Friday, August 26, 2005

Why study homeopathy----

when it has no physiologic or pharmacologic plausibility in the first place? This is a distortion of evidence based medicine which takes empiricism to an extreme. Straight from the Doc, Medpundit and Medicine and Man have already pointed us to the Lancet article on the subject.

This overview from Homeowatch outlines the field’s history and states that homeopathy was harmless compared to prevailing nineteenth century conventional medical practices, a fact which drove its popularity. It points out the utter irrationality of the theory, which is that a “spirit like essence” remains behind in the water even after all molecules of active substance have been diluted out.

Total lack of biologic plausibility is one reason not to bother to study homeopathy. Another reason, as has already been pointed out by the other bloggers, is that the adherents won’t believe the studies. At least some don’t believe a randomized placebo controlled trial is the proper methodology.

If you want to debunk something, rather than spend all that money on studies, why not just call Randi the magician?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think this post http://homeojunction.blogspot.com/2006/09/why-homeopath-potentised-their.html given in http://homeojunction.blogspot.com/ is very useful for the beginners who don't know much regarding Homeopathy.

Justin said...

Don't most cancer chemotherapy drugs work on a homeopathic mechanism? Hmmmmm?

R. W. Donnell said...

Justin,
I know of no chemotherapeutic agents that are purported to work on a homeopathic mechanism.

Interesting blogs, by the way.

Justin said...

Oh, come on doctor, you are being disingenuous. You know as well as I do that most cancer chemotherapy agents work by homeopathic principles.

Just so we are on the same page, here is CancerWeb's medical dictionary definition of homeopathy:

The art of curing, founded on resemblances; the theory and its practice that disease is cured (tuto, cito, et jucunde) by remedies which produce on a healthy person effects similar to the symptoms of the complaint under which the patient suffers, the remedies being usually administered in minute doses.

I hope that is acceptable to you. Now I ask, how is it not homeopathic, in principle, when you administer a mutagen to treat a mutation?

Justin said...

PS: For that matter, vaccines are also based on homeopathic principle.

R. W. Donnell said...

The last phrase in your Cancer Web definition alludes to the principal feature of homeopathic remedies. Essential to the theory and practice of homeopathy is that serial dilutions of the "like" substance lead to progressive increases in therapeutic potency due to a force left behind in the water. In classical homeopathy no molecules of the original substance remain. Neither chemotherapeutic agents nor vaccines are produced in such a manner.

Justin said...

The first phrase in the definition is the principle feature of homeopathic remedies. The last phrase contains an operative word you missed, the word usually.

I see what you are doing now. You are using your own strict definitions of what things are instead of those who are advancing their theories or the rest of the world. You are doing kind of like the magical creationists who oppose evolution theory; you make the rules that they have to live up to, you define what they are saying instead of them, and if they manage to do that, you simply change the rules. You think that your skepticism makes you good at science. Skepticism is necessary for good science to work, but not to the extent that it paralyzes creative thought and stagnates current knowledge.

R. W. Donnell said...

Justin,
Do you have access to the homeopathic materia medica? I must confess I haven't examined it directly. I've only read *about* it. From what I've read, I'd wager all the remedies described therein are produced by the serial dilution/increased potency method. But, again, I haven't seen it. I'd be interested in finding it, or some other primary source that might help us clarify our disagreement (friendly, I hope) on what homeopathy actually is.

Justin said...

I don't have direct access to their documentation of any sort. I only have at my disposal what is in the public domain. My understanding from reading such information is that their primary hypothesis and the typical way they prepare their remedies are two different things. The primary hypothesis is what they call the Law of Similars, or like cures like. They usually prepare their remedies by the serial dilutions, but that is like saying that the philosophy of medicine that you and I use is defined by the fact that we often injure people (injections) to treat them. That is not our primary philosophy, just a means to achieve our primary philosophy. Interestingly, from what I've read, the guy who came up with the whole concept of homeopathy did so because he noticed that, at least to him, quinine produced similar symptoms as malaria. Now, we all agree that quinine treats malaria, it's just how it treats it that they disagree with us on. I have my own serious doubts about homeopathy as well, but the basic philosophy of like cures like is present in both cancer chemotherapy drugs and vaccines. That, in addition to the fact that they contributed the idea to us that you use the minimum amount of a drug necessary to produce the desired effect. Remember, it was just a little over 150 years ago that allopathic medicine was of the belief that calomel, quinine, other purgatives and laxatives as well as bleeding were the treatment of choice for virtually everything. They believed that if a little is good, a lot is better. Now we look at that as total quackery, but that's what they had when homeopathy came about, and it was homeopathy that helped change that idea, even if much of their ideas are no longer scientifically relevant. So, don't be so quick to reject the basic idea that like cures like, unless you are ready to reject part of modern allopathic medicine. The serial dilution until statistically no active substance is left in the diluent is obviously false, as well as the vital force ideas, but I think with treatments like Zicam (not that I think Zicam is effective), they are moving away from that as well.

R. W. Donnell said...

Well, it looks as though we agree that the vital force theory is false. What we disagree on is what the definition (or the essential claim) of homeopathy is.

Although you and I may have to "agree to disagree" on that point, before I do any more homeopathy bashing I'll re-examine the claims from a variety of sources. The last thing I want to do is erect a straw man.