Sadly there are people who think homeopathy is a safe and effective form of ‘natural or herbal medicine’. If you are one of those people I urge you to visit the 1023 website at www.1023.org.uk and read the sections that explain what homeopathy is, what it is not and the harm it can do. It will help you make an informed choice about your healthcare.
What is clear is that anybody who has looked at homeopathy and gone beyond the outlandish claims made by the homeopaths will realise that there is just nothing in it – literally nothing. Properly conducted medical trials have repeatedly shown that it is not effective, it is not natural or herbal and it is wrong to class homeopathic remedies as ‘medicines’.
On the subject of safety, well as any active ingredient is diluted to the point of non-existence, all you are left with is water or a little sugar pill, so it may seem safe, but it is the indirect danger posed by homeopathy that is the issue.
Homeopaths often quote (Hippocrates) “First do no harm” when discussing the safety of their remedies. Doing no harm is not quite the same as causing no harm and this is where homeopathy goes from being a leftover from the age of quackery & snake oil salesmen, to posing a present day danger to public health.
The internet is full of instances of homeopaths claiming to cure serious conditions like malaria and HIV/Aids, especially in developing countries where access to conventional healthcare can be restricted, but homeopathy also presents a danger to health much closer to home …..
There are UK homeopaths who offer to treat a range of serious conditions with these magic little sugar pills. For the most part, these people have no medical training and are not qualified to even identify serious medical conditions when they present themselves, let alone treat or cure them. Would you trust a Doctor if they were similarly qualified?
A few days ago I found three UK homeopaths whose stood out from the usual run of the mill sugar pill dispensers. Two were offering to treat Sexually Transmitted Diseases and one was claiming to treat a range of serious conditions, including heart disease and cancer.
Feeling that these homeopaths claims were a danger to public health, I fired off letters the relevant Trading Standards offices. The results of these letters have been mixed and are still ongoing. I have blogged in the past that I think the responses from Trading Standards can be something of a Post Code Lottery. I understand that TS have priorities and limited resources and some TS authorities do take action where needed, but it can be hit and miss.
This is not the first time I’ve had experience of homeopaths making dangerous claims, including treatments for STD’s and protection against malaria and other tropical diseases. What is clear is that these claims are something Trading Standards are not comfortable in dealing with!
Both Notts County and Windsor & Maidenhead TS initially said this was the responsibility of the MHRA. I contacted the MHRA, who said they only regulated the homeopathic medicines (remedies – NOT medicines!) and not the practitioner and that this came under Trading Standards remit.
So it was back to Trading Standards:
Notts County were pretty good, they accepted the MHRA’s view that this was a Trading Standards matter and agreed with me that there may be an issue under The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, Schedule 1 (practice 17):
“17. Falsely claiming that a product is able to cure illnesses, dysfunction or malformations.“
They agreed to take some action and although I have not officially heard back from them, the website claims for treating STD’s have been removed.
Containing the Chlamydia & Sexually transmitted disease claims
Claims removed – yes there are conditions on here that I still have issues with, but it’s a start!
It would be interesting to find out if the homeopath actually tried to defend her claims, or simply accepted that there was no evidence to support them and just took them down!
Windsor & Maidenhead Trading Standards is a slightly different story and is still ongoing, so I will leave this one here for the moment and post and update with the outcome once it is known. If anybody lives in the Maidenhead area wants details of this clinic, I will happily pass them along.
East Sussex Trading Standards was emailed on 15 Aug about Equilibrium Complementary Health and Relaxation and the claims on their website. http://www.equilibrium-clinic.com/Homeopathy.htm
This is the homeopath claiming to treat cancer and a range of other serious conditions. The cancer claim is a breach of the Cancer Act 1939.
Cancer Act 1939 – 4 Prohibition of certain advertisements
(1)No person shall take any part in the publication of any advertisement—
(a) containing an offer to treat any person for cancer, or to prescribe any remedy therefor, or to give any advice in connection with the treatment thereof;
Equilibruium’s homeopathy page starts by claiming “Homeopathy offers a safe and effective alternative to conventional medicine”. It’s bad enough when offered as a form of complementary therapy, where the patient will still be receiving potentially life saving conventional cancer treatments, but claiming homeopathy as an effective alternative.
……… That is just wrong!
I got no response from East Sussex TS to my email, so today I have contacted Consumer Direct and they are passing the details on again. Hopefully something will be done. Again an update will be posted as and when something happens. But if you live in the Lewes area and want to contact your local TS, that can only help get these claims looked at.
With these complaints I have simply focused on those conditions that posed the most immediate danger, there are other conditions listed on all three sites that should be addressed …… but that’s homeopathy all over, unsupported claims to treat medical conditions with sugar pills. Exchange cash for a few words of sympathy and a fist full of sugar pills and if you are lucky you will experience the placebo effect, you may even go away feeling better about yourself.
However, sugar, sympathy and the placebo effect do not add up to an effective medical treatment.
If you need any advice on the treatment of STD/STI’s, do not visit a homeopath! Start by visiting NHS Choices for some information or get along to your GP.