No No Nosodes

Unless you are deep into homoeopathic woo, you may never have heard of nosodes, or how they are designed to replace some of modern medicine’s most successful tools: vaccines. A new website, Stop Nosodes has information on these products, that are used in homeoprophylaxis, or the so-called prevention of infectious diseases.

Nosodes are homeopathic preparations made from bodily tissues and fluids (including faeces, blood, pus, discharges, and saliva) taken from patients suffering from a disease (e.g. measles, anthrax, tuberculosis). Once the starting material is obtained, it is sterilized and serially diluted, just like any other homeopathic remedy, often to the point where no active ingredient remains.

These products are sold by the naturopaths and homoeopaths who recommend them as a replacement for vaccines that have several centuries of evidence behind their efficacy. The evidence for these nosodes is considerably less than convincing.

There are no published double-blind, placebo-controlled trials examining the effectiveness for infectious disease prophylaxis of any homeopathic nosodes approved by Health Canada. Using PubMed, the journal repository of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, we produced a list of studies that are related to the nosodes approved by Health Canada. None of the studies, save one, are randomised controlled trials (RCT) and many were published prior to 1980, with a very heavy reliance on anecdotes. Most are only tangentially related to the use of nosodes for homeoprophylaxis.

Countless lives have been saved and improved since the introduction of vaccines. Smallpox has been eradicated and polio is almost forgotten in most parts of the world. However, it is important that a high percentage of the population be vaccinated to maintain herd immunity for the protection of those for whom vaccines are impractical or ineffective. The more people who fall for the magical thinking behind such homoeopathic concepts, the more the rest of the population is put in danger of unnecessarily contracting communicable diseases.

Bad Science Watch, the group behind this initiative, is calling on Health Canada to stop approving nosodes and deregulate the existing products. They have a call to action that includes templates for editorial letters to newspapers, the federal Minister of Health, and opposition health critics.

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