Friday, 18 February 2011

The Voice - homeopathic nonsense and a fake degree holder

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

Hi. I had some sort of allergic reaction and my eyes were watering so I went to the pharmacy to get something to help. They sold me a bottle of Simalasan Allergy Eye Relief. When I got home I opened the packet and saw that it was a homeopathic remedy. Will this work?

You don’t need to be a doctor to understand that homeopathy, despite it’s popularity, is nonsense.

Homeopathy is based on the theory that “like may be cured by like”. In the case of your eye drops the theory seems to be that massively diluted honey-bee sting will stop your eyes watering. That alone is nonsense but homeopathic remedies go further. They are diluted to such a level that often not even a single molecule of the active ingredient is left. In your case each millilitre of the “remedy” you bought contains one 3-millionth part of bee sting extract, another 3-millionth of a herb and a final 3-millionth of lily extract. The rest is water.

The leaflet that came with your useless remedy contained a variety of interesting things. It described the contents as a “clear, colourless liquid without an odour or taste” and the potential overdose effects as “none known”. That is all very simple to explain. It’s water.

Given that this is presented as a treatment you are entitled to ask what evidence there is to support the claim that this water actually DOES anything. There isn’t any. But that’s true of ALL homeopathic remedies. Not one properly controlled scientific study has EVER shown that any homeopathic remedy has ANY effect at all. Not one.

Some of you might say that you’ve taken a homeopathic remedy and felt better later so it must work? Someone tried that with me some while ago when she had a cold. A week into her suffering she took a homeopathic “cure” and, amazingly, a few days later she felt much better. But that’s because a cold lasts no more than a week to 10 days. She could have swallowed milk, Coke or whiskey instead and she would have felt better after 10 days. It wasn’t the quack cure that made her better. It was her immune system that did it.

Likewise there is the massively impressive placebo effect where just doing something, almost anything, makes you feel a bit better.

Finally there’s a problem with homeopathic remedies, in fact any product where the supplier “quotes scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated” or “promises outcomes where those outcomes have no safe scientific, medical or performance basis”. They breach the Consumer Protection Regulations.

Maybe one day the people we pay to be in authority and to regulate these things will actually DO something about charlatans selling fake cures?

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

[This email arrived shortly after we discussed the fake Belford University. You can see the details on the Consumer Watchdog blog site.]

I urgently need your assistance. I'm conducting job interviews tomorrow. One of the candidates submitted a degree certificate from Belford University. The gentleman is applying for the post of a Junior Accountant an d claims to have 8 yrs of teaching experience. In one of your talk shows you warned members of the public about fake individuals with fake qualifications from the mentioned University. Please advise me accordingly.

Yes, Belford University is definitely a fake university. It doesn't actually exist other than as a web site and phone number.

It’s impossible to get a degree from them and not understand that you're doing something wrong. It's so obviously a scam. Within hours of registering on their site your candidate would have received an email saying that if he pays them he'll get the degree "within 15 days". Nobody can misunderstand this.

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