[Volume 35, no. 3, 7th February 2005, page 39.]
Homoeopaths 'guilty of deliberate fraud'
I have watched the debate regarding the merits, or otherwise, of homoeopathy and finally feel moved enough to contribute from my personal experience.
I have always been a sceptic about homoeopathy, but, given that professional colleagues appeared genuine in their beliefs that such methodologies could indeed be useful in the treatment of animals I was open to persuasion.
In January 2002, my practice purchased a primarily homoeopathic practice with a view to developing homoeopathy as a commercial venture. I was persuaded by veterinary colleagues who produced data which appeared to indicate the validity of homoeopathic "trials" and even "scientific" papers, produced by one of the homoeopaths that we were about to take on as an employee, which quoted very impressive success rates in both horses and small animals.
One lives and learns though. Once we had acquired the practice, we were able to gain access to the clinical records for many of the cases which appeared to validate the success of homoeopathic methodologies. I was particularly surprised to discover that the use of depomedrone in this practice greatly exceeded that of our own (a significantly larger and wholly-conventional practice). This did seem little strange to me at the time, since I had always been led to believe that corticosteroids were contraindicated in conjunction with homoeopathic remedies.
I was also surprised at the apparently poor level of clinical work-up and diagnosis for many of these cases. No doubt the converted homoeopaths will state that conventional and homoeopathic methodologies are entirely different, therefore obviating the need for traditional diagnoses to be made in favour of a more holistic approach. However, with time, I came across increasing numbers of cases in which good-quality conventional medicine was able to improve the lot of many animals now under my care. I became more and more concerned at, what I can only term the "brain-washing" of clients into thinking that, somehow, the homoeopathic treatments were actually working when it was patently clear to an objective outsider that they were not. Many of these animals had been undergoing treatment for years without significant improvement.
I admit now that I am vehemently opposed to homoeopathic medicines. It is my personal opinion that those who continue to contend that homoeopathic remedies work are, at best, either seriously misguided or, at worst, guilty of deliberate fraud. One of the selling points used to entice us to purchase this practice was the fact that the profit on homoeopathic remedies was very signiflcant. Remedies charged out at over £10 actually cost pence to produce (including materials and labour). Clearly, there was money to be made out of such a venture.
Any good veterinary surgeon knows the power that we all wield in the consulting room. In the extreme, we have the power and the ability to convince a client that the perfectly healthy animal they bring into the surgery is suffering from some terrible terminal disease and should be euthanased immediately. It is equally possible for a veterinary surgeon with "gift of the gab" to convince a client that an animal with an incurable disease is actually getting better with the help of a few sugar tablets. In my view, neither of these situations is tolerable in our profession, yet homoeopathy persists.
Of course there are good and not so good conventional veterinary surgeons. It is my contention, based on my experience of both types of practice, that cases which homoeopaths put up as examples of animals that have got better "under their care" are simply poorly-managed conventional cases originally, or they are one of the very many cases that improve spontaneously despite treatment that each of us sees every day. I have yet to see a single case in which homoeopathy alone can be proven to have been the most likely reason for a case improvement.
I used to be a sceptic. Now I am a cynical sceptic and I very much hope that the silent majority of this profession speak up soon and voice their own scepticism. We have all sworn to uphold the welfare of animals in our care, yet we continue to allow practices which prevent the application of conventional treatments, which are proven to work, in favour of remedies which are based on myth, faith and possibly deliberate fraud.
RICHARD EDWARDS, MSc, MA, VetMB, MRCVS,