Homeopathy: It’s not the products, it’s the thinking

homoepathy: jars full of tincture and some orange flowers

According to Taree pharmacist Ian Carr, homeopathy will do no harm, but it won’t do any good either, and pharmacists need to remove ‘magic water’ from their shelves to avoid deluding customers about natural health.

Just over 200 years ago, an otherwise undistinguished German doctor, Samuel Christian Hahnemann, had a thought bubble. He invented homeopathy.

The idea was that tiny, tiny doses of herbs or poisons would cure the symptoms that they’d provoked. Between dilutions, magic would be applied to solutions by the process of “succussion”: jarring the substance by whacking it against a leather-bound book, for example. It won’t work otherwise.

When modern physics pointed out the product may contain zero active ingredients, inventive homeopaths rescued the remedy by postulating that water had a memory: presumably a very selective one.

Though the concept seems plain silly, I am delighted to report that ‘homeopathy works’. Our esteemed NHMRC came to the same conclusion in its recent thorough – and expensive – review of the pseudoscience.

There’s only one problem: it has not been shown to be any more effective than placebo, and that makes it a placebo.

Fellow pharmacists, it is time to rid our shelves of these shonky products.

Every time a consumer is able to pluck their chosen homeopathic drops from your shelf, you have given credence to quackery.

You have increased the possibility that your patient’s next call might be to a homeopath, rather than a GP. You have helped confuse the market about what “natural” medicine might be.

Perhaps your patient will decide that a homeopathic nosode will more safely protect the family from whooping cough than a real vaccine. Though no direct harm will come from imbibing from a magic bottle of pure water, there is the danger that proven treatment will be ignored, refused or delayed unnecessarily.

Poor thinking about health will lead to poor health decisions.

Many who choose a homeopathic remedy from the shelves may be totally unaware of its scientific implausibility. Your pharmacy should be ensuring patients are given clear and reasoned counselling, and in doing so, helping them avoid a lifetime of confused and deluded thinking about health.

Homeopathy is a prescientific pseudoscience which most closely resembles “sympathetic magic” like voodoo, love potions and ritual cannibalism.

Its proponents often explicitly reject science-based medicine. The internet is full of outrageous claims for it. I particularly like the website which provides an important caution: “Ebola. Due to the seriousness of the disease the treatments discussed would require an expert homeopath.” (My italics! – and best of luck with treating Ebola via homeopathy…)

Homeopathy has accumulated over 200-years’ worth of provings and anecdotes. This begins to seem all very positive, until it becomes clear that no one has noted the failures. No number of years of anecdotes equates to good evidence.

I suggest a visit to www.whatstheharm.net where you will find myriad examples of homeopathy and other uncritical thinking leading to harm and, sadly, deaths.

Fellow pharmacists, let us ditch the nonsense and thereby encourage rational, evidence-based thinking about the health and wellbeing of our clients.

 Ian Carr is from Saxby’s Pharmacy in Taree, NSW.





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