CAM therapies, although used by millions of satisfied patients throughout the world, are frequently misrepresented and misunderstood, often, by certain ‘self-selected’ sceptics and their organisations, who take it upon themselves to disparage what they do not fully understand, invariably on social media, where they are addressing and influencing a potentially innocent, gullible public.
In addition, these people, appear to have the ability, through their ‘connections’ to influence the press and media in general. I have recently witnessed several articles in which the writers are glaringly ill informed on all aspects of CAM therapies, yet choose to highlight their ignorance anyway, in an attempt to denigrate whatever their chosen victim/therapy is that day.
The majority of the detractors, as will be discussed, are rarely qualified in the therapies they vilify, exhibiting a poor and inadequate understanding. (Some, have limited experience, but very little in depth, recent, first-hand working knowledge of homeopathy and its philosophy and principles, the same could be said for chiropractic, osteopathy etc.)
The phrase ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ comes to mind. Consequently, they are often responsible for spreading inaccurate information about modalities whose efficacy has been proven by genuine experts in the field, either through the traditional RCT route or empirically and which are of great benefit to many people.
Failure to recognise paradigmatic differences in approach to treatment leads to second rate journalism and tacky social media, fuelled by ignorance. Having the freedom to criticise and say what they like, no matter how inaccurate their assertions are, simply fuels the egos of these people; they are not helping humanity.
New theories are being presented by Nobel laureates, and eminent scientists, on a frequent basis, determined once and for all to prove an exact mechanism of action; their qualifications in science and research make any detractor look insignificant and lacking in true, relevant education.
This research, given the current worldwide crisis surrounding conventional pharmaceutical drugs, their side effects and consequent iatrogenic disease, coupled with antibiotic resistance, should encourage and motivate such high-level, essential work, by brilliant scientists such as Brian Josephson (Nobel Prize Physicist,) ‘Water Science’ academic, Professor Gerald Pollack of the University of Washington, who’s interests have ranged broadly, from biological motion and cell biology to the interaction of biological surfaces with aqueous solutions.
Also, a pioneering scientist from the Moscow Academy of Sciences, Professor Vladimir Voeikov, renowned researcher in the field of physical and chemical properties of aqueous systems is providing key roles in vital processes in living systems.
Each of these brilliant men are slowly unravelling exactly how homeopathy is working alongside many other top-level, eminent researchers dedicated to discovering the exact mechanism of action of homeopathic remedies. My advice would be, leave it the experts, such as these distinguished scientists, not those who are ill equipped to communicate important issues to the broader public.
It is probably not necessary to point out that the researchers/academics above, do not need to spend their lives on twitter where defamation, ignorance and rudeness have superseded any true human values; such genius would not waste their time or lower their standards. It is also worth considering that the original definition of sceptism invited reflection and consideration for opposing views.
The original Greek meaning of skeptikos was ‘an inquirer,’ someone who was unsatisfied and still looking for truth. There is no evidence of this, rather, the intention is to ridicule by voicing a one-sided perspective, instead of presenting any of the positive evidence, which is encouraging, and plentiful, particularly were they to approach the millions of satisfied, healed patients, in addition to the readily available published evidence as to efficacy.
To put all relevant medical data into context, inadequacies in the research documented for conventional medicine will be deliberated and exposed, as this is of great relevance to the overall subject matter being covered in this paper; fundamentally, as will be demonstrated, it is often as open to criticism as studies and trials in the CAM sector.
This article will conclude that, despite their very best efforts in attempting to destroy homeopathy and many other alternative approaches to health, they have failed; in fact, for over 200 years they have failed dismally, as demand now is greater than ever, as people become more aware of the risks they are taking by consuming endless prescription drugs.
The rise in popularity and the need for alternative therapies was highlighted in the recent World Health Organisation report and is indisputable. ‘Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM) is an important and often underestimated health resource with many applications, especially in the prevention and management of lifestyle-related chronic diseases, and in meeting the health needs of ageing populations.
Many countries are seeking to expand coverage of essential health services at a time when consumer expectations for care are rising, costs are soaring, and most budgets are either stagnant or being reduced. Given the unique health challenges of the 21st century, interest in T&CM is undergoing a revival.
One of the three strategic objectives of the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023 is “To build the knowledge base for active management of T&CM through appropriate national policies”. As a result, a key priority identified for Member States is the strategic gathering, analysis and synthesis of data on T&CM use, and the development of a national research agenda. (WHO 2019)
The truth behind the success of conventional medicine. A necessary perspective
On the basis CAM therapies are frequently criticised as not being scientifically plausible in their actions, thus any positive outcomes are often credited to the placebo effect, the efficacy of conventional medicine, despite supposed superiority and clarity in results, is also difficult to gauge, even under normal testing methods such as the Gold standard RCT.
Richard Horton, chief editor of the Lancet, sums it up succinctly: ‘The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. (Horton, R:2015)
This is further supported by the views of Dr. Marcia Angell Editor in Chief of the New England Medical Journal: “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine” (Angell, M:2009)
A magnificent article to read on this subject, citing much of the work of Dr John Ioannnidis, is: ‘Lies, damned lies and medical science’ (Freedman, D. 2010.) Fundamentally, he discusses how science can be very open to interpretation, and this results in poorly conducted untrustworthy, or worse, fraudulent studies. Ioannidis states: ‘At every step in the process, there is room to distort results, a way to make a stronger claim or to select what is going to be concluded,’ says Ioannidis. There is an intellectual conflict of interest that pressures researchers to find whatever it is that is most likely to get them funded.
He goes on to conclude that: ‘Science is a noble endeavour, but it’s also a low-yield endeavour…I’m not sure that more than a very small percentage of medical research is ever likely to lead to major improvements in clinical outcomes and quality of life. We should be very comfortable with that fact.’
All of these views from these unquestionably high-profile, genuine experts in the field, serve to demonstrate that despite the abuse CAM therapies come under for so called lack of evidence, the conventional sector in medicine, is in fact, similar, if not exactly the same, with results of trials, invariably open to interpretation.
In a recent flurry of attacks on homeopathy (October 2019,) NHS CEO Simon Stevens said homeopathy was ‘no replacement for rigorously tried and tested medical treatments, delivered or prescribed by properly-qualified professionals.’ In the light of the evidence given above from key conventional experts, this statement is almost absurd. To be specific, here are some statistics taken from the HRI website:
‘By the end of 2014, 189 randomised controlled trials of homeopathy on 100 different medical conditions had been published in peer-reviewed journals. Of these, 104 papers were placebo-controlled and were eligible for detailed review:
- 41%were positive (43 trials) – finding that homeopathy was effective
- 5% were negative (5 trials)– finding that homeopathy was ineffective
- 54%were inconclusive (56 trials)
An analysis of 1016 systematic reviews of RCTs of conventional medicine had strikingly similar findings2:
- 44% were positive– the treatments were likely to be beneficial
- 7% were negative– the treatments were likely to be harmful
- 49% were inconclusive– the evidence did not support either benefit or harm
So, despite the frequently inaccurate statement ‘there is no scientific evidence that homeopathy works’, the above findings categorically show that positive outcomes are very similar for both the homeopathic and conventional routes, which contradicts the above assertion by Stevens stating: ‘homeopathy is no replacement for rigorously tried and tested medical treatments.’ HRI states: ‘It is clear from the above statistics that although the percentages of positive, negative and inconclusive results are similar in homeopathy and conventional medicine, it is important to recognise a vast difference in the quantity of research carried out; chart A represents 189 individual trials on homeopathy, whereas chart B represents 1016 reviews on conventional medicine, each analysing multiple trials.’ (HRI:2019) What must also be taken into account is the scale of the conventional trials, possibly due to greater funding availability; it is essential that we are able to find the resources to fund particularly fund ‘large-scale, high quality repetitions of the most promising studies.’
Equally erroneous is the following statement: ‘The NHS, the Chief Medical Officer and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s position is that homeopathic remedies are not scientifically validated, or recommended to treat any health conditions. (BBC News, October 2019.)
As will be discussed, this statement is indisputably wrong, with the recently released Australian report, stating categorically that homeopathy is effective in at least 5 conditions, in addition to the vast research available, much of which can be accessed via the HRI website.
It is time, all round to put the record straight. The recent RCVS (2018) report, for example, was founded and based on flawed evidence such as this, including a plethora of similarly flawed studies, (CAM4Animals: 2019.) The result being that CAM therapies can only be used after the conventional approach, in the treatment of an animal.
The RCVS stated that:
Homeopathy exists without a recognised body of evidence for its use. Furthermore, it is not based on sound scientific principles. In order to protect animal welfare, we regard such treatments as being complementary rather than alternative to treatments for which there is a recognised evidence base or which are based in sound scientific principles.’ (RCVS:2017)
This statement, in the light of the evidence above, has been proven to be wrong, but in the mean time has paved the way for a vet, Danny Chambers, who wishes to ban alternative therapies, to potentially represent the public in parliament. Should he be successful, he will be capable of exerting an undue, further negative influence on the usage of CAM therapies, through inadequate understanding, such as that described above or his failure to accept any of the positive data around homeopathy.
He stated: ‘I recognise that the majority of veterinary homeopaths are acting with the best of intentions, but unfortunately being well-intentioned but deluded is no substitute for being right, especially when the consequences could lead to unnecessary suffering and even death.’ (Chambers, D, cited by Fearon, R: BMJ.)
As stated above, by the editor of the Lancet, and the editor in chief of the new England Journal, the statistics for conventional medical outcomes are equally as tenuous and open to debate as those in the complementary medicine sector. Who, therefore is deluded? Clearly, an organisation such as the RCVS should base any major policy decisions on reliable evidence, not that which is undisputedly incorrect. One would hope that this will now be amended accordingly and rightfully.
Background to The Australian Report
In brief, in March 2015, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) published an Information Paper on homeopathy, commonly referred to as ‘The Australian Report.’ This document concluded that ‘there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.’ The report triggered headlines around the world suggesting NHMRC had found that homeopathy does not work for any condition, such as report triggered inaccurate headlines around the world – from the UK: “Homeopathy not effective for treating any condition” (Guardian) to the USA: “1800 studies later scientists conclude homeopathy doesn’t work” (Smithsonian.com).
The implications and potential damage to homeopathy were huge. This study has subsequently been cited throughout the world to discredit homeopathy. However, through persistent Freedom of information requests, the original report, never aired to the public and said to have been of a high quality has finally been released.
The First Report found ‘encouraging evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy” for five conditions, including otitis media (ear infections), upper respiratory tract infection in adults, and some side effects of cancer treatment.’(Release the first report: 2019) NHMRC Chief Executive Prof Anne Kelso’s has now finally admitted that, “Contrary to some claims, the review did not conclude that homeopathy was ineffective” (CEO Statement, 26 August 2019.) An outline of the key facts, can be found here: (HRI, 2019)
Thus, this now published first report is unequivocal evidence that the NHMRC violated the Research Code of Conduct by not originally disclosing its existence. Therefore, the integrity and validity of their findings cannot be trusted. In alignment with the general unethical nature of the detractors and their influence on CAM therapies, it was found that Professor Peter Brooks, Chair of the NHMRC committee that conducted the 2015 review, signed a conflict of interest form declaring he was not ‘affiliated or associated with any organisation whose interests are either aligned with or opposed to homeopathy,’ despite being a member of anti-homeopathy lobby group ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’.
Deception such as this should be exposed and legally challenged. Clearly, this new evidence must mean that the narrative sparked by the negative (misleading/wrong) report must be addressed, corrected and widely publicised. Furthermore, its existence was only established through freedom of information requests, as discussed.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is currently considering charges of scientific misconduct, bias and conflict of interest against NHMRC. It was concluded that ‘This is a serious research scandal of the highest degree, revealing the extent to which the review team secretly manipulated the methods well after the contractor had already collated and assessed the evidence, with none of the changes disclosed in the final report released to the public.’ Slowly but surely, it would appear that attempts to discredit homeopathy are being exposed and the truth is being revealed.
Sceptic Organisations. The low down.
As discussed, many of the detractors are affiliated with well-known organisations such as The Nightingale collaboration and Sense about Science. The latter refers to itself as ‘An independent charity that challenges misrepresentation of science and evidence in public life. We advocate openness and honesty about research, and ensure the public interest in sound science and evidence is recognised in public debates and policymaking.’ Given the power of these organisations to discredit and influence, deep scrutiny is required into the motives and underlying associations.
George Monbiot, describing the strange connections, and possible conflicts of interests within the society describes Sense about Science as ‘a bizarre and cultish political network’, accusing the scientific establishment of being ‘politically naïve in allowing itself to be represented by these people.
He refers to them as ‘entryists,’ entryism defined as ‘the infiltration of a political party by members of another group, with the intention of subverting its policies or objectives.’ Monbiot states: ‘Are we looking at a group which wants power for its own sake, or one following a political design, of which this is an intermediate step? What I can say is that the scientific establishment, always politically naive, appears unwittingly to have permitted its interests to be represented to the public by the members of a bizarre and cultish political network. Far from rebuilding public trust in science and medicine, this group’s repugnant philosophy could finally destroy it.’ (Montbiot, G: 2003)
Such astute observations confirm the view that these people, the self-selected face of scepticism, made all the more powerful via social media, have no place, right or qualification to be in the so-called position of authority over issues they have no in depth knowledge of.
From a personal point of view, and I feel this is I important to state, I am every day, confronted with similar ignorance and bias, such as that discussed here, directed generally from people who are sceptical about the scope of my work in natural medicine. These people can be divided into two camps, ‘friends’, who tend to become acquaintances, as our differences can invariably make us feel not in the least bit friendly and at odds with our fundamental beliefs.
The second camp is the ‘professional sceptic’, described above, who I would define as a ‘twitter lovie’ generally spending their life on social media, in an attempt to ridicule anyone who works in alternative medicine, and those of us who actually have the insight education and experience to be aware that chugging down large quantities of antibiotics/steroids/painkillers, may actually be detrimental to one’s health.
Having worked with holistic medicine in many forms for over 25 years, I have witnessed phenomenal outcomes whereby people’s lives have been turned around. The uninitiated, predictable response is generally directed towards ‘the placebo effect.’ The placebo effect is applicable to all systems of medicine, including the conventional drug approach.
Much of the healing I have personally been responsible for goes far deeper, and involves, at times, complex, positive pathological changes, in homeopathy evidenced by ‘direction of cure’ and a ‘return of old symptoms’ following the administration of a remedy.
Again, this would elude many who have not studied homeopathy in depth and who are not aware of ground breaking, ongoing research that has taken place by eminent researchers and scientists and Nobel laureates in the last few years.
Instead of derision, I would expect the intelligent amongst them to help fund the research. The pure drug approach, although it clearly has its place, is outdated, potentially dangerous with regard to often horrendous side effects, and is often, ineffective. The best way forward would be to integrate proven (by whatever means) therapies by qualified practitioners and keep the hard stuff until it is necessary, without all the drama.
The purpose of writing this article was to level the playing field somewhat and present the true facts. Conventional medicine is often as open to criticism as CAM therapies, this has been demonstrated.
Homeopathy works and as a consequence is the second most used form of medicine in the world. (Who: 2005) We do not need to lower ourselves to the levels of abuse we are currently experiencing, nor stoop to the hysteria and so-called outrage that some of our critics display, simply because they do not like what is presented to them, in terms of healing, whether it be human or animal, as it defies their so called ‘science based’ limited views.
It is clear that far too much attention has been paid to these self -appointed ‘expert’s in homeopathy, their views, as discussed consistently and ubiquitously dishonest, one sided and virtually always lacking in any mention of the vast number of people who have become devotees of homeopathy, following successful treatment. They too are vilified and ignored.
It is time to accept that conventional medicine, which without doubt has its place, needs help. Integrative medicine is undeniably the way forward and is for the most part, what a discerning public want, expect and have a right to in order to maintain optimum health.
Angell M. (2009) Drug Companies and doctors: A story of corruption. The New York Review of Books 56. [on-line] Available: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/jan/15/drug-companies-doctorsa-story-of-corruption/.
BBC News, (October 2019) Health bosses’ ‘serious concerns’ over homeopathy
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CAM4Animals, (2019) A Discussion around the benefits of alternative and complementary therapies in veterinary medicine. [on-line]. Available at: http://www.cam4animals.co.uk/blog/a-discussion-around-the-benefits-of-alternative-and-complementary-therapies-in-veterinary-medicine?fbclid=IwAR0RDjy8RuG-CDeelOpiq2yUFWeAKIWAdsTValWxSozy17COFepG86k7Anc
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