20 years ago: British Homoeopathic Journal, October 1984
27 December 2017 (online)
Critical review of research
This is the second part of Dr A M Scofield's extensive review, which concludes with more than six pages of bibliography. The sixth and final section deals with drug structure and mechanism of action. The author compared the earlier work, until the 1960s (which concentrated on low potencies because of the stumbling block of going beyond the Avogadro number) with recent approaches, which focussed on physical changes in the solvent, perhaps producing polymers. Other workers suggested that bacteria and other substances might produce polymers in body fluids and that remedies might act by neutralizing these polymers with the information-carrying solvent polymers.
Although a large number of studies are cited for these hypotheses, Dr Scofield reiterated his earlier claim that the results of such work are generally not presented in a form which is suitable for scientific assessment. He considered this a pity, especially with the equipment now available; and noted that similar concerns had been raised in the Journal by G Ives (Br Hom J 1983;72:224–228). In a lengthy discussion and conclusion section, the main criticisms are considered and suggestions made on how they might be overcome. The author did not believe that homeopathy is not amenable to scientific demonstration, but stated ‘It does, however, require careful consideration of what it is that you are testing and I believe that the most interesting test of homoeopathy will be as a system on sick or susceptible organisms and not on isolated parts of the system under highly artificial conditions. A hypothesis must be framed and tested by very carefully designed and executed experiments’. The author considered that studies on poisoning, particularly with heavy metals, could be included in the susceptible category. At the same time, he sounded a note of caution: ‘The question of safety of homoeopathic remedies when incorrectly used needs urgent consideration. The observations that homoeopathic remedies may potentially affect normal organisms and indeed, may be used at the 30th potency in provings, is inconsistent with the often quoted remarks that at least homoeopathy will do no harm even if it does no good!’
A further subject the author considered important was the lack of sensitivity of some individuals to the remedies: ‘It is absolutely essential that this be clarified and, if found to be true, tests must be developed to identify those responsive to homoeopathic remedies. If this is not done, then, although one may eventually demonstrate that homoeopathy is a statistically effective form of treatment, unless its success rate approaches that of orthodox therapy it is unlikely ever to make much impact, except largely as a therapy of last resort’. He felt sure that, despite the general failure of scientific investigation to support homeopathy, something was afoot that was worthy of consideration, and quoted J A Stoff ‘It is a highly questionable scientific practice to dismiss a body of significant empirical evidence (such as homoeopathy) simply because the underlying philosophy, which rationally interprets such results, assumes premises foreign to those currently accepted’.