Media Skeptics : A Popcorn Gallery

Scientism. It’s a relatively new kind of quasi-religious mania that’s associated with a notion of evidence-based medicine that has very little to do with real scientific studies and everything to do with a pop-culture obsession. It denies the existence of an evidence base it doesn’t like, and creates a mythology of an evidence base where one doesn’t really exist. Sound fascinating?

 

In the past number of years many of us have encountered websites and posts from people who belligerently and rabidly attack any form of medicine that doesn’t revolve around drugs and surgery, ie. conventional medicine. The word “quackery” gets thrown around a lot. So does “placebo”. And “evidence-based,” as if homeopathy wasn’t, right from the start.

 

Verbal attacks are predictably aimed at homeopathy, acupuncture /Traditional Chinese Medicine, chiropractic, osteopathy, naturopathy and any other form of holistic or complementary medicine. The term “alternative” medicine was actually coined by the drug industry so that they could play semantics with the notion that if something was an alternative to medicine is wasn’t medicine at all…

 

Suffice it to say that there really are people who spend a lot of time and energy attacking homeopathy from the sidelines of the Internet and in print. They call themselves “skeptics”. Who are they and how did they originate?

 

First, we should make the distinction between a bona fide “skeptic” (who philosophically is an ethically-minded individual who reserves opinion on an issue until they feel reasonably satisfied that certain criteria have been fulfilled in order for them to accept a proposition), and a “media skeptic” who actually has an agenda.

 

The skeptical movement is an offshoot of the Communist Party. (Really: see the top two links below.) Its top organizers were hired by pharmaceutical company and medical industry representatives to recruit malcontents in bars to spread hate propaganda against non-conventional medical systems. One of the first such skeptic groups referred to itself as “Skeptics in the Pub”. Not surprisingly, their rants against homeopathy sound like the drunken cacophony of soccer hooligans.

 

A “who’s who” tour would not be complete if we neglected to mention Sense about Science. This group features a prominent spokesperson who is an advertising “consultant” to pharmaceutical and oil companies.It’s been scrubbed from their website as of this writing, but they get large donations from Big Pharma.

 

It’s impossible not to encounter ties to the prevailing medical industry among any of the individuals or groups who currently identify themselves with the skeptic moniker. The mainstream media, which depend on advertising revenues from pharmaceutical companies and are always in search of a scandal are often co-opted by business interests that have little regard for the welfare of the average individual.

 

You will frequently encounter 30-second spots on the 6 o’clock news panicking viewers about flu epidemics in order to shill vaccines, but not about hundreds or thousands of deaths reported from the use of certain common drugs.

 

Media skeptics frequently and fraudulently make claims that there are “no studies” that support homeopathy (or any other non-conventional treatment) and therefore no evidence to support its efficacy. This is, to put it plain, a lie. As well as 200 years and roughly 25,000 volumes of clinical literature, there are almost 200 random controlled trials that indicate a positive outcome for Homeopathy, even though this form of investigation is not compatible with homeopathic methodology, which individualizes treatments, and many more studies of other types showing positive outcomes. (See Homeopathy’s Best Research.)

 

And this deception comes at a time when some sincere researchers and critics of orthodox medicine are convinced that conventional methods are degenerating in the wake of biomedical journals being compromised by big business interests and mainstream junk science.

 

Since media skeptics are not researchers, scientists or people with any solid knowledge of any body of medical endeavour, it’s a foregone conclusion that this virtual Popcorn Gallery of respondents is completely insensible to any form of rational dialogue. As much as they would like to think that they have a mission in upholding the tenets of “science”, their propaganda tactics do not make them a party to the dialogue between holistic medical systems such as homeopathy and sincere scientific investigation.

 

To quote Josef Stalin, they are “useful idiots” for the propaganda machine, but are not bona fide participants.

 

To explore this issue in depth see:

The Weird Beginnings of Skeptic Confusion and the Philosophy of their Cult Leader

Cultural Dwarfs and Junk Journalism

Beware scientism’s onward march!

Skeptics in the Pub

The End of Biomedical Journals: There is Madness in their Methods

 

***

 

The “Randi Challenge” : is anyone fooled?

 

Career psychic “debunker” James Randi would like to be taken seriously by homeopaths, their patients and the public.  It appears that he’s trying to seize an opportunity to promote himself (again) by throwing in his lot with the 10:23 group who aim to obtain some notoriety for themselves by indulging in wanton homeopathic-remedy gobbling in public places.

 

For those of you who are asking “Randi who??,” the self-styled “amazing” Randi is a Toronto-born octogenarian who aspired to fame as a magician/illusionist in the 1970/80’s.  As a wannabe Houdini, he further drew attention to himself by claiming to be able to expose people who claimed to have paranormal abilities.  To that end he first offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could “prove” they had supernatural abilities. This eventually grew into the sum of a million dollars and was extended to include, of all things, homeopathy.

 

Problem is, this “challenge” is as empty as Randi is fraudulently claiming homeopathic remedies to be.

 

But let’s start with the first obvious question that springs to mind: Why does some has-been entertainer think he’s qualified to evaluate scientific and clinical studies into homeopathy?

 

Since an overwhelming number of studies and clinical records have shown homeopathy to be a valid form of medicine, isn’t it peculiar that some fringe pseudoskeptic groups and non-scientists like James Randi persistently try to skew the record with public pronouncements to the contrary?

 

An investigation into Mr. Randi’s “challenge” reveals that what you see is not what you get, which is what you might expect from someone who is, after all, an illusionist—a professional deceiver.

 

“I always have an out”

The first glimpse of Randi’s insincerity dates back to 1978. At the time he belonged to an organized group called the Center for Skeptical Inquiry into Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), (which has now morphed into the Center for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI)).  This group “sceptically” condemned a study into something called the “Mars effect.”  For the first (and last) time, this group actually decided to do a “scientific” study of their own, so as to debunk the Mars Effect.  It backfired, actually confirming the original results.  But rather than take their collective feet out of their mouths,  CSICOP (an offshoot of Centre for Inquiry, founded by Paul Kurtz) arranged an elaborate cover-up.[1]

 

All this is explained in detail in an essay called sTARBABY, written by Dennis Rawlins, originally a cohort of Randi and co-founder of the CSICOP group. Rawlins was expelled from the group as a result of wanting to come clean. Randi, on the other hand, went along with the cover-up.  Mr. Rawlins reveals some interesting facts about Randi, and the challenge:

 

He assured me how cautious he was in the testing for his well-publicized $ 10,000 prize for proof of psychic abilities (for which he acts as policeman, judge and jury — and thus never has supported my idea of neutral judgment of CSICOP tests. ‘I always have an out,’ he said. [2]

 

Another telling piece of research into CSICOP’s activities ties Randi and his cohorts into an even bigger web of deceit:

 

On both sides of the Atlantic, CSICOP carried out a sustained campaign against alternative medicine. There are close ties with the National Council Against Health Fraud with continual debunking and ridiculing of any therapies which do not meet its approval, specifically to do with cancer and AIDS. It is notable that approval is inevitably given to treatments deriving from the products of multinational drug companies: Welcome, Hoffman, LaRoche, Eli Lily, etc., all of whom are not only linked to the US foundations through hospitals and research institutes, but also the government in the guise of the FDA (Federal Drug Administration), who approve the use of new drugs for sale, so implying their safety. It is also legitimate to question why senior members of the US government, politicians, the military, industry, bankers, the foundations, religion, universities and the media meet clandestinely in the USA under the auspices of an organisation founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller, the Trilateral Commission, and how their decisions are then implemented – if not through their own organisations, then their offshoots and associated companies. [3]

 

Over the years Randi’s prize has been evaluated by a variety of potential challengers and organizations and found to be a sham:[4]

 

A leading Fellow of CSICOP, Ray Hyman, has pointed out, this “prize” cannot be taken seriously from a scientific point of view: “Scientists don’t settle issues with a single test, so even if someone does win a big cash prize in a demonstration, this isn’t going to convince anyone. Proof in science happens through replication, not through single experiments.” Even Randi’s fellow showman Loyd Auerbach, President of the Psychic Entertainers Association, is likewise sceptical about this “prize” and sees it as of no scientific value.

 

“WE will control the parameters

One of the first homeopaths who thought this million-dollar challenge might be legit was Dr. George Vithoulkas, one of the world’s most prominent homeopaths. Randi performed some truly artful organizational legerdemain to back out. From Vithoulkas’s account[5]:

 

The venue for the experiment was to be a Greek hospital. Eventually, after several contacts with several hospitals, the municipality hospital “ELPIS” in Athens, Greece had agreed to host the experiment… the agreement was finalized on 12.10.2005…

 

17.8.2006, we received a signed agreement from Mr. Randi in which he stated that he was satisfied with the suggested protocol and he waived the claim of a preliminary test…

 

As we waited for the finances to be raised in order to start with the experiment, in 2.2.2006, we were informed that Mr. Randi had a health problem. When Mr. Gindis asked him to assign a representative in order to deal with all the procedures for the starting of the experiment, Mr. Randi refused to do so. As a result of his refusal the experiment was delayed so much until a new Mayor was elected in Athens who replaced the authorities of the ELPIS hospital, something that we had anticipated and repeatedly stressed to the “sceptics” long ago… The new Mayor, Dr. Kaklamanis, a conventional medical doctor was indifferent if not hostile to the project…

 

The interesting thing was that on 16.5.2008, Mr. Randi—thinking most probably that we could never succeed in getting a second permission—suddenly became very gallant and wrote: “In any case, it may not be necessary for me to actually be present in person for these tests. I am prepared to assign security and protocol duties to Alec Gindis and to Mr. Gabor, so they can act in my behalf”. But in the mean time and as early as March 2008 [he] was already putting up in his website a text claiming that the “Greek homeopaths have withdrawn from the experiment …as expected”…

 

16.5.2008 Mr. Randi sent us a… notarized statement saying: “I intend to go through with the proposed test of the claims of homeopathy, as previously discussed in exchanges between George Vithoulkas and myself. This stance has not changed, and it will not change”

 

In the end of July of 2008, after a lot of efforts, we obtained for a second time the permission to conduct the proposed homeopathic experiment at the ELPIS hospital… 2nd and 3rd September of 2008, there was a final meeting in the International Academy of Classical homeopathy in Alonissos to discuss last details of the experiment…

 

But the most outrageous event happened on 17.10.2008, when we actually received an “ultimatum” from Mr. Randi by which he was changing all the previous agreements, refusing to go ahead with the experiment as planned…

Forget all previous correspondence exchanged on the subject. What appears HERE is the current status.  We’re starting anew. Bear in mind that WE are offering the million-dollar prize, and WE will control the parameters, in line with the rules of the challenge…”

 

That effectively scotched the project, and Vithoulkas’s reputation suffered in the Greek homeopathic community due to his having trusted “such unreliable people,” namely Randi  & Co.

 

He always has an out.

 

American homeopath John Benneth found that out the hard way, too[6]:

 

I took his challenge naively believing the offer was genuine… the literature, much of it through PUBMED, provided numerous ways to show the action of homeopathic remedies outside of the human domain…Randi ran like a rabbit.

I sent my samples to Kirlian photographer Chris Wodtke, who made some amazing pictures of them, showing the crackling feathers coming out of the gas discharge from the thousands of electrocuting volts coursing through the drop. When it began looking like I actually had methods by which to win the million, such as by Kirlian photography, or by plants, Randi said I was a nobody and had bigger fish to fry. He claimed that French immunologist Jacques Benveniste and Professor Brian Josephson of Cambridge had agreed to accept his challenge, and that he would test them first. But always the hero, Josephson wrote to say that they were not interested in being “tested…”  Randi kept stalling. He refused to set a test date. He found some university stooge to fence with me for a while until the stooge ran off and hid under his pillow. It was doubly, triply (I’d say quadruply if it wasn’t so corny) evident that Randi wasn’t going to make good on his offer to conduct a test, so I took my case to Naomi Shapiro, Randi’s account manager at Goldman Sachs, where the loot was supposed to be hid. She wouldn’t verify anything…

 

When I sprung the news that Goldman Sachs was refusing to verify the account, Randi sprung into action. He accused me of “damaging the James Randi Educational Foundation,” had a heart attack and like a street corner bum started selling pens dipped in “homeopathic gold,” to pay for it…

 

Exposed in his ruse, Randi then claimed he wouldn’t test me because I was insane.

 

He always has an out, of one kind or another.

 

Now you see the portfolio number, now you don’t

Probably the most damning evidence of Randi’s charlatanism is that if anyone happened to bypass all of his roadblocks and obfuscations in order to actually “win” the prize, it would be delivered as likely worthless bonds.  It is almost painful to read psychic researcher Sean Connelly detailing his experience with the Randi organization, complete with sanitized “reproductions” of rude and obscene emails from them, one completely fabricated email, and plenty of verbal abuse—just for asking the simple question, which even the more fair-minded of Randi’s followers thought was legit: was the prize actually in cash, or bonds?

 

At the time of writing this, he hasn’t addressed the original issues which sparked this entire fiasco (who issued the bonds, what are the interest rates, and when are the maturity dates?). And he hasn’t addressed the issue of misleading EVERYONE on the forums, by stating that the prize is cash.[7]

 

According to another site belonging to Benneth, Goldman Sachs requested that Randi remove their name from his website.[8]

 

Randi currently has a copy of a Goldman Sachs statement on said website—but the portfolio number is blacked out, eliminating any true evidence that the statement is genuine.[9]

 

He always has a subtle little out.

 

The James Randi Challenge?  There’s nothing in it.

 

--

 

[2] Ibid. p.88, ph.2

[3] http://www.greatdreams.com/faking.htm

[4] http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/Organskeptics/index.html

[5] http://www.vithoulkas.com/content/view/1973/lang,en/

[6] https://johnbenneth.wordpress.com/tag/james-randi-educational-foundation/

[7] http://www.psipog.net/art-beware-pseudo-skepticism.html

[8] http://www.scienceofhomeopathy.com/challenge.html

[9] http://www.randi.org/challenge/goldmansachs.pdf



 

Who’s Afraid of Homeopathy?

 

A purported meta-analysis of adverse events (AEs) following homeopathic treatment was recently published in MedScape, available here:

 

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ijcp.12026/full#b38

 

The easily accessed Abstract states:  “The total number of patients who experienced AEs of homeopathy amounted to 1159. Overall, AEs ranged from mild-to-severe and included four fatalities. The most common AEs were allergic reactions and intoxications. Rhus toxidendron was the most frequently implicated homeopathic remedy. Homeopathy has the potential to harm patients and consumers in both direct and indirect ways. Clinicians should be aware of its risks and advise their patients accordingly.”

 

But readers who actually access and read the entire study, which is really a review of published literature, will be treated to an excess of opinion over data. It is not surprising that the authors work at Exeter University and include one Prof. Edzard Ernst who once claimed he was a Homeopath and later 'fessed up to the fact that he only actually ever watched real Homeopaths work. Mr. Ernst, although self-glorified as the “first professor of complementary/alternative medicine” has been a persistent and vitriolic critic of homeopathy for at least a decade. While having actually conducted no original research into any medical subject, Mr. Ernst has instead published a number of reviews of generally poorly designed studies into homeopathic treatment that had predictably poor outcomes. This one is probably what he considers to be his magnum opus.

 

Highlights of this review include that, in 32 years (between 1978 and 2010), 4 fatalities occurred. However it's difficult to ascertain how the authors claim to include data on 1159 patients when only 35 case reports were accessed. The details under the heading “causation” in their tables tend to categorize the use of a homeopathic remedy as  “likely” and  “almost certain” but do not include any data to suggest who even prescribed these (often) combination remedies in potencies that are in some instances unavailable from a major homeopathic remedy manufacturer. There were only two instances in which homeopathic remedies were of  “certain” implication (both hypersensitivities) and in each instance both patients made a  “full recovery.” In one of the documented fatalities the patient was treated to chemotherapy after the alleged homeopathic treatment, yet the fatality is attributed to homeopathy... Seriously? The terms  “likely” and  “almost” are associated with speculation, not definitive causation. (Isn't it the  “skeptics” who are always claiming that  “correlation is not causation”?) Hey, Ernst, what gives?

 

The Conclusion of this rather pointless/useless endeavour states that the authors didn't have enough critical data to even comment on the information that was reviewed! 

 

 “However, our systematic review also has a number of important limitations. They pertain to the potential incompleteness of the evidence. AEs of homeopathy are likely to be underreported; therefore, the number of cases summarised herein is less meaningful than the fact that such incidents exist at all. The often low quality of the primary reports further limits the conclusiveness of our findings. Several reports lacked sufficient detail, which renders the interpretation of their findings problematic (13,15,23,27,28,34,37,38,40). Given such caveats, relationship between the cause-effect of homeopathy and the AEs was frequently difficult to establish. We did not include systematic reviews, clinical trials, surveys and cohort studies in our review. A systematic review of the AEs of homeopathy, concluded that the incidence of AEs of homeopathic remedies was greater than that of placebo in controlled clinical trials; AEs included headache, tiredness, skin eruptions, dizziness, bowel dysfunctions and allergic reactions (53). Our review of CR and CS is thus not comprehensive. Crucially, it not does tell us anything about the incidence of AEs. Considering the widespread use of homeopathy worldwide and the relative paucity of the reported AEs, it might be very low. Collectively, these limitations render our review less conclusive than we had hoped.”

 

So it seems that the anti-homeopathy peddlers who generally claim that homeopathic remedies are  “just water” are now resorting similarly erroneous reports of how these  “placebo” remedies are creating a mammoth environment of catastrophic proportions in a brief Abstract and then completely question their findings in the real Conclusion.

 

And this is supposed to be Science?!

 

 

Laurie J. Willberg

 

 

 

International Journal of Clinical Practice

 

Adverse Effects of Homeopathy

A Systematic Review of Published Case Reports and Case Series

P. Posadzki, A. Alotaibi, E. Ernst

Disclosures

Int J Clin Pract. 2012;66(12):1178-1188. 

 

 

A Recent McGill University Debate of Homeopathic Science

By Laurie J. Willberg

 

Dr. Andre Saine, Dean of the Canadian Academy of Homeopathy, recently engaged in a debate at McGill University in Montreal entitled “Homeopathy:  Mere Placebo or Great Medicine?” on November 27, 2012.  Dr. Saine is not only a Naturopathic Physician specializing in Homeopathy, but is recognized as an MD in the State of Oregon. He is also a dedicated scientific researcher. It is somewhat curious that the moderator merely identified him as “Andre”.  By contrast the individual representing the “homeopathy as placebo” side of the discussion, Joe Schwarcz, who is not a medical doctor, was identified as “Dr.” by virtue of having a PhD degree in chemistry.

 

Interestingly, about 60% of the audience was identified as being comprised of “science students” and the rest, general public.

 

Dr. Saine came amply equipped with a power point presentation referencing scientific studies and health technology assessments as well as historical references regarding the efficacy of Homeopathic medicine. A transcription of the debate references no less than 27 citations

 http://www.legatum.sk/en:misc:talk-saine-schwarcz

 

The debate is also available on YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2uBBU4XT7Y

 

Joe Schwarcz conversely presented little more than cartoon caricatures of some historical figures and what might be described as cover photos of TV shows that reported unfavourable views of Homeopathy. There is a link to a CBC Marketplace episode in which a conventional chemical analysis of a couple of homeopathic remedies showed a lack of bulk material ingredients, thus demolishing a trusty old strawman  every Homeopath and patient has known about for over 200 years. He was also gracious enough to provide a very simplistic, rudimentary interpretation of Homeopathy that could be grasped by someone with a Grade 9 reading level after 5 minutes of “studying” Wikipedia.

 

Particularly charming was Joe’s cartoon offering of the famous “Thinker” sitting on a toilet to illustrate his comprehension of Dr. Jacques Benveniste’s experiment with what has loosely been termed the “memory of water”. Okay, Joe, we’ll bite – why doesn’t all water “remember” everything it’s ever been in contact with? Does it matter whether it does or doesn’t? What’s relevant is that we do know that Homeopathic remedies are made with double distilled water and ethyl alcohol in a GMP manufacturing facility and that it’s the process of serial dilution and succession that is important.

 

The Homeopathic profession can guarantee that there is no poop in your Lycopodium.

 

While the issue did not arise in the debate, as a Master Chemist, Samuel Hahnemann translated and annotated the foremost text used by apothecaries throughout Europe (from the French:  de Machy’s “Laboratory Chemist on the Preparation of Chemicals for Manufacture as for Art”) which was the foundation for Good Manufacturing Process.

 

Joe Schwarcz’s later remarks show that he was irked by the fact that Dr. Saine had systematically responded to and demolished every criticism of Homeopathy that Schwarcz had written in a series of articles published in the Montreal Gazette last year, including the entirely dismissable skeptic claim that Homeopathy is “implausible”.

 

Schwarcz did not seem to register Dr. Saine’s  citation of nanoparticle studies that utilized electron spectroscopy (a much more sophisticated state-of-the-art scientific analysis) done by the Indian Institute of Technology showing evidence of starting materials in remedies potentized to 200C. He does not seem to be aware of the analyses performed using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance testing either.

 

I suppose we can forgive Schwarcz’s fascination with former stage magician James Randi’s pronouncements about Homeopathy as he credits himself as an amateur magician. But, as Dr. Saine points out, magicians hardly deserve the status of qualified researchers: “they are not equal”. D’ya think?!

 

Joe Schwarcz both sidestepped and contradicted himself regarding actual research references by claiming “I’m not going to get into the battle of papers”, and then later insisting that he would accept as evidence that Homeopathy works if he was shown a “properly controlled, randomized trial… well… more than one properly controlled randomized trial”. 

 

Dr. Saine had already provided such information (and there are plenty more where those came from!). Joe Schwarcz predictably falls back on the word “proper” as a qualifier that generally serves as a convenient escape clause when the facts don’t align with the established preconceived opinions of anti-homeopathy skeptics. He readily acknowledges that any study can be challenged on any number of bases, but still insists that this is the ONLY criteria he will accept.

 

It has been commonly observed that die-hard skeptics at first claim that there is “no evidence” and then when presented with exactly that make sure to proclaim some fault with it. It seems that our skeptic friends are not really interested in Evidence but in some nebulous notion of Perfect Proof.

 

This predictable pattern is just as pronounced in Joe Schwarcz’s presentation. He callously dismisses thousands of scientific research papers as being “faulty”.  Following that train of thought, it might be more productive to inquire as to how such flawed methodological approaches are being promoted/taught at institutions of higher learning and why anyone would lend credibility to anything published by anyone claiming to be a “scientist”?

 

According to Joe, the late Dr. Rustum Roy, a Materials Science Professor and Researcher at Penn State University is not “highly regarded in the scientific community”.  Are we to suppose that the academic publication of over 1,000 peer-reviewed research papers is a mere piffle? We might pose a poignant question to  as to how highly regarded Joe Schwarcz is in the scientific community? Is there some kind of “high regard” metre to which the “scientific community” universally subscribes? Who exactly comprises this “scientific community” and how does one access the membership roster? What exactly constitutes “high regard”?   Exactly what qualifies Joe Schwarcz as an arbitrator of “high regard” in science and was his role as spokesperson elected or appointed and by whom?

 

It seems that Schwarcz is not above attempts at academic assassination/ad hominem remarks when he is at a loss for actual scientific refutations. Joe Schwarcz apparently teaches Chemistry. Exactly what are his credentials in Materials Science or other scientific disciplines for that matter?

 

In the really lame category came Schwarcz’s unsubstantiated accusation that some Homeopath had supposedly proposed a “cure” for homosexuality. This highly questionable and scientifically unsubstantiated notion originated within the Psychiatric profession which maintained that homosexuality was a mental disorder until 1973. No such proclamations were ever made in any of the Homeopathic medical literature. Despite Schwarcz’s later acknowledgment that there are “bad eggs” in any profession, attacking the Homeopathic profession with this kind of tactic is simply poisoning the well.

 

Similarly Schwarcz goes on to vilify some Australian Homeopath on the basis that a cancer patient died. The patient and her husband rejected conventional chemotherapy which carries no guarantees of success, and there are no double-blinded random controlled trials that show chemotherapy cures cancer.  Mainstream cancer treatment comes with nothing more than anecdotal stories about five-year survival rates, which seem to be the cornerstone of promoting this toxic treatment. We do not even have comparative studies between patients who accepted chemotherapy versus those who did nothing. Homeopathy does however have the U.S. National Cancer Institute evaluations of the highly successful Banerji Protocols for curing stage 4 brain tumours – a condition for which conventional treatment simply throws in the towel.

 

We have Joe Schwarcz’s claim that the highly successful homeoprophylaxis campaigns against Leptospirosis in Cuba over the last 3 years didn’t happen, despite the published reports, and that the Swiss government’s commission of the most comprehensive evaluation of Homeopathic treatment ever undertaken is somehow invalid… with no contrary scientific evidence to back up his opinions. He relies on unfounded opinions expressed in anti-homeopathy blogs.

 

Schwarcz  opines that dynamic molecular alterations to hydrogen bonds in aqueous solutions do not exist, or don’t exist long enough to be documented when in fact the scientific literature provides ample evidence that this is so. While some references may have recorded very rapid effects measured in “picoseconds” (other references provided by Dr. Saine showed effects beyond 500 days!) Joe Schwarcz was unable to provide any scientific data that establishes exactly how long an effect must take place in vivo or in vitro to have a biological effect. Even if one ascribes to his notion that an effect didn’t last “long enough” we do not have an established scientific yardstick by which to determine whether his opinion has merit.

 

Joe Schwarcz also seemed to think it relevant to comment on a concept of medical practise being “self-correcting”.  It could probably be more poignantly argued that this “self-correction” in mainstream medicine can be largely attributed to the effects of whistle-blowers and lawsuits. Medical ethicists acknowledge that random controlled trials were instituted after the Thalidomide disaster of the 1960’s in an attempt to uncover toxic effects of pharmaceutical products. What we now have are numerous examples of pharmaceutical companies manipulating trial data to cheat the system.

 

Skeptics conveniently ignore the fact that since Homeopathic remedies are not bulk drugs designed to suppress a particularly bothersome symptom (like pharmaceuticals) they cannot be “tested” in the same way – Homeopathic prescribing treats the patient, not the symptom or named disease.  

Prof. Bruce Pomeranz at the University of Toronto long ago determined that mainstream medicine is the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. His team also comprised one of the labs that successfully replicated Dr. Jacques Benveniste’s experiment!

 

It’s a testament to the validity of Homeopathic treatment that the proving symptoms of innumerable remedies are the same today as they were over 200 years ago and will be 200 years from now. Extensive continuing education programs, especially Masters programs for Homeopathic prescribing, are an everyday reality for those in the Homeopathic profession. The Banerji Clinic in Kolkata is presently compiling a publication of their thoroughly exhaustive case files on hundreds of thousands of patients who have been seen annually at their state-of-the-art medical facility and cured of a very diverse number of chronic health problems. Likely due to the fact that they have a comparatively gargantuan case load – far beyond what any practising sole practitioner would see in a lifetime – the Banerji’s have been able to confidently find more condition specific remedies than has been uncovered by anyone to date.

 

It is of note that Joe Schwarcz’ and McGill University have ties to the pharmaceutical industry that the public may not be aware of.

Lorne Trottier a McGill alumnus who has made large donations to his alma mater is on the Board of Directors for Oncozyme Pharma

 

 http://oncozymepharma.com/en/oncozyme/board-of-directors/

 

 Trottier fronted $5.5 million a little over a year ago for Schwarcz's McGill's Office for Science & Society to allegedly “educate the public about quackery and to battle against charlatans. It is believed to be the largest single gift for science promotion in Canada.” [1]

 

Trottier is also on the Board of Directors for CFI/Centre for Inquiry Canada http://www.cficanada.ca/about/cfi_canada_advisory_fellows_board_of_directors which has positioned itself as a mouthpiece for skeptic propaganda, sponsoring the so-called Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS).

 

It is also rather notable that in March 2012 highly confidential contracts between McGill University and the pharma company GlaxoSmithKline were published on a website called McGillLeaks. They were rapidly taken down after legal threats by the University administration which was understandably “freaking out”…

http://cupwire.ca/articles/51952

 

What possible conclusions may we derive from:

“Existing evidence suggests that physicians place more trust in the efficacy of drugs as reported by industry, than as reported by the literature.”

http://www.cfms.org/attachments/article/163/cfms_industry_funding_working_group_paper.pdf

The debate concluded with an audible audience “applause meter”.  It would appear that many of the self-identified science students found more compelling scientific validity from Dr. Andre Saine’s presentation than from Joe Schwarcz’s attempt to project deniability onto the science that validates Homeopathy. Joe Schwarcz may have received more applause had he resorted to pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

 

As Dr. Saine aptly pointed out, the more research that is conducted using present day investigative scientific technology into Homeopathic treatment and methodology, the more positive the results.

                                           


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorne_Trottier

 

How Not to Conduct a Trial of a Homeopathic Remedy

 

By Laurie Willberg

 

Homeopaths and many consumers are familiar with biochemic tissue remedies, also called the Schuessler Tissue Salts, which are microdoses of essential minerals necessary to maintain healthy biological function. In recent years, detractors of homeopathy have attempted to assert that random controlled trials of homeopathic remedies have all failed to prove the efficacy of homeopathy as a medical modality.

 

While this is far from the truth, a recent provisionally published study in the BioMed Central Complementary and Alternative Medicine Journal is a perfect illustration of the type of study that would tend to be grossly misleading. This particular study was to assess the effectiveness of Kali Phos 6x on mental fatigue. The authors claim that they had "identified one trial reporting a benefit in patients' attention using a homeopathic formula preparation." They do not state which "formula," only that one component was potassium phosphate/Kali Phos 6X for "cognitive problems." They also do not state what the alleged "cognitive problems" are, making it debateable whether or not mental fatigue is one of them or how this state of mental fatigue was created.

 

For starters, the definition of homeopathy is "similar suffering" – in other words, symptoms induced by a remedy in a healthy person are capable of curing those symptoms in a sick one. While it would be nice to have condition-specific remedies for every malady under the sun, this is the theory that underpins conventional medicine, not homeopathy. Correct homeopathic treatment is individualized. Any study/trial/research project of any kind involving homeopathic treatment is largely invalid if it does not individualize the prescription.

 

Many people do not realize that the entire sphere of random double-blind placebo controlled trials was created to test the toxicity of pharmaceutical substances, most notably after the Thalidomide disaster of the early 1960's. Prior to that time, such testing was sporadic if undertaken at all. Another purpose of these tests is to determine what symptoms can be suppressed by particular drug formulations on a statistical basis involving various numbers of trial subjects.

 

Homeopathic remedies do not suppress symptoms – in fact homeopathy views symptoms as a sign-post put up by the body to indicate that there is an underlying problem. When the underlying problem is treated, the symptoms disappear. In homeopathic practice, suppressing symptoms is about as prudent as taking a "Danger" sign away from a collapsed bridge so that motorists can just drive off the cliff.

 

Random double-blind placebo-controlled trials are largely inappropriate and irrelevant to the principles of classical homeopathic practice. Secondly, classical Homeopathy does not rely on "formulas" as it is absolutely impossible to tell which of the many ingredients had what effect, what to do in the event of an aggravation (a worsening of existing symptoms or the sudden appearance of new symptoms) or which remedy is needed to complete the cure because the first remedy didn't do the whole job. Thirdly, a factor in the prescription of any Homeopathic remedy is the cause of the patient's dis-ease. This plays a major role in the differential diagnosis of any Homeopathic prescription.

 

"Mental fatigue" can be caused by any number of factors, all of which can lean the symptom picture toward any of numerous remedies. Remedy selection also depends on concurrent symptoms, factors that improve or aggravate symptoms, traits and preferences, and a number of other factors. Even the potency and frequency of the dose is individualized. A study that does not take this into account when measuring homeopathic efficacy is meaningless. Fourthly, a single dose of a single indicated remedy is hardly ever all that is needed to achieve the desired result. Even if it is, it will rarely reach full effect in 10 minutes. Fifthly, Homeopathy does not rely on a named diagnosis from conventional medical practice in order to arrive at the appropriate remedy for that particular patient at that particular time. The focus is on how symptoms manifest in the individual patient.

 

In the alleged test of Kali Phos, the researchers state that they recruited 86 volunteers with "self-reported mental fatigue" and gave one group one dose of the remedy 10 minutes before taking a Stroop Colour-Word Test, which is a "psychological test of attention". The other group received a placebo prior to taking the same test. The test was repeated a week later with the placebo group receiving one dose of the actual remedy and vice versa. The (anticipated) conclusion? "Kali phos 6x was not found to be effective in reducing mental fatigue." Moreover, the researchers report that: "a ceiling effect in our primary outcome measure meant that we could not rule out a type II error. Thorough piloting of an adequate outcome measure could have led to an unequivocal result."

 

Perhaps the test contained too few questions to truly tire out the participants, or the questions may have been too easy. Perhaps the subjects weren't really "mentally fatigued" at the start. How could this be made measurable? We'll probably never know. One conclusion we can unequivocally come to is that unless researchers become sufficiently qualified in homeopathic methodology to adequately create a meaningful and testable hypothesis, we're going to continued to get research studies typified by the above example, and are a complete waste of everyone's time and funding.

 

There are many such studies in various journals—and then cited and counted in meta-analyses evaluating homeopathy—despite being absolutely inaccurate on the real-world scope or effectiveness of homeopathy as a powerful form of medical treatment.