Of dirty medicine and double-standards


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.
Suppressed evidence
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.
Questionable conclusions
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.
They discovered:

  • The NHMRC had carried out the review twice, but rejected the first report, which had been carried out by a reputable science – and author of the organization’s own guidelines about how to conduct a proper review. To this day, that report has never seen the light of day.
  • The final study was based on only 176 studies, not 1800, as the NHMRC claimed.
  • Professor Peter Brooks, chair of the NHMR committee conducting the 2015 review, failed to declare that he was a member of the anti-homeopathy lobby group ‘Friends of Science in Medicine.’
  • In violation of the commission’s own guidelines, not a single homeopathy expert was on the committee.

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).
Uncharitable efforts
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:

  • Tell them to read the Swiss report on homeopathy, the most contentious of alternative therapies, which shows very good evidence for it.
  • Demand a level playing field. If they are going to challenge charities for alternative medicine based on scientific evidence, then they need to evaluate Cancer Research UK, Arthritis Research UK and every other charity partly or wholly funded by pharmaceutical companies, an estimated 75 percent of whose research is massaged, manipulated or fabricated.

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’?

  • Ask the CC to apply the same standard to the charities to which Mr. Singh is affiliated. Please ask them to explain how a paid lobbying organization for the sugar industry – a product now agreed by many in the medical community to be a major cause of heart disease, tooth decay and most degenerative disease – can be regarded as ‘beneficial to society’ and deserving of charitable status?

 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 legalcharitablestatus@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk Or write: Charity Commission
Re: CAM Consultation
PO Box 211
L20 7YX

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2 comments on “Of dirty medicine and double-standards”

  1. CAM groups should continue to remain with their Tax charity status. Surely one person can't be counted against all the people who have been helped especially when conventional medicine has failed them. In fact considering most complementary is paid for I think people who use them should be given some sort of tax rebate for saving the NHS system money.

  2. Yet today, corticosteroid injections plus physiotherapy are still the gold standard , they are still conventional medicine …… These treatments are considered conventional medicine ! Why are they still being recommended? There’s a clear double standard .

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