Posted by: Kash Farooq | October 27, 2010

Homeopathy: Is There Nothing In It Worldwide?

The 10:23 campaign has been a great success. The mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ on January 30th, 2010 was a fantastic way to show that “there’s nothing in it”. It raised public awareness, got some column inches and with a little comedy amongst the seriousness, wonderfully demonstrated that homeopathy wasn’t just another name for herbal remedy. In many cases, you couldn’t even claim that it’s all natural. Over 400 skeptics took part in the stunt in the UK and Australia. All good. The medicine was bought from Boots. We could trust that it was safe to swallow a whole bottle of homeopathic sleeping pills.

But….is there “nothing in it” all over the world?

Is a homeopathic remedy in, say, Sri Lanka as inert and harmless (and as useless) as a remedy in the EU? Is a homeopathic remedy in Paraguay just water and sugar? Are the laws for what can and can’t be called homeopathic the same in Papua New Guinea as they are in Europe?

Many people think homeopathic remedies are like herbal remedies. Is it possible that the word homeopathy has a become almost a trusted “brand name” in some countries? Perhaps an Indian pharmacy decides to add the word “homeopathic” to one of their products because it adds credibility. A lot of people trust and believe in homeopathy in India. Could unscrupulous individuals say something is homeopathic in the hope of making more sales, even though the product was not creating using homeopathic techniques and does actually contain active ingredients. Just recently a fake homeopathy medicine factory was busted in India and worrying stories are emerging.

Or could homeopathic remedies accidentally contain active ingredients? Just a few days ago consumers were warned about homeopathy remedies that actually contained traces of belladonna (i.e. not just water and sugar); the FDA have released a Consumer Safety Alert about Hyland’s Teething Tablets and how they may pose a risk to children.

In 2011, I assume there will another skeptical 10:23 homeopathy stunt. No doubt there will be more volunteers from more countries.

My question is this: could a similar mass overdose event in other countries, or even in the EU, actually turn out to be dangerous?

I’m posting this as a “request for comments”. So, please add your comments below.

Related posts

The Twenty-first floor have also blogged about the Belladonna incident (in Homeopathic Remedy Causes Belladonna Poisoning)

If homeopaths want to play around with substances like Belladonna, then they must submit to regulation. For every pill they produce, they must be made to explicitly demonstrate that there’s “nothing in it”.


Responses

  1. Kash

    I think you’re completely right to raise these concerns. While in the UK homeopathy is more often than not prepared ‘correctly’, meaning there really is nothing in it, in other countries the diligence may not be there. Zicam, for example, was a classic example in the US of a product being labelled homeopathic, when the contents were anything but, and with severe consequences.

    While I don’t think too many homeopaths knowingly add active ingredients to products to give them added kick, or knowingly label non-homeopathic products as otherwise, I do think the clear lack of scientific understanding demonstrated by proponents of and adherents to homeopathic principles leaves the quality and safety of their concoctions dubious at best. These people aren’t doctors, or scientists, and the public needs to be aware that trusting their health to them can be at best a waste of resources, and at worst it can be very dangerous indeed.

    As for the 2011 overdose, we’ve taken the unpredictable level of safety of homeopathic products worldwide into account, and have been advising people that unless they know a product can be trusted to be truly homeopathic, don’t overdose on it. An equally effective protest can involve the faithful creation of your own homeopathic concoctions, sticking rigidly to techniques used by homeopaths, to demonstrate truly that there’s nothing in it.

    Marsh
    10:23

  2. Good point. These aren’t the only examples of homeopathic products that have been spiked with a real drug either. I would suggest people stick to trusted brands, but then again you can’t trust any brand that tries to sell you homeopathy.

    I like Marsh’s idea of making your own.

    • Thanks Simon, thanks Marsh.

      Yes, I like Marsh’s idea too.

      Though we would somehow need to show/explain to passers-by how the remedy was made.
      Could the remedy actually be prepared “live” – i.e. on the street in front of the public?

  3. Thank you Kash.

    I like many others found little solace in the ‘busts’ that exposed the fake production centres, or the news that people lost their sense of smell and taste after using the Zicam nasal spray because there were active ingredients present in the solutions. Whilst it may feel like a thankless task as we appear damned either way, the constant vigilance against blithe exponents like Tredinnick must carry on. Might be an idea to ask Julian Huppert if he can raise a Q in PMQ’s about dangers of advocating homoeopathy?

    Jimbobthomas
    http://www.hampshireskeptics.org

  4. That is a scary thought… I hadn’t heard of homeopathy before this summer so missed the first campaign.

    I suppose you could gather a list of “real/trusted” homeopathic brands.

    Will it be in January again? I’d like to take part this time.

  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_manufacturing_practice is worth looking at. The bigger international homeopathic manufacturers are GMP certified. In theory, they have the right sort of QC in place to ensure that cockups like the Hyland’s one don’t occur and if they do, they should be able to trace the faulty batches, etc, etc…

    Yes, even in the UK it is possible to find a homeopathic remedy that could have serious side effects if taken in a sufficiently large dose. It’s not easy but it can be done.


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