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The Animal Manifesto

This February, a panicked zebra ran loose down a major Atlanta freeway at rush hour, sustaining fatal injuries. That same month, a whale trainer was dragged underwater to her death by a 12,000-lb killer whale at Orlando’s SeaWorld. And this week in Mumbai an angry 56-year-old female elephant killed a man who entered her enclosure, picking him with her trunk and slamming him into a wall.

From food production to circus acts to scientific studies, animals have a long and controversial history in the lives of humans.

Skepticality welcomes back Dr. Marc Bekoff (Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado) who, alongside Jane Goodall, co-founded the organization “Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.” Dr. Bekoff discusses his book The Animal Manifesto, citing current scientific research in support of six guiding principles — each designed to increase awareness of the deplorable conditions animals experience across a broad spectrum of activities. Learn what those who are concerned can do to help.


In this week’s eSkeptic, we present an article culled from the archives of Skeptic magazine Volume 3, Number 1: Pseudomedicine. Herein, we reprint the position statement on homeopathy of the National Council Against Health Fraud. More than 15 years since its publication homeopathics are still widely available, reminding skeptics that our jobs are never done.

The following article is copyright © 1994 by the National Council Against Health Fraud, P.O. Box 1276, Loma Linda, CA 92354-1276, fax (909) 824-4838. Permission has been granted for noncommercial electronic circulation of this article in its entirety, including this notice.


Homeopathy: A Position Statement by
the National Council Against Health Fraud (1994)

edited by William Jarvis

HOMEOPATHY WAS DEVISED BY THE GERMAN PHYSICIAN SAMUEL HAHNEMANN (1755–1843) as a reaction to practices based upon the ancient humoral theory which he labeled “allopathy.” The term has been misapplied to regular medicine ever since. The cardinal principles of homeopathy include that (1) most diseases are caused by an infectious disorder called the psora; (2) life is a spiritual force (vitalism) which directs the body’s healing; (3) remedies can be discerned by noting the symptoms that substances produce in overdose (proving), and applying them to conditions with similar symptoms in highly diluted doses (Law of Similia); (4) remedies become more effective with greater dilution (Law of Infinitesimals), and become more dilute when containers are tapped on the heel of the hand or a leather pad (potentizing).

Homeopathy’s principles have been refuted by the basic sciences of chemistry, physics, pharmacology, and pathology. Homeopathy meets the dictionary definitions of a sect and a cult — the characteristics of which prevent advances that would change Hahnemann’s original principles. Most homeopathic studies are of poor methodological quality, and are subject to bias. Homeopathic product labels do not provide sufficient information to judge their dosages. Although homeopathic remedies are generally thought to be nontoxic due to their high dilutions, some preparations have proved harmful. The ostensible value of homeopathic products can be more than a placebo effect because some products have contained effective amounts of standard medications or have been adulterated. Only about half of the 300 homeopaths listed in the Directory of the National Center for Homeopathy are physicians. Others include naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, dentists, veterinarians, nurses or physician assistants. Homeopathy’s appeal lies in its personal attention to patients. Homeopathy is a magnet for untrustworthy practitioners who pose a threat to public safety. A perverse belief in the “healing crisis” causes practitioners to ignore adverse reactions, or to value them as “toxins being expelled.” The marketing of homeopathic products and services fits the definition of quackery established by a United States House of Representatives committee which investigated the problem (i.e., the promotion of “medical schemes or remedies known to be false, or which are unproven, for a profit”). The United States Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act lists the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States as a recognized compendium, but this status was due to political influence, not scientific merit. The FDA has not required homeopathic products to meet the efficacy requirements applied to all other drugs, creating an unacceptable double standard for drug marketing. The Federal Trade Commission has not taken action against homeopathic product advertising although it clearly does not meet the standards of truthful advertising generally applied to drugs. Postal authorities have not prosecuted mail-order product promoters that make unproven claims for mail fraud. Three states have established homeopathic licensing boards. Some of these have been administered by medical mavericks with a history of difficulties with former medical licensing boards.

Recommendations

The NCAHF advises consumers not to buy homeopathic products or to patronize homeopathic practitioners. Basic scientists are urged to be proactive in opposing the marketing of homeopathic remedies because of conflicts with known physical laws. Those who study homeopathic remedies are warned to beware of deceptive practices in addition to applying sound research methodologies. State and federal regulatory agencies are urged to require homeopathic products to meet the same standards as regular drugs, and to take strong enforcement actions against violators, including the discipline of health professionals who practice homeopathy. States are urged to abolish homeopathic licensing boards.

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Origin

Homeopathy (derived from the Greek words homoios “similar” and pathos “suffering”) is a sectarian healing system devised by Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843), a German physician who rejected the harsh medical practices of his era which included bleeding, purging, vomiting and the administration of highly toxic drugs. Practices of the era were based on the ancient Greek humoral theory which attributed disease to an imbalance of four humors (blood, phlegm, and black and yellow bile) and four bodily conditions (hot, cold, wet, and dry) that corresponded to four elements (earth, air, fire, and water). Physicians attempted to balance the humors by treating symptoms with “opposites.” For instance, fever (hot) was believed to be due to excess blood because patients were flushed; therefore, balance was sought by blood-letting in order to “cool” the patient. Hahnemann dubbed such practices “allopathy” (allos “opposite,” pathos “suffering”), and sought to replace it with his “Law of Similia” that treated “like with like.” Although medicine never accepted the label of allopathy, homeopaths continue to misrepresent physicians as allopaths to make their differences appear based upon conflicting ideologies rather than scientific pragmatism. Medical writers often refer to medical doctors as “allopaths” but their use of the term reflects an alternate definition of allopathy as “a system of medical practice making use of all measures proved of value (emphasis ours) in treatment of disease” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). This definition is inconsistent with its root words “allos” and “pathos.” Its duplicity aids those who wish to misrepresent medicine as ideologically allopathic (i.e., symptom suppression).

The Cardinal Principles of Homeopathy
The Psora and Vitalism

Hahnemann believed that 7/8ths of all diseases are due to an infectious disorder called the Psora (itch). In the words of Hahnemann’s “Organon”: This Psora is the sole true and fundamental cause that produces all the other countless forms of disease, which, under the names of nervous debility, hysteria, hypochondriasis, insanity, melancholy, idiocy, madness, epilepsy, and spasms of all kinds, softening of the bones, or rickets, scoliosis and chophouses, caries, cancer, fungus haematodes, gout-asthma and suppuration of the lungs, megrim, deafness, cataract and amaurosis, paralysis, toss of sense, pains of every kind, etc., appear in our pathology as so many peculiar, distinct, and independent diseases (Stalker, 1985). Hahnemann believed that diseases represent a disturbance in the body’s ability to heal itself and that only a small stimulus is needed to begin the healing process. He owed this to his faith in vitalism, which holds that life is a spiritual, nonmaterial process and that the body contains an innate wisdom that is its own healing force. A British homeopath explained its vitalism (Twentyman, 1982):

Hahnemann … is … a child of the modern age of natural science, an adept in the chemistry of his day … But he can still hold a conviction that an immaterial vital entity animates our organism until death when the purely chemical forces prevail and decompose it … .This vital entity which he characterizes as immaterial, spirit-like, and which maintains in health the harmonious wholeness of the organism, is in fact the wholeness of it, can be influenced by dynamic causes. How does Hahnemann attempt to clarify the idea? He draws attention to phenomena like magnetic influences, the moon and the tides, infective illnesses and perhaps most importantly the influence of emotions and impulses of will on the organism (pp. 221-225). Vitalism appeals to so-called “Holistic” or “New Age” medicine devotees, who prefer a metaphysical view of life processes, and readily accept homeopathy despite its scientific deficiencies.

Provings and the Law of Similia

Hahnemann’s invention of homeopathy is reported to have originated with an experience in which he ingested a substantial dose of cinchona bark (the source of quinine) used to treat malaria. He noted that the symptoms he experienced were similar to those of malaria. He reasoned that since the remedy produced symptoms in overdose similar to the condition it was used to treat, this principle, his Law of Similia, could be used to discern the value of various medicines. He called this process proving a medicine. Promoters often misrepresent homeopathy as treating the “causes” rather than merely the “symptoms” of disease, but its reliance on the “proving” of remedies shows that homeopathy itself relies solely upon a symptom treatment. Hahnemann’s Law of Similia utilized the primitive view of monism that “nature is a unitary, organic whole with no independent parts” (Webster’s) with inherent principles that like is like, like makes like, and like cures like. Monism is the basis of many ancient practices (e.g., eating the heart of a lion for courage), and holds that if one object resembles another they are alike in essence (like is like); idolatry in which carving a likeness of a god actually produces the god (like makes like); and folk medicine practices such as snakeroot being good for snakebite, because of their resemblance (like cures like). Hahnemann revived Paracelsus’ Doctrine of Signatures, which declared that herbs would cure conditions or anatomical parts they resembled (Garrison, 1929, p. 206). The homeopathic Law of Similia, however, is unsupported by the basic sciences of physiology, pharmacology and pathology.

Law of Infinitesimal “Potentizing”

Hahnemann’s Law of Infinitesimals holds that the smaller the dose of a medication, the more powerful will be its healing effects. He taught that substances could be potentized (i.e., their “immaterial and spiritual powers” released to make active substances more active, and inactive substances active). The process of potentizing involved the sequential dilution of remedial agents by succussion in which initial mixtures would be shaken at least 40 times, nine parts dumped, and nine parts of solvent added and shaken again. This process was repeated as many times as desired. Tapping on a leather pad or the heel of the hand was alleged to double the dilution — a notion that contradicts the laws of physics. Remedies are diluted to powers of ten and labeled with combinations of Arabic and Roman numerals (e.g., 3X= 1/1000, 4X= 1/10,000, 3C or 6X= 1/1,000,000, etc.). The fact that 19th-Century homeopathic remedies were dilute placebos made them preferable to the harsh concoctions being applied by the humoral practitioners. According to the laws of chemistry, there is a limit to the dilution that can be made without losing the original substance altogether. This limit, called Avogadro’s number (6.023 x 10-23) corresponds to homeopathic potencies of 12C or 24X (1 part in 1024). At this dilution there is less than a 50% chance that even one molecule of active material remains. Hahnemann himself realized that there was virtually no chance that any of the original substance remained at such high dilution, but explained it away in metaphysical terms. In addition to being contradicted by common sense, homeopathy’s Law of Infinitesimals is invalidated by pharmaceutical dose-response studies.

Promoters claim that immunization and allergy desensitization verify homeopathy because they treat like with like, but neither meets the additional requirements of homeopathic theory and practice. Immunizations do not alleviate symptoms or cure. Neither immunization nor allergy desensitization grows stronger with dilution, nor can they be “potentized.” Classical homeopaths proclaim that eating for relief of indigestion proved that like cures like, i.e., the Law of Similia. However, one does not obtain relief from indigestion by eating “potentized microdilutions” of the same food that was originally ingested. Other attempts to validate homeopathy such as the folksy value of “some of the hair of the dog that bit you” to relieve a hangover also fail to withstand close scrutiny.

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Homeopathy and Science

Scientific medicine encompasses a collection of procedures, each of which must stand on its own as safe and effective for a specific purpose. History recounts examples of ancient healers doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Some bored holes in skulls (trephining) in order to liberate angry demons thought to be causing head pain, and in the process relieved intracranial pressure. This, however, does not validate the Demonic Theory. Also, foul-smelling swamps were drained on the basis of the miasmic theory, which taught that foul-smelling emanations from the Earth caused “bad air fever” (mal-air-ia). Further, Asclepian priests scraped spear shavings into the spear-wounds of warriors believing that the weapon that caused a wound would help in its healing (like-cures-like). Copper sulfate from the bronze spearheads may have inhibited infection. Just as doing these right practices for the wrong reasons did not validate the faulty theories upon which they were based, neither will the success of a “homeopathic” remedy comprehensively validate homeopathy’s theory, pharmacology, and metaphysics. Homeopathy clearly fits Webster’s dictionary definitions of a cult: “A system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator,” and a sect: “a group adhering to a distinctive doctrine or a leader.” Healing cults or sects cannot progress and retain their identity. Homeopathy is what Hahnemann said it was. To progress scientifically homeopathy would have to accept principles of pharmacology and pathology, which run counter to its “law s” of similia and infinitesimals, its potency theory, and notions of the psora and vitalism. By doing so, it would no longer be homeopathy but biomedicine.

Studies of Homeopathy

Controlled studies involving homeopathic remedies appear to divide along political lines. While the results of most studies do not support the use of homeopathic remedies, some ostensibly well-designed trials have yielded positive findings. Some of these, however, have been done by homeopaths, and their reports contain rhetoric that reflects bias strong enough to undermine confidence in the researchers’ veracity. The best of these studies should be repeated by objective investigators with independent analyses of the homeopathic formulations employed to assure that they have not been adulterated with active medications. A comprehensive review of experimental research in homeopathy was done by Scofield (1984). He concluded: “It is obvious from this review that, despite much experimental and clinical work, there is only little evidence to suggest that homeopathy is effective. This is because of bad design, execution, reporting, analysis and, particularly, failure to repeat promising experimental work and not necessarily because of the inefficacy of the system which has yet to be properly tested on a large enough scale. There is sufficient evidence to warrant the execution of well-designed, carefully controlled experiments.” Scofield’s most encouraging statement for homeopaths was that “homeopathy has most certainly not been disproved.” However, Scofield ignored the scientific process. It is the absence of proof, not the absence of disproof, that is important. This is consistent with scientific dicta (based upon the statistical null hypothesis) that (1) no practice can be deemed safe or effective until proved to be so; and (2) the burden of proof is upon proponents.

A more recent meta-analysis of 107 controlled homeopathy trials appearing in 96 published reports also found “the evidence of clinical trials is positive but not sufficient to draw definitive conclusions because most trials are of low methodological quality and because of the unknown role of publication bias.” They also concluded that there is a legitimate case for further evaluation of homeopathy, “but only by means of well-performed trials” (Kleijnen, 1991).

In 1988, a French scientist working at that country’s prestigious INSERM institute claimed to have found that high dilutions of substances in water left a “memory,” providing a rationale for homeopathy’s Law of Infinitesimals. His findings were published in a highly regarded science journal, but with the caveat that the findings were unbelievable, and that the work was financed by a large homeopathic drug manufacturer (Nature, 1988). Subsequent investigations, including those by James Randi, disclosed that the research had been inappropriately carried out. The scandal resulted in the suspension of the scientist. Careful analysis of the study revealed that had the results been authentic, homeopathy would be more likely to worsen a patient’s condition than to heal, and that it would be impossible to predict the effect of the same dose from one time to another (Sampson, 1989).

The sectarian nature of homeopathy raises serious questions about the trustworthiness of homeopathic researchers. Scofield appropriately stated: “It is hardly surprising in view of the quality of much of the experimental work as well as its philosophical framework, that this system of medicine is not accepted by the medical and scientific community at large.” Two guiding rules required by skeptics of pseudoscience should be applied to homeopathic research, to wit: (1) extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence; and (2) it is not necessary to prove fraud, rather, the research must be done in such a manner that fraud is not possible.

Homeopathic Products
Dubious Labeling

Recent years have seen an explosion of products labeled as “homeopathic.” Among them are raw animal glands, herbal concoctions, and mineral remedies. Although some are reruns of old-time homeopathic preparations, others appear to be merely pretenders with high-dilution their only homeopathic feature. For instance. homeopathic raw bovine testicles may be highly diluted, but in order to be truly homeopathic they should have been “proved” and potentized. To have been proved, healthy people should have been fed raw bovine testicles in moderate doses and the side-effects analyzed. Gland products are not representative of the kinds of therapeutic substances homeopaths have traditionally attempted to “prove,” and it is unlikely that ingesting significant amounts of raw bovine testicles would produce any side effects. Such products appear to be intended to ward off regulatory enforcement action by merely labeling them “homeopathic,” but such products do not meet the basic consumer protection principle of accurate labeling. Standard drug labeling informs consumers about the quantity of active ingredients per dose; homeopathic labeling only informs consumers about the number of serial dilutions of the remedy.

Questionable Safety

Although homeopathic remedies are generally thought to be nontoxic due to their high dilutions, some preparations have proved to be harmful. Perverse belief in the “healing crisis” can cause pseudomedical practitioners to misjudge adverse reactions as beneficial. Healing crisis is the theory that the body innately knows what is best for it. There is a corollary belief that adverse reactions to “natural remedies” are due to “toxins” being expelled, and that the worse these are, the worse would have been future diseases if not detoxified. Thus, believers are not alarmed by adverse reactions, and are encouraged to continue treating. At the same time, “allopathic” medicine is denigrated as the “suppressing of symptoms that represent the body’s natural healing processes.” Kerr and Yarborough (1986) reported a case of pancreatitis that developed in a patient ingesting a homeopathic remedy prescribed by a chiropractor. According to the authors, the manufacturer stated that 40-45% of persons taking the remedy experienced a healing crisis that included abdominal pain. Although classical homeopathy employed numerous extremely toxic substances in infinitesimal amounts, Kerr found that two of six homeopathic remedies ordered by mail contained “notable quantities” of arsenic. NCAHF doubts that homeopathic devotees would systematically report adverse effects.

Suspicious Effectiveness

Much has been made of the fact that a 24X dilution would no longer contain a single molecule of the original substance, and reported benefits are generally attributed to the placebo effect. However, many homeopathic dosages, although dilute, may contain enough of a substance to be effective. Homeopathic products also may work because of adulteration. Morice (1986, pp. 862-863) reported that a homeopathic remedy called “Dumcap” appeared to be effective in treating asthma. Although labeled as containing “nux vomica” (strychnine), arsenic album (arsenic trioxide), Blatta onentalis (cockroach extract), and stramoni folic (stramonium), analysis revealed that the product was adulterated with therapeutic levels of the antiasthma, steroidal drugs prednisolone and betamethasone. Studies of homeopathic deemed unacceptable unless they have been monitored to assure that they were prepared according to homeopathic principles, their contents verified and dosage quantified, and secured to prevent tampering. As was stated above, simply labeling a product “homeopathic” does not guarantee that it does not contain a pharmacologically active dosage of an active substance (not all dilutions exceed Avogadro’s number). To validate a specific homeopathic remedy, replication by others who have no vested interest in the results is required. To validate homeopathic theory, higher dilutions would also have to be shown to work better than higher concentrations. Thomas Paine, a signer of the United States’ Declaration of Independence, is credited with establishing a principle for judging supernatural phenomena. He asked, “Is it easier to believe that nature has gone out of her course or that a man would tell a lie?”

Homeopathic Services
Census

The 1993 directory of the National Center for Homeopathy (Alexandria, VA) lists about 300 licensed practitioners. About half of these are physicians. The rest are mostly naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, veterinarians, dentists, nurses, or physician’s assistants. A homeopathic marketing firm spokesperson believes that several hundred more consider themselves to be homeopaths, and that many conventional physicians utilize one or more homeopathic remedies (National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, 1993). However, no data have been published supporting these estimates. In 1991–2, 36.9% of chiropractors reported using homeopathic remedies in their practices.

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A Haven for Untrustworthy Practitioners

Part of homeopathy’s appeal is the personal attention paid to patients (Avina and Schneiderman, 1978). In practice, classical homeopaths emphasize taking 30 to 45 minutes with each patient, paying careful attention to the emotional state and administering only one remedy at a time. Classical homeopathy’s close personal attention to patients, benign remedies, and special appeal to a select clientele make it seem innocuous if practitioners have the competence and good sense to recognize serious disorders and readily refer to other physicians. This, however, is not always the case. Pseudosciences such as homeopathy, even if relatively benign, are magnets for cranks and charlatans. This poses a serious problem because untrustworthy or incompetent practitioners should not be granted the privilege of administering health care. True believing cranks may pose a more serious threat than con men because of their devotion to homeopathy’s ideology. Their sincerity may make them more socially tolerable, but it can add to their potential danger. Irrational health care is never harmless, and it is irresponsible to create patient confidence in pseudomedicine. Although homeopathy may not pose a significant risk for a basically healthy patient, at some future time that same patient could face a situation where a life-or-death decision may swing on just such unwarranted confidence.

Some practitioners do not practice in homeopathy’s classical manner, but use its “benign” reputation as a cover. A well-documented example occurred in Nevada. According to an expose by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, several maverick MDs who had been in serious legal difficulty in other states descended on Nevada and managed to get the State Legislature to set up a homeopathic licensing board with themselves in charge. However, none was actually practicing homeopathy. Rather, using an unapproved electronic device they practiced “energy medicine.” When faced with the fact that they had deceived the State Legislature, proponents stated that they had used the more familiar term “homeopathy” because they feared that the legislators would not be able to grasp the new concept of “bioenergetics.” The Nevada legislature rewrote the homeopathic practice act in 1987, specifically stating that Nevada homeopaths were limited to using substances prepared according to “the methods of Hahnemannian dilution and succussion, magnetically energized geometric pattern as defined in the official homeopathic pharmacopeia of the United States” (Hayslett, 1987).

It is difficult to believe that a physician could simultaneously sustain confidence in both homeopathy and scientific health care. It is common for homeopaths to misrepresent regular medicine as misguided to justify their unusual practices. Of special concern to NCAHF is the substitution of homeopathic preparations for standard immunizations. In 1989, an Idaho naturopath was prosecuted for selling homeopathic “immunization kits,” which contained alcohol-and-water solutions and sugar pills. Defenders claimed that the homeopathic immunization products would “stimulate the immune system;” and that the FDA laboratory could not detect the active ingredients because they were so highly diluted with sugar.

Quackery

NCAHF is primarily concerned with homeopathy in the marketplace. It believes that marketing unproven homeopathic products and services precisely fits the definition of quackery: “A quack is anyone who promotes medical schemes or remedies known to be false, or which are unproven, for a profit’’ (Quackery, 1984). Dr. Kenneth Milstead, then Deputy Director of the FDA Bureau of Enforcement, stated (Young, 1968):

It matters not whether the article is harmless or whether it gives some psychosomatic relief; whether it is cheap or whether it has value for other purposes; whether it is produced by an obscure firm or whether it is produced by a “reputable” firm — the promotion of it is still quackery.

Regulators Fiddle While Consumers Are Burned
Federal Regulation

For many years homeopathic product marketing was quiescent, but with the health fad boom of the 1970s and 1980s, promoters began touting homeopathic remedies. In 1985 the FDA estimated that between 50 and 60 companies were marketing such products in the United States (FDA, 1985). The 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act contains a section that recognizes as “drugs” items listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States. This was mainly due to the efforts of New York Senator Royal Copeland who was the foremost homeopathic physician of his day. In 1938, safety was the main issue, and the highly diluted homeopathic products seemed to pose no inherent danger. However, in 1962, the Kefauver-Harris Amendment was passed requiring that drugs be proved effective before distribution. A legal fight loomed as to whether or not homeopathic drugs were grandfathered by the law, but FDA did not press the issue. Instead, it permitted products aimed at common ailments to be marketed over-the-counter (OTC), and restricted those aimed at serious ailments to prescription only. This “passed the buck” to the states that regulate the practitioners who write the prescriptions, putting consumers at the mercy of maverick homeopathic physicians. It also sent a signal to marketers that it was open season on consumers with regard to OTC homeopathic products. The resulting marketplace growth increased the ability of trade groups to gain political support and made future regulatory action more difficult. Homeopathic claims of efficacy are unsubstantiated and violate the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advertising standards, but the FTC has not acted against homeopathic advertising claims. Homeopathic remedies sold or transported by mail are subject to action by the U.S. Postal Inspectors, but few such actions have been taken.

State Regulation

Only Arizona, Connecticut, and Nevada have separate homeopathic licensing boards. At least two of these have included in prominent roles maverick medical doctors who have been in legal difficulties as regular physicians. Some state licensing boards permit licensed medical doctors to practice almost any kind of medicine they wish. Others, rightly in NCAHF’s opinion, require that health care be held to rational and responsible standards. To its credit, the North Carolina Board of Medical Examiners revoked the license of the state’s only practicing homeopath, concluding that he was “failing to conform to the standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice.” This resulted in a prolonged legal battle over the ability of a licensing board to impose standards of practice on its constituency. The state legislature eventually passed a law that limited the board’s disciplinary power undermining the consumer protection aspects of responsible medicine.

Adopted February, 1994 by the National Council Against Health Fraud.
Copyright © 1994. All Rights Reserved.

Recommendations

To Consumers

Be aware that homeopathic products and services are marketed in a “buyer beware” situation at present. Homeopathic products are not required to meet the standards of effectiveness of drugs. Homeopathic services are poorly regulated. Physicians who practice homeopathy operate below the standards of responsible medicine. Some have backgrounds that raise serious questions about their honesty. Be aware that in some states that have homeopathic licensing boards the “foxes are guarding the chicken coops.” Consumers should not entrust their health to physicians or nonphysicians who practice homeopathy.

To Basic Scientists

Homeopathy conflicts more with basic laws of physics, chemistry and pharmacology than with clinical medicine. Pharmacologists should be more proactive in opposing the marketing of homeopathic remedies. Because homeopathic theories contradict known physical laws, tests of homeopathic remedies require controls beyond those normally required of double-blind clinical trials including additional measures to show that fraud was not possible.

To the U.S. Food & Drug Administration

(1) Require that labels of homeopathic products indicate the precise amounts of ingredients in milligrams, micrograms, etc. (2) Require homeopathic products to meet the efficacy standards of all other drugs.

To the U.S. Federal Trade Commission

(1) Review advertising of homeopathic products in publications aimed at the public for false and misleading claims. (2) Monitor and take action against advertisements in trade publications used to indoctrinate salespeople, who will in turn deceive consumers about the value of homeopathic products.

To U.S. Postal Inspectors

Prosecute distributors of homeopathic mail-order products that make unproven medical claims for mail fraud.

To State Legislators

Because homeopathy is scientifically indefensible: (1) Enact laws requiring that medical products sold within your state meet the standards of accurate labeling, truthful advertising, and premarketing proof of safety and effectiveness. (2) Abolish state licensing boards for homeopathy. (3) Do not allow homeopathy in the scope of practice of any health care provider.

To State Food & Drug Regulators

Take prompt regulatory action against manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of homeopathic products who violate the law.

To Medical Licensing Boards

(1) Discipline homeopathic practitioners for unprofessional conduct. (2) Prosecute nonphysicians engaging in homeopathy for practicing medicine without a license. Because homeopathy is scientifically indefensible: (1) Enact laws requiring that medical products sold within your state meet the standards of accurate labeling, truthful advertising, and premarketing proof of safety and effectiveness. (2) Abolish state licensing boards for homeopathy. (3) Do not allow homeopathy in the scope of practice of any health care provider.

About the NCAHF

The National Council Against Health Fraud is a private nonprofit, voluntary health agency that focuses upon health misinformation, fraud and quackery as public health problems. Its funding is derived primarily from membership dues and newsletter subscriptions. NCAHF unites consumers with health professionals, educators, researchers, attorneys, and others who believe that everyone has a stake in the quality of the health marketplace. NCAHF’s positions on consumer health issues are based upon principles of science that form the basis of consumer protection law. These require: (1) full disclosure in labeling and other warranties (no secret formulas); (2) premarketing proof of safety and efficacy for products and services that claim to prevent, alleviate, or cure any disease or disorder; and (3) accountability for those who violate consumer laws. Its officers and board members serve without compensation. For more information, write: NCAHF, P.O. Box 1276, Loma Linda, CA 92354-1276; fax: 909-824-4838.

Bibliography
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  • Hayslett. 1987. Las Vegas Review Journal. July 5.
  • Kerr, Yarborough. 1986. New Engl J Med. 314: (25): 1642–3.
  • Kerr, J. 1986. Taxicol Clin Toxicol, 24: 451–459.
  • Kleijnen, Knipschild. 1991. Brit Med J. 302: 316–23.
  • Morice. 1986. The Lancet, April 12.
  • National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. 1993. Job Analysis of Chiropractic.
  • Nature. 1988. 333: 816
  • Quackery: A $10 Billion Scandal. 1984. U.S. House of Representatives, 98th Congress, 2nd Session, Comm. Publ. #98-435, May 31.
  • Sampson. 1989. Skeptical Inquirer, Fall.
  • Scofield. 1984. The Brit Homeo J. 73: 161-226.
  • Stalker, Glymour. Examining Holistic Medicine. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1985.
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  • Young. 1968. The Medical Messiahs. Princeton, 1968.

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Junior Skeptic issue 36 cover

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Making of the Fairy Cover

In this week’s Skepticblog post, Daniel Loxton shares his passion for creating fantasy and sci-fi art and gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Cottingley fairy cover for the current issue of Junior Skeptic.

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UP NEXT: Physicist Dr. David GOODSTEIN

On Fact and Fraud (detail of cover)

On Fact & Fraud:
Cautionary Tales from
the Front Lines of Science

Sunday, April 11, 2010 at 2 pm

FRAUD IN SCIENCE is not as easy to identify as one might think. When accusations of scientific misconduct occur, truth can often be elusive, and the cause of a scientist’s ethical misstep isn’t always clear. In his lecture based on his new book, On Fact and Fraud, Caltech physicist David Goodstein looks at actual cases in which fraud was committed or alleged, explaining what constitutes scientific misconduct and what doesn’t, and outlines some ethical foundations needed to discern and avoid fraud wherever it may arise. READ more…

Books by David Goodstein at Amazon.com
21 Comments »

21 Comments

  1. AZ says:

    Yes, after fifteen years the mere mention of homeopathy amps up my rant and rave mode to eleven. There is so much plan and simple science to debunk it and yet otherwise rational people still don’t get it.

    I read Trick or Treatment and have been touting it far and wide to friends. The chapters on the placebo effect are worth the price of two books.

    Placebos must be the single-most effective medical treatment. Why not legitimize placebo therapy? Make it transparent. People in white coats could look you in the eye and confidently say “this stuff really works.” It would be FDA and FTC regulated and licensed. No active ingredients permitted.

    AZ

  2. mikekrohde says:

    Not a very flattering report of homeopathic medicine. I must confess to giving more credence than is apparently earned. My ex swore by the stuff, and when her kids didn’t get better with the cures we had terrible arguments about the care of the children. I guess I should have been more forceful in my arguments. Very informative, thank you.

  3. Dr. Nabarun Ghoshal says:

    Thank you for posting this notification that warns against the fraudulent practice in the name of Homoeopathy. If Avogadro number is correct, Homoeopathy cannot be. The dilution of the active ingredients in Homoeopathic preparations up to the powers like 30 0r 200 simply cannot leave a single molecule of the parent compound in the solvent. This is a simple logic that needs no deep understanding of subjects like Quantum Chromodynamics. In spite of that, Governments of many countries lack the initiative to ban this practice that plays with the health of millions of humans.

  4. Nedda Rovelli says:

    As long as you’re going to go after alternative medicine, why don’t you at least investigate so- called scientific medicine which has made a disease out of sadness in order to sell anti-depressants, or has made a disease out of urinating in order to cap that market? Science is only as good as those who test it…there may be a lot you still don’t know. Why don’t you admit it?

  5. Robhert Pease says:

    Dr Ghoshal needs more information.

    Many practioners of homeopathy admit that no Physical substance of the original exists.
    The latest “magickal” belief here is that a Magical “Trace” is left in the water
    Its effectiveness seems to be related to the “Good Karma” of the person who prepared the mixture.
    Personally . I fail to see much difference between this and Voodoo.

    Sadly the mentality of ” Magic good..technology bad”
    (“Wizards” a popular cult movie in the ‘ 60’s )
    still is widespread

    Dr S.

  6. Dr. De Leon says:

    Thank you for this article. Please keep debunking homeopathy and holistic mumbo-jumbo. I despise junk science/pseudo-science and fantastical claims of all kinds. I am saddened on nearly a daily basis to find that someone I know believes in one or another of the homeopathic and/or new age “medical” claims. One co-worker just yesterday, was so disappointed when I told her there was nothing magical about getting a colonic. Her exact words were “Oh man, I’ve always wanted to try one of those!” *sigh*

  7. Nedda Rovelli says:

    By the way, do any of you go to church or believe in God? “sigh”

  8. Wendy says:

    I am really disappointed by the Freethought Alliance’s Conference ad. Based on their website, these people are not actually questioning whether science and religion can coexist, they CLEARLY are *already* of the opinion that they cannot. What a deceptive and ridiculous topic name, then, for promoting such an event. Why is it that so often cynicism, which is based on *doubt*, masquerades as skepticism, which is based on *inquiry*? The “Freethought” (a misnomer in itself, it appears) Alliance appears to be just another instance of people creating a religion of anti-religion, and of condescending attitudes towards anyone who doesn’t share their established viewpoints.

    • Robhert Pease says:

      horray for anything based on “doubt”

      When it becomes a bad thing to doubt. the word won’t even exist.. ( ministry of TRUTH, 1984- style)

      Dr, Sidethink

  9. Bruce Gleason says:

    Wendy, as president of the Freethought Alliance, I personally do think that science and religion must co-exist, albeit with a large dose of tolerence. I’m sure I’ll learn more fromthe wonderful speakers at the conference. When you say “a religion of anti-religion” you really mean “those who make decisions based on science and reason” then I’m all for it. Most skeptics aren’t condenscending – they are simply looking for their ‘truth’ thought inquiry.

  10. Alexandre Pepin says:

    All,
    I just literally fell on this article and fell off my chair, by reading such basic hatred around that kind of medicine. We are acknowledging pharmaceutical labs selling governments horribly expensive swine flue vaccine for a flue which kills 10 time less than the regular flue or accept from them “mistakes” around new drugs killing dozens but when it comes to homeopathy (has it been a report of a death related to homeopathy??) people are screaming their goats out. Pfeitzer has more drug related death in it’s hand with one drug than the whole of the homeopathic drugs makers ever since they start to produce. Allopathic medications are very well known to have side effects than can be disastrous and yet that is not in the equation when you guys try to debunk? What are you, scared? I have grown up around homeopathic medicine and though it has truly not been studied like allopathic medicine (allopathy is medicine practice using substances that creates contrary effects to the disease, the “regular” medicine), the effects are real, I am a living proof of it. I can try to give an answer to the fact that it has not been studied like allopathic medicine, which might be first lack of impartiality of the scientists involved and second being lack of technical advancement of the analytical methods. Do we know all effects on all molecules passing through our own body? Can we trace particules at all scales? With our current knowledges and technological advancement we don’t understand cancer, we cannot find a cure for malaria. We have cluster computing to help out understanding that parasite and we are far from the solution. There are so many unknown in our own body and yet we do not have a true scientific approach when it comes to homeopathy (impartiality and non refutable facts otherwise it has to be stated as theory). I have a simple example, long time ago we were debunking the theory of the earth as not being the center of the solar system, only later came technological and people’s development to accept this as a fact and start debunking the earth as the center of the solar system. I do regret though that pseudo medics abuse homeopathy for their own greed and I understand that it leads to disbelief. Same problems can be experienced elsewhere, like extremists for a given religion. Homeopathy works around knowledge of various type of toxins and plant extracts as well as a perfect knowledge of human physiology and pathology, hence homeopathy should be only a medical specialty practiced by trained and graduated medics. One must not forget that this type of medicine (like any other)has its limits, then if it is reached the allopathic treatments must be considered and prescribed by the same medic (the latter would be the idealistic way). These were the recommendations of my personal medic, which happened to prescribe homeopathy and allopathy.

    • Don says:

      Has there been a death related to homeopathic therapy? YES. See http://whatstheharm.net/homeopathy.html

    • reader11 says:

      sorry your wrong dude get over it homepathic medicine hasn’t cured anytihng ever, was smallpox cured by homeopathy? no was polio? no was yellow fever? no those things were wiped out by REAL medicine done by real doctors who saved mother^&*$ing lives! have you saved 1 person with homeopathy? no you haven’t so stfu! this is the NATIONAL coucil against health fraud not some two bit operation with a bunch of black hats at its helm, its got real medical scientist who work endlessly to develop methods and drugs that will heal and promote good health! and they dont go around stroking each other off! as george carlin would say they actaully test this stuff and if you say “substance so and so cures this and that” someone gonna check your damn homework!! what do you do besides bash legitimate medicine in your spare time? you prolly have a vested interest in homeopathy… once again stfu! unless you’ve done your homework and can prove to all these good people to listen to you and your homeopathy bs, and not real medicine and science…

  11. Latero Sidethink Hp.D says:

    “screaming their GOATS out”

    The peculiar imagery staggers the imagination!
    Time for a Monty Python skit…

    Also, Can you prove that the earth is not the center of
    the solar system ???

    As another matter of humor::
    Native speakers of English frequently use ” Works around”
    ( Homeopathy works around knowledge of various….” )
    to mean “to Evade by deception”
    Do you realize that it would be easy to find 100 doctors named “Steve” who scorn Homeopathy even if some doctors use it usually with the Tom Dooley mindset ..” It can’t hurt anything ( except ypur pocketbook and delaying effective treatment) , Especially if it’s distal to the wound .

    Personally I like Chromotherapy.. which says you can be healed by meditating on to the colors you see when listening to either RAP or Beethoven

    Good luck

    Dr. S

  12. niloy chattaraj says:

    It is very pity that even regular medical practioners in india suggest homeopathy! we need consolidated effort to curb this. even indian govrnment is advertising homeopathy on national channel. this is clearly the ignorance of so called educated people in India.This is now growing in India like mushrooms.We need to do something……
    Niloy

  13. AZ says:

    Dr.S,

    OK here’s the deal – if high dilutions of anything leave traces after the Avogadro number is reached we’d be awash with chemical trails from all the low ppm chemicals in our environment. OMG! “chemtrails!” We’re doomed.

    AZ

  14. Pollen says:

    Any of those skeptics have tried classical homeopathy, or do they just think what they are told to think?

    • Tony Q. King says:

      >>>Any of those skeptics have tried classical homeopathy, or do they just think what they are told to think?

      Yes, and Yes (past tense)
      Homoeopathic “remedies” were administered to me by my wife several years ago.
      I complied only to “keep the peace”.
      Alas even then it did not work; she left me anyhow.
      I believe she still practices this mad art, under the direction of a neighbour- he, at one time, was into MLM of magnetic therapies – http://www.nikken.com – until the (heh heh) magnetic market field collapsed.
      I’m still waiting for his wave function to collapse.
      Too bad- unlike the sugar pills, I coulda used some the more powerful magnets to find lost screws and other small iron objects on my front lawn!

  15. Howard says:

    Hi,I keep on seeing many utube sites who claim that almost every jet exhaust is a chem trail containing mind altering chemicals that is prepetuated by our Government to control our minds.I think it’s bunk.I’m not talking about cloud seeding.I know we are experimenting seeding clouds to help drought area’s.I can believe that.Another topic on these sites they are talking about H.A.A.R.P. Where the U.S. Government can create Earthquakes by using microwave beams on a large scale to mess with our ionisphere?They are now blaming us for Japans large earthquake,as well as Haiti’s a few years ago.Can I hear from you guys,and hear that you officially can debunk all of this?I don’t believe a word of this,but I would like some ammo to debate these “so-called” expert on these conspiracies.I would truly appreciate a response.Sorry if mispelled some words. Thank you so much,and BTW…Seth,you Rock dude !

  16. Gringo says:

    Howard,

    It is not hard to debunk “chemtrail” believers. All they have to argue with are logical fallacies, not evidence.

  17. Joel Carlinsky says:

    There is a long history to the chemtrail nonsense. The US did a classified experiment in 1958 of spreading radioactive dust from aircraft over Northern New Mexico to test out the health effects of fallout in case of a nuclear war. At the time, Northern New Mexico was very sparsely inhabited, and most of the inhabitants were Navahos, who were considered expendable. That project was made public in Clinton’s first term and he apologized for it.

    In the Viet Nam war, the US tried to bog down Viet Cong supply trails by seeding clouds over North Viet Nam. That effort was unsuccessful. Another failure was an attempt by the US Navy to seed hurricanes to make them drop their moisture out at sea instead of hitting land. These well-publicised failures made the US willing to sign a treaty banning military uses of weather modification because they already had concluded it did not work, so they might as well agree not to use it.

    As a result of that treaty, the only existing classified weather modification program, a research project at China Lake, California, by the Office Of Naval Research, which was doing studies on using hydroscopic materials to try to trigger cloud formation, was declassified and shut down to comply with the treaty. There were no other classified research programs on weather modification at that time and there have been none since.

    And in the 1970s, there was a rumor among farmers in the Midwest that the government was cloudseeding on behalf of the banks to dry out the country and bankrupt the farmers so the banks could take their land. Some farmers actually shot at small private planes they suspected of seeding clouds.

    In the 1990s, these stories got conflated by an astroturf anti-environment group in Idaho called the Wise Use Movement, which was funded by the timber, mining, and cattle industries to create hostility towards environmentalists who were working to protect Wilderness Areas from destructive exploitation, into an absurd story that the US Government was controlled by “radical environmentalists” and there was some secret government plot spraying toxic chemicals from aircraft to kill off the excess population.

    The propaganda in western communities dominated by extractive industries was aimed at whipping up antagonism towards all environmental protection efforts by claiming that the protection of wilderness areas in response to lobbying by environmental activists of the small and woefully underfunded grass-roots groups struggling to preserve a few scraps of nature in a world gone mad with capitalist greed was evidence the Federal government was controlled by “radical environmentalists”. Accusing the “radical” environmentalists of wanting to exterminate the human race was a propaganda move to discredit the movement to protect a few wilderness areas from destruction.

    The story has mushroomed since with more elements being added every day. They now frequently include the HAARP project in Alaska, which is really a conspiracy, all right, It is a rip-off of $600,000,000 of taxpayers money by the Arco oil company, which owns the natural gas well at the site. The gas is burned to provide the electric power for the antenna array, and the Air Force involvement was facilitated by corrupt Air Force officers who were bribed with offers of cushy jobs with Arco when they retired from the Air Force. HAARP has nothing to do with weather control, as anyone familiar with the physics of the atmosphere would know.

    The conspiracy stories themselves are of no real interest. The really important question is why would any supposedly sane adult believe such stories when told about them. The psychology of the believers is a subject that needs to be explored in depth. The following hypothesis is the best I have been able to come up with so far. If anyone can suggest a better one, please let me know.

    Conspiracy theories about secret government plots are based on the common childhood experience, usually at around age 4 or 5, of wondering what Daddy and Mommy are doing in secret behind closed doors. They are most commonly found among people on the far right of the political spectrum because that is where the most sexually repressed people are usually found.

    The more sexually repressed segments of the population are especially prone to beliefs in secret conspiracies because at some deep level, they never did find out, at least not in a way they could accept, so they still think Big People are doing Something Bad in Secret. And there is no arguing with them because their beliefs in the “conspiracy” are not based on evidence seen as adults, but on a childhood experience they misunderstood at that age and later repressed.

    And that is all there is to the chemtrail nonsense.

    Joel Carlinsky
    joelcarlinsky@yahoo.com

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