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The Evidence

Rational Veterinary Medicine:

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Papers, listed by lead author: N-O


Neuhauser, D., and Best, M., (2004) Heroes and martyrs of quality and safety; Ignaz Semmelweis and the birth of infection control Quality and Safety in Health Care Vol.13 pp. 233-234

Homeopaths often complain that their ideas aren’t accepted simply for reasons of prejudice. Here’s an example of the real thing - a person who had the radical idea of washing and disinfecting the hands before treating patients or carrying out surgical procedures. His ideas were rejected as eccentric and unnecessary by the upholders of the status quo. So, just like homeopathy really?.. Well not quite. The difference is that people eventually did tests; they used science to find out whether the claims of Semmelweis were true or not. And eventually, although some people took quite a bit of persuading, you know what? The ideas were accepted because it was discovered they worked. Homeopthy is still rejected because it has been discovered that it doesn’t.

Links: [abstract, BMJ]:[full text, html, BMJ]:[full text, pdf, BMJ]


Oberbaum, M., Yaniv, I., Ben-Gal, Y., Stein, J., Ben-Zvi, N., Freedman, L.S., Branski, D., (2001) A randomized, controlled clinical trial of the homeopathic medication TRAUMEEL S in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced stomatitis in children undergoing stem cell transplantation Cancer Vol. 93 no. 3 pp. 684-690

Links: [abstract pubmed]:[full text pdf Wiley]:[fulltext pdf heel]:[fulltext html Wiley]

Responses: [Milazzo et al 2006]:[science based pharmacy]:[quackometer]:[homeowatch]

An underpowered study testing whether the homeopathic brand “TRAUMEEL S” (manufactured by homeopathic giant HEEL) can help relieve the suffering of children suffering from cancer undergoing chemotherapy.

Only 30 patients were tested and it is questionable whether such a small sample can conclusively prove an unscientific tratment can make any difference in an already heart-breaking situation. But if there was ever any doubt, the results completely contradict the body of evidence (e.g. Milazzo, 2006) which reports that alternative treatments have no place in the treatment of cancer and its complications.

Ostermann, J.K., Reinhold, T., and Witt C.M., (2015) Can Additional Homeopathic Treatment Save Costs? A Retrospective Cost-Analysis Based on 44,500 Insured Persons PLOS One Vol. 10 no. 7 [permalink]

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to compare the health care costs for patients using additional homeopathic treatment (homeopathy group) with the costs for those receiving usual care (control group)...

CONCLUSION: Compared with usual care, additional homeopathic treatment was associated with significantly higher costs. These analyses did not confirm previously observed cost savings resulting from the use of homeopathy in the health care system.

So it’s correct what they say: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s ridiculously simplistic to claim that just because homeopathic sugar tablets are cheaper than real drugs it would therefore be much cheaper if everyone used homeopathy. Once the indirect costs are taken into account - out-patient care costs for instance, or ‘societal’ costs like sick-leave times which affect productivity - then homeopathy is shown to be significantly more expensive than medicine which works. As Edzard Ernst puts it, “without effectiveness, there can be no cost-effectiveness”.

Links: [abstract, pubmed]:[full text, pubmed central]:[full text, PLOS one]

Responses: [Edzard Ernst]

Ovelgonne, J.H., Bol, A.W., Hop, W.C. and Van Wijk, R., (1992) Mechanical agitation of very dilute antiserum against IgE has no effect on basophil staining properties Experientia Vol. 48 no. 5 pp. 504-508

An attempt to replicate the paper by Davenas et al (a team led by homeopathic apologist, Jaques Benveniste). The original paper had claimed that ultra-dilute solutions of histamine still had an effect on basophil cell membranes despite not having any actual histamine in them (which unlikely claim was later debunked). Ovelgonne et al also found that this claim simply didn’t hold water.

Well, here’s the quote anyway:

“We found no evidence for a different effect of strongly agitated dilutions, compared to dilutions made with minimal physical agitation. In fact, in our hands no effect of extreme dilutions was shown at all. We conclude that the effect of extreme dilutions of anti-IgE, reported by Davenas et al., needs further clarification and that in this process the reproducibility of results between experimenters should be carefully determined.”

Links: [absract, pubmed]

Overall, K.L. and Dunham, A.E., (2009) Homeopathy and the curse of the scientific method Veterinary Journal Vol. 180 pp141-148 [permalink]

A meticulous and painstaking critique of Cracknell and Mills (2008) and the scientific study of canine behaviour in general.

Of the 15 signs of interest in the firework study by Cracknell and Mills (2008), only two or three (‘destructiveness’, ‘elimination’, and possibly ‘self-harm’, depending on the social environment) could be recognized by clients who did not witness the events. If the dog was able to leave the home, ‘bolting’ could also be assessed. This means that for the vast majority of signs used to evaluate the intensity of the condition and its putative response to any treatment, no accurate independent assessment of the validity of the clients’ reports is possible.

The final conclusion of the authors is:

“The ultimate findings of Cracknell and Mills (2008) could, we suggest, be restated as follows:

1. There is no evidence of any effect of the homeopathic 'treatment';
2. There was no effect of treatment using the homeopathic 'treatment';
3. Dogs suffering from fear associated with the noise of fireworks will not benefit from 'treatment' with the homeopathic preparation;
4. The homeopathic preparation will not help fearful dogs who worry about the noise of fireworks.”

Well, who would have thought it?

Links: [abstract, pubmed]:[article outline, science direct]:[full text, Vet J, html (£)]