drf: As a Certified Veterinary Homeopath, you will no doubt be able to point us in the direction of some properly conducted clinical trials which demonstrate the efficacy of homeopathic treatments for animals. I am sure there are masses of anecdotal evidence, but there are many readers here who will not be satisfied by that and will require more substantive evidence.
Contrary to what you say about the placebo effect and animals, I would hope to see studies which take the effect into consideration. Animals are not immune to the placebo effect: just as we humans respond well to a little loving care and attention, it can also work wonders for your pet. Giving an animal a sugar pill and some extra attention is like giving a toddler a Band Aid and a warm hug. The child may only have an upset stomach or a mild bruise, and yet it might appear that the Band Aid actually cured something.
The placebo effect might also work in the other direction: if we give an animal a medicine, we might ourselves believe they are getting well as a consequence. If an owner believes their dog is recovering from a malady for which treatment was adminstered, they might then take them on more walks and the dog may appear to get better. Was it the treatment or the run in the long grass? The placebo effect can work on the human, whose behaviour then influences the animal.
Animals also recover without the need for intervention, just as we humans do. We might fools ourselves into believing that the recovery was due to a medicine that was given, when in fact it had nothing to do with it. It is very hard to tell, which is why clinical trials are conducted and why anecdotal evidence is not sufficient means with which to judge the efficacy of a medicine.
If you can cite us some evidence for your claims that homeopathy works on animals, I would hope to see that the factors outlined above were controlled for in the studies. Double blind trials using placebos and control groups are probably the best methods we have available, and statistically significant results which show a positive outcome should be reproducible. If the evidence shows that homeopathy works and can cure serious illnesses in animals, as you say, this is something that the whole world needs to know about.
Vaccines are preventative medicines that offer the greatest benefit at the lowest risk. One of the biggest dangers we face right now is from those who spread misinformation about them and thereby encourage the population to go unvaccinated, which could result in their suffering illness and death from preventable diseases. And I cannot believe that any doctor would simply stab a needle into a patient's arm without their consent and knowledge of what it was. If the story is true, it is a serious case of malpractice. Unfortunately you have taken two isolated incidents (if true) and used them as ammunition with which to scare people away from vaccinations, which could in itself be considered malpractice.
If you think the H1N1 vaccine is inadequately tested, you are way off the mark. As with all (conventional) medicines, it has been rigorously tested and is actually well targeted to the H1N1 virus. However, since you put so much emphasis on testing, how about testing your own magic water solutions, otherwise known as homeopathy? All scientific tests have shown them to be no better than placebos; as drugs they simply do not work.
So let us take a closer look at some more of your fear-mongering: You bring up the preservative Thimerosal, but you offer no argument that it is harmful; you merely suggest that studies on it have not been sufficiently long for your liking. Thimerosal used to be a favourite amongst anti-vaccinationists, who claimed it caused autism in children. However when its use in childrens' scheduled vaccines was discontinued about a decade ago and no changes in autism rates occurred, as they predicted it would, that line of argument fell out of favour.
Your squalene argument came with supporting evidence, so I looked up the reference you gave. The results presented in the paper were vague and far from conclusive and, in fact, they made no suggestion that the Gulf War vaccines actually contained any squalene. A later study found no evidence for the use of squalene in those vaccines. The research continued and a paper published this year concluded: "We found no association between squalene antibody status and chronic multisymptom illness (p=0.465). The etiology of Gulf War syndrome remains unknown, but should not include squalene antibody status.". And further studies have shown that most adults have antisqualene antibodies at levels that are not increased by the use of the squalene adjuvant in vaccines. Squalene is naturally occurring and is absorbed into the body through diet.
It is easy to cite research when it appears to back your arguments, but if you're going to rely upon the scientific evidence, you cannot ignore the results when they don't support your agenda. Your fear-mongering arguments appear to lack substance, a bit like homeopathic drugs lack any active ingredients or any evidence that they even work.
Some recommended reading for those who prefer evidence that their medicines work, rather than anecdotes that someone's headache went away one day after consuming magic sugar pills: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=851
Also see Amy Wallace's article in Wired magazine, which does a very good job of confronting anti-vaccinationist arguments and describing how these groups, who are idealogically opposed to vaccines, are putting peoples' lives at risk: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_waronscience/all/
It is a common retort that "science doesn't know everything", which stems from a terrible misconception of science and perhaps a mistrust of the scientific establishment. If science did know everything, there would be one very large book called "Science" with all the answers to all of our questions. So, on that point, you are absolutely right. The reason we have scientists is that there are many many unanswered questions and even more cropping up all the time.
You are also right that we should do all that is possible to improve our healthcare practices, which is why science has tested alternative medicines and therapies such as homeopathy and acupuncture, despite the fact there there are no obvious mechanisms by which they might possibly work, other than the placebo effect. The results: no therapeutic benefits compared with the placebos in test after test. I don't state that homeopathy "could not possibly work", I merely point out that evidence based medicine has failed to show that it does work. Should science keep testing for a thousand years until it gives an answer that shows it does, or should science pursue more reasonable avenues of research with medicines that do appear to work, or demonstrate a greater probability that they might?
If you have documentary evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy, I recommend you scrutinise it carefully. Clinical trials should be double blinded, use control groups and involve a large enough data set to provide statistically significant results. The research should also be peer reviewed and the results reproducible before it has any credibility. Advocacy groups sponsoring such research often fail to conduct trials in the proper manner and will only publish a favourable result which supports their claims. Make sure they are using the scientific method correctly before drawing your own conclusions.
Despite rigorous testing, conventional drugs are rarely perfect. Childrens' cough and cold medicines have indeed been taken off Pharmacists' shelves when the risk to benefit ratio was deemed such that it was necessary. We can at least have some faith in this system because it tests these drugs and, when new evidence arises, it re-tests them. As a result of this, errors come to light and policies and procedures may be reversed. You can not have the same faith in complimentary and alternative medicines, which are all too often completely unregulated, especially those whose roots are 200 years old and whose fundamental principles have not changed in that time.
Since a true homeopathic remedy is merely water or a sugar pill, there should be no concerns over its safety. At best it will produce a mild ache in your financial well being, but at its worst it can delude people into believing it has some medicinal benefit, causing them to forego treatments with a credible chance of curing them. [Homeopathy couple jailed over daughter's death].
Oh dear, I'm having a face plant moment. A "professional" homeopath telling us that we can avoid H1N1 flu by taking sugar pills. Not only is the sort of advice being peddled here ridiculous, it is downright dangerous. Flu kills hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people each year in Canada, mostly the old, the very young and the sick. H1N1 could kill even more and those at risk include young, otherwise healthy adults.
I agree with Susan's statement that there was no rigorous scientific testing done here. All we have are anecdotes of people feeling a little unwell, some of whom took sugar pills containing absolutely no trace of active ingredient. If you want scientific testing, there are plenty of such studies and they all show that these so-called remedies are no better than placebos. And outside of magical thinking, there is no known mechanism by which they could possibly work.
For those interested in learning what homeopathy actually is, here are a few references you might try:
And if you just want a good laugh at the expense of this all-out pseudo-science, try the following YouTube clip:
Sorry Susan, I mean no personal disrespect, but flu is a serious matter and people will die from it. We can do something about reducing those fatalities by using real medicines and vaccines whose efficacy can be shown with rigorous scientific testing.
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