Sunday, December 18, 2011

1 bn euros on... water and sugar pills!

Homeopathy: the belief that water has memory and remembers the "active" ingredients, and that the more diluted a drug is in water, the more potent it becomes.

I am not joking. That is one of the tenets of homeopathy. And I am asking. If water remembers, then why doesn't it remember the shit and the radioactive elements that are thrown all over the world? Or the CO2 or anything else that we all throw in the water?

And believers in homeopathy, or should I say a kind of magic, go and spend their money on water and sugar pills. And all they get is the placebo effect.

There have been more than 100 clinical trials on homeopathic drugs. And none of the drugs showed that they have any actual real effect. All they showed is that whether you take it or not, the result is the same. Only when people believe that it works, they improve somewhat, but it's the same percentage as the placebo effect.

1 billion euros is spent every year on homeopathy. 1 billion euros is the market for homeopathic drugs and homeopaths. And this is only in the European Union. How many billions is the homeopathic and alternative medicine market worth worldwide? And then they have labelled the pharmaceutical companies as "Big Pharma". And we skeptics have named the alternative medicine crowd "Big Placebo".

The difference being that first of all, actual pharmaceutical drugs get in the market after research and extensive clinical trials. It has been shown to work. It has been shown that it is safe and that whatever side-effects it may have, have no lasting effects on the body. Or if they have, the benefits of the drug are much more important than the side-effects.

But with homeopathic drugs or should I say water and sugar pills, there are no trials, no approvals from Drug Administrations, nothing. And we get to results like the ones for Zicam, a nasal spray labelled "homeopathic". However, it was dangerous for people's health as many people lost their sense of smell after using this drug: Zicam

How much money has to be wasted on methods that do not work, and that are proven to have risks for people's health? Homeopaths, and generally the "Big Placebo" crowd, reject proven medical treatments, in order to sell water and sugar pills, and methods that have no effect.

How much money has to be wasted on useless sugar pills? Instead of spending it for actual medical research on cancer, on AIDS, on stem cell research? Actual researchers around the world, people who are trying to improve our lives and increase our knowledge are starving for research money. And the gullible give it for unproven, untested treatments, for quackery such as homeopathy. 

About 2-3 years ago, I was enrolled in MSXR209  Mathematical Modelling, a mathematical physics course with the Open University. One of my fellow students was a homeopath, and we got into arguing about homeopathy. I asked him about clinical trials and scientific papers that show homeopathy to be effective. He told me that he would send me the relevant articles, and data via e-mail. Needless to say, I am still waiting...

Homeopathy is equal to quackery. If anyone reads this blog, please do some actual research on homeopathy and alternative treatments, and see for yourself. All they have is anecdotal evidence, and the placebo effect.

A couple of books I recommend on the subject are:

Trick or Treatment - Simon Singh & Edzard Ernst
Bad Science - Ben Goldacre

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