The World Health Organization (WHO) has finally come out and whispered that, in spite of its public policy of supporting the integration of alternative therapies into national health systems, it doesn’t actually recommend the use of homeopathy for HIV, malaria, TB, influenza and infant diarrhoea.
Goodness me! I do hope this staggering confession, which was squeezed like blood from a stone by researchers and medics from the Voice of Young Science network, offends anyone with quackish sensibilities.
The group had circulated an open letter in June calling on the WHO to
condemn the promotion of homeopathy for treating TB, infant diarrhoea, influenza, malaria and HIV. Homeopathy does not protect people from, or treat, these diseases. Those of us working with the most rural and impoverished people of the world already struggle to deliver the medical help that is needed. When homeopathy stands in place of effective treatment, lives are lost…Many people in developing countries urgently need access to evidence-based medical information and to the most effective means of treating these dangerous diseases. The promotion of homeopathy as effective or cheaper makes this difficult task even harder. It puts lives at risk, undermines conventional medicine and spreads misinformation.
A press release issued today by Sense about Science gives the impression that a hard time was had combing through the individual responses from WHO officials for usable quotes. What they found was basically the same quote mumbling that the WHO guidelines recommend evidence-based medicine, which homeopathy isn’t. Thanks, WHO, we hear you. Just about. A couple of the responders were gracious (brave?) enough to thank or congratulate the group on their efforts but all responses stop short of the outright condemnation requested and needed, thereby confirming that there are foxes guarding the hen-house, something I’d already surmised from the WHO policy on what they politely call traditional medicine (TM).
In countries where the dominant health care system is based on allopathic medicine, or where TM has not been incorporated into the national health care system, TM is often termed complementary, alternative or non-conventional medicine (TC/CAM).
Note the use of the derogotary term “allopathic” which, according to wiki, was originally coined by Sam Hahnemann, the inventor of homeopathy and which I’ve only ever seen used before by quacks and their quackpot supporters. Bit of a give-away, isn’t it?
Frankly, I’m disgusted at the WHO’s pussy-footing around on this issue. Every day I receive website alerts that tell me how desperate people all over the world are being conned by unscrupulous homeoquacks and it’s about time the WHO grew a pair and condemned homeopathy outright for the quackery it is. That WHO doesn’t recommend homeopathy for life threatening disease shouldn’t even be news.
Today, for example, my attention was drawn to this website, which unashamedly asserts that “homeopathy can offer an effective cure to [sic] swine flu” and yesterday I found this one, which claims infertility in men can be cured with homeopathy.
According to his reports, his sperm count was only 2 million. Also, the viability and motility of his spermatozoa were nil. The doctor prescribed homeopathic medicines for him, asked him to follow up every month and advised him to get his semen analysis done once every 6 months.
Mr. Naryanmurthy, already impatient, got his semen analysis done in the 4th month itself instead. Much to his delight, he found that his sperm count had increased to 30 million, 2% of the spermatozoa were alive at the end of 3 hours and their motility had increased to 5%.
I think the foxes at the WHO would thoroughly approve of this “doctor”, judging by how they describe the traditional medicine they want to see integrated into national health systems:
Traditional medicine (TM) is the sum total of the knowledge, skills and practices based on the theories, beliefs and experiences indigenous to different cultures, whether explicable or not….
It doesn’t sound as if the small matter of biological plausibility is something the foxes worry about too much.
OK, I know that claiming to cure infertility isn’t like claiming to cure malaria or TB. It doesn’t put lives at risk. But stories like that one, which are obviously blatant lies, are read and believed by the ignorant and the gullible who then put their own and other lives at risk by relying on homeopathy instead of seeking proper treatment for serious diseases.
The happy news about Mr Naryanmurthy’s astonishingly improved sperm count is followed by this extraordinary comment from the narrator:
This case proves right the homeopathic principle that when you treat the root cause of a disease, its effects get taken care of automatically.
Huh? Since when has that been a homeopathic principle? And how exactly does this case prove it? For a different homeopathic principle, here’s Jayne Thomas of the Society of Homeopaths (an organisation that can only be described as a shambles and a bad joke*).
(Homeopathy) relieves symptoms. We don’t treat individual diseases as disease labels. Homeopathy works by treating people individually and whatever spectrum of symptoms they experience, that’s what we treat…For me to say homeopathy treats XYZ disease would not be correct or appropriate. For me to say homeopathy treats the symptoms that may be related to a particular disease is a far more accurate picture of what homeopathy actually does.
So no treating the root cause of the disease then, Jayne? These blighters seem to make things up as they go along!
From my extensive reading on the subject, I think the list of “homeopathic principles” numbers about two and a half. The first principle is the ludicrous idea of treating like with like or whatever caused the problem can cure it (I am just itching to know what remedy was given to treat Mr Naryanmurthy’s low sperm count). The second is the unhinged idea that the more something is diluted, the more potent it is. And the half covers the somewhat nebulous notions of treating people individually/treating the “whole person”, when we all know that what this really means is giving the patients plenty of time to talk and feigning an interest in all the minutiae of their daily lives, most of which are totally irrelevant (see my definitive explanation of homeopathy for an example of a homeopath’s questionnaire). The latter “principle” is, of course, undermined by the fact that homeopathic remedies are on sale in high street chemists shops allowing customers to self-prescribe in a matter of seconds and allowing the manufacturers to line their pockets very nicely, thank you.
Anyway, I’m done with ranting for today. For a look at the evil Society of Homeopath’s response to the WHO story and an analysis of same, I refer you to today’s post on the quackometer blog: