The Wrong Stuff

Excellent and promising news that a major peanut desensitisation study is being launched after a successful pilot in Cambridge. Here’s a good report. It has generally been well covered.

Excuse the pun, but in a nutshell, the scientific process involves inducing tolerance in peanut allergic individuals by exposing the immune system to minute but gradually increasing doses of peanut protein, and finally establishing a ‘maintenance’ dose of several peanuts.

This morning on The Wright Stuff, Supernanny Jo Frost was talking about her severe peanut allergy and how it affects her working life. Matthew Wright mentioned the peanut desensitisation study, and described it as being “rather like homeopathy”.

No, Mr Wright, it is nothing like homeopathy.

Homeopathic remedies contain no trace – not a molecule or atom – of the substance on the label. They are sugar. Or they are water.

The peanut vaccines – which is what they effectively are – do. If they didn’t they wouldn’t work.

It is dangerous and irresponsible and ignorant to liken homeopathy to a vaccine. It encourages the anti-MMR lobby. It encourages people to take homeopathic malarial tablets which are known to be ineffective. It encourages homeopaths to spout nonsense about HIV. Simon Singh summarises the important points here.

Homeopathy is in the news a lot at present. Homeopaths are up in arms that a Parliamentary Science & Technology Committee has recommended the NHS cease funding for homeopathy, on the basis that there is now a body of evidence to suggest it is no better than a placebo treatment.

It is important that every bit of nonsense spoken about homeopathy is corrected. There are others, like the people behind The 10:23 Campaign, doing sterling work in this regard.

Matthew Wright’s silly little comment is probably too trivial to be picked up by the big guys, so this is my little contribution to the cause…

1 Comment

  1. claireob

    Even in terms of homeopathy's own "law of similars", the homeopathy/allergen desensitisation analogy doesn't work. IIRC, this law states that the correct remedy for a patient is that substance which produces similar symptoms in a healthy person. As far as I know, peanuts are eaten by health people without peanut allergy without provoking allergy symptoms.

    I do try to correct the various inaccuracies I hear from my homeopathy supporting friends and colleagues (some even with science degrees) but I have a sinking feeling that the next media report about peanut desensitisation trials will again be waved in my face as "proof" homeopathy works.


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