Fraudulent practices should be illegal, not supported by tax payers.

19 December, 2007

Like most civilized people, I think, I am not in favour of legalizing fraudulent practices. And when we think of fraudulent practices we tend to think of people being relieved of their savings by unscrupulous and usually unlicensed financial sharks and the like. But there are other kinds of fraud. For instance, what about homeopathy?

I wrote the following about the fraud known as homeopathy in response to a comment from another BadScience forum member, and on the prompting of yet another member I am posting it here.

Many people regard homeopathy as nothing more or less than fraud. It is a means of taking advantage of among others, desperate, vulnerable and gullible people.
Homeopaths say that people report being/feeling better after having used homeopathic preparations, as if that justifies its continued existence. However, the overwhelming evidence is that it works no better than a placebo, which is another way of saying it is self-deception; irrespective of what biological mechanisms that self-deception might trigger. There is not a single incontrovertibly verifiable case of homeopathy ever having cured a non-self-limiting condition, after 200 years of making claims. Any other success that homeopathy might claim for efficacy, which basically involves self-limiting, psychosomatic or non-existent conditions, can be put down to any of a number of more likely causes; not least of which is the self-limiting nature of the condition.
Homeopathy is a multi-million pound industry with very few of the overheads associated with pharmaceutical industry. There are no research costs (because there is no research, or more accurately nothing to research). Manufacturing costs are limited to basically sugar pills and bottled water. There are no active or esoteric ingredients to pay for.
The pharmaceutical industry pays for its own research and has to provide evidence of efficacy and safety before a drug is introduced into the market. It’s a process that can take ten years or more. Homeopathy on the other hand does no research and wants others to put up the money whenever they suggest something should be researched. They do not have to provide evidence of efficacy (there is none), and providing evidence of safety for sugar pills and water is a relatively easy and cheap thing to do.
Homeopaths don’t trust anyone else’s research and reject the idea of randomised, double-blind controlled trials (principally because they always fail them). Yet they want outside funding to conduct their own shoddily run trials, without controls, skewed to give the results they think they should have. The Society of Homeopaths has in the recent past touted what was nothing more than a customer satisfaction survey as incontrovertible evidence as to the efficacy of homeopathy. I could go on.
The SoH, in particular, behave in a manner not inconsistent with being a marketing front for a legalised scam.
Some people think it’s outrageous that a single penny of tax payers’ money should be spent on subsidising what is in effect a fraudulent practice. The question should be – “who thinks it’s ok that fraudulent practices should be supported by public money through the NHS?”
We take a dim view of people being defrauded by financial operators and institutions, yet we allow and actively support the same process when it is carried out by a homeopath.

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