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Homeopathy or Big Pharma – Choose Your Poison?

Wow, this was one of the best rants I’ve heard in a while (thanks to Kevin MD for linking to this article in his blog) – looks as if this writer is neither friend to homeopathy nor big pharma:

“Some homeopaths [say] that their cures are not amenable to scientific proof. That’s fine, if you want to call the multimillion dollar industry what it is: faith healing…

Homeopathy rests on three unproven tenets: First, ‘Like treats like.’ Because arsenic causes shortness of breath, for example, homeopaths prescribe its ‘spirit’ to treat diseases such as asthma. Second, the arsenic or other active ingredient is diluted in water and then that dilution is diluted again and so on, dozens of times, guaranteeing—for better and worse—that even if the dose has no therapeutic value, it does no harm. And third, the potion is shaken vigorously so that it retains a ‘memory’ of the allegedly curative ingredient, a spirit-like essence that revives the body’s ‘vital force.’

So what about the fact that some homeopathic patients get better? Part of the effect comes from the ritual of consultation with a practitioner who treats the patient like a person rather than a body part on an assembly line. And just taking anything can help; the placebo effect is real. In gold-standard, double-blind studies, placebos presented as possible cures sometimes rival pharmaceuticals for effectiveness, or beat taking nothing at all.

Nor are the effects simply psychological. When volunteers took a placebo that they were told contained painkillers, they experienced relief, while researchers watching PET scans of the subjects’ brains tracked increased levels of the body’s own pain-relieving endorphins. In other studies, research subjects given placebos instead of antidepressants also showed chemical changes in their brains. FDA data for six top antidepressants showed that 80 percent of their effect was duplicated in placebo control groups.

Which brings us to the patient’s dilemma: Have faith in 19th century magic or rely on a pharmaceutical industry that suppresses negative outcomes (including death), promotes drugs for nonexistent diseases, repackages old drugs in new bottles to circumvent patent expirations, bribes doctors with perks and cash and hires ghost writers to author favorable studies? Given the hype, toxicity, and expense of many drugs and Big Pharma’s snake-oil tactics, the side effects of water (laced with “memory”) start looking pretty damn good. If your condition is relatively minor, self-limiting or untreatable, you may be a lot better off drinking homeopathy’s Kool-Aid-less Kool-Aid.”

Ouch. What do you think of Mr. Allen’s remarks?

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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4 Responses to “Homeopathy or Big Pharma – Choose Your Poison?”

  1. Mike says:

    Hey, I thought that was a great rant. Both ends of the medicine spectrum really have great potential to provide great benefit, but are both so easily taken advantage of. In both cases, these two ends of medicine go into areas we don’t really understand. The research and marketing practices of big pharma are so big and complicated and how many patients really understand what the pills are really doing? Same with lots of homeopathic remedies (the not understanding how it works part). No wonder both ends can get away with so much. Hopefully Revolution’s mix of community discussion and authoritative content will go a long way to shed light on these very different types of medicine.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Most will use the alternative remedies for illnesses that are not life threating. I do agree with this rant. But until the FDA takes a stand to protect us we will be the big pharmacy’s test subjects. How many times does the FDA have to see years later some medications did more harm than good, and most companies hide the truth until it has. Too bad we can not sue the FDA. All I can say is wait until a medication has been out for a few years before you try it and use the internet to research the side effects.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sadly, Mr. Allen has not reviewed the scientific literature on homeopathy.  There have been over 200 clinical trials and several hundred basic science studies.  Although not all of these studies have proven homeopathy to be effective, there are still many high quality studies that have been published in the LANCET, BMJ, and various other respected medical and scientific journals that have shown the efficacy of homeopathic medicines. 

    The trick is learning how to use them correctly!  Homeopaths are generally too sophisticated to assume that there is ONE medicine for everyone with a specific disease.  This is why they individualize their medicines to the unique SYNDROME (the complex of various symptoms that the person is experiencing).  One’s disease is only a part of an overall syndrome. 

    Only in rare situations has single homeopathic medicine been shown to be effective for a specific disease.  One such condition is the FLU…and the medicine is Oscillococcinum (3 large studies have verified this).  Another condition is COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease–the #4 reason that people die in the US!)…a good study was published in CHEST in 2005…it was conducted at the University of Vienna. 

    Please do more homework before attacking homeopathy…

  4. Dr. Nancy Malik says:

    Homeopathy provides gentle way to permanent cure.

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