Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmx DOT com

Science in London: The 2016 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 11 December 2016

There's a petition to Wikipedia asking it to be less mean to homeopathy + FTC action in US

Wikipedia petition
By any metric this is a very successful petition. At the time of writing it is 531 people shy of reaching 15,000 signatures all of whom are signing in support of the petition's aim to amend Wikipedia's article on homeopathy. Many fans of homeopathy are concerned that the article, as it currently stands, is biased against homeopathy and excludes evidence of its successes in treating people (and animals). The fact that the evidence is not of sufficient quality is neither here nore there.

What amuses me most about the petition is that it is TO Wikipedia, an organisation whose founder agrees that the best evidence shows homeopathy to be no better than placebo.

I am one of many people who have edited the homeopathy page on Wikipedia. Anyone can edit it, and the edit will remain as long as they have made a sensible contribution. If not, their contribution is either simply wiped by reverting the page to its previous edit or the contribution is amended by someone else.

Sending a petition 'to Wikipedia' is sending a petition to me and to all other people who've edited that page. Obviously I can only speak for myself but 'bad luck' is my official response to this petition ;)

Have a giggle over at https://www.change.org/p/wikipedia-call-to-action-to-update-homeopathy-at-wikipedia

FTC toughens up on labelling rules for homeopathy pills
There's been quite a lot in the news lately about the US's Federal Trade Commission's toughened stance on the labelling of over the counter (OTC) homeopathy pills. Homeopathy confections must now include text on the packaging which makes it clear that there's no scientific evidence supporting the use of the pills for health conditions. This is a big deal, but it is not quite right to say - as headlines have - that the FTC requires manufacturers to say the pills don't work. Although it is rather implied.

It would be interesting to know if consumers pay a great deal of attention to the labelling and, more importantly, if they understand its implication. Saying something has no scientific evidence in its favour is vastly more oblique than saying "these pills do not work".

The FTC's publication "Enforcement Policy Statement on Marketing Claims for OTC Homeopathic Drugs" on the updated rules for homeopathy marketing says
"In light of the inherent contradiction in asserting that a product is effective and also disclosing that there is no scientific evidence for such an assertion, it is possible that depending on how they are presented many of these disclosures will be insufficient to prevent consumer deception. Marketers are advised to develop extrinsic evidence, such as consumer surveys, to determine the net impressions communicated by their marketing materials." (emphasis added)
Telling people homeopathy doesn't work hasn't stopped people from using it so I can't really see that obliquely implying it by phrasing it as 'there's no scientific evidence that homeopathy works' would make a great deal of difference.

I also wonder if this updated labelling will make it harder for consumers, on realising they've been duped, to get their money back. After all the products will now say (or at least more strongly imply) in the small print that there's no good evidence that a 'pill for self-limiting condition X' is any good at helping the symptoms of X. Buyer beware.

Homeopathy 'treatments' must be labelled to say they do not work, US government orders (21 November 2016) The Independent
The Federal Trade Commission has demanded that producers of homeopathic treatments say on the label that they do not work




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Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).