Britain’s National Health Service about to ban homeopathy

Not before time!

Why Evolution Is True

Reader Barrie called my attention to an article in The Independent  that offers some good news: Britan’s NHS, based on a 48-page document about items that shouldn’t be prescribed in primary care medicine, seems set to stop prescribing Magic Water, otherwise known as homeopathic medicine.

The motivation for the whole document was to eliminate, as a cost-cutting measure, those prescribed items that were of low clinical effectiveness. So there are many drugs listed, but on page 14 you’ll find this:

Actually, given Prince Charles’s fondness for this quackery (he even uses it own his own farm animals), I’m surprised the expenditure by the NHS is less than £100,000 per year, but it sends an important signal to people that the government health agency sees homeopathy as ineffective. Now I’m sure that patients who want Magic Water can still buy it themselves, but at least doctors can’t prescribe it.

Here’s a…

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Ask A Homeopath?

I am indebted to Blue Wode (@Blue_Wode) for this tweet a few days ago:

Email your query re homeopathy to homeopathyhelp@nelsons.net and get an answer within 24 hrs http://bit.ly/LmZPKb#ten23#HAW

My curiosity got the better of me so I decided to submit a query. This is what I wrote:

I suffer from cluster headaches which conventional medicine cannot cure. Can homeopathy do anything to help me?

My reason for submitting that query is simple enough. I suffer from cluster headaches. A cluster headache is a particular type of headache affecting about one person in a thousand. Wikipedia does a pretty good job of describing what they are like:

Cluster headache is a condition that involves, as its most prominent feature, an immense degree of pain that is almost always on only one side of the head. Cluster headaches occur periodically: spontaneous remissions interrupt active periods of pain. The cause of the condition is currently unknown. It affects approximately 0.1% of the population, and men are more commonly affected than women.

I’ve suffered from cluster headaches for about ten years but was only diagnosed three years ago. My attacks are episodic, a cluster lasts for around three months and then I have a period of remission of perhaps two years. During the cluster, alcohol and exercise act as triggers and have to be avoided. I take 480 mg of Verapamil during a cluster and have used sub-cutaneous injections of Sumatriptan as an abortive. I have just come to the end of a cluster, stopped my medication, and life is returning to normal. I’ve never considered using homeopathy but was curious to know what advice I might be given. My inquiry elicited this response:

Dear Mike

Thank you for contacting us about your cluster headaches.  There is no reason why homeopathy should not help your headaches, however in order to be able to treat them a full description of the symptoms is needed ie what makes them better and worse, when they started, and other such details.  Just as you would seek expert advice from a Doctor it is often best to see a qualified homeopath in order to get the best remedy for you.

However there are two remedies which may be able to help you:

Nat Mur is a remedy for headaches with a bursting pain that may feel like a hammer in one spot.  It is worse in the morning on waking at 10am to 10am – 3pm.  It is worse for sun and can start after a grief.

Belladonna is for headaches that are very intense, described as throbbing.  They begin in the right occiput and extend to teh right forehead or eye.  They aer worse at 3pm or at night, worse for light and the sun.  Hands and feet are icy cold during the headache.

Hopefully this is helpful to you.

All the best in your future good health!

Rachael Leffman

MA Cantab RSHom

on behalf of Nelsons Homeopathic Pharmacy

One of the first things that struck me were the ‘qualifications’ of the homeopath. They are always, it seems to me, very keen to put strings of letters after their names. According to her website, Rachael Leffman has a degree in French and Spanish and is registered with the Society of Homeopaths. I am assuming therefore that her knowledge of science and scientific method is limited.

Her first recommendation is Nat Mur (Natrum muriaticum) which is sodium chloride – better known as table salt. So to treat a condition thought to be caused by an abnormality of the hypothalamus, I have to use salty water? Correction: I have to use salty water which doesn’t contain any salt. Her other recommendation is Belladonna, originally extracted from the plant Atropa belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade. Homeopathic belladonna has been investigated (Ultramolecular homeopathy has no observable clinical effects. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled proving trial of Belladonna 30C,) and found to have ‘…………….no observable clinical effects.’

So my online consultation gave me two possible treatments, salty water and a homeopathic remedy which has been shown not to work. I’ll stick with Big Pharma.

Anyone who is suffering from cluster headaches or knows of someone who is a sufferer should visit the website of the Organisation for the Understanding of Cluster Headache (OUCH UK)  where they will receive help and information which is evidence based.

David Beckham and Homeopathy

Amongst the many logical fallacies employed by supporters of homeopathy. appeal to celebrity is one of the most common. (Follow the Twitter hashtag #homeopathy to see examples.) Typically, they will latch on to some particular newsworthy event and try and use that to promote their cause. The website of the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths is awash with advice for Olympic participants and spectators. At the moment we have EURO2012 and the Olympic Games in the headlines so sport is the focus, hence “David Beckham and Homeopathy” has featured prominently on my twitterfeed. Curiousity got the better of me so I decided to find out if there was any truth to the claim that David Beckham does indeed use homeopathy. I googled David Beckham and homeopathy. This produced pages and pages of results but almost exclusively they were sites promoting homeopathy and strangely enough, many of them used exactly the same wording. No reputable news source seems to have reported or commented on David Beckham’s use of homeopathy, unless that is, the Tehran Times counts as a reputable news source. A little more googling reveals that the source of the Beckham is none other than Dana Ullman who at the time was promoting the sale of a book, The Homeopathic Revolution. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know if Ullman provides sources for his claim that, numerous sports greats have bragged about their use of homeopathic medicines including David Beckham, Martina Navratilova, Boris Becker, and many more.

Whether he does or not is largely irrelevant. The use of homeopathy by celebrities does not validate it. Some homeopathy websites claim that Beckham’s treatment of choice was Arnica.  Once again Google is my friend. A search for arnica pubmed brings up a long list of reputable studies that have investigated the efficacy of homeopathic Arnica. Top of the list isEfficacy of homeopathic arnica: a systematic review of placebo-controlled clinical trials.” by Ernst and Pittler (1998) which concludes that, “The claim that homeopathic arnica is efficacious beyond a placebo effect is not supported by rigorous clinical trials.

Whilst I’m on the subject of celebrities and homeopathy I cannot ignore the Queen, who, we are told,  “….. is never far from 60 vials of homeopathic medicines, carried in a special leather case, without which she won’t travel anywhere.”

It would appear then that members of the Royal Family do use homeopathy ……… except when they’re ill.