The Puzzle of Homoeopathy

Welcome to the puzzle of homoeopathy, one I have been intrigued and involved with for a long time.  The puzzle brings questions like: Why do 49% of Scotland’s general practices prescribe it, and doubled their prescribing for under 16s from 2000 to 2005? (Br J Clin Pharmacol 2006;62:6:647-652);   Why do they describe better results, less side effects and reduced costs?     Why is there so much controversy interpreting the 100+ randomised trials to date?   And,  the key starting point for me with my interest in human healing capacity:  Are the useful clinical effects all due to placebo responses?  You must approach this puzzle in your own way. Some do so with confident pre-assertion that homoeopathy cannot work, a stance that can even become a data-free scientism zone, others have an equal but opposite blind faith of belief, raising the system to a cure-all.  I tackled the key placebo-only question with teams at Glasgow University in a series of four randomised double blind placebo- controlled trails - three of them published in the Lancet and BMJ. They failed to support the placebo-only hypothesis – and in fact they offered evidence that there was more than a placebo effect.  Meantime, what ever “the solution”, I have been struck by the rich contributions to the therapeutic encounter and relationship that some forms of homoeopathy have evolved - with much to teach us about holistic practice.
  1. oDEBATE

  2. oAudio recording of a debate between Dr David Reilly and Prof Dan Larhammar at Uppsla University,  Sweden in 2008



A flavour of the debate, and a paper to download  exploring the scientific controversy and evidence. Includes links to the Glasgow research and trials. 

Critics and advocates agree that the levels of dilution ensure the medicine is non-toxic, but critics argue they are too dilute to be active, drawing amusing metaphors like one aspirin dropped in the ocean treating all the fish at once.   Advocates argue a molecular concentration model is the wrong one, and we are in the realm of signal processing, more akin to how downloaded music has none of the original molecules in it but still  works.  The critics have the best jokes, but it is not clear who will have the last laugh.