Last night I went to a screening at London’s Curzon Soho of the film JUST ONE DROP (www.justonedropfilm.com), a great new film about homeopathy, which miraculously didn’t get banned or trolled.
This professional, eight-year effort attempted to be quite even-handed, while featuring many compelling and documented success stories.
There was a child with autism who began to speak, make eye contact and connect with his parents only once he’d been treated with homeopathy, with the before and after home videos to prove it. There was a fellow whose MRSA was successfully overcome not by antibiotics but by homeopathy, and who also had the before and after photos to demonstrate it.
There was a parade of medical doctors who haven’t a clue how it works, but turn to homeopathy every day because they have seen for themselves that it can cure all those chronic problems that conventional medicine has no answer for.
But the movie’s real point was all about suppression of evidence. The greatest revelation had to do with the dirty pool employed by the Australian government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), when it decided to assess the effectiveness of homeopathy by reviewing all research that had been done to date.
Except they didn’t. They created all sorts of criteria for whether a study should be included in their assessment (it must have more than 150 patients, for instance, criteria never used by conventional medical science), which naturally eliminated many of the most rigorous studies showing a positive effect.
By the time the NHMRC had sliced and diced some 1800 studies, they were left with just five, all of which had failed to show a positive effect.
Ergo, they concluded, homeopathy doesn’t work.
That conclusion was challenged by Dr. Alex Tournier, the executive director of the Homeopathy Research Institute, and one of the heroes of the film, and members of the Australian Homeopathic Association (AHA), who decided to investigate exactly how this assessment had been conducted.
Rigorous Swiss review
Australia blatantly ignored the work of the Swiss government’s Swiss Network for Technology Health Assessment, which based its decision to allow homeopathy on its National Health system after commissioning a report edited by Gudrun Bornhöft and Peter F. Matthiessen, from both the University of Witten/ Herdecke in Germany and PanMedion Foundation in Zurich.
The Swiss team had comprehensively reviewed all the major evidence for homeopathy, everything from preclinical research to double-blind, placebo-controlled studies and meta-analyses.
After assessing all the available data, the Swiss team concluded that the high-quality investigations of preclinical basic research proved that homeopathic high-potency remedies induce “regulative and specific changes in cells or living organisms”.
Of the systematic reviews of human research, said the report, 20 out of 22 detected “at least a trend in favor of homeopathy”, and five showed “clear evidence for homeopathic therapy”.
The report found particularly strong evidence for the use of homeopathy for upper respiratory tract infections and allergic reactions.
Perhaps most significantly, the report concluded that the effectiveness of homeopathy “can be supported by clinical evidence” and “regarded as safe”.(Forsch Komple-mentmed, 2006; 13 Suppl 2: 19–29).
This type of attempted suppression carries on in the UK, with the latest efforts of Simon Singh, the self-appointed attack dog on all things alternative, who has now mounted a legal challenge with the Charity Commission, claiming that Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) groups should lose their tax-advantageous charitable status in the UK unless they can demonstrate that the therapies they represent ‘benefit the public’.
The Charity Commission says they will only be convinced by ‘robust’ trials that have been published in prestigious medical journals, like The Lancet and British Medical Journal. This, of course, eliminates any second-tier journals or anecdotal evidence.
The CC has yet to acknowledge that the legal challenge is being brought by a member of two charities himself, one of which, Sense about Science, publicly mounted a noisy campaign in the press against the ‘sugar-is-bad-for-you’ argument, until it was discovered that it had taken funding from the likes of Coca-Cola.
The CC has created a short timescale (May 21) for the public to make its arguments. If you value alternative medicine, here’s what to write the CC before the deadline:
Have them check out Retraction Watch, set up to monitor fraud in medical research. In the past five years, they’ve discovered least 300 allegations of fabrication, inaccuracy and plagiarism reported at 23 of the 24 research-led universities the group investigated. Is that what the CC means by ‘robust’?
Ditto, a charity which largely attempts to suppress free speech or freedom of choice in areas to which its founder disagrees. How is suppression of free speech or freedom of choice of benefit to a free society?
Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org Or write: Charity Commission
Re: CAM Consultation
PO Box 211