The time of homeopathy

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Die ZEIT der Homeöopathie: A statement by the German Central Association of Homeopathic Doctors (DZVhÄ)

DIE ZEIT dated December 9, 2010 is entitled: "The secret of homeopathy." The basic statements: Homeopathy is a placebo, but an effective one. Conventional medicine should learn from it.

This article is a milestone. It is not often that one of the leading German media deals extensively and at the same time differentiated with homeopathy - including pro and contra statements. This fact has to be appreciated - even if individual weaknesses in content are obvious.

Why is this issue of ZEIT something special - and not a matter of course? In view of the health-political importance of homeopathy and its positive image in wide circles of the population - including and especially the more educated classes - one can certainly ask this question; it is not necessarily the customary practice of the media to persistently denounce the opinion of the majority of its consumers as absurdity.

The answer is: a journalist can express pro or contra nuclear power, he can express pro or contra ecological agriculture, he can also express this or that view about climate change without jeopardizing his reputation as a reputable journalist. On the other hand, there can only be one serious opinion about homeopathy: it is a placebo effect; At most, nuances of this statement are permissible. After all, common sense tells you that a remedy that doesn't contain anything can have no effect; or as Stefan Schmitt, the contra-lawyer at ZEIT puts it: "Trusting against all evidence in the common belief of doctor and patient in obscure therapy is simply dishonest even with good intentions."

"It's the potency, stupid!" - can be seen in a modification of a well-known quotation. If you look at the available data on the evidence of homeopathy, you can at least assume that the method would have been accepted and established long ago if there were not the small problem with potentiation.

Klaus Linde (at that time at the Center for Naturopathic Research at the Technical University of Munich) put it a little more academically a few years ago: "All relevant published reviews [...] show that the majority of the available studies have produced positive results (this also applies to the work by Shang et al.!) At the same time, it is undisputed that positive results are not as common in the methodologically good studies as in the less good ones, but of course this means that there are also positive results among the good studies Clinical researchers are therefore not concerned with whether there is positive evidence from placebo-controlled studies, but whether it is sufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of homeopathy in view of the low plausibility from a scientific point of view. "

If the means were not so diluted that there can be nothing left after everything we know about chemistry, we would not have this discussion about the evidence of homeopathy at all.

· There is relatively extensive data from health services research, which shows that the range of diagnoses treated corresponds to that of a conventional practice (German examinations) or is somewhat more difficult (Swiss data); and that the treatment results (from the patient's perspective) are equivalent or slightly better.

There are a number of double-blind studies that speak for a drug-specific effect.

There is a whole range of experimental data from basic research that also speak for a specific effect.

There is a whole range of historical data from the homeopathic treatment of severe epidemics such as cholera, smallpox, typhus and the Spanish flu, which are consistent in themselves and are difficult to reconcile with a placebo effect. These data are also consistent with modern experience from developing countries.

· It is easy to demonstrate that the principle of similarity is a plausible mechanism - but it is well worth a separate article.

· That the principle of drug testing also works double-blind is also confirmed

· The individual case reports of homeopathic practice are in themselves and with each other consistent. - And why this is also an evidence criterion, Gunver Kiene explained in the concept of cognition-based medicine.

Jan Schweitzer wrote the main article in this issue of ZEIT. He admits that homeopathy works and explains this effect with chance, expectations and the magical nimbus that surrounds homeopathy.

These are all acceptable working hypotheses for further discussion. The only real mistake in terms of content is made by Jan Schweitzer with the sentence: "In the meantime, a large number of serious studies have refuted that the small, white spheres work."

This is simply wrong in this form - and not just because the majority of the studies show exactly the opposite, namely an effect of the “little white balls”, but also for the simple reason that studies for purely methodological reasons never show the ineffectiveness of one Can prove treatment. Studies can only prove the effectiveness, or not prove it. Failure to prove effectiveness is not proof of ineffectiveness.

This is a mistake, but a forgivable mistake. Jan Schweitzer reproduces only one statement that is made by a large number of self-appointed homeopathy experts from the area of ​​the so-called skeptic movement. Similar statements can be found on the GWUP website, on the science blog and also on the homeopathy expert Edzard Ernst.

Why the problem about exponentiation is a problem, but a relative problem, is certainly also worth a separate article. Here only so much: The principle of potentiation is not a basic principle, not a paradigm of homeopathy - it is a purely pragmatic part. Homeopathic treatment prescribes remedies that could cause similar symptoms (coffee with insomnia). But you don't want to cause the effect of the remedy - in this case insomnia - just a reaction of the organism. In the beginning of homeopathy, the substances were still used in weighable amounts. In order to reduce the undesirable effect, it was then logically diluted. The interesting effect was that the unwanted effect did indeed subside, but the reaction was still provoking. And then step by step and then purely pragmatic became what we know today as potentiation.

We don't know why that works. - but: firstly, there is definitely research (which is still in its early stages), and secondly, there are a lot of things in the world that we are not sure about. Gravity e.g. can be calculated and measured, but basically we still don't know how and why two very distant objects can have an effect on each other. (How do two planets “know” each other?) In this respect, the problem of ZEIT that homeopathy contradicts common sense (and not any scientific evidence) is a relative problem. And whether patient listening is really the only thing that conventional medicine can learn from homeopathy - that may also be worth a separate article. (DZVhÄ)

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Video: How to Take Homeopathic Remedies


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