Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Macho Response: Simon Singh

"Homeopathy is unproven and its products should not be sold, a visiting critic of alternative medicine says.

British physicist Simon Singh, who was sued by the British Chiropractic Association for saying their therapies for children were bogus, said yesterday it was 'obvious' that homeopathy 'shouldn't be allowed' and couldn't be regulated by a code of ethics. 'I take a fairly hard line,' he said. 'If anyone is making claims that can't be supported by evidence, these claims should be halted and these practices should be prevented.'

He said recent cases showed that homeopathy — which relies on the principle of 'like treating like' and diluted ingredients — can be dangerous.

Two weeks ago in the US a homeopathic remedy called Zicam, which claimed to treat the common cold, was withdrawn from sale after it was discovered the zinc it contained may have caused more than 900 people to lose their sense of smell.

Critics said the over-the-counter product's side effects had gone unnoticed because of less strict rules for marketing alternative medicine.

Last month a Sydney couple whose baby daughter died after they treated her with homeopathic remedies instead of conventional medicine were found guilty of manslaughter.

'Some homeopaths won't encourage parents to vaccinate children because they take other views on immunity,' Dr Singh said. 'You would think that homeopathy should be safe because there's nothing in it, but the indirect side effects can be severe.'

In an investigation in Britain, he found homeopaths willing to let people travel to West Africa, where malaria is endemic and can kill in days, with only unproven homeopathic protection. 'I don't think people recognise that the vast majority (of homeopathic remedies) is devoid of any active ingredient. It's seen as exotic, traditional, alternative in a lifestyle sense. Celebrities use it. But 200 clinical trials over 200 years later, there is still no good evidence (that) it works.'"

-- Nick Miller, covering one of the few scientists adopting The Macho Response - taking "a fairly hard line" for the exact same reasons I am - in The Age.