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The 10:23 Campaign - Get involved and combat homeopathy!
Posted: 10 January 2010 07:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Peter Harrison - 10 January 2010 07:12 AM

Stephen,

Boots are telling us skeptics that they are aware that homeopathy is nonsense. But in the stores, the customers are reading the labels on these products which lists ingredients that aren’t really in there. The other problem is a lot more serious that I think you understand. The big bike chains are making a lot of money from the crap bikes. And why shouldn’t they? They are a business and they aim to make good profits. Boots are a business too. I see what you are saying. However, you buy a bike for all sorts of different reasons. You only buy medicine for one reason. People don’t buy homeopathic remedies for fun. Customers only spend money on medicine if they (or a loved one, friend etc) are ill. When Boots sells homeopathic remedies to people, they are choosing sugar pills and pure water over real medicine. Homeopathy kills. There have plenty of stories of people taking homeopathic remedies instead of real medicine and dying.

For example: http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,27574,25594646-5006009,00.html

This movement by trusted pharmacies also has negative effects on the public perception of science, skepticism and critical thinking. Scientists are saying the stuff doesn’t work. Boots says it does. “Trust Boots” is their slogan! People really think that if it did nothing, it wouldn’t be sold by such a big brand, and by so many others. Therefore the conclusion is that scientists don’t know what they are talking about. They are also moaning about homeopathy, and climate change, and evolution, but they must not know what they are talking about.

Honestly, I’ve heard this type of argument plenty of times.

I agree that a bad bike could of course be dangerous. But the really big stores, wanting to protect themselves, would make sure the bikes are safe enough… they just aren’t very good. They are cheaper to make and easier to sell. But the situation with homeopathy is completely different. Having a medical condition that requires some treatment, and using homeopathy to cure it (e.g. sugar pills), is like requiring a medicine and purchasing a bike instead.

I think you may well be right really Peter, just thought it was worth putting the other point of view.

Stephen

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Posted: 10 January 2010 07:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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It was and I hear you. smile

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Posted: 10 January 2010 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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I find the whole thrust of this thread to be oppressive and anti democratic. I have just been reading another thread on the forum about Freedom of Belief and it seems to me that the attitude that drives this thread is exactly the kind of attitude that the Freedom of Belief thread is concerned about. For me there is something worryingly religious and fundamentalist about trying to stop people living their lives the way they chose to live it.

I don’t believe homeopathy is a science and there is no evidence that it works.

However I would never ever try to prevent the sale of homeopathy products or try to prevent people from believing that they work.  I would oppose vehemently anyone who tries to do so. Boots are a commercial company and as such as completely free to sell products that homeopathy believers want to buy. This is a basic democratic freedom that any respectable democrat MUST not only support but actively support and in my own personal humble opinion people who are trying to stop them are deeply misguided and as dangerous to our society as any fundamentalist religion that tries to stop us buying books or viewing films that they do not agree with.

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Posted: 10 January 2010 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I don’t agree with UFOlogy nuts. And I don’t agree with Boots selling homeopathy products. But I’m not trying to stop anyone selling books about UFOs visiting the Earth. It’s not about stopping people buying things I don’t agree with. It’s about the fact that only ill people need medicine. Those ill people that choose a fake medicine, aren’t getting the treatment that they really need. This kills. If it was harmless, I wouldn’t care.

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Posted: 10 January 2010 11:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Peter Harrison - 10 January 2010 11:35 AM

I don’t agree with UFOlogy nuts. And I don’t agree with Boots selling homeopathy products. But I’m not trying to stop anyone selling books about UFOs visiting the Earth. It’s not about stopping people buying things I don’t agree with. It’s about the fact that only ill people need medicine. Those ill people that choose a fake medicine, aren’t getting the treatment that they really need. This kills. If it was harmless, I wouldn’t care.

Peter, firstly I quote from your letter “We call upon Boots to withdraw all homeopathic products from your shelves. You should not be involved in the sale of ineffective products, because your customers trust you to do what is right for their health.” and “Please do the right thing, and remove this bogus therapy from your shelves.”

By urging a large number of people to do the same you are trying to stop Boots from selling these products. You say above “.. it’s not about stopping people buying things I don’t agree with” ... Yet how can people buy the products if people like you try to stop people selling them ? I find your response bordering on the disingenuous…

You talk about products causing harm. That is fine.  If you have evidence that a product causes harm there are many varied things you can do to being this to the attention of the authorities and they will be removed from the shelf.

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Posted: 10 January 2010 11:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Lots of misunderstanding.

Firstly, it isn’t my letter. I started this thread to let others know about it.

Secondly, when I said “it’s not about stopping people buying things I don’t agree with”, I’m not meaning we aren’t wanting Boots to stop selling them. What I’m saying is that it isn’t about not agreeing with them. There are loads of things I don’t agree with. I don’t agree with religion, but I’m not going to burn churches. As I said, I don’t agree with countless authors peddling UFOlogy books to the public, but I’m not stopping them either. If you read the part you quoted again, you should see it’s not the disagreeing that is making me agree that stopping them is good. We can’t have that mentality. If we did, then it’s fair for creationists to remove evolution from school since they don’t agree with it. It’s not about approving or disapproving of homeopathy. It’s about the harm.

You talk about the products causing harm themselves. This has happened in a few cases with really poor quality products where the homeopaths have accidentally left active ingredients in the product (they accidentally sold real drugs, instead of the pure water that they intended to sell). But that isn’t the problem here. I personally find it unlikely that a company like Boots would select homeopathy products that caused harm in such a way. They will be tested. If it was that kind of harm, yes the authorities would remove the products. First example that comes to mind, this is the kind of harm we’re talking about:

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/baby-glorias-parents-guilty-of-her-death/story-e6freuy9-1225723856950

There was never a doubt that baby Gloria Thomas was loved and wanted by her parents.

But the dogged persistence of homeopath Thomas Sam and his wife Manju in treating their daughter’s severe eczema with alternative remedies instead of conventional medicine cost the nine-month-old her life, a jury decided yesterday.

The Indian-born couple were found guilty in the Supreme Court of Gloria’s manslaughter by failing to get her proper medical help in the days before her death in May 2002.

Thomas Sam hugged and comforted his wife, who broke down in tears after the verdict was announced, while his brother wailed outside the court.

The Earlwood couple now face a possible maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Arguing against bail, Crown Prosecutor Mark Tedeschi, QC, said custodial sentences would be “inevitable” for both parents but in Mr Sam’s case the term was likely to be “substantial”.

His counsel Carolyn Davenport, SC, argued there was a wide sentencing range for manslaughter and the offence was at the “bottom end”.

“This isn’t a neglect case where the child was unloved and unwanted,” she said. “It’s a case where my client was doing his best in his perception of things to take care of his child.”

During the four-week trial, the jury heard from 34 witnesses and viewed photographs charting Gloria’s decline in health from the age of four months, when she first developed eczema.

At six months, Gloria’s rash was so bad that her skin would weep and tear, letting infections into her bloodstream.

When she was finally taken to hospital three days before she died, she was malnourished - despite being properly fed - and her immune system was depleted because her body was using nutrients from food to fight infections.

Justice Peter Johnson released the couple on strict conditional bail and a combined $50,000 surety before they are sentenced next month.

People buy homeopathy products when they are ill. When people are ill, they usually need real medicine. They are stocking and promoting what is essentially an alternative to real medicine. It would be easier if homeopathic remedies were real drugs and they were found to be dangerous ones, then they could get taken off the shelf nice and easily. Sadly, homeopathy kills only indirectly, so there’s not much that can be done about it.

Please understand that I don’t suggest stopping homeopaths selling their crap. Homeopaths can peddle their nonsense just as creationists or UFOlogists or psychics will. But a real pharmacy that is trusted to provide real medicine for people with illnesses shouldn’t be selling something that doesn’t work as an alternative to medicines that do work.

[ Edited: 10 January 2010 12:00 PM by Peter Harrison ]
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Posted: 10 January 2010 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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However I would never ever try to prevent the sale of homeopathy products or try to prevent people from believing that they work.  I would oppose vehemently anyone who tries to do so. Boots are a commercial company and as such as completely free to sell products that homeopathy believers want to buy. This is a basic democratic freedom that any respectable democrat MUST not only support but actively support and in my own personal humble opinion people who are trying to stop them are deeply misguided and as dangerous to our society as any fundamentalist religion that tries to stop us buying books or viewing films that they do not agree with.

scepticeye,

While I generally agree with Peter here, I would challenge your statement above in a different way. First, I think there is a significant difference between the influence people try to exert through public education and their power as consumers and the influence experted by government. There is nothing undemocratic or dangerous to freedom in members of the public telling a company “I don’t like you selling X and if you do so I will shop elsewhere.” I think that kind of action is in fact a fundamental check on the power of industry that makes a free society and a competitive marketplace better. Passing a law against homeopathy would require a much tougher standard showing harm, and it rightly should since the coercive power of government is in a different category than the “grass-roots” boycott or letter-writing campaign. In fact, the success of the later can obviate the need for the former.

Which raises the question of what you would consider a legitimate reason to restrict a company from selling a product, either through consumer pressure or government action, which is a question more about politics than alterative medicine. Do you support an extreme libertarian version of caveat emptor that would allow the sale of anything whatsoever with no restrictions on claims made or potential harm? Can a retailor lie outright and sell poisons claimed to be medicine? Or would you take a more moderate position that direct harm and intentional fraud is prohibited (by law?), but indirect harm is ok? Selling what amounts to fake medicine with the disclaimer that the company makes no guarantess about it seems ethicallly dubious to me, but presumably the middle ground is to permit such abuse of the public in exchange for allowing greater freedom.

There are lots of nuances and various positions one can take on these matters, but I don’t think the position you appear to advocate above is really defensible. I agree these porducts cause harm mostly indirectly, by delaying appropriate diagnosis and treatment, so I would not support a legal ban on them as long as no false claims about them are made. But I don’t see anything inapppropriate about consumers telling a company that they are making money off passive, if not active, fraud and that those of us who object are likely to take our business elsewhere and encourage others to do so. That seems a necessary feature of our own freedom of choice.

And I don’t see anything wrong with trying to convince people, through civil and rational argument, that what they think is medicine really isn’t. In fact, I would ask if you really believe this is true, how can you justify not trying to help other people see it? We’re not talking about coercion here, simply giving people information that quite likely will benefit their health. Granted, one has to be careful to avoid browbeating and arrogance, and their is rarely anything helpful in arguing at length with people firmly committed to their position. I don’t argue religion with the little old lady on the plane next to me, I just smile and chage the subject. Likewise, I don’t berate people for holding ideas I happen to believe are mistaken, even possibly harmful to them, about medicine. But offering an opinion and information that might “prevent them from believing” something that is false doesn’t seem so wrong.

[ Edited: 10 January 2010 12:25 PM by mckenzievmd ]
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Posted: 10 January 2010 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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mckenzievmd - 10 January 2010 12:18 PM

While I generally agree with Peter here, I would challenge your statement above in a different way. First, I think there is a significant difference between the influence people try to exert through public education and their power as consumers and the influence experted by government. There is nothing undemocratic or dangerous to freedom in members of the public telling a company “I don’t like you selling X and if you do so I will shop elsewhere.” I think that kind of action is in fact a fundamental check on the power of industry that makes a free society and a competitive marketplace better. Passing a law against homeopathy would require a much tougher standard showing harm, and it rightly should since the coercive power of government is in a different category than the “grass-roots” boycott or letter-writing campaign. In fact, the success of the later can obviate the need for the former.

While there is reason in your argument I would suggest that you are indeed wrong. Getting together with others to try to educate people and persuade them not to buy a certain product is a perfectly legitimate action. Doing so to try to prevent a business from selling a legal product is completely anti democratic and oppressive and if I were to live in the USA I would say it is unAmerican.

Which raises the question of what you would consider a legitimate reason to restrict a company from selling a product, either through consumer pressure or government action, which is a question more about politics than alterative medicine. Do you support an extreme libertarian version of caveat emptor that would allow the sale of anything whatsoever with no restrictions on claims made or potential harm? Can a retailor lie outright and sell poisons claimed to be medicine? Or would you take a more moderate position that direct harm and intentional fraud is prohibited (by law?), but indirect harm is ok? Selling what amounts to fake medicine with the disclaimer that the company makes no guarantess about it seems ethicallly dubious to me, but presumably the middle ground is to permit such abuse of the public in exchange for allowing greater freedom.

This is a very flawed line of thought in my opinion.  If we start preventing businesses and organisations from selling products that science says do not work then we would have to ban religions as well as all alternative medicines. I don’t believe that a democracy should be in the business of telling people what to believe and if they believe in Homeopathy then what grounds do you have to prevent businesses from supplying these products ? This is classic Nanny Statism if I can coin a term wink
Some people believe in copper bracelets for arthritis.  Are you saying we should ban shops from selling bracelets for arthritis ? I find this a mind boggling level of interference with business and customers. Boots sell these products with a clear statement on their effectiveness so there is no grounds for your hyperbole about lying and extreme libertarianism. Customers are well aware of the difference between alternative medicine and scientific medicine. There is no need for a big brother looking over the shoulder of our people telling them what they can or cannot do as long as they are transparent in their dealings. Boots is clearly transparent in it’s dealings with the public and the public know exactly what is going on. I see no evidence otherwise.

There are lots of nuances and various positions one can take on these matters, but I don’t think the position you appear to advocate above is really defensible. I agree these porducts cause harm mostly indirectly, by delaying appropriate diagnosis and treatment, so I would not support a legal ban on them as long as no false claims about them are made. But I don’t see anything inapppropriate about consumers telling a company that they are making money off passive, if not active, fraud and that those of us who object are likely to take our business elsewhere and encourage others to do so. That seems a necessary feature of our own freedom of choice.

Your position is the one that is totally indefensible.

What on earths is this ‘indirect’ harm you are talking about ? delaying diagnosis ? nothing personal but this is absolute nonsense. This argument can be applied to any over the counter ‘real’ medicine equally. If people buy paracetamol for pain they could be delaying a diagnosis of cancer or goodness knows what other ailment. If people buy DIY repair kits for their car or fridge or plumbing or radio sets they could be ignoring more serious problems.  Where do we stop interfering with people’s ability to live their lives ? I find this scenario a chilling and frightening one.

Your accusation of fraud strains my level of irritation ... it really does, and in a forum of sceptics I find it unsustainable. Boots and other businesses make no medical claims and most make it clear that they are doing so. Ordinary people are far more capable than the helpless incompetent beings you paint them out to be.

And I don’t see anything wrong with trying to convince people, through civil and rational argument, that what they think is medicine really isn’t. In fact, I would ask if you really believe this is true, how can you justify not trying to help other people see it? We’re not talking about coercion here, simply giving people information that quite likely will benefit their health.

I am sorry to say here that you are completely and 100% wrong. Read my quote from the letter being proposed and better still please read this letter. This campaign is NOT a campaign to educate the public. As a sceptic and a scientists I completely and utterly support a campaign to educate them. This is a narrow campaign to STOP Boots selling their products and you are clearly misguided in your argument otherwise.

Granted, one has to be careful to avoid browbeating and arrogance, and their is rarely anything helpful in arguing at length with people firmly committed to their position. I don’t argue religion with the little old lady on the plane next to me, I just smile and chage the subject. Likewise, I don’t berate people for holding ideas I happen to believe are mistaken, even possibly harmful to them, about medicine. But offering an opinion and information that might “prevent them from believing” something that is false doesn’t seem so wrong.

I really thing you have lost the plot, with respect. The original post in this thread is NOT a campaign to educate the public. Please read it again. Though the actual 1023 Campaign does claim to be doing so, it’s only real proposed action to date is in fact an attack on Boots freedom to sell it’s product.

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Posted: 10 January 2010 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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Homeopathic products that are sold as effective for the treatment or cure of any disease whatever are a cheat on the public. Typically, businesses that cheat the public are prosecuted, shut down and at times their principal officers are put on trial and even thrown in jail. That is precisely what should be done with anyone selling homeopathic products under false pretenses.

The only reason homeopathic products are allowed to be sold as effective for treating and curing disease in the US is that payments to influential congresspeople got a loophole in FDA regulations that allowed them to promote quack cures in ways that other organizations were unable to. That is, they were able to promote as effective treatments that had not been tested and proven effective. That is a cheat.

Now, if they want to sell homeopathic products under true pretenses, that’s another matter. If they want to say that these products work against forms of psychosomatic disorder by using the placebo effect (and nothing else), then I’d have no problem with them.

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Posted: 10 January 2010 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Re. the Nanny State: I suppose we shouldn’t have food inspectors or health inspectors or airplane inspectors or building inspectors, either. After all, people really are very capable ... just look how great the world ran before the state started inspecting all these things.

oh oh

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Posted: 10 January 2010 03:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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dougsmith - 10 January 2010 02:45 PM

Re. the Nanny State: I suppose we shouldn’t have food inspectors or health inspectors or airplane inspectors or building inspectors, either. After all, people really are very capable ... just look how great the world ran before the state started inspecting all these things.

oh oh

If you have any evidence that homeopathic products are dangerous or poisonous or bad for the health I’d be interested in hearing about it. Then we can start calling the inspectors….

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Posted: 10 January 2010 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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scepticeye - 10 January 2010 03:31 PM
dougsmith - 10 January 2010 02:45 PM

Re. the Nanny State: I suppose we shouldn’t have food inspectors or health inspectors or airplane inspectors or building inspectors, either. After all, people really are very capable ... just look how great the world ran before the state started inspecting all these things.

oh oh

If you have any evidence that homeopathic products are dangerous or poisonous or bad for the health I’d be interested in hearing about it. Then we can start calling the inspectors….

They aren’t dangerous in and of themselves, although they purport to treat illnesses that will remain untreated if they are taken in treatment of these illnesses as recommended on their packaging. So if you follow their recommendations, you might well be injured or killed, by virtue of failing to take the appropriate (i.e. the actually effective) medications, as Brennen said.

This is not the same as taking Paracetamol, since Paracetamol is not sold as treating or curing any disease that it cannot actually treat or cure.

The issue here is the marketing of homeopathy, at least as far as I’m concerned.

(I should add that there are a number of herbal products which have proven actually harmful in retrospect, as well as a number of alt med therapies like chelation (when used for alt med purposes), colon cleansing, chiropractic and the like, though this is of course OT when it comes to homeopathic products).

Further, cheating a person out of money for services not rendered is a form of injury (theft), as the courts have typically found in similar cases. Since homeopathic products do not render the services for which they are advertised, selling them commits injury, viz., theft.

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Posted: 10 January 2010 03:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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To see some potential injury from homeopathic products, read THIS account of how:

... the first ten homeopathic clinics and pharmacies selected from an internet search and consulted were willing to break public health protocols by providing unproven homeopathic pills to protect against malaria and other tropical diseases such as typhoid, dengue fever and yellow fever.

In all ten consultations, Sense About Science intern Alice Tuff was advised to use homeopathic products instead of being referred to a GP or conventional travel clinics where effective medicines are available. ...

Needless to say, relying on homeopathic products to protect one from malaria or other tropical diseases could be very dangerous and even fatal.

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Posted: 10 January 2010 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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dougsmith - 10 January 2010 03:50 PM

Needless to say, relying on homeopathic products to protect one from malaria or other tropical diseases could be very dangerous and even fatal.

This assumes that the purchasers buy these products in the belief that they will definitely be effective. Is there evidence that this is indeed the case ?

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Posted: 10 January 2010 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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dougsmith - 10 January 2010 03:45 PM

They aren’t dangerous in and of themselves, although they purport to treat illnesses that will remain untreated if they are taken in treatment of these illnesses as recommended on their packaging. So if you follow their recommendations, you might well be injured or killed, by virtue of failing to take the appropriate (i.e. the actually effective) medications, as Brennen said.

I live in Europe and no alternative medicine or homeopathic products make any such claims. They only say that they assist in the treatment of the ailment in question. All advertisements make clear they do not make claims of cures.

This is not the same as taking Paracetamol, since Paracetamol is not sold as treating or curing any disease that it cannot actually treat or cure.

They are sold as treating headaches, which may well be caused by other more serious conditions. If they are used without consulting a specialist the condition could worsen and kill the user. I see no significant difference between these situations.

The issue here is the marketing of homeopathy, at least as far as I’m concerned.

The issue for me is the claims being made. Boots, which is the topic of this thread, makes it very clear that they sell the products as effective treatments.

Further, cheating a person out of money for services not rendered is a form of injury (theft), as the courts have typically found in similar cases. Since homeopathic products do not render the services for which they are advertised, selling them commits injury, viz., theft.

This assumes they make claims that are false. In the US do they claim to cure these ailments ? in the EU they do not and boots certainly have made their position clear.

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