Insoluble facts

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I was dismayed to see the superficial and misleading comments made by your health correspondent in your article concerning ­homeopathy (23 October).

She reports that ­“homeopathic medicine works by taking substances … and diluting them until only minute doses remain”.

Firstly, this states that the medicines work and there is little if any evidence for this. Secondly, it implies that any benefit is a pharmacological result of the treatment and there is, again, no ­evidence to support this.

Finally, it refers to “minute doses” but, in fact, the dilutions are so extreme that there is ­typically no dose at all remaining and explanations are given in terms of a “memory” of the substance being held in the dilutant. There is no evidence to support this.

When evaluating theories, one needs to test them using reliable, meaningful methods. In general, the evidence one requires depends somewhat on the nature of the claim; an extraordinary claim that water can hold the memory of one particular substance and somehow not the memory of other substances it may have met requires extraordinary evidence to support it.

The fact that people report benefit after using such remedies has many potential explanations – as indeed do reports of benefit after using “conventional” treatments.

(Prof) Richard Knight

Western General Hospital


Your report gives figures for health board spending on homeopathy between 2008 and 2012 and highlights NHS Highland as one of the higher spenders.

I would like to point out that in October 2011 NHS Highland agreed to stop funding homeopathy but accepted that existing patients already in the system would complete their treatment.

Figures in the most recent ­financial year will show no spending by us on this discredited treatment.

Garry Coutts


NHS Highland