As I’ve discussed a few times, I’ve been dealing with shoulder pain for the last few months. As I’ve been fighting through this, one of the things I’ve been reminded of is how many purported breakthrough or unconventional cures are offered out there, that promise to avoid the often frustrating limitations and ambiguity of evidence based medicine. For someone suffering from health ailments, the siren call of these too-good-to-be-true miracle solutions is often overpowering. It’s hard to be a skeptic when you’re in that situation, even though that’s when it’s most necessary.
One area that remains a powerful lure for many people is the promise of homeopathy. But that promise is an empty one: There is no scientific case for homeopathy: the debate is over | Edzard Ernst | Comment is free | The Guardian.
In Exeter, we conducted trials, surveys and reviews of homeopathy in the faint hope that we might discover something important. What we did find was sobering:
• Our trials failed to show that homeopathy is more than a placebo.
• Our reviews demonstrated that the most reliable of the 230 or so trials of homeopathy ever published are also not positive.
• Studies with animals confirmed the results obtained on humans.
• Surveys and case reports suggested that homeopathy can be dangerous.
• The claims made by homeopaths to cure conditions like cancer, asthma or even Ebola were bogus.
• The promotion of homeopathy is not ethical.
Now, the internationally highly respected Australian National Health and Medical Research Council have conducted what certainly is the most thorough and independent evaluation of homeopathy in its 200-year-long history. Already their preliminary report had confirmed that homeopathy is nothing other than treatment with placebos.
There are many unknowns in life. Often these unknowns are unsettling or terrifying, but some appear to offer a ray of hope. I’m not particularly fond of squelching people’s ray of hope, but false hope can lead to dangerous decisions, not the least because it could steer us away from what might be limited but realistic chances for help.
Homeopathy is one of those false hopes. It’s one that I’ve seen many highly educated people put their faith in, even after being told that scientifically it is nonsense. It’s popularity is a testament to the power of the human mind to believe something that it desperately wants to be true. But it doesn’t deserve that faith. At best it’s an utter waste of money, at worst it’s dangerous snake oil.