Moral panic: British case and its implications for homeopathy

Roxanne Friedenfels

Though the British government reaffirmed the public’s right to be treated homeopathically by the National Health System (NHS) in 2010, the attack on homeopathy in Great Britain should continue to concern homeopaths the world over.  I will discuss this attack as being what sociologists call “a moral panic.”  “Moral panics are a condition, episode, person or group of persons (who) become defined as a threat to societal values and interests” (Cohen 9).  There is a sense that, “something should be done” about the evildoers and their behavior (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 31).  While homeopathy might not appear to be a likely target for a moral panic, this paper will show that homeopaths have been cast as unethical agents, or “folk devils,” causing harm to British society.  These accusations are not, however, specific to Britain, and in the age of the internet, they are being broadcast the world over.  Thus, they must concern all those who support homeopathy and indeed all who support the public’s right to choose the health care they want.  As Critcher notes, “In an increasingly globalized world, moral panics in different countries cannot remain independent of each other.  Some panics may even be exported from one country to another” (14).  Beneath the assertions about the immorality of homeopathy, however, appear to be interests threatened by troubles within orthodox medicine itself and by problems in the British National Health Service (NHS).

Homeopathy prior to the attack had been an accepted part of the NHS.  A 1986 survey in the British Medical Journal showed that 42% of doctors referred patients for homeopathic treatment (Dana Ullman, “A Condensed History of Homeopathy”)  A 1990 survey of British pharmacists found that 55 percent of them considered homeopathic medicines “useful.”  In 1992, the British Pharmaceutical Association concluded by a large majority that pharmacists should promote homeopathic remedies.    In 1993, the British Medical Association (BMA) published a book entitled, Complementary Medicine, New Approaches to Good Practice.  At the beginning of the new millennium, the House of Lords reported that 17 percent of the public used homeopathy  (Dana Ullman, “Homeopathic Medicine:  Europe’s #1 Alternative”).  Thus, homeopathy had the support of pharmacists and many medical doctors in the BMA; it was used by a substantial minority of the public.  Yet this apparent acceptance was soon to come under attack, as the vulnerabilities of the orthodox medical system became more obvious.

The immediate period before the panic was a time of significant negative publicity for the pharmaceutical industry and, by extension, for the orthodox medical community generally.  Crossley notes that when an elite (in this case, the biomedical community, given biomedical dominance of medicine) is attacked it becomes, or at least is perceived to be, more vulnerable.  “Political opportunity increases”  (35) for its opponents.  Some members of the biomedical community perceived that they must act, and deflect attention from their vulnerabilities.  What if the NHS cut some of their services?

The special position of the pharmaceutical companies in the UK is of note.  The pharmaceutical industry is the third most profitable industry there (after tourism and finance).  According to the 2004-05 House of Commons Health Committee report on the pharmaceutical industry, general practitioners alone wrote about 650 million prescriptions in 2003, which is 13.1 prescriptions per person (7)  Though the industry is described in the report as “world class and a jewel in the crown of the UK economy,”  (3) the report also makes clear it is a troubled industry in some ways.  Sir Richard Sykes is quoted in both the introduction and the conclusion:

“Today the industry has got a very bad name.  That is very unfortunate for an industry that we should…be supporting.  I think there have to be some very big changes”  (6 &101).

The 2004-05 House of Commons report reveals the national government’s concern about the “unsafe use of drugs” and the “medicalisation of society” (4).   It considers the pharmaceutical industry to be a main, though not the only, cause of these problems.  Shepherd’s article “The Death of the Magic Pill” came out soon after the report, and thus helped make iatrogenic deaths a major issue for the public.

The House of Commons report also notes that “too many articles (in medical journals) do not present an objective assessment of the merits of a medicine” owning to pharmaceutical industry influence (53).   The quote refers to orthodox drugs, but the comment is telling nonetheless in its implications for the 2005 Lancet articles on homeopathy and the resulting moral panic.  In the chain of biomedical interdependency, medical journals like The Lancet depend on advertising from the pharmaceutical companies for a substantial amount of their income (Smith). Astrid notes that the pharmaceutical industry “contributes to journals’ profits through reprint orders, sponsored subscriptions or supplements, and display advertising” (1346).  Both biomedical drug companies and journals would stand to lose significant revenues were the use of some forms of CAM treatment, including homeopathy,  to significantly increase.

The House of Commons report also states that “the Government, like the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency), has tended to assume that all is for the best.  It states that there is no better alternative system.”  (5)  The authors of the report agreed that the basic pharmaceutical system should be left in place, though they nonetheless had numerous suggestions for reform.

Thus, by 2005 concerns about safety problems of biomedical drugs had damaged the reputation of pharmaceutical companies.  The Lancet and other medical journals were increasingly dependent on these companies for their advertising revenue, and the government and public were becoming aware of this lack of independence and its possible negative effects on medical journal articles. The NHS faced fiscal crisis, and some of the biomedical majority in the NHS sought to withdraw NHS funds for homeopathy.  At the same time, integrated medicine, including homeopathy, was gaining in popularity.  The threats to conventional care and the biomedical perspective were rising.  Enormous material interests were threatened, but for believers in the biomedical model, moral interests were at stake as well. 

So why homeopathy?  It is appropriate to look at two levels.  The first concerns homeopathy as a general threat to biomedicine.  The second concerns the reasons why the UK was the place of attack.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, homeopathy appeared to be up and coming in Europe and Great Britain.  In the 1980s, a survey in Great Britain indicated that 80% of recent medical school graduates wanted training in homeopathy, acupuncture, or hypnosis.  A survey in 1990 found that 40% of the French public had used homeopathic remedies; 39% of French doctors had prescribed them.  Furthermore, “the sales of homeopathic and anthroposophical medicines grew by 60 percent between 1995 and 2005, from 590 million Euros in 1995 to 775 million Euros in 2001 and to $930 million Euros in 2005.”  Dana Ullman suggests that the growing popularity of homeopathy accounts for the current attacks against it   (“Homeopathic Medicine: Europe’s #1 Alternative”).

Not only was the popularity of homeopathy strong in Europe, the unpublished 2005 World Health Organization report on homeopathy found it to be the second most popular medical modality in the world (“Who Report on Homeopathy was Suppressed”). Since it is based on a different theory than biomedicine, and has “unpatented and unpatentable” (less profitable) medicines, homeopathy was an obvious target.  It was, and is,  “sufficiently significant to attack”  (Crossley 160).  The Lancet chose to do exactly that, and published a critique of the draft WHO report, saying it was too positive toward homeopathy (“Critics Slam WHO Report on Homeopathy”).

Orthodox pharmaceutical companies have an enormous interest in orthodox medicine maintaining its hegemony in the healthcare world.  They are hugely profitable and employ millions of people.  Biomedical drugs, even generics, are considerably more expensive than homeopathic remedies.  They would appear to face a particular threat from homeopathy.  Increasing use of homeopathy would be to the detriment of these companies.  Similarly, orthodox practitioners are heavily invested in the continuation of treatment through biomedical drugs and surgery.  They have been trained in those methods of treatment, and significant growth in homeopathic treatment threatens (at least in the longer run) their livelihoods.

In the UK, the attack against homeopathy occurred at a time when the NHS had diminishing resources for the care of the British population.  A series of White Papers making recommendations for NHS improvements were published in the years prior to the moral panic, suggesting that treatment choice be increased.    Since more and more people were choosing to be treated by CAM, the orthodox medical community faced growing pressures.  The shortage of funds, competition from treatments with high patient satisfaction (Luff & Thomas), and anxieties about the future of orthodox medicine led to the attack on homeopathy.  The homeopathic community did not have sufficient organization and unity to wage an adequate counter attack.  David Tredinnick, a member of the House of Commons, said that when primary care trusts faced a fiscal crisis,  homeopathy appeared to be a “soft target.”  CAM services, he said, “are the easiest therapy to cut”  (“Homeopathic Hospitals”).  The fiscal challenges of the NHS led the biomedical community to reaffirm its support of biomedicine, and increasingly to disavow various types of CAM treatment.

Furthermore, there appears to be concern that research has found, or could find, that the homeopathic medications do have an effect that is more than a placebo effect.  It could be argued that this concern is exactly what motivated the 2005 Lancet “meta-analysis” article covering eight unidentified homeopathy studies (they were later revealed).  Since there were at least six “comprehensive reviews” from 1991 to 2005 which showed that “homeopathy has a positive and specific effect greater than placebo” (Van Wassenhoven 29) and these meta-analyses concluded there was enough evidence of efficacy to suggest there should be “further study” of homeopathy, the article by Shang et al. might have been intended to cut off further debate.  Certainly the title of the accompanying editorial, “The End of Homeopathy,” would suggest that to be the case.

As homeopaths know, a variety of scientific studies have explored the possible reasons for why homeopathic medications might be more efficacious than placebo.    For example, in 1988 Jacques Benvenist proposed in Nature, “the most influential of all scientific journals”  (Schiff 1) that water can retain a “memory” of solute particles even after dilution to the point where no molecules of the original substance remain in the water.  Schiff writes that responses to the article were “very violent” (2).  Homeopathic remedies are prepared using minute amounts of various substances succussed in water, and the “memory of water” might be a partial explanation of why homeopathic remedies might be efficacious. Despite more positive than negative trials, Nature editors declared that the research was invalid (Schiff).

The highly negative response to the research of Benvenist, who prior to his “memory of water” research, had been “one of the few French biologists to be considered as a possible candidate for the Nobel Prize” (Schiff 97), may have been politically motivated.  Scientists are an intellectual, creative community, but they are also an interest group, and ideas and studies which seriously challenge the scientific status quo are often not welcome.  Research that does not fit the accepted scientific paradigm may take some time to be incorporated into the paradigm or may be suppressed entirely (Martin).  If it is recognized that homeopathy does have an effect beyond placebo, then homeopaths, government healthcare officials and managed care corporate executives could use this knowledge to justify continued or increased homeopathic inclusion into national healthcare systems or reimbursement through insurance plans in the U.S.  As noted above, the increased competition would likely not be welcomed by members of the orthodox medical community.

But the concern goes beyond competition.  Schiff says that:

“The memory of water has acted on scientists like a red flag…imagine that Benveniste and a few others should happen to be right about the memory of water.  The revolution would not simply be scientific, it could also become cultural.  Should Benveniste eventually be proved right, then homeopathic doctors and their clients who used such ‘folk remedies’ would be vindicated and the scientific authorities who have frequently discounted them would look a little foolish.  The idea of so disastrous a situation is enough to make scientists shudder as well as those who believe in them”  (116).

Thus, homeopathy is not only a threat to the livelihoods of the biomedical community,  it is also a threat to their social standing and belief systems.

The following statement from the 2005 Lancet editorial is telling:  “It is the attitudes of patients and providers that engender alternative-therapy seeking behaviors which create a greater threat to conventional care—and patients’ welfare—than do spurious arguments of putative benefits from absurd dilutions” (“The End of Homeopathy” 690, emphasis mine).  The statement first asserts that orthodox medicine itself is at risk.  It then suggests that biomedicine is in patients’ best interests; homeopathy will harm the health and well-being of patients because it is ineffective.  Furthermore, the risks emanate from the patients and providers who unwisely choose homeopathic and/or other types of alternative care.  Thus, the concern is not only for patients’ well-being, but for biomedicine as the system of medicine best able to ensure patient health.

A later (2007) Lancet article by Ben Goldacre, a medical doctor who is also a Guardian columnist, gives a more thorough explanation of the alleged immorality of homeopathy.  In his view, the continuance of homeopathy creates a number of moral and social dilemmas.   He suggests that homeopathic medicines are “inert,” and pharmaceutically harmless.  They are nonetheless “unethical” from his perspective because he thinks they damage the doctor-patient relationship which ideally includes an informed patient.  Goldacre asserts that seriously ill homeopathic patients may not seek, or may discontinue orthodox medical treatment and die unnecessarily.  He also suggests that homeopathic practitioners undermine public health campaigns, including orthodox preventative efforts such as vaccination.  Homeopaths also, according to the article, weaken “the public understanding of what it means to have an evidence base for a treatment” and may foster misunderstandings of science among an already poorly informed public.  Finally, Goldacre suggests that homeopaths have been unwilling to engage in debate with orthodox physicians or to supply them with information about the homeopathic curriculum taught in universities and (with other types of alternative health practitioners) “lack a culture of critical self-appraisal.”   In sum, the article asserts that homeopathic treatment may harm its clients and the general populace.  It makes a moral case that homeopathy is a social problem, and suggests that the time has come for physicians to be clear with their patients that homeopathy is not a beneficial treatment.

Similarly, Professor Michael Baum, an oncologist active in the anti-homeopathy campaign, commented in The Lancet that prescribing placebos (of which homeopathy is an example, in his view) is “unethical and patronizing”   (Samarasekera 1678).

Even the scientific testing of homeopathy has been labeled unethical.  David Gorski wrote that “scientifically implausible” medicine should be “relegated to the back of the line for testing, if it’s tested at all…’s a matter of resource prioritization.”  He further suggested that testing should be done only on adults because of the “potential risks.”  This echoes the general trend in orthodox medicine, where testing is done on adults (children subsequently receive the medications which have been tested on adults.)  Gorski also questions a homeopathic study in which children in Third World countries were the subjects.

In May 2007, Professor Baum declared that “homeopathy is worse than witchcraft” (Maxwell), and called for an end to the funding of homeopathy by the NHS.

Some members of the biomedical community were further upset by a homeopathic HIV/Aids symposium occurring in Dec. 2007.  Professor Baum  indicated concern about the symposium, commenting that, “People say homeopathy cannot do any harm but when it is being promoted for HIV then there is a serious problem” (Samarasekera 1677).

A 2009 article in the Journal of Medical Ethics echoes many of the above criticisms, and adds others, arguing that “homeopathy is where the harm is” because 1.  Patients opt for homeopathic treatment rather than needed mainstream medical treatment and then suffer or die unnecessarily 2.  The NHS has limited resources  and should not spend on an “unproven” treatment since  “every penny counts” 3.  Homeopathy involves deceiving the patient because it is only “placebo”  4.  Homeopathy will weaken patient confidence in the NHS and “in science and medicine more generally”  and 5.  Funding homeopathy “distracts attention from the fact that there are other complementary therapies that are efficacious.”    The article concludes that NHS funding for homeopathic practice should be withdrawn and the public should be educated about “the lack of an evidence base for homeopathy”  (Shaw 130-131). 

The attacks on homeopathy have continued:  Edzard Ernst, the first university chair of complementary medicine in Britain and oft-cited anti-homeopathy campaigner, wrote a Guardian article appearing Nov. 8, 2011, entitled “Alternative Medicine Remains an Ethics-Free Zone” in which homeopathy figures prominently as a “disproven” and “unethical” treatment “not supported by the evidence.” 

The above accusations that homeopaths are unethical and even engaged in witchcraft suggest an effort by the biomedical community and sympathetic journalists to paint homeopaths as “folk devils” at fault for a moral lapse in society.  Moral entrepreneurs from the biomedical community, such as Edzard Ernst,  and the media seek to build a fence between the orthodox treatments they deem efficacious and “unproven” and “unethical” CAM treatments, of which homeopathy has become the prime example.  Such extreme invective, disproportionate to any actual threat posed by homeopathy which is generally considered to be very safe, suggests that “emotion rules over reason” and the moral entrepreneurs are responding to a sense of threat in an irrational way.  Moral panics, this one included, are “anti-intellectual” and “characterized by…religious fervour” (McRobbie and Thornton 270).  Given the number of studies that find homeopathy to be effective in treating a variety of conditions, a rational and scientific response would be to call for further study while allowing continued payment for homeopathy in the NHS.  In contrast, the response of many in the biomedical community is “in excess of what can be justified by any objective measure of the threat”  (Critcher 26). 

Thus, the immediate period before the 2005 Lancet article was something of a public relations disaster for the orthodox medical community.  Specifically, the House of Commons report on the pharmaceutical industry and the Shephard article on iatrogenic illness and death which followed shortly after, were not good for the image of the industry or for biomedicine generally.  The imminent (and then suppressed) release of the 2005 World Health Organization (WHO) report on homeopathy likely added to the sense of peril felt by the orthodox medical community, even though the report indicated that orthodox medical care has retained its dominance.    Homeopathy appears to have become threatening enough to biomedicine for concerned members of the orthodox medical community to respond “suddenly” and vociferously, after a period of fairly quiet coexistence with homeopathy in the United Kingdom.  Coburn and Willis said that “medicine is now attempting to protect its own privileged position from external attack”  (384).  The NHS was in fiscal crisis, a situation which continues, and the biomedical community was fighting to maximize its access to NHS resources.  Fomenting a moral panic was a way to protect the privileges of the biomedical community. Comments from the biomedical community about homeopathy’s safety may be an effort, in part, to deflect concern about the safety of orthodox drugs (Shepherd) and technology.    It is likely also an attempt to deal with deep anxieties about the future of biomedicine and the NHS.

On August 27, 2005, The Lancet, a British journal which is one of the leading medical journals in the world, published a flawed research article by Shang, et al. which concluded that homeopathic medications are ineffective in treating illness.  In the same issue, it published an accompanying editorial entitled “The End of Homeopathy,” urging physicians to “be bold and honest with their patients about homoeopathy’s lack of benefit, and with themselves about the failings of modern medicine to address patients’ needs for personalized care”  (690).  In a third piece in that issue, The Lancet responded negatively to the 2005 WHO draft report on homeopathy, which reported that homeopathy is the second most commonly used medical modality in the world (“WHO Recognition for Homeopathy”).  The Lancet said the report was too positive in its evaluation of homeopathy’s usefulness.  (A subsequent, technical WHO report, “Safety Issues in the Preparation of Homeopathic Remedies” came out in 2010.) The publication of the Lancet articles at the end of summer, a slow time for news, resulted in accusations that its editors wanted to ensure thorough media coverage of the articles and have a maximum negative effect on homeopathy.  It must be noted that The Lancet, by its own admission, owes much to the orthodox pharmaceutical industry.  A 2002 Lancet article recognizes that there is, “a symbiotic relation between medical journals and the pharmaceutical industry,” and further says, “both industries profit from each other, but it is a relation that generates unease and is open to abuse”  (1346).  That comment may indeed have been prescient, given their publication of the flawed Shang et al. research in 2005.

The research article was thoroughly criticized by many homeopaths (see Aickin; Bell; Fisher, “Homeopathy and the Lancet”; Fisher, “Scientific Research on Homeopathic Medicine”; and the letters in “The Homeopathy Debate”).  Some critics noted that it did not meet the QUOROM (Quality of Reports of Meta-Analyses of Randomised Controlled Trials) criteria for a meta-analysis (Fisher, “Homeopathy and the Lancet”; Fisher, “Scientific Research on Homeopathic Medicine”).  The Lancet itself published the QUOROM guidelines in 1999, but the 2005 “meta-analysis” examined only eight studies, none of which were identified (they were later revealed).  Critics also attacked the editorial and the article on the draft WHO report (Fisher, “Homeopathy and the Lancet”). The global media, however, reported widely on the Lancet articles  (Jaroff; Fisher, “Homeopathy and the Lancet”) , but said very little about the rebuttals. 

Ongoing NHS fiscal difficulties and outright NHS financial crisis by 2005 constitute part of the reason for the moral panic of anti-homeopathy forces.  From 2005-2008 primary care trusts struggled to pay for increases in staff and compensation for all groups.  “Some hospital and primary care trusts delayed treatment as far as they could…Others closed wards and delayed payments even to partner organizations in health or social care” (Rivett 51-52).    In this fiscal environment, the relatively small amounts of money spent on homeopathy in the NHS became an issue.  Homeopaths such as Dr. Bob Lockridge, former president of the Faculty of Homeopathy, asserted that a “devious” anti-homeopathy campaign was occurring, with activists “going to public meetings, infiltrating them not with local people, and attempting to persuade primary care trusts to not purchase homeopathy.”  He also suggested that The Lancet and other publications were participating in the campaign (Jolly).  In 2007 a group of “eminent doctors” signed a letter asking the NHS to stop providing funds for homeopathy.  A 2009 article published by the Journal of Medical Ethics argued that even if homeopathy is inexpensive, it is “unproven” and “the NHS has only finite resources… every penny counts.”  (Shaw 130, emphasis mine).

By January 2008, more than one-fourth of the NHS primary care trusts had either cut funding for homeopathic treatment or discontinued funding it altogether.  The Turnbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital was closed in 2009, as referrals dropped.  The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital also reported a substantial drop in homeopathic referrals and was renamed the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine in September 2010, indicating less emphasis on homeopathy.  Counting the latter, there are now only three homeopathic hospitals in Great Britain (British Homeopathic Association), whereas once there were 14 (Mclean).

A 2009 report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that no evidence showed that homeopathy is better than placebo.  The report was signed by a small handful of MPS and recommended that the government no longer fund NHS homeopathy (Kaplan).

In 2010, a leading member of the British Medical Association called homeopathy “witchcraft” and called for an end to all NHS funding for its practice ( “Homeopathy Remains on NHS”).

Despite these efforts against homeopathy, on July 26, 2010, the British government emphatically indicated its support for continued funding for NHS homeopathy.  A spokesperson from the Department of Health said, “We believe in patients being able to make informed choices about their treatments, and in a clinician being able to prescribe the treatment they feel most appropriate in particular circumstances”   (“Homeopathy Remains on NHS”).

Nonetheless, actions against homeopathy continue.  A protest was held in January 2010 in Liverpool in which demonstrators took “overdoses” of homeopathic remedies (“Sceptics Stage Homeopathy ‘Overdose’”).  Moral panic is ongoing.  There is no calm commitment to further testing of the world’s second most popular medicine.  Rather, moral entrepreneurs and much of the media continue to assert that the public will be harmed by homeopathic treatment and that it is witchcraft.  Choice of treatment, a key principle of the 2002 planned NHS reforms (“Delivering the NHS Plan”), is limited and the orthodox medical establishment protects the status quo. 

After a period of calm coexistence in the NHS, biomedical supporters in Great Britain began an intensive attack on homeopathy in 2005.  It has been partially successful, as can be seen in the discussion of the moral panic that ensued.  The 2010 reaffirmation of the British government for funding NHS homeopathy was a positive development, but the anti-homeopathic forces are continuing their attacks.  The reasons go beyond the differing principles and philosophies of biomedicine and homeopathy.  Those differences have existed for hundreds of years.  The questions are, “Why now?” and “Why Britain?”  The concurrence of growing homeopathic success, with homeopathy being the second most used medical modality worldwide (“WHO Recognition for Homeopathy”), with the exposure of flaws in biomedical treatment are one key to understanding recent campaigns against homeopathy, of which the British case is only one example.  Furthermore, biomedicine in Britain by 2005 faced specific challenges and embarrassments, not least being the fiscal struggles of the NHS, the 2004-05 House of Commons report on the pharmaceutical industry which expressed concern about the unsafe use of drugs,  and emerging evidence of iatrogenic deaths from orthodox medication.  Biomedical supporters in Great Britain are attempting to protect their interests and to restore “moral boundaries,” arguing that homeopathy is unethical, in part because they believe it has no more effect than placebo.  They also charge that patients might seek homeopathic treatment instead of “more efficacious” medicine, and consequently put their health in jeopardy.  Some have gone so far as to call homeopathy “witchcraft” (Maxwell; “Homeopathy Remains on NHS”).  The moral panic and attack have occurred despite substantial support for homeopathy from the pharmaceutical industry and medical doctors in the period prior to 2005.  No doubt some biomedical supporters really did change their minds about homeopathy, helped along by the flawed Shang et al. Lancet article (Aickin; Bell; Fisher, “Homeopathy and the Lancet”; Fisher, “Scientific Research on Homeopathic Medicine”; and the letters in “The Homeopathy Debate”) and strong arguments from anti-homeopathy leaders such as Edzard Ernst, a “professor of complementary medicine,” who earlier in his life had been a homeopathy supporter.

The British moral panic around homeopathy may suggest that the old status quo cannot be reinstated; perhaps the biomedical hegemony is ending.  An attempt to “restore “moral boundaries” can be a sign that “ profound change is taking place” (Goode and Ben-Yehuda 182), in this case a gradual acceptance of homeopathy.   On the other hand, biomedical supporters have successfully suppressed other healing modalities in the past, and in this case have harmed homeopathic practice in Great Britain, even if it is still part of the NHS.  The strategy of the anti-homeopathic forces appears to be “death by a thousand cuts,” and their campaign against homeopathy is continuing.

A moral panic can be stopped or minimized by a number of factors, including effective organization by the besieged group, and media and elite disagreement about the danger of the alleged threat (Critcher 11).  A strong counter campaign by homeopathic supporters would help ensure that homeopathy is not “the easiest therapy to cut” and “a soft target” (“Homeopathic Hospitals”), as homeopathy in Great Britain has been in this period.  To counter the charges of unethical practice and witchcraft, homeopaths must continually get their views before the public through a variety of means, including savvy use of various media.  They must lobby the NHS and work with homeopathic professional organizations to counter false accusations and increase the availability of homeopathic treatment.  It is important to engage opposition forces to ensure that homeopathic perspectives are available to the public and media.  Just as accusations from those fomenting the moral panic are available the world over to everyone with internet access, current information and counter argument from the international homeopathic community must be widely obtainable.

Roxanne Friedenfels is a sociologist and the chair of the Sociology Department at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.  She trained in homeopathy for three years at the Five Elements Center in New Jersey.  Email:

Works Cited

  1. Astrid, James. “Medicines, Society, and Industry.” The Lancet 360.9343 (2002): 1346+.
  2. Bell, Iris. “All Evidence is Equal, but Some Evidence is More Equal than Others: Can Logic Prevail over Emotion in the Homeopathy Debate?” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 11.5 (2005): 763-69.
  3. British Homeopathic Association.
  4. Coburn, David and Evan Willis. “The Medical Profession: Knowledge, Power, and Autonomy.” Handbook of Social Studies in Health and Medicine. Ed. Gary Albrecht, Ed. Ray Fitzpatrick, and Ed. Susan Scrimshaw. London: Sage Publications, 2000. 377-93.
  5. Cohen, Stanley. Folk Devils and Moral Panics. St. Albans: Paladin, 1973.
  6. Critcher, Chas. Critical Readings: Moral Panics and the Media. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006.
  7. “Critics Slam Draft WHO Report on Homoeopathy.”  The Lancet, 366.9487 (2005): 705-06.   doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67159-0
  8. Crossley, Nick. Contesting Psychiatry: Social Movements in Mental Illness. NewYork: Routledge, 2006.
  9. “Delivering the NHS Plan: Next Steps on Investment, Next Steps on Reform.” Department of Health. 18 Apr. 2002
  10. “The End of Homeopathy.” The Lancet 366.9487 (2005): 690.
  11. Ernst, Edzard. “Alternative Medicine Remains an Ethics-Free Zone.” The Guardian8 Nov. 2011 <>.
  12. Fisher, Peter. “Homeopathy and the Lancet.” eCAM 3.1 (2006): 145-47.
  13. “Scientific Research on Homeopathic Medicine: Proving and Improving its Efficacy.” 2006. Joint American Homeopathic Conference. Homeopathy: Efficacy and Evidence Base. Trans. and ed. Bernardo A. Merizalde. <>.
  14. Goode, Erich and Nachman Ben-Yehuda.  Moral Panics:  The Social Construction of Deviance.  Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc. 1994.
  15. Goldacre, Ben. “Benefits and Risks of Homoepathy.”  The Lancet, 370.9600 (2007): 1672 – 1673.
  16. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61706-1
  17. Gorski, David. “On the Ethics of Clinical Trials of Homeopathy in Third World Countries.” Science-Based Medicine. 31 Mar. 2008 <>.
  18.  “The Homeopathy Debate.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 11.5 (2005): 779-85.
  19. “Homeopathic Hospitals: House of Commons Debates.” They Work For You 19 Feb. 2008 <>.
  20. “Homeopathy Remains on NHS.”  NHS Choices. 27 July 2010.
  21. House of Commons Health Committee. “The Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry: Fourth Report of Session 2004-2005.” Vol 1. 5 Apr. 2005<>.
  22. Jaroff, Leon. “The End of Homeopathy?” Time 4 Oct. 2005 <,8599,1114166,00.html>.
  23. Jolly, Dr.  “Doctor: Anti-homeopathy Campaign being Waged.”    Homoeo Info   17 July 2007. <>
  24. Kaplan Brian.  “It’s Official! British Government backs NHS Homeopathy.” 26 July 2010.
  25. Martin, Brian. “Suppression of Dissent in Science.” Research in Social Problems and Public Policy 7. (1999): 105-35.
  26. Maxwell, Kate. “Homeopathy is Worse than Witchcraft – and the NHS must Stop Paying for It.”  1 May 2007 MailOnline.–NHS-stop-paying-it.html#ixzz1vkF1AkpP
  27. Mclean, Louise.  “Why the Constant Attacks on Homeopathy?”  15 Feb. 2011.…/565-why-the-constant-attacks-on-…
  28. McRobbie, Angela and Sarah L. Thornton.  “Re-Thinking ‘Moral Panic’ for Multi-Mediated Social Worlds.” Critical Readings:  Moral Panics and the Media.  Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006.   266-276.
  29. Rivett, Geoffrey.  “National Health Service History.”
  30. Samarasekera, Udani. “Pressure Grows Against Homeopathy in the UK.” The Lancet 370.9600 (2007): 1677-78.
  31. “Sceptics Stage Homeopathy ‘Overdose.’”BBC News.  30 Jan. 2010.
  32. Schiff, Michel. The Memory of Water: Homeopathy and the Battle of Ideas in the New Science. San Francisco: Thorsons, 1995.
  33. Shang, Aijing, et al. “Are the Clinical Effects of Homeopathy Placebo Effects? Comparative Study of Placebo-Controlled Trials of Homeopathy andAllopathy.” The Lancet 366.9487 (2005): 726-32.
  34. Shaw, David M.  “Homeopathy is Where the Harm is:  Five Unethical Effects of Funding Unscientific ‘Remedies.’” Journal of Medical Ethics 36 (2010):130-131.    doi:10.1136/jme.2009.034959
  35. Shepherd, Rose. “Death of the Magic Bullet.” The London Times 31 July 2005 <>.
  36. Smith, Richard. “Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies.” PLoS Med 2.5 (2005): e138.<>.
  37. Ullman, Dana. “Homeopathic Medicine: Europe’s #1 Alternative for Doctors.” Huffpost Healthy 3 Mar. 2010 <>.
  38. Ullman, Dana. “Homeopathy: A Condensed History of Homeopathy.” Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 1995. 33-55.
  39. Van Wassenhoven, Michel. “Scientific Framework of Homeopathy: Evidence-Based Homeopathy.” International Journal of High Dilution Research 7.23 (2009):28-50.
  40. “WHO Recognition for Homeopathy.” Newindpress 24 Dec. 2005<>.
  41. “WHO Report on Homeopathy was Suppressed.”  22 Feb. 2007
  43. World Health Organization.  “Safety Issues in the Preparation of Homeopathic Medicines.”  Feb. 2010.  1-63.
  45. Aickin, Mikel. “The End of Biomedical Journals: There is Madness in Their Methods.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 11.5 (2005): 755-57
    1. K.J. Thomas. “Getting Somewhere’, Feeling Cared for:  Patients’ Perspectives on Complementary Therapies in the NHS.”  Complementary Therapies in Medicine.  8.4.  ( 2000): 253-259.   26 March 2002
    1. Fisher, Peter. “Homeopathy and the Lancet”
  46. Mclean, Louise. 15 February 2011 ‘Why the Constant Attacks on Homeopathy?’
  47. “WHO Recognition of Homeopathy” Newindpress 24 December 2005.
  48. This is on my website and also here:

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.