Quackery and Big Bucks Infect Health Canada


Homeopathy cartoonHealth Canada has allowed an increasing number of useless “alternative” healthcare (alternative TO healthcare in most cases) products to be sold in Canada over the last decade, despite the lack of proper (or in some cases, any) research data to prove their claims, effectiveness or safety. Most recently, however, Health Canada went further into pseudoscience and licensed homeopathic vaccines, proving that the agency has bowed to corporate pressure and given up trying to protect Canadian health.

According to the BC Medical Journal,

“…Health Canada has licensed 10 products with a homeopathic preparation called “influenzinum.”[8] According to providers, in­fluenzinum is for “preventing the flu and its related symptoms.”

Homeopathic vaccines are available for other infectious diseases as well. Health Canada licenses homeopathic preparations purported to prevent polio, measles, and pertussis.”

The author, Dr. Oppel, concludes with the reason behind this astounding act that seriously discredits both the once-respectable Canadian healthcare and the agency itself:

Natural health products are big business, and the voice of providers is never far from the ear of government. While patients are free to make health decisions, government has a duty to ensure that false or misleading claims do not interfere with consumers’ ability to make an informed choice. Nowhere is the case more clear than in the realm of unproven vaccines for serious illnesses. When it comes to homeopathic vaccines, Health Canada needs to stop diluting its standards.

Homeopathy is not medicine. It is not science. It is codswallop. It was invented by a charlatan named Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. According to Wikipedia

Hahnemann believed that the underlying cause of disease were phenomena that he termed miasms, and that homeopathic remedies addressed these. The remedies are prepared by repeatedly diluting a chosen substance in alcohol or distilled water, followed by forceful striking on an elastic body, called succussion. Each dilution followed by succussion is said to increase the remedy’s potency. Dilution usually continues well past the point where none of the original substance remains.

Get that? The dilution continues until all you have is… nothing. But “nothing” is not harmless. It can be very harmful. As in death. Wikipedia continues (emphasis added):

Homeopathic remedies have been the subject of numerous clinical trials. Taken together, these trials showed at best no effect beyond placebo, at worst that homeopathy could be actively harmful. Although some trials produced positive results, systematic reviews revealed that this was because of chance, flawed research methods, and reporting bias. The proposed mechanisms for homeopathy are precluded by the laws of physics from having any effect. Patients who choose to use homeopathy rather than evidence based medicine risk missing timely diagnosis and effective treatment of serious conditions. 

The stopnosodes.org site adds this warning: we’re making ourselves collectively unhealthier by choosing these alternatives to medicine:

The use of nosodes in place of vaccines contributes to the lowering of herd immunity and therefore represents a threat to the health and safety of all Canadians. Accordingly, the continued licensure of nosodes by the Natural Health Products Directorate, sold by homeopaths and naturopaths and available widely across Canada as over-the-counter products for self-care is contributing to this public health problem.

Homeopathy was called “quackery” by the Center for Skeptical Inquiry when Belgian insurance companies started offering partial coverage for homeopathic “remedies”:

The Belgian companies nevertheless offer a quality label to quackery and an encouragement premium to convince the uninformed public that homeopathy has medicinal properties. The poor patient remains in the dark about the real properties of homeopathy, a magic as powerful as the miracle at Cana, where Jesus Christ changed water into wine. In homeopathy, alcohol and water are beaten into powerful drugs.

Around the world, scientists did a giant face palm when they heard the news about Health Canada’s stupidity:

Vaccines are good.

Infectious diseases are no longer the leading cause of death like they were a century ago. Sure, they are also big business now, as marketing for HPV and Shingles can attest, but that doesn’t mean just anything can or should be a vaccine.

Except in Canada.

Health Canada has licensed 10 products with a homeopathic preparation called “influenzinum” for “preventing the flu and its related symptoms” and even homeopathic preparations to prevent polio, measles and pertussis – despite the fact that they are so diluted they have no active ingredient at all, they are just placebos.

That’s dangerous ‘natural medicine’ fanaticism at work, folks. And natural medicine people are doing themselves and the public a real disservice by not calling out these crackpots.

Snake oilSuch is Canada’s new reputation in the scientific community: pandering to crackpots and approving snake oil. Big business crackpots, mind you. There’s money in them thar ills. Lots of it. Enough to push science and medicine into the back room while claptrap gets shelf space. Homeopathy is a huge corporate money maker. And it can afford to lobby to get their products licensed.

Ireland took the positive step this year to stop funding homeopathic clinics with taxpayer dollars. As writer Donald Clarke commented, “The health service of a major western country is financing the supply and distribution of snake oil. Actually that’s unfair to snake oil salesmen. Their product has an active ingredient (oil from snakes, I assume). Homeopaths dilute their medicinal compounds – thank you, Lily the Pink – so rigorously that the key component is present only in insignificantly minute portions.”

Even the Chinese media – a hotbed for alternative-to-medicine remedies – is skeptical of homeopathy:

“Buying a homeopathic remedy is buying ‘water’; taking a homeopathic remedy is drinking expensive water,” Fang concluded in his latest article published on China Youth Daily on Jan 5, 2011

Are these homeopathic vaccines safe? With nothing in them, they are likely safe, because they don’t do anything:

Health Canada simply maintains it is saying the products are safe. Well, of course they are safe. It’s magic water. No one should be spending money on that.

But while they are diluted so heavily as to be useless, their source material is not. As the HuffPost reported earlier this year:

What is worse is that Health Canada, through the Natural Health Products Directorate, has approved well over 60 of these products for sale in Canada, including DTP toxinum, which contains pertussinum, made from the “Sterile lysate of expectoration of untreated patients infected by Bordetella pertussis.” That’s right — it is made from the sputum of a patient, most likely a baby, infected with pertussis, or whooping cough. Outbreaks of whooping cough, an awful childhood disease that most often afflicts babies too young to be vaccinated, occurred in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and New Brunswick last year, with one baby killed by the disease in Alberta.

[pullquote]“Homeopathy is at best useless and at worst positively damaging, not just medically but to our collective understanding of science.”
David Robert Grimes, cancer researcher at Oxford University.[/pullquote]But taking a quack alternative to medicine is not safe when you have an illness or ailment because it won’t cure it. You will still be sick. You might even die – just poorer because you wasted your money.

Advocacy groups worry that gullible, unthinking parents might choose homeopathic vaccines instead of real medicine, thus help spread diseases even more. As The Star reported last year:

Kruse says that Health Canada should be promoting immunization schedules for children, rather than sending out mixed messages by registering homeopathic nosodes as “effective” natural health products.

Many have taken the government to task for this nonsense and for catering to Big Business instead of our collective wellbeing. Bad Science Watch urged Health Canada to pull the licences for these magic potions – nosodes – saying not only do they not work, but are dangerous to our general health:

Bad Science Watch is contributing to National Immunization Awareness Week 2013 by reminding Canadians that homeopathic “vaccine alternatives” do not work and will not protect them from disease. They say Health Canada’s approval of these products, known as ‘nosodes’, is weakening national immunization efforts, and they are calling on Health Canada to revoke the products’ licenses. The watchdog’s ‘Stop Nosodes’ campaign is supported by the BC Center for Disease Control, Alberta Health Services, the UBC School of Population and Public Health, and a number of prominent scientists.

Nosodes are homeopathic preparations made from diseased tissue, pus, blood, or excretions of a sick person or animal. The material is diluted over and over again in water or alcohol until there is often none left in the end solution. The end result is often sprayed on pills made of milk sugar and allowed to dry.

Health Canada currently licenses at least 82 nosode products that are used by homeopaths and naturopaths to prevent dangerous diseases like measles, whooping cough, polio, and tuberculosis. There is no good evidence that these preparations can prevent disease at all, yet Health Canada promises Canadians that these products have been determined to be “effective”.

Nosodes are such a threat to public health that this claptrap has spawned several sites dedicated to trying to stop their use and educate the public in the threat they pose. One of such sites, stopnosodes.org, had this to say:

…the scientific evidence shows that people that choose a homeopathic alternative to standard vaccinations are not protected from infectious diseases. Even worse, because these products do not provide protection, relying on their use would actually increase the risk of contracting and spreading infectious disease.

In Yorkton This Week, writer Thom Barker gives a concise description of both the problem and the history of Health Canada’s increasing gullibility:

(Health Products and Food Branch) brags that, since 2004, “Health Canada has authorized over 50,000 NHPs (Natural Health Products) for sale (compared with about 7,000 authorized prescription medications).”

It goes on: “We have heard from stakeholders, consumers, and parliamentarians that there is a need for increased access to products while maintaining consumer safety, and for the reduction of unnecessary administrative burden for companies trying to bring safe products to market.”

“Stakeholders, consumers and parliamentarians.”

In other words, “we don’t care what doctors, scientists and the evidence say, we’re trying to help companies run their businesses, here.”

At least 82 of the NHPs approved for sale in Canada contain nosodes being marketed for the prevention of diseases such as influenza, pertussis (whooping cough), measles and polio.

Nosodes are preparations made from diseased tissue, pus, blood or excretions of a sick person or animal. That material is diluted over and over again in water or alcohol until there is nothing left but its “essence,” which is, in the magical-thinking “like cures like” world of homeopathy, supposed to somehow cure or prevent illness.

This is madness. The Vic Skeptics has a guide to homeopathy in which it states:

Modern homeopaths cannot deny that their potions are too dilute to contain anything but water, and so they have made the claim that water “remembers” their initial ingredients, and behaves in the healing process as if those chemicals were still there. This claim is wishful thinking that has no basis in scientific study.

Magic water. Water with memory. Stuff and nonsense. No thinking person could possibly believe such claptrap. But these “remedies” sell millions of dollars’ worth of product to the gullible every year.

You can read more about this quackery at homeowatch.org and its associated site, quackwatch.org. Let’s get Health Canada out of the snake oil business before this nonsense kills someone.

Homeopathic cartoon;

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Ian Chadwick
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