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Medicine United Kingdom Science

UK May Blacklist Homeopathy (bbc.co.uk) 287

New submitter Maritz writes: Vindication may be on the horizon for people who defer to reality in matters of health — UK ministers are considering whether homeopathy should be put on a blacklist of treatments GPs in England are banned from prescribing, the BBC has learned. The controversial practice is based on the principle that "like cures like," but critics say patients are being given useless sugar pills. The Faculty of Homeopathy said patients supported the therapy. A consultation is expected to take place in 2016. The total NHS bill for homeopathy, including homeopathic hospitals and GP prescriptions, is thought to be about £4m.
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UK May Blacklist Homeopathy

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  • I Can't Figure Out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @10:42AM (#50921593) Journal

    I can't figure out how this brand of witchcraft was ever seen suitable to refer patients to.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is likely why [theguardian.com]
      • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @10:48AM (#50921651) Journal

        This is likely why [theguardian.com]

        That may explain the UK, although honestly I doubt Charles has that much influence. But it doesn't explain the US or Canada, or anywhere else this utter bullshit gets passed off as "medicine". Some of these crap treatments are even covered under my job's health coverage. It's crazy and a waste of money, or more specifically premiums I pay.

        • by Tx ( 96709 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @11:02AM (#50921775) Journal

          It's no different than prescribing a placebo, which does have a proven effect, although I expect it costs a lot more to see a homeopathy "specialist" than it does for a regular doctor to prescribe some do-nothing pills.

          • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @11:23AM (#50921979)

            It's no different than prescribing a placebo, which does have a proven effect

            Placebos by definition have no effect. The "placebo effect" doesn't mean placebos themselves have an actual chemical effect. Placebos are designed such that they cannot have a chemical effect that is relevant in treating the condition. Placebos are the measuring stick for whether a treatment actually works.

            Selling treatments for cash as if they are actual medicine without proof of efficacy is fraud. Anyone selling homeopathy and representing as a cure for a specific condition is committing a crime.

            • I imagine that the more expensive the placebo, the more powerful the placebo effect will be.

          • by BradMajors ( 995624 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @11:28AM (#50922009)

            Scientific studies have shown that placebos are more effective when they cost the patient more money. Seriously.

            • Also if the placebo treatment are more intrusive/painful. For placebo pills: coloured ones, larger ones are more effective. And it helps if the doctor is convinced that the treatment is effective. Each and all scientifically tested.

            • Scientific studies have shown that placebos are more effective when they cost the patient more money. Seriously.

              Not that suprpising: placebos work on the belief that they work. People generally associate more expenive with better, so it's not surprising they work better when they're believed to work better.

              Funny thing is placebos even work when patients know they're placebos. I even know that and I'm pretty sure most cold medication is nothing but placebo. However there's a part of my brain that believes th

              • Most cold medication isn't a placebo. There's no way to cure the cold, or even a treatment to fight the virus effectively, but there are plenty that will lessen the symptoms. Ibuprofen for the headache, caffeine for the lethargy, pseudoephedrine* to clear the stuffy nose. They won't do a thing to actually fix the illness - you'll be just as ill, but you'll feel a lot better about it.

                *Now largely replaced with the barely-effective phenylephrine, because pseudoephedrine is a precursor in methamphetamine manuf

    • by judoguy ( 534886 )
      But most medicine is bullshit as well. Not that there aren't great and useful live saving medications, but so much crap is prescribed in the U.S. at least, essentially by the drug reps.

      I know a pharmaceutical rep. Man, the stories he tells about getting doctors to prescribe crap based on at least as much bullshit as homeopathy.

      Push, push, push a high profit drug. Don't actually practice medicine just push the drugs that make money.

  • by Pseudonymous Powers ( 4097097 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @10:43AM (#50921603)

    There's no need for believers in homeopathy to worry about this. They can just grind the remaining prescriptions for homeopathic remedies into dust, and present a grain of that dust to the pharmacist, who then gives them a glass of water. Problem solved.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      As non-sanctioned remedies that exist outside of the conventional MD mindset and Big Pharma, "believers" don't have to worry. They can just continue to medicate themselves if they want.

      I'm kind of surprised that the UK is finally getting around to this. It's been this way in the US for quite some time.

      Although some non-pharma remedies are useful in some limited (generally non-life threatening) situations.

    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      It's still dangerous. Forgetting to take a dose can be fatal.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Perfect Martini:
      Store your Gin and Martini Glasses in the Freezer.
      Pull a Glass out, and show it a bottle of Vermouth.
      Pour ice cold Gin into the Glass, which now remembers the Vermouth, and add an olive.
      For a Perfect Gibson, use a Cocktail Onion in place of the Olive.

      OK, now for the Viking Blast:
      Store your Aquavit and Shot Glasses in the Freezer.
      Put some Grieg on the Stereo. (Peer Gynt is good. For something more Modern, consider Katzenjammer.)
      Take both Aquavit and Glasses out to the Hot Tub, on a tray

    • by alexhs ( 877055 )

      They can just grind the remaining prescriptions for homeopathic remedies into dust, and present a grain of that dust to the pharmacist, who then gives them a glass of water.

      But that would put them at risk of an overdose, as more diluted substances have higher potency [wikipedia.org] !

  • by seanellis ( 302682 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @10:48AM (#50921645) Homepage Journal

    My best pal and matey Mike Marshall, from the Good Thinking Society, was on BBC Breakfast news this morning along with homeopath-in-chief Peter Fisher.

    The clip is not available at the BBC but it is on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • Indeed, the effort to blacklist homeopathy is entirely thanks to Marsh and the rest of the Good Thinking Society [goodthinkingsociety.org]. Please consider donating to them so they can continue their fight against wasteful and dangerous pseudoscience. Homeopathic owl [goodthinkingsociety.org] isn't cheap you know.
  • ... all homeopathy-related URLs would be added to a national "ISP blacklist" so they wouldn't be reachable by people in the UK without using a VPN or some such.

    </panic mode>

  • I'd be leery of banning sugar water, that's too nanny-state for my blood; but if I were helping fund the NHS, I'd be damn sure that I wouldn't want some idiot's witch-doctor to be able to submit claims for having administered succussed eye of newt or whatnot.

    If they want to do it in private practice; their efficacy claims had better be prepared to meet truth-in-advertising standards; but if they can find true believers, have at it.

    If it is going on the tab of the real healthcare system; evidence or GT
  • by DCFC ( 933633 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @11:00AM (#50921761)

    Note how sympathetic the BBC is to homeopathy, giving a soft ride to someone who makes money from punting it.

    Apparently that's "balance".

    Next week the BBC will run an article on the different viewpoints on the square root of 16, giving equal time to those who say it is 8.

    • Note how sympathetic the BBC is to homeopathy, giving a soft ride to someone who makes money from punting it.

      What "soft ride"? What "sympathy"? They quoted someone in an article on the website - it's not a grilling from an interviewer and isn't meant to be. How was it any different to the "treatment" that they gave to the anti-homeopathy side (which was also just quotes)?

      Wait until they get the opposing parties on Newsnight, then you might see what kind of a "ride" each gets.

      Apparently that's "balance".

      Yes, yes it is.

    • See also: How climate conspiracy theorists get quoted in news articles.

    • Next week the BBC will run an article on the different viewpoints on the square root of 16, giving equal time to those who say it is 8.

      That's fine if those people are aware of modular arithmetic.

      If you're doing modular arithmetic mod 24, the square root of 16 is 8. Try it for yourself:

      8*8 % 24 == 16

      IOW if you square 8, you get 16, i.e. the square root of 16 is 8. The square root of 16 is also 4 and 20.

      Taa daa!

  • Snake oil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @11:11AM (#50921849)

    The Faculty of Homeopathy said patients supported the therapy.

    Who cares what the patients "support"? Patients for the most part demonstrably have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to medical treatments. We have highly trained medical professionals and we rely on treatments that can objectively be shown to work better than placebo for a reason.

    Demonstrate to me that homeopathy is more effective than a placebo and I'm fine with it. Until that happens it is nothing but snake oil and anyone who supports it is harming people with fake treatments.

    • That stood out to me as well. If patients en masse decided "leeches help sure cancer" then should those be covered? Or should what is covered be based on medicines/treatments that are actually scientifically proven to actually TREAT what they are supposed to be used for?

    • Who cares what the patients "support"? Patients for the most part demonstrably have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to medical treatments. We have highly trained medical professionals and we rely on treatments that can objectively be shown to work better than placebo for a reason.

      Which raises the question.......what moron doctors are out there prescribing this stuff??

      • Which raises the question.......what moron doctors are out there prescribing this stuff??

        Who says they are morons? Water is really cheap and it can be sold for a ridiculous markup. This is nothing more than profiteering off the gullible in 99.99% of cases. There are a few doctors who actually buy into this nonsense but most of them are just trying to get rich.

    • Still easy to find snake oil for sale.
      http://www.baroness.co/dr-dere... [baroness.co]

  • by davek ( 18465 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @11:21AM (#50921949) Homepage Journal

    This is not a flamebait question: Isn't this the natural course of socialized medicine? Seriously, when I control your health care, how can you be free to choose the treatment you see best, especially if that "best treatment" is a placebo in the form of meditation and sugar pills? How can anyone expect any other outcome?

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      A regulated medical profession in a free market imposes these same kinds of rules already.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You say that like it's a bad thing. If the state is paying for your medicine, at the very least it has the right to ensure you aren't spending the money on candy rather than medicine that works. The point of state funded healthcare is that it is in the nations interest for you to be healthy, and therefore productive. If you want candy, buy candy, if you want medical super-expensive-wasp-sting-magic-water-candy, pay for "homeopathy insurance" or some other bullshit.
    • You can choose whatever treatment you want.

      They're not banning homeopathic products. They're saying that physicians employed by the NHS can't prescribe them.

    • This is not a flamebait question: Isn't this the natural course of socialized medicine? Seriously, when I control your health care, how can you be free to choose the treatment you see best, especially if that "best treatment" is a placebo in the form of meditation and sugar pills? How can anyone expect any other outcome?

      Are you for no regulation at all then? Any quack with any random snakeoil cure should be allowed to prey on the desperate? Nothing to do whether it's socalised or private, it's about whether you're going to enforce medical standards.

      You can go to a homeopathic fraudster directly if you like, but don't expect to be referred there by a medical professional.

  • This law is a terrible idea. And, why it is a terrible idea has nothing to do with your opinion on Homoeopathy.

    This is a case of politicians making medical decisions. Medical decisions should be made by doctors not politicians. It should be doctors and medical boards who decide whether or not a particular prescription is effective.

    Banning a drug because public opinion does not like it is bad health policy.

    • Doctors are pushing for this, and physicians and medical societies are a key part of the NHS decision-making process. This isn't just a bunch of politicians telling doctors what to do.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @11:37AM (#50922099)

    Homeopathic medicines are chemicals (helpful or poisonous) that have been diluted so much that there’s basically none of the original substance left. So basically you’re getting a placebo. And wasting your money.

    Part of the reason why some people think it works is that there are companies that marked real medicines as “homeopathic.”

    Why? Because many people (my family included, but I’m not an idiot about medicine) have been failed by the medical establishment who dismiss real illnesses as psychosomatic or just push patients out the door when they don’t have a clue what the cause is (rather than referring them to a proper specialist, because they’re too clueless to know what kind of specialist to refer to). In the US, a lot of this is caused by so-called “family doctors” or “primary care physicians” who in many places are really just PAs and NPs, rather than real MDs who might have a bit more of a clue about how to diagnose illness.

    A lot of auto-immune illnesses are like this. Many medical professionals are trained that if a patient comes in with a “constellation of symptoms” and (in particular) “has their symptoms written down,” that means it’s all in their heads. Hashimoto’s disease, for instance, comes with a “constellation of symptoms”, and patients suffer from brain fog, which means they feel inclined to write down things they think are important to talk about. You see the problem here. My wife had to diagnose her own Hashi’s (which was subsequently verified by an antibody test, when we finally found an internal medicine doctor who would listen).

    So, when people are failed by the “medical establishment,” they turn to alternatives. Dieticians, nutritionists, naturopaths, and a number of other auxiliary medical communities are almost universally more willing to listen. But they also have weird beliefs about alternative medicine. A lot of the alternative medicine is actual real medicine in alternative form. For instance, you can get dessicated porcine thyroid gland in pill form, which is just as effective as Levothyroxine (or more so), in equivalent doses. Some “herbal medicines” also have beneficial effects. And then there are “alternative treatments” that amount to figuring out that someone has a nutrient deficiency and adding a proper supplement, and nutrtion is something that MDs are universally clueless about. (For instance, if you have an MTHRF defect, you have to switch from folic acid to methylfolate.)

    But a lot of alternative medicine is total quackery, so it all gets a bad rap.

    If homeopathic medicine becomes deprecated through law, then those companies making real medicines under the “homeopathic” moniker will simply remove that from the labeling and keep going. The stuff that is homeopathic will still have to be labeled this way, and people who want to waste their money will have to pay out of pocket.

    Speaking of paying out of pocket, I live in the southern tier of upstate New York, which is kindof a backward place. Low populations and limited resources run headlong into weird state laws, and people here have trouble getting some kinds of medical treatment. We had to go to PA to get some kinds of tests done because they’re illegal in NY. Lourdes in Binghamton, NY and Guthrie in Sayre, PA are actually really good facilities, but you have to travel. Ithaca has some good resources, and of course Syracuse has SUNY Upstate Medical. But for the weird diseases, the appropriate doctors are few and far between.

    There’s one in Sayre and one in Ithaca that specialize in hard to diagnose cases. What’s interesting about them is that they’ve so overwhelmed with patients that their waiting lists make you wait months to see them. They’ve also both stopped taking insurance. Dealing with insurance takes too much time away from seeing patients, so they

    • "then those companies making real medicines under the “homeopathic” moniker"

      One of those things is not like the other.

      "But a lot of alternative medicine is total quackery, so it all gets a bad rap."

      Because if it actually worked it would be called "medicine" and could lose the "alternative" moniker.

  • by grnbrg ( 140964 ) <slashdot AT grnbrg DOT org> on Friday November 13, 2015 @11:38AM (#50922115)
    • * Buy homeopathic remedies
    • * Dilute 10:1
    • * Repackage
    • * Relabel as extra strength
    • * Sell (by volume) at 2X price
    • * Make 2000% profit!
  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @11:41AM (#50922151) Journal

    I think the NHS should give homeopathy all of its funding.

    Of course, we should apply a homeopathic approach to this funding.

    UKP96bn diluted to 1% would be the approach, but the gold standard for homeopathy is 30C, so we need to repeat that dilution another 29 times.

    I'm feeling generous so lets round that UKP10E-50 up not down. Where would the British homeopathists like me to send their penny?

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday November 13, 2015 @12:38PM (#50922801) Homepage

    Can't help thinking about the information about George Boole that I was reading recently.

    Despite being the father of swathes of logic, he died in the most illogical way possible.

    He walked through the rain for miles, and lectured while still dripping wet for hours. He got ill. He laid up in bed. And his wife thought that the best cure for him was the same thing that made him ill. So she kept throwing buckets of water over him. Which made him worse. So she kept throwing more water over him. Until he died.

    I just couldn't help laughing and wondering if he consented to such "treatment".

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