Homeopathic nonsense exposed

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has finally stepped up and stated explicitly that homeopathic remedies do not work. According to the BBC:

People with conditions such as HIV, TB and malaria should not rely on homeopathic treatments, the World Health Organization has warned.

It was responding to calls from young researchers who fear the promotion of homeopathy in the developing world could put people’s lives at risk.

In a letter to the WHO in June, the medics from the UK and Africa said: “We are calling on the WHO to condemn the promotion of homeopathy for treating TB, infant diarrhoea, influenza, malaria and HIV.

“Homeopathy does not protect people from, or treat, these diseases. Those of us working with the most rural and impoverished people of the world already struggle to deliver the medical help that is needed.

“When homeopathy stands in place of effective treatment, lives are lost.”

From South Africa’s Mail & Guardian:

Homeopathy practitioners have opened clinics throughout Asian and sub-Saharan Africa and offer to treat patients with HIV, malaria, influenza and childhood diarrhoea, none of which have been shown to respond to homeopathy. Many patients are told that conventional drugs work only temporarily and that homeopathic preparations are cheap and effective alternatives with fewer side effects.

But what are these homeopathic remedies:

Homeopathic medicines are made by repeatedly diluting preparations with water until there is no trace left of the original compound. The overwhelming medical opinion is that homeopathic treatments are no more effective than placebos.

Water. No trace. Placebo.

I’ve no problem with the average punter taking some homeopathic “remedy” (i.e. over-priced water) to help them with their hay fever or other non-fatal allergy. What’s the worst that can happen? They continue to sniffle and sneeze and some slightly dodgy carpet-bagging retailer has made a few quid. Possible positive side-effect? Said punter begins to question the efficacy of the placebo they spent their hard-earned cash on.

But don’t even try to suggest that this crap should be used in the place of legitimate medicine for serious conditions like HIV, cancer etc. That’s tantamount to murder. Hyperbole? I don’t think so. If the “miracle-water” is taken instead of the medicine prescribed by someone who didn’t get their doctorate by correspondence, then that can only result in a deterioration of the patient’s wellbeing.

The bottom line: homeopathy is at best a waste of your money. At worst, it’s lethal. Read what Sense about Science have to say about homeopathy here. Then enjoy the wonderful Ben Goldacre’s piece on this rubbish here.

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