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News

WHO warns against using homoeopathy to treat serious diseases

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b3447 (Published 24 August 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3447

Rapid Response:

Young scientists, tunnel vision perhaps ?

Are the WHO and the Young Scientists in need of a gentle reality
check ? In their letter to the WHO, dated 1.6.09 (on their website) the
Young scientists list five projects in Africa. How much do they know about
them ? Peter Chappell’s “resonances” are not classical homeopathic
remedies. They are a recent innovation and seldom used outside his
immediate circle. The other projects are run by homeopaths who are
volunteers or work for little pay. The Maun project enjoys a good
relationship with the nearby public hospital and AIDs clinic. Excepting
the Republic of South Africa, there are probably only a dozen or two
qualified homeopaths in all of sub -Saharan Africa.

Ten days ago Moszynski
wrote (1) of the critical shortage of health professionals in sub -
Saharan Africa. By 2015 the shortage will be an estimated 800,000. The
lack of health workers has become “ the binding constraint in
implementing many health programs in Africa .”

Three weeks ago Hopkins et al discussed access to antimalarial treatment
in Africa (2). It made uncomfortable reading. Conventional diagnosis and
management leave much to be desired. ”Based on typical malaria
prevalence, for every billion dollars in subsidy on antimalarial drugs,
around $500m to $960m will be spent on treatment for people who do not
have malaria,” they wrote. ( Not to forget the human cost, in
misdiagnoses, and antmalarial side effects ) They further comment that
“Misdiagnosis and over diagnosis of malaria drain resources at the
household level, affecting the poorest families most.” Little wonder that
the very poor do without, or look elsewhere, by choice or necessity.

These are just two articles , in three weeks, in one journal. Is it a
secret that health systems in most of sub -Saharan Africa are absent
where they are not fractured ?
Against this background, do the WHO and the Young Scientists really
believe that a dozen or more peripatetic homeopaths represent a
significant threat to the delivery of effective conventional health care
in half of Africa ? The Young Scientists collected an impressive list
of signatories to their letter. One of them was my examiner for the London
Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Did those well intentioned
signatories receive sufficient briefing material before adding their
names to that odd missive ?

(1) BMJ 2009;339:b3332
(2)BMJ 2009;339:b2606

Competing interests:
NHS GP. Homeopath, occasional, unpaid. Medical work in NWFP, Lesotho. Homeopathy in kenya.

Competing interests: No competing interests

02 September 2009
Noel Bell Thomas
semi retired GP
Maesteg, wales. CF34 9AL