by Brendon Nafziger
, DOTmed News Associate Editor | August 01, 2012
From the August 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
My June column on Rep. Ron Paul's alternative medicine dalliances got a pretty hostile reception. I should have expected that. There are three eternal truths: Fire burns, water's wet, and you can't criticize Dr. Paul without provoking his many letter-writing fans.
For those who didn't read my earlier column, what I was complaining about was the good doctor's advocacy of "health freedom." This is essentially a push to stop the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission from controlling the language alternative medicine vendors use when they hawk their wares. In the course of complaining about "health freedom," I also grieved that Dr. Paul has apparently sometimes made noises in support of homeopathy.
I don't really have the space to address all the letters individually. But I'd like to clear up a misconception I noticed a lot of people had about homeopathy.
First, I'll be honest with you. I'm skeptical of most alternative or "naturopathic" treatments. But I think you can have an intelligent debate about some of them in a way you can't with homeopathy. Homeopathy is like the ancient theory of humors. It's discredited nonsense.
Homeopathy is not simply the use of natural substances, such as, say, milk thistle for liver disease. It is a 19th century pseudoscience that involves diluting a substance over and over again until basically nothing remains. It's also based on a kind of sympathetic magic, where like cures like. The idea is that if caffeine in high quantities makes you alert, giving super-low quantities of it can make you relax. (This example comes courtesy of the excellent British 10:23 anti-homeopathy campaign.) By super-low quantities, I mean there are virtually no molecules of the original substance left in the formula.
Even the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, obviously not a foe of alternative practices, said there was "little evidence" homeopathy works and acknowledged that its key principles were "inconsistent with fundamental concepts of chemistry and physics."
In short, it's completely and utterly bogus. That's why I think a presidential candidate - and a doctor no less - shouldn't give succor to those who believe in it.