical (by Eratosthenes in about 300 BC) and that it orbited the Sun, (proposed by many people, namely Capernicus and later proved by Galileo). Prior to that there was no scientific proof that the Earth was flat, or that the Sun went around the Earth. That was simply the default position because frankly, that's what it looks like. Trying to pin how people thought the universe was constructed before science, upon science is pretty weak IMO.

Yes, because it has worked for me, my family, and my clients many times over. That is the only way you really know if something is valid or not, through personal experience. I think for myself.

Yes of course Sonya McLeod from Vancouver, because personal experience is a reliable means of determining what is fact and what is not. Dowsers believe they can really dowse, what happens in controlled double-blinded experiments? Oh they can't. Personal experience is the one thing that cannot be reliably used to determine what is true or not. Face it, we're terrible at remembering if things work or not, we're prone to allow bias to creep into things. That why we have the scientific method to filter out as many components as possible other than the ones being tested.

Heck if we rely on personal experiences, most of my personal experiences tell me the Earth is this giant unmovable object that couldn't possibly be moving around the Sun, it looks so small in the sky. But you know what, those personal experiences are wrong, and we can prove that with a little bit of science.

Homeopathy did more for me than 'proper' medicine so I know which side of the fence I sit.
Besides, like to see the protestors take overdoses of 'normal' medicine to the same extent as well, as you would do in a proper scientific experiment . Only fair hmm?
Liver damage anyone?

Alright Skipsurfer from Maidstone. Obviously the point of this has gone completely over your head. Normal medicine, ie medicine that has been proven to have an effect, will obviously give you liver damage or worse if you overdose on it. That's because it actually has an effect upon the body. Unlike homeopathy which has no physiological effect beyond that of drinking water or taking a tablet of sugar. It does have other effects such as departing the gullible of their money, and potentially sending them to an early grave if they seek homeopathic "treatment" instead of proper treatment.

The protest proves nothing. An "overdose" of any medicine (even homoeopathy remedies) would have damaging side effects. Clearly those protesting not only do not know a thing about how the body works, but are delusional as to how to win support.

Steven. Look mate, just admit you don't know what you're talking about. You cannot overdose on homeopathy because there's nothing in it, it doesn't do anything. That's the point of the protest.

You don't get a product withdrawn by proving it is dangerous by using it incorrectly. They would have been better served lobbying for clinical trials to prove that there are no positive benefits to these medicines if that is what they truly believe

They're not trying to get it withdrawn because it is not safe. We know it is safe, that's because there's nothing in it! There are already dozens of clinical trials showing no effectiveness, it's not hard to predict considering there's nothing in homeopathic pills. They're trying to pressure Boots to stop stocking them, or at least inform their customers that these products don't do anything and raise awareness about homeopathy in general.

Once again the internet proves people are willing to blabber on about topics they think they know about, without actually knowing anything about them.

The NHS should not be funding nonsense

It looks like the National Health Service might soon be willing to provide acupuncture for suffers of back pain, thanks to guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

What is acupuncture?

Essentially its the notion that disease or other problems are caused by your qi (read: magical body energies) being out of whack.  This out-of-whackness can be corrected by inserting needles into specific meridians (read: magic qi pathways) to reflow the qi energies.

Today however we know the actual causes of disease, and there's no magic qi involved.

So what do the studies show?

Studying acupuncture is actually fairly difficult as its problematic to develop way to blind the tests, and decent placebo controls are difficult to achieve.  However some recent studies have been well designed to take these into account.

Typically they would comprise of four groups.  One group getting real acupuncture, with the needles being inserted into the magic qi pathways, a second group getting fake acupuncture, by having the needles inserted randomly.  A third group having no needles inserted, for example having cocktail sticks pressed against the skin without penetrating it, this group acts as the placebo control.  And finally a forth group getting no treatment.

What do the results look like?  For starters inserting needles in the actual acupuncture meridians show no difference to inserting them randomly.  This tells us that the whole qi thing is bunk - but anyone with two brain cells would have guessed that anyway, considering we actually know how the body works today and we don't just make things up randomly.  Importantly however jabbing people with cocktail sticks without breaking the skin produces the same results as the real and fake acupuncture.  What does this tell us?  That acupuncture is no better than placebo.

What does that mean?  It means it doesn't work.

Complimentary and alternative medicine have no place in today's society.  But they're nice sounding right?  Wrong, by definition they don't work.  If they did work they would simply be called medicine.  Getting people to think there's anything alternative about any of these "treatments" is one of the biggest marketing achievements in history.

If the NHS are going to do this - let me suggest a cheaper and safer alternative.  Paul's ancient mystical art of cocktail stick jabbing - all the same effects as acupuncture - but safer as there's no risk of infection from breaking the skin, plus I'll do it for half the price these acupuncture whack jobs will charge you.  The only difference?  My marketing department isn't as well funded.

Catching homeopathic pseudoscience on the Obama's visit

I was just going over some of the BBC's coverage of the Obama's visit to London today and caught something rather odd during Mrs Obama's visit to a London hospital.

The clip I'm speaking of can be found here. Why the BBC bothers to publish such short and trivial clips is beyond me, and why the BBC calls Sarah Brown the first lady is questionable too, as we do not use the term in this country and if we did it would apply to the Queen. Anyway...

About 9 seconds into the video Mrs Obama is being spoken to by some woman, and the only thing I can make out is "naturopathic homeopathic route". What the hell? If somebody has more information about what was being said I would love to hear it. Perhaps my American readers could also enlighten me as to where Mrs Obama stands on this sort of thing, she strikes me as being a pretty intelligent woman so with a bit of luck she was just rolling her eyes at this.

Seriously why is this even being talked about in a hospital? Or was she visiting one of our world famous and utterly ridiculous homeopathic hospitals – god I hope not. The only time anything like this should ever even need to be mentioned in a hospital is if a patient brings it up, and needs to be informed about it, namely with somebody sayings it bollocks.

Worse still it's not only rubbish. HOMEOPATHY KILLS, heck so-called ALTERNATIVE... (aka not scientifically proven, made up by a bunch of random people who don't bother to do any tests, heck why test things when you can make vague claims about whatever junk you put into a bottle and sell it) ...MEDICINE KILLS.

And even worse in the UK homeopathic hospitals are funded by the tax payer, the only thing the tax payer should be involved with to do with homeopathic or alternative medicine in general is banning it and putting the proponents of it in jail, yes Prince Charles I'm looking at you, and the rest of you lot.

Acupuncture - the BBC nails it

It's very rare I read an article in the mainstream press which makes so much sense, and tackles a scientific topic so well.

Simon Singh +1 point(s), but as he's the co-author of 'Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial' maybe he should get an additional point.

Ever since receiving my first ever acupuncture session last month, I have been repeatedly asked whether or not it was effective.


[W]hy on earth should my personal experience be important, when we have evidence from tens of thousands of patients who have received acupuncture during carefully observed scientific trials?

Excellent, now if only all journalists could learn this skill when dealing with a scientific topic, especially when it concerns something health related. We use science to decide if something works or not, because its the most reliable method we have.

He then goes on to talk about the scientific evidence and how there is no evidence to suggest acupuncture is effective.

Good stuff. I'm fed up with the free-ride alternative crap-based medicine is getting in the press, and I'm furious with how much public money is wasted on junk like homeopathy and the rest. The proponents of this sort of stuff aren't just taking people's money like most pseudo-scientific nonsense, they're screwing with people's health too.

But it's "natural"

I was going through some of the comments posted by people on BBC News' thread on non-proven drugs (popularly known as alternative medicine) being available on the NHS.

Obviously they shouldn't be, NHS funds should only be spent on things that actually work. However certain aspects of society, like the Royal Family insist on promoting un-proven drugs. Un-proven drugs unlike clinically tested drugs have no evidence to show any effect, have not been tested for safety, for effects with other drugs, for the proper doses etc. They're just put on shelves untested and sold.

Anyway one comment stood out.

Dont forget that all chemical produced medicines have side effects and are addictive natural medicines have no side effects and are not addictive and work in a slow gentle way.

What a load of nonsense! All drugs are chemicals, everything is chemicals, "natural medicines" are drugs, they're chemicals too and they of course have side effects. Just off the top of my head:

Cyanide (produced by plants, bacteria etc). Side effects include death.
Digitalis (produced in plants like foxgloves). Side effects include heart failure.
Heroin (produced by opium poppies). Side effects include addition.
Uranium (produced by supernova). Side effects include death.
Arsenic (produced by supernova). Side effects include death.

I demand freedom of choice from the national health service that is my basic human right as per the charter to deny me that is a form od dictatorship

The NHS, being publically funded must make best use of the money the public give to it. Wasting it on unproven, and by unproven I don't mean studies haven't been done, they have been done and there is no effect, is a waste of the tax payers money, and indeed it would be responsible for the loss of life of a great many people, when that money could be spent on drugs and treatments that do actually work and save people's lives.

and dont forget the chinese have been using alternative medicines for thousands of years and they are doing ok thankyou

That's nice but they often used the drugs being sold today for different purposes than what they're currently sold for. So that's irrelevant.

Until the introduction of scientific medicine life expectancy worldwide was about 40-45 at the most. So for all those thousands of years those un-proven drugs had no effect on average life span. With the introduction of scientific medicines and treatments life expectancy is now around 75.

We are so lucky to have scientific medicine, most people throughout history have not been so fortunate. Don't throw it away and squander it with such utter nonsense I'd rather not have to break out the leeches again.

Science is a method of understanding, with science we can discover what actually works and what doesn't. Science should be applied to everything so we can stop wasting our time, and money with things that don't work. When drugs are found to have no effect they should no longer be sold, they shouldn't hide under the "natural" umbrella and fool people into thinking they're actually getting treatment when they're not.