In many discussions of homoeopathy and other forms of CAM, one of the first comments in the discussion is the evils committed by Big Pharma. Those of us on the side of modern medicine also condemn such practices while pointing out that, while it may take some time, science will ultimately provide the correct answers. For their transgressions these companies have suffered serious fines and expensive class action lawsuits. As long as the profits are large, there will be more incidences, and caution must be exercised, especially for the latest and greatest cures. Ultimately though, pharmaceuticals have increased both longevity and quality of life.
CAM producers, on the other hand are promoted as being pure as the driven snow, motivated purely by their desire to help people. As anyone who gives even a moments thought to that concept will realize, most companies are motivated by profit, not altruism. From Germany, we have a perfect example of this. Six manufacturers of homoeopathic treatments have been discovered hiring a pseudo-journalist to promote their products and protect their profits by attacking one of their more scientifically minded and outspoken critics, Edzard Ernst.
From a Google translation from Süddeutche Zeitung
The German company Homeopathic Union (DHU) and Biological Remedies Heel support CAM Media. Watch financially. “ Other sponsors are the companies Staufen Pharma, WALA Remedies, Weleda and Hevert. Fritzsche receives 43,000 euros per year from these six manufacturers of homeopathic products.
More (in English) from Andy Lewis at Quackometer
The newspaper accuses the companies of funding the journalist, Claus Fritzsche, to denigrate critics of homeopathy. In particular, the accusation is that Fritzsche wrote about UK academic Professor Edzard Ernst on several web sites and then linked them together in order to raise their Google ranking. Fritzsche continually attacks Ernst of being frivolous, incompetent and partisan….
Ernst has pioneered and championed the idea that alternative medicine can be subject to the same rigours of evidence-based medicine as any other treatment. He has produced many systematic reviews of treatments that draw together all available evidence to assess what overall conclusions it is possible to come to. When the evidence has been positive, he has said so. But his problem has been that, for a wide range of treatments, including homeopathy, the evidence is overwhelmingly negative, non-existent, or at best, inconclusive.
Ernst has not had an easy time over the past years as he stood up for the lack of evidence for most forms of CAM, but particularly homoeopathy.
For his efforts, Ernst is continuously attacked. The Vice-Chancellor of Exeter has been written to by foaming homeopaths. His blogs for the GP magazine, Pulse, see a hoard of homeopaths turn up for every article to shout their abuse. But most worryingly, Ernst was attacked by Prince Charles when he was critical of a politicised report into the funding of alternative medicine by the NHS, insitigated by Charles, and funded by Dame Shirley Porter. Prince Charles’s principal private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, sent a letter to Exeter that almost cost him his job.
Lewis has much more
I spoke to Edzard about these revelations that homeopathy companies are funding his attackers. In particular, he noted how Fritzsche conducted an interview with him that resulted in an article that suggested Ernst had been lying about having homeopathic qualifications. The article was published in the Deutscher Zentralverein homöopathischer Ärzte (German National Association of Homeopathic Physicians) which presented Ernst as having no qualifications, of misleading people about them, and not being fit to judge homeopathy. Ernst claims that the discussion he had was misrepresented in the write-up of the interview which resulted in him looking as if he was being defensive about his qualifications.
UK Homeopaths have jumped on this with gusto in order to discredit Ernst. Of course it is nonsense. Ernst started his career in a homeopathic hospital in Germany, and is fully familiar with its claims. He was accepted into Exeter because of his skills and experiences. But to claim that he cannot speak about homeopathy because he has not formally trained in such areas is to insist that you have a degree in Invisible Imperial Textiles before mentioning the Emperor has no clothes on.
The CAM Media.Watch blog states that it is a blog for journalists to challenge the misrepresentations of alternative medicine in the media and to address ‘grievances’. In practice, the blog attacks, not just Ernst, but journalists who do not uncritically promote pseudoscientific therapies. When Max Rauner wrote an article in ZEIT discussing Edzard Ernst and his critics, Fritzsche attacked the piece. Ernst said to me that there were at least 31 ‘untruths’ in that response about him.
There are some people who have a faith in homoeopathy and no amount of science will ever change their minds. These include those who label themselves as healers who use homoeopathy exclusively and Naturopaths, who use homoeopathy as a part of their repertoire.
There is no science behind homoeopathy and there is no honour among thieves.