Friday, 26 February 2010

Bad Science

Well, everybody who is anybody is quite down on Homoeopathy these days aren't they? But who can trust a "peer reviewed" medical journal when this kind of shit goes on?

As far as I am concerned, all medicine is "magic" anyway, whether Western "science" based or otherwise. Bodies and minds get better, often to the surprise of all concerned. Sometimes drugs seem to help. Sometimes they seem to make things worse. Sometimes they kill people. Sometimes they have no discernible effect. Drug therapies are terribly variable in their outcomes, and often cause more problems than they mitigate, tolerances are quickly developed and patients are uninformed. It seems their doctors are too. I doubt Dr Scott Reuben is the only one to behave like this. Ben Goldacre has nothing to say on the subject.

Surgery is amazing, obviously insulin is marvellous, but drug therapies are often so crude and dangerous that I find it astonishing that people could freak out about more non invasive treatments that, for many, work without causing so much damage.

After being told that her blood pressure was dangerously high, my mother, who had no symptoms, tried several hypertensive drugs. These ALL gave her nasty side effects, many of which look like symptoms of heart disease/hypertension to me (breathlessness, swollen ankles, headaches, angina) and eventually she asked the Doctor if she could stop experimenting with them. None of them brought her blood pressure down anyway. The Doc was horrified, asked her what her friends were on, and said that the drugs gave Mum a 25% protection against heart attacks and strokes. Mum thought "25%? Is that all?" (Sounds less than placebo to me) and stopped. Her blood pressure IS higher than a 35 year old's, but does she need her quality of life screwed by medication? Would she not be better going out with a bang in her 80's like her mother and grandfather, but living a full and comfortable life until her time is up? It's a scam I tell you! I am off to take an arnica pill.

Update: Elby pointed me to this in which Madeleine Ennis discovers that homoeopathy does have an effect that she can't explain but has replicated.

29 comments:

Elby the Beserk said...

There are more things under heaven... (pharmacologist admits)

Blue Eyes said...

The placebo effect is fascinating and awesome. You don't even have to believe that the drug will work for the placebo effect to happen.

BUT it is indisputable that a tincture which statistically cannot possibly have a simgle molecule of the alleged active ingredient in it cannot possibly have any medical effect. Homepathic doctors hand out little bottles of water or other solvent and claim it is medicine. That is fraud, pure and simple.

What shocks me most about this "debate" in the media is how on Earth we got to the situation where homeopathy was being paid for on the NHS in the first place.

lilith said...

I don't know about that Blue. Why did my cat recover from an "incurable" condition when her vet eventually prescribed homoeopathy? Why did my girl aged 3 get instantly better with one Belladonna homoeopathic remedy? Why do homoeopathic remedies bring my friend out in spots? Why did arnica make a massive difference to my ability to sleep when I had jetlag, having the same effect on my travelling companions? Some of it, placebo perhaps, but the cat?

I understand the logic of the scepticism of course and I don't "have" a Homoeopath myself, but I think it can easily be demonstrated that there are some things that scientists don't know and can't explain.

I have no idea why there are Homoeopathic hospitals or why treatment is available on the NHS, especially when Acupuncture and Osteopathy isn't. It is an interesting question.

Blue Eyes said...

I was railing against the ones with massive dilutions specifically rather than "herbal" medicines in general...

Oh, but you should definitely read what Goldacre has to say about reverting to the norm - which is whatever medicine we take we often take it when we are at the worst point of the illness which means that we are bound to recover whatever happens!

There are very few genuine cures for anything, even claimed by "modern" medicine. Most treatments are symptom mitigation rather than actual fixes.

lilith said...

Absolutely Blue.

Mermaid of Moorgate said...

I'm not against pills or medication or trying out new things, whether alternative or not. I'm not the sort that can 'grin and bear' with a headache. I hit the painkillers immediately!

However, I'm glad your mother has taken a stand against those drugs. Her blood pressure will probably be lowered by not having the stress of making sure she's taking pills she knows will have negative side-effects.

El-Kevo said...

I'm a skeptic. I use a homeopathic treatment for insomnia and no matter how much I disbelieve its abilities it DOES work !

I don't know how. I don't believe in it. It has a virtually non-existent quantity of drug in it.

I watched an alarming video on psychotropic treatment for mental conditions. Unlike the empirical results for testing of medicines for physiological disorders there is nothing to back-up the efficacy of anti-depressants etc.

lilith said...

Yes, Mermaid, she feels much better without them and probably will live longer too! The elderly are particularly over medicated. Whenever she sees a new doctor and they find out she's not on anything their jaws visibly drop, because it is so unusual these days.

With you on pain killers: toothache for example, requires opiates or a pair of pliers as far as I am concerned!

lilith said...

Kev, mental health medication is an ABSOLUTE nightmare, and there is nothing psychiatrists won't try out on people as far as I can see. Diagnosis seems to follow medication too, eg. if lithium helps the patient is bi-polar, if chlorpromazine helps they are schizophrenic etc etc.

MDMA has been shown to be useful in the treatment of traumatised patients and in Parkinsonism but will it be produced as a "medicine"? I doubt it, because it is far too fun.

hatfield girl said...

It may be taking homoeopathic belief to extremes but my cure for all my ills is resting comfily in bed, lots of pillows and books and hot drinks of lemon and water brought by worried family slaves who take over everything else in organising the house.

Two days of that followed by two of chicken broth with tiny pasta and a beaten egg stirred in topped with a grating of parmesan, and then a cautious, well-wrapped up walk to the hairdresser, and I'm cured. It usually is needed during the late January/ early February short, grey days. Drugs? Moi?

Philipa said...

Hatters cure of chicken soup has been proven - real chicken soup works. I only wish I knew how to make it! Someone told me once and it sounded disgusting.

Yes the side effects of anti-depressants include anxiety and in the case of Seroxat, often the tendancy to end ones life. Not washing and crying a bit doesn't sound so bad compared to suicidal tendancies.

Does Arnica work for insomnia? I haven't slept properly for about 10 years.

Nomad said...

Hallo again all. Been away for a while ('s what we Nomads do, you know!)so now busy catching up with all the gossip etc.

Re the placebo effect, I watched a prog on the telly the other night on this very subject. Two young guys, one dressed in red and one in blue, were put in a room containing a table laden with red and blue bottles of the type usually containing beer. They were told that the effects of alcohol on them were going to be tested. Before the experiment they both did the usual walking the straight line, touch the nose with fingertip etc tests which of course they passed with flying colours. The red one was told he would drink the lager; the blue one the beer. But what they did not know was that one was drinking the real stuff while the other was drinking coloured water. After the contents of most of the bottles had been drunk they were both showing signs of being the worse for wear. The controller came in and told them enough was enough and they would now be required to take a breathalyser test. The one who had been drinking the real stuff was utterly smashed and way over the limit, but the one who had been drinking the water and also displaying signs of drunkenness naturally showed a zero. He did not believe the result and demanded a retest - same zero of course.

The conclusion was that the placebo effect can work if your mind believes it will. They guy drinking the water was unconsciously displaying all the symptoms of being drunk as his partner got more inebriated. Is this really a case of mind over matter?

Very odd...

hatfield girl said...

We once gave a party severely without alcohol, serving a punch with lots of stuff in it, piles of ice and fruit and flowers and with a grown up taste.

As the day wore on arms and voices and chit chat and general jollity rose; there was no distinguishable difference between a gin-fuelled jolly and our shindig. We never mentioned it to a soul but the lack of hang-overs must have surprised some. We never did it again either - really alcohol dependent friends would have noticed in no time.

mutleythedog said...

Funny old world aint it? Allergies bother me. I had hayfever for years then about ten years ago it just went. I have no idea why...

Tamianne said...

How strange, we were just talking about herbal medicines this morning.

I've seen various doctors interviewed on television who try to separate conventional medicine from herbal/homeopathic medicine and it always gets me cross as well as a bit suspicious of their motives. My doctor has recommended that I take evening primrose oil for tender breasts before a period, just to give one example as to how conventional and homeopathic medicines can work alongside each other (at least some GPs recommend/prescribe both types).

Also, while my sister was undergoing IVF she was told by the clinic not to take evening primrose oil or starflower oil as these would bring her hormones back to normality - proof of their power and that herbal medicine works.

Both my children were born by c-section and I was given peppermint water afterwards by the nurses on both occasions to help return my digestive system to normal. I could go on.

What I would be interested to know though is if anybody knows of a herbal/homeopathic remedy to help with anxiety when flying. I have to fly to Spain in June and am wondering whether to get a prescription for diazepam as usual. I'd be really grateful for any suggestions.

Tamianne

Scrobs... said...

Placebo effects are an interesting subject Lils, but only yesterday, someone at a local gardebn centre told us that homoepathic remedies work very well with animals.

He mentioned that Sulphur blocks in drinking water cured his dog of some awful allergy (probably made worse by the dog biting off his fur etc), but a few days of the treatment stopped all that!

When our old cat got hurt a few years ago, the vet gave her a shot of Arnica, and she was as right as rain a few minures afterwards.

A doctor at our surgery, who was the homoepathic partner, told me that she'd had two recent deaths from Ibuprophen and then used this to sell me a prescription for about twelve quid's worth of pills to mend the Dupuytrens which immediately got worse and was carved out a few years ago...

Some you win though, as Mrs S's sister in the US works in a hospital where they are very keen on advising acupuncture, which she gladly recognises as a trusted procedure which gives results!

The Homoepathic shop in T.Wells did piss me off a bit when they told me that they had a remedy for type one diabetes, because that's never been heard of - except from Barbara Woodhouse, which is a story I've just remembered, and will have to research!

Nomadic Beast said...

Scrobs, sulphur is good for the skin, having said that
I tried the mineral water at Harrogate and it was like drinking an enema from the devils a******

Scrobs... said...

Nomes! How the Devil are you!

All I ever do when anyone talks about sulphur, is recall that scene in Ben Hur when he ends up in a sulphur mine and some wag says 'Sulphur.... burns', and his eyes were a bit glazed over, er very glazed actually!

(That's enough sulphur stories-Ed)

But little cat went on a few more years so full marks to our vet!

Scrobs... said...

Actually Nomes, the Taylors toffee from Harrogate was probably made from a sulphur derivative as once I ate a full tin, and my skin doubled in size overnight...

Elby the Beserk said...

Ah. Placebos of course have no effect on a small child. Homoeopathic remedies worked on my small children.

How do I know they worked?

I observed it. Our eldest teethed terribly. Chamomile worked a treat. Our second and youngest children were blessed by their father, and fell over, ran into things, fell down the stairs with regularity. Arnica worked a treat.

Up yours, Goldacre, you arrogant twat. (He said kindly).

Scrobs... said...

I reckon that one should consider whether Deadly Nightshade or Foxgloves are OK to consume before one thinks that natural remedies are unimportant!

The best medical clean up I had was when JRT licked all the muck off my hand after the operation mentioned earlier.

It healed within hours afterwards...

Scrobs... said...

P.S. Not got far on the Barbara Woodhouse research, it seems that it never got anywhere as the poor dear was unconscious for most of the time...

lilith said...

Your self care treatment plan sounds just the job. I can't imagine your household would function too well with you laid up so it is in everyone's interest to nurture you :-)

I don't know about arnica for insomnia, Pip, I just know it works for jetlag. A combination of Magnesium Citrate and Omega 3 oils can be very good but takes a little while (a couple of weeks) to take effect.

Nomad and HG, placebo squiffiness? Fantastic. I shall fill the gin bottle with water and offer Elby a large one :-)

Nomad said...

Just to clarify, the poster calling him/herself "Nomadic Beast" at 20.25 is not me.

Regards to all.

(the real and original) Nomad

lilith said...

First part of last comment addressed to HG :-)

Scrobbers, I wouldn't be in a hurry to take homoeopathy for Diabetes. If there is still some insulin production, acupuncture can improve digestive health so patients need to be warned to check their blood sugar a bit more frequently.

Mutley, either your nose fell off or your immunity got stronger :-)

lilith said...

Nomad, I know you are no relation to the travelling Beast of Clerkenwell with his sulphurous appetites :-)

lilith said...

Scrobbers, I am thinking of making myself a nice tincture of the old Deadly Nightshade should I ever start to remind myself of Debbie Purdey. She could save everyone a lot of trouble, including her boyfriend. Hemlock is a nice one too, just 6 to 8 leaves will do it, apparently.

lilith said...

Sorry Tamianne, I didn't mean to ignore your comment. Unfortunately I haven't any recommendations for fear of flying except you could perhaps try hypnosis? I think fear of flying is pretty logical so it takes some dealing with.

Anonymous said...

Is the air travel anxiety despite being aware of the relative risk? I've been to Spain a couple of times by sleeper train (the sleeper trains on that route aren't very comfortable in second class) and once by boat to Bilbao (fun) but both those methods are 10-15 times more dangerous than flying, if you take average deaths per hour (table here) and allow for the longer times for the surface journeys.