In Defence of Homeopathy

(This is a reproduction of my article published in print media during the Lancet onslaught a few years back. Still relevant because -Absence of evidence is not Evidence of absence)

The renewed and more vigorous attack on the efficacy of homeopathy as a curative therapy picked up by the media is nothing but a sinister pogrom by the powerful pharmaceutical corporations the world over. If one reads between the lines of events leading to this tirade you will find the genesis in a report (reported in the Guardian online) where The Prince of Wales has ordered a leading independent economist to examine whether the use of complementary therapies could save the NHS money.
A leaked draft of the report’s conclusions said ’’economy-wide’’ savings of between £500m and £3.5bn could be achieved by offering spinal manipulation therapies, such as chiropractic therapy, as a standard NHS option for back pain, according to the Times.
The report also claims up to £480m could be cut from the prescription drugs bill if 10% of GPs offered homeopathy as an alternative to standard drugs, according to the paper.
In addition, £38m could be saved by switching 10% of depression patients to St John’s Wort, a herbal remedy.
This report is the cause of major worry for the pharmaceutical industry. And they reacted instantly by criticizing the Prince for this secret study (

Prominent U.S. scientists strongly rejected findings on homeopathic medicine to be published on August 27, 2005, edition of the Lancet. “Shang et al. have successfully applied a methodological approach to the articles they reviewed that is highly suitable for drawing conclusions about conventional medicine but is incomplete in evaluating homeopathic medicine. They did not include criteria that would apply to high-quality homeopathic research reflecting the nature of homeopathic practice. Such criteria include consideration of the quality of the homeopathy provided”, said Iris Bell, M.D., Ph.D. “Furthermore, a single remedy selection for a given conventionally-diagnosed condition is not homeopathy, yet there are numerous conventionally-judged high-quality studies that were so designed. The analogy would be to test the effects of penicillin for all patients with symptoms of an apparent infection. The quality of the studies would otherwise be excellent in design. However, penicillin will not work for patients with viral infections or bacterial infections resistant to its effects or for persons with fevers from other non-infectious causes – and it thus might show benefit only for a subset of patients with symptoms of infections, i.e., the ones with true penicillin-sensitive infections. How would penicillin fare in a meta-analysis of studies designed to ignore the intrinsic nature of penicillin in benefiting patients”, said Bell.

Joyce Frye DO, MBA commented that the study’s authors seemed to begin their work with a bias. “While their analysis clearly showed effects of homeopathic treatment – they found ways to disregard those. Out of the millions of trials in conventional medicine, their primary outcome relied on the comparison of ridiculously small numbers--8 trials of homeopathy and 6 trials of conventional medicine. They began their work with the assumption ‘that the effects observed in placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy could be explained by a combination of methodological deficiencies and biased reporting’. Sound research is not conducted from this starting position.”

Among other topics, the Lancet challenges the plausibility of homeopathic effects given that homeopathic remedies are often administered in dilutions in excess of Avogadro’s number. Dr. Rustum Roy, a Ph.D. distinguished material scientist from Penn State University commented that the chemistry argument made in this study and by conventional medicine, in general, is false science. “The underpinning of the editorial content of the Lancet as it relates to homeopathy relies on a quaint old idea from the nineteenth century that the ONLY way that the property of water can be affected or changed is by incorporating foreign molecules.

This is the Avogadro-limit high-school level chemistry argument. To a materials scientist, this notion is absurd since the fundamental paradigm of materials-science is that the structure-property relationship is the basic determinant of everything. It is a fact that the structure of water and therefore the informational content of water can be altered in infinite ways”

The Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence. There is every possibility that answer lies somewhere in the new sciences like Quantum Physics and Material-Science both of them are in their infancy and man has got a lot of learning to do.
Some time back Press Trust of India (PTI) report published in a newspaper informed that the electronic division of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has developed a novel instrument ‘medical analyzer’ capable of giving physiological parameters with variations in large numbers and recording autonomic response of the body with homeopathic medicines in higher dilution.

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