I’ve seen a couple of articles recently that give me faith that medical science – and medical sense – are causing a reversal of some worrying trends.
Treatments that don’t work
In 2012 the previous Australian federal government asked the Australian chief medical officer for a review of “natural” therapies that were – and still are – covered by Medicare and many private insurance policies. Those treatments included naturopathy, aromatherapy, ear candling, crystal therapy, flower essences, homeopathy, iridology, kinesiology, reiki and rolfing.
This was welcomed by anyone who approves of taxpayer money being spent on treatments for which there is clinical evidence.
The Australian newspaper has posted a couple of articles in recent days (which I haven’t linked because they’re behind paywalls) about leaks that that review will be released soon, and it will not be good for those alternative therapies. Homeopathy got an early knocking already last year. Bravo, I say.This letter to the Australian agrees.
It’s a shame that practices like acupuncture, chiropractic, and Chinese medicine were explicitly omitted from the review, but it’s still a very good step.
Anti-vaccine movement declines
In other good news, the Guardian reports that “the income and membership of the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network (AVN) has significantly diminished in the past three years”. Both media and governments are treating the AVN appropriately (that is, they’re not pretending that theirs is an informed or balanced view), and people are responding.
Now for immunisation rates to climb back up.
The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released a new draft paper on the effectiveness of homeopathy following an in-depth analysis across 68 different health conditions.Unsurprisingly, the paper concludes that there is no reliable evidence that homoeopathy is effective for treating any ailment. Rather, it’s a potentially dangerous pseudoscience that can dupe patients into rejecting conventional and effective treatments.
The emphasis is mine.
It will take a lot more than this restatement of obvious science before the scores of homeopathic “treatments” disappear from Australian pharmacy shelves, or before the government stops listening to “alternative” medicine lobby groups.
I blogged last week about 10:23, the protest in the UK that say people “overdose” on homeopathy pills to show they have no effect. They can’t, since they are not medicine, and the pharmacies that sell them know this.
You’ll be pleased to know that – to no one’s surprise – all the folks who swallowed all those pills are just fine and dandy. They were perhaps a little rushed on the sugar. And their feeling of rationality.
It doesn’t seem to stop the gullible and desperate from believing in it, though.
Homeopathy is bollocks. It’s just water, sugar pills. It doesn’t work.
To demonstrate this, hundreds of people in the UK will this weekendsimultaneously take a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ in what’s being called the10:23 event:
At 10:23am on January 30th, more than three hundred homeopathy sceptics nationwide will be taking part in a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ in protest at Boots‘ continued endorsement and sale of homeopathic remedies, and to raise public awareness about the fact that homeopathic remedies have nothing in them.
Sceptics and consumer rights activists will publicly swallow an entire bottle of homeopathic ‘pillules’ to demonstrate that these ‘remedies’, prepared according to a long-discredited 18th century ritual, are nothing but sugar pills.
The protest will raise public awareness about the reality of homeopathy, and put further pressure on Boots to live up to its responsibilites as the ‘scientist on the high street’ and stop selling treatments which do not work.
Last week the UK parliamentary health committee was looking into whether the NHS should continue to fund homeopathy (a ludicrous idea, since homeopathy is useless). Bad Science‘s Ben Goldacre wrote about it:
The man from Boots [the chemist] said he had no evidence that homeopathy pills worked, but he sold them because people wanted to buy them. The man from the pill manufacturers’ association said negative trials about homeopathy were often small, with an average of 65 people, and “all statisticians” agreed you need 500 people for a proper trial. Not only is it untrue that you necessarily need this many people; he then cited, in his favour, a positive homeopathy trial with just 25 patients in it.
Boo to the upcoming Homeopathy for Developing Countries conference in the Netherlands.
Yay to The Voice of Young Science and Derren Brown for pointing out that rich people wasting money on pointless treatments of water is different than trying to sell those treatments – and hope – to developing nations that have severe health problems in large populations of people who need help.
A few stories that caught my eye.
- Professor Edzard Ernst at Exeter University has offered £10,000 to anyone who can demonstrate that homeopathy has any effect beyond placebo. This appears to have angered homeopaths, rather than start a stampede for the money. What does that tell you? Although Ernst calls himself a professor of complementary medicine, he believes that means being objective and investigating whether such methods work, not blindly advocating them. He’s done hundreds of trials and years of investigation and is now rightfully merciless about so-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). It’s a hard fight, though, when people like Prince Charles advocate homeopathy or whenmy tax dollars are paying for people to receive it on the NHS. [viaRespectful Insolence]
- An Ontario school authourity told the mother of an autistic child thatthey had reason to suspect the child was being sexually abused, and had reported the case to child services authourities. Their reason? A psychic had told the child’s teacher that the abuse was happening. Luckily, the mother had a GPS and audio-recording device on the child to disprove it. That’s pretty good evidence of how belief in nonsense isn’t harmless. [via Pharyngula, with more detail at Respectful Insolence]
- Late last week I was lucky enough to see the Gilboa Fossils. These fossilised plant trunks are thought to comprise the oldest remains of “forest” known; at around 380 million years old, they lived and died more than 130 million years before the dinosaurs even poked their heads up above the foliage. I was initially a bit disappointed by the scale of the fossil remnants, but once I saw the vascular trunk patterns and started thinking about how old they are it got pretty cool. Here are some pics (with pixellation to protect innocent tourists) – click to enlarge.