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Homeopathy targeted in debate on health care spending

The Local · 10 Jul 2010, 16:46

Published: 10 Jul 2010 16:46 GMT+02:00

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Karl Lauterbach, the centre-left Social Democrats’ chair on the Bundestag health committee, told German news magazine Der Spiegel that insurers should be “prohibited from paying for homeopathy.”

Lauterbach criticized the reimbursement of homeopathic treatments by insurers, practiced by more than half of Germany’s state health funds. “Many patients believe that insurers only pay for things that are proven to help,” he told the magazine. “So health insurers are dignifying homeopathics through their actions.”

According to Spiegel, Rainer Hess of the Federal Joint Committee for doctors and insurers also characterized the current situation as “extremely unsatisfactory.”

“There have already been many attempts to drop protective provisions on such remedies, but influential politicians have consistently prevented this from happening,” Hess said, adding that despite hundreds of medical studies failing to clearly prove the benefits of homeopathics, insurers are still made to pay for them.

Jürgen Windeler, who will assume leadership of Germany’s medicines assessment body in September, told the magazine that the dearth of proof surrounding homeopathics’ effectiveness was well-documented enough to “not require further research.”

Story continues below…

“That point is settled,” he said.

In May, the British Medical Association supported the withdrawal of funding for homeopathy within the National Health Service (NHS).

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:23 July 10, 2010 by vonSchwerin
I agree with this. While homeopathy remains extremely popular in Germany, I see no reason for our insurance companies to pay for something that has not been conclusively proven to work.

I know that many people think that these remedies work, and maybe they do, but that should be confirmed by a strict scientific proving process the same as regular medicine.
18:50 July 10, 2010 by JohnnesKönig

You have placed all your trust in the govt? Not all people feel this way. why are the unable to make other choices regardless of their effectiveness. When it comes to personal heath, it is a personal decision. Responsibility!

Big pharma does not care about your health like they do about profits! They do not profit from healthy people! So of course they will lobby against alternative medicines...
19:25 July 10, 2010 by dcgi
JohnnesKönig: same old tired excuses, just because you don't like "big pharma" doesn't mean you should turn to something else which hasn't been proven to work at all.

I don't put my trust in governments and I'm sure the first poster doesn't either, I put my trust in statistics and statistics proves time and time again that this "voodoo" is no better than placebo.

You may as well believe in sniffing weasel farts to cure you, as it'll do about as much good as homeopathy does.
22:28 July 10, 2010 by TCC
Homeopathy is wrong for a few different reasons. For those that might not know:

1. It is based on the idea that "like cures like" so if you have a fever you should take something that causes fever, if you have trouble with your pancreas you should take something that causes trouble for your pancreas. This of course makes no sense and has no science behind it at all.

2. It is based on diluting the substance that is supposed to help you to the point of there not being any molecules of the substance left in the product. Really. Go find out what 30x or 100x mean for dosages. If they are really diluted to the point they claim to be, there would be none of the substance left. Honest homeopaths will admit this, which leads to point 3.

3. The water the substances are diluted in are supposed to 'remember' the ingredient based on how the preparation was shaken. Again, really, they claim they shake the water and the substance in such a way that the water will remember it had whatever substance in it at one time.

It it total woo, worse than useless.

I too love the 'big pharma' arguments. "Big pharma is just trying to make money on your sickness. Here, let me sell you this plane water instead" lol
22:56 July 10, 2010 by Joshontour
After taking a tour of the Weleda Gardens, I was reaffirmed that homeopathy is nothing but hocus pocus. The reason I was given as to why St. Johns wort works against depression is paraphrased as follows... St Johns wort is harvested on the 24th of June, the flowers are composted with gold flakes and the compost is used to grow the next years harvest. This process repeats itself 3 years. Why does it work against depression??? Because St Johns wort is a summer flower, and gold is an element of light, and since depression stands for darkness, and light overcomes darkness, St Johns wort fights depression. Talk about empirical evidence.
09:41 July 11, 2010 by Olavius
Perhaps Karl Lauterbach will also recommend a ban on the 83% of the conventional treatment used, which according to an article in BMJ bears no scientific evidence of efficiency.

In other words only 17% of the allopathic treatments has scientific evidence of efficiency.
10:44 July 11, 2010 by ovbg
When a homoeopathy treatment is proven to work in proper scientific and medical trials, it changes it's name to medicine ;O) Those that are still called homoeopathy have never been proven to work. These shouldn't come under medical benefits.
13:36 July 11, 2010 by michael4096
Regulation here is not what most people think. Few medicines are proven to work, they are simply proven to not do more harm than good. The rest is (misleading) advertising. By this measure, homeopathic medicine is the same.

However, placebos also work for some people, so if these medicines work for some why not provide them. They are almost always far, far cheaper than the pharma kind!

Not that I care too much - my insurance is not one of the ones that offers the option.
07:40 July 12, 2010 by gord benoit
yes lets go with the traditional western pharmaceudical industry and Pfizer...read the disclaimer labels...and the possible side effects...may cause vomiting...dizziness and death...personally I think that a combination of proven remedies of homeopothy and standard traditiional medicine ...ignore the call for the exclussion of either and work towards educating the medical proffession and society...the pharmasuedical industry cannot afford the competition ...they are not there to find cures... they are commercial enterprises...
13:32 July 12, 2010 by Talonx
It's an insult to alternative medicine to call homeopathy alternative medicine.

Naturopathic and wholisitc treatments are on par with typical western meds, treatments, and preventatice strategies, but homeopathy is definately not. There is not a single homeopathic treatment with more efficacy than placebo as a system of medecine it is a complete failure.

Some of you put forth the oft repeated lie that, 'homeopathy and normal med are equal becaus 83%(or whatever percent people like to make up or lie about) of normal meds don't work. Even if that were the case, normal medicine would still be far more succesful than homeopathic medicine.

The money going into homeopathy now could go elsewhere, better dental funding maybe? Unfortunately, I bet they'll just cut this and not reallocate.
13:41 July 12, 2010 by ThomasSS
There is a lovely TED talk by Randi, which among other things takes a nice sharp swipe at homeopathy. The most recent xkcd comic is also quite amusing.



At least in the US, the FDA test for both safety and efficacy. Medicines fail out of conventional drug trials all the time. This is part of why conventional drugs are expensive. (Or course, another part of why is that the corporations are greedy and people will pay, etc, etc.) Specifically, they might fail out of the trials because they are dangerous, but they might also fail out because they fail to do good. I would expect that the same is true in most other first world countries, but of course if you doubt whether a particular drug has had reasonable clinical trials you can check what countries have approved it, and even look up the trial results themselves.

What do homeopathic "healers" do to ensure safety and efficacy? What options do you have to check for safety and efficacy? Strong medicine is medicine which affects the body greatly, and this is inherently risky. Plenty of natural things are toxic. Show me something which is "obviously" harmless, such as plain water or poison diluted to the point that there are no poison molecules left, and I'll show you something that is just as obviously not strong medication, in precisely the same way.
19:11 July 12, 2010 by H:MC21
I can see that the nonsense we have been facing in the UK is spreading. The attacks on homeopathy have no foundation whatsoever - they are simply propaganda to advance the interests of the drug companies.

For a detailed analysis of the so-called "scientific" arguments against homeopathy, go to www.hmc21.org, where there are a large number of articles and publications. The most complete and detailed is Halloween Science, which can be downloaded free.

Two articles on the background to the attacks on homeopathy have also recently been posted on www.counterfire.org. The most detailed is A Check Without Balance.

All these are fully referenced.

An example of the absurdity of the criticisms of homeopathy in the UK is the claim that it is expensive. The NHS pays 17,000 times as on treating the adverse effects of prescribed drugs as it does on homeopathy. Strangely there is no campaign to cut these side effects of drugs, but only a campaign to stop competition with drugs.
00:02 July 13, 2010 by Talonx
@ H:MC21

When a drug does absolutely nothing (beyond the efficacy of a placebo effect, which often times amounts to nothing) and consists of nothing more than water, of course it will have no side effects, in fact it will have no effects whatsoever. I wouldn't say that homeopathy is expensive so much that it is a scam perpetrated consciously by some and idiotically by those that like to believe magic exists. Their is absolutely no science to back up homeopathic medicine.

Your postings of articles are mostly irrelevant and none of them are peer-reviewed, anything that isn't open to criticism isn't worth the paper or the ram it's printed on.
00:40 July 13, 2010 by H:MC21

I'm afraid you are wrong several times.

1) There is high quality multi-centre evidence that potentised substances are biologically active, so we are not talking about homeopathy using inert medicines. This is important because it makes the context a critical factor.

2) There is consistent evidence from studies of clinical practice that homeopathy produces improvement in around 70% of cases.

3) The science of biophysics is still at an early stage of development. The application of biochemical models to homeopathy was rejected over 160 years ago, and since that time discoveries in the field of physics have made an explanation of homeopathy increasingly likely. The fact that opponents of homeopathy are still using arguments which were out of date 160 years ago is an indication of scientific weakness.

4) H:MC21 material is peer-reviewed, and rewritten on the basis of those reviews. As a result, no opponent of homeopathy has been able to find any flaws in the arguments presented, despite the fact that all H:MC21 publications are available for criticism.

Conversely, the leading texts of opponents of homeopathy are riddled with errors, misrepresentations, omissions and contradictions. Indeed, the one certain thing that can be said about them is that they are not scientific.
00:55 July 13, 2010 by Talonx

I'm afraid you don't know what you are talking about. The trouble you have, is that you can't even prove (with many of your compounds) that your substance is still even in the 'potentised' flasks you sell for rapacious prices. You can only show that at a proximate level of a culture of cells one molecule might be able to affect one cell.

As for your stats, the most telling thing is that you don't explain what cases. Are these cases of the common cold, the flu, aids? All modern illnesses taken together, looking at an age group in their 30s (on average), I would imagine that 70% get better no matter what they take. What specific illness do you refer to?

Homeopathy was rejected because it didn't make any sense and still doesn't. It had the same chance that disease theory did (of which there were many critics in the late 1800s), but disease theory ultimately won out, because it actually yields results, something that for all your rhetoric you cannot claim of the general method of homeopathy.

I verily doubt that any opponent ot pseudo-science wastes their time frequenting the equivalent of a tabloid journal. Of those peers how many are docterates in the relevant fields from accredited and recognized universities (biomedicine, biophysics, etc), you should be able to answer this question readily?
20:55 July 13, 2010 by freeethinker
Of course, it is hardly a new idea that a lie told often enough eventually becomes the truth, and this, I contend, is at the heart of the spate of criticisms currently levelled at homoeopathy both in Germany and in the UK.

But before you consider the usual criticisms- it's placebo, people would get better anyway etc, etc, I want you to imagine the following scenario:

In the east of what is now Germany some two centuries ago, a young doctor is so disgusted at the barbaric practices of his profession that he refuses to treat his own children when they are ill and instead earns a small living as a translator of medical texts into German.

That doctor is a highly gifted person who stumbles upon a new way of treating people, using the principle of like curing like. Although he is brilliant, he is not skilfull in the art of influencing people, and is actually quite argumentative. Nevertheless, his ideas spread and within his lifetime, a large part of the royalty and aristocracy of Europe beat paths to his door. Still in his lifetime, his medical system travels to the United States and to India. By the end of the nineteenth century, homoeopathy in the US threatens to overtake then conventional medicine. When India gains her independence in 1947, it is recognised and grows to become the most common method of medical treatment.

Now, in 2010, homoeopathy is the second most widespread medical system in the world after traditional Chinese medicine and it has grown to such a size in two centuries on the strength of little more than word of mouth. It is clearly nonsensical that a medical system that doesn't work could grow at the rate it has oner two centuries. It grows because it is highly effective and because people frightened by the terrible side effects of modern drugs are voting with their feet.

The fact that all this placebo nonsense fails to even attempt to get to grips with is that people choose homoeopathy because it works. If it didn't work, people wouldn't recommend it to their friends and to their loved ones.

During the European cholera outbreaks of the 1830s and 40s, homoeopathy successfully treated many individuals and produces death rates far less than for those treated allopathically. In the 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed millions, homoeopathic doctors gaiedn a far better cure rate than allopathic treatment. In the war for independence of Bangladesh in the 1970s, India treated many refugees from that fledgling nation for cholera and the cure rate for those treated homoeopathically was far higher and at a much lower cost per treatment than for conventional cholera treatment.

I am convinced that these facts explain the current onslaught against homoeopathy. It is inexpensive and it is highly effective- far more than in conventional treatments. Because of its great success it represents a major threat to the profits to drug companies.
05:38 July 14, 2010 by Talonx
@ freethinker

For someone so named you sure do alot of magical and tautological thinking, "The fact that all this placebo nonsense fails to even attempt to get to grips with is that people choose homoeopathy because it works. If it didn't work, people wouldn't recommend it to their friends and to their loved ones." Thinking and reasoning in circles is a quality that hurts your cause more than helps it.

Facts on the ground are, homeopathy has never been able to treat any illness beyond a placebo effect. Claims to the contrary are against the evidence in hand and the rigorous testing that has been done. Like paranormal psych, homeopathy was given its chance and found wanting. Homeopathy, contrary to what you may have read, did not successfully treat cholera. The only way in which homeopathy is ever successful is when it admits elements of actual biophysics and disease theory, contra its founding principles (as it has had to in increments time and again

Just because alot of people follow something doesn't make it true. If that were the case the scientologists have you beat out.

Finally, contrary what many like to say of it, homeopathy is dangerous; namely for its advocation of abstaining from vaccination. Vaccination, unlike homeopathy is a proven method of preventative medicine.
14:20 July 14, 2010 by freeethinker

Don't try to insult me with nonsense about tautological and magical thinking. As I implied in my earlier posting, the repetition of a lie often enough might pass as truth but it still remains a lie.

Your arguments are specious and don't hold water. In fact all you do is snipe from the sidelines like most of your pals. Homoeopathy works and the fact that many millions worldwide use it as their sole system of healthcare backs this up.

People like and trust homoeopathy because it doesn't have side-effects and because it removes their health problems. Many of homoeopathy's supporters have experienced ineffective treatment for years when they learn of homoeopathy and many are so surprised that their cures come about so naturally. Needless to say they tell their friends. And so it goes on- from strength to strength. Give it a try!
11:42 July 17, 2010 by Talonx
@ Freeethinker

Circular thinking is circular thinking. Anyways, let's use your logic...more people participat in allopathic medicine than in homeopathic medicine, therefore allopathic is better. I don't expect you to understand this fallacy that you commit, it is, after all, the root of your faith in homeopathy.

Again, homeopathy does not have side-effects, because it has, at base, no effects.
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