Monday, October 1, 2007

Three Strikes and you're out (Part 1)

It has been referred to as 'The Endarkenment'. Hundreds of years of people engaging their brain are being turned head-over-heels because of a desire to believe in any self-indulgant made-up Science-Lite™ drivel, which is much more appealing and self-centred than the difficult, complicated, non-personal universe in which we find ourselves.

Ben Goldacre in his excellent Bad Science columns has on a number of occasions written about this desire to believe e.g. that fish oil supplements can solve complex social problems such as bad attitude in kids or that vitamin C, so cheap, so good for you, so easily available can cure Aids.

The last few days seems to have dressed the media with some really interesting stories regarding complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)- namely homeopathy and acupuncture.

Firstly (Strike 1, with 2 more to come later) Tunbridge Wells Homeopathy hospital is to have its NHS funding removed.See BBC link here. Surely good news for all other areas of NHS funding (dare I say it, the more efficacious areas).

How could anyone not want homeopathy to be a success? Cheap, safe readily available ingredients (i.e. water and possibly sugar), no side effects, no problems with overdose, no controlled substances. All we need is the evidence that it works, which after many years of wasting resources trying, is why we need put the therapy to bed as a failure.

Having written to my own MP, James Gray, regarding his signing of an Early Day Motion which promotes CAM and calls on the Government to "actively ... support these national assets [Homeopathic hospitals]", I was pleased with the result. However, just as the EDM motion did, Mr Gray's letter used homeopathy synonymously with CAM, which really grates, as any person with an gram (or ounce, if you're old school) of sense can see - try this for logic:

"My understanding is that, according to Dept of Health, about half of GPs refer patients to alternative therapists - indicating that they view homeopathy as worthwhile for their patient's needs" - James Gray MP, CON, Wiltshire North (my bold)

Doesn't follow, James, I'm afraid. (Also being a pedant, I would reckon he meant to put that apostrophe after the s, assuming of course, the said Doctors have more than one patient, but I'm getting sidetracked.)

There may well be useful alternative therapies out there, but there isn't a scratch of evidence to show that homeopathy (as opposed to placebo effect) is one of them. Nonetheless, he finished off by saying that "alternative therapies ought to be available where they are wanted and prove cost- and clinically- effective" (my bold), which I guess means he's happy enough for the funding to be withdrawn from Tunbridge Wells as well.

Whew. Take a break. Pour more coffee. More to come :)

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