Homeopathy & The 1023 Campaign Against It

Brauer’s Homeopathic Product

Last year, on Sunday February 6th, 2011, skeptically-minded Sydney-siders participatinged in the 10:23 Challenge.

The lead up to the event was a massive success, far surpassing the intended reach of 1,023 protesters in 10 countries with 23 cities participating. Sydney was one of the 68 cities, from the 28 countries that participated.

That’s every continent on Earth, including Antarctica – where protesters will effectively ‘overdose ‘on homeopathic remedies.

The 2011 event was a follow-up to the ‘overdose’ protest staged by the 10:23 Campaign in 2010, and is was about bringing an international touch to the worldwide practice touted as an “Alternative Medicine”.

In 2012, the “campaign” was understated and is working at the grass-roots level to bring about awareness, and policy changes – with some very exciting action being taken by a number of people nation-wide in Australia!

While many believe homeopathy is to be a “herbal” medicine or an “all-natural” alternative, it is neither.

“Homeopathy is an unscientific and absurd pseudoscience, which persists today as an accepted form of complementary medicine, despite there never having been any reliable scientific evidence that it works.” – 10:23 Campaign Website

In a Nutshell, Homeopathy is the practice of diluting an active ingredient (that may cause similar symptoms to that being experienced in larger doses) in water (which Homeopaths call potentisation), vigorously shaking it via ten hard strikes against an elastic body (succussion), and repeating the process.

The more dilute, the more powerful the remedy. When this is completed to the desired dilution (Usually 30), the final liquid is dropped in to sugar balls, or infused in the sugar pills.

The Gritty Technical Stuff

Homeopathic 30C Preparation

Dilution is based on a factor 1 part per 100. A 2C dilution would require taking an active ingredient, diluting it in 99 parts of alcohol or distilled water, and then some of that diluted solution diluted by a further factor of one hundred.

2C is equal to 1 part per 10,000.
6c is equal to 1 part per 1,000,000,000,000

You can see how by 30C, someone taking this dilution would need to consume 1041 pills (a billion times the mass of the Earth) to consume a SINGLE MOLECULE of the original active ingredient.

That’s 1/100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pills!

At 12C you pass what is known as the Avogadro Limit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avogadro_constant). This is the point at which there is likely nothing of your original substance left; and this is where Homeopathy gets even more interesting! Continue reading →

Deadly Nightshade .. in Lollipops

Belladonna

Nightshade - The only "active" ingredient

At the chemist today there was a box of lollipops that claimed to be an “All Natural” kids throat relief remedy. I had my suspicions, and they were confirmed: A homeopathic “remedy”. I’ve heard of these lollipops before, but had never noticed them in person. I initially thought someone was taking the piss and they didn’t actually exist.

Unfortunately, they do.

Concerning, is that the implied “active” ingredients list contains 4 times and of these, three items can be demonstrated not be be present in the “remedy”.

The fourth, Belladonna is a different story. The dilution used for Belladonna in this product is 3C, which is not typical of a homeopathic belladonna preparation (usually 30C), as such, Belladonna is the only ingredient listed in this “remedy” that has not gone past Avogadro’s Constant and is thus still present.

Wikipedia describes Avogadro’s Constant here:

In chemistry and physics, the Avogadro constant (symbols: L, NA) is defined as the ratio of the number of constituent particles (usually atoms or molecules) N in a sample to the amount of substance n (unit mole) through the relationship NA = N/n.[1] Thus, it is the proportionality factor that relates the molar mass of an entity, i.e. the mass per amount of substance, to the mass of said entity.[2] The Avogadro constant expresses the number of elementary entities per mole of substance and it has the value 6.02214179(30)×1023 mol-1.[2][3][4]

 Essentially, this means that prepartions of over 12C DO NOT include a SINGLE MOLECULE of the ingredient. Indeed, Homeopaths will agree that this is the case – they contend that water “remembers” what was initially in it, and this “memory” is transferred through shaking the water – Homeopaths call this “succession”.

If this still sound like a “medicine”, then I have a fantastic bottle of homeopathic whiskey for you!

Skeptics in (or from) Australia: Contact your MP

Something has got to give.

I’m asking that we each take 15-30 minutes to put together a quick e-mail about Homoeopathy and send it to our local MPs – You can look up your local MP via the ABC’s “Find Your Local MP” webpage.

I recommend outlining the absurdity of the therapy, as some MPs may not be aware of Homoeopathy or may have been misinformed about what it is, what it contains, or the principles underpinning it.

It would be great time to include the fact that the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has drawn up a draft statement about Homoeopathy stating:

“it is unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy, for the reason that homeopathy – as a medicine or procedure – has been shown not to be efficacious.”

I recommend outlining these key points:

  1. The proposed mechanism is scientifically implausible and unsubstantiated.
  2. The claimed efficacy is not substantiated by any robust study of homoeopathy.
  3. Systematic Reviews of Systematic Reviews of the evidence for Homoeopathy consistently find it is a product with no effect beyond placebo.

You may wish to bring up issues surrounding homoeopathy such as the harm that can be caused by turning a blind eye to non-efficacious treatments for conditions with potentially serious consequences. For instance, ailments like insomnia and snoring can lead to anxiety and depression disorders, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Both of these can be treated with science-based medicine, yet it is common to find Homoeopathic Remedies for them – and now, even in supermarkets where staff are ill-equipped to inform customers as to what Homoeopathy is.

It may be worth pointing out that:

  • “positive” studies for Homoeopathy almost always comes from within the profession and are generally surveys of how people “feel” rather than actual trials of a treatment;
  • it is common for homoeopaths to cite literature in defence of Homoeopathy, however when scrutinized, they are investigations of poor quality or do not support homoeopathic principles at all;
  • these “positive” studies are treated counter to how science-based medicines are scrutinized; instead of being peer-reviewed by professionals who seek to uncover flaws in testing methodology to encourage best-practice, they are generally published in niche pseudo-journals (or books) with little to no professional credibility.

You may also wish to point out the success of the recent world-wide 1023 campaign launched by the Merseyside Skeptics Society to bring attention to Homoeopathy, and the 2010 conclusion by the Science and Technology Committee (From the UK House of Commons) that the evidence provided by homoeopaths did not support their own claims.

If you are open to it, offer your MP the opportunity to contact you for more information. Do not feel you *have* to answer questions you do not know the answer to; if you feel overwhelmed ask your MP to write an e-mail with their concerns so that you may address them appropriately. If needed, get in contact with someone who you think CAN give them the information they are looking for.

You SHOULD include what kind of OUTCOME you would like to see from your MP, this may be by asking your MP to:

  • Raise the issue at a Party Meeting,
  • Raise the issue with the relevant Minister, Shadow Minister or Portfolio Holder,
  • Discuss the issue with their colleagues, or
  • Request a change in party policy.

You may want to urge your MP to Move a Motion in parliament along the lines of:

National Health Care should be a service that provides only science-based treatments; taxpayers should not be required to pay for, or subsidise the costs of unproven or dis-proven therapies.

Who could reasonably argue against that?

You may decide to be specific, perhaps about the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which despite its comprehensive review will continue to accept products for AUST L listing under a flawed self-assessment programme even though – according to the TGA’s own data – 9 out of 10 products  don’t do what they say they can. [this is a lengthy subject]

And lastly, I recommend inviting your local MP to a local Skeptics in the Pub/Cafe/Meet-up/Event where they can engage in discussions regarding critical thinking, education, reason, and science. This can help in strengthening a relationship to work closer in skeptical activism or outreach campaigns in the future.

 

If you have some time after that, check out:
FISHBARREL – The Quick way to report Quacks!

Faith in Sugar Pills

From Kylie Sturgess of The Token Skeptic Podcast, comes this informative video that looks at some of the reasons people may fall for the claims made by homeopathy. She calls for people to use reason and to think critically about why they believe the claims that they do.

As Kylie points out: “There’s more to stopping homeopathy than taking an overdose of little sugar pills.”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8lM8lzhCsg