On Saturday 30 Jan at 10:23 I will be taking part in the 1023 campaign and joining a group of fellow skeptics & campaigners outside Boots in Leicester to take an overdose of a homeopathic remedy. Around the country other groups will be doing exactly the same thing, in total there will be around 300 people deliberately overdosing.
Over the past week or so, since the overdose details became public, I’ve been asked on a few occasions “Why bother?”
Whilst some may see little harm in letting people take a sugar pill and trick themselves into feeling better (placebo effect). Making these products available in pharmacies or funding them through the NHS gives the public the impression that they are as effective as other medicines. The sale of non effective sugar pills for a headache may not be much of an issue, but it does lead to a general acceptance of homeopathy as a viable form of treatment and that has far more serious consequences.
Taking homeopathic remedies for minor conditions is highly unlikely to cause any direct harm, but the indirect harm is where the problem lies. This is why we now have homeopaths in the UK offering homeopathic treatments or protection for serious diseases like malaria. There are also UK based homeopaths supporting or working in Africa (not)treating HIV/AIDS, homeopaths suggesting sending homeopathic remedies to Haiti and even claiming it has a role to play in the treatment of cancer. That’s the harm in Homeopathy !
This isn’t something you need to scour the dark corners of the internet to find, in my earlier Homeopath(et)ic Travel Advice blog post you can see that this form of quackery can easily go from a harmless sugar pill for a headache, to a potentially far more dangerous level, and this is quite readily available on the high streets of the UK and you don’t even need to travel to large cities to find it.
I don’t intend to explain how homeopaths claims it works, or exactly why it doesn’t work – actually the very way homeopaths explain that it does work, is exactly why it doesn’t!
The stated aim of the 1023 campaign is to try to convince Boots to withdraw homeopathic remedies from their pharmacies. In all honesty I don’t think that will happen, at least not in the short term. I think an even better outcome will be a greater public understanding of what homeopathy is, or to be more precise … what it isn’t.
When the public realise that the likes of Boots are charging them £5 for a small bottle of sugar pills that have no effectiveness above and beyond the placebo effect, then hopefully they’ll stop buying them. As Boots Professional Standards Director has said, despite having no evidence to suggest these products work “There is certainly a consumer demand for these products”. When the consumer demand fades, that’s when Boots will remove them from their shelves !