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"First they came for the homeopaths" - what's going on in the UK and how it will affect homeopathy everywhere

I've been working in the UK on the Parliamentary Evidence Check into homeopathy - and with a small group of other activists have been pushing back - we have achieved some traction - so I share this article written for hpathy here so that all homeopaths are aware of the back story to the anti-homeopathy campaign in the UK - which stands to affect homeopathy everywhere.  The report will be made public on 22nd Feb and we can expect it to be very critical - likely to call for withdrawal of funding for NHS homeopathy, increased restrictions on labelling and sale of over the counter remedies and so on. It's likely also that there will be concerns voiced about professional homeopaths and the possible danger posed by unregulated practitioners.  It's a well organised and orchestrated campaign that has been ramping up to this for many years now.  I've written a number of articles on this topic published in Similia - they are downloadable from this blog:

http://www.vonsyhomeopathy.wordpress.com

"First they came for the homeopaths" - published here:

http://hpathy.com/homeopathy-papers/first-they-came-for-the-homeopa...

And I paste it here for speed of access - all homeopaths need to understand this - perhaps we can use this forum to discuss options for action in other countries - a warning shot has already been fired in the US.

First they came for the hmeopaths by Carol Boyce

"For reasons that will probably never be clear, at a time when the nation faces so many challenges, the UK government’s parliamentary select Science and Technology committee decided to conduct an Evidence
Check into homeopathy at the end of 2009.

The homeopathic community scrambled to make written submissions before the deadline passed and waited for invitations to make oral submissions to the committee.  They never came.

The first Evidence Check meeting was held in two parts – the first group of witnesses made it plain where this evidence check was intended to go.  Tracy Brown, Managing Director of Sense About Science – the
lobby group responsible for a series of anti-homeopathy actions over
the years, including the 2006 sting of homeopaths for BBC NewsNight,
and the push for the WHO to ban homeopaths from working in the
developing world in August 2009.  Dr Ben Goldacre, journalist for The
Guardian and author of badscience.net who saves his most vitriolic
anti-CAM rants for the homeopaths.  Professor Jayne Lawrence, Chief
Scientific Adviser, Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain,
enough said; Paul Bennett, Professional Standards Director of Boots the
high street chemist (who with his first words gave the media the
perfect sound bite when he said he had no evidence that homeopathy
works, but since consumers want it he felt they had a responsibility to
supply it.  He also said he had no evidence that homeopathy doesn’t
work, but that doesn’t make good headlines.)  And lone pro-homeopathy
witness, Mr Robert Wilson, Chairman of the British Association of
Homeopathic Manufacturers.

What was meant to be an investigation into what informs government policy about homeopathy devolved rapidly into something reminiscent of a courtroom brawl about whether homeopathy works or not, according to
the narrow world of Random Controlled Trials and meta-analyses.
Witnesses for the ‘prosecution’ were well prepared and at times it was
a tempting diversion to count how many times Dr Goldacre could fit
‘sugar pills’ into an answer.  Dr Evan Harris MP, one might say senior
counsel for the prosecution, excelled in the art of puerile questions
and distractions from the issue at hand.

You need to watch the meetings archived on the parliamentary website to fully appreciate how stacked the decks were.

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=5221

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=5257

Transcripts here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech...

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech...

Next up was Prof Edzard Ernst, nemesis of UK homeopathy and self-appointed expert; Dr Peter Fisher, Director of Research at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (and the only practicing homeopath);
Dr Robert Mathie, Research Development Adviser at the British
Homeopathic Association, and Dr James Thallon, the Medical Director at
NHS West Kent – the man personally responsible for withdrawal of
funding and the consequent closure of the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic
Hospital last year.

Dr Harris feeling on safe ground took great delight in letting rip.  His line of questioning to Dr Fisher included such questions as: “Why do you think that there has been no Nobel Prize given to the people who
have made these astonishing discoveries of the potential for the memory
of water…..?”

And: “On that basis then, why is it that when you have a solution of water that used to have some homeopathic substance in it but it has been diluted, that the water is said to retain that memory but does not
remember all the poo, you could call it, that has been in it….”

My own MP Ian Stewart, also on the committee, made a vain attempt to bring some dignity to the proceedings, but he was only one man.

The second Evidence Check committee meeting on Nov 30th called witnesses Mr Mike O’Brien MP, Government Minister for Health Services; Professor Kent Woods, Chief Executive, Medicines and
Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, and Professor David Harper Chief
Scientist, Department of Health.

At the start of the meeting, the Chair of the Science and Technology committee was at pains to put on record that:

“…… there seems to be a little confusion about the nature of the work that we are doing, this is not an inquiry into whether homeopathy works or not. This is an inquiry which follows a series of evidence
checks across a number of government departments to see whether in fact
there was any evidence to support the Government’s policy towards
homeopathy. I want to make that absolutely clear.”

And then he proceeded: “I wonder if we can therefore start with you, Minister. Does the Government have any credible evidence that homeopathy works beyond the placebo effect?”

Mike O’Brien started to talk about the 2008 Department of Health’s Northern Ireland CAM project, which had proved so successful, but then inexplicably said that the project had not included homeopathy!!  Of
course it included homeopathy and the patients and the GPs who referred
their ‘heart sink’ patients to the homeopaths, were very satisfied with
the results.

And so it went on…probably one of the most frustrating pieces of theatre I have ever had cause to watch.

The last Saturday in January brought us the so-called1023 publicity stunt when small groups of denialists, skeptics, and their siblings and supporters did ‘their bit for science’ and took part in a national
‘mass overdose’ of homeopathic medicines, thereby proving yet again
that these people know nothing at all about homeopathy.

The London event saw Dr Evan Harris of the Science and Technology parliamentary select committee wearing the T-Shirt, amusing the crowd of overdosers with an account of his questioning of Dr Fisher and
taking part in the overdose.  To say he was in breach of the General
Medical Council Guidelines for Good Practice, Sections 1.46 and 1.47
Respect for Colleagues might be described as an understatement.  To say
he made a public display of a bias so extreme that it ought to
disqualify him from the Evidence Check is in no doubt.

You can watch him here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYuLjl9bgIw

The Evidence Check report with its recommendations regarding NHS homeopathy will be made public on Feb 22nd.  We can expect it to be very critical, and I predict calls for withdrawal of funding for NHS homeopathy; tightening of regulations of
manufacturing and labeling of homeopathic medicines; limits to sales of
over the counter homeopathic medicines, and further down the road,
increasing restrictions for professional homeopaths.

Since the Evidence Check was supposed to be about what informs government policy, the focus SHOULD have been the reports from the homeopathic hospitals submitted to the committee about the
effectiveness, cost effectiveness and patient satisfaction of
homeopathy in the real world – yet this was never discussed at all –
and the government’s own successful pilot study in Northern Ireland,
which was not discussed because the Minster of Health mistakenly said
it had not included homeopathy!

Those in the UK who have been following the campaign to remove access to homeopathy within the NHS, are clear about several points – and homeopaths worldwide would do well to pay attention to the UK
situation.

This Evidence Check was part of that orchestrated campaign.  Powerful lobby groups like Sense About Science, funded by the pharmaceutical industry, and related organizations spikedonline and The
Institute for Ideas, feed misinformation to sympathetic journalists in
major mainstream media outlets, which in turn allow no rebuttals of the
misinformation that they publish.  Armies of bloggers use the internet
and twitter to spread the misinformation far and wide. Individual
practitioners are isolated and personally attacked on webpages,
credentials called into question, threats made.

We need to ask why these groups would invest so much time, effort and resources to get rid of NHS homeopathy, which comprises just 0.004% of the total NHS budget?  If they were concerned, as they claim, about
patient welfare, surely it would be more productive if they looked into
ghost writers in medical journals skewing the facts; dangerous pharma
drugs brought to market despite evidence of harm; pharma influence of
doctors, medical schools, university departments, and etc. etc. etc. 
But they don’t because their job is to spin the corporate line.

Homeopathy is the easy target of the CAM world – but we need to think of it as “first they came for the homeopaths”.  Codex in the European Union is already moving manufacture of supplements into the
hands of the pharmaceutical industry, and pushing for prescription-only
delivery, by a medical profession that knows almost nothing about the
subject.

Homeopaths and their professional organizations need to get politically savvy, it’s a powerful agenda that’s being served. CAM groups should collaborate urgently and throw all their weight behind
defending homeopathy, because what’s happening in the homeopathic world
is only the thin end of the wedge that’s being hammered into place.

For more on the Evidence Check and the UK situation check out:


http://www.vonsyhomeopathy.wordpress.com


------------------------



Views: 225

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Replies to This Discussion

I am glad you posted your article here Carol!
The more homeopaths that read this the better-
I've posted this in my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/London-United-Kingdom/Hautman-Homeopathy/226904792357?ref=nf
WHAT WERE U GUYS IN ENGLAND DOING.IF IT WAS HERE IN INDIACOMMITTE WHO BEHAVED LIKE THIS WOULD HAVE SLAPPED.WHOLE HOMOEOPATHIC COMMUNITY SHOULD HAVE UNITED AND SPOKE OR MADE PUBLIC THE WAY THEY CONDUCTED THE EVIDENCE CHECK.IT SEESM THEY DELBERATELY WANTED THT TO HAPPEN.STILL WE HAVE TIME.U CAN ACT.
Yes absolutely it was a set up - If you read the blog :
http://www.vonsyhomeopathy.wordpress.com
you will see just how much of a set up - politically motivated by people working with Sense About Science a pharma lobby group pretending to be a charity. Some of us have been shouting warnings for years - ever since the Lancet published the flawed Shang meta-analysis the agenda was obvious. They have been trying to close the Royal London Homeoapthic Hospital for years also. Unfortunately the homeopathic community in the UK is divided, medical homeopaths and professional homeopaths and then within that group further divisions. If nothing else this has woken up the community and made them realise that unless we work together we are all lost. there was a mass lobby of parliament on Wednesday when 250 homeopaths lobbied their MPs, but it's just the beginning of what needs to be done.
Carol posted:"by a medical profession that knows almost nothing about the
subject................................................................."
To add to this ; Yes Agreed,Its always those barking the loudest that have no expierence with homeopathy!
Hi
This is a very serious issue and should not be dealt with lightly.

In fact, homeopathy has twin challenge. To deal with the
assault from outside - where the opposition is very determined,
motivated and resourceful. Financial, media and political clout
is behind anti-homeopathic drive.

The other challenge that homeopathy is facing is the internal
challenge. We are a divided house. And, we are unwiling, not
ready to talk purposefully with each other to find what needs
to be set right.

Unprincipled homeopathy has given so much ammunition in the
hands of the opponent that it will be very difficult to douse this
fire without first being loud and clear about what is homeopathy
and what is not homeopathy.

Those patent medicines and combinations that are sold in the
name of homeopathy are un-homeopathic - we must denounce
that.

It is because we have permitted homeopathy to be identified with
disease-specific-formulations that sane science is asking us to
demonstrate the specific actions.

We simply can not expect to fight it out without getting our
own house in order.

I do not have any intention to hurt any body. But facts need to
be faced.

Regards

Dr Manoj
Yes indeed - the labelling of specific remedies for specific conditions makes it difficult. On the one hand homeopathy wants to be included into main stream medicine, on the other hand it seems to want to have special consideration. Since homeopathy treats the patient with the disease and not the disease itself it makes it very difficult to provide proof of efficacy for any named disease. It's methodology doesn't lend itself to Random Controlled Trials so unless we demand to set the terms for the trials, homeopathy will only ever be able to show a small fraction of its potential. Add to that the difficulty of raising money for research and then the challenge of getting any medical journal - in the west at least - to accept a successful trial for publication - we see that we have allowed ourselves to be backed into a corner from which it is difficult to move. I am still of the mind though if the UK community use this situation well, it could be the best thing that has happened to homeopathy there for a very long time.
Carol
You have said it, Carol.

This pair of contradictory desires is at the root of existential crisis of homeopathy.
Homeopathy is patient specific... not disease specific!!

If homeopaths and homeopathic research bodies engage themselves in conducting and publishing disease-specific successful homeopathic research trials - they are bound to be misleading and will invite more thorough cross checking by evidence-based-science. In such circumstances if homeopathic efficacy is found to be more than placebo effect, all sane homeopaths must feel shockingly suprrised. Because it will mean that there is no truth in (person-centred) individualizing philosophy of homeopathy.

We have allowed it to happen and now we are feeling cornered. We wanted to play their game knowing pretty well that that is altogether different paradigm.

Instead of asking the scientific-medicine to question their understanding of disease and health - we have been guilty of struggling to fit in their scientific framework.
Probably, any homeopathic remedy is more reliable in producing proving symptoms in a random healthy group than affecting cure of a nosological entity in a random sick group.

We need lot of soul searching and brain storming to get out of this mess. It is not only in the west... it is bound to spread everywhere.. and India will be worst hit!
Manoj
A very complicated issue.
hei friends its great beginning.whn crisis appears we unite and thisis just agood beginning.we can also show lots of evidence based homoeopathy.we treat hyperlipidemia[increases cholestrol levels] have records of beofre treatment and after treatment.the medicines can be individualised for tht perticaula person using or philosophy.This is 21st century.people need to know what r they being treated.we just cant keep saying we will treat the person who is having socalled diseases.Be specific and stik to homoeopathic philosophy.show the pic of treatment before and after.show all the investigations u took beofre and after treatment.convince patients just dont tell patient we only treat symptoms.People r not botherd how u treat what result u get is more important in their point of view.how we treat is important for doctors.
Keep speaking to ur MPS,meet health secretory or authority,ask them to go through all homoeopathic litratures.the feed back has started here too.few journalist have started poking their nose into it.We r going united to oppose them.form a strong assosciations.This si the need of hour andjust not in UK.its the matter of whole world.TOGETHER WE CAN
Agreed - patients need to know we know what their problems are and can speak the language of diagnosis - how we treat after that can still be individualised medicine - the patient only cares that they get better. I am talking specifically about trials which are based on homeopathic methodology and not the narrow RCT of the allopathic world. Even if all patients are diagnosed with the same disease label - eg. eczema - and we are allowed to individualise the remedy - when the law of cure is applied in each case - some cases may take years before the skin is resolved depending on where the centre of disease is and what else must be resolved in the hierarchy. This is something that the allopaths don't understand - and why we can't be constrained by a trial on their terms - if we are not able to individualise the process - the posology, changing remedies when needed and so on to bring the case to cure in its own individual time frame, homeopathy will always be found wanting.
We have to set our own research agenda. And as a global community unite.
Carol
I think that we are on same page when you say that as homeopaths we need to find our own research methodology and objectives. And that as a global community we unite on this point.

I perfectly resonate with the idea of being able to empathize with the patient and speak the language of the patient. And, it is fine if we need to speak the language of diagnosis.

And, here my gut-sense tells me that even when I speak diagnostically - higher triglycerides, LPs, hypertension or whatever, I need to help the patient realize that our frame of enquiry is not just diagnosis-focused - and that more important data is needed that will customize her management.

With out such a body of information, we will not be able to find the unique similimum or constitutional, we will need to be satisfied with tissue remedies only.

But, of course, that depends on so many factors. For example, what we want - are we aiming for palliation or some thing else?

Manoj
Manoj

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