This article was first published in my e-book "Why Homeopathy?" which compares the conventional medical treatment available for a variety of specific illnesses and diseases with homeopathic treatment.
It almost seems too trite to make such an obvious remark, but whenever patients seek medical treatment they not only have choices to make, those choices vary in terms of both effectiveness, and safety of the treatments available. Yet it is important to do so. Too often patients are told that conventional medicine provides the best treatment, the only 'scientifically proven' treatment. And even when conventional medicine has no treatment, and admits that it has no treatment for an illness, it routinely fails to mention that there are alternative medical therapies. This is so even when the illness is known to be terminal.
So how can patients determine what is the best treatment for them. The first prerequisite is to understand that when doctors say "there is no treatment" for a condition what they mean is that there is no conventional treatment! The second is that the patient should understand that conventional medicine normally does not mention any alternative treatment offered by an alternative therapy! The third is to understand how conventional medicine, and homeopathy, test their treatments for both effectiveness and safety.
Randomised Controlled Tests (RCT's)
Conventional medicine uses these tests to ascertain whether its drugs and vaccines are effective an safe. They describe these tests as 'the gold standard' of science. All pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines have been tested using RCT procedures, now required by all drug regulator agencies around the world.
Yet even some members of the conventional medical establishment now recognise the limitations of RCT's. For instance, Sir Michael Rawlings, for many years chair of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, criticised, and pointed out their limitations when giving the Harveian Oration to the Royal College of Physicians in 2008.
Ben Goldacre has gone further, in his book "Bad Pharma" where he wrote about how the results of RCT's can be manipulated and skewed by a variety of factors, including dishonesty and fraud in the science of drug testing.
Yet the main problem of RCT's is that they have been unable to prevent both ineffective and dangerous pharmaceutical drugs being used with patients. This is best demonstrated by the large number of pharmaceutical drugs that have been banned and withdrawn over recent years, after being put through the process of randomised controlled tests
IF RCT's are really the 'gold standard' in drug testing, why is it that they have consistently failed to discover that pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines are both ineffective and unsafe for patients?
Yet this continues to be what is claimed for them by the conventional medical establishment, and it is the basis of their criticism of homeopathy, which uses a different process for determining the effectiveness of a remedy, and a sure-safe way of ensuring that all its remedies are safe.
Homeopathy does not use RCT's. Homeopathy works on the principle of 'Like curing Like', that is, a substance known to cause the symptoms of illness in a fit and healthy individual can cure those same symptoms in a sick person. As a result, over the last 220 years, homeopathy has undertaken what it calls 'provings' on the many thousands substances that form the basis for its remedies. In these provings, a substance is given to fit and healthy volunteers, who note the symptoms the substance produce.
Moreover, because homeopathy has discovered that the therapeutic action of a substance in increased by diluting and succussing them, a process known as potentisation, it means that they can be given to patients in dilutions, or potencies, that do not harm them. Indeed, the potentisation process means that remedies are usually given to patients without there being any 'chemically active' ingredient left which makes them entirely safe for patients to take. There are, in other words, no side effects to homeopathic treatment.
Although homeopathy has no need to RCT test their remedies for either safety or effectiveness, there has to date been nearly 500 scientific studies into the effectiveness of homeopathy, many of them using RCT procedures, undertaken because they are a means of ensuring patients can recognise that homeopathy is effective using the techniques of conventional medicine.
So which is best proof or safety and effectiveness, RCT's or homeopathic provings? To answer this properly it is important to return to what patients want, described at the top of the page. What patients want is a good outcome, that is, they get better, and they get better safely, undamaged by the treatment. Neither RCT's or Homeopathic Provings can determine which is best as they both test drugs / remedies before they are given to patients.
What is needed to determine this are properly conducted comparative studies, studies that look into the patient outcomes of various medical therapies. Such studies have been too rarely done within most national health services, which are dominated by conventional drug-based medicine.