Monday, 1 November 2010
It's easy to compose a response to most homeopathy adverts.
All that's needed is to click on some random past complaint, choose a paragraph or two, and type CTRL+C CTRL+V.
Helios Homoeopathy specialise in placebo sugar pills. They sell the expensive sweets to unsuspecting idiots from their "pharmacy" in Covent Garden.
Helios Homoeopathy's advert (available here) boldly claims that
"...the healing qualities of homoeopathy are equally effective in the treatment of all creatures great and small, both domestic and wild? ...Animals respond well to homoeopathy and prescribing for minor ailments and injuries is straightforward... With the expertise of a qualified homoeopathic vet, homoeopathy can often bring results where conventional medicine has failed, even if the most difficult cases."
The claims would be funny if they weren't so dangerously misleading. ASA complaint follows.
"I write to complain about an advert appearing in "Health and Homeopathy" magazine, September 2010 issue, back page. The magazine was mailed to me last week by the British Homeopathy Association as part of a promotional pack.
The advert, for Helios Homoeopathy, promotes homeopathic products for the treatment of animals.
I suspect that the advert may be in breach of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code). I can provide the original advert by post, if necessary.
1. (i) I am unaware of any rigorous RCT that has ever demonstrated the efficacy of homeopathy in either humans or animals.
(ii) A 2005 meta-analysis published in the Lancet  discussed the quality of the available research:
"110 homoeopathy trials and 110 matched conventional-medicine trials were analysed...21 homoeopathy trials (19%) and nine (8%) conventional-medicine trials were of higher quality. In both groups, smaller trials and those of lower quality showed more beneficial treatment effects than larger and higher-quality trials..."
(iii) The meta-analysis concluded:
"Biases are present in placebo-controlled trials of both homoeopathy and conventional medicine. When account was taken for these biases in the analysis, there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects."
(iv) In response to this meta-analysis, "the Lancet ran an editorial entitled 'The End of Homeopathy' in which they argued that 'doctors need to be bold and honest with their patients about homeopathy's lack of benefit'". 
(v) Earlier meta-analyses such as the 2002 study by Ernst  reached comparable conclusions.
(vi) Rigorous clinical trials of homeopathy in animals have likewise shown no effect beyond placebo  .
2. Under Section 3.1, I challenge whether the following claim misleadingly implies that homeopathy is of proven efficacy:
(i) "We all know the benefits that Homoeopathy can bring to people throughout every stage of their lives..."
3. Under Section 12.1, I challenge whether the advertisers can substantiate any of the following claims:
(i) "...did you know that the natural healing qualities of homoeopathy are equally effective in the treatment of all creatures great and small, both domestic and wild?"
(ii) "Animals respond well to homoeopathy..."
(iii) "...and prescribing [homeopathy] for minor ailments and injuries is straightforward..."
(iv) "With the expertise of a qualified homoeopathic vet, homoeopathy can often bring results where conventional medicine has failed, even in the most difficult cases."
4. I confirm I have no connections with the advertiser. I confirm I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser.
 Shang, A et al., "Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy", Lancet 2005; 366:726-32
 Singh, Ernst, "Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial", First American Edition 2008, p137
 Ernst, E., "A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy', Br J Clin Pharmacol 2002; 54:577-82.
 de Verdier K, Ohagen P, Alenius S. No Effect of a Homeopathic Preparation on Neonatal Calf Diarrhoea in a Randomised Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Acta Vet Scand. 2003; 44(2): 97–101. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1831551/
 Holmes MA, Cockcroft PD, Booth CE, Heath MF. Controlled clinical trial of the effect of a homoeopathic nosode on the somatic cell counts in the milk of clinically normal dairy cows. Vet Rec. 2005 Apr 30;156(18):565-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15866899