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Harvard Medical School: Veritas for Sale (Part II)

In Part I of this series† we saw that in 2001 Dr. David Eisenberg, the Director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Alternative Medicine Research and Education (CAMRE), and Atty Michael Cohen, the CAMRE’s Director of Legal Programs, had contributed to a report commissioned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that would, if accepted as valid by the legislature, provide state protection for a group of quacks to practice ‘medicine.’ We also saw that Dr. Eisenberg had accepted funds from this very group, without having disclosed that information to the relevant state Commission. We saw examples of the quackery that the group espouses, including methods advocated by Thomas Kruzel, the Chief Medical Officer of the school that had contributed money to Dr. Eisenberg’s Harvard “Complementary and Integrative Medicine” course.

We continue now with the essay that I sent in the spring of 2002 to Dr. Dan Federman, the Senior Dean for Alumni Relations and Clinical Teaching at Harvard Medical School (HMS). As before, I’ve provided hyperlinks to many of the citations that I included in my original essay; some, however, are no longer available.

…………………

The American Association of Health Freedom

Kruzel and Harvard’s Michael Cohen are listed as key figures—Kruzel the Secretary, Mr. Cohen the only lawyer on the Advisory Board—in a lobbying organization known as the American Association of Health Freedom (AAHF). Formerly known as the American Preventive Medical Association (APMA), it was founded by Julian Whitaker, MD, a former orthopedic surgical resident who decided that “natural therapies” offered a more lucrative career path. Its purpose, as suggested by the standard euphemism, is to convince government of the validity of dubious medical claims through political influence rather than science. The AAHF lobbies heavily for the passage of the annually defeated federal “Access to Medical Treatment” act, which would allow quacks to prey freely on unwary consumers.

The organization has prepared numerous statements favoring the reckless marketing of implausible “health” products and methods, including “emergency petitions” to block the FDA from promulgating regulations of “dietary supplements.” One of these petitions argues against the regulation of ephedra products such as ma huang, which contain dangerous drugs and have been associated with thousands of adverse events, including many deaths, over the past few years. The AAHF has also filed an amicus curiae brief supporting a California lawsuit in which the plaintiffs, parents of a child with brain cancer, seek damages from an oncologist because he failed to recommend “antineoplastons,” a dubious “alternative” cancer treatment backed by neither biology nor experimental evidence.

The list of AAHF sponsors, dubbed “Angels,” reveals the basis for the organization’s lobbying preferences. The top twenty contributors are “dietary supplements” companies and commercial “labs” that market fraudulent tests such as “hair analysis.”

An examination of the Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of the AAHF is equally revealing. In 1999 the President, Murray Susser, M.D., was the chairman of the medical advisory board of Gero Vita International, a lucrative “supplements” company whose bogus claims have been the targets of numerous investigations by the FTC, FDA, U.S. Post Office, and congressional hearings. Susser’s practice, the “Longevity Medical Center” in Los Angeles, “uses Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Nutrition, Chelation Therapy, Heavy Metal Detoxification, Physical Therapy, Stress Management, Weight Management, Oxidative Therapies, and Detoxification Therapy.” Susser’s advertisements suggest that he knows the secret to halting the aging process and that he has “solved the mystery of chronic fatigue syndrome.” In 1995 he was disciplined by the California state medical board for “unprofessional conduct, gross negligence, incompetence, repeated negligent acts, and excessive use of diagnostic procedures.” He paid $15,000 and spent three years on probation. He does not mention this fact in the “professional information” section of his website.

Another member of the board of directors of the AAHF is Woodson C. Merrell, M.D., the Executive Director of the Center for Health and Healing at the Beth Israel Medical Center of New York and a regular speaker at Harvard “CAM” conferences. According to the Center’s website, Dr. Merrell’s “acquaintance with complementary medicine began at the age of one, when a neighborhood doctor cured his croup by placing three pellets of homeopathic aconite under his tongue.” The Center considers itself a showcase for “integrative medicine.” On its website one finds the following: suggestions that autism, ADHD, and learning disorders are caused by routine childhood vaccinations; suggestions that “craniosacral therapy” and homeopathy are useful treatments for these and other diseases; the alarmist claim of ubiquitous but ill-defined “toxins” that is common to naturopaths and other “alternative” practitioners; claims of chiropractic being useful for various visceral conditions, such as PMS and asthma; glowing recommendations of Therapeutic Touch, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and other unlikely or untested methods; and more.

Of the eleven remaining physician members of the two AAHF boards, at least nine advocate fraudulent methods similar to those above, as do several among the non-physicians. Recurring themes are “anti-aging” claims, homeopathy, anti-vaccination hysteria, “immune boosters,” the hawking of “dietary supplements” and other dubious products over the Internet and directly to patients, “detoxification” claims, and the claim that EDTA “chelation therapy” can reverse coronary artery disease by leeching calcium out of atherosclerotic plaques (a well-known form of quackery that has existed for more than 30 years, though lacking in both biological basis and supportive studies).

According to the National Council Against Health Fraud, AAHF founder and board member Julian Whitaker makes $300,000/yr on “chelation” alone). Several AAHF board members have been in trouble with the federal government for misrepresentations of one sort or another [Jonathan Wright, for example]. At least three of the advisory board members have promoted Laetrile, the notorious, illegal quack cancer “remedy.” One of these, pharmacist Earl Mindell, claims to have a Ph.D. from a university that lacks accreditation, a campus, and a laboratory. Another, Robert Rowen, M.D., still recommends Laetrile through the Cancer Control Society, whose website carries the following warning:

CANCER VICTIMS

The Cancer Control Society Does not believe in the Traditional methods of Surgery, Radiation and Chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer by doctors in California hospitals. This treatment is proving to be flawed, ineffective and destructive to the immune system. More and more patients are seeking alternative methods.

It is clear that most of the “health professionals” on the AAHF boards have significant financial interests in dubious products, and several are smarting from having been inconvenienced by regulatory agencies. They seem to have found a sympathetic ear in fellow board member Michael Cohen, J.D., Harvard’s Director of Legal Programs for “CAM.”

The AAHF has several friends in Congress, including Rep. Dan Burton, who fought for the legalization of Laetrile in his home state of Indiana during the 1970s. Rep. Burton has used his chairmanship of the House Committee on Governmental Reform as a bully pulpit for the advocacy of numerous bogus methods, including the aforementioned “antineoplastons” and EDTA chelation “therapy.” The AAHF applauds his sponsoring of a bill that would prohibit the FDA from interfering with the promotion, sale, and administration of agents that, like Laetrile, are both scientifically baseless and dangerous.

According to the course brochure, Rep. Burton was scheduled to give a Key Presentation at the fall, 2001 “Models of Integrative Care: Present and Future” conference in San Francisco. Michael Cohen and fellow AAHF board member Woodson Merrell were listed among the other speakers. The conference was co-sponsored by Harvard Medical School and co-directed by Dr. Eisenberg.

The NCCAM, the Fetzer Institute, ‘CAM’ Hype, and More Conflicts of Interest

Harvard Medical School is the recipient of several grants from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). This organization is a branch of the federal government, so it might come as a surprise to some that its granting decisions are largely based on ideological prejudice. In November 2000, the month that Dr. Eisenberg began his tenure as the representative of the Massachusetts DPH to the naturopathic licensing issue, there were three naturopaths among the 17 members of the NCCAM National Advisory Council. Such representation on a federal advisory board is remarkable, not only because of the naturopaths’ pseudoscientific views (one on the Council is the recipient of an NCCAM grant to study psychic “healing”; another recommends coffee enemas for cancer and multiple sclerosis), but also because of their tiny numbers: there are only about 1500-2000 NDs nationwide. By comparison, there are about 30,000 MDs in Massachusetts alone.

Another member of the NCCAM Advisory Council is Ted Kaptchuk, the Associate Director of the Harvard Medical School CAMRE. Does it seem likely that the Harvard “CAM” project can be publicly critical of naturopathic claims and still hope to receive funds from the NCCAM?

Dr. Eisenberg’s main private funding source prior to Osher was the Fetzer Institute, a promoter of “CAM.” Fetzer funded Dr. Eisenberg’s telephone surveys on the use of “unconventional medicine” by Americans. Dr. Eisenberg and others have used these surveys to exaggerate the real demand for “alternative” methods by over-defining “unconventional,” including within this category, for example, “self-help groups,” “commercial diet,” “lifestyle diet,” “relaxation techniques,” and “massage”; by mentioning rarely-used methods (e.g., acupuncture, homeopathy, and naturopathy: all <1% in these studies) in the same context as common ones, thus inflating the apparent popularity of the former; and by minimizing the distinction between casual self-treatment and the use of practitioners, which are quite different issues. Nor was the conclusion of Eisenberg et al, that “the frequency of use of unconventional therapy in the United States is far higher than previously reported,” accurate. Dr. Eisenberg is also aware of a contemporary study that is much larger and more inclusive than either of his, but that shows far lower rates of use. He cites this study for other reasons in several articles but fails to mention that it disagrees with his own.

Although its website has stated that Fetzer “supports the application of rigorous scientific approaches to these therapies,” it also describes

efforts…underway to assist health care professionals in effectively integrating complementary therapies through continuing medical education courses, survey research on prevalence of use…and a program for producing standardized credentialing…”

The “credentialing program” would seem to further explain what Dr. Eisenberg and Mr. Cohen were doing at the Mass. Special Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medical Practitioners. But what about “integrating complementary therapies,” and why should “prevalence of use” have anything to do with it? Precious few “complementary therapies” have been shown to have any value, certainly not enough to serve as the basis for any course, clinical practice, or “credentialing program.” The statement fails to acknowledge that “integration” shouldn’t even be considered until safety and efficacy have been established.

Another Fetzer publication provides the explanation for this paradox. In his “Overview of Legislative Development Concerning Alternative Health Care in the United States: A Research Project of the Fetzer Institute,” David Sale ponderously concludes:

Given the synergistic momentum that arises from a high level of consumer usage of alternative therapies, the continuing interest of alternative providers in securing professional practice rights, and other patterns of activity in this field, it seems likely that the legislative arena will experience intense pressure in the coming years to accommodate alternative modes of care. If new enactments are predicated on a patient-centered ideal that accords the individual substantial freedom to select a mode of personal care, the interests of health care in the United States would indeed seem well-served.

In other words, let exaggerated popularity trump validity. This, with its attendant financial incentives, is the driving force behind the “CAM” movement. It is reflected in the report of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, currently in its “draft recommendations” stage, which calls for numerous efforts to shoehorn CAM into mainstream health care by increasing “CAM activities” in federal agencies, creating CAM lobbyists within federal agencies, mandating “coverage and reimbursement” for CAM, declaring CAM practitioners to be “primary care providers,” subsidizing their training, and much more.

The chairman of the White House Commission, James Gordon, has frankly admitted that CAM isn’t about evidence. In a recent quotation for The Scientist, he said: “The reason there is as much interest in complementary medicine as there is, is not because of the science. The moving force has been us.” Gordon, a 1967 graduate of Harvard Medical School, is a Fellow of the Fetzer Institute and a member of the advisory board of the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research, John Mack’s “alien abduction” organization. He was a Keynote speaker at last year’s Harvard Complementary and Integrative Medicine course.

InteliHealth

Harvard Medical School is involved in a joint venture with Aetna, Inc., to provide health information to consumers at a website called “InteliHealth.” Aetna describes the mission as follows:

InteliHealth’s mission is to empower people with trusted solutions for healthier lives. We accomplish this by providing credible information from the most trusted sources, including Harvard Medical School

How much trust can InteliHealth’s readers place in Harvard Medical School for information regarding “CAM”? In an article entitled “Finding a Doctor who Understands Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” written by a faculty member of HMS, the reader is advised to find such a doctor at one of two sources: the American Holistic Medical Association and the American College for the Advancement of Medicine. A perusal of a newsletter from the first group reveals that numerous childhood diseases are explained by “toxic load,” “fungal dysbiosis,” heavy metals, immunizations, and zinc deficiency: the same fraudulent, alarming misinformation that naturopaths and many other “CAM” advocates preach. The second source is the organization founded more than 25 years ago to promote quack EDTA “chelation therapy” for coronary artery disease. Is the article’s author, who is not a physician, aware of these facts?

Elsewhere on InteliHealth, with the HMS logo prominently displayed above it (“Veritas”), is a fawning treatise [no longer available in Wayback; the link is to the identical essay] on “naturopathic medicine” that is boilerplate AANP propaganda: “NDs are trained as family physicians”; they “treat the whole patient, not just the disease symptoms”; they “successfully combine so many therapies,” etc. The article suggests that if the reader is already consulting an N.D., she may reasonably choose not to see an M.D. A bibliography entitled “Supporting Research” twists an embarrassing fact: it cites an FDA warning about the unfavorable interaction between St. John’s wort and HIV protease inhibitors, implying that this constitutes “supporting research” for naturopathic claims. In fact, naturopaths have promoted St. John’s wort to HIV+ patients as an antiviral agent for years, without plausible evidence, and continue to do so in spite of this dangerous interaction. How many patients may have developed AIDS or suffered relapses because of this is unknown, because naturopaths don’t look. The FDA warning should have been cited as non-supporting research.

InteliHealth offers similar treatises for several other “CAM” methods, in each case backed by the Harvard logo, and in each case making unsubstantiated claims for efficacy. The following examples are from the homeopathy and chiropractic treatises, respectively:

Conditions that respond well to homeopathic treatment include arthritis, migraines, asthma, eczema, attention-deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, chronic-fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, back pain, gastritis, peptic-ulcer disease, ear infections, and strep infections.

Chiropractic has shown to be effective for acute and chronic low back pain, neck pain, headaches (including migraines), inflammation of the middle ear, digestive problems, menstrual and premenstrual pain, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow and other sports injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, and asthma.

No homeopathic treatment has ever been shown to help any medical condition, and none will, because the basis for the practice is contrary to fact. The great Harvard physician Oliver Wendell Holmes eloquently debunked homeopathy in 1842. All that has changed since then is that we are even more justified, after 160 years of progress in physiology and pharmacology, the discovery of the placebo effect and more, in concluding that homeopathy is nonsense.

Manual therapy may be helpful, in a limited way, for back and neck pain. There is no evidence that chiropractic is effective for any of the other conditions on the list, and no biological basis for predicting that there ever will be. Pediatricians might be alarmed to know that chiropractors claim to prevent and cure otitis media by repeated “adjustments” of the cervical spine, which they recommend even for infants. There is no basis whatsoever for this practice, which has resulted in vertebral artery lacerations and death. Nevertheless, a recent article by a Harvard pediatrician—the director of Boston’s Center for Holistic Pediatric Education and Research at Children’s Hospital—includes a photograph of a chiropractor performing this maneuver on a nine-month old boy. There is no discussion and no critique, only a caption blandly referring to it as “chiropractic care.”

Final note: Several of the InteliHealth articles, including those on naturopathy, homeopathy, and chiropractic, were replaced in March 2002 after this essay was written. The new articles lack some of the more outrageous therapeutic claims but are still misleading. See the accompanying essay on homeopathy for an example.

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Next: Homeopathy at Harvard

 

 

†The Harvard Medical School series:

  1. Dummy Medicine, Dummy Doctors, and a Dummy Degree, Part 2.3: Harvard Medical School and the Curious Case of Ted Kaptchuk, OMD (concluded)

 

 

Posted in: Health Fraud, Medical Academia, Medical Ethics, Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (27) ↓

27 thoughts on “Harvard Medical School: Veritas for Sale (Part II)

  1. DevoutCatalyst says:

    Hmm. Harvard Lite, at Harvard itself.

  2. daijiyobu says:

    Dr. A. wrote:

    “no homeopathic treatment has ever been shown to help any medical condition, and none will, because the basis for the practice is contrary to fact [...] after 160 years of progress in physiology and pharmacology, the discovery of the placebo effect and more, [we're even more justified] in concluding that homeopathy is nonsense [...and] naturopaths don’t look.”

    Well, homeo.s, including naturo.s, don’t let implausibility and nonsense stop them! Naturo.-homeo.s actually label homeo. uberscience

    (see http://www.onlinehomeopath.com/science.shtml ):

    “there are many more factors which make classical homeopathy the most scientific and powerful system of medicine.”

    I’ve been recently reading students’ papers published by the Australian Natural Therapists Association. Here’s a naturopathy student in Victoria [it seems], from her ANTA award-winning paper titled “Vitalism is a Central Concept of All Traditional Health Systems”

    (see http://www.australiannaturaltherapistsassociation.com.au/downloads/bursary/2008/ANTA-Bursary-GretaLeonard-Vitalismcentralconcept%20traditionalhealth%20systems.pdf ):

    “vitalism cannot be measured within the scientific paradigm. This essay accepts that fact [...but] trying to validate naturopathic principles using methods from a completely different paradigm simply does not make sense [!!!...] it does not matter that the theory cannot be scientifically validated [!!!...we'll stick to the doctrine that] a person does not become ill simply because they have come into contact with a pathogen. Rather, disease results from an ‘imbalance in the vital force’ [this essay assumes that nonfact!].”

    Homes once wrote [of course]:

    “science is the topography of ignorance. From a few elevated points we triangulate vast spaces, including infinite unknown details. We cast the lead, and draw up a little sand from abysses we may never reach with our dredges. The best part of our knowledge is that which teaches us where knowledge leaves off and ignorance begins.”

    And one of my often-used quotes is from Popular Science Monthly [1890]:

    “sectarianism comes in whenever the teacher is obliged to say ‘hush!’ to the inquiring scholar who wants his reason satisfied before he will believe [...] sectarian teaching begins when you ask a man or a child to assume what can not be proved, for the sake of keeping within the dogmatic lines that fence round some particular creed.”

    Naturopaths don’t THINK: when an ND talks about what does and doesn’t make sense, now there’s hoot.

    -r.c.

  3. daijiyobu says:

    Dr. A. wrote:

    “no homeopathic treatment has ever been shown to help any medical condition, and none will, because the basis for the practice is contrary to fact [...] after 160 years of progress in physiology and pharmacology, the discovery of the placebo effect and more, [we're even more justified] in concluding that homeopathy is nonsense [...and] naturopaths don’t look.”

    Well, homeo.s, including naturo.s, don’t let implausibility and nonsense stop them! Naturo.-homeo.s actually label homeo. uberscience

    (see http://www.onlinehomeopath.com/science.shtml ):

    “there are many more factors which make classical homeopathy the most scientific and powerful system of medicine.”

    I’ve been recently reading students’ papers published by the Australian Natural Therapists Association. Here’s a naturopathy student in Victoria [it seems], from her ANTA award-winning paper titled “Vitalism is a Central Concept of All Traditional Health Systems”

    (see http://www.australiannaturaltherapistsassociation.com.au/downloads/bursary/2008/ANTA-Bursary-GretaLeonard-Vitalismcentralconcept%20traditionalhealth%20systems.pdf ):

    (continues)

  4. daijiyobu says:

    “vitalism cannot be measured within the scientific paradigm. This essay accepts that fact [...but] trying to validate naturopathic principles using methods from a completely different paradigm simply does not make sense [!!!...] it does not matter that the theory cannot be scientifically validated [!!!...we'll stick to the doctrine that] a person does not become ill simply because they have come into contact with a pathogen. Rather, disease results from an ‘imbalance in the vital force’ [this essay assumes that nonfact!].”

    Homes once wrote [of course]:

    “science is the topography of ignorance. From a few elevated points we triangulate vast spaces, including infinite unknown details. We cast the lead, and draw up a little sand from abysses we may never reach with our dredges. The best part of our knowledge is that which teaches us where knowledge leaves off and ignorance begins.”

    And one of my often-used quotes is from Popular Science Monthly [1890]:

    “sectarianism comes in whenever the teacher is obliged to say ‘hush!’ to the inquiring scholar who wants his reason satisfied before he will believe [...] sectarian teaching begins when you ask a man or a child to assume what can not be proved, for the sake of keeping within the dogmatic lines that fence round some particular creed.”

    Naturopaths don’t THINK: when an ND talks about what does and doesn’t make sense, now there’s hoot.

    -r.c.

  5. DanaUllman says:

    Skeptics of homeopathy love to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes as though he gave a good critique of homeopathic medicine, when, in fact, he was embarrassingly ignorant of the subject. Further, at the time of his authorship of his writing on homeopathy, he had graduated medical school only six year beforehand (he was a medical “adolescent” at the time). And despite his error-filled essay, he never made any corrections in this work despite republishing it several decades later.

    His truly embarrassing understanding of mental health and his blatant rascism are in stark contrast with homeopaths of that day. The vast majority of homeopaths had enlightened views on mental health and were aligned with abolitionists and suffragist of that day.

    Below is a portion from one of my writing that I have written on your hero. I can provide references if desired…enjoy:

    The most famous anti-homeopathy book written in the nineteenth century was by Oliver Wendell Holmes, MD (1809–1894). Called “Homoeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions,” this book was written just six years after Dr. Holmes graduated from medical school. Before Holmes went to medical school, he authored a famous poem in 1830 called “Old Ironside” as well as two articles in 1832 and 1833 entitled “Autocrat at the Breakfast Table” (published in The Atlantic Monthly), which gave him a national reputation as a leading American writer and scholar.

    Although Holmes had become a professor at Harvard Medical School and although he was a respected poet and author, he actually had very little direct experience practicing medicine before he wrote his attack on homeopathy. Dr. Holmes’s essay on homeopathy gained a lot of attention, and today is commonly referred to as a strong critique of homeopathy.

    However, Holmes’s book should actually have been a significant embarrassment to its author and others antagonistic toward homeopathy because it is so full of obvious errors, which authors today still quote as though the book was factual.
    It is amazing to note, first, that Dr. Holmes wrote that the one physician who typifies the American medical thinking and practice of that time was Benjamin Rush, MD (1745–1813), a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the surgeon general of the Continental Army. Dr. Rush was one of the leading advocates of “heroic medicine,” that is, the frequent and aggressive use of including bloodletting, intestinal purging (with mercury), vomiting (with the caustic agent tartar emetic), and blistering of the skin.

    Dr. Rush recommended bloodletting for virtually every patient, and he considered it quackery if a physician did not bloodlet his patients. He even once boasted that he had drawn enough blood to float a seventy-four-gun man-of-war ship (Transactions, 1882).

    Rush was also an advocate of forced psychiatric treatment, which in part explains why his portrait is on the emblem of the American Psychiatric Association. One of Rush’s favorite methods of treatment was to tie a patient to a wooden board and rapidly spin it so blood flowed to the head. He placed his own son in one of his insane asylum hospitals for twenty-seven years, until he died. Rush also believed that being black was a hereditary illness that he referred to as “negroidism.”

    In addition to Dr. Holmes’s glorification of Dr. Rush’s heroic medicine, Holmes had the audacity to call homeopathic medicine “barbaric” because it uses various snake venoms (Holmes, 1891, x). This statement is especially ironic when you consider that one of Dr. Holmes’s most famous quotes (from an 1860 article) was his own critique of conventional medical drugs: “I firmly believe that if the whole materia medica (materials of medicine), as now used, could be sunk to the bottom of the sea, it would be all the better for mankind—and all the worse for the fishes” (Holmes, 1891).

    Dr. Holmes’s primary attack was on the extremely small doses that are used in homeopathic medicine. However, Dr. Holmes had seemingly never read a single book on homeopathy or had any meaningful dialogue with a homeopath because he committed a classic error of calculation. When a homeopathic pharmacist makes a medicine, he dilutes one part of the original substance in 9 or 99 parts water (thus, a 1:10 or 1:100 dilution); the glass bottle is then vigorously shaken approximately 40 times, and then the medicinal solution is again diluted 1:10 or 1:100. Ultimately, to make a homeopathic medicine to the 30X or 30C (X being the Roman numeral for 10, and C for 100, the letter referring to the type of dilution), the total amount of water needed is 30 test tubes of water (considerably less than a gallon of water).

    However, Dr. Holmes got his calculations confused, and he incorrectly assumed that the homeopathic manufacturer had to have 10 times or 100 times more water than in the previous dilution. Dr. Holmes estimated that the ninth dilution would require ten billion gallons of water and the seventeenth dilution required a quantity equal to 10,000 Adriatic Seas. Dr. Holmes could have easily corrected his error if he had simply gone into one homeopathic pharmacy or had a short conversation with a homeopath. Sadly and strangely, Dr. Holmes and other conventional doctors of that era prided themselves on never talking with a homeopath. What is even more ironic is that Dr. Holmes arranged for the reprinting of this article in various books from 1842 to 1891 without changing a single word, despite this and numerous other errors.

    Dr. Holmes explained in his book that the growth of homeopathy was primarily because conventional physicians tended to overmedicate their patients, even though Holmes later wrote that the public itself “insists on being poisoned” (Holmes, 1891, 186).

    Dr. Holmes also attempted to “prove” that homeopathic medicines do not work by quoting a “scientific study.” To do this, Holmes referenced in an 1842 article a study by a Dr. Gabriel Andral, professor of medicine in the School of Paris. Holmes referred to Andral as “a man of great kindness of character … of unquestioned integrity.” Holmes reported on Andral’s experiment on 130–140 patients using homeopathic medicines, and Holmes quoted Andral saying that on “not one of them did it have the slightest influence” (Holmes, 1891, 80).

    Although Dr. Holmes and others have asserted that Andral’s experiment provided strong evidence for disproving homeopathy, it must be noted that later in his life, Andral himself acknowledged the serious problems in his study. Although Andral claimed to have used Hahnemann’s Materia Medica Pura as his guide, he neglected to mention at the time that the book was in German and that he could not read German. One other book by Hahnemann was translated into French at the time of this study, but Andral did not prescribe any of the twenty-two homeopathic medicines in this book for any patients in his study. Even Andral’s assistant for this study acknowledged that Andral did not know how to select homeopathic medicines for patients and that he “excuses his ignorance by saying it was unavoidable” (Dean, 2004, 112).

    Additional evidence of Andral’s complete ignorance of homeopathy was revealed in a review of each of his prescriptions and his use of dosages. He never prescribed any homeopathic medicines for any patient’s unique syndrome of symptoms. Instead, he selected a single symptom of his own idiosyncratic choosing and then guessed at the medicine for it. For instance, his prescriptions of Arnica for one woman with painful menstruation and for one man with tuberculosis were guesses that were not based on any homeopathic textbook.

    Further, 75 percent of the patients were given just one dose of one remedy without any follow-up remedy (Irvine, 1844). If patients were not immediately cured by this one dose, he considered homeopathy a failure and then referred the patient for conventional medical treatment.

    Andral later asserted that he had never formally granted anyone permission to publish his report on homeopathy, and further, by 1852 he had changed his mind about homeopathy and asserted that it deserved close examination by every physician (Dean, 2004, 112). Despite these facts, Dr. Holmes never changed a word of his essay on homeopathy.

    When you consider that Dr. Holmes’s book was considered the best critique of homeopathy written in the nineteenth century, one must rightfully acknowledge that serious or sophisticated criticism of homeopathy at this time was neither rational nor accurate.

    In 1861, Dr. Holmes finally confessed that homeopathy “has taught us a lesson of the healing faculty of Nature which was needed, and for which many of us have made proper acknowledgements” (Holmes, 1891, x, xiii–xiv). However, he still never instructed his publisher to change a word of his previous writings on homeopathy.

  6. Harriet Hall says:

    Pitiful. Instead of offering credible evidence to support homeopathy (because there isn’t any), Dullman resorts to critcizing the critics of homeopathy – and goes back almost two centuries to do so.

    Sure, homeopathy has taught us a lesson of how well the body can heal with no treatment.

  7. David Gorski says:

    Yeah, it is pretty pitiful, but then that’s typical of Dana.

    And homeopathy, which is about as pitiful as it gets.

  8. pmoran says:

    With reference to “the real demand for “alternative” methods” surely of primary interest is their use by persons who are sick or disabled, not by the whole-population samples used by Eisenberg et Al.

    Looking at such data, Eisenberg’s figures substantially underestimate the public’s preparedness to use CAM.

    His approach does highlight one of the fundamental differences between the mainstream and CAM. CAM, with its emphasis upon its supposed preventative skills and a (claimed) holistic approach to medicine sees itself as offering healthier and happier lives for all.

    The mainstream assumes that within wide limits health is the default state of man, so long as readily available advice is followed.

  9. Dr Benway says:

    DanaUllman, we are merely physicians. The people best suited to judge homeopathy are these guys.

    Go talk to them about water-memory.

  10. Dr Benway says:

    Oops. Link fixed here: these guys.

  11. Dr Benway says:

    Statistics on the popularity of CAM are meaningless because the population has been led to believe CAM kinda works. If they knew CAM was bullshit and robbery, it wouldn’t be so popular.

  12. Karl Withakay says:

    Dana
    RE:>>>
    “His truly embarrassing understanding of mental health and his blatant rascism are in stark contrast with homeopaths of that day. The vast majority of homeopaths had enlightened views on mental health and were aligned with abolitionists and suffragist of that day.”

    Not that it’s at all relevant to the question of the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of homeopathy anyway, but you can, of course, provide credible support for the accuracy of these statements regarding the supposed enlightenment of “the vast majority of homeopaths” in Holmes’ time, right?

  13. Dr Benway says:

    Ok, another brilliant plan from me: we all pitch in some cash and hire Brian Deer to expose the NCCAM-vitaminista connection.

  14. DanaUllman says:

    As for memory of water issues, professor Martin Chaplin’s site is comprehensive, with over 2,000 references to various types of studies on water:

    http://www.lsbu.ac.uk/water/homeop.html

    As for Karl’s question, there are many sources that verify this body of information. I have referenced many of these sources in my book, “The Homeopathic Revolution,” and you can access one chapter from this book (the chapter on “Literary Greats” who used and/or advocated for homeopathy) at:

    http://www.HomeopathicRevolution.com

    The transcendentalists, the abolitionists, the suffragists, and the homeopaths were virtually one and the same group of new thinkers/activists.

    For those of you with a literary bent, you will enjoy this chapter.

    I didn’t choose to reference clinical research above because that was not the topic of THIS discussion. Because Kimball brought up Holmes’ name and because Kimball (and others here) love to define guilt by association (even very loose association!), I thought that I would join in on the fun.

    Anyway, I find great humor in the fact that skeptics today champion the ill-informed and embarrassingly unscientific thinking of O.W. Holmes, Sr.

  15. David Gorski says:

    Mr. Ullman might be interested in part III of Dr. Atwood’s series. He features prominently in it. :-)

  16. Karl Withakay says:

    Dana, so you do not have any scientific studies, surveys, or polls of homeopaths from Holmes’ era that you are willing to publicly cite that support your assertion that the “vast majority” of homeopaths of the day were aligned with abolitionists and suffragist of that day, is that correct?

    I didn’t see anything on the page you linked to to support your statement. Perhaps I missed the graphs that showed what percentage of homeopaths were abolitionists or suffragists (or were otherwise somehow aligned with them), and the names of the studies or surveys that data came from.

  17. DanaUllman says:

    I don’t know why my name would be a part of any writing you may do on Harvard. If you are getting your information from wikipedia, you are not standing on firm ground (wikipedia is notorious for not having reliable information). If veritas is your goal, my name should not have any role in an article about Harvard because I have no affiliation with them, and the one short affiliation that I had was one which can be described as extremely tangenial at best.

    As you may know, there is a “conflict of interest” if I tried changing what is written about me on wikipedia, but I did comment about the reference at wikipedia’s biography of me where someone listed my appointment on an advisory board at Harvard. However, I have asked the wikipedia editors to delete that reference because this appointment was for a grant that was never funded. You can verify what I wrote here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Dana_Ullman#Repeated_reverting_of_biographical_info

    Because several writers here love to provide a “guilt by association,” even when the association was quite quite distant, such references to tangential associations show how flimsy of a case you have.

    Such guilty by association is reminescent of Sarah Palin’s efforts to link Barack Obama to terrorists by referrubg to Obama’s “palling around” with William Ayers. You folks would be reaching new heights (or lows) by such trying to emulate Sarah Palin’s tactics (and intelligence).

    You folks have GOT to do better than this if anyone is going to take you seriously.

  18. David Gorski says:

    I don’t know why my name would be a part of any writing you may do on Harvard.

    Then read Dr. Atwood’s post and find out.

  19. DanaUllman says:

    Well, it seems that Sarah Pallin now has a running mate. This is great news for Democrats and the rest of the world…

  20. yeahsurewhatever says:

    “One of these petitions argues against the regulation of ephedra products such as ma huang, which contain dangerous drugs and have been associated with thousands of adverse events, including many deaths, over the past few years.”

    Ephedrine is significantly less dangerous than other commonly prescribed phenethylamines like d-amphetamine. Ephedrine is essentially Sudafed. To argue against ephedrine is to argue against pseudoephedrine. They have practically identical pharmacokinetics. The body mistakes both for epinephrine, to different extents.

    The bulk of these “adverse effects” being attributed to ephedrine are propaganda. I’m not saying the substance is valuable as medicine, but you are choosing your sources badly here. You will find that the bulk of such claims are from studies funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has a vested interest in finding it dangerous since it has a significant potential for abuse. Of course I also wouldn’t say that d-amphetamine is valuable as medicine, despite how often it is prescribed to young children.

    Besides which, the first rule of toxicology is that the dosage makes the poison. So it’s disingenuous to say the substance is dangerous without giving a dosage at which it’s dangerous.

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