Next page Index Previous page Home Next page Previous page Index

The Evidence

Rational Veterinary Medicine:

On Sale now!

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via e-mail Print Share on Tumblr Share on Stumble Upon Share on Reddit
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via e-mail Print Share on Stumble Upon Share on Reddit

Gacsi, M., Gyori, B., Miklosi, A., Viranyi, Z. and Kubinyi, E. (2005) ‘Specific differences and similarities in the behavior of hand-raised dog and wolf pups in social situations with humans’, Developmental Psychobiology, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 111-122.

The upshot of this study is that wolves are different from dogs. This probably isn’t too startling to the average, sensible, reader but proponents of raw diets like to pretend that dogs are just “wolves lite” and should be treated as such - not so, as you can see.

Links: [abstract, pubmed]:[abstract, Wiley]:[full text, pdf]:[SciAm report]
Keywords: raw meaty bones food rmb barf

Gerber, J.S. and Offit, P.A. (2009) ‘Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses’, Clinical Infectious Diseases, vol. 48, no. 4, pp. 456-461.

“CONCLUSIONS: Twenty epidemiologic studies have shown that neither thimerosal nor MMR vaccine causes autism. These studies have been performed in several countries by many different investigators who have employed a multitude of epidemiologic and statistical methods. The large size of the studied populations has afforded a level of statistical power sufficient to detect even rare associations. These studies, in concert with the biological implausibility that vaccines overwhelm a child’s immune system, have effectively dismissed the notion that vaccines cause autism. Further studies on the cause or causes of autism should focus on more-promising leads.”   

Links: [abstract pubmed]:[fulltext pubmed central]:[fulltext oxford journals pdf]:[fulltext oxford journals]

Gibson, R.G., Gibson, S.L.M., MacNeill, A.D. and Buchanan, W.W. (1980) ‘Homeopathic therapy in rheumatoid arthritis: evaluation by double-blind clinical therapeutic trial’, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, vol. 9, no. 5, pp. 453-459.

Links: [abstract, pubmed central]:[full text, pubmed central, pdf]

Goldacre, B. (2007) ‘Benefits and risks of homoeopathy (comment)’, Lancet, vol. 370, pp. 1672-1673

Well, the team here at RationalVetMed tried hard to find an interesting, tantalising pull quote from Ben Goldacre’s excellent comment piece in the Lancet. It turns out that the entire piece is so inspired that it’s all interesting and tantalising so the reader is urged to click the link below to access the free, full text of this piece which so eloquently lays bare the unethical, irresponsible and downright dangerous behaviour of homeopaths.

Links: [full text, Lancet]

Goodyear, K., Lewith, G. and Low, J.L. (1998) ‘Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial of homoeopathic 'proving' for Belladonna C30’, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, vol. 91, no. 11, pp. 579–582.

Despite trying to torture the statistics into submission in the results section the authors are forced to concede, “We were unable to distinguish between Belladonna C30 and placebo using our primary outcome measure... This pilot study does not demonstrate a clear proving reaction for Belladonna C30 versus placebo...".  Yet another RDBPCT of the type homeopaths cry out for giving more evidence (if such were needed) that it is impossible to tell the difference between a homeopathic remedy and sugar tablets.

Links: [abstract - pub med JRSM]:[abstract, JRSM]:[full text - pub med JRSM, pdf]

Greenhalgh, T. (2010) How to read a paper, the basics of evidence based medicine, 4th edition Wiley-Blackwell ISBN-10: 1444334360

This book has to be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the interpretation of clinical papers. It is accessible, easy to understand and a joy to read. It is based on a marathon series of 10 papers by Greenhalgh published in the BMJ in 1997 covering everything from how to use the medline database to statistics to metanalyses - you name it, it’s there!

Links are given below to the book itself, available from Amazon (and elsewhere presumably) and to two sites which provide multiple links to all the original articles. The New Jersey links are to the complete journals (so other articles are available too), the HEAL site has re-formatted the articles as single pieces.

Links: [purchase from Amazon]:[purchase from Wiley]:[pdf version of 4th edition]

Guggisberg, A.G., Baumgartner, S.M., Tschopp, C.M. and Heusser, P. (2005) ‘Replication study concerning the effects of homeopathic dilutions of histamine on human basophil degranulation in vitro’, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 91-100.

"We were not able to confirm the previously reported large effects of homeopathic histamine dilutions on basophil function of the examined donor. Seemingly, minor variables of the experimental set up can lead to significant differences of the results if not properly controlled"
This is an attempted replication of a number of studies looking at the effect of homeopathy on basophil activation including Belon 2004.  In a similar vein Madeleine Ennis (2010) also expresses scepticism about this type of study, the taste for which was first established by the Benveniste team in 1988.  I'm sure it's just coincidence but, according to his obituary in the Guardian newspaper Jaques Benveniste invented and held the patent for this particular assay. Interestingly this negative study is published in a pro-CAM journal; now that makes a refreshing change.

Links: [abstract, pubmed]:[abstract, complement ther med]:[full text, pdf,]

Guo, R., Pittler, M.H. and Ernst, E. (2007) ‘Complementary Medicine for Treating or Preventing Influenza or Influenza-like Illness’, American Journal of Medicine, vol. 120, issue 11, pp. 923–929.

“… the effectiveness of any complementary and alternative therapy for treating or preventing seasonal influenza is not established beyond reasonable doubt. Current evidence from randomized controlled trials is sparse and limited by small sample sizes, low methodological quality, or clinically irrelevant effect sizes. For avian influenza, no data are currently available. These results strengthen conventional approaches for seasonal influenza.”

Links: [abstract, science direct]


Hallamaa, R.E. (2010) ‘Autoserum preparation in the treatment of equine summer eczema: Findings over 12 years’, Equine Veterinary Education, vol. 22, no. 12, pp. 610-615 .

This paper was presented by a veterinary homeopath during a recent series of letters in the veterinary press about the merits (or lack of them) of homeopathy. The author of the letter seemed to think because this paper appeared in a non-homeopathic journal this was conclusive proof as to the efficacy of the practice. Unfortunately for him I actually read the reference - homeopaths hate it when you do that. And, having done so, I was left wondering whether he had actually done the same himself as it is a perfect example of just the sort of poor quality evidence purporting to support homeopathy which was the subject of the debate.

For starters, It is questionable whether the method used in the paper was actually homeopathy at all, given the cavalier way many of the fundamental tenets of discipline were ignored. There was no individualisation of subjects, the "remedy" employed (from autogenous serum) was far more concentrated than most homeopathic ones and there was no attempt at treating “like with like”. The technique employed is more akin to isopathy than homeopathy.

But of course that doesn't matter to homeopaths - it is perfectly acceptible to overlook those inconvenient “laws” when the results seem to go in favour of homeopathy. It's a different story when results are less favourable though - then such omissions become insurmountable obstacles, providing a perfect excuse to dismiss any uncomfortably negative findings.

The paper itself is little more than an elaborate customer satisfaction survey, couched in sciency-sounding terms but almost guaranteed to give the misleading impression that homeopathy works. In a nutshell, three hundred and forty three horses with sweet-itch were given a highly dilute preparation of their own serum dripped on to sugar tablets, and the owners simply asked if the horses got better or not. There was no control group and no blinding; all owners knew the horses were receiving the remedy under test. A previous much smaller trial, carried out by the same author (Hallamaa et al 2001) and using an identical preparation, was mentioned in the 2010 paper. While this older trial did have a control group (a less than impressive 14 horses), when it was published in 2001 no mention was made of blinding. Yet, by the fifth page of the 2010 paper this earlier trial has inexplicably become, not just “blinded”, but "double blinded" - such is the magic of homeopathy.

To anyone without a vested interest in positive results, this paper proves nothing about the efficacy of homeopathy. Its design ensures such a wide variety of confounding factors, all it demonstrates is the completely understandable desire of horse owners to please the experimenter - the results are so subjective as to be worthless.

Still, at least RationalVetMed now has a new addition to our steadily growing archive of homeopathic lemons!

Links: [abstract, Wiley]

Hallamaa, R.E., Lepistö, R.L. and Tallberg, Th. (2001) ‘Treatment of equine summer eczema with an autogenous serum preparation, possibly effected by inductional lipid signals’, Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Onkologie, vol. 33, pp. 57-62.

This paper was cited as part of a larger trial - see Hallamaa (2010).

Links: [full text, google scholar, pdf]:[abstract, Deutsche Zeitschrift für Onkologie]

Hammarberg, K.E. (2002) ‘Animal Welfare in Relation to Standards in Organic Farming (Proceedings of the 14th Internordic Symposium of the Nordic Committee for Veterinary Scientific Cooperation)’, Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, vol. 43, (suppl 1) S17-S25.

A veterinary surgeon and supporter of organic farming expresses concerns that the movement, particularly with its insistence on the use of homeopathy in favour of real and effective medicines, has gone too far and is causing serious animal welfare problems.

“In the North of Sweden attacks from gnats and mosquitoes can be deadly to animals. When these insects flutter about, humans, even the organic farmer protects himself with chemical repellents, or tight fitting clothes. Animals on conventional farms are protected with chemicals..., but animals on organic farms are denied this protection, they are unable to run away from their paddock or "cover themselves with clothes". When you see animals attacked by gnats and mosquitoes, you realise they do suffer badly. I have on many occasions seen animals killed in this way.”...

“we have seen the spreading of a contagious disease, BVD, through an [sic] homeopath. I believe that sooner or later, once reported to the police, this matter will end up as a court case where the charge will be that homeopathic treatment leads to undue suffering of animals.”

Links: [full text AVS]

Han, E., Johnson, N., DelaMelena, T., Glissmeyer, M. and Steinbock, K. (2011) ‘Alternative therapy used as primary treatment for breast cancer negatively impacts outcomes’, Annals of Surgical Oncology, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 912-916.

”Alternative therapies used as primary treatment for breast cancer are associated with disease progression and increased risk of recurrence and death. Diminished outcomes are more profound in those delaying/omitting surgery”

So, if you use alternative therapies insted of real medicine to treat breast cancer you stand more chance of dying - that there was ever any doubt about this is a testament to the power of massively lucrative CAM market and its devious, callous spin doctors preying on and profiting from the fears and insecurities of vulnerable women...  Words can’t describe etc...

Links: [abstract, pubmed]:[abstract, springerlink]
Responses: [Ernst, E., (2011) Pulse]:[Skeptvet]

Harris, W.S., Gowda, M., Kolb, J.W. et al. (1999) ‘A randomized, controlled trial of the effects of remote, intercessory prayer on outcomes in patients admitted to the coronary care unit’, Archives of Internal Medicine,  vol. 159, pp. 2273-2278.

This ridiculous study has been criticised in the journal of its publication (link below) on all sorts of levels:


“The study by Harris et al is a wonderful example of a P value out of context and out of control. It is out of context because of the failure to properly adjust for mechanistic improbabilities. It is out of control because of its propensity to encourage much pseudoscientific mischief...”


“Harris et al did not evaluate or comment on what appears to be the strongest statistical association in their study: 3.7% (18/484) of those in the prayer group were discharged within 24 hours compared with only 0.9% (5/529) of those in the usual care group... Since these discharges occurred before the intervention began.., we are concerned that the statistical methods used by Harris et al, which assume independence of the observations, may not be appropriate for their data. While their article states that ‘new patients were randomly assigned,’ it is not clear whether the same person who was readmitted for a new episode would have constituted a new patient...”

... and Theological:

“Why should God allow the patients who received the remote, intercessory prayer to do better than the control group? Does God love those for whom strangers pray more than those who were randomly assigned not to receive their prayers..?”

One commentator with a sense of humour even claimed that it was he who had caused the trial to turn out the way it did by means of his clairvoyant and telepathic powers - let’s face it, it’s about as likely as divine intervention.

Links: [abstract+letters - Arch Intern Med]:[full text - Arch Intern Med, html]:[full text - pdf]
Responses: [Arch Intern Med, pdf, on]

Hawke, K., van Driel, M.L., Buffington, B.J., McGuire, T.M. and King, D. (2018) Homeopathic medicinal products for preventing and treating acute respiratory tract infections in children, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2018, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD005974 [Online] DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005974.pub4 (Accessed 17 April 2018). [permalink]

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Pooling of two prevention and two treatment studies did not show any benefit of homeopathic medicinal products compared to placebo on recurrence of ARTI or cure rates in children. We found no evidence to support the efficacy of homeopathic medicinal products for ARTIs in children. Adverse events were poorly reported, so conclusions about safety could not be drawn.

Links: [abstract, pubmed]:[abstract, Cochrane]:[full text, Cochrane, html]:[full text, Cochrane, pdf]
Responses: [Edzard Ernst]

Hektoen, L., Larsen, S., Odegaard, S.A. et al.,  (2004) ‘Comparison of homeopathy, placebo and antibiotic treatment of clinical mastitis in dairy cows - methodological issues and results from a randomized-clinical trial’,  Journal of Veterinary Medicine Series A, vol. 51, pp. 439-446.

"... Evidence of efficacy of homeopathic treatment beyond placebo was not found in this study..."

Links: [abstract]:[full text - wiley, html (paywall)]:[full text - wiley, pdf (paywall)]

Hektoen, L. (2005) ‘Review of the current involvement of homeopathy in veterinary practice and research’, Veterinary Record, vol. 157, pp. 224 -229.

Links: [abstract - vet rec]:[full text - vet rec, pdf]
Resonses: [Baker et al, 2005]:[Ramey et al + Hektoen (author’s response), 2005]

Hektoen, L. (2005) ‘The use of alternative veterinary medicine in organic dairy farming’, NJF-Seminar 369

“Efficacy of alternative therapies is generally poorly documented and, particularly in the case of homeopathy, implausible seen from the point of view of the natural sciences. The use of homeopathy has therefore led to concerns that this use may exert an adverse influence on animal health and welfare. In this paper, a study addressing Norwegian dairy farmers' motivation for utilisation of homeopathy is used as a background for discussing the relation between the organic regulations and the use of homeopathy, and furthermore the implications such use may have for animal health and welfare.”   

Links: [full text pdf]:[full text pdf google scholar]


Hill, P.B., Hoare, J., Lau-Gillard, P., Rybnicek, J. and Mathie, R.T. (2009) ‘Pilot study of the effect of individualised homeopathy on the pruritus associated with atopic dermatitis in dogs’, Veterinary Record, vol. 164, pp. 364-370 [permalink]

The bulk of the paper is taken up with an open label phase where owners and clinicians were fully aware that the dogs were receiving homeopathy in a population favourably disposed towards homeopathy as participation was voluntary. The final, blinded section had a total of 3 participants, a number so low as to be useless. This trial proves nothing about the effectiveness of homeopathy although that doesn't stop the homepaths touting it as firm evidence as usual.

Links: [abstract - Veterinary Record]:[Full text - Veterinary Record]:[Full text - VetPath]
Responses: [Vet CAM Commonsense]

Hill, C. and Doyon, F. (1990) ‘Review of randomized trials of homoeopathy’, Rev. Epidemiol. Sante Publique, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 139-147.

“... the results do not provide acceptable evidence that homoeopathic treatments are effective.”

Links: [abstract - pub med]

Hirst, S.J., Hayes, N.A., Burridge, J., Pearce, F.L. and Foreman, J.C. (1993) ‘Human basophil degranulation is not triggered by very dilute antiserum against human IgE’, Nature, vol. 366, pp. 525-527.

“We have attempted to reproduce the findings of Benveniste and co-workers...  no aspect of the data is consistent with the previously published claims.”

Links: [abstract -]

Holmes, M.A., Cockcroft, P.D., Booth, C.E. and Heath, M.F. (2005) ‘Controlled clinical trial of the effect of a homoeopathic nosode on the somatic cell counts in the milk of clinically normal dairy cows’, Veterinary Record, vol. 156, pp. 565-567.

“Cows in a 250-cow Holstein-Friesian herd were allocated at random to be treated with either a homoeopathic nosode or a negative control... There were no significant differences between the somatic cell count (SCC)of the two groups on any sample day, but there were significant variations on different days (P=0·003) in both groups... there was no evidence to show that the homoeopathic nosode tested had any effect on the cows’ SCCs.”

Links: [abstract]:[full text - vet rec, pdf]:[full text - BVVS, pdf, OA]

Holmes, Oliver Wendell Sr. Homeopathy and its Kindred Delusions - book - a publication originating as a series of lectures; published by the James Randi Educational Foundation as part of the JREF Classic Editions series

Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (image courtest of Wikipedia)Scepticism about homeopathy and alternative medicine is nothing new, it's just the language and the technology which has changed. Back in the days when science and medicine were starting to emerge from the realms of superstition and magic, and medicine was leaving behind the brutalities of the barber surgeons and "heroic" practitioners with their toxic purgings and bleedings; Oliver Wendell Holmes senior gave a series of lectures about one of these practices which still persisted since, by comparison to some practices of the day, it provided a means of "benign neglect", or simply letting nature take its course. This practice was homeopathy and the lectures were given during the lifetime of the inventor of Homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, himself - there really is nothing new under the sun.

Some of Holmes's observations are priceless, and indeed, still hold true today (sadly). For instance, according to wikipedia, in a quote taken from Miriam Small's biography (Oliver Wendell Homes. Twayne's United States authors series, 29. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1962), Holmes deemed homeopathy "the pretended science" that was a "mingled mass of perverse ingenuity, of tinsel erudition, of imbecile credulity, and of artful misrepresentation, too often mingled in practice". I'm sure RationalVetMed couldn't have put it better!

He was also way ahead of his time with the simplicity and elegance of the scientific process. In 2003 I was patting myself on the back, having devised what I thought was a pretty clever test of homeopathy. On later reading Holmes's lectures I was somewhat deflated as I found he had got there first: "In 1835 a public challenge was offered to the best-known Homeopathic physician in Paris to select any ten substances asserted to produce the most striking effects; to prepare them himself; to choose one by lot without knowing which of them he had taken, and try it upon himself or an intelligent and devoted Homeopathist, and, waiting his own time, to come forward and tell what substance had been employed. The challenge was at first accepted, but the acceptance retracted before the time of trial arrived.

"From all this I think it fair to conclude that the catalogues of symptoms attributed in Homeopathic works to the influence of various drugs upon healthy persons are not entitled to any confidence."

What a wonderful turn of phrase.

Links: [purchase at Amazon]:[read on quackwatch]
Downloads: [ebooks]:[project gutenberg]

Homola, S. (2010) ‘Real orthopaedic subluxations versus imaginary chiropractic subluxations’, Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 284-287.

"The chiropractic vertebral subluxation theory has confused the definition of the word ‘subluxation’; a common medical term. Unlike the mysterious, undetectable chiropractic ‘vertebral subluxation complex’ alleged to be a cause of disease, a real vertebral subluxation can be a cause of mechanical and neuromusculoskeletal symptoms, but has never been shown to be a cause of organic disease..."

Links: [full text, html, FACT]

Horzinek, M.C. and Venker-van Haagen, A. (2006) ‘European veterinary specialists denounce alternative medicine’, Veterinary Sciences Tomorrow.

"The EBVS only recognizes scientific, evidence-based veterinary medicine which complies with animal welfare legislation. Specialists or Colleges who practice or support implausible treatment modalities with no proof of effectiveness run the risk of withdrawal of their specialist status. No credit points can be granted for education or training in these so-called supplementary, complementary and alternative treatment modalities. Failure of a college to comply with any of the Policies and Procedures of the EVBS may lead to the withdrawal of provisional or full recognition."

Links: [original article]


Papers, listed by lead author: G-H


Both members of the genus Canis, both ruthless predators; but which one is the wolf?..
Strangely the answer to this simple question seems to have eluded certain proponents of raw diets for dogs.