Homeopathy? Really, don’t get me started…


SERMO member and UK GP is sick and tired of homeopathy.  Here’s why…

Now here’s a thing. I’ve learnt over far too many years that there is a group of people I hold with suspicion and distrust, and that’s those who have absolute certainty about anything. There are exceptions of course – my dogs seem to like me unconditionally, the current Mrs TiredGP has her moments of affection and I need to sell a kidney to keep the taxman happy – but you get my drift. General practice is all about shades of grey rather than black and white.

So, imagine the degree at which I vented my spleen when I received a letter from a local homeopath telling me that I was poisoning one of my patients with all these toxic drugs keeping them alive and what they really needed was a nice bit of diluted elder flower or some such to cure their diabetes and stop them getting cancer into the bargain. They knew this to be the case as an absolute fact, obviously.

Now normally I’d simply file this into the large bin by my feet labelled ‘nutter’ but it did set me wondering. You see, there really is no arguing with these people. They know homeopathy works, so there’s no need for science and us scientific bods that prefer to work on something like, oh I don’t know – let’s call it evidence – are sadly deluded and if we only saw the light we’d understand. You see, you have to believe.

Well I’m a doctor and what I bloody well believe in is science and things called randomised double blind placebo clinical trials. Ah they say, but ‘science doesn’t know everything’ and sit back with a smug look waiting for me to answer that one. Well, d’uh – of course bloody science doesn’t know everything you moron. Because if it did – it would stop. (This one usually goes straight over their heads).

They then shuffle on to the next level of smug denial (we’re getting up to moon landing hoaxes and 9/11 conspiracy level by now) and say that trials have indeed shown that homeopathy works so what about that then you medical peddler of deadly drugs and big pharma corruption?

What I say to that is simple – you’re talking bollocks. At least 150 Cochrane analysed clinical trials have shown no evidence whatsoever that homeopathy works and any small scale studies that may show equivocal findings have random effect data or poor methodologies. An excellent paper in the Lancet compared 110 homeopathy trials with 110 conventional medicine trials and found that the higher quality trials convincingly found that conventional medicines work and no evidence homeopathy does. Who’d have guessed it? In a nutshell, the better the research, the less effective homeopathy seems and there are at least a dozen similar analysis papers showing that homeopathy is placebo. Full stop.

But back they come with their quackery saying ‘You just don’t understand (At that point I usually say something like ‘I understand you’re a deluded idiot’) because our Lord and master Samuel Hahnemann, the ‘inventor’ of homeopathy says that ‘like cures like’ and that the more dilute a homeopathic solution is the more effective it is because water has ‘memory’.

By now, I’ve lost the will to live and feigning death to get them out of my consulting room but before I call for the men in white coats to take them away I remind them that to stand any chance of swallowing even one molecule of an original substance diluted to 16C I’d need to drink the equivalent of 20 Olympic swimming pools, at 20C dilution 2,000,000,000 such pools and by 30C (the really good stuff that only hardened homeopathic junkies can tolerate) I’d need to get down my neck a volume of water greater than all the oceans of the planet. I’ll pass on that if I may. Even for me that’s a hell of a night out.

I don’t mind if patients go and stand in a bucket of rhubarb juice to feel better, really I don’t, and I certainly don’t mind them drinking tap water and calling it homeopathy. I just don’t want them to bother me with their delusions, wish they would move to a different planet and try not to pretend it’s anything other than quackery and cobblers. And I’m absolutely certain about that…

I’m off for a large gin and tonic – apparently it’s an antidote to juniper berry poisoning. Chin chin.


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