Saturday, December 15, 2007

Homeopathy Mixup in France

The equivalent of the FDA in France (the AFFSAPS) revealed startling news this past November about a mislabeling of homeopathic remedies. Here are two short exerpts:

"AFSSAPS has been informed by Laboratoires Boiron of an inversion of the labelling of two homeopathic medicaments, The bottles labelled 'mother tincture of Gingko biloba' contain mother tincture of Equisetum arvense and vice versa."

"AFSSAPS has said that this mix-up does not pose any particular risk . . ."

Why does this mixup pose no risk, you might ask? Unlike mislabeling real drugs, homeopathic remedies are nothing but water (read following blog for details).

Consider this bit from the exchange between Lord Broers and Ms. Kate Chatfield of the Society of Homeopaths in England from the minutes of evidence to the Select Committee on Science and Technology.

Lord Broers: I have a simple, technical question about homeopathy and drugs. Is it possible to distinguish between homeopathic drugs after they have been diluted? Is there any means of distinguishing one from the other?

Ms. Chatfield: Only by the label.

Well, there you have it. There's no way to distinguish them because (I'll say it again) they're nothing but water!

Thanks to
DC's Improbable Science for this gem.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Homeopathy: Bogus Medicine

Homeopathy, that most bogus of medical practices, is based on two basic principles:

1. Like cures like.

At first blush this might seem like something akin to a vaccination, where one receives a small dose of a virus (often a dead virus) to help prevent one from falling ill with the viral infection. But a vaccination works by triggering the immune response so that your body will fight against that viral infection when it's encountered in the environment.

Homeopathy is nothing like this. If you have a skin infection whose symptoms might vaguely resemble poison ivy, then ingesting a small dose of poison ivy would be the cure for you. Do you have seizures? Ingesting large quantities of plants from the nightshade family can also cause seizures. Therefore, the cure for you is to ingest small quantities of plants from the nightshade family.

2. The smallest effective dose.

According to homeopathy, you want to ingest a very diluted quantity of the "medicine." In fact, the more diluted the substance the better it is. Most homeopathic remedies are so diluted that not even one molecule of the active ingredient remains in the "medicine." It's nothing but water. But this is special water. This water somehow has a memory of the active ingredient, and it is this memory in the water that acts as a cure. That's right, the memory of the water. Or as a homeopath might describe it: An imprint of the substance has been retained in the water.

Is there any scientific evidence for such an imprint or memory in water? None. But that doesn't stop homeopaths. Science, they say, hasn't figured out how to identify or measure this imprint yet. Homeopaths don't require observational evidence of imprints or memories in water. They just know that these imprints exist. But how they know is anyone's guess.

This sounds like it was made up by some 18th century quack, before the rise of modern medicine. And in fact that's the case.
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) came up with homeopathy. And while scientific medicine has improved over the years through research, studies and evidence, homeopathy hasn't changed one drop since the day of Hahnemann.

What's more disturbing is that homeopaths claim that their "cures" actually work. But every properly designed scientific test of homeopathy has shown that it works no better than a placebo. All experiments of homeopathy that show otherwise have been proven to use flawed methodologies in their experiments.

Save your time and money. Don't waste it on homeopathy. It's only water.