Twenty-five hospitals from London and southern and eastern England have already either stopped sending any patients to the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital or agreed to fund only a handful A campaign has started o save it, but the arguments are far from convincing.
This is reposted from the original IMPROBABLE SCIENCE page
The news is out. It was in February this year when I first saw some “Commissioning Intentions 2007-08” documents from several London NHS Primary Care Trusts (PCT), indicating their intention to break their contracts with the RLHH on the very reasonable grounds that homeopathy doesn’t work. It seemed better to wait for the intentions to be implemented before saying much, because of the inevitable outcry from those who want sugar pills at the taxpayers’ expense.
On 8 April 2007, The Observer carried a special report, prominently featured on page 3.
Fisher and Queen,
Observer 8 April 2007
Peter Fisher, clinical director of the RLHH, is quoted as saying
“Twenty-five hospitals from London and southern and eastern England have already either stopped sending any patients to the RLHH or agreed to fund only a handful.”
“Prince Charles is sympathetic, supportive and concerned. But he doesn’t feel it’s appropriate to intervene in any way because there’s been some adverse publicity before about him ‘meddling’. ”
Fisher attributes this to the letter sent to PCTs by 13 of us, last May, in which we advocated that the NHS should not be paying for “unproven or disproved treatments”. The leading signatory on this letter, Professor Michael Baum, is quoted in the Observer thus.
“If the Royal London were to close because of PCT deficits we would scarcely miss it”.
“Homeopathy is no better than witchcraft. It’s no better than a placebo effect. It’s patronising and insulting for adults.”
“Instead you could have a centre for palliative and supportive care, which would be of greater benefit and involve half the cost. Rather than losing something, we would gain something.”
|ROYAL LONDON HOMEOPATHIC HOSPITAL UNDER SIEGE
“Death by stealth. The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (RLHH) – the visible presence of homeopathy within Britain’s NHS – an institution putting homeopathy in the public mind for the last 150 years – the place where homeopathy was seen to perform so well in the cholera epidemic of the 1840s – is being dealt a DEATH BLOW”
I’d guess the very first sentence must be something of an embarrassment to the RLHH’s clinical director, who is far too sensible to believe that cholera can be cured by homeopathic sugar pills.
The red herring about cholera is repeated ad nauseam on hundreds of homeopathy sites (though most are curiously silent about whether they really believe that sugar pills can cure cholera). It is based on the report that during the London Cholera epidemic of 1854, of the 61 cases of cholera treated at the London Homeopathic Hospital, 10 died (16.4%), whereas the neighbouring Middlesex Hospital reported 123 deaths out of 231 cases of cholera (53.2%). Apart from the lack of any knowledge of the state of the patients on entry to hospital, it was also the case at the time that conventional medicine was no more based on evidence than homeopathy. Indeed the initial popularity of homeopathy could well have resulted not only from wishful thinking, but also because doing nothing at all (i.e. homeopathy) was less harmful than blood letting. The fallacy of the argument was spotted very early on by Oliver Wendell Holmes (senior) in his famous essay, Homeopathy and its Kindred Delusions.
But medicine moved on and homeopathy didn’t. The history of cholera, like that of tuberculosis, contrary to what is suggested by homeopaths, is a triumph for evidence based medicine. The epidemic was halted not by homeopaths but by the careful observations of John Snow that led to his removing the handle of the Broad Street pump. If medicine had been left to homeopaths, people would still be dying of these diseases.
Carol Boyce invites you to write directly to Queen Elizabeth II, to save the RLHH. She has also started an e-petition on the UK government site. The petition includes the words
|ROYAL LONDON HOMEOPATHIC HOSPITAL UNDER SIEGE
“The RLHH has been part of the Health Service for 150 years. ”
“In 2005, 67% of GPs and 85% of practices in it’s [sic] Primary Care Trust, referred patients to the hospital. The hospital provides effective and most importantly, COST-EFFECTIVE treatments.”
Ms Boyce seems not to have noticed that the Prince of Wales’ own Smallwood report decided that there was not enough evidence to come to firm conclusions about cost-effectiveness.
“The Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital needs your support
By Dr. Peter Fisher, Homeopath to Her Majesty, the Queen.
There is no silly talk about cholera here, but there is a useful list of Trusts who have decided to abandon "unproven and disproved treatments". Fisher recommends you to read Marcia Angell’s book to learn about the deficiencies of the drug industry. I recommend that too. I also recommend Dan Hurley’s book on the even greater deficiencies of the quackery industry.
Fisher suggests you write to your MP to prevent closure of the RLHH.
I suggest you write to your MP to support closure of the RLHH.
BBC’s Panorama programme broadcast the content of secret emails. They show that GSK was aware of evidence the Seroxat increased risk of suicide in young patients, and suppressed it. They also showed that Prof Martin Keller’s paper on the topic was ghost-written by a PR firm working for GSK.
Moved to this blog from the old IMPROBABLE SCIENCE page: see Universities Inc
Dr Gleason, a Maryland psychiatrist was led away in handcuffs after taking $100 000 from a drug company. His activities in promoting â€˜off-labelâ€™ uses for their drug are, of course, entirely unrelated to the money he received.
Read full entry on the original IMPROBABLE SCIENCE page.
Boots the Chemists (now Alliance Boots) is a very big business in the UK. There have 1,450 pharmacies in the UK and employ over 100,000 people.
I posted the item below a while ago, on the old Improbable Science page. I thought it deserved a bit more publicity, for the following reason. The quackometer has posted about Boots too,
I mentioned it during the debate with Felicity Lee at the British Pharmaceutical Conference (2007) (Ben Goldacre’s interview with Felicity Lee is a gem). After the talk I was approached by two heavies. Well, two men in dark suits anyway. It turned out that one was from Boots and the other from Alliance Pharmacies, now merged to form Boots Alliance. They seemed rather bothered by the fact that I’d criticised Boots, but were not entirely unreasonable. They claimed to be on the scientific side and said they’d investigate the matter. I wrote to the Boots man on 10 September, but got no reply, After a reminder on 29 October, I got this.
Thank you for your email and reminder. We have investigated the points you raised in your blog. I was informed that it was an old leaflet and has not been reprinted (to my knowledge). However on a point of principle, I have raised the wider issue of clinical validity in my department. This will take its course through to the commercial/buying team.
Thank you for pointing this out. I’ve had a quick look and it is an educational website looking at all aspects of medicine and therapy, including alternative medicine. It is not a direct sales message to the public. I hope this helps
Corporate Social Responsibility
Boots web site makes a big point about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
As you may have noticed, that’s the tagline which in 2005 we adopted as the sign-off to all our advertising. But it’s much more than just a slogan. It’s a concise statement of our entire corporate strategy. Our aim is to make Boots the world’s best health and beauty retailer, and we’re 100% clear that the unique trust in which we are held provides the key to achieving this. Which means, of course, that those two words are also the rationale for all our CSR activities. Everything we do that builds trust is good for our business; anything which could compromise it, a risk we can’t afford to take.”
Trust Boots to provide straight answers.
At one time. Boots were sufficiently ethical not to deal in homeopathy. But no longer.
When Boots were asked about their ‘Alternatives Hayfever Relief Tablets’, the answer came, after some delay, “This is a homeopathic product, further information on homeopathic products is available from the Nelson company who make this
particular product for Boots. ” This company has been making homeopathic products for many years and
may well be able to help you further. You may also find general
information about homeopathic medicines in reference books in the public
library”. The email address that they gave me for Nelson’s did not work, and writing to another Nelson’s address produced no reply at all. Clearly any letter that contains the word “evidence” arouses suspicion and is simply deflected.
Dangerous advice from Boots: a small sting.
I have been into several Boots stores, sought out the most senior pharmacist that I can find, and asked them the following question. “I have a 5 year old son who has had diarrhoea for three days now. Please can you recommend a natural remedy”. The response was interesting. In every case but one, the pharmacist reached for a copy of the Boots pamphlet on homeopathy, and thumbed through it, while desperately, but unsuccessfuly, trying to retain an air of professional authority. Then one or another homeopathic treatment from the booklet was recommended. In only one case out of six did the pharmacist even mention the right answer (GP and rehydration). One pharmacist, who turned out to have qualified in Germany, was very insistent that homeopathic treatment was inappropriate and that I should should start rehydration and take the child to the GP. The other five, including one who had an impressive-looking badge saying “consultant pharmacist”, did not even mention rehydration.
Conclusion The education of the pharmacists was clearly insufficient for them to give reliable advice. On the contrary, their advice was downright dangerous.
Miseducation by Boots the chemists
|Boots also run an “educational” web site for children, the ‘Boots learning store’. Click on the section for ‘pupils’, and then ’16+’ and you find their education about alternative medicine (do their pharmacists do this course, I wonder?). The slide show that follows is an insult to human intelligence,
Then follows a totally misleading slide about enzymes.
There is nothing wrong with the enzyme bit, but the analogy with homeopathy is baseless and misleading. Enzymes don’t work when there are no molecules present.
But in the next slide, enzymes and catalysts are forgotten anyway, This is how it works.
This meaningless mediaeval gobbledygook about ‘vital forces’ is being peddled as ‘education’ by the biggest retail pharmacy chain in the UK. What hope is there for kids?
But there is more. Now for the exam. If you click on the ‘teacher’ section you can download the students’ notes and the test. The ‘Student Notes’ include the following direct claim that homeopathy can cure diseases.
Now take the test, Here is question 1, and the answer.
I suppose that if the educators at Boots classify Hahnemann’s provings as a ‘clinical trial’ it goes a long way to explain the quality of their learning store, and the quality of the advice given by their pharmacists.
Boots Alternatives also sells a “snoring remedy”
The evidence for effectiveness of this herbal product is very dodgy, as described here earlier. This was an interesting saga that involved bad statistics, inappropriate controls and concealed financial interests. It eventually appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme, You and Yours.
Postcript: “Nurses and pharmacists are to be given greater powers to prescribe drugs”
The foregoing history does not give one much confidence in the government’s latest money-saving wheeze. [BBC]
“The latest measures mean nurses and pharmacists will be able to prescribe treatments for more serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes – traditionally the domain of GPs.
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said: “Nurse and pharmacist independent prescribing is a huge step forward in improving patient accessibility to medicines from highly skilled and well trained staff.”
And Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Dr Keith Ridge added: “For pharmacists, this is the dawn of a new era. It will help transform the public’s perception of pharmacy and the services they deliver to patients.”
This item was first posted on the original IMPROBABLE SCIENCE page.
Here is a link to a fascinating collection of essays that discuss “disease mongering”.
Read full entry on the original IMPROBABLE SCIENCE page.
In the discussion of magnets on the Badscience site, a Michael King says that 4ulcercare will be included in Part IX of the Drug Tariff because it meets the criteria of the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA)
I presume this Michael King is Director of Planning and Corporate Affairs at the PPA, though he does not say so.
Michael King says
?There is no judgement offered about whether a product in the Drug Tariff
is more (or less) efficacious than any other, or the placebo effect.?
The criteria for inclusion in
Part IX of the Drug Tariff () include, in section 10 iii, ?They are cost
Will he please explain how a device can be cost-effective, if it is ineffective (relative to placebo)?
What the PPA says
Michael King has replied to my question by email (1 Mar 2006). He says
“The cost-effectiveness threshold for inclusion in the Drug Tariff is met if the ‘effectiveness’ of the device, as seen in data submitted by the manufacturer in support of the application, exceeds its cost to the NHS. ”
Sadly this is still ambiguous. It seems to suggest that that whatever data
are submitted by the manufacturer are taken at face value, without any attempt
to evaluate their quality. So I phoned King to ask if this was the case. He
was helpful, but he said that it was not the case. He told me that
the data were subject
to some sort of low level evaluation, short of the sort of evaluation that
NICE would do. This seems to contradict his earlier statement (above) that
inclusion in the Tariff implies no judgement about whether a device is better
than a placebo.
King said also that listing in the Tariff
“. . . is not a licensing decision nor a recommendation akin to the outcome of a NICE review”
The problem is, of course, that listing is seen as a recommendation by the public, by the Daily
Mail, and certainly by the manufacturer.
One thing, at least, is clear in this case. Whatever evaluation was done,
it was done very badly. But in order to try to find out exactly what evaluation
was done, and by whom, I’m having to resort to the Freedom of Information Act.
Watch this space.
What NICE says
Fraser Woodward (Communications Manager, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)) writes as follows.
“The test of “cost effectiveness” applied by the PPA when determining whether or not a device should go on the tariff is very different to the way cost effectiviness is assessed by NICE”
That is pretty obvious, but how is the public meant to know that, when they hear that the NHS has declared a treatment to be ‘cost-effective’, that statement can mean two entirely different things according to which part of the bureaucracy the statement comes from?