Scientists critical of University of Toronto...
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Mar 06, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Scientists critical of University of Toronto homeopathy study

90 top scientists have signed an open letter calling into question a clinical trial on homeopathy treatment for ADHD.

OurWindsor.Ca

A University of Toronto study on homeopathic treatment for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is being heavily criticized by scientists who claim it legitimizes a pseudoscience.

Two Nobel laureates are among 90 scientists from universities around the world who have signed an open letter calling the clinical trial into question.

“We are curious about why, given the need to investigate natural therapies that may actually have a potential for benefit, and saddled with a scarcity in funding, a Department of Pharmacy is interested in investigating a subject that has been … found wanting both in evidence and plausibility,” reads the letter addressed to Heather Boon, dean of the U of T’s Faculty of Pharmacy, who is leading the study.

Homeopathy is an alternative health discipline based on the theory that remedies made of extremely diluted material infected with a particular disease can be used as a treatment. Controversy around the practice at the U of T has made headlines recently.

On Tuesday, the school revealed it was “examining” a health studies course at its Scarborough campus, in response to claims that an instructor there was teaching anti-vaccination theories in her curriculum.

The instructor, Beth Landau-Halpern, is a homeopath and one of the clinicians involved in the ADHD study. As of Wednesday, she had taken down her website, which included posts about avoiding vaccines.

The open letter states that previous studies have shown homeopathy to be no more effective than the placebo effect and claims recruiting children into the study will steer them away from effective treatments.

Speaking to the Star on Wednesday, Boon said the study is looking at the “complex intervention” of homeopathic practice, not just pills, which she said are scientifically dubious.

“This is about studying that whole package and trying to understand what components work or don’t work.”

The study comes after years of consultations, she said, and a pilot project that observed patient experiences using homeopathic remedies to treat ADHD.

“We found that over 60 per cent of the patients improved.”

Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, who wrote the open letter, told the Star the pilot lacked controls, rendering its findings “meaningless.”

Although the trial is well-designed, he said homeopathy is a scientific “non sequitur.” He also questioned the ethics of the study.

“What they’re dealing with here is real patients, real kids who suffer from ADHD,” he said.

“It does not seem to be ethical to subject these kids to treatment that has such little potential benefit.”

Boon said participants are not required to stop taking their conventional medications.

A statement from the U of T said health-care providers must be knowledgeable about complementary and alternative medicines because of the number of Canadians using them.

“Rigorous research into these products and therapies — including the research conducted by Professor Boon and at the Centre for Integrative Medicine — helps patients and their caregivers make informed treatment choices.”

The study is currently in its recruitment phase, which is likely to last a year.

Toronto Star

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