The Rise and Fall of Militant Skepticism
A Google search for homeopathic skeptics will return information on Stephen Barrett, Edzard Ernst, Skeptics in the Pub, Simon Singh and the magician and illusionist James Randi, among others. A Google search for skeptics blogs returns a site URL (among others) for a skeptic who tells you how you can "fix" the Wikipedia entries. It just so happens that the Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales is not a fan of homeopathy and wants to "stop it." An advantage for the skeptics? Ah, so far that's a no. (1, 2)
The skeptics have tried to discredit homeopathy since Hahnemann's time. The medical establishment and its member practitioners and scientists, along with the press, had a field day attacking Hahnemann and his patients. I think the same skeptic types are recruited and involved today. Despite their efforts then and now, according to the World Health Organization, homeopathy has grown in popularity and is the second most used health care system worldwide. Are the skeptics failing? Let's consider the facts.
1. Health care consumers have not been convinced that "real drugs" (versus "sugar pills") are a better option, especially when there is the continued publicity of class action law suits and the withdrawal of drugs because of adverse side effects, including death even years after they were FDA approved and on the market. And then there is the over prescription of antibiotics giving rise to new drug resistant infection by "super bugs". From the FDA The Limitations of Safety Data for Drug Approval the following:
"There are hundreds of thousands of adverse events reported via MedWatch each year, but this reporting system is voluntary and there are serious drug reactions that are never reported. Because the nation's healthcare system is not integrated, there is no standard way to track the adverse effects of a medicine in any given health system or across different health systems. Health insurance databases can be helpful in this regard, but they are only accurate as long as a patient has the same job and is enrolled with the same insurance system since many people are insured through their employer. This limits FDA's ability to monitor the safety of medications taken over many years. However, FDA, through its Sentinel Initiative, is currently working to develop capabilities to use data from different health systems to better understand the safety of drugs in clinical practice. " (3)
2. Perhaps a bit trite, but still significant when one considers sales and market trends, the number of books about the effectiveness and theory of homeopathy for sale on Amazon at the time of this writing was 2,772. On October 21, 2015, that number has risen to 8,155. A search of Amazon's homeopathic remedies on 9/9/2013 showed 11,233 active listings. (4, 5) Today, 10/21/15 that number has increased to 21,922 active listings.
3. Every state in the U.S. now recognizes the practice of homeopathy and homeopathic doctors. (6)
"Every state requires a license for the practice of medicine, the diagnosis and treatment of illness. Consequently states also regulate the practice of homeopathy. Medical doctors and osteopathic doctors are the only professions allowed to diagnose and treat illness in all of the states. There are several states that also license naturopathic physicians to diagnose and treat illness. These states are AK, AZ, CT, HI, ME, NH, OR, UT, VT, WA. Generally, homeopathy can be employed legally by those whose degrees also entitle them to practice medicine in their state. This includes MD's, DO's, ND's, DDS's, DVM's. Some DC's are permitted by their state law to administer homeopathic remedies. Other health care providers such as nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, dentists, veterinarians, chiropractors, licensed acupuncturists, nurse midwives, and podiatrists may be allowed to use homeopathy within the scope of their licenses, depending on the laws of the state in which they reside."
4. The number of online and campus setting teaching courses in all the CAM practices, including homeopathy, is steadily growing. "There are literally dozens of homeopathic training programs offered in states like Delaware, Georgia, California, Washington, New Jersey, Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada, Illinois, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Minnesota, New Mexico, Connecticut, and Texas." (7)
"The Evolving Role of CAM Integrative Medicine in American Medical Education" (8)
5. The number of cancer research and treatment centers in the U.S. that are using integrative medicine, including homeopathy is also expanding. (9)
"Integrative medicine (blending the best of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) with conventional medicine) is becoming increasingly popular.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." Charles Dickens had never heard of integrative medicine when he wrote the opening line to his classic text, but it fittingly describes the context in which integrative medicine clinics find themselves today. [2,3] There is increasing evidence that both patients and clinicians see integrative medicine as the best way to provide optimal health care."
6. According to an October 7, 2011 study released by the Chamber of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM), the world homoeopathy market is a $5.35 billion dollar market and growing at a rapid annual rate. If one multiplies $5.35 billion by just 1.25% annually, without adjustment for inflation, one gets a $1.1 trillion dollar global market by 2035. (10)
7. Homoeopathy is the third most popular method of healing in India, after conventional medicine and Ayurveda. Additionally, the legal status of homeopathy in India shares an equal footing with both modalities.
Nine million people use homoeopathy in Brazil. Homeopathy was recognized as a medical speciality there by the country's Ministry of Medicine Director in 1980.
Countries that offer homeopathy within their national health care system include: Brazil, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, UK and Switzerland. Countries that recognize homeopathy as a medical specialty and/or system of medicine include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Equador (rated by WHO as being better in health care than the US), Mexico, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Russia, UK and Switzerland. Homeopathy is established as a primary discrete health care discipline with an in-depth undergraduate education and training program, as well as a professional infrastructure equal to that of conventional medicine in India, Mexico, Pakistan and South Africa. It is also officially recognized in Bangladesh, Singapore, Dubai and Malaysia.
The UAE, Thailand, Cuba, Argentina, Iran, and Russia have granted official recognition to the number of homeopathic teaching institutions, and their research activities are being revitalized.
Australia and New Zealand homeopathy is developing into a complete healthcare profession and is receiving government recognition through positive enabling legislative change. (11, 12 )
8. There are growing numbers of research studies and controlled clinical trials proving the efficacy of homeopathy dating back to January,1988. (13)
9. The homeopathy skeptics are coming under fire. (It's about time). One of the skeptics' top personalities, Brian Dunning was indicted for fraud. (14)
"Who are these so-called Quackbusters?" Consumer Advocate Tim Bolen (15)
10. "Edzard Ernst - Critic Of Homeopathy Exposed" (16)
"We believe that it is time to recognise that opposition to homeopathy is largely based on the opinions of individuals who are unqualified or unwilling to judge the evidence fairly. One person may be right and 2.3 million may be wrong, but this interview confirms the evidence which H:MC21 (Homeopathy of the 21st Century) has already presented, namely that one individual, Edzard Ernst, is not a credible source of information about the effectiveness of homeopathy."11. "California Superior Court Judge Rules on Quackbuster Credibility"
"This was a case filed by the so-called National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) against a manufacturer of Homeopathic products. The quackbusters were soundly, and publicly, beaten in this courtroom. The Judge's opinion about top quackbusters Stephen Barrett, and Wallace Sampson is classic." (17)12. The skeptics talking points have lost their effect from over-use in combination with ridicule and cyber-bullying. (I think I can boast that yours truly has become the fart in the elevator of their minds.) (18)
This comment by Maria Maclachlan the wife of Alan Henness, the director of the Nightingale Collaboration was posted on my fighting for homeopathy blog on Google. At first I thought I would delete it, but decided instead to publish it instead.
"I recommend a homeopathic remedy to you, Sandra. Excrementum caninum. On the principle that like treats like, I presume it treats shit-for-brains syndrome. Try it and let's see if it makes you any more intelligent.13. The medical journalist and author Jerome Burne of the UK had this to say about the "arrogant batty" (Mr. Burne's terminology) skeptics, particularly the Nightingale Collaboration. (19)
You are one of the nastiest cult-members I've had the misfortune to come across and it's fair to assume that it's because you don't have a rational argument that you continue to behave in this despicable manner.
So far all I have seen you do is harass, abuse and lie about people who tell the truth about homeopathy - the truth being, of course, that it is a pile of steaming crap that unscrupulous quacks promote in order to line their own pockets.
Your stupidity is boundless and it is no surprise that you believe in magic pills. So what do you ultimately hope to achieve, Sandra? If your objective is to demonstrate the rank idiocy and nastiness of followers of cult of homeopathy, then please carry on because it is behaviour like yours that keeps me going."
"Step forward the Nightingale Collaboration, earnest and self-styled defender of rationalism, whose seriously potty members have got these categories mixed up. They have picked on something that might, to some, be mildly irritating – homeopathy – and pumped up their dislike into a cause." Why hounding homeopaths is both batty and arrogant.To answer the question posed in the title of this editorial opinion. Homeopathy skeptics: how effective are they? Not very....based on current data and facts. That said, a personal note to all the homeopathy skeptics: Your talking points against homeopathy are as dilute as you incorrectly think a 1M potency of any remedy is. You need to work harder.
12. www.globinmed.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=99852 13. http://nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org/articles-research