Battling Placebos, Wrong Conclusions

Battling Placebos, Wrong Conclusions

It is remarkable how people see reality through the lenses of their preconceptions. We all do it. I sometimes wonder if confirmation bias is the most common and strongest of the innumerable cognitive biases that plague human cognition. The most important concept I have learned in my time with science-based medicine is how poorly human think and how rarely we recognize it.

Homeopathy is as pure a form of fantasy-based therapy as one could want and whenever there is a careful evaluation of homeopathy there same conclusion is reached: it cannot work and does not work.

You would think that professionals with training in the chemistry, physiology, and pharmacology would know that homeopathy is nonsense. Yet in countries such as France homeopathy is remarkably popular.

Effectiveness of homeopathic medicine associated with allopathic medicine in the outpatient management of influenza-like illnesses or ear, nose, and throat disorders by pharmacists looked at who received homeopathic or real medications and their outcomes. There are numerous issues with the study, but the results are interesting for reasons probably not intended by the authors.

Patients received a variety of either real medications, homeopathic medications or a combination. That 75 pharmacists in 133 pharmacies (in France) would suggest placebo amazes me.  

None of the real interventions had a medication that would have effect on any underling infection;  all were for symptom relief. So while they may make the patient feel temporarily better real medicications should have no effect on the natural history of the underlying process.  Homeopathic treatments are, of course, inert and do nothing.

And outcomes were the same:

After 3 days of treatment, clinical improvement was comparable in both treatment groups. Pharmacists have an important role to play in the effective management of ILI and ENT disorders.

Since homeopathic nostrum contains nothing, to my way of thinking, if anything the study demonstrated that symptomatic treatment had no effect compared with placebo for influenza like illness or ENT problems. Any improvement is likely due to the natural history. Not that

Homeopathic medicine, with or without allopathic medicine, appears to be effective at alleviating the symptoms of ILI or ENT disorders.

Why would the authors suggest such a conclusion? Ah. Funded by Borion, the worlds largest manufacturer of homeopathic products and the authors are Borion employees.

What other conclusion could they have had? Oh, wait, so sorry. Only proponents of science-based medicine are shills for industry.

References

J Manag Care Pharm. 2013 Oct;19(8):631–41. Effectiveness of homeopathic medicine associated with allopathic medicine in the outpatient management of influenza-like illnesses or ear, nose, and throat disorders by pharmacists. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24074009

Homeopathic remedies: perfectly legal, the perfect...
Evil Twins