@StephenBlendell is a newcomer to the Twitter arguments over homeopathy. His Twitter bio is hilariously oxymoronic, and his arguments are oxymoronic without the oxy.
A rational scientific medicine blogger and homeopath? Maybe not.
So, he has claimed that all medicine is homeopathy – and that if homeopathy doesn’t work then all of medicine is in trouble.
So, this blog post to which he links?
OK, we can stop there.
The essential principles of homeopathy are:
- Like cures like, according to a pattern of symptoms.
- Potency is imbued by dilution and twerking.
As far as I am aware, not one reality-based pharmaceutical on current sale is based on these principles. I bet you a pound that we’re about to be treated to the usual fallacious homeobollockry about hormesis.
I’ve often been baffled by pharmacists and doctors who say homeopathy, treating like with like, doesn’t work. I then explain that medicine itself is full of homeopathy as the following examples of drug actions show. The main critics of homeopathy though aren’t necessarily people in the medical field but journalists and others like them who are less qualified than doctors to comment.
Pharmacists will be the last people to swallow such bullshit: they know the principles on which drugs are developed. They know how they work. It is an eternal mystery that any pharmacist can bring themselves to sell homeopathy, but that’s another story.
As to critics of homeopathy, we can start with Dr [W:Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.], and move right up to the present with Dr. [W:Ben Goldacre]. It’s a classic SCAM reversal of the facts: in fact, doctors and scientists expend massive efforts rebutting the clueless uncritical nonsense published by many journalists.
If we are to have sense about science in medicine we have to have the mindset of a scientist which requires objectivity, openness and a desire for truth. The North American Indians had a saying, “I won’t judge a man ’till I’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” The skeptics should at least review Hahnemann’s discoveries and contributions to medical science – in theory and practise – before judging. Then they will be worth listening to, but not until.
Good start, but then off into the weeds. Science is indeed a search for truth – and pseudoscience is a search for confirmation. Guess which Blendell does? Clue: see how he begs the question of whether Hahnemann made “discoveries” or whether he was simply wrong, as was pretty much every other doctor of his time.
Hahnemann’s contributions to medical science can be gauged by the proportion of a modern medical degree which is given over to the doctrines of like cures like, miasms and serial dilution.
None at all.
Hahnemann’s theories have no [W:explanatory power]. They are simply wrong. His belief that cinchona cures malaria due to symptomatic similarity was authoritatively refuted over a century ago. His belief that there can be no amount of matter so small that it does not retain its essential character, was refuted well over over a century ago.
Against this, the homeopath demands that we not “judge”. Science looked at Hahnemann’s ideas, found them wanting and moved on Homeopathy, like any religion, constantly demands that science treat its doctrines as if they might have some legitimacy.
That ain’t how it works.
Lexapro: (For anxiety and depression): psychiatric side effects including insomnia (9%), somnolence (6%), decreased appetite (3%), and decreased libido (3%) have been reported. Abnormal dreaming, yawning, increased appetite, lethargy, irritability, and impaired concentration have been reported frequently. Agitation, jitteriness, apathy, panic reaction, aggravated restlessness, nervousness, forgetfulness, attempted suicide, aggravated depression, feeling unreal, excitability, emotional lability, abnormal crying, depression, anxiety attack, depersonalization, suicidal tendency, bruxism, confusion, carbohydrate craving, amnesia, nervous tremulousness, and auditory hallucinations have been reported infrequently. Aggression, acute psychosis, and visual hallucinations have been reported; however, a causal relationship with escitalopram (the active ingredient contained in Lexapro) has not been determined.
There’s a lot of text there but it amounts to a long list of often generic symptoms reported by people during clinical trials, and faithfully recorded on the mandatory label.
Ironically the package insert is the only part of medicine which has any parallels to homeopathy. Homeopathic provings also collect random lists of symptoms with no provable connection to the product. The difference is that homeopaths assume this to be evidence, where medicine knows it to be deeply suspect unless post-marketing surveillance reveals a genuien association (as it did with [W:Vioxx]).
Apparently, Blendell sincerely believes that Lexapro works because one of the reported side-effects sounds, to him, a bit like the condition the drug is supposed to treat. And because of that, medicine would not work if homeopathy didn’t.
The depth of Stupid in this is beyond my ability to describe.
Nexium (a PPI to treat excess stomach acid): Gastrointestinal (GI) side effects have included bowel irregularity, aggravated constipation, dyspepsia, dysphagia, dysplasia, epigastric pain, eructation, esophageal disorder, frequent stools, gastroenteritis, GI hemorrhage, rectal disorder, increased appetite, anorexia, ulcerative stomatitis, and vomiting. Pancreatitis has also been reported. Postmarketing reports of microscopic colitis have been received.
Efexor XL (For depression and anxiety): Nervousness, agitation and anxiety,
OK, there are half a dozen more, but you get the idea. Oh, and of course:
Cancer drugs are many and often cause cancer according to the Mayo Clinic website: “Side effects of radiation therapy include… second cancers in the treated area.” “Chemotherapy side effects…blood cell cancer.” “Medications that block hormones from attaching to cancer cells…include tamoxifen, raloxifene (Evista) and toremifene (Fareston)… risks include blood clots, stroke, uterine cancer and cataracts.”
So let’s hear the “reasoning” in his own words.
Isn’t that interesting? Why don’t opioid pain-killers work? Hahnemann could show us in his proving of Opium (Kent’s description). Because the corollary of the law of cure Hahnemann discovered is that a drug doesn’t cause a symptom (i.e. if a symptom is not within the pathogenesis of the drug’s action) then it can’t remove that same symptom in a sick person. Opium is a poor pain-killer because it doesn’t cause pain, thus proving that only like cures like, the law of cure as discovered by Samuel Hahnemann which he called Homeopathy (similar suffering).
That is hilarious bollocks.
Do opiod pain killers work? See [W:opioid receptor]. Here’s a table of common opioid painkillers:
[W:Opium] is a poor painkiller because it’s not particularly strong and it’s addictive. Opium contains two groups of alkaloids, of which one, [W:phenanthrenes], is psychoactive. In this group are [W:morphine], [W:codeine] and [W:thebaine]. The first two are effective analgesics. [W:Morphine] is still used to control long-term neuropathic pain.
In other words, the claim that opiod pain-killers don’t work is entirely false, and the rationale – that this is because they do not cause pain – is in any case a non-sequitur.
Most medicines work because they are actually homeopathic, the drugs’ effects, direct effects (and not the misnamed “side-effects”) have a direct relation to the symptoms to be treated. Proper homeopathy works more rationally by treating the totality of symptoms rather than reducing disease to a local phenomena as in orthodox Allopathic medicine which results in suppression usually. Sadly, a lot of “side-effects” are not always listed as revealed in this month’s Nature journal.
This is a statement of faith, not fact, and is robustly contradicted by the one example he discusses in detail.
The claim that allopathy “suppresses” symptoms is a canard beloved of homeopaths. We know quite a lot about how some drugs work by now. For example, we know how quionoes kill the parasites that cause malaria (cure, not suppression), we know how antibiotics kill bacteria (cure, not suppression), we know how vaccines produce antibodies and prevent subsequent infection (prevention, even better than cure!).
Homeopathy does not suppress symptoms, this is true. Instead it waves its hands and hopes they go away (in which the homeopath will claim credit).
Now, are you starting to get the picture? I could of course go on and on but maybe it’s time to be sceptical of the skeptics and revisit the great Dr Hahnemann with a scientific frame of mind. Why not read Hahnemann’s Theory of Chronic Disease and his Organon (available here)?
Why not? I can give a dozen reasons, starting with the fact that an 18th Century German knew so little about the human body and the nature of disease that studying his fanciful conjectures would be a complete waste of time.
But please do visit Hahnemann’s writing with a scientific frame of mind. Look for the robust evidence that like cures like, by symptomatic similarity. Look for findings outside the cult of homeopathy which mirror or parallel its doctrines.
It may take a while. Don’t worry, though, homeopathy has no way of adapting its ideas through objective testing of new evidence, so it will still be here, unchanged and convinced of its own infallibility, when you get back.