BY JEROME BURNE
Recently a post of mine describing attacks on homeopathy as “batty and arrogant” that I wrote last year was retweeted. This meant that again homeopathy’s hard-core detractors rushed out with lectures about the scientific method and the need for randomised trials (obvious) but yet again no attempt to actually deal with the issues I raised – that if you are worried about failing to follow the rules of evidence based medicine, homeopathy is not the place to point the finger.
So although I am, as I said, agnostic about homoeopathy, I think it’s worth coming back to the issue because the problems with evidence based medicine as practiced at the moment haven’t gone away, in fact they have become even clearer. For instance, Takeda Pharmaceutical and Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) have just had to pay a combined $9 billion in punitive damages for hiding the cancer risks of their Actos diabetes drug. To me that seems far more dangerous and irresponsible than anything done by homeopaths.
The central charge against homeopathy is that there are no randomised trials showing its effective, so it’s worthless. My point is that even if that is true – both sides swap trial results – drug treatments with impressive RCT results, like Actos, can turn out to be deadly. Cause for much greater concern I’d argue. Drugs can also come trailing positive RCT results and be remarkably ineffective. The drug ezetimibe, according to RCTs, is very effective at lowering cholesterol and widely prescribed. However no RCT has ever shown that it cuts your risk of heart disease. There are also serious questionmarks over the benefit of prescribing cholesterol lowering statins to millions who don’t have heart disease.
Of course this doesn’t prove that homeopathy is any good. But the attacks on homeopathy aren’t just about a lack of evidence. The underlying message is that without RCT support a treatment is not just unproven but fraudulent. And since few non-drug treatments have RCTs all CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) is fraudulent.
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