Leading doctors today are calling for NHS funding to be withdrawn from unproven complementary medicine. This is the Guardian article about it, and here is how the snake-oil salesmen responded.

And from that description, you can guess where I stand on the matter: I'm right behind the doctors. Of course I don't believe everything that Big Pharma says, and nor do I think that all complementary medicine is fraudulent. But let's be rational, especially when spending public money. In the words of Professor Baum: "If the NHS is spending good money on placebos at the cost of not providing effective medicines, then it does matter."

Look at the comment from Dr Peter Fisher of the Royal Homeopathic Hospital: "The weight of the evidence does suggest that homeopathy is effective". Er, actually it doesn't. The weight of the evidence suggests it is no more or less effective than a placebo.

Look at his argument here. Dr Fisher argues that "There have been four studies completed which show homeopathy does work for hayfever, asthma and perennial rhinitis" and that "this study [one showing homeopathy to be ineffective against asthma] is contradictory". Which makes it sound like this clinical trial is outweighed by evidence from other similar trials. But read carefully what he has to say about one of the trials which supported homeopathy: "The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital recently carried out a survey of treatments on asthmatic patients. It followed up 24 adults and 25 children with asthma and found that 71% of the adults and 80% of the children experienced improvements in their symptoms following homeopathic treatment".

Sorry Dr Fisher but there is a world of difference between a controlled, double-blind clinical trial - where neither the patient nor the practitioner knows if the patient is receiving a placebo or the real treatment - and this sort of study. It's simply not useful. For example, the patients know they have been to the homeopathist and received some 'medicine'. So it's not even blind let alone double-blind. There's no control group of people who did not receive any treatment. And clearly - since an asthma attack is often brought on by stress - asthma is likely to be hugely susceptible to the placebo effect. If the patients are calmer, because they know they've had some 'medicine', then that fact alone would help with their asthma.

And I'll tell you something else. The mere fact that they went to the homeopathist for treatment suggests that they are gullible. Which could significantly increase the placebo effect, eh?