Figures: “Indeed, it is estimated that the annual global spend on all alternative medicines is in the region of £40 billion, making it the fastest-growing area of medical spending.” (p. 2) [In this case the information (amount spent) does not even support the concluson drawn from it (rate of growth in spending).] Trials: “In fact, a major study in 2006 confirmed numerous previous investigations showing that fears over mercury fillings were groundless.” (p. 265) [This actually appears to have been two separate studies.] Events: “This success was repeated during a cholera epidemic in London in 1854, when patients at the London Homoeopathic Hospital had a survival rate of 84 per cent, compared to just 47 per cent for patients receiving more conventional treatment at the nearby Middlesex Hospital.” (p. 107) Quotations: “ ‘A therapeutic agent cannot be employed with any discrimination or probability of success in a given case, unless its general efficacy, in analogous cases, has been previously ascertained’.” (p. 23) [This is ascribed to Pierre Louis. No support is offered for its basic assumption.] Statements: “These treatments are piled high in every pharmacy, written about in every magazine, discussed on millions of web pages and used by billions of people, yet they are regarded with scepticism by many doctors.” (p.1) [The scale of these figures requires supporting evidence. For example, with a world population of approximately seven billion people, “billions” means more than 28% of people.] Opinions: “Homeopaths would argue that the remedy has some memory of the original ingredient, which somehow influences the body, but this makes no scientific sense.” (p.100) [No justification is offered.] Explanations: “This would involve giving daily doses of a homeopathic remedy to several healthy people and then asking them to keep a detailed diary of any symptoms that might emerge over the course of a few weeks.” (p. 96) [This is actually an inaccurate description of a homeopathic proving.]
The bottom line is that none of the above [alternative] treatments is backed by the sort of evidence that would be considered impressive by the current standards of medical research. (p. 238)
Of around 2500 [commonly used NHS] treatments covered 13% are rated as beneficial, 23% likely to be beneficial, 8% as trade off between benefits and harms, 6% unlikely to be beneficial, 4% likely to be ineffective or harmful, and 46%, the largest proportion, as unknown effectiveness.(2)
The study had no control group, so it was impossible to determine whether these patients would have improved without any homeopathic treatment. (p. 140)Yet they claim that it is possible to determine consequential harm without a control group:
There are numerous reports of patients with serious conditions (e.g. diabetes, cancer, AIDS) suffering harm after following irresponsible advice from alternative practitioners instead of following the advice of a doctor. (p. 186)
‘You can give people this totally accurate (but emotionally laden, and sensationalist) information about water. When you then survey these people, about three quarters of them will willingly sign a petition to ban it.’ (p. 267)
These other therapies have struggled to be accepted by mainstream medicine, partly because their underlying philosophies conflict with our scientific understanding of anatomy, physiology and pathology. (p. 196)
In Chapter 5 the authors again note that “other therapies have struggled to be accepted by mainstream medicine” (p. 196), but in the case of herbal medicine … plants contain a complex cocktail of pharmacologically active chemicals, so it is not surprising that some of them can impact on our wellbeing. Consequently, herbal medicine has been embraced by science to a far greater extent than the other treatments above. (p. 196) They add that “there is general agreement that much of modern pharmacology has evolved out of the herbal tradition” (p. 196). As a result acceptance is now based on understanding rather than being contrasted with it, this understanding being specifically the chemical action recognised by pharmacology.
Finally, in Chapter 6, acceptance becomes dependent on testing according to the procedures used by pharmacology, tests which have been repeatedly called “scientific”. Thus the authors claim that this brings us to an interesting situation: any provably safe and effective alternative medicine is ot really an alternative medicine at all, but rather it becomes a conventional medicine. Therefore, alternative medicine, by definition, seems to consist of treatments that are untested, or unproven, or disproven, or unsafe, or placebos, or only marginally beneficial. (p. 287) However the principles on which these “scientific” tests of pharmacology are based have never been properly explained or scientifically justified. Furthermore, while alternative therapies may not be accepted because they have not been proven effective according to criteria external to those therapies, many common orthodox treatments are accepted whether or not they have been proven effective according to the uthors’ own criteria, since (as we have already pointed out) orthodox medicine includes 64% to 87% of commonly used treatments which have not been proven safe and effective.