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Defending Choice in Medicine
Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century
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Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century
This is a 62-page critique of Sense About Homeopathy by Chris Tyler, a leaflet published by Sense About Science in 2006. It includes five appendices, a bibliography and full references.
It concludes that Sense About Homepathy contains at least seventeen major faults listed below:
1. It fails to define some basic terms (such as ‘disease’, ‘condition’ and ‘effective’).
2. It defines the ‘placebo effect’ but then surreptitiously re-defines it as the complete opposite of the
3. It uses the term ‘homeopathy’ indiscriminately to mean the system of homeopathy, homeopathic
treatment and the medicines used by homeopaths.
4. It ignores five of the seven principles on which homeopathy is based, despite their crucial importance
to many of the arguments used. For example, the requirement in homeopathy to treat the ‘totality of
symptoms’ invalidates many of the arguments used in this leaflet.
5. It fails to acknowledge or discuss the fact that homeopathy has a definition of effectiveness.
6. It misrepresents potentisation by equating it with dilution, which is only a part of the process, without
providing any evidence that the effect of succussion is insignificant.
7. It invents terminology to create distinctions which are never explained, such as that between
'disease' and the 'symptoms of disease', and ‘inducing physiological changes’ and ‘working in a
8 It fails to provide any evidence that the nature of homeopathic treatment is essentially the same as
that of placebo.
9. It misrepresents the evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in order to justify the claim
that homeopathic treatment is a placebo.
10. It fails to acknowledge that RCTs are not infallible guides to efficacy or effectiveness, and so
cannot be used as the sole basis for categorising a treatment as a placebo.
11. It fails to examine the real problems with designing appropriate RCTs to test homeopathic
12. It relies heavily on a single meta-analysis (by Shang and others), and not only misrepresents the
conclusions of this analysis, but fails to take into account the serious criticisms levelled at it. These
criticisms have subsequently been justified, but the leaflet has not been amended.
13. It also misrepresents the conclusions of four other major meta-analyses.
14. It fails to acknowledge that meta-analyses are inherently subjective, and so constitute an unreliable
basis for categorical decisions.
15. It misrepresents other research. For example, research showing that a reduction in stress reduces
inhibition of the immune system is claimed to show that placebos can “boost” the immune system.
16. It repeatedly relies on assertions which have no general basis in reality in order to present spurious
arguments as though they were significant. Examples include claims that homeopathy works “like a
vaccine”, that homeopathy has “a powerful placebo effect”, that people use homeopathy because
they “believe” it works.
17. It repeatedly exhibits a fundamental lack of understanding of physiology and orthodox medical
These faults mean that Sense About Homeopathy has absolutely no scientific validity and would seriously mislead any member of the public turning to it for reliable information.
Definitions of Terms
Discussion of Page 1
Introductory Paragraphs - Box 1: “Another way of saying … Placebo and the placebo effect” - Box 2:
“Not to be confused … Proven” - Box 3: “Clinical Trials” - “Homeopathic principles” - “Like cures
like” - “Minimum dose” - “The evidence” - Effectiveness
Discussion of Page 2
“Why homeopathy ‘works’” - “The placebo effect” - “A powerful placebo?” - Box 4: “Some
interesting placebo facts …” - “Veterinary homeopathy” - “Prescribing placebos”
Appendix 1: Homeopathy and the placebo effect
Appendix 2: Problems with RCTs of homeopathic treatment
Appendix 3: Evidence for the ‘Law of Similars’ from orthodox medicine
Appendix 4: Evidence of the power of homeopathy’s scientific approach
Appendix 5: The use of the word ‘homeopathy’
Appendix 6: Sense About Science
Books - Reports - Computer programmes - Journal articles
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