Friday, September 2, 2011

The EU and Homeopathy for cows

Recently an article appeared in the newspapers regarding a decision to spend EU (and hence UK taxpayers) money on homeopathy for cows. One version of the story was linked to on Twitter:-
Needless to say, this sparked outrage on Twitter, with numerous comments on this, hashtagged with #ten23. Now, as has been more than adequately demonstrated on multiple occasions that homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo and an elaborate scam. Given the history of homeopathy it probably qualifies for the longest-running scam in medical history. That it has been around for so long says more about the inadequacies of science and medicine to counteract with evidence from properly-conducted high quality clinical trials. Early "successes" for homeopathy probably represented avoidance of ineffective and dangerous therapies as the clinical trial 200 years ago was not exactly a common method of investigation!
Why would the EU choose to spend money on homeopathy for cows? It seems that they have somehow been persuaded by pro-homeopathy pressure groups into believing that animals show benefit in trials of homeopathy as - surely - animals are immune from placebo effects. Hmm. OK. The animals themselves may not be influenced directly by placebos but the same cannot be said of those adminstering homeopathic "remedies" or observing their apparent effects. There is also the study of homeopathy in bovine mastitis, reported as positive in a deeply-flawed trial. For a critical appraisal of this trial and the cherry-picking of trials so characteristic of CAM supporters, see
While I'm well aware of the faults of the EU, it does also do a lot of good - for example in improving consumers rights. However, I felt that I should write to my MEP's to see if this ridiculous decision could be changed. Here's the email I sent to them, via - thoroughly recommended as a way of contacting your elected representatives. Here's the email I sent them:-
"Dear Derek Vaughan, Kay Swinburne, Jill Evans and John Bufton,

I read with dismay an article on the website of "The Daily Telegraph"
today regarding a proposal to spend millions of pounds/euros on homeopathy for cows.
This is quite possibly one of the most ridiculous and absurd proposals I have ever heard of! Homeopathy, like every other form of so-called "complementary and alternative medicine", is quackery and charlatanism.
For information on this, I can recommend visiting the websites and You may also be aware of the conclusions of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in its Fourth Report "Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy" published in February 2010.
The conclusion is clear cut - homeopathy is a scam, no better than placebo. It should not be afforded any sort of respectability by endorsement from sources such as the European Parliament and the European Commission. I urge you to do everything possible to prevent this clear waste of European taxpayer's money."

Now, response times can vary from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on who you email and when. Within ten hours, I received an automated response from the office of Kay Swinburne (Conservative) promising to respond within six weeks. Ok, it's summer holiday time, she may be truly busy - I'll just have to wait. Just a few hours later, still less than twelve hours later, I received the following response from of John Bufton (UKIP):-

Dear Dr Morgan, 
Thank you for contacting Mr Bufton MEP regarding yet another example of how the EU is wasting our money
We agree completely that it is not the role of a "free trade organisation", to use our hard earned taxes to subsidise anything - whether it is quackery or not. 
We would not be happy for our taxes to be used by the EU to subsidise the huge pharmaceutical industries of Europe (which I should add here are responsible for more deaths in one day across the EU than 
Homeopathy in a decade - not that I could find any evidence of Homeopathy killing any of its patients). 
Until we leave the EU, the un elected bureaucrats in Brussels will continue to use our money on hair brained schemes, and there is nothing that MEPs can do about it.
   Nathan L Gill  PA to John Bufton MEP 

Err? What the fuck? As if this response in itself wasn't bad enough, the email bore a 2 megabyte PDF file entitled "The EU...Have I Been Lied To".
So, not only do I get a somewhat crackpot response but I also get a recruitment drive document for UKIP. To say I am not a fan of UKIP would be understating the matter. So I have emailed back:-

Dear Mr. Gill,
Thank you for your prompt reply.
I am glad that you agree that the EU should not be involved in any way in the promotion of such quackery. I am, however, disappointed by some of the patently ridiculous remarks that you subsequently make in this email regarding pharmaceuticals and homeopathy. I agree that the EU should not be subsidising pharmaceutical companies. It is also, of course, true that patients suffer adverse effects from medications. Sometimes these are very serious, life-threatening and (rarely) fatal.  I seriously question your statement regarding the number of deaths that are attributable to adverse drug reactions. Could you please tell me where you get your figures from? You should be aware that there are many sites on the internet which spread misinformation and downright lies about medicines, but there are reliable sources such as the Food and Drug Administration (USA) and the MHRA (UK).
As for your statement regarding homeopathy, I’m sorry to say that it is disappointing that you seem unaware of the deaths and serious harm that has resulted from people using homeopathy instead of real medicine. Perhaps the most shocking example of this is the story of Penelope Dingle in Australia -  Reading the Coroner’s report is particularly harrowing
Several other examples can be found at
There is a key difference between medicines and therapies properly licensed and used as compared to homeopathy and other forms of so-called “complementary and alternative medicines” (CAM) – efficacy. The available evidence is clearly that homeopathy and other CAM modalities are either no better than placebo or are actually worse than placebo (i.e. harmful). When deciding about the use of medicines a risk-benefit analysis is conducted. As homeopathy and CAM modalities have no benefit, the risk-benefit analysis is clearly all risk and no benefit.
Finally,  may I say that I do not agree with your politics and overall views of the EU and European Parliament. They are no different in their stupidities than the UK Parliament and its Members, for example Nadine Dorries MP. We need our elected representatives to act sensibly, act in accordance with available evidence and not use these instruments of government to further their own personal agendas. I believe that the UKIP is at best misguided in its overall views. Ultimately, you will be held accountable through the ballot box."
Let's see if I get any response to this and also whether the other MEP's for my area respond.