Homeopathy: Medicine for the 18th Century

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Defending The NHS From Homeopathy

H:MC18 is a website designed to help educate the public and defend their right to a decent NHS that is not undermined by expensive quack treatments.

We support orthodox medicine and its commitment to evidence, efficacy and safety. We single out homeopathy as an excellent example of the opposite, a treatment unsupported by evidence and essentially unchanged since the 18th century.

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is based on the principle that "like cures like" - a dubious notion to start with - and that unbelievably dilute solutions of active ingredients magically become more effective as they are diluted further. Typical homeopathic remedies are so dilute that they contain not a single molecule of the original substance.

Homeopaths will advance theories such as "water memory" to explain this, but these are jumping the gun. Before attempting to explain an effect, you should first establish that there is an effect to explain. Theories explain evidence; they are not a substitute for it.

You Call This Science?

Medical science is an interesting field, especially since many ailments get better on their own with no medical intervention. It is therefore very important to determine whether, after a successful treatment, the outcome really was down to the treatment, or to that natural tendency to get better. To do this, medical scientists use clinical trials on large numbers of patients. The larger the group, the better.

To monitor the progress of untreated patients, a control group is also used. They are taken through the same handling as the treated group - they get pills too, but inactive ones - to eliminate any chance that it's something else other than the treatment that is affecting the treated group.

In most cases, if there's no significant difference, then we mark the treatment as ineffective, publish our negative results, and move on.

But for "alternative" medicines such as homeopathy, even after repeated negative trials, the ball keeps right on rolling. Any conventional drug regime would have been tossed out as useless decades ago, but homeopathy keeps on, like an unsinkable rubber duck. That's not science. That's blind faith.


The NHS is cash-strapped. Legitimate treatments are being rationed. And yet a vociferous lobby want us to waste our hard-earned taxes on treatments that have failed, repeatedly, for over 200 years, in the name of patient choice.

Quackery Worked For Me!

There is a counter-campaign to gather declarations from patients in support of their "right" to choose to spend scarce NHS money on worthless homeopathic treatment. Unfortunately, in the real world, declarations from patients mean little.

The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data. Medicine is not a popularity contest.

If it was, then leeches would still be in widespread use, vaccinations really would cause autism, phone masts would make everyone sick, and homeopathy would actually work. Popular notions may be true, they may not. That's why we support gathering high-quality evidence on medical treatment.