This week (14 – 21 June 2012) is Homeopathy Awareness week. Far from making the public aware of the truth behind homeopathy, they simply increase the amount of misleading and in some cases dangerous misinformation directed towards the public. The aim of this yearly misinformation campaign is to convince uninformed members of the public that a shaken up drop of water with no active ingredient has the potential to cure a whole range of ailments and diseases.
Homeopathy Awareness – It just doesn’t work!
I don’t plan on explaining all the reasons why homeopathy doesn’t work, I’ll simply point you in the direction of the excellent 1023 website. Homeopathy has been around for a long time, if it actually worked then it would be classed as ‘actual medicine’ and not ‘alternative medicine’.
Other than the fact that homeopathy just doesn’t work, there are a number of other issues surrounding homeopathy that are certainly worthy of increased awareness and this week seems like a perfect opportunity to do so.
Homeopaths put much effort in trying to establish a level of credibility for their profession and this is perfectly understandable, how else are you going to convince people that a drop or water or a sugar pill will cure them of serious illness or protect them from the dangers of tropical diseases. Often this quest for credibility involves membership of some form of trade association, this usually permits them to state that they work to a Code of conduct or ethics and can get them listed on a voluntary register, all of which is designed to convince people that this quackery has a place in modern healthcare.
In the UK the two biggest of these trade associations are the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) and the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths (ARH), both of these organisations have a ‘Code of Ethics and Practice’ that (it is claimed) members must abide by.
The Codes maintained by the both the SoH and ARH contain rules covering the advertising of members services. Under both of these codes members are required to comply with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and British Code of Advertising Practice (BCAP) regulations. The wording is almost identical and easy to understand, there can be little doubt about the requirements of these sections of the Codes.
SoH: Code of Ethics and Practice.
Item 38: All advertising must be published in a way that conforms to the law and to (the guidance issued in the British Code of Advertising Practice).
Item 39: Professional advertising must be factual and not seek to mislead or deceive, or make unrealistic or extravagant claims.
ARH: Code of Ethics and Practice
Item 36: All advertising must be published in a way that conforms to the law and to the guidance issued in the British Code of Advertising Practice.
Item 37 Professional advertising must be factual and not seek to mislead or deceive, or make unrealistic or extravagant claims.
Unfortunately for the public both of these homeopathy trade associations seem to exist only to promote the use of homeopathy. Both organisations are well aware of the claims being made by those who are supposed to live up to the standards laid down in their respective Codes and both continually fail to take action against those who break these codes. This leaves us with individual homeopaths who deliberately or otherwise, breach their own code, trade organisations who fail to enforce that code and a code that is in effect worthless!
The people responsible for ensuring compliance with these codes can be found here:
I can only assume that these are the same people responsible for any failure to comply….
For any members of the SoH, ARH, homeopath or members of the public who are in any doubt over the sort of claims deemed acceptable by the ASA, you should take a few minutes to read this homeopathy specific guidance. Guidance for Advertisers of Homeopathic Services
So we’ve seen what is required of homeopaths from both trade associations and the ASA, perhaps now a couple of examples of what is actually being claimed will help raise ‘awareness’ of this failure on the part of the homeopathy profession in the UK. There are many more homeopaths making similar claims and the SoH and ARH should be taking action against those members.
ARH member Wenda Holland-MARH, claims to treat a large range of conditions, some minor and some far more serious. Needless to say the majority of the following claims are not permitted by the ASA.
I particularly enjoy meeting children, who respond very well to homeopathy. I now run a baby and toddler clinic in Hythe, supporting parents-to-be with fertility issues as well as a wide range of pregnancy problems, including morning sickness, heartburn, constipation, indigestion and threatened miscarriage.
Threatened miscarriage is not something that should be treated with ineffective sugar pills!
She goes further, listing conditions for which there is no good evidence to support the use of homeopathy …….
Flu and Migraine, Asthma, depression, Hay Fever, IBS, PMT, fertility issues, children with ADHD and other behavioral problems, recurring ear infections, broken bones and poor recovery from injury, Eczema, Psoriasis and other skin conditions as well as more chronic conditions such as ME and Chronic Fatigue, MS, Arthritis, Alzheimers Disease and addictions.
Acne – Eczema – Asthma – Psoriasis – Arthritis – Muscle pain – Childhood illness – Flu – Headaches and Migraine – IBS – Chest Infections – Tiredness and Lethargy – High Blood Pressure – Thyroid Problems – Autism – Behavior Problems – ADHD – Bed Wetting – Depression – Allergies. The list is endless
Problems with blood pressure, thyroid, Alzheimer’s and addictions cannot be helped by soothing words and sugar pills!
SoH member Doy Dalling – RSHom, is quite typical of many homeopathy websites, listing a mix of minor and serious medical conditions. Actually you don’t even need to have any recognisable medical condition, even those unknown conditions ‘without a name‘ can be treated!
The range of conditions that can be treated is limitless, including those without a name or known cause.
There is no robust evidence that supports the use of homeopathy for a single one of the conditions listed on her website and they all breach the advertising regulations …… and therefore the SoH Code to which she subscribes.
I have successfully treated patients for a vast array of different ailments some are included below.
Allergies, Persistent infections, such as Ear infections, Tonsillitis & Sinusitis, Asthma or Persistent Coughs, Glue Ear, Migraines & Headaches, Eczema, Psoriasis & other Skin Disorders, IBS & other stomach related problems, Menopause & PMT, Fertility problems, Ailments during Pregnancy & Childbirth, Sleep problems & Panic Attacks, Depression, Stress & Anxiety, Post Viral Syndrome & ME, ADHD, Autism & Dyslexia
Clearly conditions such as allergies, depression, ADHD, autism should be treated under proper medical supervision and yet I can find no advice to potential patients to seek proper medical care or advice from a GP. In fact she appears to be suggesting that homeopathy should be used instead of conventional medicine, particularly worrying in the case of children and babies.
It can be used for both adults, children and babies who would normally be treated with drugs, e.g. antibiotics, antihistamines, anti-inflammatories, broncholdilators and steroid creams, to name but a few.
Another SoH member worth being ‘aware’ of is Madeline Grove. Her website lists many of the same claims we have already seen and like all the others these break the advertising guidance and also the Code of Ethics and Practice of her own association.
People seek treatment for various conditions including asthma, eczema, fertility, menopause and menstrual problems, M.E., arthritis, headaches, anxiety. It is used by many as an alternative to vaccination.
Of course homeopaths will use the argument that the wording ‘people seek treatment‘ is different to offering to treat. The ASA view that differently! But it is Madeline’s Homeopathic Travel Kits that present the greatest threat to the safety of anybody relying on it.
Along with a Nux Vomica (strychnine) remedy for ‘Over-indulgence‘ she lists “China / China sulph Malaria” – yes that’s right, sugar pills being sold to protect against a disease that kills over 1 million people every year.
Not surprisingly the WHO do not condone the use of homeopathy for the treatment or prevention of malaria. This is nothing short of disgusting and down right dangerous.
The ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘ provide the World Health Organisation (WHO) with a grant in excess of $67 million to help combat this disease, perhaps homeopaths feel this should be spent on their worthless remedies. Any responsible homeopath or homeopathic organisation would waste no time in condemning this claim.
At present the ASA have a huge list of homeopathy websites that are in breach of the regulations and they are slowly working their way through them, many of the homeopaths contacted by the ASA have made the required changes (even if reluctantly), others are less willing to comply. The sites listed here may already be on their list.
However these claims cannot be ignored and need to be removed, but in the spirit of Homeopathy Awareness Week it might be worth seeing if the SoH and ARH are willing to deal with these claims themselves. So I will contact them giving them the opportunity to advise their members that they are in breach of both the ASA guidance and their own Code of Practice, if the claims are still present on 1 July then they will be forwarded to Trading Standards.
To be clear, based on the past performance of these organisations, I do not expect that either of them will take action to get these claims removed!