I have gone on record as saying two things about the Science and Technology Committee’s report on Homeopathy:

  1. It is one of the least impressive documents to emerge from the House of Commons for some time.
  2. It is in at least one part deeply disingenuous.

Yes, treat yes I know you want evidence. Well my first comment is subjective so no need for evidence there; it’s just my opinion. However the fact that very few of the participating MPs actually signed the report, cialis no PCT managers who commission homeopathy were asked to testify, that some of those testifying were less than qualified to do so, at least one of the MPs has connections to Sense about Science an organisation very hostile to homeopathy and that the Health Minister’s words to the committee were selectively quoted to imply the opposite of his true feelings towards homeopathy (that it would be ‘illiberal’ to withdraw NHS funding for homeopathy) came into the formation of that opinion.

My second comment needs justification:

Looking at Paragraphs 94 and 95

Integrity of the doctor-patient relationship

94. In order to maximise the impact of a placebo treatment, the doctor must deceive the patient, telling the patient that he or she is receiving a real treatment. The temptation to do so may be strong, as Dr Goldacre told us:

[C]ircumstances might occur in which it could arguably be desirable to have the

option of prescribing a placebo. There are often situations where an individual may

want treatment, for example, but where medicine has little to offer—lots of back

pain, stress at work, medically unexplained fatigue, and most common colds, to give just a few examples. Going through a ‘theatre’ of medical treatment, and trying every medication in the book, will only risk side-effects. A harmless sugar pill in these circumstances may seem to be the sensible option.117

95. It was the Minster who most succinctly voiced our concerns about such a practice:

I would not be happy to be misled and I suspect most patients would not. However,

that was not the question you asked me. What you were asking me […] was whether

it would be unethical for a doctor ever to prescribe a placebo. […] I thought about it

and I took the view that there might be circumstances, but would you generally do it? Of course you would not.

Now the doctor-patient relationship is a subject that interests me a great deal; I’ve written a book on it called The Homeopathic Conversation which has been valued by many doctors who are not homeopaths, but I’ll digress no more.

I consider paragraphs 94 and 95 to be disingenuous because they imply (in the context of this report) that homeopathic doctors are deliberately misleading or deceiving patients. This is blatantly and absurdly untrue. What is worse is that the committee knows this to be untrue and still has the shameless audacity to publish misleading rubbish like this.

IF the homeopathic community had accepted that all homeopathic doctors are purveyors of placebos, then such a paragraph could be justified. But nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Homeopaths think their medicines work over and above placebo; that’s why they spend thousands of hours studying these medicines.
  • Of the many hundreds of homeopaths I’ve met, I’ve not met one that was knowingly deceiving or misleading his patients.
  • The debate about the interpretation of meta-analyses and what the evidence really says is still very much alive and homeopaths think the evidence so far is in favour of homeopathy being active over and above placebo. They certainly do NOT accept that it has been conclusively proven that homeopathy is placebo.

Perhaps I should not be so hard on the Science and Technology Committee. This is only their second report; they are still a freshman in the House and should be given time to get their act together.

PS: I’ve posted a vodcast “Homeopathy Defended” on this blog. It’s unedited because I consider edited vodcasts to be slightly less than authentic.