They asked for it: what I think about homeopathy

Now that the Advertising Standards Agency has come down hard(ish) on advertising for homeopathy, the homeopaths have apparently decided to throw out an olive branch to the ASA by opening a survey to listen to the public’s views on homeopathy and its marketing. It is here, and as it’s only a short survey I recommending filling it in.

I’ve already completed it, and have decided to share my answers below. (If you want to complete the survey without being corrupted by my pro-evidence views, please don’t read on until you’ve finished.) Here is the full survey with my answers. (In multiple choice questions my answer is in capitals, comments to my survey answers are in italics.)

Homeopathic Regulation

Information about Homeopathy

Homeopathy as a profession is under attack from groups such as Sense about Science and groups such as the Nightingale Collaboration. This Research will gauge public opinion as to the amount of information that the public and prospective patients wish to be able to access from professionally Qualified Practitioners only.

1. Do you know what Homeopathy is?
YES / Sort of / No
I know what homeopathy is largely through reading the excellent book Trick or Treatment?. One of its co-authors is a trained homeopath (though no longer practising).

2. If you had a health concern, would you consider supplementing conventional medicine with alternative medicine such as Homeopathy?
Yes / NO

3. Have you ever taken a Homeopathic Remedy?
Yes / NO

4. Qualified Homeopaths are no longer permitted to explain how Homeopathy works or offer any evidence on their websites because of a ruling by the Advertising Standards Agency.
Do you think Homeopaths should be allowed to explain how Homeopathy works?

No / YES
Please comment on your answer:
They should be allowed to explain that homeopathy, like a consultation with a doctor with good bedside manner, may reduce experienced symptoms for a patient through the placebo effect. When they say this, they should also explain that the sort of rigorous clinical trials that are required for “conventional” drugs do NOT show that homeopathy “works” in any way beyond the placebo effect. They should also explain that taking a clinically proven treatment will provide the placebo effect *in addition to* that treatment’s physiological effect on the condition treated.

5. Qualified Homeopaths are no longer allowed to state which medical conditions they treat.
If you visited a Homeopaths website, would you find it useful or not useful to know which conditions they can treat?

Please comment on your answer:
It would be misleading to the public for a homeopath’s website to claim that homeopathy can “treat” diseases, as there is no scientific evidence for homeopathy’s effectiveness beyond placebo. The public would never accept Big Pharma selling a drug that was inert, so why should they accept homeopaths selling water?

6. Qualified Homeopaths are no longer allowed to give testimonials from genuine patients if those patients want to state that their health has improved as a result of homeopathy.

(Testimonials means comments only from verifiable, genuine patients)

Do you think testimonials giving details of improvement from genuine patients should be not allowed or allowed?
Other (please specify):
I think testimonials will always be a misleading form of advertising for medical treatments. So not only homeopaths but all other drug manufacturers should be banned from using testimonials (and pseudo-scientific surveys) in marketing.

7. Why do you think Homeopaths are being treated in this way?
Because they are making claims of medical efficacy that are not backed up by proper evidence. The ASA is meant to protect people against misselling.

End of survey.

What else is there to say? Like most polls and surveys, the questions are of course worded to give maximum sympathy for the surveyor’s (i.e. homeopaths’) point of view. But I’m sure my esteemed readers can filter out the effects of such wording. Please take the survey yourself.

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4 Responses to They asked for it: what I think about homeopathy

  1. Simon W says:

    I was very uneasy about responding to this, because while I wanted to put “Yes” with a comment to some questions, as you did above, I felt that this would be used statistically to show another person sympathetic to their point of view, with the comments ignored. Eventually I managed to find a sufficiently pedantic way to honestly answer “no” to each with comments 🙂

    • Niklas Smith says:

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

      I’m not too worried about them using “Yes” answers to make nice pie charts. After all, no one can claim that this is a rigorous random-sampled poll. (Except homeopaths I suppose! But then no-one will believe them if they say a Surveymonkey survey is nationally representative.)

  2. A Salahudeen says:

    Measuring the quantity of water in a sea using a teaspoon: this is what testing the efficasy of homoeopathy with existing science & technology. Critics, please allow & wait for science, which is still at nano tech(10 ^-9) to grow up to the level of the science of homeopathy which is far above, (< 10^-30). But that may not happen in our time, so if u want to enjoy the medicine, go for it. thats all. a salahudeen B.Tech(Elect. & Commn)

    • Simon says:

      Science doesn’t have to understand *how* something works to establish that it *does* work. Just do some high-quality double-blind trials of homeopathic remedy vs placebo, and if it works, people might start to believe the empirical evidence…

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