UK Roundup 26/11/09

26 11 2009

Looks like Ian (below) beat me to it…more on current UK Homeopathy inquiry.

It would seem that homeopathy in the UK is finally coming under some long-deserved scrutiny. Shockingly the taxpayer funded National Health Service (NHS) has spent around £12million on homeopathic remedies between 2005 and 2008, including funding more than one homeopathic hospital. However, in a move that is sure to shed light onto the treatments dubious claims of efficacy a Commons cross party select committee has been looking into whether the NHS is getting value for money.

Is it too much to ask??

Initial findings are very encouraging with many pointing out that the evidence for homeopathy working in any way better than a placebo just isn’t there. “If the NHS commitment to evidence-based medicine is more than a lip service, then money has to be spent on treatments that are evidence-based, and homeopathy isn’t,” said Edzard Ernst, a professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula medical school in Exeter.
It was further pointed out that administering medicines knowing them to be no better than placebo should be regarded as unethical, as you are fundamentally being dishonest with that patient. The best the homeopaths could come back with was the argument from a doctor at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital who said “I practise it because I think it works. I wouldn’t use it … if I thought I was conning the patient,” which is at best pretty weak. In another blow the standards director for major high street pharmacy chain Boots, a major supplier of homeopathic remedies has stated that the chain had no reason to assume the products actually did anything. ‘We just sell them because people want them” he said.
The one sour note in this otherwise positive tale is that the UK government’s recent track record on actually listening to experts in the scientific field is appalling – the last person who told them something they didn’t want to know (after being hired to do just that) got the sack. Dr. David Nutt, a very well respected scientist, publicised his opinion that drug classifications should be rated according to actual harm – lowering cannabis, ecstasy and LSD on the scale and raising alcohol, and was fired by the Home Secretary Alan Johnson. So it would seem that no matter what the experts think the outcome of the debate on homeopathy will depend on political whim. Watch this space for further developments.

In other news there has been a bizarre trend suddenly appearing in the world of Premiership football. Now while the top echelons of the Premier League are no stranger to 19 yr olds crashing their new Maseratis or stumbling out of clubs with their trousers around their ankles, this is something new. Several players who have succumbed to muscle strains or similar injuries have been jetting off to Serbia in the last week to see housewife who claims to cure people with horse placenta. However it seems Marijana Kovacevic’s treatment is not without controversy as now some claim that she uses human placenta that is massaged onto the affected area. The Serbian authorities are not quite so taken with the claims and would very much like to talk to Ms Kovacevic about various tax and licensing issues. Let’s hope it works because as an Arsenal supporter I’d very much like to see our striker Robin Van Persie, one of the Serbian travellers, back asap. However I am not holding my breath.
**Update** great, well now it looks like he’s out for the rest of the season. bah!

And finally great news! All late night TV viewers will remember the truly frightening series of advertisements featuring Aussie spin bowler and serial texter Shane ‘Warnie’ Warne banging on about how Advanced Hair Studio saved his barnet and filled him with youthful vigour. Well not any more because it has been banned in the UK for being misleading.




4 responses

27 11 2009
David Raynes

David Nutt did not get sacked for having his personal opinion, he got sacked for campaigning with his view against government policy. He was only one of over 30 members of the ACMD-they were not unanimous. His view had no more value than anyone else. The Council is ADVISORY. When he became Chairman, to campaign and to be selective just with his view was incompatible with his position. Since being sacked he has been unscientifically selective in presenting information to the public. Scandalously so. The government had to take account of various strands of opinion. The National Director of mental Health-also a Professor was against Nutt.

27 11 2009

What campaign? Can you clarify?
As an advisor he was there to advise, which he did. For the government to turn around and sack him was unforgivable. They could have quite easily chosen not to take the advice. Why was his view incompatible with his position? Because the government didn’t want to hear it? Regardless of who was against what Nutt said he WAS entitled to say it and should not have been fired. That sends out a very clear message that the government is happy to dispense with the services of those who do not agree with them.

27 11 2009
David Raynes

They government DID reject the advice of the ACMD and they gave reasons (I happen to think they could have given more-but they surely will next time).

As the ACMD was not unanimous, it has been disingenuous of Nutt to campaign against government decisions which he personally disagrees with. He knows the judgement on cannabis was a close call and he knows that other equally eminent people-wanted cannabis reclassified. Even IF the ACMD had been unanimous, they still only propose, government and parliament disposes.

He knows that the ACMD is not the only source of scientific information or opinion. He has presented it otherwise and pushed his personal view, even going to the extent of diminishing the role of the non scientists on the ACMD. He has crusaded for decisions on classification to be taken by only scientists.

He thus attempts a spurious and quite ridiculous unscientific accuracy about the matter of classification in what are broad categories with social harm taken into account. In his argument about only scientists deciding he ignores the expressed reasons the other members are there and dimishes their input. Not proper behaviour for the Chairman.

He was not dismissed for having a personal view but if his personal view of matters conflicted so much with the system he was being asked to chair, his tenure of the post became impossible. not only did the Home Secretary lose faith in him, other ACMD members would have been quite reasonable to lose faith in him.

30 11 2009

Can you give some sources??
As I asked before… what campaign?? You’re basing your argument on a ‘campaign’ that never happened. He put forward his views in a lecture and a pamphlet both of which conformed to the governments own standards!

From the Times

” …the lecture that provoked Alan Johnson to dismiss him (and the pamphlet in which it was subsequently published) conformed to the Government’s own code of practice for scientific advisers.

The Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees, as revised in 2007, sets out the ground rules for members and chairs. It states that committee rules should not normally preclude advisers from speaking out about their areas of expertise, so long as they do so in their personal capacity, and do not claim to be representing their panels. ”

Both the lecture and the pamphlet made it perfectly clear that Professor Nutt was speaking in his capacity as Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College, London, not as chairman of the ACMD”

Seems pretty clear to me…

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