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Homeopathy: How Can Wikipedia Get It So Wrong?

Homeopathy:  How Can Wikipedia Get It So Wrong?

By Richard Gale, Gary Null PhD., Amy Mitura, Esq. and Neal Greenfield, Esq.

 

In 2014, Dana Ullman, who is regarded as America’s leading advocate for homeopathy and an author and publisher of over 35 books about this alternative medical system, bumped into Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales in Vancouver. Over the years, Wales is on record for showing animosity against homeopathy and has publicly put his support behind efforts to discredit it.  After a verbal exchange over Ullman’s concerns about the online encyclopedia’s unwarranted bias and misinformation under its homeopathy entry, Ullman published an article entitled Dysfunction at Wikipedia on Homeopathic Medicine as a response to Mr. Wales. 

 

At the time of the article was written Wikipedia described homeopathy as “a pseudoscience and its remedies have been found to be no more effective than placebos.”  Ullman wrote, “It is more than a tad ironic that this first paragraph in the Wikipedia article on homeopathy references only one article that was published in a peer-review medical journal.” In particular he takes issue with a referenced study by Shang, et.al and informs Wales that it “has been thoroughly discredited.” Ullman cites an article published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, which found that the Shang analysis failed to review “higher quality” medical trials; if it had done so, the analysis would have had a positive conclusion confirming homeopathy’s efficacy in treating certain illnesses. Consequently, the review concluded that the Shang study was biased by “arbitrarily defin[ing] one subset” and deemed the “entire review as ‘falsely negative.’”

 

After presenting a partial list of studies on homeopathy, Ullman asked Wales if he could “name ONE other system of ‘pseudoscience’ that has a similar body of randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled clinical trials published in high-impact medical journals showing efficacy of treatment?”

 

Five years later, Wikipedia’s homeopathy entry is even more disparaging, despite Ullman’s provision of reliable references debunking the studies the entry relies upon. The encyclopedia now reads, “Homeopathy is a pseudoscience—a belief that is incorrectly presented as scientific. Homeopathic preparations are not effective for treating any condition; large-scale studies have found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo.” Although Ullman educated Wales and Wikipedia’s Skeptic editors, they have refused to properly correct the entry to more accurately educate the encyclopedia’s massive audience.

 

Dr. Stephen Barrett, the founder of Quackwatch – a Skeptic clearinghouse of harsh criticisms against non-conventional medical theories and practices — is also responsible for Wikipedia’s misinformation about homeopathy. The entry references Barrett’s article “Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake,” a very outdated paper that relies primarily on studies published over two decades ago. A couple of direct Wikipedia references to Barrett’s paper state, “Robert L. Park, Ph.D., a prominent physicist…has noted that since the least amount of a substance in a solution is one molecule, a 30C solution would…require a container more than 30,000,000,000 times the size of the Earth.”  And, “[a]ctually, the laws of chemistry state that there is a limit to the dilution that can be made without losing the original substance altogether. This limit, which is related to Avogadro’s number, corresponds to homeopathic potencies of 12C or 24X (1 part in 10 to the 24th).” Park is a noted Skeptic and the author of Voodoo Science, a lengthy diatribe attempting to discredit all alternative medicine and homeopathy. The Washington Post criticized the book for its strong reliance on sensational news stories rather than hard scientific research. 

 

Barrett’s reference to “dilution” is not based on accurate mathematics. A 30C potency of homeopathic medicines is diluted through a course of 30 vials of water. Barrett’s reference to Park’s nonsensical math of 30 billion earths is ludicrous at best.  

 

Dana Ullman addresses Barrett’s reference to the Avogadro’s number in his article, “When skeptics of homeopathy reference Avogadro’s number as “evidence” that homeopathic medicines beyond 24X or 12C have “no remaining molecules left,” they are simply verifying their own ignorance of Avogadro’s number because this widely recognized principle in chemistry does NOT account for the complexities of the silica fragments, the bubbles or nanobubbles, nor the increased water pressure. In fact, any serious scientist or educated individual who asserts that a homeopathic medicine is ‘beyond Avogadro’s number’ has no ground on which to stand.”

 

A study in LANGMUIR, a journal published by the American Chemistry Society, verifies that nanoparticles of a homeopathic medicine persist in solution even after they were diluted 1:100 six times, thirty times, and even two-hundred times.

 

It is not only dangerous to have incorrect and incomplete information on Wikipedia, but the references contain links where readers will find further misinformation about homeopathy. For example, in a section called “Unimpressive ‘Research,’” Barrett takes issue with a study about homeopathy’s efficacy to treat childhood diarrhea that was published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal. Ullman sent this study to Jimmy Wales in his response letter.  In his article, Barrett argued that the study “had questionable clinical significance and no public health significance because the only remedy needed for mild childhood diarrhea is adequate fluid intake to prevent or correct dehydration.”

 

Barrett’s bias against the study having “no public health significance” displays a serious lack of knowledge about childhood diseases and their severity, which can be life-threatening. According to the World Health Organization, “Diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old…Each year diarrhea kills around 525,000 children under five…Globally, there are nearly 1.7 billion cases of childhood diarrhoeal disease every year. Diarrhea is a leading cause of malnutrition in children under five years old.” Moreover, perhaps Barrett is unaware that the world’s poorest families that suffer most from gastro-intestinal disease and diarrhea causing parasites do so because of highly polluted water. Any sane person would agree that a non-conventional treatment for 1.7 billion children carries “public health significance.”

 

As far as the reliability of the homeopathy study published in the journal Pediatrics, subsequent reviews had acknowledged it met high standards. To say that homeopathic medicines are prescribed “arbitrarily” simply means that Barrett and Wikipedia Skeptics don’t fully comprehend homeopathy’s underlying principles and refuse to understand its methodology. The study was repeated twice by other homeopathic practitioners and the replication of these studies verified the efficacy of homeopathic medicines. In The Health Robbers, Stephen Barrett wrote, “the only way for homeopathy to gain acceptance by the scientific community would be to demonstrate positive results through repeated experiments designed with the help of critics and carried out with strict safeguards against experimenter bias and fraud.” (202)  For some medical indications, such studies have been replicated.  

 

In 2015, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) published an Information Paper about homeopathy and concluded “…there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.” The Paper was treated as a landmark study for homeopathy’s opponents. However, four years later the Council’s CEO issued a clarification in the Homeopathy Review stating, “Contrary to some claims, the review did not conclude that homeopathy was ineffective.” 

 

An investigation by the Australian Homeopathic Association (AHA), combined with an in-depth scientific analysis of the review by the Homeopathy Research Institute uncovered “serious procedural and scientific misconduct.” In fact, an earlier 2012 study by the NHMRC was never disclosed to the public wherein the report’s investigators found “encouraging evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy” in five medical conditions.”

 

The Homeopathy Research Institute provides references to 1,200 studies that have been published in peer-reviewed medical journals. Some are strong studies with very positive and promising results. Wikipedia, on the other hand, only presents unscientific biases in order to emphasize homeopathy’s uselessness. Perhaps Stephen Barrett should be more concerned about the bias shown in Wikipedia and in his own writings rather than the poor and distorted studies Skeptics rely upon to continue their ceaseless attack on homeopathy.  

 

In conclusion, homeopathy has a substantial body of quality science to support its safety and efficacy. Some countries such France and Switzerland have incorporated the practice into its national health programs. This was only done after a careful and critical analysis and review of the scientific literature. What is missing from Barrett’s and Wikipedia’s invective is clinical experience. Barrett is a former licensed psychiatrist and none of Wikipedia’s anonymous Skeptic editors have any sound academic or clinical background in the medical subjects they criticize. Hundreds of millions of people have benefited from homeopathy.  Consequently, Wikipedia is promoting individual and collective bias that is founded on personal animus, disdain and antagonism on behalf of its own ideology to harm an effective and popular medical intervention that has internationally been recognized for benefiting patients for over two centuries.

 

To prove our point about homeopathy, we are providing twenty-three (23) of the best studies and a link to the 5,833 results on homeopathy at PubMed, the world’s largest library of health sciences.

 

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=homeopathy
For more information on homeopathy by Dana Ullman, MPH, CCH visit:
www.homeopathic.com
Evidence Based Homeopathic Family Medicine:  https://homeopathic.com/product/1-ebook-evidence-based-homeopathic-family-medicine-4/ (an ebook on homeopathic research)