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Homoeopathic medicine: Just the tonic or plain quackery?

Mersey sceptics lead mass UK overdose outside Boots

Published on November 1st 2010.

Homoeopathic medicine: Just the tonic or plain quackery?

PRINCE Charles is a staunch ambassador and millions of people swear by it. However, most UK doctors consider homoeopathic remedies to be little more than superstition and a waste of money.

We know that many people believe in the benefits of complementary medicines and we aim to offer the products we know our customers want

That's according to the Merseyside Skeptics Society, anyway. Indeed, so convinced are they themselves, of the inefficacy of products made by the multi-million pound homoeopathy industry, that later this month they are planning a mass overdose.

Up to 300 sceptics plan to stand outside branches of Boots in cities and towns the country over and swallow whole bottles of homoeopathic potions in a bid to prove their worthlessness.

The action day, next Saturday, January 30, will see sceptical ranks coming together on the high streets of Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol, Glasgow, Birmingham, Southampton and London, with sympathy protests in Australia, Canada and the United States.

A sceptic might wonder where this stunt - the British Homoeopathic Association's word for it - might get anyone.

But Martin Robbins, Merseyside sceptics spokesman said: "Homoeopathic remedies themselves may not be directly harmful, but there is a real danger in misleading customers into thinking that homoeopathy is somehow equivalent to real medicine.

"Patients may believe that they are treating themselves or their children adequately, and delay seeking appropriate treatment; or they may receive dangerous advice after consulting with homoeopaths rather than their GPs."

The Merseyside Skeptics Society, a group of rationalist thinkers who set up their highly popular pub group on a Liverpool barstool or two around a year ago, got themselves so het up about the issue that they started the 10:23 Campaign which “aims to raise awareness about the reality of homoeopathy” and pledging to inform people “how it can be proven not to work, why homoeopaths' claims are impossible, why you should care”.

Boots, chemist and pharmaceutical giant itself, sells a wide range of alternative medicines alongside the conventional. It says while it supports the call for more research into homoeopathy it believed in giving consumers a choice.

“We know that many people believe in the benefits of complementary medicines and we aim to offer the products we know our customers want.” said a spokesman.

But in an open letter to Boots, the sceptics urged the retailer to take the products off their shelves: “As you are aware, the best and most rigorous scientific research concludes that homoeopathy offers no therapeutic effect beyond placebo, but you continue to sell these products regardless because "customers believe they work". Is this the standard you set for yourselves?”

Just to get you in the mood for all this, the Mersey sceptics are staging an event this Thursday night (21 Jan) at the Vines pub (The Big House) on Lime|Street with a high profile speaker.

Science journalist and one-time Tomorrow's World producer Simon Singh (MBE) investigated the evidence for and against alternative therapies and published his conclusions in “Trick or Treatment?”, a hard-hitting examination and judgement of more than 30 of the most popular treatments.

Singh will discuss how and why he got involved in writing about alternative medicine. In particular, he will discuss the origins, philosophy and testing of acupuncture and homoeopathy, two of the most popular forms of alternative medicine. Singh, who is currently being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association, will also comment on his ongoing legal battle and the impact of libel laws on scientific journalism.

*Simon Singh, “Skeptics in the Pub” at the Vines in Lime Street, this Thursday, 21 January 2010, 18:30 – 20:30.

*Mass Homoeopathic Overdose, Boots, everywhere. 10.23am, Saturday 30 January.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

YabbadabberJanuary 20th 2010.

I think these are the best alternatives to the endless visits to the doctors.

AnonymousJanuary 20th 2010.

Can someone tell me why money dosn't grow on trees in my back garden

Mark19677January 20th 2010.

another test

AnonymousJanuary 25th 2010.

Please tell me this is not real! I cannot believe that people would be so irresponsible!

Smyth HarperJanuary 25th 2010.

@anon - what's irresponsible about it? Homeopathic "medication" has no active ingredient therein. Hence it has about the same medical effect of eating a cadbury's button.

Robert BerryJanuary 25th 2010.

Ha, although according to the 'theory' behind homoepathic medicine (and I use that word somewhat loosely in this context!), the medicine is only effective when the supposed 'active' ingredient is there in minute quantities. So taking lots of it to overdose kind of misses the point!

Smyth HarperJanuary 25th 2010.

Indeed Rob, except that homeopathic tinctures are actually so diluted that precisely none of the original active ingredient is actually present. The "theory" goes that the vigorous shaking of the solution that the active ingredient is added to gives the solution the "memory" of that active ingredient. So it doesn't matter that that active ingredient is no longer there. It doesn't matter how much of the original tincture the skeptic drinks, as 0x100 still equals 0!

AnonymousNovember 1st 2010.

I like pain killers.

AnonymousNovember 1st 2010.

I like pain killers.

DescartesJanuary 27th 2011.

It's odd how the 'most rigorous scientific research' carried out by the drug companies that want us to buy their branded drugs tends to suggest that only their branded drugs work.

I remember reading about some Doctor claiming acupuncture was daft ,unproved, and didn't work. Completely ignoring the fact that it's been successfully used in China for oh, about 1000 years.

Most of the branded drugs mimic or synthesis compounds from nature, it's reasonably to assume that products made directly from nature would have some affect.

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