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homeopathy

Homeopathic Sugar PillsThe field of homeopathy was invented in 1796 by a German named Samuel Hahnemann.  Hahnemann stated the two key principles of homeopathy:

1.  The “law of similars” - This principle states that “like cures like”, such that an illness or condition with certain symptoms can be cured using a substance that produces the same symptoms in the patient.  For example, Hahemann famously ingested cinchona bark which produces fever and declared it to be a suitable treatment for malaria (which causes similar symptoms).

2.  The “law of infinitesimals” - Hahnemann also believed that the potency of a treatment could be increased by diluting the ingredient(s) over and over again, punctuated by striking the vessel containing the solution on a soft surface (called “succussion”).  This process of repeated dilutions, called “potentisation”, often occurs until no more of the original substance remains.

Neither the law of similars nor the law of infinitesimals have any scientific support.  Indeed, an increase in the strength of a treatment with successive dilutions contradicts established science, never mind not making intuitive sense.  Despite this lack of scientific rationale behind the practice, clinical trials have still been carried out to test the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments.  These clinical trials have overwhelmingly shown that homeopathy is no better than placebo.  Most of the apparent benefits are illusory: due to spontaneous recovery, regression to the mean, or other well-known misperceptions. 

Although some patients may gain genuine benefits from homeopathy, these come not from the medicine itself, but from a long and involved consultation with a homeopathic practitioner.  The patient feels that they are being listened too and gain a psychological boost which manifests as a small but noticeable improvement in some symptoms.  Even here, the effect is chiefly limited to subjective symptoms, like felt pain, and there are a large number of conditions for which the small (and highly erratic) placebo effect that results from homeopathic remedies simply has no effect.  These include the prevention of infections by vaccination and the treatment of serious diseases such as malaria and AIDS.  Ineffectual homeopathic remedies provide a dangerous distraction from conventional, evidence-based treatments.

CASS position
CASS engages with the public discourse to raise awareness of the nature of homeopathy, the lack of scientific foundation for the practice, and the lack of scientific support for its efficacy.  CASS believes that education is key to ensuring that the public is able to make informed decisions about their healthcare. CASS also works to improve the regulatory scrutiny of homeopathy, to reduce the level of misinformation provided to the public.

Browse below for the latest press releases, articles, and project notes by CASS on the topic of homeopathy.

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Renewed Calls on Shoppers Drug Mart to Drop Ineffective Products After Legal Settlement

Toronto, ON (March 9, 2012) – The Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) renewed its call today for Shoppers Drug Mart to cease selling ineffective homeopathic products, after the homeopathic manufacturer Boiron agreed to a $12 million dollar settlement of class action lawsuits alleging false advertising.  For a downloadable version, click here.
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Oscillococcinum and Shoppers Drug Mart

Shoppers Drug Mart is Canada's largest pharmacy chain.  As well as providing a valuable service to its customers, many Shoppers locations also place alternative medicines on shelves alongside conventional, science-based medicines. CASS is concerned that the juxtaposition of alternative medicines with little or no evidence of efficacy and conventional treatments which have been through many years of randomise, placebo-controlled clinical trials will lend undue respectability to the former group.  We are currently in communication with Shoppers to help remedy this situation. ____________________________________________________________

Homeopaths unable to take criticism: cry conspiracy instead of providing evidence

January 17 2011

Canadian homeopaths are angry.  Cries of conspiracy and persecution rang out over the internet in anticipation of CBC Marketplace’s exposé of homeopathic remedies this week, while skeptical groups celebrated the first major investigation of homeopathy in Canadian mainstream media.  Homeopathy, a pseudo-science purporting magical assertions, including that with a few shakes, water can retain the memory of a substance after it has been diluted far past detectable levels, is under attack; and it’s about time.

Homeopaths Using Term “Doctor” Illegally

Toronto, ON (March 29 2011) – CFI Canada’s Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) lodged an official complaint today with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care in Ontario, calling on the Ontario Government to enforce the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) and fine homeopaths in Ontario who are using the term “doctor” or “homeopathic doctor,” in contravention with the Act. 

World Homeopathy Awareness Week 2010: A Celebration with No Substance

For a downloadable version, click here.

Toronto, Ont. (Date, 2010)— Starting on April 10, 2010, Homeopaths will be celebrating World Homeopathy Awareness Week in honor of their founder, 17th century homeopath Samuel Hahnemann.  There will be free lectures, discounted visits, homeopathic first aid courses and displays.  Sadly, one fact will be missing from all of these promotional materials: homeopathy doesn’t work.

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