Why UK should stay in the EU: for the sake of homeopathy

Apr
27
2016
by
thayne
/
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The European Union has waged war against natural medicine in many regards, with Big Pharma-backed directives that would outlaw high-potency vitamins in favour of cheap, mass-produced, low-dose alternatives. But there’s one area of alternative medicine where Great Britain may well want to stick with Europe—and that has to do with a commonsense approach to homeopathy.

The European Union has waged war against natural medicine in many regards, with Big Pharma-backed directives that would outlaw high-potency vitamins in favour of cheap, mass-produced, low-dose alternatives. But there’s one area of alternative medicine where Great Britain may well want to stick with Europe—and that has to do with a commonsense approach to homeopathy.

In late March, the Swiss Interior Ministry announced plans to give five complementary therapies—holistic medicine, herbal medicine, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine and, yes, homeopathy—the same status as conventional medicine. 

Although the Swiss authorities had rejected such a move in 2005, claiming a lack of proof of efficacy, two-thirds of the Swiss public overruled this objection in 2009 by voting for the inclusion of these therapies as constitutionally approved to be paid for by the basic compulsory insurance.

At the time, the government relented by setting up a six-year trial period from 2012 to 2017, during which time it would cover all five modalities if they could prove their “efficacy, cost-effectiveness and suitability” by 2017.

However, last March the Swiss Interior Ministry abandoned this plan, claiming to have come to the conclusion that it was “impossible to provide such proof in its entirety.”

As a consequence, the government decided that the five alternative treatments should be treated on a par with conventional disciplines when it comes to national health insurance coverage—so long as they’re administered by certified medical doctors.

There are a number of possible conclusions to be drawn here. The first is that the Swiss government is tacitly admitting that scientific ‘proof,’ as defined by modern medicine, may not be all that useful. 

Spot the difference

Scientists and conventional doctors often dismiss treatments like homeopathy as unscientific by suggesting that they don’t stack up to conventional medicine when examined according to the ‘gold standard’ of scientific medicine: the randomized, controlled trial (RCT).

But when that standard is applied to both homeopathy and conventional medicine, the results are virtually identical.

Of 104 RCTs carried out with homeopathy up to 2014 for 61 different medical conditions, 41 per cent showed positive results, 5 per cent had negative results and 54 per cent were inconclusive, according to the Faculty of Homeopathy.

With conventional medicine, a 2007 analysis of a large sampling of RCTs across a number of conventional treatments revealed that 44 per cent were “likely to be beneficial”, 7 per cent were “likely to be harmful” and 49 per cent were inconclusive.

This can only mean that (1) either type of treatment only works less than half the time or (2) the RCT is an inadequate means of testing whether something works. As many have pointed out before, the RCT is a broken yardstick with which to measure responses to a drug or treatment in a group of individuals, every one of whom has a unique biological footprint—and so cannot be expected to respond to any given treatment in an identical way.

The second possibility is that the Swiss realize that it’s far better to look at actual outcomes in the real world. Rather than pretending to prove something scientifically, how about actually examining whether real people who receive a given drug or alternative treatment actually get better?

 Better than drugs

Many European countries embrace homeopathy and have integrated it into their national health systems. Studies of German, Swiss and Belgian medical practices find that homeopathy consistently outperforms conventional medicine in terms of patient outcomes, that patients are far more satisfied with homeopathy, that it heals patients presenting with a host of complex problems that mystify conventional practitioners and that it costs about a third less.

 Even in Britain, where the government is threatening to remove the availability of homeopathy from the NHS, studies show that nearly three-quarters of patients who’ve been let down by conventional treatments report positive effects with homeopathy.

 In this regard, Europe is pragmatic when it comes to health issues. It’s less interested in defending a retrograde view of science or even pandering to Big Pharma’s interests, as occurs in the UK, than sorting out patients and keeping an eye on costs.

There’s only one question wor
th answering:
does it work? In the case of homeopathy, the evidence shows, very clearly, that it does. In fact, like a Swiss clock.

Regardless of whether the UK votes to stay in or Brexit the EU, Britain, with its bankrupt and broken health service, would do well to follow the EU’s lead.

thayne

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