12 thoughts on “Bear shits in woods

  1. on the other hand you write that as if the placebo effect was something that was completely understood as a legitimate part of modern medicine.

  2. btw, there is a small element of the familiar "Lancet Editor Inflates Claim" effect here; they actually did find weak effects for homeopathic medicine but said (presumably with decent reason; I don’t understand metastudies at all but it passed peer review) that these effects were small enough to be explained by methodological deficiences and biased reporting. Homeopathy apparently has an odds ratio of 0.88, CI 0.65-1.19.

  3. Iriving Kirsch gave a great talk about placebos, briefly: they’re great and we should have more of them. He wants us to be producing better placebos (not a contradiction in terms) and suggests hypnosis is one example of a really good placebo:


    One of my best mates has recently published on hypnosis and placebo (specifically, whether it is the labelling of something as hypnosis or otherwise that produces the effect, rather than any special conscious state we enter):

  4. Unfortunately I only had about 30 seconds to write this post, otherwise I’d’ve added something covering Dearieme and Alex’s points. Homeopathy works *even though* it involves treatment with placebos. This would indeed be an interesting thing for Medical Science to investigate more…

  5. "Personally, I find it hard to swallow reports prefixed with any variation of the phrase ‘research shows’."

    Have you tried them with a glass of water?


  6. Worth reading that BBC News report to the end, to reach this paragraph: "the Lancet also reports that a draft report on homeopathy by the World Health Organization says the majority of peer-reviewed scientific papers published over the past 40 years have demonstrated that homeopathy is superior to placebo in placebo-controlled trials."

    So, really, we’re no further forward.

  7. Great comment piece Alex. It hits is nicely on the heat: Homeopathy only works if the patient (and probably the "healer") really believe in it. So we shouldn’t ban it or anything, but it would be a massive mistake to, say, employ NHS Homeopaths. This is because doctors would somehow have to play at psycologists: do they think patient X believes in Homeopathy and will hence, maybe, have a noticable placebo effect? And what do we treat: back pain is perhaps complex and little understood, and amenable to placebo; cancer far less so. There’s a strong argument to be made that the only people who will really benefit from Homeopathy are those people who believe in it enough to be motivated to go out and seek it away from organised medicine.

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