Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University heavily criticised the field of homeopathy in a recent article in the Daily Telegraph.
His main issue was the tendency to see homeopathy as a genuine alternative to conventional medical approached to treating disease.
Profesor Ernst stated that the mechanism of action that is described for homeopathy “Is in contrast with the laws of physics, chemistry and pharmacology. Homeopathy is thus biologically implausible.”
Most clinicians have a reasonably open mind about complimentary therapy. However it becomes a problem when it drains funding from other evidence based treatments in the NHS. It is also sad when patients whose condition can be treated opt for an alternative therapy that is often expensive and does not work. Having said that mainstream doctors often look on with envy at the impact of the placebo effect that complimentary therapies undoubtedly have.
We would love to be able to give a “little white pill” in a positive way – knowing it is inactive – but also knowing there is a fair chance the patient will at least feel better for taking it. But, there is always a but….. If we look at one of the few areas in healthcare where there is a choice and a market exists – patients opt to spend millions of pounds each year supplements and complementary therapy.
We are constantly told the market never lies – so perhaps we need to learn some lessons from this. Maybe we should consider it to be unethical not to be able offer a placebo once serious disease has been excluded – the aim is after all to make the patient feel better..