At 10:23am on January 30th 2010, more than three hundred homeopathy skeptics nationwide will be taking part in a mass homeopathic 'overdose' in protest at Boots' continued endorsement and sale of homeopathic remedies, and to raise public awareness about the fact that homeopathic remedies have nothing in them.
The campaign has been picked up by a number of media outlets - The Independent here and here, The Telegraph, The Times, The Observer, and, hilariously, the Daily Mail. (The Daily Mail got so confused with the big numbers associated with homeopathy, that they managed to inflate the NHS homeopathy budget by a factor of 1000. Basic editing has never been the Daily Mail's strong point).
There has been a backlash (of sorts) from the homeopathic community regarding the campaign, along with the standard name-calling that comes from proponents of alternative medicine any time it is criticised.
The campaign centres around Boots, the high street pharmacist. Boots is selling homeopathic products (own brand and branded) of varying dilutions, from various mother tinctures, with no restriction on amount to any old Horace, Jocasta or Gyles.
One thing that skeptics and homeopaths can surely agree on, is that this is not how homeopathy should be available.
Some skeptics would say that it shouldn't be available at all, whilst others would say that buying sugar pills isn't illegal and providing homeopaths don't make any claims as to its (lack of) effects, then caveat emptor.
Both sets of skeptics would agree that Boots should be propounding evidence-based medicine and selling pharmacy and health products which have a proven efficacy and safety record. Selling magic sugar pills based on 18th century silliness is not what a respectable Pharmacist should be indulging in.
Homeopaths, on the other hand, like to espouse the benefits of homeopathy as a 'holistic' philosophy, treating each person as a unique individual. The symptoms of having a cold are nothing to do with the cold virus that settled in your shnoz and reproduced at a rate of knots. No. It's to do with dis-ease and having an imbalanced immune system, and perhaps a poor mental state. For instance, see this on the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths' website:
Homeopathic medicines are chosen to treat the whole person, because homeopaths believe the mind and body operate as one, and you cannot treat one part of the body without affecting the whole. Medicines are chosen to fit all the characteristics of the patient, so physical disorders are considered in relation to the individual’s mental and emotional state.
The HMC:21 website states that:
It should be emphasised, however, that homeopaths base treatment on the totality of the symptoms of the patient, not on a general disease definition.
The Society of Homeopaths' website states:
Homeopathy treats all your symptoms - mental, emotional and physical.
Boots *own* website has a .pdf to download on alternative therapies. It states that homeopathic assessment takes in to account the following:
level of exercise
family medical history
other factors such as weather
Indeed. The weather. This is the origin of the phrase "feeling under the weather". No, you're right, it isn't.
So, if a homeopathic assessment is of vital importance and the patient requires a highly trained homeopath to use their knowledge of symptoms, simillima, and remedies, in order to put the patient back on the road to recovery (for the meagre sum of £100/hour), how on earth are Boots able to sell the remedies to any old misguided dabbler?
(Sharp-eyed readers will remember the same argument being posed in a previous TiD blogpost when Napier's were holding a Homeopathy for Families workshop, which provided the attendants with a free vial of Arnica 30c. Individualised, my arse).
I am genuinely surprised that homeopaths have not complained that this accessability to homeopathic medicine is dangerous and can't be given to those without the secret knowledge; otherwise, of what value is the secret knowledge?
(Results of self-diagnosis are undoubtedly as good as homeopath-diagnosed patients, as the actual remedies given will have been identical - just sugar pills - and the placebo will probably have been similar in each case).
For this reason, I'm calling on all homeopaths to stand up for what you believe and to complain to Boots about how they are making homeopathy accessible to untrained patients. Homeopaths should be calling on Boots to remove homeopathic products from their shelves, lest these terribly potent homeopathic medicines get in the wrong hands.
I look forward to seeing armies of homeopaths outside various branches of Boots on 30th Jan 2010 demanding that Big Pharmacy has no right selling homeopathic products and that the livelihood of the highly trained homeopath should be respected.
Whether or not you are a homeopath but would like to help get homeopathic products removed from Boots shelves, then join up at 1023.org.uk.