In the two years from then til now, what has changed and what has happened in the UK with regards to homeopathy and malaria?
I thought it might be useful to document some of the milestones that have passed in the last two years.
BBC's Newsnight broadcasts the Sense about Science sting - the transcript is here and some video clips are here.
The responses from Society of Homeopaths and Faculty of Homeopaths is surprisingly different. Compare SoH(WORD doc):
... there is substantial anecdotal evidence from around the world to suggest that homeopathy may offer a gentle, yet effective, complementary or alternative approach
with the FoH:
The Faculty of Homeopathy [...] does not promote the use of homeopathy for the prevention of malaria...there is no published evidence to support the use of homeopathy in the prevention of malaria
The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency push through regulations in Parliament to permit homeopathic products to make medical claims but exempt them from providing any scientific evidence that they are effective. The Sense about Science report is here and Master Blogger, DC Colquhoun kept track of the story.
David Colquhoun writes a piece in Nature, which gets picked up by the popular media, about British Universities offering degrees in complimentary medicine including homeopathy.
An explosion of nerds and science spods who had previously been congregating on Ben Goldacre's Bad Science forum, took up the challenge to start blogging all manner of pseudoscience and quackery in the media, on teh internet and in RealLife® - this blog was one of many that spawned from that period, the list to the right of this column gives the links to many more.
Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital had its funding removed by the NHS, effectively closing it down.
Elsevier's Journal "Homeopathy" publishes the Memory of Water issue. This is met by a call to join the Bad Science Homeopathy Journal Club where the journal articles were comprehensively discussed and debunked - see here.
The Quackometer publishes its seminal treatise on The Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing, describing the attitudes and inconsistencies in the Society of Homeopath's regulations and attitudes to its members.
The Society of Homeopaths responded by suing The Quackometer, forcing the removal of the article from the site. Nothing is forgotten on the internet though, and within hours, hundreds of faithful bloggers had reprinted the article all over the world. The SoH did not follow through on its threats. To get an idea of how many copies where made, have a look at the Google result of "Gentle Art of Homeopathic Killing".
After The Guardian printed Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column on the affair, Paula Ross from Society of Homeopaths complained to Press Complaints Commission - an offer of response to Ms Ross was enough to resolve the complaint, proving their legal pressure had all been flannel.
The Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council is formed to be an 'independent self-regulatory body for complementary therapists. It quickly becomes dubbed as OfQuack. The Department of Health awarded a grant of £900,000 over the three-year period 2005 to 2008 to get an umbrella regulatory body set up, which sparked a turf war with the Society of Homeopaths. Their press release (WORD doc) contained the telling phrase:
The Society of Homeopaths has yet to assess the suitability and standards of the Natural Healthcare Council for the purpose of providing regulation of homeopaths.
It seems they never did.
BBC's Inside Out program (Southwest UK only) decided to investigate claims by Neal's Yard that homeopathic remedies it sells in its stores can help prevent and treat serious fatal diseases such as malaria. YouTube video here and transcript here. This included the comedy gold of Susan Curtis (Medicines director at Neal's Yard) walking out of the interview in a strop.
The PR fallout of the program (caused by blogs such as this one) has meant a Google search for 'Susan Curtis Neal's Yard' gives this blog in the top 3 results!
The MHRA wrap the knuckles of Neals Yard for selling an unregistered product and force it to remove the products from their shelves.
The Society of Homeopaths had their annual "Homeopathy Awareness Week". But no-one noticed.
So what has changed since the Newsnight investigation into Homeopathic Malaria treatments?
Well, for starters, Helios Homeopathy, (who were questioned during the Newsnight investigation) are still selling Malaria Officinalis.
On a much more positive note, a Google search for "Homeopathy malaria" gives a barrage of sites pointing out the failures and idiocy of trying to combat a potentially lethal disease like malaria with homeopathy.
That is the big difference between July 2008 and July 2006.
If there are other homeopathy-related milestones which you think are worthy of a mention, please leave a comment. Also, if you liked the post, please StumbleIt. I've no idea what that will do, but I am assured it is a Good Thing. Ta.