Parliamentary Committee on Homeopathy

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The full title should be “The Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee on Homeopathy” but I think that would make the URL unreadable.  The English Parliament (UK Parliament?) has many Select Committees covering all aspects of governmental influence.  The Committees are drawn from all parties and their role is to examine evidence and take expert testimony.  They also take great pleasure in ripping apart MPs, civil servants and suppliers to the government.  Where normal parliamentary business appears to be stage managed and operating off some bizarre codewords and actions, Select Committees are very plain speaking.  Hansard, which publishes parliamentary records, has a list of Select Committee meetings and the records.  Luckily for us, they also provide video records of the meetings.

This Science and Technology Committee meeting was called to hear evidence and submissions on 3 subjects:

  • Government policy on licensing of homeopathic products
  • Government policy on the funding of homeopathy through the NHS
  • the evidence base on homeopathic products and services

It is important that this is done as homeopathy is a widespread industry throughout the UK and, indeed, the world, and because they are not medicines in the same sense as aspirin or antibiotics, they do not have to go through the same testing before being released to the public.  As well, there is lobbying to have homeopathy more widely accepted in the NHS and for funding to be provided for it.  Why is this an issue?  Because many doctors cannot prescribe some more expensive and proven medicines for lack of funding, by having homeopathy accepted alongside real medicines, this will further stretch already limited budgets.

Before we go to the videos, I urge you to go to the following sites:

You will notice that these are not pro-Homeopathy sites.  That is intentional – these are sites that prefer to rely on evidence to prove whether something works or not.  “Bad Science” is written by Ben Goldacre who is a proper practicing doctor and has a real interest in making sure that what is prescribed to his patients is something that will actually help them.

The videos that follow are via YouTube, so if you have problems with them, please go to YouTube itself to view them.  They were uploaded by this user and I have no connection with him/her.  I am linking to the first 3 videos, not because these are the best of them, but just to whet your appetite.  Please continue watching parts 4 – 11 on YouTube itself.

The scientific community has so far only been able to prove that homeopathic medicines are as good as the placebo effect – if you are happy to be prescribed sugar pills instead of actual medicine then good luck to you.  I’d rather use something that actually works.

Evidence Check: Homeopathy – Part 1/11

Evidence Check: Homeopathy – Part 2/11

Evidence Check: Homeopathy – Part 3/11

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Posted on 6 December, 2009, in News, Skeptical Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. I've used homeopathic medicines and they worked. But because homeopathy is far more complex system (according to my doctor) not many people understand or know how to prescribe the right medicines.

    I feel strongly in favour of homeopathy because it's actually helped my uncle live 8 years longer when the regular medical doctors gave him just 1 year to live (due to a weak heart). I don't know how the medicine helped, but that's beside the point. To me it worked and that's all there is to it.
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    • Bearing in mind that homeopathic medicines are water (if in a bottle) and water in pill form, I would have to ask if it was homeopathic or if it was "natural" medicine. You should also be aware that doctors do get it wrong and also that many illnesses have, as their own natural state, a period when people get better with no intervention. This is something that most quack doctors rely on.

      • Agreed. But the doctor who I visit is a close family friend and very trustworthy and he never hides any of the medicines from our view. Also the homeopathic preparations I've seen come in alcohol base with sugar coated little pills or as a powder. I've never yet seen any water based preparation.

        Also I am a strong believer in ayurveda as well, as it's the Indian traditional medicine system based on herbs, natural oils and other spices.

        What I am worried is getting strong unnatural, biologically imbalanced chemicals pumped into my body at too frequent intervals. My personal feeling is that most western medicine is a partly a conspiracy to supply hefty profits to the big pharmaceutical companies who prepare these strong, complex, organic poisonous agents and dub them as "medicine".
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        • Partly? I would go as far as to say almost completely (of course, that's still partly, I guess).
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          • Let's not forget, pharmaceutical companies are in the business of making money. If we happen to get well while they do it, then it's all good! However, the fact that they are big companies means that they are watched closely and this should make it harder for them to get away with things.

            That said, homeopathy is also big business and is worth billions of dollars worldwide. So why shouldn't we watch over them just as closely and hold them to the same standards?

        • This is how you can make a homeopathic medicine –

          (please note, this is not a mockery, it is completely true.) What potencies was your relative taking? How potent do you think it really was? Why are these medicines more expensive than a sugar pill?

          • I think the key here is that potency is not the important criteria in homeopathy. It's quite hard to understand and I guess I don't fully understand it.

            But according to our friend, the key is that it doesn't work the same way as an allopathic agent and that the strength of the dosage has little to do with its effects. There is a lot that science still hasn't discovered. Chemistry is only a part of it.

            I'm not disputing your scepticism which is quite good in view of the current state of science. But still, I don't want to dismiss so-called "unscientific" medicine just because the mainstream hasn't quite discovered how it works and is very prejudiced against it.
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          • The thing about allopathy is that too much will actually kill you. Which is why sleeping tablets and paracetomol are dangerous – too many and you will either die or suffer severe damage to your body. You can quite happily take as many homeopathic sleeping tablets as you like, because they are just water. The only way a homeopathic medicine can kill you is if you drown in it!

            As to the potency, if you take a homeopathic medicine to a laboratory and ask them to isolate the active ingredient, they will be unable to find it. Water does not have memory, otherwise it would also recall when it was acid rain, or the ocean, or sewage water or urine or any of the other things every drop of water does before you drink it.

            Samuel Hahnemann invented homeopathy a couple of hundred years ago – a quote from the link reads "Hahnemann tested substances for the effect they produced on a healthy individual and tried to deduce from this the ills they would heal." which sounds totally backwards to me. And this tells how to make a remedy… The read this article on the reasons why it doesn't work.

            Saying "science can't explain everything" doesn't actually explain anything.

          • Well, all I know is that

            (a) I've seen homeopathy being effective in many cases (and I admit, of no use in others)

            (b) Scientists haven't yet discovered a lot of things and they are groping in the dark when it comes to the difference between what separates living things from non-living things. I would say that knowing the chemical composition of any substance is not the whole picture, otherwise we would have unravelled the mysteries of the DNA long ago.
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          • Homeopathic products are no better or worse than placebos. They appear to be of the same effectiveness. However, one should not denigrate the placebo. The human body can convince itself of many things and even if you tell someone that they are getting a placebo, they will sometimes get better. This is because people want to help – your homeopath is doing something, people are keen to please and don't like to let others down and this can cause the patient to start to heal (or appear to). However, the actual medicine given by a real doctor is more likely to have a good and long term effect.

  2. I'll take the placebo effect, if it helps! Especially for stuff like hay fever. However, real serious stuff needs real serious medicine.

  3. I have used homeopathic medicines and I must say that it helped me!

  4. I would say that knowing the chemical composition of any substance is not the whole picture, otherwise we would have unraveled the mysteries of the DNA long ago.

  5. I don't think just posting a lot of links all over the place to increase the number of links but placing links with relevant text to your site is more important.

  6. owrkout routines

    I am taking the treatment of Homeopathy. It's treatment is slow but really very good. Committee for the Homeopathy is really good. Many people don't know about this treatment. Thanks for this post. keep updating please.

  7. homeopathy needs to be talked about with doctors and patients instead of limiting patients options because most doctors want money from drugs
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