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The Foundation for Integrated Medicine persuaded officials to neuter advice about homeopathy on the NHS Choices patient website. Sarah Boseley (The guardian 13th February 2013) Click here for the full background details.
“…the latest changes in T’s & C’s from Bupa simply state that they will no longer provide cover for homeopathic treatment.…The reasons behind this decision are not yet clear. But it would be likely to assume that the huge negative publicity for homeopathy, its unethical antics and its lack of scientific rationale, must have been included in the decision.” Andy Lewis, The Quackometer (3rd August 2012)
“Faced with an MHRA crackdown on unlicensed medicines, one of Britain's leading manufacturers of homeopathic remedies has indicated it would be prepared to re-label its products 'confectionery' to circumvent regulation. Under current UK law, it is an offence for a lay homeopath to supply or sell unlicensed homeopathic medicines for which they do not hold a certificate of registration from the MHRA. Unlicensed remedies can only supplied by those with prescribing rights - medical doctors or registered pharmacists - and then only after a face-to-face consultation with the patient. Since very few homeopathic products are licensed, this means a huge swathe of Big Sugar's products are, in theory at least, not legal.” Martin Robbins, The Guardian (2nd August 2012)
“A consortium of pharmaceutical companies in Germany have been paying a journalist €43,000 to run a set of web sites that denigrates an academic who has published research into their products. These companies, who make homeopathic sugar pills, were exposed in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitungin an article, Schmutzige Methoden der sanften Medizin (The Dirty Tricks of Alternative Medicine)…The newspaper accuses the companies of funding the journalist, Claus Fritzsche, to denigrate critics of homeopathy. In particular, the accusation is that Fritzsche wrote about UK academic Professor Edzard Ernst on several web sites and then linked them together in order to raise their Google ranking. Fritzsche continually attacks Ernst of being frivolous, incompetent and partisan…Ernst has pioneered and championed the idea that alternative medicine can be subject to the same rigours of evidence-based medicine as any other treatment. He has produced many systematic reviews of treatments that draw together all available evidence to assess what overall conclusions it is possible to come to. When the evidence has been positive, he has said so. But his problem has been that, for a wide range of treatments, including homeopathy, the evidence is overwhelmingly negative, non-existent, or at best, inconclusive. This has angered many proponents of the various forms of supersitious and pseudoscientific health practices. Homeopaths in particular have been furious that Ernst has not used his Chair to promote alternative medicine. They see his results, not as scientifically objective, but as a betrayal of their beliefs.” Andy Lewis, The Quackometer (16th July 2012)
“In 2011 the Swiss government completed an official examination of homeopathy, as part of its consideration of whether or not insurance companies should be made to cover homeopathic treatment. Their report, which concluded homeopathy is effective and should be covered, was published in English in February 2012. Not surprisingly, homeopathy promoters, like Dana Ullman writing for the Huffington Post, were quick to proclaim the virtues of the Swiss report and tout it as evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy. Recently, however, a more critical review of the Swiss report has been published, revealing the report to be biased and scientifically suspect…if you want to actually answer the question, does homeopathy work, you need to rely upon the most rigorously designed placebo-controlled trials. Anything less is likely to reflect bias and be highly misleading. Systematic reviews generally reflect this, and the UK report on homeopathy reflected this reality – when properly studied, homeopathy does not work…The Swiss study looked at the same data, but apparently wanted to come to a favorable conclusion. So they argued for a change in the normal rules of evidence, a common strategy among CAM proponents. They decided to rely more on “real-world effectiveness,” which is just CAM newspeak for “poorly controlled studies”…In other words, this is all an elaborate deception as a means of preferring low quality studies that are amenable to a positive bias to rigorous studies that are more likely to reflect the true (non-existent) effect of homeopathy. The Swiss report represents a biased review largely by homeopaths who changed the rules of evidence in order to declare that homeopathy works. Other homeopaths then present this review as unbiased and definitive. This is behavior that would make even the most unscrupulous pharmaceutical rep blush. This is also, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. This represents a general strategy apparent in the world of CAM – to present themselves as the experts so that they can pack panels with proponents and then advocate for changing the normal rules of scientific evidence in order to produce highly biased assessments of CAM. Further, they portray skeptics (meaning those who advocate for consistent and rigorous scientific methods) to be biased so that when they point out that the emperor has no clothes they can be dismissed. The Swiss report on homeopathy represents an embarrassing failure for the Swiss government. They should suspend any decisions based upon this report and put together an new scientific panel to perform a fresh and legitimate review of homeopathy. Or, they don’t have to reinvent the wheel – they can just review the UKs thorough and rigorous report and adopt its findings. Homeopathy is witchcraft and deserves no government support of any kind.” Steven Novella MD, Science Based Medicine (27th June 2012)
“…the authors of this report adopted a very unusual strategy in what should have been an impartial evidence appraisal. It appears that their goal was not to provide an independent assessment but to choose criteria that would lead to their chosen conclusion that homeopathy is effective. To this end, they chose to adopt a highly questionable criterion of “real-world” effectiveness, ignore negative findings concerning homeopathy in favour of implausible reinterpretation of results, and attack RCTs. This use of a unique and suspect methodology in an appraisal designed to assess healthcare objectively gives cause for particular concern; one imagines that the Swiss government wanted homeopathy to be judged against existing standards rather than new ones created specially
for the evaluation. In doing so the authors have distorted the evidence and misled the public; these actions, combined with their conflicts of interest, strongly suggest that they are guilty of research misconduct. It is extremely unfortunate that the Swiss government lent legitimacy to this report by attaching its name to it, and also unfair that the English-language text is not available free of charge to the public when it is being widely misrepresented all over the world as proof of the efficacy of homeopathy.” David Martin Shaw, University of Glasgow, UK, Swiss Medical Weekly (31st May 2012) [pdf]
“This brief, critical analysis of Homeopathy in Healthcare: Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs, discloses this report as methodologically flawed, inaccurate and biased. Hence, its conclusions are not reliable.” Edzard Ernst, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies [FACT] (30th May 2012)
"Homeopaths are buzzing with news that a report has been supposedly published by the Swiss Government that shows that there is a large amount of evidence for homeopathy and that it should be included in the universal, compulsory Swiss insurance plans as a cost effective treatment. This is in stark contrast by a report by the UK’s House of Commons that came to the exact opposite conclusion – that homeopathy was a placebo therapy that the balance of evidence did not support its claims of effectiveness. Over at Zeno’s blog [see link immediately below], much of the truth behind this report has already been exposed. It was not written by the Swiss government, but by a group of homeopaths under the editorship of academics at the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany. This is a private University that specialises in training doctors in alternative medicine, including homeopathy, and is closely associated with the Anthroposophy movement – the esoteric, ‘ecofascist’ sect founded by early 20th Century Austrian mystic, Rudolf Steiner." By Andy Lewis, Quackometer Blogspot (21st May 2012)
“Switzerland has a universal compulsory private health insurance scheme, regulated by the Federal Health Insurance Act of 1994 (Krankenversicherungsgesetz — KVG). The KVG details the treatments for which the treatment provider will be reimbursed. In 1998, the Swiss Department for the Interior (EDI) and the Federal Service Commission (ELK) decided to allow insurance companies to be reimbursed for five alternative therapies: homeopathy, anthroposophic medicine, neural therapy, phytotherapy (herbal) and Traditional Chinese herbal therapy (TCM). This was a temporary measure that expired in June 2005. These therapies were provisionally included in the reimbursement scheme while evidence was sought for their efficacy, appropriateness and cost-benefit so that a decision could be made in 2005 whether to end the reimbursement or add it permanently to the insurance scheme. For this, an elaborate Complementary Medicine Evaluation Program (Programm Evaluation Komplementärmedizin — PEK) was set up…respective authors [who wrote reports for the program] were allowed to properly publish their work in scientific papers or books after conclusion of the PEK. On homeopathy, this includes the HTA [Health Technology Assessment], written by Bornhöft et al., and the meta-analysis, famously known as Shang et al…A summary of the homeopathy HTA was first published in 2006 as an article in “Forschung zur Komplementärmedizin”, a German CAM journal. In the same year, authors Bornhöft et al. published a German book version, which was then extended and published in English in 2011. It is this eventual book that the English-speaking homeopathy world is so unjustifiably ecstatic about...The report was certainly commissioned by a Swiss Government department, but it was written by alternative therapy apologists. We cannot be certain who were involved in the original HTA on homeopathy, but the summary report published in 2006 was written by:
- Gudrun Bornhöft and Peter Matthiessen: Chair in Medical Theory and Complementary Medicine, University of Witten/Herdecke, Germany and PanMedion Foundation, Zurich
- Ursula Wolf: Institute for Complementary Medicine (KIKOM), Inselspital, University of Berne and PanMedion Foundation, Zurich
- Klaus von Ammon, Stephan Baumgartner and André Thurneysen: Institute for Complementary Medicine (KIKOM), Inselspital, University of Berne
- Marco Righetti: Medical Practice, Zurich
- Stefanie Maxion-Bergemann: PanMedion Foundation, Zurich
No wonder homeopaths think the HTA was a good report — it was written by supporters of alternative therapies…Homeopaths can praise the HTA under the PEK if they want. But in the eyes of the PEK review panel and the Swiss Government it was biased and overly optimistic, and taking everything else into account, they decided that homeopathy was quite likely ineffective but harmless.” By Sven Rudloff and Zeno, Zeno’s blog (9th May 2012)
Boiron To Pay Up To $12M To End False Advertising Suits
Law360, New York (March 07, 2012, 1:47 PM ET) -- French homeopathic medicine giant Boiron Inc. agreed on Tuesday to spend up to $12 million to settle several putative consumer class actions claiming it falsely advertised the benefits of its homeopathic remedies.
Boiron will put up $5 million to cover consumers seeking refunds on Boiron products they purchased, according to the proposed settlement filed in California federal court. Refunds are capped at $100 per household, the settlement said.
Boiron also agreed to make changes to the labeling of its products, including adding a disclaimer.
A class-action complaint has been filed against the manufacturers of Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic product widely claimed to be a flu remedy. The complaint charges that the product (a) is nothing more than a sugar pill, (b) has no impact on the flu or any symptoms that accompany it, and (c) contains no molecules of its allegedly active ingredient. The suit, filed in California against Boiron, Inc., Boiron USA, Inc., and Laboratories Boiron, asks the court to halt the challenged claims and award damages for violating consumer protections laws. Casewatch (18th August 2011)
“On 4th January 2011 Pallab Ghosh generated a hard‐hitting Newsnight piece in which he made the shocking revelation that homeopathic vaccines against malaria, polio and typhoid are still on sale. The item was, he said, a follow‐up to his report on the same subject four years previously which led to action by the pharmaceutical licensing bodies although this was never carried out. He also dug out the remarkable fact that homeopathic remedies used on animals cannot legally be described as medicines, but that those used on humans can. This was science reporting at its best and was accompanied by a calm and well‐moderated debate between the President of a homeopathic regulatory organisation – who made a reasonable defence of her own case, refuting some of the claims made – and the science writer Simon Singh in which the latter, in my view at least, defeated her argument (although other viewers might disagree).” Pages 63-64, BBC Trust Report (July 2011) [pdf]
“Unlike the UK, the Australian government does not directly fund homeopathy, but $3 billion of taxpayers' money is funnelled into private health fund rebates every year. So if your health fund covers it, taxpayers cover it too.” Dr Rachael Dunlop, COSMOS, (June/July 2011)
“Insist that the ingredients in the final product, and their amounts, be listed on the bottle…International standard measures should be used...Mark products with a level of evidenced support…Insist that all medicines have the same licensing standards, or at least set stronger standards.” Sciblogs (23rd April 2011)
“What scientific concept that has been validated by experimentation constitutes the body of knowledge that is homeopathy? The answer is – nothing. There is no law of similars, nor a law of infinitessimals. There is no plausible mechanism to explain homeopathic potions. So instead we are given invalid analogies, innuendo, and a desperate attempt to confuse the public as to what homeopathy actually is.” Steven Novella MD, Science Based Medicine (6th April 2011)
“Homeopathy has grown to an alarming extent in the USA in recent decades. There are many compelling reasons for pharmacists to refuse to stock and sell these products. For instance, their safety and efficacy is unproven, patients using them may forego legitimate medical therapy, their sales yield a dishonest profit, selling them may expose the seller to legal consequences, they violate the oath of the pharmacist, they foster the encroachment of quackery in medicine, and they appeal to greed and profit motives. Pharmacists should adhere to a high professional standard that demands proven safety and efficacy in the products they sell.” W S Pray, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies (December 2010)
“What follows is straightforward: there is no good evidence that homoeopathy does more good than harm. This is not just my conclusion after 17 years of researching the subject, but a fact based on the best available evidence, which is supported by virtually all experts who are not homoeopaths. The recent decision by the coalition government to continue homoeopathy on the NHS is thus puzzling, to say the least.” Edzard Ernst, New Statesman (11th November 2010)
Without any scientific proof of their effectiveness, homeopathic remedies are highly disputed in Europe. With budgets strained, politicians are questioning whether the alternative treatments should be covered by state insurance systems. SPIEGEL (16th July 2010)
“In an interview with the magazine Der Spiegel, [Dr Karl] Lauterbach, who himself is a medical doctor and an adjunct professor of health policy at Harvard University in the United States, said many patients believe insurance only pays for things that are proven to help, and therefore it is in the public interest to stop the practice. "So health insurers are dignifying homeopaths through their actions," he told the magazine…"If everybody pays for his beer, then he can pay for his homeopathy," said Dr. Kay Brune, a professor in the Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuernberg, in southern Germany. Brune added that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that homeopathy actually causes any meaningful and healing bio-chemical reactions in patients, but that doesn't stop people from believing in a practice that has been so deeply ingrained into the German psyche. "Homeopathy has a very long tradition in Germany," he added in an interview with Deutsche Welle. "The founder, Hahnemann was a brilliant physician. But at that time doing nothing was helpful to the patient. In 200 years, the pseudo-science has not taken any steps forward." He also added that under the Third Reich, Nazi medical officials explored it as a "non-Jewish medicine," and even they gave up on it." DW-WORLD.DE Health (13th July 2010)
“…in order for informed consent to occur…a doctor would have to say that:
- Homeopathy has no demonstrated benefits for patients other than placebo
- The vast majority of doctors are opposed to homeopathy, often vehemently
- There is no active ingredient in homeopathic products—it has all been diluted away.
- It is based on two false premises, that "like cures like" and that the more dilute a product, the more powerful it is
- It is biologically implausible and completely inconsistent with our understanding of medicine, biology, pharmacology and pathology
The authors of this letter consider that practicing homeopathy, or endorsing it by referring patients, is not consistent with the ethical or regulatory requirements of practicing medicine, and call for doctors to do neither.”
[Signed] Shaun Holt, Adjunct Professor, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand; Andrew Gilbey, Lecturer, College of Business Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand; David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacology, Dept of Pharmacology, University College London, England; Michael Baum, Professor Emeritus of Surgery & Visiting Professor of Medical Humanities, University College London, England; Edzard Ernst, Director, Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter, England.
New Zealand Medical Journal (15th April 2011) [PDF]
Related article in the New Zealand Sunday Star Times: Doctors warn of medical "madness", criticism of homeopathy reaches new levels
Related press release