Homeopathy, does it work?

Does homeopathy work?

Poll ended at 13 Jul 2019, 9:10am

Yes!
5
9%
Tend to yes
2
3%
No!
49
84%
Tend to no
1
2%
Worth a try if normal treatment fails
1
2%
Don't know yet
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 58

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pjclinch
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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby pjclinch » 24 Jun 2019, 9:26am

Carlton green wrote:As it happens I know someone who is a qualified and skilled Homeopath, they have been treating people for many years. My friend has audited the effectiveness of the treatment / consultations that they give and encouraged patients to do the same, the results are overwhelmingly positive. Compared to main-stream medicine the costs of Homeopathic treat (ie. an individual course of treatment) is small but it’s effectiveness is better, so it is very cost effective. Typical my friend sees patients with complex and long standing ailments that conventional treatment has failed to help, so rather difficult cases. Patients virtually always benefit from Homeopathic treatment and the bulk are cured - lives are literally turned around, made functional again, for relatively tiny sums of money.


And yet these effects disappear when you study them at population levels. Which is an enormous shame, because if it really were possible to get a tangible public health benefit for pennies then everyone would be queuing up to do it. Self auditing is (quite rightly) scoffed at in any sort of QA exercise because even with the best intentions the track record is it is nowhere near as objective as having disinterested third parties do it.

Carlton green wrote:Medicine is a big business enterprise, very large amounts of money are made by companies and individuals offering drugs and treatment, such people and companies also regard the NHS as a money cow to be milked. In contrast Homeopathy is dirt cheap so commercially it makes sense to discredit it - draw your own conclusions.


Working just behind the front-line in the NHS I know that Big Pharma are not Nice People and they are primarily interested in money. But I also know that lots of clinicians with a very limited supply of money go out of their way to research clinically effective ways of doing stuff that doesn't empty their meagre coffers, and there's no shortage of them that have tried homeopathy and found it wanting. And as well as the clinicians there's the management, who are constantly juggling money because we need more than we have and they need to cost-benefit everything. And yet we don't have a homeopathy department...

I'm not suggesting your pal isn't doing any good because he has a track record of pleased customers, but as the South African government found out when they decided to deal with AIDS on the cheap, side-stepping evil Big Pharma doesn't necessarily scale to the general population and it turns out that their drugs, while quite possibly over-priced, do have an epidemiologically provable track record of saving lies. As I've already noted up-thread, pleased customers who get better isn't as big an advert as you might think, with doctors historically using terrible "medicines" and bleeding patients for centuries managing to make a good living out of their quackery. No shortage of glowing endorsements for all sorts of snake oils in fairly recent times. Look up Hadacol for an interesting example. And remember for auditing purposes that the plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

Pete.
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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby Vorpal » 24 Jun 2019, 9:45am

Even though, I don't use it myself, I have no doubt that homeopathy works for some things and some people. And traditional medicine works for some things and some people.

I think that it is a shame that the modern medical establishment ignores non-traditional medicine, even when traditional medicine isn't helping.

I also think that our understanding of how the body works is entirely inadequate.

Mental and emotional health are even worse form this perspective. The tendancy is to give people a prescription for something, but counselling is typically only offered to those who are at risk of harming themselves or others.

edited to add: I'm not suggesting that homeopathy is a good as traditional medicine. It's clear that traditional medicine on the whole, is more effective, but it's also clear that it's not the answer for everyone.
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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby reohn2 » 24 Jun 2019, 10:37am

Vorpal wrote:......Mental and emotional health are even worse form this perspective. The tendancy is to give people a prescription for something, but counselling is typically only offered to those who are at risk of harming themselves or others.

Unfortunately it's whichever is cheapest........
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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby fastpedaller » 24 Jun 2019, 11:12am

Whilst I understand people want 'proof', I find it difficult to appreciate the views of people who haven't even tried the form of 'alternative medicine' that they feel free to slag off. Over 25 years ago my Wife was suffering from terrible endometriosis and each month ended up in hospital on VERY strong painkillers for about 3 days. The only solution (from the leading hospital in the UK for this) was a hysterectomy, which she didn't want, as we wanted children (even though we were told this wouldn't happen because of her condition). In desperation she saw a Homoeopath and her life was changed very quickly. The hospital couldn't (wouldn't?) believe it, and said if she denied their treatment (hysterectomy) she would leave herself 'at the mercy of the butchers in our local hospital'. Very bravely she walked away from them, and has never looked back. Our Daughter is now 21. My Wife has continued self-prescribing her remedies (since we left the locality of the Homoeopath 16 years ago). As you have probably guessed I believe Homoeopathy can work, but like anything, there are good practitioners and not so good. A few years ago I had terrible vertigo and sickness, and pains in my side. Many visits to the GP couldn't help. My Wife called the ambulance one night because I was so ill - the paramedics said I had heart attack symptoms, wired me up, couldn't find anything, took me to Hospital and 3 more ECG, blood tests etc couldn't find anything. The Registrar suggested Acupuncture or Homoeopathy may help. I tried a local Homoepath, who I think was just a moneymaker. Acupuncture certainly improved my general health (and still does!) but it took a further few months before I found the cause be visiting a Nutritionist, who immediately said "I'm 99% sure you are lactose intolerant - come off milk immediately". She was right (judging by the result). I used to love pizzas as well - they're just not the same without cheese :(
One thing I would like to stress is that just because you (or a mate) have tried a 'health alternative' and it hasn't worked, doesn't mean it won't work if you maybe go to someone else, or indeed that another patient won't benefit. Many years ago (having a locked-up back) I tried every osteopath in a local 'clinic' and was still no better, GP said there was a long wait for hospital, and then a friend said "I've heard this man is good". I phoned him and he said "If I can't fix you I won't charge".... can't say fairer than that. I saw him the next day and after 40 minutes I was in good shape again, and rode 50 miles 2 days later.

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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby horizon » 24 Jun 2019, 11:23am

pjclinch wrote:And yet these effects disappear when you study them at population levels.

Pete.


pjclinch: I'm with you on this, as well as the problem of placebo and regression to the mean (gettting better anyway).

Having said that (you probably knew that was coming :D ), there is an awful lot wrong with modern medicine as well as an awful lot of amazing stuff. Homeopathy addresses some of the issues around drugs and surgery even before you get to the little white pills. The NHS recommends anti-histamines and cortico-steroids for hay fever. On that I must demur - my hay fever is cured.
I have two doctors, my left leg and my right leg. (G. M. Trevelyan)
PS I always wondered why the YHA HQ was called Trevelyan House. :)

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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby pjclinch » 24 Jun 2019, 11:32am

Vorpal wrote:I think that it is a shame that the modern medical establishment ignores non-traditional medicine, even when traditional medicine isn't helping.


An interesting choice of terms. "Traditional" above seems to mean "science-based Western medicine", while in reality lots of alternatives are considerably more tradition based (the obvious example being "Traditional Chinese Medicine").

The degree to which non-Western Standard is ignored depends a lot on where you are, and also between individuals. It's not too hard to find doctors with a side-interest in, for example, osteopathy. In Scotland you can now get prescriptions to go for a dander up a hill and look at the wildlife, so it really isn't quite as much of a soulless production line as is sometimes felt.

But what Western Standard medicine (IMO rightly) requires is solid QA. Osteopathy is an interesting example, comparing to physiotherapy. I know the former can sometimes work better for me than the latter, but that's not osteopathy in general, that's the particular practitioner I go to, for my particular body and problems. He works in a very different way to a previous therapist I'd used (sadly passed away, I didn't change because I was dissatisfied), so you're very much looking at rather maverick individuals rather than a definite "this is how we deal with x". And this is where we hit the interesting conflicts between what's good for individuals and what's good for the overall population. A public health body (and that's typically the context Western Standard medicine operates in) generally needs to deal with populations. A much-hyped point of complimentary medicine is the "holistic" claim that it "treats patients, not conditions", but the reality is there is nothing in Western Standard medicine that prevents holistic patient-centred treatment except time, money and resources. There is only so much to go around and you have to demonstrate a level of cost-effectiveness for a treatment before it's added to the books. Ideally we'd know the particular skill-set of my local osteopath and exactly the sort of patients he'll deal with better than the physio department here, or another joint-cracker over in Fife etc., but there isn't the information or resources to do that. At present the best we can reasonably do is say the most cost effective method for physical therapy is physiotherapy and we set a QA bar of what needs to be available with verifiable skill levels for practitioners. That's the best way to spend the public's money, but it doesn't mean you might not be better off in some situations to visit someone outside the fold.

Vorpal wrote:I also think that our understanding of how the body works is entirely inadequate.


Western Standard medicine might stand on science, and many doctors are capable scientists, but certainly not all of them and you will get some who are not nearly as curious as they should be about what they don't know. But there are plenty who are fascinated by discovery and set out to do it. Science is a useful tool/method to do this, but as it stands isn't always an ideal way to look at what might we might term "the weird stuff". A lot of psychological/physiological overlap like placebo counts as "weird stuff".

Vorpal wrote:Mental and emotional health are even worse form this perspective. The tendancy is to give people a prescription for something, but counselling is typically only offered to those who are at risk of harming themselves or others.


Agreed, and much is down to the mind being a strange place, though as the Shetland prescriptions for bird-watching suggest, we're making at least some moved there.

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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby roubaixtuesday » 24 Jun 2019, 11:33am

Vorpal wrote:Even though, I don't use it myself, I have no doubt that homeopathy works for some things and some people. And traditional medicine works for some things and some people.

I think that it is a shame that the modern medical establishment ignores non-traditional medicine, even when traditional medicine isn't helping.

I also think that our understanding of how the body works is entirely inadequate.

Mental and emotional health are even worse form this perspective. The tendancy is to give people a prescription for something, but counselling is typically only offered to those who are at risk of harming themselves or others.

edited to add: I'm not suggesting that homeopathy is a good as traditional medicine. It's clear that traditional medicine on the whole, is more effective, but it's also clear that it's not the answer for everyone.


I have no idea where your certainty comes from. A citation would be nice.

Far from being evidence that homeopathy works for some things and some people, there is conclusive evidence that homeopathy has no effect above that of placebo.

The medical establishment has studied traditional medicine extensively.

There reason it's not generally used is because it doesn't work, although whether it is commercially viable is also a barrier. There are examples where it can be shown effective, and these are eagerly taken up by evil big pharma, just for instance

https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.c ... erol-drug/

On counselling, again, the effectiveness has been studied. Where shown effective, the barriers to further use are often availability and cost, not "tendancy".

[full disclosure: I work for evil big pharma]

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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby pjclinch » 24 Jun 2019, 11:45am

horizon wrote:
pjclinch wrote:And yet these effects disappear when you study them at population levels.

Pete.


pjclinch: I'm with you on this, as well as the problem of placebo and regression to the mean (gettting better anyway).

Having said that (you probably knew that was coming :D ), there is an awful lot wrong with modern medicine as well as an awful lot of amazing stuff. Homeopathy addresses some of the issues around drugs and surgery even before you get to the little white pills. The NHS recommends anti-histamines and cortico-steroids for hay fever. On that I must demur - my hay fever is cured.


Or alternatively, "paying a lot of money to get a high level of personal attention addresses some of the issues around drugs and surgery even before you get to the little white pills". If you were paying the same for a GP appointment there'd be much smaller queues and consequently a much greater level of therapist-input, so that would be great... for you. But for the population as a whole, now scared off going to the doctor by the price tag, overall health will go down.
Related to this overall cost/benefit issue is why the NHS doesn't do anything punitive about missed appointments, even though they cost millions. If you start punishing people, they tend not to go to the doctor, and then the public-health hit (and financial hit to, since people being ill costs money) is even more than them just not bothering to show up (because no-shows tend not to have too much wrong with them).

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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby horizon » 24 Jun 2019, 11:59am

pjclinch wrote:Or alternatively, "paying a lot of money to get a high level of personal attention addresses some of the issues around drugs and surgery even before you get to the little white pills".


Homeopathy claims that whereas modern western medicine tries to counteract symptoms (through drugs or the surgical intervention), homeopathy further stimulates the symptoms in order to effect a cure ("like cures like").

Whether you believe in this or whether it works is another matter. And if it does (appear) to work, some of that might be put down to patient time and attention. But just to reiterate, homeopathy claims that its approach is actually different.
I have two doctors, my left leg and my right leg. (G. M. Trevelyan)
PS I always wondered why the YHA HQ was called Trevelyan House. :)

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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby pjclinch » 24 Jun 2019, 12:16pm

horizon wrote:
pjclinch wrote:Or alternatively, "paying a lot of money to get a high level of personal attention addresses some of the issues around drugs and surgery even before you get to the little white pills".


Homeopathy claims that whereas modern western medicine tries to counteract symptoms (through drugs or the surgical intervention), homeopathy further stimulates the symptoms in order to effect a cure ("like cures like").

Whether you believe in this or whether it works is another matter. And if it does (appear) to work, some of that might be put down to patient time and attention. But just to reiterate, homeopathy claims that its approach is actually different.


"Western Medicine tries to counteract symptoms" is a very odd and restricted view. While that's a fair description of what you'll find in the cold-relief section of the local chemist I really can't see that it applies to e.g. giving you a new heart valve which doesn't leak like your old one, or using x-ray beams to stop a malignant tumour in its tracks before it kills you (and so on, and on, and on). Dealing with symptoms alone is mainly for stuff like palliative care, or where there isn't a way of effective cure of the cause.

Beyond that, while it sounds nice it isn't actually relevant, because clinical effectiveness is measured by people getting better, not about how it happened.

TCM and acupuncture allegedly works by balancing your Qi energy flow through body meridians (or something...), different again to the above. But nobody can reliably pin down what Qi energy is or what body meridians are any more than they can pin down an actual mechanism for "memory of water", so what we get back to is looking at people getting better or not in significant numbers, and it turns out that at population level it's another placebo-level effect.

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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby Vorpal » 24 Jun 2019, 12:29pm

roubaixtuesday wrote:
Vorpal wrote:Even though, I don't use it myself, I have no doubt that homeopathy works for some things and some people. And traditional medicine works for some things and some people.

I think that it is a shame that the modern medical establishment ignores non-traditional medicine, even when traditional medicine isn't helping.

I also think that our understanding of how the body works is entirely inadequate.

Mental and emotional health are even worse form this perspective. The tendancy is to give people a prescription for something, but counselling is typically only offered to those who are at risk of harming themselves or others.

edited to add: I'm not suggesting that homeopathy is a good as traditional medicine. It's clear that traditional medicine on the whole, is more effective, but it's also clear that it's not the answer for everyone.


I have no idea where your certainty comes from. A citation would be nice.

Far from being evidence that homeopathy works for some things and some people, there is conclusive evidence that homeopathy has no effect above that of placebo.

The medical establishment has studied traditional medicine extensively.

There reason it's not generally used is because it doesn't work, although whether it is commercially viable is also a barrier. There are examples where it can be shown effective, and these are eagerly taken up by evil big pharma, just for instance

https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.c ... erol-drug/

On counselling, again, the effectiveness has been studied. Where shown effective, the barriers to further use are often availability and cost, not "tendancy".

[full disclosure: I work for evil big pharma]


I don't have a citation, and I wouldn't expect to be able to get one. I don't personally have a problem with traditional medicine or big pharma as such, but it has been generally dismissive of non traditional approaches.

I am a person who believes in evidence, and although there are some issues with how that operates in the approval of medicines and medical treatments, for the most part, I think it works okay.

I *do* think that we don't yet fully understand ourselves. New studies are published all the time that sheds new light on us & how we work. And yes, the vast majority of those are done using traditional methods. The ones that have advanced modern medicine greatly.

But where we fail is in assuming that just because something does not show results at a population level means it doesn't work. For one thing, there is gender & race bias in very many population studies in modern medicine. For another, as you point out yourself, those areas where homeopathy has shown to be effective were quickly picked up by Big Pharma, and even some that were popular, but not necessarily shown to be effective, or have mixed results. Thirdly, some things are extremely difficult to measure. Drugs for treating depression, for example; something like a third report no better effectiveness than placebo. Is that because we can only understand the impact of medication on depression by asking people if they 'feel better'? or because medication alone may not be the best way to treat depression? Or because we simply don't understand enough about the things that underly depression to develop a consistent treatment?

IMO, homeopathy is a bit like cycle helmets (sorry!) There may very well be circumstances where they are helpful, btu it is extremely difficult to demonstrate because it doesn't show up on a population level.

And statistics cannot explain everything (speaking as someone who uses them professionally).

That said, I don't claim to understand or subscribe to the philosophy underlying homeopathy.

I do have a couple of friends who have had some success with homeopathic treatment when traditional medicine had repeatedly failed to help. It may be as pjclinch says, it's merely that they received time, personal attention, and individualised treatment form their practioners, and not from their GPs and consultants. Maybe that's really the only problem with modern medicine.

I don't work in the field, and I don't pretend to know everything. But I also don't think that it is reasonable to dismiss something entirely because an entrenched industry which is in direct competition says it doens't work.
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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby roubaixtuesday » 24 Jun 2019, 12:52pm

Vorpal wrote: For another, as you point out yourself, those areas where homeopathy has shown to be effective were quickly picked up by Big Pharma, and even some that were popular, but not necessarily shown to be effective, or have mixed results.


No, this is incorrect.

You are conflating homeopathy and traditional medicine.

Homeopathy has never been shown to be effective.

Some forms of traditional medicine have.

I would be very interested to hear why you think you have "no doubt" that homeopathy works for some conditions/people?

What gives you this certitude, when all the evidence points to the precise opposite?

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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby pjclinch » 24 Jun 2019, 12:55pm

Vorpal wrote:I do have a couple of friends who have had some success with homeopathic treatment when traditional medicine had repeatedly failed to help. It may be as pjclinch says, it's merely that they received time, personal attention, and individualised treatment form their practioners, and not from their GPs and consultants. Maybe that's really the only problem with modern medicine.


Western standard medicine would not only benefit from more time and personal attention for patients but would ideally bring in all sorts of complimentary therapies currently not on the books. So the time when the local physio department weren't getting much done about an issue turning my head (not good on a bike!) and my osteopath of choice sorting it in 10 minutes, for example... but to do that we'd need pretty solid information about how he operates and just what sort of conditions his skills apply to, and that's not there because, just like the time and personal attention, we don't have the resources.
Western standard medicine isn't saying "this is everything good, the rest are just charlatans", it's saying "this is the best we can reasonably manage for the overall population with the resources we have" (that's for some values of "we", of course, different countries do it different ways, but the NHS stacks up pretty well).

Vorpal wrote:I don't work in the field, and I don't pretend to know everything. But I also don't think that it is reasonable to dismiss something entirely because an entrenched industry which is in direct competition says it doens't work.


Big Pharma isn't in direct competition with homeopathy. At the end of the day both are providing patients with substances aimed to have some therapeutic effect. There is nothing to stop Big Pharma making pills according to homeopathic principles except the lack of proven ability to make money out of them. Which, since there's very little in them that would cost money and the price doesn't have to reflect that, is quite an indicator in itself. Western standard medicine similarly is in the business of making people better, just like homeopathy. If they could charge just as much (private) or do far more on the same budget (state) using a treatment that costs pennies they'd be doing that.

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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby Vorpal » 24 Jun 2019, 1:02pm

roubaixtuesday wrote:
Vorpal wrote: For another, as you point out yourself, those areas where homeopathy has shown to be effective were quickly picked up by Big Pharma, and even some that were popular, but not necessarily shown to be effective, or have mixed results.


No, this is incorrect.

You are conflating homeopathy and traditional medicine.

Homeopathy has never been shown to be effective.

Some forms of traditional medicine have.

I would be very interested to hear why you think you have "no doubt" that homeopathy works for some conditions/people?

What gives you this certitude, when all the evidence points to the precise opposite?


As I said, I have a couple of friends who were helped by homeopathy when modern (Western) had repeatedly failed.

Also, I think I've discussed the evidence. It may point conclusively to the opposite, but I'm not sure that I trust folks with an invested interest in pharmalogical solutions to determine if something else doesn't work.
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Re: Homeopathy, does it work?

Postby Vorpal » 24 Jun 2019, 1:11pm

pjclinch wrote:Western standard medicine isn't saying "this is everything good, the rest are just charlatans", it's saying "this is the best we can reasonably manage for the overall population with the resources we have" (that's for some values of "we", of course, different countries do it different ways, but the NHS stacks up pretty well)...
Big Pharma isn't in direct competition with homeopathy. At the end of the day both are providing patients with substances aimed to have some therapeutic effect. There is nothing to stop Big Pharma making pills according to homeopathic principles except the lack of proven ability to make money out of them. Which, since there's very little in them that would cost money and the price doesn't have to reflect that, is quite an indicator in itself. Western standard medicine similarly is in the business of making people better, just like homeopathy. If they could charge just as much (private) or do far more on the same budget (state) using a treatment that costs pennies they'd be doing that.

Pete.
There have certainly been folks historically in Western medicine who have dimissed other practices out of hand as being charlatans, snake oil, etc.

While there was possibly some need for this 100 years ago when it could be difficult to tell what was legitimate and what was not, some of that attitude stuck around for quite a long while after the development of modern methods.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom