Is Quackwatch the Ultimate Fake?

It’s 5am.  You haven’t slept all night and yesterday’s news is slowing sinking in.

You’ve been diagnosed with a chronic disease.

Your life is about to change dramatically. You are justifiably overwhelmed. But there is hope.

The next day you run into an old friend from high school who also happens to have suffered the same fate yet she seems rather happy. She has been reading up on an alternative medicine called homeopathy; a safe, gentle medicine that can work well for chronic conditions.

Later that day you walk home in high spirits and immediately run over to your computer and Google homeopathy, but something weird happens. Just two spots under the first article is “Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake.”

Click. 4000 words later you’re feeling like you just had the wind knocked out of you.

It’s not that your friend meant to deceive you. It’s the fact that she’s been Scammed. Hustled. Bamboozled. You’ve just learned the cold hard truth about homeopathy: it’s just placebo effect.

You  have no doubt this article was written in the name of science. It sounds like a scientific report; the writing is cool, calm and collected. If that wasn’t enough, then there’s the fact that it’s written by a very articulate doctor who quoted many scientific studies and statistics.

You throw in the towel…It’s been a roller-coaster of a day. Time to rest. And the next day you decide to call up your friend. You need to give her the bad news as gently as possible.

“Oh Quackwatch! Oh ya, know ALL about them,” she says with sheer enthusiasm.

Confusion on your part.

“Oh you don’t know?” she asks playfully.

“That website is mostly just one guy’s opinion on different alternative health products. These happen to cost a fraction of the price of modern pharmaceuticals and they’ve been getting more and more popular. As a consequence, they are taking away a nice chunk of business from the big pharmaceuticals.”

“I did a search on Quackwatch for antidepressants but I didn’t find anything. This is weird. I figured if this guy was legit he would mention them because a lot of what Quackwatch claims about homeopathy is actually true of antidepressants.”

Say again?

She goes on to inform you how no one really knows how antidepressants work. No research exists which explain how they work. And researchers discovered many studies were hidden from the public that suggest antidepressants are no better than placebos.

“Look, I’m not against antidepressants whatsoever. But when I read that, I wondered why is Quackwatch not talking about the $11billion we consumers spend each year on something that research is saying to be no better than a placebo?”

Good question.

“There was a big research study published in the Lancet a few years back. This is one of the world’s most respected scientific journals where other researchers double check and triple check any published study to make sure they are done properly, also known as Peer Reviewed. This makes sure the studies meet the highest scientific standards in the world.”

“The researchers found that homeopathy was no better than a placebo. But then something happened.”

“Other researchers started finding huge problems in the study. They discovered 110 studies that proved homeopathy works were “accidentally” excluded. Long story short, six months later, four letters get published letting everyone know that the placebo theory is 100% not true.”

Your friend makes a good point. But you aren’t convinced. Now you need to find out for yourself .

You hop on to Google. After a lot of head scratching and time wading through a sea of info you find out that:

Meta-analysis is when scientists look at many different studies and see if a theory can be proven right or wrong. Randomized controlled trial is when the researchers randomly decide who will get a placebo and who will get the real medication.

A blind study means that the patients trying the medications don’t know if they are in the group getting the real medicine or if they are getting the sugar pill. Double Blind means even the researchers don’t know.

And then comes the silver bullet:

The 2005 peer reviewed meta-analysis of over 100 double blind randomized controlled trials on homeopathy offers crystal clear scientific evidence that the placebo theory is 100% false and that homeopathy can work for certain (not all) chronic conditions. Period.

You feel Scammed. Hustled. Bamboozled. This “consumer watchdog” maintains that homeopathic research is unimpressive and that homeopathy is just a placebo.

But you also feel thankful that your friend tipped you off. You’re excited to find out all about this new medicine that could be life changing for you.

Google Search: “homeopathy” Yes! I’m feeling lucky!

Here we go! Homeopathy – Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia

Click. Add to Favorites

16,000 words later…. “What?  I thought wikipedia was legit!”

You scroll back up to the first paragraph, and read it again with utter disbelief: “Scientific research has found homeopathic remedies ineffective and their postulated mechanisms of action implausible…homeopathy is generally considered quackery”

The implications are scary:  1,500,000 people look up the word “homeopathy” every MONTH. The FIRST article those 1.5 million people see is “Homeopathy – Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia”  from a popular website with a reputation for objectivity. Presenting false information. And using derogatory emotionally loaded words like quackery.

You wonder how many of those million and a half people have chronic diseases and are looking for hope…

Back Click. Remove Bookmark. Clear History. (yes, I know anyone can edit Wikipedia, but this one’s already the subject of an edit war.)

Google “Copeland’s Cure: Homeopathy and the War Between Conventional and Alternative Medicine”

No Google. I don’t want to “feel lucky”. I just want the truth.


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One comment

  • I think you’ve misunderstood something fundamental about the placebo effect.

    The word “placebo” is not medical shorthand for “it’s a scam.” A placebo does not fool a patient into thinking that they are getting getter. A placebo is a substance with no medicinal effect that actually DOES make the patient better (at least under certain conditions).

    For example, people recover from gastric ulcers faster on two sugar pills a day versus one sugar pill a day. People who suffer from chronic pain feel better if you given them a sugar pill, but they feel better even faster if they are given an intravenous saline solution. The intensity of the treatment and the cultural baggage associated with it are the drivers. But this is not just psychological — when placebos work, the patient’s body chemistry actually changes.

    So if placebos actually have effects in some cases, why not use them in those situations? After all, doctors used to prescribe them, but they don’t any more. The reason is because in order for the placebo to have an effect, you must lie to the patient. And that is a massive ethical problem.

    So, the issue with homeopathy is not that it does nothing, but that it requires deception in order for it to work. And also, it is very easy to slide from prescribing homeopathy for a backache to prescribing homeopathy for malaria. The placebo effect will not help with serious illness.

    So no, Wikipedia is not lying to you. The medical establishment is not lying to you. Quackwatch is not lying to you. You are standing right on the edge of conspiracy-theory land. You can back away and actually learn something about medicine, or dive in head first and be paranoid for the rest of your life.

    In researching this article, did you actually speak with any human being who actually knows what he’s talking about? Dr. Joe Schwarcz debated the head of the Quebec naturopathic association at McGill University only last night. Couldn’t you have waited with your article and attended the debate first?

    My suggestion is to yank this article temporarily, and call Dr. Schwarcz for an interview. Do some real research on the placebo effect. And then amend your article. Or is Dr. Schwarcz a shill for Big Pharma, too?

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