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Old 21st February 2014, 04:23 AM   #1
padragan
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Studies of homeopathy statistics?

Greetings,

I'm currently talking to a homeopathy believer who simply refuse to accept that there's a great majority of studies that show no evidence in favour of homeopathy. Instead she's doing the usual stunt of cherry picking and simply dismiss the claim along with a "sources please". I think that's a bit annoying in this case, since it's well known, but nevertheless... My question is simply if there is a collection of statistics on performed studies along with their results (or lack of results) somewhere. I know there are a bunch of really skilled people here, so I thought it would be faster to ask here instead of investigoogling.

I apologise if this is allready covered elsewhere, but I couldn't find it when I searched the forum. There are quite a few threads about homeopathy here.

Kind regards
/ Padragan
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Old 21st February 2014, 04:57 AM   #2
McHrozni
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You won't get anywhere in that way. Simply state every time anecdotal evidence is not evidence and that SHE must provide the studies that homeopathy is effective. The burden of proof is on her, not you.
She will probably provide an article or two who, if sufficiently misinterpreted, can mean something. Pick those apart and you're done. She'll get angry and storm away after two, three tops.

McHrozni

Last edited by McHrozni; 21st February 2014 at 04:58 AM.
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Old 21st February 2014, 05:34 AM   #3
welshdean
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Originally Posted by padragan View Post
Greetings,

I'm currently talking to a homeopathy believer who simply refuse to accept that there's a great majority of studies that show no evidence in favour of homeopathy. Instead she's doing the usual stunt of cherry picking and simply dismiss the claim along with a "sources please". I think that's a bit annoying in this case, since it's well known, but nevertheless... My question is simply if there is a collection of statistics on performed studies along with their results (or lack of results) somewhere. I know there are a bunch of really skilled people here, so I thought it would be faster to ask here instead of investigoogling.

I apologise if this is allready covered elsewhere, but I couldn't find it when I searched the forum. There are quite a few threads about homeopathy here.

Kind regards
/ Padragan
I don't know how educated or otherwise your 'correspondent' is but this documentary from the BBC is rather good.
ETA: It's very easy to understand and accesible

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE
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Last edited by welshdean; 21st February 2014 at 05:35 AM. Reason: see ETA:
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Old 21st February 2014, 06:03 AM   #4
padragan
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
You won't get anywhere in that way. Simply state every time anecdotal evidence is not evidence and that SHE must provide the studies that homeopathy is effective. The burden of proof is on her, not you.
She will probably provide an article or two who, if sufficiently misinterpreted, can mean something. Pick those apart and you're done. She'll get angry and storm away after two, three tops.

McHrozni
Well, the problem here is that she cherry picked the few studies (often studies that's been critizised for the methods used and test protocol) that actually show a slight effect over placebo. That means it's not really anecdotes. I would rather just be able to present a huge box of studies that prove her wrong. Since I'm not a scientist myself (but a sceptic of course) I don't have the direct access to relevant databases, and I thought it would be logical to assume that someone allready have made some sort of summary on the matter.

My main argument is that a few positive studies are to be expected if picked from a large enough group of studies, and she does not accept that most of the studies simply does not provide positive evidence for homeopathy.
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Old 21st February 2014, 06:15 AM   #5
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This study found that the better the quality of the (homeopathy) study in terms of methodology, the more likely the study was to give negative results.

Quote:
We investigated the influence of indicators of methodological quality on study outcome in a set of 89 placebo-controlled clinical trials of homoeopathy in three different ways: (1) The results of studies meeting single criteria (explicit statement of random allocation, allocation concealment, double-blinding, completeness of follow-up) of methodological quality were compared with those of studies not meeting the criteria in univariate and multivariate analyses; (2) The results of studies scoring above and below predefined scores in two quality assessment scales were compared; (3) Primary studies were consecutively entered into a cumulative meta-analysis according to the summary scores derived from the quality assessment scales. All analyses were performed using meta-regression methods. Studies that were explicitly randomized and were double-blind as well as studies scoring above the cut-points yielded significantly less positive results than studies not meeting the criteria. In the cumulative meta-analyses, there was a trend for increasing effect sizes when more studies with lower-quality scores were added. However, there was no linear relationship between quality scores and study outcome. We conclude that in the study set investigated, there was clear evidence that studies with better methodological quality tended to yield less positive results. Because summarizing disparate study features into a single score is problematic, meta-regression methods simultaneously investigating the influence of single study features seem the best method for investigating the impact of study quality on outcome.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10391656
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Old 21st February 2014, 06:20 AM   #6
welshdean
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Originally Posted by padragan View Post
<snip>
My main argument is that a few positive studies are to be expected if picked from a large enough group of studies, and she does not accept that most of the studies simply does not provide positive evidence for homeopathy.
Ben Goldacre has a very good resource, try:
http://www.badscience.net/2007/11/a-kind-of-magic/

or for his complete index
http://www.badscience.net/category/c...ne/homeopathy/
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Old 23rd February 2014, 02:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by padragan View Post
I thought it would be logical to assume that someone allready have made some sort of summary on the matter.
I've attempted to correlate the main arguments around the "usual suspects" - the papers homeopaths etc tend to trot out on a regular basis.

The main page of the site is here - http://www.rationalvetmed.org/

And there's an index of papers by lead author's name and year of publication here - http://www.rationalvetmed.org/academic%20papers.html

I got fed up, when arguing with homs, of reinventing the same arguments each time so I stuck 'em all together in one place and started asking people for help with the interpretations. JREF members have been incredibly helpful.

Let me know if that's the sort of thing you're after - any suggestions, criticisms or contributions are most welcome!

Good luck with your discussion - don't let it get you downhearted, most homeopaths are well meaning but deluded, and there are a very few who have just mis-understood the subject and with a little constructive conversation and decent information can be persuaded of the ridiculous of the subject.

Bottom line - you cannot cure diseases with water; water has no memory; and never underestimate the power of the human mind to deceive itself.

Cheers,

Yuri
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Old 23rd February 2014, 02:58 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by welshdean View Post
Ben Goldacre has a very good resource, try:
http://www.badscience.net/2007/11/a-kind-of-magic/
Brilliant article.

Yuri
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Old 23rd February 2014, 03:48 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Professor Yaffle View Post
This study found that the better the quality of the (homeopathy) study in terms of methodology, the more likely the study was to give negative results.


http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10391656

That's one of the studies that homoeopaths never ever mention, isn't it?

Probably because of the bit that says:
Quote:
The evidence of bias [in the primary studies] weakens the findings of our original meta-analysis. Since we completed our literature search in 1995, a considerable number of new homeopathy trials have been published. The fact that a number of the new high-quality trials ... have negative results, and a recent update of our review for the most "original" subtype of homeopathy (classical or individualized homeopathy), seem to confirm the finding that more rigorous trials have less-promising results. It seems, therefore, likely that our meta-analysis at least overestimated the effects of homeopathic treatments.
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Old 23rd February 2014, 04:42 PM   #10
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There is one that was published in The Lancet a few years back. It was a meta-analysis of many studies.
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Old 23rd February 2014, 04:49 PM   #11
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It might not be a bad idea to consider the "science" behind homeopathy (there is none).

Start here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0Z7KeNCi7g

or:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWE1tH93G9U

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Old 23rd February 2014, 06:29 PM   #12
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There's another thing that bothers me about homeopathy, for which I've never been given a clear answer.

If you take the labels off of the remedies, is there any way to tell them apart? If they're indistinguishable from each other, how can they have differing effects?
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Old 23rd February 2014, 10:19 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by rustypouch View Post
There's another thing that bothers me about homeopathy, for which I've never been given a clear answer.

If you take the labels off of the remedies, is there any way to tell them apart? If they're indistinguishable from each other, how can they have differing effects?
Faith.
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Old 23rd February 2014, 11:56 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by padragan View Post
Well, the problem here is that she cherry picked the few studies (often studies that's been critizised for the methods used and test protocol) that actually show a slight effect over placebo. That means it's not really anecdotes. I would rather just be able to present a huge box of studies that prove her wrong. Since I'm not a scientist myself (but a sceptic of course) I don't have the direct access to relevant databases, and I thought it would be logical to assume that someone allready have made some sort of summary on the matter.

My main argument is that a few positive studies are to be expected if picked from a large enough group of studies, and she does not accept that most of the studies simply does not provide positive evidence for homeopathy.
You should just pick apart those cherry picked studies and not bother too much about finding negative evidence. If you go with study against study, even if you show a hundred negative studies, she'll just claim those were paid for by big Pharma and therefore unreliable. You won't get anywhere

Another thing you can do is to point out the said studies show, at best, a SMALL result over placebo. It's a 140 year old practice, and that's the best they can do? It should get her thinking, at least.

McHrozni
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Old 24th February 2014, 01:40 AM   #15
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Thank you so much for all the help!
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Old 24th February 2014, 02:15 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Sherman Bay View Post
It might not be a bad idea to consider the "science" behind homeopathy (there is none).
Indeed. The 'Law of Similars' on which it is based is 'sympathetic medicine', a magical belief no different in kind from using rhino horn in the expectation of increasing one's 'manly vigour'. The idea that the greater the extreme dilution the more effective the treatment, is the kind of deliberate insanity that in any other context would flag it as an obvious joke or spoof.
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Old 24th February 2014, 03:40 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by padragan View Post
Greetings,

I'm currently talking to a homeopathy believer who simply refuse to accept that there's a great majority of studies that show no evidence in favour of homeopathy. Instead she's doing the usual stunt of cherry picking and simply dismiss the claim along with a "sources please". I think that's a bit annoying in this case, since it's well known, but nevertheless... My question is simply if there is a collection of statistics on performed studies along with their results (or lack of results) somewhere. I know there are a bunch of really skilled people here, so I thought it would be faster to ask here instead of investigoogling.

I apologise if this is allready covered elsewhere, but I couldn't find it when I searched the forum. There are quite a few threads about homeopathy here.

Kind regards
/ Padragan
Unfortunately, assessing the outcome of multiple trials is a tricky business. Typically not all studies are published. In particular, researchers lack motivation to publish studies that do not have an interesting result (such as that homeopathy works).

To overcome this problem (called publication bias), trials should be registered before they are conducted. In order to gain approval for a drug its efficacy must be shown in registered trials. Homeopathic remedies, of course, are generally exempted from having to show efficacy, due to some amazingly successful lobbying. WP
The FDA registry can be accessed here:
http://clinicaltrials.gov/
There are other registries. Wiki lists some here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_trials_registry

Those that are published may still suffer from more or less subtle problems.
I disagree with those that say you should pick apart positive studies. Unless you know what you are doing, you may end up engaging in denialism like a common creationist.

The Cochrane collaboration is dedicated to providing high quality reviews of medical interventions. To this end it offers tools and training. You can read or download the Cochrane handbook here. Of special interest is part 2. It talks about how studies should be assessed and what may lead to a false result.

There are, of course, also Cochrane reviews on homeopathy. This list highlights problems with applying the evidence-based medicine approach to alternative medicine. Strictly speaking, it would be necessary to conduct large, high quality trials for each purported remedy and condition to be able to firmly reject it as ineffective.

Since the invention of homeopathy 200 years ago, it has been learned that matter consists of molecules and atoms, which in turn consist of... We have learned a lot. If homeopathy were true, this would require that we have overlooked some very significant properties of matter. And somehow these properties do not cause puzzling problems for chemistry, physics and engineering even when dealing extreme precision is required when dealing with tiny amounts of matter.
Sometimes claims are made regarding water memory. This displays a lack of knowledge on the part of the proponent, for homepathic remedies often come in the form of little sugar pills (globuli), without water.

Also be sure to have a look at the work of Edzard Ernst. He is a recently retired expert on alternative medicine who has done considerable academic work on the efficacy of homeopathy (in fact, he originally trained as a homeopath).
His blog (homeopathy tag)
And here's his A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy.
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Old 24th February 2014, 05:06 AM   #18
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I forgot:
A good thing to point out is the deficiency of so-called provings.
In a homeopathic proving, volunteers take the remedy and record any symptom they feel. These symptoms from are then compiled into a drug picture. The remedy supposedly cures people who have those symptoms.
Mind that when homeopathy was invented, nothing was known about the genuine causes of disease. Homeopaths never consider or attempt to treat the actual cause of any disease.
In the beginning, the undiluted substance was used but that was quickly stopped. The substances used for remedies are often extremely poisonous, such as belladonna, lead, mercury, or saliva of rabid dog.

Of course, without any active substance, the remedy will not cause any symptoms and what is recorded is just an arbitrary collection of little aches, complaints, or insecurities.

It has been known for well over a century that these "symptoms" are non-repeatable in blinded trials.
Which means that whatever a remedy is used for is arbitrary. If someone were able to distinguish different remedies by any means, including by feeling symptoms in his- or herself, this would qualify as paranormal and would allow them to claim any of the skeptical prizes offered.
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Old 24th February 2014, 05:27 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Professor Yaffle View Post
This study found that the better the quality of the (homeopathy) study in terms of methodology, the more likely the study was to give negative results.
The less one studies the methodology of homeopathy, the more likely the study gives positive results.

It's no wonder they like to dilute everything!
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Old 24th February 2014, 05:29 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Donn View Post
The less one studies the methodology of homeopathy, the more likely the study gives positive results.

It's no wonder they like to dilute everything!
Except their claims of efficacy...
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Old 27th February 2014, 09:06 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by padragan View Post
Thank you so much for all the help!
So did you watch the material I linked to in post#11, and/or pass it along to your "homeopathy believer" friend?
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