[Paleopsych] NZ Herald: Homeopathy Is Bunk, says Professor Who Put It To Test
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Mon Jan 2 20:55:20 UTC 2006
Homeopathy Is Bunk, says Professor Who Put It To Test
The New Zealand Herald
December 19, 2005 Monday
Homeopathy is bunk, says professor who put it to test London - Millions of
people use it to deal with illnesses ranging from asthma to migraines. Prince
Charles believes it is the answer to many of the evils of modern life. But now
Britain's first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst of Exeter
University in south-west England, has denounced homeopathy as ineffective.
"Homeopathic remedies don't work," he told the Observer. "Study after study has
shown it is simply the purest form of placebo. You may as well take a glass of
water than a homeopathic medicine."
Chiropractic, which involves spine manipulation to treat illnesses, and the
laying on of hands to cure patients are equally invalid, he says.
His views and his studies have provoked furious reactions. Chiropractors and
homeopaths have written in droves to denounce him. But now the scourge of
alternative medicine says he is going to have to quit because Exeter will no
longer support him or his department. The university denied the charge.
"Professor Ernst's department has enough money to go on for a couple of more
years," said a spokesman. "We are still trying to raise cash." In 1993,
Professor Ernst, then a professor of rehabilitation medicine in Vienna, took
the job to bring scientific rigour to the study of alternative medicines, an
approach that has made him a highly controversial figure in the field. An
example is provided by his study of arnica, a standard homeopathic treatment
"We arranged for patients after surgery to be given arnica or a placebo," he
said. "They didn't know which they were getting. It made no difference. They
got better at the same rate."
Professor Ernst also found no evidence homeopathy helped with asthma, which is
said to be particularly responsive to such treatments.
Britain has five homeopathic hospitals, which are funded by the country's
health service (NHS).
"The treatments do no good," said Professor Ernst. "But the long interview -
about an hour-and-a-half - carried out by an empathetic practitioner during
diagnosis may explain why people report improvements in their health." The
incredibly dilute solutions used by homeopaths also make no sense, he added.
"If it were true, we would have to tear up all our physics and chemistry
Professor Ernst insists he is a supporter of complementary medicines. "No other
centre in the world has produced more positive results than we have to support
complementary medicine," he said. "Herbal medicine, for instance, can do good.
If I was mildly depressed, I think St John's wort would be a good treatment. It
has fewer side-effects than Prozac.
"Acupuncture seems to work for some conditions and there are relaxing
techniques, including hypnotherapy, that can be effective. "These should not be
used on their own, but as complements to standard medicines."
Professor Ernst has been attacked by chiropractors and homeopaths. The latter
point to studies they say show that most patients they treat are satisfied and
cite an analysis in the Lancet of 89 trials in which their medicines were found
to be effective.
The Smallwood report, commissioned by Prince Charles, calls for more
complementary medicines to be given on the NHS.
Like with like
* Homeopathy is a controversial system of alternative medicine more than 300
* It calls for treating "like with like", a doctrine referred to as the "Law of
Similars". The practitioner considers all a patient's symptoms then chooses as
a remedy a substance that produces a similar set of symptoms in healthy
subjects. The remedy is usually given in tiny concentrations.
* Many of its claims are at odds with modern medicine and the scientific
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