Skepchick has apparently discovered that, as of yesterday, this is World Homeopathy Awareness Week. (Yes, starts on a Thursday…they were going to start on Monday, but the succussion took a while.)
Well, I can get behind a public service like this. My contribution will be a side-to-side comparison of a homeopathic treatment and a real one. Let’s pick a fun disease, say, heart attacks (the website I found offered homeopathic remedies for anthrax, but I think I’ll skip that).
Unfortunately, this will require a brief tutorial on myocardial infarctions (MIs, heart attatcks). As is usual with my medical posts, this will be a gross oversimplification, but good enough to explain the issue.
An MI occurs when part of your heart muscle stops receiving enough oxygenated blood. There are a variety of possible ways for this to happen, but most of the time we are talking about a typical acute MI, where a specific artery becomes suddenly occluded. When this happens, a person usually experiences chest pain, and, if the heart attack is serious enough, heart failure, arrhythmias, and death.
Over the last couple of decades we’ve figured out how to interrupt the natural history of MIs. Clot-dissolving medications or angioplasty can be used to quickly open up an artery, hopefully saving the heart muscle from death. In addition, several medications can be used to help save lives. Beta-blockers, aspirin, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and statins have all been proved to help in an acute MI or to prevent further MIs. The literature to support these practices is quite voluminous but just to give you a sampling, see the references below.
Now let’s examine the homeopath’s guide to heart attacks…
First, we have a modified Quack Miranda Warning:
Take only under the professional care of an experienced homeopath. We do not recommend homeopathic medicines when you suspect a heart attack. We recommend that you go to an emergency room immediately. However, these preparations may be useful if you do not have access to a hospital in the immediate vicinity.
So, if you are so damned far from a hospital that you can’t receive proper care for an MI, then you might happen to have highly individualized homeopathic remedies lying around? You know what would be even better? A friggin aspirin! That actually might help you.
Rhus tox: For recovery from heart attack, take Rhus tox every three hours for up to one week when the left arm still feels numb and weak.
Great. Poison Ivy water for angina. Love it.
Arnica – Useful for angina pectoris, when the pain is severe in the left arm, left elbow, in the region of the heart, when the pulse is feeble and irregular and there is distress in breathing. Administer immediately.
No…those are the signs and symptoms of impending death from a heart attack. All the magic water in the world can’t help.
Cactus mother tincture: When the symptoms are those of a heart attack and not just those of angina pectoris, when there is suffocation, cold sweat, screaming pain, when the face turns blue. Give 10 drops in water, every 30 minutes till the condition stabilizes.
Sounds like cardiogenic shock to me—how about two large bore IVs with 0.9 normal saline AND A FUCKING EMERGENCY ROOM!
Camphor: In case of collapse with coldness of external surfaces, give Camphor mother tincture, 10 drops on sugar every 15 minutes .The victim should be made to smell Camphor drops on a clean cloth.
These are ominous symptoms of impending cardiac death. Best idea—911!
I can’t go on. Listed along with the references on standard treatment of MI are is all the good evidence for homeopathic treatment for MI. I searched the literature quite extensively, I assure you. Go ahead and try it yourself using PubMed or MedLine. Enjoy the reading.
Elliott M Antman et al., “ACC/AHA guidelines for the management of patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction–executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Writing Committee to Revise the 1999 Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Acute Myocardial Infarction),” Circulation 110, no. 5 (August 3, 2004): 588-636.
Cannon, CP, Braunwald, E, McCabe, CH, et al. Intensive versus moderate lipid lowering with statins after acute coronary syndromes. N Engl J Med 2004; 350:1495.
Schwartz, GG, Olsson, AG, Ezekowitz, MD, et al. Effects of atorvastatin on early recurrent ischemic events in acute coronary syndromes. The MIRACL Study: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2001; 285:1711.
Dargie, HJ. Effect of carvedilol on outcome after myocardial infarction in patients with left-ventricular dysfunction: the CAPRICORN randomised trial. Lancet 2001; 357:1385.
de Lemos, JA, Blazing, MA, Wiviott, SD, et al. Early intensive vs a delayed conservative simvastatin strategy in patients with acute coronary syndromes: phase Z of the A to Z trial. JAMA 2004; 292:1307.
Antithrombotic Trialists’ Collaboration. Collaborative meta-analysis of randomised trials of antiplatelet therapy for prevention of death, myocardial infarction, and stroke in high risk patients. BMJ. 2002; 324: 71-86.
ACE Inhibitor Myocardial Infarction Collaborative Group. Indications for ACE inhibitors in the early treatment of acute myocardial infarction: systematic overview of individual data from 100,000 patients in randomized trials. Circulation. 1998; 97: 2202-2212.