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Tags aids , Hilary Fairclough , homeopathy , Janette Winterson , jeremy sherr , society of homeopaths

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Old 13th March 2009, 05:46 AM   #1
Blue Wode
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Society of Homeopaths on the defensive again

This time with a letter to Private Eye

Quote:
9 March 2009

Dear Sir,

In response to ‘Ratbiter’s’ piece Which Doctors? (Private Eye 1231), The Society of Homeopaths, which represents 60 per cent of registered homeopaths in the UK, would like to correct some important inaccuracies.

Whilst it may be true that in the case of HIV/AIDS, some “homeopaths keep patients away from the treatment which helps sufferers – anti-retroviral drugs”, it is worth noting that such behaviour would be in direct contravention of The Society’s Code of Ethics & Practice, sections 24, 32 and 75, to which all registered members (RSHoms) have agreed to abide by.

A Society organised symposium on HIV/AIDS in September 2007 further reinforced this position, informing delegates that “This Society symposium is not offering a cure for this disease nor is it endorsing in any way any of the methods used by the speakers… In its patient-centred approach, The Society does not endorse the stopping of existing treatment programmes eg anti-retroviral drugs. What it is exploring is a homeopathic and integrated approach that can help deal with some of the symptoms of this disease.”

It is inaccurate to describe Jeremy Sherr as a fellow of The Society of Homeopaths. While he was given that title in 1991 in recognition of his contribution to homeopathy, he resigned his membership in 2005, and as such is no longer entitled to use the designation ‘FSHom’.

Lastly, The Society would like to make it clear that far from being “snake oil”, there is in fact plenty of evidence to show that homeopathy works over and above the effect of placebo. By the end of 2007, 134 randomised controlled trials of homeopathy had been published in peer-reviewed journals. Of these trials, 59 were positive i.e. demonstrating that homeopathy has an effect beyond placebo; eight were negative and the remaining 67 were inconclusive.

We trust that the anonymous ‘Ratbiter’ will carry out its research a little more thoroughly in the future.

Yours sincerely

Paula Ross
Chief Executive

http://www.homeopathy-soh.org/whats-...-releases.aspx

And here’s the relevant part of the Eye article which has upset the SoH:
Quote:
Reader Kevin Morris (letters, Eye 1230) says we should lay off the snake-oil salesmen of alternative medicine. “I’ll stick with my homeopath!” he cries, after asserting that conventional drugs can often be fraudulently promoted.

So they can. But it’s hard to resist getting your teeth into “therapists” who denounce drugs that can bring respite to Aids victims, offer them provably ineffective remedies instead, feed the conspiracy theories of corrupt African elites and then threaten critics with Mr Justice Eady.

One such is Jeremy Sherr, a grandly titled Fellow of the Society of Homeopaths, who has taken his homeopathic treatments to Aids sufferers in Tanzania. “This is not a conventional charity programme,” he told supporters. “This is a homoeopathic programme that includes removing obstacles to cure. It will not cost a lot, and it will make a big difference.”

Strip away the gobbledegook, and the active ingredient of homeopathic “remedies” is – er – water. A course of H20 will not treat Aids, nor will the diets Sherr recommends. While prescribing both, homeopaths keep patients away from the treatment which helps sufferers – anti-retroviral drugs.

Sherr is not alone in testing his ideas on Africans. The Society of Homeopaths has promoted the work of one Hilary Fairclough in Botswana. Her treatments have not been endorsed by double-blind trials, but they have won the approval of no less a medical authority than Jeanette Winterston. She declared that she takes Fairclough’s massively diluted snake potion whenever “I have a temperature of 102, spots on my throat, delirium, and a book to finish writing” and – eureka! – “four hours later I have no symptoms whatsoever”. Aids victims, however, have slightly more serious symptoms than novelists with writers’ block and a high temperature.

Lawyers told the Eye Sherr had threatened to sue critics of his African programme for libel. Although the threat was withdrawn it followed a pattern of alternative therapists using Britain’s draconian laws to stop awkward questions…

‘Ratbiter’
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Old 13th March 2009, 06:07 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Paula Ross
Whilst it may be true that in the case of HIV/AIDS, some “homeopaths keep patients away from the treatment which helps sufferers – anti-retroviral drugs”, it is worth noting that such behaviour would be in direct contravention of The Society’s Code of Ethics & Practice, sections 24, 32 and 75, to which all registered members (RSHoms) have agreed to abide by.

Then again, a claim, whether explicit or implied, to cure any named condition would also be in direct contravention of their code of ethics, and we all know how seriously registered members of the SoH, and the Society itself, takes that.
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Old 13th March 2009, 07:09 AM   #4
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If you're not getting repolies it's because we're reading the links.

And because basically, what more is there to say?

Rolfe.
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Old 13th March 2009, 09:27 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
If you're not getting repolies it's because we're reading the links.

And because basically, what more is there to say?

Rolfe.

Rolfe, whether this thread gets lots of replies or just a handful is really no big deal. I have often appreciated threads started by others which haven’t evoked much response. So, even if you find the SoH saga tiresome, there’s always a chance that new (or even regular) readers looking in on this forum might find the information in the OP interesting and may want to ask some questions about it. This is, after all, the James Randi Educational Foundation forum and not everyone here is blessed with your level of knowledge, intelligence, and expertise.
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Old 13th March 2009, 09:37 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
And because basically, what more is there to say?

Well, we could discuss their "134 randomised controlled trials of homeopathy" as at the end of 2007, of which "59 were positive i.e. demonstrating that homeopathy has an effect beyond placebo; eight were negative and the remaining 67 were inconclusive". Are the "negative" trials those in which homoeopathy did worse than placebo or something? It obviously isn't those in which no significant benefit was found as those would be included in "inconclusive". It would be nice to see what assessment of the quality of the trials they made.

This looks to be the same information that the FoH are using in their recent answer to critics. Peter Fisher touted a similar review a couple of years ago. I never managed to find it published anywhere (Couldn't The editor of Homeopathy manage that?), but I found a press release indicating that it was something to do with the FoH. It would be nice to see sources for this sort of claim being published so we can check up on what they actually say.

Fisher quoted it as finding that "119 randomised, peer-reviewed clinical trials of homeopathy at the end of 2005 showed 49% positive results for homeopathy. Only 3% were negative". Those percentages must be rounded to the nearest 1%: I make that 58.31 "positive" trials and 3.57 "negative" ones, so perhaps it should be 58 and 4.

This means that in 2006 and 2007 there were only 15 new trials, only one of which was "positive".
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Last edited by Mojo; 13th March 2009 at 10:26 AM.
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Old 13th March 2009, 10:30 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Blue Wode View Post
Rolfe, whether this thread gets lots of replies or just a handful is really no big deal. I have often appreciated threads started by others which haven’t evoked much response. So, even if you find the SoH saga tiresome, there’s always a chance that new (or even regular) readers looking in on this forum might find the information in the OP interesting and may want to ask some questions about it. This is, after all, the James Randi Educational Foundation forum and not everyone here is blessed with your level of knowledge, intelligence, and expertise.

Hey, you've totally misinterpreted my post!

I was posting because I didn't want Mojo to think nobody was interested. I personally was absolutely fascinated, and went off to read the links. The trouble was, after I'd done that, the whole thing was just so completely dealt with by the bloggers that there didn't seem to be any sensible further comment to make.

Mojo, I was trying to support, encourage and thank you!

Rolfe.
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Old 13th March 2009, 11:02 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Hey, you've totally misinterpreted my post!

Easily done, since you didn’t make clear to whom you were addressing the post. Anyway, thanks for the clarification.
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Old 13th March 2009, 11:26 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
Well, we could discuss their "134 randomised controlled trials of homeopathy" as at the end of 2007, of which "59 were positive i.e. demonstrating that homeopathy has an effect beyond placebo; eight were negative and the remaining 67 were inconclusive". Are the "negative" trials those in which homoeopathy did worse than placebo or something? It obviously isn't those in which no significant benefit was found as those would be included in "inconclusive". It would be nice to see what assessment of the quality of the trials they made.
I'd like to see every single one listed, too. When I've looked at lists of studies meant to support homeopathy, I've discovered that most of them are negative (as in 'no significant difference from placebo'), yet many of them are called 'positive'. Usually it's on the basis of one of many measures (not the main outcome measure) showing a difference, like 'days off school' or something. Or they're obviously pretending to have picked a main outcome measure a priori, when it was clearly picked a posteriori - like the outcome for diarrhea studies that just happens to be the one point where a significant difference can be found out of many where a significant difference cannot be found. Or the results have been 'adjusted', so that non-significant differences are suddenly significant.

I wonder if there are any more than about half-a-dozen that would actually be called 'positive' according to the usual standards.

Linda

Last edited by fls; 13th March 2009 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 13th March 2009, 11:38 AM   #10
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I'm one of the readers who has only read little bits and pieces on homeopathy, so having those links together makes interesting reading for me.Thanks. Not much to comment on..I'm just absorbing.
One ickle point...
“Homeopathy is brilliant for babies and children: carefully selected remedies heal without side effects. There’s simply nothing better" Yeah... babies that cant tell you if something is working or not? Most things will get better with time... but I shudder to think of a todddler with earache being given a bfew drops of 'water' to help!
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Old 13th March 2009, 11:41 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by fls View Post
I wonder if there are any more than about half-a-dozen that would actually be called 'positive' according to the usual standards.

I'm quite impressed with them only getting one "positive" out of 15 trials in 2006-2007: they must be getting better at designing trials.
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Old 13th March 2009, 12:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
The Society would like to make it clear that far from being “snake oil”, there is in fact plenty of evidence to show that homeopathy works over and above the effect of placebo.
Even if this is true (which i doubt it is), is this really the best they can do? To say it performs better than a placebo? Can you imagine any modern conventional medication having to hang their hopes on this claim? Modern medicine claims (as far as i am aware) to be an effective treatment of diseases and their symptoms. I can't remember any doctor prescribed or over the counter medication i have ever taken has had a label that says "works better than a placebo". We take it as a given that it "works better than a placebo", we expect that it works, and it does. Homeopathy doesn't.

I can't believe that any educated people in this day and age could believe that homeopathy works, it is cock of the poppiest variety.

P.S. I understand why the phrase "works better than a placebo" is used, just to head off any misunderstanding.
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Old 14th March 2009, 03:25 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
This looks to be the same information that the FoH are using in their recent answer to critics.

By the way, if there's anyone here with online access to the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, could they find a proper reference for the "detailed commentary" that the FoH say Peter Fisher has written on the recent papers by Ludtke, Rutten and Stolper? The link provided on page 2 of that document only gets me as far as a login page, and I've tried browsing the contents of the journal but been unable to find it.
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Old 15th March 2009, 12:49 AM   #14
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Quote:
Lawyers told the Eye Sherr had threatened to sue critics of his African programme for libel. Although the threat was withdrawn it followed a pattern of alternative therapists using Britain’s draconian laws to stop awkward questions…
We don't have such laws in the U.S. so - Homeopathy is a snake oil and the Society of Homeopathists are a fraudulent cabal, depriving people of real medicine while peddling them false, diluted hope.
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Old 17th March 2009, 03:33 AM   #15
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Ross's letter is in this week's issue of the Eye (No. 1232, p. 14), in full apart from its final sentence, along with one complaining that it's unfair that Ratbiter responded to Kevin Morris's letter, claiming that Morris "picked holes in the reliability of double-blind trials", claiming that double-blind trials can't be used to test alternative medicine "because most holistic treatments are aimed at prevention rather than treatment of acute problems", etc. (the usual, in other words), and one from someone who has the same name as an RSHom and who thinks the Eye should be in favour of sCAM.
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Old 17th March 2009, 05:00 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
Well, we could discuss their "134 randomised controlled trials of homeopathy" as at the end of 2007, of which "59 were positive i.e. demonstrating that homeopathy has an effect beyond placebo; eight were negative and the remaining 67 were inconclusive". Are the "negative" trials those in which homoeopathy did worse than placebo or something? It obviously isn't those in which no significant benefit was found as those would be included in "inconclusive". It would be nice to see what assessment of the quality of the trials they made.

This looks to be the same information that the FoH are using in their recent answer to critics. Peter Fisher touted a similar review a couple of years ago. I never managed to find it published anywhere (Couldn't The editor of Homeopathy manage that?), but I found a press release indicating that it was something to do with the FoH. It would be nice to see sources for this sort of claim being published so we can check up on what they actually say.

Fisher quoted it as finding that "119 randomised, peer-reviewed clinical trials of homeopathy at the end of 2005 showed 49% positive results for homeopathy. Only 3% were negative". Those percentages must be rounded to the nearest 1%: I make that 58.31 "positive" trials and 3.57 "negative" ones, so perhaps it should be 58 and 4.

This means that in 2006 and 2007 there were only 15 new trials, only one of which was "positive".

Incidentally, I've now found another document on the BHA site which updates this to the end of 2008: The research evidence base for homeopathy
Quote:
Up to the end of 2008, 136 RCTs had been published: 59 positive; 9 negative; 68 not statistically conclusive.

So that's only another two trials in 2008, one negative, one inconclusive.

This means that in the three years up to the end of 2008, there were 17 new trials, only one of which had a "positive" outcome.

Is meow going to turn up and shout "p=0.05", do you think?
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Old 17th March 2009, 05:02 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by fls View Post
I'd like to see every single one listed, too.

Remember the big fuss homoeopaths made about the Shang paper not listing the studies it analysed?
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Old 18th March 2009, 07:26 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post

Here's another one to add to that list:
'Society of Homeopaths respond on Sherr – dishonestly'
http://gimpyblog.wordpress.com/2009/...r-dishonestly/


Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
Ross's letter is in this week's issue of the Eye (No. 1232, p. 14), in full apart from its final sentence, along with one complaining that it's unfair that Ratbiter responded to Kevin Morris's letter, claiming that Morris "picked holes in the reliability of double-blind trials", claiming that double-blind trials can't be used to test alternative medicine "because most holistic treatments are aimed at prevention rather than treatment of acute problems", etc. (the usual, in other words), and one from someone who has the same name as an RSHom and who thinks the Eye should be in favour of sCAM.

Here are the relevant parts of those other two letters:
Quote:
Ratbiter’s slating of Kevin Morris, a contributor to your letters page in his last column (Eye 1231) was completely inappropriate.

Ratbiter has a fortnightly column in which to vent his spleen, while the hapless Mr Morris, who merely stuck up for homeopathic medicine against the Eye’s knee-jerk prejudices, will have little opportunity to respond publicly to the two mentions he gets.

I don’t remember Mr Morris promoting the work of Jeremy Sherr and his dubious-looking activities in Tanzania in his letter, so why is Ratbiter linking the two issues? That’s like binning the whole of western medicine due to the abuses of one or two British Medical Association members.

Morris’s original letter picks holes in the reliability of double-blind trials of pharmaceuticals. What he does not point out is that double-blind trials are unlikely to ever to prove that helpful in assessing the efficacy of alternative medicine anyway, because most holistic treatments are aimed at preventions rather than the treatment of acute problems. If I had a tumour I would go straight to my GP. If I were feeling weak, achey and run down I would go to an alternative practitioner. If I went to a GP with this kind of general malaise, he would tell me to come back when it had developed into some thing he could see, like tumour.
(I suspect that most GPs would want to take a sample of blood from anyone feeling like that.)

Quote:
Re: Ratbiters’ article on Jeremy Sherr. I was disappointed to find that the magazine I have loved – nay, bought! – since 1974 is finally riding with the big battalions of conventional medicine. If one were to judge by the assured display of unquestioning contempt for homoeopathy, then Ratbiter’s piece could easily have been lifted straight out of the Guardian or Observer. (Ouch!!)
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