Thoughts on Judaism

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Homeopathy Does It Again

Thanks Observer

Get your excuses ready folks. Here we go again.


  • Here's an excuse for you. What do you think about its claims?

    Critics say Lancet homeopathy study flawed

    From Cathy Wong, N.D.,Your Guide to Alternative Medicine.
    A study published in the August 27 issue of The Lancet contends that homeopathic remedies are no better than placebo. However, the study has been criticized by peer researchers and homeopathic experts for being scientifically flawed.

    It's one of a recent string of negative studies about alternative medicine that fail to properly test the hypothesis in question. For example, a $2.2 million echinacea study, which found that echinacea had no effect on preventing or treating colds, did not use an adequate therapeutic dose of echinacea.

    The Lancet study was a meta-analysis--a study that compares a selection of research studies to see what the overall consensus is. On page two (p. 727), researchers, led by Aijing Shang, PhD, of the University of Berne, described the four types of homeopathy studies they included in their meta-analysis:

    * Studies using "clinical homeopathy". Patients did not receive a comprehensive homeopathic history and all patients received a single, identical remedy. This accounted for 48, or 44% of the homeopathy studies analyzed in the Lancet meta-analysis.

    * Studies using "complex homeopathy". Patients did not receive a comprehensive homeopathic history and all patients received a mixture of different commonly used homeopathic remedies. This accounted for 35, or 32% of the homeopathy studies analyzed.

    * Studies using "classical homeopathy". Patients were given a comprehensive patient history and received a single, individualized remedy. This accounted for 18, or 16% of the homeopathy studies analyzed.

    * Studies using "isopathy". Patients did not receive a comprehensive homeopathic history and all patients received a diluted substance that was believed to be the cause of the disorder (e.g pollen in seasonal allergies). This accounted for 8, or 7% of the homeopathy studies analyzed.

    The problem is there is no such thing as clinical homeopathy. No one trained and licensed in homeopathy would recommend a single, identical remedy for patients with a certain disease or condition.

    Homeopathy is based on the belief that "like cures like". Diluted medicinal substances (which look like tiny white pellets) are prescribed to treat an individual's unique symptoms.

    For example, if we brought together a hundred people with rheumatoid arthritis and interviewed them, they would not all have the same symptoms. Certain factors would aggravate symptoms in some but not others. A homeopath distinguishes between these various subtypes and finds a suitable, individual remedy that matches all of that person's symptoms (hence like cures like).

    To give everyone with a certain disease or condition the same remedy is not considered homeopathy. The Lancet meta-analysis included studies that may have been statistically sound, but should have been excluded because they lacked a fundamental understanding of what homeopathy is.

    In addition, many view the use of complex homeopathy and isopathy as merely "educated guesses", because patients receive remedies that again are not individualized but are commonly used for such conditions. There is no guarantee that the remedy is correct.

    Such a major problem in the study should have been detected before the article was published.

    This is not the first time the prestigious journal has been at the center of controversy over scientifically flawed research.

    The Lancet previously published a sensationalized study linking autism and the MMR vaccine, which many feel is responsible for eroding public faith in the MMR vaccine and leading to declining use and new outbreaks of measles in the UK. The journal later stated that in hindsight, it would not have published the flawed study.

    This should not be the end of homeopathy. Instead, our understanding of whether it does or diesn't work should continue to grow with better, properly designed research studies.

    And the lesson to be learned from this particular study is simple--in order to properly evaluate homeopathy, get someone who actually knows what it is.

    SOURCES: Shang, A. The Lancet, Aug. 27, 2005; vol 366: pp 726-732. Vandenbroucke, J.P. The Lancet, Aug. 27, 2005; vol 366: pp 691-692. News release, National Center for Homeopathy. Matthias Egger, MD, director, department of social and preventive medicine, University of Berne, Switzerland. Jan P. Vandenbroucke, MD, PhD, professor of clinical epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands. Joyce Frye, DO, MBA, president, American Institute of Homeopathy and postdoctoral research fellow, center for clinical epidemiology and biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:57 AM  

  • And then, here is the article on echinacea mentioned in the above comment. What do you think?

    Echinacea and the Common Cold?

    From Cathy Wong, N.D.,Your Guide to Alternative Medicine.
    Echinacea is a popular herb used to reduce the symptoms and duration of the common cold. Last year, Americans spent an estimated $155 million on echinacea, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.

    But researchers led by Ronald Turner, MD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, recently published findings showing that echinacea had no effect on preventing colds or reducing the severity and duration of cold symptoms.

    The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the federal National Institutes of Health. It took more than three years and cost $2.2 million. It's one of many government-funded studies assessing alternative medicine.

    Although the media has been quick to conclude that echinacea is useless or ineffective, there are some important points to keep in mind:

    * The study has been criticized for using too low a dose of echinacea.

    The dose of echinacea used in the study (equivalent to 900 mg dried echinacea root) was lower than what is commonly recommended. For example, Canada's Natural Health Products Directorate suggests a dose of up to 3 g per day, which is more than 3 times the amount used in this study.

    Herbalists often recommend a total daily dose of 3 or more grams of echinacea per day at the first sign of cold symptoms. It's usually taken in divided doses, with a dose every 2-3 hours. After one to two days, the dose is usually reduced and continued for the following week. Had this study looked at these doses, the results may have been different.

    * This study used one particular type of echinacea that hasn't been well researched -- the root of a species called echinacea angustifolia.

    Echinacea purpurea, another species of echinacea, has been shown to be effective in other studies, particularly preparations made from aerial parts (the leaves, stem, and flowers). This study used echinacea angustifolia roots.

    Germany's Commission E, an authoritative expert herb panel which guides modern drug laws in Germany, only recommends echinacea purpurea aerial parts and the roots of another species, echinacea pallida. They don't approve angustifolia.

    A smaller study led by Dr. Steven Sperber of Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey used echinacea purpurea aerial parts. Although echinacea didn't prevent infection (which may be due to the lower dose used), they found that 58% of people taking an echinacea purpurea extract made from aerial parts developed cold symptoms, compared to 82% of people taking a placebo.

    Two echinacea preparations made from aerial parts of echinacea purpurea are Echinaguard by Nature's Way and Echinaforce by Vogel. These proprietary formulas have been used in research studies.

    * Although this study adds to the research on echinacea, it shouldn't be used to make sweeping statements.

    For example, aging naturally results in a significant decline in immune function. This study looked at healthy college students in their late teens and early twenties. Future studies should examine whether echinacea is effective in older adults or otherwise immunocompromised people.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:01 AM  

  • Not a significantly different objection than the one brought in the article itself. It only didn't work because the right people didn't try it.

    Just once, if we could see a PROPER study that supported teh claims of these methods, just ONE, it would go along way justifying the excuses.

    The problem is the same as the Talmudic science. They were unaware of Avogadro's mole in the 1780s when Hahneman developed these theories. The new info leaves no room for his logic. Tehy claim a new logic, water memory. That too is scientifically refuted (see link on right side for this subject). So all we have left is empirical observation. It just works but we do not know how.

    OK. But you still have to show beyond an extraordinary claim that it works. They have never done that. PERIOD.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 11:15 AM  

  • Note the results they are TOUTING for echinacea done "properly". 58% developed symptoms (rather than 82%). Let's suppose that this study could be taken at face value, that it were properly controlled etc. Almost 60% of people taking this still got sick. AND THESE ARE THE ADVOCATES! These people are running around claiming that echinacea prevents colds. I'd say that it does not for well more than half of those that use it. And that is giving all bonuses and credence.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:46 PM  

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