The last few weeks have provided more nails in the coffins of the sugar pill salespeople; firstly, GP's weekly medical magazine, Pulse, has published a report on the over 40% drop in homeopathy prescriptions written by GPs in 2 years, from 83,000 in 2005 to 49,300 in 2007. They had obtained the numbers using a Freedom of Information request.
This is a huge decline. Of course, homeopaths are not great at dealing with evidence or statistics, lest they would have given up the sugar pill game a long time ago. As if to demonstrate this fact, a spokesperson from the British Homeopathic Association is quoted in the BBC as saying:
We do know that there is no evidence to show that GPs are shunning homeopathy, nor is there evidence to show patients are not seeking homeopathy due to adverse press coverage
My bold. No evidence except that the numbers have almost halved over two years. None at all. This is an incredibly ballsy and laughable comment to make - I should point out that the BBC contact at BHA didn't give her name, perhaps wisely.
Oz-blogger Daniel over at Good Reason likes to play "That's not evidence" with homeopaths:
Here's how to play. You find a homeopath, and ask if they have any evidence for homeopathy. They invariably pull out an anecdote or some statistic about the popularity of homeopathy, to which you politely respond, "That's not evidence." You explain why, and you ask if they have anything better. Time how long it takes them to either make a personal attack or cry. Someone once made it six minutes.
It has also emerged today that Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital is finally to close.
This isn't a huge shock, as this story was one of the first covered on this blog back in Oct 2007 (BBC report).
It is however important, as it sets a precedent for other Primary Care Trusts looking to ensure that their ever-dwindling budgets are used efficiently, that homeopathic hospitals can no longer be part of an evidence-based health system. Referring to the Primary Care Trust's own review;
[the review] found 66% of patients and 80% of GPs did not support funding homeopathic services at the hospital, justifying the PCT decision to stop referrals for homeopathy
Once again, the BHA ignore the statistics and issue a press release with the following gems from John Cook, Chairman of the BHA:
It is a sad day for patient choice. The PCT decided patients will no longer have the right to treatment that works! Managers with no experience of homeopathy are telling patients, who have been successfully treated by doctors at the Tunbridge Wells Homoeopathic Hospital, that they lose that right to effective treatment for chronic and long-term conditions
Lets look at that again. The reason why the hospital is not receiving funding is because there is unsurprisingly no clinical evidence that it works. In fact, the closing of the hospital ensures that the patients will have the right to treatment that works. See how he skillfully ignores the fact that 80% of GPs were against it. It would have been an insult if the result had been any different.
Apart from the British Homeopathic Association blurting out obvious 'mispeaks', where are the other homeopathic organisations? It appears that these two heftily bad PR news stories aren't worth the time or effort of the Society of Homeopaths. The SoH have fantastic form when it comes to PR - they famously tried to sue its detractors in Oct 2007, resulting in the offending article "The Gentle Art of Homoepathic Killing" getting replicated all over the blogosphere and in June 2008 managed to tell nobody about Homeopathy Awareness Week. For an organisation trying to be the UK regulators of Homeopaths (remember those meetings with Department of Health?) they really are in a amateurish mess.
But the question is, what will they do, if confronted with the evidence?