Alternative medicine

Alternative medicine is no better than a placebo’

Judging by their concerted attacks on me, perhaps the anti-vaxxers are becoming sensitive to criticism of their misinformation.

The last, from Rachel Freeth Letters of August 31, is typical in that it consists of sweeping insults against science and medicine in favor of blind faith in “alternative medicine.” And accusing me of a similar blind faith in science and what they insist on calling “Big Pharma”, despite my frequent acknowledgment of their failures.

I note that his medical career was in psychiatry and person-centered therapy rather than general medicine, so maybe that gives him a different perspective.

She certainly does an injustice to most doctors by saying that they are not interested in the whole person, preferring to simply dispense drugs. I’m sure most would love to take more time for their patients, but with NHS consultation times of 10 minutes or less, they have little choice.

Of course, if you can afford between £35 and £125, you can spend an hour with a homeopath before heading home with your magic water. But no doubt you will feel listened to.

The point about real medicine is that it works better than a placebo, not just the same as one.

Not that I deny that the placebo effect is real, but it deals with the perception of illness rather than the illness itself. The placebo effect also has its place in conventional medicine, as does reassurance, such as when a doctor tells you that your symptoms are harmless and will pass without the need for medication.

Finally, Rachel Freeth claims to operate in a different paradigm, a claim much appreciated by Richard House.

It’s a claim often used to evade evidence claims, but it won’t be washed away.

A paradigm does not change facts or evidence, it simply provides a different conceptual framework in which to understand them, which can certainly lead to useful insights. In this case, the evidence is overwhelming – alternative medicine is no better than placebo while conventional medicine often, not always is.

Paradigm and fantasy are not synonymous.

jim watson