Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Sunday, August 28, 2005

More junk science debunked

More junk science debunked
By Jonathan M. Gitlin
Saturday, August 27, 2005

They're falling like flies. First to go was the one about vitamin C and the common cold. Next was the power of Echinacea to do not much. Now, much to the chagrin of Prince Charles and alternative medicine practitioners, comes news that homeopathy is also bunk.

In case you are unfamiliar with the concept of homeopathy, it goes thus; like should be treated with like, so homeopathic treatments for hay fever involve treating it with pollen. But not actual pollen. Once solutions are prepared, they are then diluted again and again, past the point where the solution would contain any molecules of the solute. Or, as we in the lab like to say, "it's just water!" Jacques Benveniste, a renowned French scientist, and discoverer of platelet activating factor, ruined his reputation for proposing a mechanism for how homeopathy could possibly work. His theory was that water had a memory—that even though the solute could not possible be left after so many dilutions, somehow the water molecules remained arranged around a phantom structure. Needless to say, this theory was not well taken in the scientific community, and Dr. Benveniste died last year, still estranged from his peers.

Now a study from a team in Switzerland and the UK has conducted a meta-analysis of 110 existing clinical trials of homeopathic medicine and concludes that the treatments offer no benefit over placebo. I can’t say that surprises me, as I can’t see any difference between a homeopathic solution and plain old H2O. This news comes at the same time as an announcement that Prince Charles has commissioned a study to investigate the possible savings to the NHS if they were to use homeopathy. I think I can save the modern-architecture-hating Royal some time. It would probably be a great money saver, and solve the overcrowding problem too, as patients were denied life-saving therapy and instead offered sugar pills.

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