On the profit motive

It’s just not funny any more.

This tweet:

Dangerous advice. Fever of +105F go to the ER! RT @homeopathyworks: Hot baby, less is better for your Children’s fevers http://om.ly/jgzJ

made me fall off my chair. The argument is that if a child has a fever of 105°F (40.5°C) or more, you should give them … water. The retweeted twitterer (‘twat’?) ‘@homeopathyworks’ says in her profile

Joette Calabrese is a certified homeopath, she has become a trusted voice in achieving robust health that is decidedly educated, experienced and committed.

Tell me, would you trust someone who recommends giving just water to your feverish child?

We should note that homeopaths often take the moral high ground, attacking ‘big pharma’ for selling drugs and making lots of money of the back of illnesses. It’s been pointed out time and time again by people with two brain cells to rub together that the homeopaths are also making money, and indeed their profit margins are probably much greater (because there’s no active ingredient).

But I didn’t realize just how much more money homeopaths are making.

Take this fever ‘remedy’ for example. On the Boots website, you can get a packet of ‘pillules’ for five quid. That should clear your fever within five days according to the dosage instructions (let’s ignore the fact that most, non-life threatening, fevers are self-limiting over that period anyway). And most homeopaths will tell you that you should go along to their ‘surgery’ and get the stuff made up the ‘proper’ way, which means you’re looking at substantially more dosh than that.

Aspirin caplets are 75p. If you take them at the recommended dose a pack will last you two days. Even if you bought three packs (to last five days) that’s still only £2.25; plus you get an active ingredient.

So who are the immoral money-grabbers now: ‘big pharma’ or homeopaths?

But seriously, if you have a temperature of 105 you should be in hospital already. As another twitter friend of mine put it,

They’ve obviously not read the book – stupid people are supposed to remove themselves from the genepool, not innocent children.

PS. While looking for homeopathic non-remedies, I came across this comment on a wacko website:

homeopathic belladonna is safe so dilute that it contains no actual belladonna past 12c dilution.
You cannot poison yourself with it and it is highly useful as both a fever remedy and flue

The wrong, it burns.

(Cross-posted to my other place.)

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
This entry was posted in Homeopathy, Rants, Science-less Sunday. Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to On the profit motive

  1. Stephen Curry says:

    It’s a simple fact that homeopaths are either deluded or deluding. Boots ought to be ashamed of themselves for selling this nonsense while hiding behind the specious argument of ‘customer choice’.

  2. Maxine Clarke says:

    Is anyone going to take anything they read on Twitter seriously? Especially medical advice? Hard to believe.
    There is so much drivel on the Internet, some of it dangerous. I hope that everyone in the world becomes aware of that if they aren’t already!

  3. Richard P. Grant says:

    Maxine, the twatterer cited has over 10,000 followers. Even if 1% takes it seriously, that’s a lot of people. And we know that people believe what they read on the internet.

  4. Jennifer Rohn says:

    I like to think that anyone with a beloved child suffering a 105-degree fever, no matter how naive, is going to be taking them straight to hospital. Spurious claims for less acute conditions will probably cause more harm in the long run.

  5. Richard P. Grant says:

    Indeed. What’s worrying is the line
    So what is the upshot? Leave fevers of 103 degrees and under alone. Treat high fevers with homeopathy. Simple, inexpensive, intelligent, gentle.
    Further up, she says

    The premiere remedy for a fever of 103.5 to 105 degrees is Belladonna. Find this remedy at a health food store or better, buy a homeopathy kit and have it right in you medicine chest when you need it at 2AM.

    If we can convince even one person that their feverish child needs proper medical treatment rather than homeopathy then we’ll have done well. (Whether you should trust the treatment advice of anyone who is trying to sell a book about that treatment I’ll leave for somebody else to discuss.)

  6. Richard P. Grant says:

    PS. Jenny, we already know that homeopaths with supposedly ‘beloved children’ will let them die rather than give them proper treatment.

  7. Ian Brooks says:

    I have a homeopathy kit in my kitchen. It runs hot or cold on demand. In fact I even have a homeopathic ‘sprinkler system’ for full body external cleansing in my bathroom.

  8. Åsa Karlström says:

    Richard: it’s all fine and dandy if you want to save yourself but it’s the children… I’m not sure why “just chew on bark from Salix” and the fever decreases, hasn’t spread more in the homeopathic circles… considering that it works and it for free I mean. Then again, it might never be that easy as I hope? Never trust a doctor?
    As for what people believe on the Internet, I have almost given up hope since even (?!) undergraduate students try to get away with citing websites without proper check ups in their thesis work. Just because someone wrote it on line doesn’t mean it is correct. Shocking, isn¨t it? ^^

  9. Richard P. Grant says:

    Chewing on tree bark hasn’t spread because they can’t make any money out of it, Åsa!

  10. Åsa Karlström says:

    Richard: I thought as much. But then again, aren’t half the idea of “non-pharma” that “it shouldn’t be about money”???
    And I honestly don’t know how much bark you need to chew on, and I would guess there would be a rinsing and cleaning the bark etc… ah well, there are times when I feel very naive and tired 😉

  11. Austin Elliott says:

    It’s even more complicated, Åsa. There actually are people who believe with a quasi-religious fervour that powdered bark is indeed better, and should be taken in preference to standards medicines, because of its:

    “synergistic combination of many therapeutic natural substances”.

    The folk that believe this are called herbalists, or sometimes medical herbalists. If you want to see one in action, try this thread over at David Colquhoun’s blog.
    The best I can think of to say about them is that, though they believe some serious crazy things, they are not quite as batshit insane as the homeopaths. Who are, as we have previously discussed, on a whole other plane of (parallel) (Un)reality

  12. Grant Jacobs says:

    I’m constantly running into similar levels of idiocy (I’ve reported a few of them on my blog http://sciblogs.co.nz/code-for-life/). The NZ Council for Homeopaths feature “treatments” of the 1918 flu (something that conveniently can’t be challenged…) and the illogic of “if they are popular, they must be good for you” (something I’ve previously written about, illustrating it with some of the ideas once held about people rising from dead and the devices built to cater for this). No so long ago there was a case of a “iridologist” who was “treating” a scalp cancer that had eaten into the patient’s brain…
    Remind me to get my submission on NZ’s consulting for a Natural Health Products Bill off…

  13. steffi suhr says:

    ..but seriously, what do you do when it’s friends who take homeopathic remedies (and even use ‘homeopathy-compatible’ toothpaste)? And who tell you things like you shouldn’t take vitamin C before going to bed because you “won’t be able to sleep”? I still haven’t figured that one out.

  14. Richard P. Grant says:

    Åsa yes, indeed (re $$) and that’s why we need to keep saying that it is about money—else why aren’t they giving the ‘treatments’ away for free?
    Steffi, friends is difficult. Family worse. I’d like to say ‘I take Vit C before going to bed and it doesn’t stop me sleeping’ but that smacks of anecdote. Argh!

  15. steffi suhr says:

    Yes, that’s the problem: you have the choice of either telling anecdotes (which people can maybe at least relate to) or going all sciency. The former isn’t very convincing and with the latter one ends up sounding arrogant or completely over the top. It’s even more difficult when it’s the friend’s trusted family doctor who prescribed the homeopathy…

  16. Jennifer Rohn says:

    @Asa I’m not sure why “just chew on bark from Salix” and the fever decreases, hasn’t spread more in the homeopathic circles…
    It sounds like you are confusing homeopathy with herbal medicine. They are not the same thing at all. The former deals solely with things diluted to 0 molecules in water, whereas the latter is the (undiluted) use of active substances in plants (whether they be verified by science or not) to treat. The latter is a lot less wacky, in my opinion – in some poor cultures it’s the only medicine people have, and some of it probably works. To conflate the two seems unfair.
    Or am I missing something?

  17. Richard P. Grant says:

    I think what Åsa is saying is that homeopaths and herbalists both rage against big pharmacy making money. It’s too easy to conflate all CAM practitioners into one convenient hate package, but yeah, it’s unfair. Perhaps if the Association of Herbalists (whatever) were to come out and say ‘homeopathy is bollocks’ it might help.

  18. Austin Elliott says:

    Jenny, see my previous comment. Herbalism obviously isn’t the same as homeopathy, but when you encounter the people you find they share at least some of the same attitudes, see Richard’s last remark. Wanting to “play doctor” without having to train to do it properly is a common theme.
    Germany is a little different, as many of the people dishing out herbal remedies (and homeopathy) there are conventionally-trained doctors. I guess I can live with that, just about, as at least they should be able to tell the difference between someone with a mild respiratory infection and someone who needs urgent investigating for lung cancer. I am pretty sure your average lay homeopath can’t tell the difference, and I’m doubtful about the “medical herbalist”.

  19. Richard P. Grant says:

    Thing is Austin, even conventionally-trained doctors sometimes can’t tell the difference between a trapped nerve and full-blown pneumonia with added pleural effusion.

  20. Austin Elliott says:

    I hear you, Richard. Sounds nasty – see also the recent travails of Abel Pharmboy over at the Terra Sigillata blog.
    Inevitably, doctors, like all other professions, come in varying degrees of skill. I’m lucky in living with a rather good one (though of course she doesn’t “treat” the family) but it is certainly fair to say that the ones we have encountered as patients have ranged from the excellent to the just-about-adequate.

  21. Richard P. Grant says:

    Pneumonia is surprisingly common. I’m still amazed the GP missed it though–complete lack of breath noises in my right lung should have been a dead giveaway.
    Maybe it was the fact that I was able to walk into work, thence to the surgery (despite having to hide in the gents while I sobbed in pain waiting for the analgesics to kick in in). The medic at Canberra hospital 2 days later said that people with an x-ray like mine were usually already in hospital.

  22. Alejandro Correa says:

    Share this opinion – Doctors should not have to know everything, but in many cases, them wrong!. Are human.

  23. Åsa Karlström says:

    @Jenny: Indeed differences between homeopathy and herbal remedies. I was, as Richard and Austin mentioned, questioning that if you are saying “big pharma is bad and it all partly being about money” – why wouldn’t you want to be in the “more natural and cheap” setting and promote that?
    Of course, it’s not that simple….
    @Austin: Thanks for the link to the specific discussion. I’ve bookmarked David Colquhoun’s blog and read it but missed that thread 🙂
    Personally, I am not against herbal remedies per se but there is a lot of reasoning in the community that I have some troubles with.
    @Richard: if nothing else, it could be less expensive. One assumes that if the active ingredient is that diluted, most of the homeopathy is water (some of us would say all of it) and then the price makes even less sense….
    oh, and the anecdotal value of certain medical experiences is obvious when you talk to others who rely mainly on anecdotal experiences from friends and family 😉 (there are some out there… )

  24. Alejandro Correa says:

    @in general- that’s what I think is a matter purely to raise money and class….Hohorahh…
    Today I had a dream that carried out an one blog for NN that is titled “The syndrome of Lycopersicon esculentum” : if you do not pull out to eat you’ll crush you.
    Rejoice people are not going short of genius, Hohorahh….

  25. Alejandro Correa says:

    That will be in the near future ….. that is later!!

  26. Austin Elliott says:

    bq. “The medic at Canberra hospital 2 days later said that people with an x-ray like mine were usually already in hospital.”
    I guess the “classical” pneumonia pt would be older and rather more knackered than you, Richard – so your youth and general fitness were presumably keeping you upright… plus sort of masking the seriousness of the pathology in the right lung, as you were managing to oxygenate yourself OK with the other one, even on exertion (walking).
    I have a friend who in his 20s had several bouts of pneumonia as a result of having an area of bronchiectasis in one lung. Eventually the surgeons had to excise the offending regions to give a permanent solution to the problem. By eerie coincidence he was (and is) a lung physiologist…!

  27. Cath Ennis says:

    Very timely post, Richard. I just read a very upsetting status update from a friend on Facebook:
    “never, ever want today to happen again….[2 year old son] had a fit this morning…stopped breathing, rolled eyes and convulsions. most terrifying moments of my life. thankfully the ambulance came quickly, and the hospital reckon it was febrile convulsions from fever, so we are back home tonight. exhausted, and terrribly nervous… that he is sleeping now…..can i stay with him all night?”
    Thankfully this friend is a scientist and a very sensible Mum. But not every kid is as lucky with their parents.
    One of my friends who had babies last year (there were lots of them) was taken in by some of the anti-vaccine scaremongering that’s still doing the rounds. I suggested he read Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science, and that was part of the reason he eventually came round to his wife’s point of view and agreed to get their kid the shots. Two of my nephews are still unvaccinated, at the age of 12 and 10. It is so hard to talk about this stuff with friends and family.

  28. Richard P. Grant says:

    Yikes. It’s such a fine line between life and…not, sometimes.

  29. Richard P. Grant says:

    Apropos Jenny’s comment about herbalism and homeopathy getting confused, it was heartening to read, just now, the following warning on a medical hypnotherapist‘s site:

    Keep in mind is that herbs act like medicines in the body and can cause strong unwanted effects. If you use herbal medicines, consult with your doctor before you start taking the herb, or let your physician and pharmacist know if you are already taking these products. Chamomile should not be taken if you have a history of asthma or allergic dermatitis, or if you take warfarin (Coumadin) or other blood thinners, according to consumermedsafety.org

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