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Homeopathy – Failing Randomized Controlled Trials Since 1835

I’m sad to say that this is the last day of World Homeopathy Awareness Week.  We’ve tried to give homeopathy its due honor, providing it the attention its practitioners clearly desire, while continuing to cover pertinent news in the world of homeopathy and providing a somewhat more sober, rational discussion of it on our homeopathy reference page.

Of course, most of this has not been news in the literal sense of the word.  There hasn’t been anything truly new in homeopathy since its invention (no, not discovery; discovery implies that something actually exists to be found) by Hahnemann in 1796.

Well, perhaps that’s not quite fair.  As our knowledge of reality (medicine, pharmacology, chemistry, physics, etc) has steadily improved, homeopathy’s plausibility has dwindled to the point of being indistinguishable from the roundest of numbers (0).  And I suppose the recent contortions of logic, abuses of legitimate science, and pure magical thinking put forth to protect homeopathy from the relentless assault of science are far more impressive than that laid out by Hahnemann.  So that’s news of a sort.

There’s also homeopathy’s long and rich tradition of abject failure in randomized controlled trials to consider.  The overwhelming mountain of evidence showing homeopathy to have no effect beyond placebo is impressive and definitive.  That’s data Hahnemann didn’t have, so that’s news too.

Each of these properly conducted studies and analyses demonstrates the scientific method’s utility to help us understand reality and protect us from our own delusions, but frankly, at this point they are about as exciting and useful as proving that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning.  News?  Not so much.

Nuremberg’s Less Famous Trial

I found myself wondering how far back this trail of negative trials goes; how long we’ve been having the identical argument.  Pubmed’s earliest mention of homeopathy was in 1906, and the first RCT I found in its database was in 1980.  However, the oldest double-blind RCT of which I found record was conducted in 1835 in Nuremberg, Bavaria, and subsequently described in an editorial in 2006 entitled “Inventing the randomized double-blind trial: The Nuremberg salt test of 1835.” Though the trial has its flaws, it was of sufficient quality to satisfy my historical curiosity with a thoroughly depressing answer: 175 years.

The local physicians and public health officials of Nuremberg held an understandably dim view of homeopathy, and as it gained popularity in Nuremburg they became more vocal, and more public, in their opposition:

Von Hoven accused homeopathy of lacking any scientific foundation. He suggested that homeopathic drugs were not real medicines at all and alleged homeopathic cures were either due to dietetic regimens and the healing powers of nature, or showed the power of belief. He called for an objective, comparative assessment by impartial experts. If, as he expected, homeopathic treatment proved ineffective, the government would need to take drastic measures to protect the lives of deceived patients.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Nuremburg’s resident homeopath Karl Prue’s defense should as well:

[Prue] pointed out that even children, lunatics and animals had been successfully cured. Based on Hahnemann’s assertions, he challenged Wahrhold/von Hoven to try the effects of a C30 dilution of salt on himself. The odds were 10 to 1, he claimed, that his opponent would experience some extraordinary sensations as a result – and these were nothing compared to the much stronger effects on the sick.”

Eventually a trial was designed and agreed upon by both parties to test the effect of a 30C dilution of salt.  The trial design was surprisingly good, as it was:

  • Randomized: participants had an equal chance of being in either the control or experimental group
  • Controlled: participants not given the experimental therapy were given an indistinguishable and inert placebo
  • Blinded: participants didn’t know if they received the homeopathic dilution or placebo
  • Double-blinded: the experimenters didn’t know which participants received the homeopathic dilution or placebo, as the placebo and homeopathic dilution were prepared and the vials containing them randomized and coded by people independent from the experimenters.
  • Well Powered: the trial contained enough participants so that if, as Prue claimed “the odds were 10 to 1… to experience some extraordinary sensations” that it could detect a difference between the two groups.
  • Transparent: The design, hypothesis, methods and outcomes were agreed upon beforehand and explained in detail to all participants, conducted publicly (in a literal Pub in fact; these people were full of good ideas), results were published quickly, and any deviation from protocol was acknowledged.

Of the 54 people they managed to enroll, 50 completed the study three weeks later by reporting what, if any, “extraordinary sensations” they had experienced following ingestion of their vial.  5 people reported sensations in the homeopathic group, 3 in the control, which was statistically insignificant.  Homeopathy had failed the first of many RCTs.

I am not putting this trial forward as the final (though perhaps it could be considered one of the first) nail in homeopathy’s coffin.  The trial design had areas of potential bias, most notably that the symptoms which qualified as “extraordinary” are not well defined (though a glance at the homeopathic proving of “Natrum Muriaticum” or “table salt” provides some insight into this particular problem), and the fact that it relied upon participants to honestly report all symptoms; a hostile or imperceptive set of participants could easily confound the study.  Nevertheless, on the whole it was solidly designed and executed, particularly when one considers that this is one of the first double-blind, randomized controlled trials ever documented.

Time To Move On

Here we are in 2010, 175 years after the first of legion negative RCTs of homeopathy, yet it persists with the same tired old arguments.  Is there anything to gain from investing more time, money, resources, and ignoring the highly dubious ethics of subjecting human subjects to a trial that has no hope of benefiting them or humanity, just to prove one more time that homeopathy is an utter failure?  No, and here’s why.

I look at the current debate surrounding homeopathy, and I see three primary groups.  The first accepts the last two centuries of scientific progress and evidence and concludes that homeopathy is a delusion unworthy of further study.  They don’t need another trial.

The second believes in homeopathy in spite of the gargantuan volume of evidence; further evidence will do nothing to change their minds.  They don’t need another trial.

The final group is comprised of people who are unaware of the nature of homeopathy or the evidence that already exists.  This final group requires exposure and education; they require World Homeopathy Awareness Week (SBM edition).  They don’t need another trial.

Posted in: Homeopathy

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79 thoughts on “Homeopathy – Failing Randomized Controlled Trials Since 1835

  1. lizditz says:

    What an excellent, and elegantly-written, coda to the week.

    But oh dear.

    Group #2 really does want to rewrite reality to suit their beliefs. From a comment on my blog

    I feel it is time for a more advanced research model. The truth about Homeopathy lies in a research model which disables it to be proven effective or ineffective. I have seen it work with myself and others even before I believed in its ability to function.

    As a side note, I have a sister with learning difficulties. Her life and learning ability has been changed significantly through Homeopathy. For me, when I saw the change in her so quickly. I was a believer in homeopathy. Once the scientific research model catches up to Homeopathy, it will be shown. However, I decided I could not wait that long to help people.

    I followed the link over to this person’s blog, who elaborated:

    We simply need more time, funds and a more advanced method of scientific testing in order to show the scientific efficacy of Homeopathy. It is almost impossible to test such an individualized method on a grand repeatable scale within the specified perameters of current research method.

    As for the time being, we can see through case studies and personal experience that Homeopathy works. If you require the scientific evidence for proof, it is only a matter of time.

  2. ZenMonkey says:

    I absolutely credit skeptics, including SBM, with educating me about homeopathy. I was in your latter group years ago, although the only remedy I ever took was oscillococcinum. I stopped taking it only because it became clear that it wasn’t making any difference (same with echinacea). However, it wasn’t until I started reading and learning about skepticism several years ago that I learned what a crock homeopathy really is.

    So I can at least personally attest that your efforts produce results, and I would like to thank you very much for that. And if I can just get my mother to stop taking oscillo, you can take credit for helping to convert a member of group two as well.

  3. geneocide says:

    Just wanted to alert people that don’t regularly read comics to the news that Scott Adams seems to be participating in Homeopathy Awareness Week. http://dilbert.com/2010-04-16/

  4. David Gorski says:

    Nice! Even i wasn’t aware of that Nuremberg “trial.” Of course, being a World War II buff and intensely interested in combatting Holocaust denial I tend to pay attention to the more famous Nuremberg trials.

  5. Great post, Dr. Albietz, thank you. I really enjoyed the historical perspective. It fascinates me how far back good trial design goes! This “let’s just test this” idea has been around for a while now.

    I believe the first known experimental trial in medicine was a test of scurvy cures (including the one that worked, lemon juice, and several that didn’t, such as a potent emetic, bloodletting, and other fun stuff). The story is fascinating, as told in Stephen Brown’s excellent book, Scurvy: How a surgeon, a mariner, and a gentleman solved the greatest medical mystery of the age of sail.

  6. DanaUllman says:

    GIGO! To the max.

    While this early trial was a worthy design for a clinical trial, it had absolutely NO external validity. It does not matter how well a trial is designed if the medicine tested is NOT made correctly or if it is not the correct medicine for the patient.

    This trial is akin to giving everybody who is sick “penicillin” and if it doesn’t work, it proves that ALL conventional drugs don’t work. Yeah, this trial was THAT bad.

    Did anyone read the article to which the above blog referenced? Did anyone notice that this “scientific experiment” took place in a tavern?

    Did anyone notice that the skeptic who designed the experiment made the medicine himself, and did anyone notice that there is reference to dilution and NO reference to succussion (the process of shaking the medicine in-between dilutions).

    Did anyone notice that the medicine was not being prescribed for any specific ailment?

    It is so so interesting that people here provide detailed critique of experiments that have any positive effect from a homeopathic medicine, but then, you all go deaf-dumb-and-blind whenever really really stupid trials are conducted that have a negative result…and then, silence happens and no critique is provided.

    “How convenient,” said the ChurchLady and anyone else with half-a-brain.

  7. weing says:

    Dana,

    Methinks you’ve been drinking too many shaken martinis. It’s just water anyway. I thought the point was to see if anyone could tell the difference between water and a homeopathic preparation (water). How do you know the guy making it didn’t have Parkinson’s?

  8. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Dana:

    Location doesn’t matter – blinding, randomization and controls do. Not all science is done in hospitals, universities and research laboratories, some is done in the field, in schools, in hotels, in the streets. Sometimes these locations are chosen because of their higher external validity – and indeed, provings are conducted with lengthy durations and in the real world because you want to see how the preparation impacts people in the real world (according to the disordered, contradictory and incoherent theory of homeopathy).

    Also, this is probably more like a proving than a treatment – but why would homeopathy only be effective as a treatment? Why would medication only make you better but not be able to make you worse? The placebo effect does suggest an explanation (though of course there is also the nocebo effect). I’m sure terms like “information” and “resonance” could be thrown about, but like I’ve asked before (and received no answer on), are the comparisons between well-ordered structures required for information and resonance appropriate? How is the information conveyed? What receives and interprets the information? How is energy transferred to cause resonance? How is the energy released in such a way that the vibrations do not cancel each other out?

    If homeopathy represents something real, something beyond the placebo effect, something biological that is more than just the recipients’ beliefs, it should be easy to show, particularly after two hundred years. The field should cohere, should converge on a set of mutually-agreed on principles. It doesn’t seem to have done so. Even controversial theories have been proven and agreed on over time when the evidence mounts and becomes both clear and unavoidable – and again this has not happened. Why not, if homeopathy is scientific, real, effective, powerful and based on physics (as some assert)?

  9. DanaUllman says:

    Wow…I did just a little research and now have confirmed that Dr. Albietz is either being totally disingenuous or simply totally daft.

    The FIRST reference in the primary article to which he obtained information about this trial was:
    Kaptchuk TJ. Intentional ignorance: a history of blind assessment and placebo controls in medicine. Bull Hist Med1998; 72:389 -433.

    Dr. Albietz neglected to mention that Kaptchuk noted that this “trial” was not conducted by a physician or a scientist but by a “journalist” and that the atmosphere sees to have resembled a “seance” more than a sober scientific experiment. I wonder if Dr. Albietz was simply testing people here to see if they would do their homework…and the skeptics lose again (no one did, except you-know-who).

    If one wants to make reference to the first randomized double-blind clinical trial in history, here it is:

    http://www.jameslindlibrary.org/trial_records/20th_Century/1940s/brit_homeo_soc/brit_homeo_soc_commentary.html

    If anyone has an earlier study, show us all.

    As for other early experiments, see:
    J R Soc Med. 2010 Jan;103(1):34-6.
    Comparative evaluation of homeopathy and allopathy within the Parisian hospital system, 1849-1851.
    Dean M.

  10. Scott says:

    Dr. Albietz neglected to mention that Kaptchuk noted that this “trial” was not conducted by a physician or a scientist but by a “journalist” and that the atmosphere sees to have resembled a “seance” more than a sober scientific experiment.

    Utterly irrelevant. The methodology is what matters, not the profession of the organizer or the “atmosphere.” Do you have any criticisms of the actual methodology?

    And your entire first post is completely irrelevant, as it was not a TREATMENT but a PROVING. A completely classic homeopathic proving, in fact. One which demonstrated that the symptoms upon which homeopaths so happily rely to determine what to use the “cure” for had NOTHING AT ALL to do with said “cure!”

    GIGO indeed; the trouble is, the GI is what homeopaths base their practice on.

  11. BKsea says:

    In my opinion, the argument against homeopathy is simple (without even getting into the science and trials): 1. If homeopethy works, it would be very easy to provide definitive evidence. 2. If definitive evidence existed, some people would get very very rich (like big Pharmaceutical company rich). The fact that the very very rich homeopaths do not exist implies the corollary that homeopathy does not work.

  12. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @Dana

    I have to echo Scott on this – the whole point of science is its methodology. Discounting on the basis of who did something is ad hominem. Who does an experiment can be important because of fraud and bias, interpretation, statistical and other analyses, but that is why independent replication, convergence and experimental refinement are important. But ultimately you have not criticized the methods in such a way that we can doubt their approach (though we can suspect fraud – but given this well-controlled study has the same results as other similarly well-controlled studies there’s not much reason to suspect it). Objecting that the study was performend in a tavern or by a journalist is like objecting because the study was performed in a Red/Blue state by a Democrat/Republican. With good studies it doesn’t matter who does them, or where. Witness PMID 9533499, performed by Emily Rosa.

    You may have done a bit more research Dana, which is laudable, but your criticisms do not show awareness of the importance of methodology. May I suggest Snake Oil Science by R. Barker Bausell (ISBN 978-0-19-531368-0)? He does a good job of explaining why controls are important, and how to design a good study of a modality where placebo effects are thought to be important.

    For the importance of methodology and many issues in methodology regarding homeopathy specifically, I must again point to Homeopathy: How it ReallyWorks by Jay Shelton (ISBN 159102109X).

  13. Lawrence C. says:

    Thank you for the historical perspective. Homeopathy’s consistent failure in experiments and trials of every kind is the most impressive thing about it. Few other concepts have been able to prove themselves so utterly dismal for so long. To steal a few words from an old song, homeopathy does seem to be its own “Barnum & Bailey world, just as phony as it can be.”

  14. DanaUllman says:

    If (!) this was a valid experiment, please show me (and any serious scientist) how many times did the “drug manufacturer” (the journalist) succuss the medicine? Tell me how many doses he gave to each subject.

    It is true that a journalist can conduct a good trial. My assertion is that there is no evidence that HE did so.

    There are Lies, Damn Lies, and Really Damn Lies (statistics are just thrown in for “spin”).

    Please do your homework better next time.

  15. Dave Ruddell says:

    If (!) this was a valid experiment, please show me (and any serious scientist) how many times did the “drug manufacturer” (the journalist) succuss the medicine?

    See, Dana is just pointing out the problems. They didn’t complete the ritual properly, therefore, there’s no way that the magic could have worked…

  16. suspended judgment says:

    Dana
    Before suggesting that others are daft or disingenuous, you should reflect on your own position. To this point you have offered no meaningful support for the efficacy of homeopathic “treatments”, nor have you elaborated on the proposed mechanisms by which such treatments function.

    If you want to be taken seriously you need to address the questions put to you by WilliamLawrenceUtridge across several forums here on SBM. Evading such questions suggests that you cannot answer them.

    Science based discussions should focus on theory and data, not personal attacks.

  17. weing says:

    I think this is one of the better studies of homeopathy that I have ever read. Most of the others are much worse than this.

  18. ps says:

    Did anyone notice that the skeptic who designed the experiment made the medicine himself, and did anyone notice that there is reference to dilution and NO reference to succussion (the process of shaking the medicine in-between dilutions).

    Yet…

    Following a widely publicized invitation to anyone who was interested, more than 120 citizens met in a local tavern. The minimum number needed to proceed had been fixed at 50. The design of the proposed trial was explained in detail. In front of everyone, 100 vials were numbered, thoroughly shuffled and then split up at random into two lots of 50. One lot was filled with distilled snow water, the other with ordinary salt in a homeopathic C30-dilution of distilled snow water, prepared just as Reuter had demanded: a grain of salt was dissolved in 100 drops of distilled snow water and the resulting solution was diluted 29 times at a ratio of 1 to 100. Great care was taken to avoid any contamination with allopathic drugs. The two pharmacists in charge had taken two days off before the experiment. They had taken a bath and they used new weighing scales which had not even come close to an allopathic pharmacy.

    Special Pleading – Rationalizing Homeopathic Belief Systems Since at least 1835

  19. Scott says:

    In other words, Dana’s now been reduced to arguing that the homeopaths involved must have been incompetent.

  20. Draal says:

    Dana, Why can’t I buy a super cure-all homeopathic remedy that is a combination of a whole bunch of separate homeopathic remedies?

  21. Lawrence C. says:

    Draal wonders:

    “…Why can’t I buy a super cure-all homeopathic remedy that is a combination of a whole bunch of separate homeopathic remedies?”

    Indeed! And if such a super-cure-all could be made available, why not put a few hundred gallons in the municipal water supply and cure everyone of everything?

  22. Draal says:

    It’s not like homeopathic remedies haven’t been combined before (see Canova drops). Why sell so many when just 1 super mix could cure all?

  23. moderation says:

    Mr. Ullman,

    I have never seen anyone propose this … it seems so simple:

    I assume that if as you say increasing dilution increases strength … here is MY challenge … you make a homeopathic preparation that will produce an obvious measurable effect … and I will drink one gallon of it a day for the next week and then once and for all we will see the power of homeopathy for what it is. I am sure I can get some other voluteers to join me in this challenge. Besides, my wife is always telling me I don’t drink enough water.

    (I posted this on an earlier entry, but noticed the discussion had moved to here)

  24. MC says:

    Regarding further research I found on hpathy.com (which I assume by the motto “Homeopathy for everyone” that they are on the pro-homeopathy side) this same article published with a glaring difference… at the bottom they have scans of what is the original programme for this trial along with translations.

    According to this source:
    “7.Potentiation is done entirely in the manner that Dr. Reuter indicates on p. 11 of his writing against Dr. Wahrhold.”
    Which would indicate that the mixture was prepared exactly as the homeopath wanted. So IF the solution was prepared incorrectly that would be the fault of the homeopath rather than the trial. This might be able to be verified by reading the 7th reference to the article but it’s in german.

    http://hpathy.com/homeopathy-scientific-research/inventing-the-randomized-double-blind-trial-the-nuremberg-salt-test-of-1835/

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=JZs_AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Sendschreiben+an+Dr+E+Fr+Wahrhold+als+Erwiederung+auf+dessen+Schrift+%E2%80%98Auch+etwas+%C3%BCber+die+Hom%C3%B6opathie&source=bl&ots=LdRuJMMFNa&sig=LVSKE5lAQrQ-s7m-Xssm-orKmQI&hl=en&ei=bOHIS7rIJIbGsQO64bGYCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Also according to the original article:
    “Various (allopathic) pharmacists and physicians conducted individual tests, following Reuter’s indications. Then it was decided to stage a larger-scale trial. It remains uncertain who took the initiative for this, but it was probably von Hoven and the circle of physicians around him. They were supported by George Löhner, the owner and editor of the daily Allgemeine Zeitung von und für Bayern, who later compiled the trial report. Löhner had no medical training but his newspaper had repeatedly carried polemical attacks against homeopathy.”
    Which would suggest that the journalist was supporting the pharmacists and physicians rather than conducting the trial.

    However due to the original authors extremely poor referencing we don’t know which of his references this came from. But if someone reads German they could check on google books…

    http://books.google.ca/books?id=Fds8AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Die+hom%C3%B6opathischen+Kochsalzversuche+zu+N%C3%BCrnberg&source=bl&ots=4rZc-i_COq&sig=yQ3RjSgOVjckYoIJBpqNoZy65dM&hl=en&ei=pNbIS5O2CYvYsQOk5uiXCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CAoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

    According to the article the correct criticism is:
    “Most participants seem to have opposed homeopathy, and if they wanted to discredit it, they could do so simply by reporting that they had not experienced anything unusual.”
    Which is a very legitimate concern. But I think this article is of more historical interest than definitive proof of anything.

    Oh and one more thing from the article:
    “Based on Hahnemann’s assertions, he challenged Wahrhold/von Hoven to try the effects of a C30 dilution of salt on himself. The odds were ten to one, he claimed, that his opponent would experience some extraordinary sensations as a result—and these were nothing compared to the much stronger effects on the sick.”
    Which is probably why “the medicine was not being prescribed for any specific ailment? ”

    PS. sorry for the lack of fancy quotation blocks and hyperlinks, this is my first time commenting and … well “it’s my first day”

  25. DanaUllman says:

    Oh yeah…shaking a solution is a “ritual,” seemingly unnecessary? I think not…any Science 101 student will acknowledge that shaking and/or stirring is essential to MANY phenomenon. To call it a “ritual” is clever way to critique but doesn’t ring true.

    Once again, I ask where does this “study” say that a specific number of doses were given to each subject? It does not…and therefore, it means that just ONE dose was given to each person. I hope and assume that none of you are really saying that THIS study, as a “homeopathic drug proving” (that is, the experiment to determine what symptoms a substance causes) can be done with just ONE single dose of a homeopathic medicine.

    One could do a “well-designed” trial, but one VITAL and important design flaw could invalidate the entire thing…such things happen all of the time.

    This type of “experiment” was just like James Randi’s “experiment” on the BBC and 20/20. I debunked that story thoroughly…and as yet, no one yet has defended these studies as “replications” of any study ever conducted:
    http://www.homeopathic.com/articles/view,55

    AND for a wider body of additional evidence, review some of these articles:
    http://www.homeopathic.com/articles/by_category.jsp?id=37

    That Randi “study” was evidence for “junk science” and “junk journalism” together.

    How cute…you all have to ask me your own questions…as you diligently avoid acknowledging that there IS a body of several hundred clinical trials and many more numbers of basic sciences…and YES, there are basic sciences and clinical trials that have been replicated.

    You will soon get a chance to see my coauthored review of clinical trials using homeopathic medicines for respiratory allergies. You will be intrigued to find that we show how many “high quality” clinical trials published in “high impact” journals have consistently found significant results.

    In the meantime, please review my writings here…and I encourage you to carefully review the many references provided:

    The Case FOR Homeopathic Medicine: The Historical and Scientific Evidence
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/the-case-for-homeopathic_b_451187.html

    Homeopathic Medicine: Europe’s #1 Alternative for Doctors http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/homeopathic-medicine-euro_b_402490.html

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/home.The Amazing Story Of Charles Darwin And His Homeopathic Doctoropathic-medicine-euro_b_402490.html

    I hope some of you will be intrigued by my politics:

    When Militarism ‘Invades’ Medicine…Doctatorship Happens http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/when-militarism-invades-m_b_352676.html

  26. Maz says:

    I’m pretty sure BKsea just torpedoed homeopathy with a though experiment

  27. Wolfy says:

    moderation:

    that sounds like an interesting idea. but i’d be careful where you get your water. . .i just took a pee in long island sound and the whole thing turned yellow ;)

  28. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Hi Dana,

    Now, I’ve had a bit of wine, but I still think I can make a cogent response. Please forgive me if I make a significant error.

    It is to a certain extent true that the methodology section may be inadequate by modern standards. There are two ways to see this – perhaps the section was inadequate and the materials were succussed adequately but not documented. Certainly understandable since this was at the inception of science, scientific medicine, and the recognition of how important the documentation of a research protocol is. This is a reasonable assumption, since succussion is an important part of homeopathic theory and the involved parties would probably want to agree on how the materials were prepared. You can possibly shed some light on this – when was succussion introduced into the practice of homeopathy? From my readings (again, in Homeopathy: How it Really Works) it was Hahnemann himself who introduced the practice, due to the perceived increased effectiveness of the remedies after being agitated in his saddlebags while riding his horse to clients’ houses. So, that would seem to predate this trial, ergo would probably have been part of how the preparations were, ahahaha, prepared.

    Alternatively, perhaps they did not succuss the remedies, which would certainly be an oversight. However, were I to do something similar, even as an amateur I would shake or mix it at least a little, just to ensure the drop was diluted through the whole solution. Again, a reasonable assumption that some sort of mixing (stirring, succussing or shaking) occurred. Another “however” for you though – scientific exploration and theories are necessarily exploratory, develop over time, and rely just as much on negative as positive evidence. So the worst that could be said of this trial, from more than a hundred years ago, is that given the known research protocol (testing homeopathic preparation, at worst lacking a single step in the process of making a homeopathic remedy) it has been demonstrated that homeopathic preparations may be ineffective if not succussed properly. A reasonable conclusion given the preliminary nature of the research.

    Of course, this is all to a certain extent, irrelevant. The conclusion of the scientific community is based on the body of evidence rather than a single study. This one is of historical interest, but its conclusions, whether you take into account or do not the possible limitations of the description of the methodology, are almost totally irrelevant given the whole body of knowledge. The strongest conclusion possible is that this study corroborates and agrees with the larger body of well-controlled trials that support homeopathy being nothing more than a placebo. The weakest conclusion possible based on your criticism is that homeopathic proving is ineffective if proper protocols for succussion are not followed. Which in no way invalidates the idea that the best experimental tests conducted in the succeeding decades demonstrate that homeopathic preparations are no better than placebo at treating symptoms or diseases.

    Intellectual honesty means we should acknowledge the possibility of both possibilities, as well as the total body of knowledge. I’ve done my part. I’ve conceded that your point may have a merit, when appropriately contextualized. Can you grant us the same courtesy and acknowledge that there is a possibility homeopathy is a placebo? Further, that there is actually a significant body of evidence and theoretical reasons why people might think this? And finally, there is a substantial body of evidence against homeopathy working in the form of our current understanding of biology, physics, chemistry, math, philosophy of science, etc. and that the implications of this does not make us closed-minded, but rather cautious? A reasonable caution at that?

    Wow, I typed long enough to sober up…

  29. DanaUllman says:

    William,

    It IS the body of evidence that I base my strong confidence in the power and benefits of homeopathic medicines. It is my knowledge of history, basic science work, clinical studies, cost-effectiveness studies, outcome studies, consequetive case history evaluations, veterinary experience, and personal and direct experience that leads to assert that homeopathic medicines have an effect beyond the placebo.

    By the way, that Hahnemann story about carrying his medicines in his bags on a horse is part folklore. If you didn’t know it, Hahnemann was one of THE most esteemed chemists and pharmacists of his day…and he was so scholarly, he himself translated thousands of pages of leading medical and scientific texts of his day. His own handbook was THE leading guide for apothecaries of that time. As such, chemists/pharmacists are known to stir things.

    Part of the additional history to the making of homeopathic medicines is that Hahnemann actually employed blacksmiths to succuss the medicines. So, YES, vigorous shaking IS necessary…and today, it is all mechanized.

    One therefore cannot assume that this 1835 study followed THIS procedure unless they said that they did this…and still, even with this problem, the bigger problem is the use of just a single dose (in homeopathic experience, it is only a small percentage of people who would respond to it).

    Finally, once again, no one (!) is defending the junk science study with James Randi…and with Randi’s recent global warming gaffs, he is losing it.

  30. squirrelelite says:

    Dana,

    I think the key words in your comment are confidence and assert.

    You can have all the confidence in the world and assert whatever you want. But, until the effectiveness of homeopathy beyond a placebo can be demonstrated and replicated, I doubt if even the NCCAM is going to spend much money or time trying to figure out how it “works”.

    What is your best example, what are three pubmed referenced studies that show consistent results, and why didn’t the British Government think those results were good enough?

    Oh, and if Hahnemann was such a leading chemist, why didn’t I read about him in Isaac Asimov’s The Story of The Elements? It wasn’t very long before his time that Lavoisier discovered oxygen and a lot of important elements were discovered in the nineteenth century, but I don’t remember Hahnemann discovering any of them. What major chemical process did he discover or improve on? (besides adding lots of water and shaking it up)

  31. MC says:

    How odd, I posted a link earlier to a site that has scans and a translation of the original protocol for this trial, but it appears to be in moderation limbo…. perhaps due to the links.

    Anyways, it basically says that the preparation of the solution was to follow guidelines created by the homeopath. To see what the process was you can do a google book search for:
    Sendschreiben an Dr. E. Fr. Wahrhold als Erwiederung auf dessen Schrift
    It should be on page 11.

    Oh and you also need to be able to read German.

  32. Wolfy says:

    “Hahnemann was one of THE most esteemed chemists and pharmacists of his day…and he was so scholarly, he himself translated thousands of pages of leading medical and scientific texts of his day.”

    Perhaps he was, but the esteemed pathologist Rudolf Virchow, who made many contributions that are still followed in modern medicine, believed that evil humors were the cause of childbed fever. So even the most esteemed scientists and thinkers can have implausible and silly ideas.

  33. Telum says:

    Wouldnt a 30C dilution of salt be [b]more[/b] pure than the placebo?

  34. Anarres says:

    My german is very poor :( but there is a detailed account:

    Die homöopathischen Kochsalzversuche zu Nürnberg

    http://books.google.es/books?id=Fds8AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Die+hom%C3%B6opathischen+Kochsalzversuche+zu+N%C3%BCrnberg&source=bl&ots=4rZc-m3BOm&sig=JfLOmXIh-OBcjcn0MWK9tvcx1Hk&hl=es&ei=BIbJS9uJBcKa-AbjkYDxBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CAoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Maybe someone can find -and translate- the answers concerning the protocol -Programm- they followed.

  35. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Dana:

    If you base your knowledge on the evidence, how do you account for the consistent finding that the best-controlled studies tend to find no effect aside from placebo? History, cost-effectiveness, case histories, and personal experience are all, as everyone reading this blog knows, of little if any use when evaluating efficacy of interventions with strong placebo effects. The placebo effect is powerful, and the reason there is an insistence in such stringent controls is that the processes of homeopathy (an elaborate ritual, a lengthy discussion with the patients, longevity, subjectiveness, pill-based remedies, prescriptions, etc) work to maximize it.

    Regarding basic science, I have repeatedly asked what the basic science is – you mentioned “information” and “resonance”. How is the information conveyed? What recieves the information? What resonates? What ensures that the frequencies actually resonate and do not simply cancel each other out?

    You are the only person to bring up James Randi by the way, he is not discussed on this page.

    Another question – can homeopathy kill? Can one overdose? Why or why not?

    @Telumon

    Purity is a bit of a myth – everything has impurities in it. The purest substance in the world is silicon used in certain computers, with at least one non-silicon molecule per million silicon molecules, and that’s using the cleanest, most advanced manufacturing techniques possible (which homeopathy does not use). Even the glass vials that homeopathic preparations are prepared in will leach molecules into the water. One objection of homeopathy is that you are unable to separate the possible and alleged effects of the remedy in the water from the possible and alleged effects of the water.

    All from Shelton, Homeopahty: How it Really Works. Excellent, excellent book.

  36. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @Dana again:

    “…the bigger problem is the use of just a single dose (in homeopathic experience, it is only a small percentage of people who would respond to it).”

    But that’s what happened – a small percentage of people did respond to it (5 in the homeopathy group, 3 in the control, 10 and 6% respectively), which from a statistical point of view, are not different. If this is a 30C remedy, wouldn’t we expect a much larger difference than that, given how “powerful” it is? How do you account for the 3 people in the control group who showed symptoms? Wouldn’t you expect to see more people showing symptoms?

  37. JMB says:

    “Finally, once again, no one (!) is defending the junk science study with James Randi…and with Randi’s recent global warming gaffs, he is losing it.”

    I defended it in previous posts on other threads.

  38. Draal says:

    Anyone else looking for entertaining information on Dana Ullman and his abuse of WikiPedia can be found here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DanaUllman#More_Ullmans
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Homeopathy#DanaUllman_banned

  39. overshoot says:

    In other words, Dana’s now been reduced to arguing that the homeopaths involved must have been incompetent.

    Of course they were. They didn’t have the benefit of 175 years of developments in quantum qi theory, meridian geometry, reiki technology, etheric biochemistry, atomic fractionation, etc. There’s simply no way that the so-called homeopaths of the 19th century could have gotten anything right. It’s as absurd as expecting people from back then to be able to predict eclipses.

  40. BillyJoe says:

    ““Finally, once again, no one (!) is defending the junk science study with James Randi…and with Randi’s recent global warming gaffs, he is losing it.”

    I defended it in previous posts on other threads.”

    Not to derail, but that would have been difficult.

    Don’t get me wrong, Randi is excellent in his field which is debunking paranormal claims, but he is relatively science illiterate. I would not rely on him for information about AGW (or evolution for that matter considering his fail on this topic during the last year or so)

  41. Charon says:

    @Dana: “It is my knowledge of history, basic science work…”

    Seriously, go away. You’re a moron. I say that as a basic scientist, and someone who teaches the history of science. Your rationalizations make no sense, you have no evidence, and you’re name-dropping someone who lived before atomic theory as an expert in chemistry.

    Go. Away.

  42. squirrelelite says:

    @overshoot,

    If Hahnemann’s knowledge of physics and chemistry had been as great as Dana asserts, he might very well have been able to predict eclipses.

    Dana’s old stomping grounds at Wikipedia notes that:

    A total lunar eclipse occurred on December 8, 1573.
    It was predicted and then observed by a young Tycho Brahe at Knutstorp Castle. He said “I cannot but be very surprised that even at this youthful age of 26 years, I was able to get such accurate results.”[1]

    That was 200 years before Hahnemann.

    And, physlink points out that:

    http://www.physlink.com/Education/AskExperts/ae22.cfm

    the Danish astronomer, Olaus Roemer, who, in 1676, first successfully measured the speed of light. His method was based on observations of the eclipses of the moons of Jupiter (by Jupiter).
    Roemer’s estimate for the speed of light was 140,000 miles/second, which is remarkably good considering the method employed.

    (It was about 25% too slow, which is actually pretty good since it was based on visually observing the eclipses in front of and behind Jupiter and recording the time from a mechanical clock.)

    And that was 100 years before Hahnemann.

  43. squirrelelite says:

    Also, a lot was being learned about atomic theory in Hahnemann’s time.

    Antoine Lavoisier formulated the law of conservation of mass in 1789. The mass of the product(s) is equal to the sum of the masses of the reactants. Actually, for an exothermic reaction the mass is slightly less. This is where the energy comes from, but the difference is too minute to measure with 18th century equipment.

    Joseph Louis Proust came up with the law of definite proportions in 1799. This states that when broken down into its constituents, a substance will always have the same proportions of those chemicals regardless of where it comes from. So salt has one unit of sodium and one unit of chlorine regardless of whether it comes from the Dead Sea, the Salton Sea, or the shores of Ireland. (Since natural salt is really a mixture of different salts, the quantities of those might vary.)

    John Dalton expanded on this to develop a real atomic theory and the law of multiple proportions. That is, if two elements form multiple compounds, then the ratios of the elements in the different compounds will be ratios of small integers. For instance, Dalton used Proust’s study of tin oxides to show that one oxide had one tin atom combined with one oxygen atom while the other had one tin and two oxygens. This work was published in a paper in 1805 and discussed more thoroughly in a textbook in 1808.

    And, of course, Amedeo Avogadro in 1811 hypothesized that “Equal volumes of ideal or perfect gases, at the same temperature and pressure, contain the same number of molecules.”

    All of these were contemporaries of Hahnemann and, if he had been a real working chemist, there results would have been hot news. The actual value of the Avogadro number wasn’t calculated until 1865, but the basics were right there.

    But, sometimes you can’t even get a horse to drink homeopathic water. Or, as Sherlock Holmes might have observed a few years later, “it’s elementary, my dear Samuel!”

  44. overshoot says:

    squirrelelite: the lab called. Your sarcasmometer is overdue for recalibration.

    I’m quite aware of the ancient (as in, Babylonian) success in calculating eclipses. Consider that the Jewish calendar has been unchanged for more than two thousand years and won’t need correction for several thousand more.

    Alas, it would take Dana lifetimes of work to get Hahneman’s “science” up to that level.

  45. squirrelelite says:

    One other little tidbit:

    James Randi certainly got plenty of egg on his face over his first comment on global warming in December and he has no claims to scientific credentials.

    However, when the problems with the petition his first comment were pointed out to him, he had the intellectual integrity to promptly post a correction/retraction:

    http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/806-i-am-not-qdenyingq-anything.html

    where he noted:

    ” I do not deny the finding of GW. AGW, to me, is less clear, though I accept that it is likely true. ”

    That is in marked contrast to the behavior of Dana Ullmann when his errors are pointed out!

  46. squirrelelite says:

    Oops! In the last comment, I intended to say “the petition his comment was based on”.

    overshoot:

    I agree. My sarcasmometer definitely needs a new battery.

    Still, I thought it might be useful to provide a little historical context for some of our readers less versed in scientific history.

  47. ps says:

    Dr Albietz’s excellent article makes the point that for supporters of Homeopathy “… further evidence will do nothing to change their minds. They don’t need another trial…”

    For real-world examples of how belief trumps even negative personal experience, the forums of abchomeopathy.com provide a fascinating insight into a system where even years of failure somehow pass muster. Considering that the service is given for free, the respondents are probably quite sincere in believing the advice that they offer these self-described “patients” will help them.

    Many of the posts follow the same format; “try this, report in x days”, when that fails it’s “try that, report back in y weeks”, if still not resolved, it’s “try the other, report back in z months”. For self-limiting conditions, the Homeopath invariably scores a win.

    However, for an insight into the years of misery that accompany a more serious condition, we have examples such as the following: http://mail.abchomeopathy.com/forum2.php/179780/

    The stunning difference is that sCAM adherents consistently trumpet even minor setbacks as failures of SBM. Yet in the world of super-concentrated ultra-potent magic-water, their patience is quite astounding.

  48. JMB says:

    @BillyJoe

    “Not to derail, but that would have been difficult.”

    At first, I couldn’t discern what DanaUllman was being snarky about, because Randi made only one real scientific statement in his video (the calculation of the amount of water a person would have to drink to ingest one molecule of caffeine after serial dilution). I specifically asked DanaUllman to specify what statement was pseudoscience. He never responded. I followed his posted URLs, and it referred to an email from Professor Ennis criticizing the methodology of an experiment for the BBC Horizons program. According to the article on water memory in wikipedia, that experiment for the BBC was supervised by Professor John Enderby, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Bristol. It was designed as a double blinded test of Professor Ennis’ experiment. James Randi was invited to put up his 1 million dollar prize money if the results of Professor Ennis could be reproduced, and he agreed. The original results were not reproduced, and Randi kept his money. James Randi had nothing to do with the science of the experiment, he just put up the prize money.

    When DanaUllman repeated his statement using slightly different wording, “no one (!) is defending the junk science study with James Randi” ( as opposed to, “no one is defending the primary evidence that James Randi asserts” in another thread), then I figured he was referring to the BBC experiment. I had addressed his criticism of that experiment in the thread under Randi’s video, but he seemed to be ignoring my previous response.

    I am not defending Randi’s scientific vigor, although I can’t see much error in this posted video. I am defending Professor John Enderby’s scientific vigor. He doesn’t need my defense (his credentials weigh a tonne compared to my straw weight), but I responded to the challenge by DanaUllman.

    I am hoping DanaUllman will bring up resonance or information again, because I went back to refresh my memory on information theory, entropy, and quantum mechanics. I need a chance to correct a previous error in a post.

  49. mdcatdad says:

    The most concise critique of homeopathy I’ve read is:

    “If water has memory, homeopathy is full of shit” (copied from an Australian magazine, The Skeptic)

  50. Happy Camper says:

    @Draal

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DanaUllman#More_Ullmans
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Homeopathy#DanaUllman_banned

    Well it would appear that Dana is not capable of playing well with others and following rules of conduct. What I find interesting is the accusations of meat/sock puppetry. I first became aware of D Ullman by his posts on Huff Po and found that his most strident supporters appeared there at the same time and comment to his blogs only. In fact one person did admit to multiple user names and upon reviewing previous comments did show a history of sockpuppetry. I also believe he got into trouble with wikipedia over an edit of “child abuse” trying to include modern medicine.

    @JMB

    “At first, I couldn’t discern what DanaUllman was being snarky about”
    It would appear that Dana’s modus operandi is to make smart ass ad hominem attacks (throwing in a strawman or non sequitur) and then ignore replies to his original statements as if they don’t exist. He acts as an internet bully expecting those he put down to look foolish and go away. Its quite juvenile actually.

    What I haven’t figured out is if Dana is nothing more than a confidence man or a real true believer.
    Another thing I haven’t figured out is just why is he posting in places where he has virtually no chance of picking up converts and every chance of being made a fool. A bad marketing strategy if you ask me.

  51. MmeZeeZee says:

    Love the post. A fascinating glimpse into the history of science!

    “The fact that the very very rich homeopaths do not exist implies the corollary that homeopathy does not work.”

    This is not true. The proposition, “If something is effective, people selling it will become rich” is false. You can only get so rich selling hydrogen peroxide, but it is extremely effective for some things. Same goes for baking soda, bleach, etc. This is because some things cannot be patented or their patents have expired. Other things may be extremely effective and patented but culturally unacceptable. For example, there are a number of patents for improved keyboards that would allow people to type faster, but these have not been adopted for cultural reasons.

    I am not trying to suggest that homeopathy is therefore effective. I personally would sooner take a placebo. However your argument doesn’t hold water.

  52. Mojo says:

    @Dana;

    “Did anyone notice that the skeptic who designed the experiment made the medicine himself, and did anyone notice that there is reference to dilution and NO reference to succussion (the process of shaking the medicine in-between dilutions).”

    According to the account of the trial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine the test was suggested by a homoeopath, and the medicine prepared according to his instructions.

    “Dr. Albietz neglected to mention that Kaptchuk noted that this “trial” was not conducted by a physician or a scientist but by a “journalist…””

    While the trial was supported and reported by a journalist it seems to have been conducted by a group of physicians.

    “Once again, I ask where does this “study” say that a specific number of doses were given to each subject? It does not…and therefore, it means that just ONE dose was given to each person. I hope and assume that none of you are really saying that THIS study, as a “homeopathic drug proving” (that is, the experiment to determine what symptoms a substance causes) can be done with just ONE single dose of a homeopathic medicine.”

    There is certainly no mention in the description of the trial of a single dose. In fact, it states that the participants were given numbered vials to take away with them. This would not have been necessary if they had taken a single dose, which could have been taken there and then.

  53. mjranum says:

    Why is it that we have this elaborate regulatory agency that’s supposed to protect us against exactly this kind of thing? And why do they do nothing? Why do we have medical professionals who know this stuff is bullshit, but do nothing? Why do hospitals tolerate it, and even offer it on their bill of services?

    I know these are somewhat rhetorical questions, but – as a consumer of medical services in the US – I feel like I am being let down by the regulators that should be regulating this, and by the doctors who should be giving patients good, unambiguous, advice. It strikes me that the system is corrupt – top to bottom – and I think doctors and hospitals need to shoulder their share of the blame. The fact that there are a few medical professionals who are willing to wring their hands in despair is a good start but – seriously – this stuff doesn’t work and being “open minded” amounts to participating in a lie.

  54. cloudskimmer says:

    Can anyone explain how to tell the difference between a vial of distilled water and a 30C dilution of a homeopathic substance? Suppose someone working in a factory making homeopathic medicines mixed up boxes of vials. Is there any testing method which would distinguish one “remedy” from another or a “remedy” from distilled water? What would that testing method be? I’m looking for something other than giving the “medicine” to someone, since that would be unethical, and wouldn’t it be damaging to give a sick person the wrong “medicine” for their ailment?

  55. Harriet Hall says:

    cloudskimmer,

    If the test you describe existed, it could easily win Randi’s million dollar prize.

  56. Happy Camper says:

    Cloudskimmer

    Now it’s been many years since I worked in a lab (a saltwater analysis lab no less) but our old atomic absorption spectrometer could detect up to about 1/10,000,000,000 depending on size of the sample. My report would name the machine and it’s sensitivity and would state a null result and that substance X was not detectable. I’m sure there is far more capable machines out there but the chances of ANYTHING being present past 23c is next to imposable so why try.

    If the product have to be disposed of would it be hazardous waste?

  57. Happy Camper says:

    that’s impossible…….sorry

  58. Draal says:

    @Happy, 23C = 10^46 from 23 dilutions of 1 to 100; 100^23 = 10^46.

    It’s not only the dilution that is “important” but it involves succession (banging each dilution 100 times on a table).

  59. Draal says:

    Dana would rather sell books and supplements than compete for Randi’s $1,000,000 prize.

  60. Happy Camper says:

    Draal

    Will a paint shaker do?

  61. DevoutCatalyst says:

    Say, Dana, how’s that homeopathic hair loss remedy working out for you?

    http://www.homeopathic.com/images/people/ullman200_0907.jpg

    Just teasing,,,

  62. MC says:

    Has anyone ever tried to dilute something without stirring or shaking the solution?
    You don’t have to be a master chemist to know it’s important, anyone who has made a CARNATION® INSTANT BREAKFAST can tell you that.

    Interestingly the article refers to George Löhner (the journalist) as having no medical training, but the german documents all refer to a Dr. Löhner.

  63. qetzal says:

    cloudskimmer asks:

    Can anyone explain how to tell the difference between a vial of distilled water and a 30C dilution of a homeopathic substance?

    I’ve been wondering the same thing. The major homeopathic manufacturers (like Boiron) claim they make their “medicines” according to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Well, GMP requires that you test your ingredients to be sure they’re not contaminated, and you test your final product for potency. How do they do that, I wonder? How do they tell the difference between the pure, uncontaminated water they use for the dilutions, and the final product they sell to their victims, er, customers?

    I guess homeopathy must use a “special” version of GMP, just like its “special” version of physics.

    MC asks:

    Has anyone ever tried to dilute something without stirring or shaking the solution?
    You don’t have to be a master chemist to know it’s important, anyone who has made a CARNATION® INSTANT BREAKFAST can tell you that.

    Right. Next time you make your Instant Breakfast, take one drop of it and add it to a fresh cup of milk. Shake it up good. Then do that again another 10 times in a row. Since potency goes up with each dilution, the last batch should be the sweetest, most chocolatey stuff you have ever tasted in your life. Ought to blow your mind, right?

    Or maybe it should do the opposite of what it did at high concentration? So it will be really sour or something? Either way, it’s bound to be REALLY strong.

    Why don’t you try it and report back on how well it worked?

  64. Todd W. says:

    @cloudskimmer

    Not only do the tests you describe not exist, but homeopathic remedies are exempt from federal regulations with which real medicine is required to comply. Tests like strength and identity of active ingredient. They are exempt from including an expiration date on the packaging. They are exempt from alcohol content limits. They also do not need to go through clinical trials to prove safety and efficacy. Sounds lovely, no?

  65. Todd W. says:

    Sorry, I should have included a link to the FDA’s guidance document on homeopathic “remedies”.

    @qetzal

    Regarding contamination, they can test to make sure that there are not any substances in the final solution that are not supposed to be there. However, for a 30C solution, they would not be able to distinguish the final product from a vial of the solution without the active ingredient ever added.

  66. qetzal says:

    Todd W.

    Thanks. I have some experience with the drug regs, but I’d never seen an official FDA statement explaining how homeopathic stuff could meet std. GMPs. In case anyone else is interested, here’s a quote from Todd’s link:

    Section 211.165 (Testing and release for distribution): In the Federal Register of April 1, 1983 (48 FR 14003), the Agency proposed to amend 21 CFR 211.165 to exempt homeopathic drug products from the requirement for laboratory determination of identity and strength of each active ingredient prior to release for distribution.

    Pending a final rule on this exemption, this testing requirement will not be enforced for homeopathic drug products.

    Very sad.

  67. Todd W. says:

    @qetzal

    Homeopathic nonsense was grandfathered into the regulations, as it was around and quite popular before the FDA was ever established. Basically, any substance listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the U.S. is recognized as an approved substance for use in homeopathic preparations. I’m not entirely up to snuff on how new substances are introduced, but homeopathic concoctions have their own special treatment by the regulations. Lots of exemptions. If they were treated like real medicine, they would never make it through the approval process.

  68. weing says:

    Never mind being able to tell the difference between the homeopathic medication and water but how do they prove that homeopathic meds differ from each other at those dilutions?

  69. Draal says:

    Opium was around before the FDA. So was cocaine (in Coca-Cola). So grandfathering isn’t the main reason why the FDA doesn’t regulate it.

  70. Todd W. says:

    @Draal

    True. The lack of side effects (since it’s just a placebo) and lobbying efforts also played a role. But needless to say, homeopathy was grandfathered into the regulations.

  71. Todd W. says:

    I would add that the grandfathering of homeopathy is similar to the grandfathering of medical devices before the medical device amendments added regulations specific to devices. Any medical devices that were marketed before the amendments did not need to go through clinical trials and all the requirements for obtaining a PMA until such time as FDA got around to actually taking a close look at the devices and declaring them to be Class III or significant risk Class II devices.

  72. wertys says:

    Perhaps in trying to decry the standards of German rural doctors in the early 1800′s Dana (HCIB) should reflect upon Justinius Kerner, a German poet-physician (not many of them around any more !) who discovered botulinum toxin in 1822 and predicted it would be effective for treating diseases due to muscle overactivity. Trouble was it took science until the 1970s to get it into a usable form for clinical purposes, and Kerner’s vision was eventually realised, albeit perhaps in a form he might not have recognized or approved of !

  73. Mojo says:

    @cloudskimmer

    Can anyone explain how to tell the difference between a vial of distilled water and a 30C dilution of a homeopathic substance?

    @weing

    Never mind being able to tell the difference between the homeopathic medication and water but how do they prove that homeopathic meds differ from each other at those dilutions?

    There is a method. It was described by Kate Chatfield, senior lecturer in homeopathy at the University of Central Lancashire, and representing the Society of Homeopaths, in evidence given to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology in February 2007:

    Q538 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.

  74. Happy Camper says:

    Dana’s back at it AGAIN!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/how-scientific-is-modern_b_543158.html

    If quacks could fly Huffington Post would be an airport.

  75. squirrelelite says:

    Happy Camper,

    That study sounds familiar. I’m pretty sure that Dr Gorski or Dr Novella responded to it in a blog post a little while ago, but I couldn’t find it in my searches.

    Does anyone have the link to that blog?

  76. Happy Camper says:

    A recent post from Orac on the Respectful Insolence site after being informed about the Huff Po blog.

    “Target acquired. Insolence activated and aimed at HuffPo. Attack to begin as soon as possible.”

    I’m absolutely gobsmacked at the amount of steaming amount woo and bad advice dumped at HP in the name of health (Oh that’s “wellness”……sorry)

    Orac can say it much better than I can, stand by.

  77. squirrelelite says:

    Thanks, Happy Camper

    I noticed that this morning, too, and read a little of it.

    The previous post that he referenced is probably the one I was thinking of.

  78. norrisL says:

    To give Samuel Hahnemann his due, the accepted medicine of his day was not great. But his legacy of homeopathy is well documented as being garbage. My concerns re homeopathy are for the poor suckers who believe in the effectiveness of homeopathy and as a result miss out on receiving adequate medical treatment for their illness, whether that be a minor or perhaps potentially fatal illness. My other concern is that, while I am sure that there are homeopathy practitioners who believe in what they do, I know from personal experience that there are others who know that what they do is a crock, but do it anyway because it is an easy income.

    I am sad to report that there are members of my profession (veterinarian) who push their hogwash onto susceptible pet owners. The garbage that these people come up with is amazing. Here in eastern Australia we have a major problem with paralysis ticks. These nasty little suckers are far more dangerous than their US counterparts and cause the death of numerous animals each year. People have also been killed by these ticks. I attended a seminar on ticks in about 1996 and a well known homeopath stood up and said that co-enzyme Q10 will cure tick paralysis. Now, come on! Successful treatment of tick paralysis involves giving intravenous tick serum made from the blood of hyper-immune dogs. This serum is full of antibodies whose job is to destroy the tick toxin. In addition, a vast array of supportive therapies is required to keep the patient alive. IV fluids are necessary as these animals cannot drink (swallowing muscles paralysed, so therefore nil by mouth as any food or water is at great risk of going down the trachea). But, if we even slightly overdo the IV fluids, the cardiomyopathy will lead to pulmonary oedema. And so on it goes.

    And this idiot thought she was going to save these poor suffering animals with co-enzyme Q10.

    Several years ago the Australian Veterinary Association tried to shut down the special interest group known as the Australian Holistic Veterinarians (http://www.ahv.com.au/). Unfortunately, the AHV vets are a passionate mob, as crazies tend to be, while the non AHV vets were a little less passionate and so the number of AHV vets attending the Annual General Meeting of the AVA outnumbered the other vets and so the motion was defeated.

    My feeling is that vets in Australia (and in all other countries) who wish to use homeopathy should be forced to hand back their veterinary degrees to the universities from which they graduated, and also their registration with their governing bodies, so that they can then advertise themselves freely as the witch doctors that they are. But not call themselves vets!

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