The other day I was reading about hospitals in Europe which use homeopathy. At the General Hospital in Klagenfurt, Austria, children with cancer are treated with homeopathy along with conventional medicine. (1) At another hospital in Austria, (KA Rudolfstiftung), homeopathy is used with newborns in the delivery room and intensive care units. (2) Children with profound mental impairment receive homeopathic care in the Rzadkowo Welfare Centre in Poland. (3) A study at Vinnitsa Medical University (Ukraine) atrial fibrillation was successfully treated using homeopathy (4). (The wife of a friend recently underwent drastic surgery for this same problem.) Finally, there was the heartening research of Dr. Nikolaus Hock in Munchen Germany, using homeopathy to treat depression. He presented two cases of people suffering from depression who got no relief from drugs in over two years. They were each cured in five weeks with homeopathic remedies (Aurum muriaticum and Alumina). (5)
In light of all this, and homeopathy’s massive accomplishments, it seems absurd that homeopathy is still being attacked by the allopathic (orthodox) establishment. If facts could convince our critics, the debate would have ended long ago. We have two hundred years of well documented clinical successes and scores of rigorous studies. We also have the fact that thousands of board certified physicians practice homeopathy privately and in hospitals and clinics around the world. That should be enough.
When homeopathy is attacked, the homeopathic community defends by analyzing the critics’ arguments and quoting more studies. Such responses are important and admirable as far as they go, but homeopathy keeps finding itself on the defensive, so we need an additional approach.
There is an old saying, “A way of knowing is a way of not knowing.”
Our detractors “know” that highly diluted substances can’t effect physiology; therefore, they “know” that homeopathy can’t possibly work. It is a belief, much like a religious conviction, programmed by their training and reinforced by years of propaganda.
It is not that people can’t learn from new information, but rather that they avoid information which contradicts their beliefs. There is sufficient data supporting homeopathy to convince anyone willing to look at it. The critics of homeopathy simply ignore the facts, while repeating their mantra about high dilutions.
Last year The Lancet medical journal described homeopathic remedies as no better than “dummy drugs” (6) and recently, thirteen eminent clinical scientists in Britain described homeopathy as “implausible” and urged the National Health Service to stop wasting money on it. (7)
These “scientists” are on shaky ground for several reasons. Firstly, they are not qualified to engage in this discussion. Imagine if the BBC article had stated, “Thirteen eminent clinical scientists, who never studied homeopathy, had no in-depth knowledge of it, and never tried the remedies personally nor professionally, described homeopathy as implausible.” That would be ludicrous. Since when are people, unschooled in a subject, allowed to become authorities on it?
The opponents of homeopathy can’t accept the idea of high dilutions and believe this aspect of homeopathy pre-empts all argument. However, that issue was put to rest long ago. There are numerous studies which demonstrate the effects of high dilutions. They’ve been duplicated in other labs and were done under circumstances where placebo effects were not a factor; for example: high potencies of thymulin were shown to depress immune response in mice (8), Potentized cyanide of mercury, protected mice from toxic doses of that substance. (9) High dilutions of thyroxin altered the rate at which larvae change into tadpoles (10), and potentized Ruta Graveolens and Ginseng protected mice from sub-lethal doses of X-rays. (11) All of that is quite available to anyone who honestly wants to know; but with a Cliff Notes version of homeopathy, the opposition marches righteously forward.
How do we change our opponents’ beliefs? First, we must demand that they educate themselves as a condition of debate. What expert would debate his field with a novice? But that is what we are being asked to do. If we embarrass them into becoming knowledgeable, our critics may succomb to the fate of Dr. Constantine Hering, the father of American homeopathy, who became a convert to homeopathy in the cause of debunking it.
Secondly, we must insist that they actually try the remedies, because at the end of the day, we learn with our bodies. The world is divided into the haves and have nots: those who have tried homeopathy and those who have not. Those who have tried it–the 500 million people in the world who use homeopathy–know that it works. They didn’t decide that based on years of research. The people who disparage homeopathy, have no personal experience with it. There’s no excuse for that, since this is not a debate about life on Saturn. Homeopathic remedies are readily available. It would require no commitment for them to put a remedy where their mouth is. There is a proud tradition of scientists using their own bodies in research. Dr. Max von Pettenkofer drank a broth containing cholera and Dr. Jesse Lazear allowed mosquitoes infected with yellow fever to bite his arm. Surely we can ask our critics to try a little sugar pill. It seems absurd to argue about a point that can so easily be resolved.
Aside from their lack of knowledge and experience, allopaths who attack homeopathy are on shaky ground for other reasons. They often challenge our research, but their own is totally compromised. Drug company money taints every step of the process. Pharma funds most of the research, controls the design of trials, directs the interpretation of findings and pays authors (often ghost authors) to write positive reviews in medical journals. (12) Not surprisingly, studies have shown that drug company-sponsored research almost always finds positive results for their drugs. (13)
What’s more, the drug companies control what results get published, depending on whether they are favorable or not. The control extends all the way to intimidation of researchers. Not long ago a Canadian researcher was threatened with legal action by a drug company when she tried to publish negative findings on one of their drugs. (14)
Federal oversight and research is no better. The watchdog agency which should protect us, the FDA, routinely permits researchers connected with Pharma, to sit on drug approval committees. Almost one-third of the FDA advisory committee which recommended that Vioxx remain on the market, had financial ties to the drug industry (15). Dr. Paul Rosch reported that 94% of the research scientists at NIH were receiving money from drug companies. (16)
The result of all this compromised research is the release of drugs onto the market which are often ineffective and cause unspeakable harm.
The medical journals themselves receive vast advertising revenue from the pharmaceutical industry. Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, described the relationship between drug companies and medical journals as “…somewhere between symbiotic and parasitic.” (17)
No one is watching the store, not even your doctor. You expect your physician to make sound judgements on your behalf; but, to hawk their wares, the pharmaceutical companies spend about $7,000 per doctor per year in the U.S ( some get much more).(18) Doctors are gifted everything from sports tickets to expensive meals and trips. Doctors are also paid betwen $1,000 and $5,000 for each patient they enroll in a drug company triaI. (19) Studies show that all these gifts influence doctors’ prescribing patterns. (20) I was recently in a doctor’s office where drug logos embellished the clock, the calendar, the pens and writing pads, the floor mat and even the coffee cup. The only thing that didn’t have a drug logo on it was the woman sitting next to me.
Our adversaries say that homeopathy is just placebo and that it doesn’t work. We could quote more studies on homeopathy, or we could put their own medicines under the spotlight. In 2003, the vice president of genetics at GlaxoSmithKline cited figures showing that most drugs are ineffective for 50-80 percent of the people who use them. In other words, most drugs don’t work for most people. Drugs for Alzheimers and cancer were least effective, useful in only 30% of cases. (21) Aside from whether they relieve symptoms, these drugs can make little claim of curing any chronic disease. Whose drugs don’t work?
Let us also remind our critics of their own safety record. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that conventional drugs kill about 106,000 Americans a year, and this figure is limited to patients that die in the hospital, so the actual figure is unquestionably much higher. That makes prescription drugs the fourth leading cause of death in the United States (after heart attack, cancer and stroke). (22) Just one single drug, Vioxx, killed more Americans than the Vetnam War. That comes from the sworn testimony of Dr. David Graham, a senior scientist at the FDA. (23)
The toll in suffering and death from allopathic drugs is beyond description. Samuel Hahnemann said it best, “This non-healing art has for centuries shortened the lives of ten times as many human beings as the most destructive wars and rendered many millions of patients more diseased and wretched than they were originally.” (24)
Next time homeopathy is attacked, let us remove our opponents’ righteousness by exposing what they’re offering and demanding informed debate. They offer a medical system which uses tainted research, drugs that are not curative, don’t work for most people and are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Let us insist that they educate themselves and that they actually try the remedies. “How many remedies have you tried?” must be our mantra. Then perhaps we can have a dialogue and share our knowledge.
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(1)(2)(3)(4)(5) Abstracts of the 60th Congress of the Liga Medicorum Homeopathica Internationalis :
(6) BBC – Homeopathy’s Benefit Questioned
(7) The Guardian-May 24, 2006 – A Clash of Cultures
(8) Evaluation de la dose limite d’activite du Facteur Thymique Serique – Doucet-Jaboef M, et al. C.R. Acad.Sci. 295:III
(9) Influence de l’administration de dilutions infinitesimiles de mercurius corrosivus sur la mortalite induite par le chlorure mercurique chez la souris. Cambar J, et al. (1983) Bull. Soc. Pharmacol. Bordeaux 122: 30-38.
(10) The metamorphosis of amphibians and information of thyroxin storage via the bipolar fluid water and on a technical data carrier; transference via an electronic amplifier. Endler PC et al. Fundamental Research in Ultra High Dilution and Homeopathy. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 1998: p.155.
(11) Assessment of Cytogenetic Damage in X-irradiated mice mice and its alteration by oral administration of potentized homeopathic drug, Ginseng D200.
Berlin J. Res. homeopathy (4/5):254.
(12 ) Conflict of Interest in Clinical Drug Trials -Dr. Thomas Bodenheimer
(15) Pharma Industry News Article Date: 26 Feb 2005 – 23:00 PST
(16) Big Pharma and the Ties That Bind: The Politics of Drug Promotion )
(18) Stephen Cha, “These Gifts are Bad for Our Health”, Washington Post, Sunday, July 24, 2005; Page B02
(19) see (12)
(20) Prescribing Under the Influence
(21) Alliance for Human Research Protection
(22) Journal of the American Medical Association 4/15/98.
(23) Testimony of Dr David Graham at Senate Finance Comittee Hearings
(24) Hahnemann, Samuel. Organon of Medicine. 5th and 6th Edition, Trans.Dudgeon. India: B. Jain Pub.
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Alan V.Schmukler is a homeopath and educator. He is the author of Homeopathy: An A to Z Home Handbook. You can visit his website at www.healgently.com. Questions and comments are welcome at [email protected]