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Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Homeopathy. Placebo? Or lethal medical therapy?

Have you heard and seen the arguments about homeopathy? They have been going on now for over 220 years, and during the last two decades, as conventional medicine struggles, and homeopathy expands, they have been getting ever more strident.

  • Homeopathy is not effective because its remedies have no active ingredient.
  • Homeopathy works because of the placebo effect, that is, they get better because they believe that the remedies will make them better.
  • Homeopathy is quackery, because all patient receive is a sugar pill.
Yet now the USA drug regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently stated that one homeopathic treatment has caused 10 deaths! So some rethinking is necessary! How is it that sugar pills, remedies with no active ingredient, that work only through the placebo effect, have been found to kill people.

First, what did the FDA say? The FDA made a new release on 30th September 2016 entitled "FDA warns against the use of homeopathic teething tablets and gels". In this it warned consumers that homeopathic teething tabled and gels "may pose a risk to infant and children". The FDA had released an earlier statement 6 years earlier, on 23rd October 2010, which stated:

               "Hyland's Teething Tablets are manufactured to contain a small amount of belladonna, a substance that can cause serious harm at larger doses. For such a product, it is important that the amount of belladonna be carefully controlled. FDA laboratory analysis, however, has found that Hyland’s Teething Tablets contain inconsistent amounts of belladonna. In addition, the FDA has received reports of serious adverse events in children taking this product that are consistent with belladonna toxicity. The FDA has also received reports of children who consumed more tablets than recommended, because the containers do not have child resistant caps."

The mainstream news media took up the story, and it has been running there ever since. It has now crossed the Atlantic ocean. The Mail Online, for instance, published an article called "Panic over homeopathic teething tablets after TEN children are killed". So this story has become 'a panic', and not just ten children are killed but TEN!

Now, before going any further, the FDA regulates all issues regarding food and drugs in the USA, especially the approval and regulation of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines. And a conservative estimate is that these pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines kill about 250,000 people in the USA every year. There seems to be some disparity here.
  • The FDA has recommended consumers to stop using these homeopathic products; but at the same time it is content to allow conventional doctors to prescribe and consumers to continue using pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, even though they are known to cause harm and death. Some of these pharmaceutical drugs, known to be dangerous particularly for children, are used for teething (as we will see below).
  • The FDA states that they have not evaluated or approved homeopathic teething agents or gels "for safety or efficacy", and that "they are not aware of any proven health benefits of the products". They have, of course, evaluated pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines for safety and efficacy, including many known to be harmful, and including those recommended for teething children (as we will see below).
  • The FDA said that they had been "analysing adverse events reported to the agency regarding homeopathic teething tablets and gels...since 2010" which, if they have caused 10 deaths and 400 cases of seizures and other reactions seems rather an long time. The FDA goes on to say that consumers "should seek medical care immediately if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation after using homeopathic teething tablets or gels". Again, if a homeopathic preparation is really causing these kinds of side effects, why did the FDA not act in 2010? Perhaps the answer is that the FDA is aware of the harm caused by pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines, although in their case, they are usually initially involved in denials, and taking action sometimes take them several decades!
  • The FDA also urged health care professionals and consumers to report adverse events. This is understandable. Adverse drug reactions should be routinely reported, but it is well known that as far as pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines are concerned only about 10% (a very conserative estimate) are reported in the USA, and throughout the world.

So the response of the FDA to this homeopathic remedy seems to be rather more pro-active than their response to conventional drugs and vaccines. If the FDA, and other drug regulators, took similar action again pharmaceutical products that were thought to have caused 10 (TEN!) deaths, and caused the kind of side effects listed, how many of them would still be available to us? Few, if any!

Yet this is not the main issue. The question is, can something dismissed as 'placebo' actually do this?How is it possible for homeopathy to come under attack in this way when for the past 220 years it has been attacked for being ineffective? The answer is 'No' for anyone who has an interest in honesty. Our critics have been right. The substances used in homeopathy to produce remedies are highly diluted, to the point where chemistry tells us there is no active ingredient left. Yes, the Hyland product is made from Belladonna, which is highly poisonous. But the Belladonna has been diluted so much there is none left. So there is no possibility that the teething product would have caused death, or even the side effects mentioned.

If anyone is in doubt, read this article, in which homeopathy is dismissed as a "200 year scam" very much in the traditional fashion. It is written by a typical homeopathy denialist, using typical anti-homeopathy rhetoric. And when you have read how homeopathy is dismissed, consider how homeopathy remedies can cause these dangers they are now accused of!

So can homeopathy honestly be attacked from both sides? The answer is, of course, 'Yes'. What homeopathy faces is a large, grossly wealthy, invasively influential and hugely powerful medical establishment. Moreover, it is an establishment that is under severe pressure. There are many kinds of chronic disease that have been, and continue to increase in epidemic proportions. And the pharmaceutical industry has no answer, all its drugs and vaccines are failing, for three main reasons.
  • They do not work, and there is an increasing realisation amongst the general public, and with doctors, that they do not work.
  • They are causing serious side effects, disease and death, and their disease inducing properties are leading directly to increasing levels of ill health.
  • There are no new drugs coming through to replace those that have had to be withdrawn, or are known to be ineffective.
And whilst the conventional medical establishment is slowly beginning to realise that it is failing, that it has no answer to the spiralling health demands of a population that is becoming sicker and sicker, they witness homeopathy, and other traditional therapies, increasing in popularity.

The FDA is a part of this conventional medical establishment, as are all the national drug regulation agencies! They are staffed by pharmaceutical place-men. Their main concerns are the concerns of the pharmaceutical industry first and foremost. Patient health, and protection from dangerous drugs and vaccines are very much secondary considerations. So yes, the FDA can attack homeopathy in any way it wants. 

The problem has been that the placebo argument is not a strong one. It has to ignore the millions of sick people who have been successfully treated by homeopath throughout the world, all with their placebo sugar pills! It must be galling for them. They must feel entirely hopeless.

And yes, the mainstream media can also attack homeopathy from both sides, if they, too, are part of the conventional medical establishment. In order to survive financially the mainstream media need pharmaceutical advertising. So they are prepared to attack homeopathy in any way their paymasters tell them! So, the Mail Online can 'panic' about a homeopathic remedy that had 'allegedly' caused 10 deaths, but fail to report that pharmaceutical drugs that kill thousands.

So, the homeopathic profession requires two explanations. The first concerns how a placebo, a sugar pill could possibly have killed 10 (TEN) people. The second is to examine the conventional approach to teething, and to examine how safe and effective this approach is. After all, in the FDA news release a spokeswoman informed us that "teething can be managed without prescription or over-the-counter remedies"! To do so, I have had to look at the NHS Choices website for guidance. When my children were teething I recall receiving little or no help or support from conventional medicine, but fortunately I was just becoming aware of homeopathy at the time, and used the remedy Chamamilla, very successfully, and very safely!

NHS Choices first recommend teething rings. These "may ease their discomfort and distract them from any pain". Yes, many people use these, and they are just a little more useful than useless!

The next suggestion is teething gels. I remember using Bonjela, so I decided to see how safe this was. The patient information leaflet (PIL) says that it contains a painkiller, so immediately this raises concern, and sure enough there are several 'cautions' mentioned. 
  • "This is a medicine; Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have an underlying medical condition, are taking any other medication or complementary therapy, or if symptoms persist.
  • Seek advice before using if you are breast feeding, pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or suffer from allergies.
  • Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
  • Unsuitable for children under 2 months.
Then the PIL states that it can cause allergies, skin problems, fatigue, and that if these "became serious" to consult with your doctor.

The next suggestion made by NHS Choices is to give the child paracetamol and ibuprofen, contained in 'sugar free painkilling medicine' which contains "a small dose" of each. This brings the FDA's response to the homeopathic product into perspective.
  • Paracetamol (or acetamorphen) has become a major cause of liver failure, even if taken for just a few days, in small doses.
  • Paracetamol is known to cause over 100 deaths in the USA each year.
  • In 2007, the Lancet reported that the FDA were so concerned about paracetamol that it was considering restricting the drug's availability
  • Likewise, Ibuprofen is known to cause a wide variety of serious side effects. At the end of this process it is known to increase the risk of heart and circulation problems, and the longer it is used, the greater the risk of side effects become.
So the FDA is able to attack a homeopathic preparation because of the alleged side effects, and recommended that customers stop buying it. At the same time, conventional medicine continues to recommend painkilling drugs known to have the most serious side effects. It is double standards. It is powerful vested interests defending their trade. It is a medical profession that has little interest in patient safety.

Perhaps the last word on this subject should be left to Hylands, and its defence of its homeopathic teething products? It can be found by clicking here. It is a very cautious, measured response. So let me make a somewhat bolder statement!

Homeopathic remedies, even when based on poisonous and toxic substances, are entirely safe, because of the process of dilution through which they pass during manufacture. It is this process of dilution, which homeopaths call potentization, that makes all homeopathic remedies entirely safe for all patients, including young children.