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← An Open Letter to Alliance Boots

An Open Letter to Alliance Boots - Comments

adrianpatrick's Avatar Comment 1 by adrianpatrick

And when the BBC discussed Boots' statements this morning on Breakfast they had the chair of faculty of Homeopaths telling us the majority of double blind trials were 'positive'.

They had no opposing viewpoint. just a hack from the Times who said she doesn't use Homeopathy because it 'takes to long to work' due to it only containing 1% of the original medicine.

wtf is all I can say at the moment.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 11:34:00 UTC | #417301

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 2 by Tyler Durden

Homeopathy in the spotlight: Does it work?

All together now: p-l-a-c-e-b-o

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 11:39:00 UTC | #417302

Sandra S's Avatar Comment 3 by Sandra S

Not that I've ever heard of Boots before, but I presume they're mainstream pharmaceuticals. Mainstream companies like that really have to watch what they sell, whatever they sell will be accepted by most as part of that mainstream.

“customers believe they work”

Would they really start selling bees in a jar if customers believed they worked as medicine for heart disease? Would they start selling pure water working on fundamental laws hitherto unknown by modern science, based on nothing but anecdotal evidence when all other evidence has shown in it to be placebo, because people believed it worked? ... Oh, wait.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 11:44:00 UTC | #417305

Mark Jones's Avatar Comment 4 by Mark Jones

Comment #435722 by adrianpatrick
Comment #435723 by Tyler Durden

Blimey! That's terrible. As an antidote watch the parliamentary committee discussions:

Check out Evan Harris's patient dissection of the stupidity in front of him. Ben Goldacre explains the evidence shows it doesn't work. Professor Ernst explains the evidence shows it doesn't work.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 11:46:00 UTC | #417306

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 5 by Tyler Durden

"We treat patients who don't believe in homeopathy in the hospital, they come to us becasue nothing else has worked, it's the end of the road, and often it still helps them. So I don't think it's just all in the mind." - Dr Sara Eames, President of the Faculty of Homeopathy
How can a "Dr" like Sara Eames miss all the clues for the placebo effect?

Nothing else has worked you say? It's the end of the line you say? "Dr" Eames, this is why it works, people are desperate for anything to work - bingo! placebo (or sometimes, nothing, no result, nada). If homeopathy were all it is cracked up to be, people would use it first, not as a last-ditch method.

Oh, and it helps them but only "often"? How strange, paracetamol (acetaminophen) or C8H9NO2 simply works. Not often, it just works.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 11:59:00 UTC | #417312

Kuyper's Avatar Comment 6 by Kuyper

People stupid enough to fall for this kind of snake oil deserve everything they get. Let them get taken. Let them submit to treatment by rogues and charlatans. Let them pour their life's savings down a rat hole. And hen, let them die. These suckers are too stupid to live. Time to "cull the herd."

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 12:00:00 UTC | #417313

Goodbluff's Avatar Comment 7 by Goodbluff

"We don’t expect to find products on the shelf at our local pharmacy which do not work."

That statement made me laugh.

Here in Switzerland homeopathic producs litter the shelver of all the pharmacies. It is also commonly prescribed by doctors.

The results of the 2009 referendum regarding alternative medicine, made Switzerland the first european country to
take alternative medicine into consideration in the public health system

If this is not scary enough, here's more



Fri, 27 Nov 2009 12:01:00 UTC | #417315

Sandra S's Avatar Comment 8 by Sandra S

4. Comment #435727 by Mark Jones

And right off the bat a "people agree with me" argument. It's pretty demonstrative of lack of real evidence when you have to appeal to some sort of democracy to determine what is true. Let's see if it works on gravity!

Also, those bottles looks like bottles of vodka, is that how you conduct parliamentary committee discussions in Britain?

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 12:14:00 UTC | #417320

HalfaMind's Avatar Comment 10 by HalfaMind

Delighted to see this. Alliance Boots also need to do something about the coverage of "complementary medicine" on their "Learning Store" Site at

and more at

It has to be read to be believed.

...(Complementary Medicine)does this by treating the life force of the patient.....

Some people used to refer to CM as "Fringe" or "Alternative" because they considered it to be alternative to the "Allopathic Medicine" that is practised by GPs. But CM complements the needs of the patient and is a more accurate description.

...It (holistic medicine) emphasizes the connection of mind, body and spirit....

....Homeopathy works...

Homeopathic medicines may be compared to chemical catalysts.The amount of the catalyst is less critical than its form or quality.

The Vital Force is an energy within the body keeping it healthy and helping to fight disease.

The last one is accompanied by a useful diagram!

These are actually on their site. I think they speak for themselves. It's a disgrace, and I've told them so.

(edited for formatting)

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 12:17:00 UTC | #417322

Demotruk's Avatar Comment 9 by Demotruk

What's the argument they make, that the placebo effect is worth selling in and of itself?

I only agree with doctors using the placebo effect as long as it doesn't carry miseducation with it. Generic pills given by a doctor is not particularly misinformative, it doesn't encourage the patient to believe in nonsense. Homeopathy on the other hand does, and it encourages the patient to buy more homeopathic medicine the next time they're ill, if the placebo effect was enough.

So, assuming that is their argument (that the placebo effect is a worthwhile product), that wouldn't be enough to justify it for me.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 12:17:00 UTC | #417321

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 11 by Ignorant Amos

6. Comment #435734 by Kuyper

I sort of had the same initial thought myself....but it is quite wrong. People are naive and ignorant, and that is not a good enough reason for unscrupulous thieves to grift them out of their cash just because of this vulnerability.

We don't allow it to happen elsewhere....then there are the health implications....for example, a person running about with a highly contiguous disease may not seek proper medical attention because the believe this crock of shite is helping them, thus putting you and I at risk.

Edit: P.S. My daughter works for Boots albeit their opticians division. I'll have a pop at her tonight with this issue.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 12:26:00 UTC | #417328

Logicel's Avatar Comment 12 by Logicel

My recollection of Boots (when we lived in England) was that on the whole it was one of the best pharmacies I have ever gone to in terms of all around services like eyeglasses, advice regarding side effects of prescription drugs, informed, courteous staff, etc. But it was always a shock to see the homeopathy section. And a MD actually prescribed some for me! I could tell from the expression on his face, that he thought it was a bunch of hooey, but he could not get rid of what was bothering my stomach, so he went to homeopathy. I would have just preferred, after his ruling out any serious problems, to tell me to live with the symptoms for a while and then re-evaluate as many conditions are self-limiting. The big appeal of homeopathy it seems, is that it is 'naturel.'

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 12:34:00 UTC | #417331

PERSON's Avatar Comment 13 by PERSON

10. Comment #435743 by PMartin on November 27, 2009 at 12:17 pm
"Complementary medicine is gaining in popularity and may now form part of the studies of Biology students aged 16 ."
Teach the controversy!
Time for another campaign/petition? New Labour were happy to upset the fundies as they wouldn't have their votes anyway. But would they be willing to upset a small minority of new-agers by banning the use of time for discussion of homeopathy? I guess it depends on whether there are more of them than there are offended atheists.
Could it be useful? What if there were concepts that it was mandatory to teach, like Richard's drop in the solar system bit in the Enemies of Reason?

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 12:36:00 UTC | #417332

AlexMagd's Avatar Comment 14 by AlexMagd

Boots is a staple on every British shopping street, and absolutely the place people go to get medicine and other treatments.

It's absolutely astonishing that they should be selling homeopathic treatments - Boots brand homeopathic treatments! - and I'm really happy that they're getting taken to task.

Let's keep the pressure on!

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 12:37:00 UTC | #417333

Carole's Avatar Comment 15 by Carole

Bravo, Marsh and co.
Please update here if you get any sort of response from Boots.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 13:07:00 UTC | #417346

Carl Sai Baba's Avatar Comment 16 by Carl Sai Baba

Our pharmacies in the US also have this crap. "Walgreens" is one of our major chains, and they are happy to join the homeopathic scam in addition to other junk.

Can you imagine a seller in any other industry being so bold as to admit that something is a scam, but sell it anyway because customers fall for it? At least sellers of other fraudulent products have the foggy moral sense to pretend they are selling real products.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 13:23:00 UTC | #417351

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 17 by SaganTheCat


I watched that this morning and it's another nail in the coffin of BBCs credibility IMO

their idea of balance was a journo from the Telegraph who seemed to basically believe it works but preferred something that works a bit quicker and a lying shill making claims of efficacy the the BBC should be made to publicly distance itself from if not apologise outright

If Boots were to be a little more honest then I'd be happy for them to continue selling it i.e.putting the following label on all their homeopathic products:

This shit does nothing, repeat NOTHING. People buy it because they're gullible and we like their money, it helps ensure we can do those 3 for 2 offers every Christmas so let's face it you like them too. We have publicly defended selling this product on the basis of consumer demand over clinical efficacy so let's be under no misunderstanding here as to why it's on our shelves.

I mean come on, we sell those nice smelly candles as well. there are some loons who think smelly stuff might improve your health, I wouldn't say that but there's nothing wrong with selling them as long as we don't pretend they might cure you of something so there's nothing wrong with selling you some sugar pills and water and cross our fingers that the placebo effect will work on you enough to come back for more because although this is the cheapest medical product on the market in terms of materials, it's actually quite expensive because someone has to keep diluting and shaking and all that bollocks (no don't ask me why, of course I have no more of a clue than you, in fact nor do they for that matter).

If symptoms persist consult your GP. Oh fuck it you can ask your local shaman to shake some chicken bones over your bum rash as far as I care, it's not like you ever critically assess information that's given to you.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 13:28:00 UTC | #417353

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 18 by SaganTheCat


Can you imagine a seller in any other industry being so bold as to admit that something is a scam, but sell it anyway because customers fall for it£

I'm getting a Ratner's flashback...

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 13:40:00 UTC | #417358

SuperHands's Avatar Comment 19 by SuperHands

1. Comment #435722 by adrianpatrick
17. Comment #435774 by CaptainMandate

I saw that "debate" on BBC Breakfast too and almost choked on my muesli. Luckily I had my laptop next to me so I e-mailed them to complain, like the grumpy old man that I am. The editor replied to me quickly saying that she too was disappointed that the discussion was so unbalanced, and that they would do it again tomorrow morning with better guests. I hope I catch it!

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 13:56:00 UTC | #417365

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 20 by SaganTheCat


I'll keep an eye out (although it's saturday tomorrow, I may be asleep!)

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 14:07:00 UTC | #417369

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 21 by irate_atheist

10. Comment #435743 by PMartin -

The concept of looking at 'lifestyle' and its effect on health introduces the idea of 'Holistic Medicine'.

Rather than focusing on the illness, this approach to health care considers the whole person and how he or she interacts with their environment.

It emphasizes the connection of mind, body and spirit, in other words an individual is made up of interdependent parts which are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. When one part is not working at its best it impacts on all of the other parts of that person.

For example, if a student is anxious about an exam; the nervousness may result in a physical reaction such as a headache or stomach-ache.

The principles of Holistic Health state that health is more than just being sick and the approach goes beyond just eliminating the symptoms e.g. taking aspirin makes the headache go away, but does nothing to remove the original cause.

Disease symptoms are used as a guide to help look below the surface for the root cause and this includes analysing the physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, social, spiritual and lifestyle values.
'Butterflies in your stomach'. Haven't these people heard of the stress response and adrenaline?

Found the 'spiritual' cause for MS, have they?

Discovered the 'emotional' cause of Glaucoma?

Unleashed the 'lifestyle values' that will cure acute appendicitis?
Bach flower remedies

The basis of this increasingly popular complementary treatment is the therapeutic effect flowers can have on our emotions - particularly when trying to cope with life's ups and downs. Dr Edward Bach, creator of the flower remedies, believed that a healthy mind leads to a healthy body and identified even categories of negative emotions which could upset that delicate balance.
Fuck off. I suffer from hayfever. The best thing that happens to any flowers in our home is that they get consigned to the bin. This simple action improves my happiness immensely.

Homeopathy works on the theory that the body's natural defences can be stimulated by administering minute doses of a substance which in large doses may cause symptoms of an illness.
Trying to blind people with the notion that it's like a vaccine? Again, fuck off.

This, is a fucking disgrace. I, for one, will no longer be providing Boots with any of my cash.

Note: Emphasis mine.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 14:22:00 UTC | #417374

manicstreetpreacher's Avatar Comment 22 by manicstreetpreacher

Another hit for Merseyside Skeptics Society!

The previous one was a lecture I attended back in September on the truth behind paranormal experiences by Prof Chris French of Goldsmith’s College, University London:

The truth is not out there, it’s up here!

Well done boys, keep ‘em coming.


Fri, 27 Nov 2009 15:54:00 UTC | #417393

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 23 by God fearing Atheist

4. Comment #435727 by Mark Jones

Thanks for that. When the MP*** stuck the boot in with the "poo" question, and kept going, I was in stitches!

I am so glad these sessions are being recorded and are in the public domain. Huzzar for technology, and huzzar for the government!

Now if we could just ban the "Mail", "Sun", ... "BBC", and force everyone to watch the real MacKay ...

*** Dr Evan Harris, LibDem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon. (RD's MP?)

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 16:35:00 UTC | #417403

anonbloger's Avatar Comment 24 by anonbloger

@Mark Jones:
Thanks for the link! I liked the questions the "poo" question MP was asking... Glad to see large retailer getting asked the questions they should be asking themselves.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 16:40:00 UTC | #417405

HalfaMind's Avatar Comment 25 by HalfaMind

17. Comment #435774 by CaptainMandate

I like that. On the Boots main website there are plenty of homeopathic woo things for sale. I choose one at random - it happens to be "Nelson's Bryonia 30C". One of the ingredients listed is:

"30c Bryonia dioica"

How can it be an ingredient at all when the likelihood of there being any single molecule from the original plant in that pill is effectively zero?

In which case, how can they legally label one preparation of sucrose and lactose as Bryonia 30C and another as Nelsons Arnica 30C.

Isn't there anyway of taking the whole lot to court and giving them a thorough stuffing?

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 17:28:00 UTC | #417412

HalfaMind's Avatar Comment 26 by HalfaMind

I have e-mailed Boots thus:

I note you sell homeopathic preparations on your website. I choose two at random. The ingredients of Nelsons Arnica 30C are listed as Arnica Montana 30C, sucrose and lactose. The ingredients of Nelsons Bryonia 30C are listed as 30c Bryonia dioica, sucrose and lactose.

Simple maths shows that the probability of the ingredients Bryonia 30C or 30C Arnica containing any molecules from a Bryonia or Arnica plant respectively is effectively zero. So what does it mean to say one ingredient is Arnica 30C? "Contains nothing"?.

By any conventional means of measurement (which I assume our legal system would recognise as evidential), both preparations are (i) just sucrose and lactose and (ii) identical.
Could you explain to me how they can assert that they can assert that the preparations contain such ingredients, and how they can assert they are distinct from each other.

Then explain how you justify selling two varieties of identical sugar pill with no active ingredient under two different names and as "therapy" in your pharmacy and health section?

Thanks.I look forward to your lucid explanation.

edited for stupid typos

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 17:45:00 UTC | #417414

bujin's Avatar Comment 27 by bujin

I watched the BBC bit this morning, and I was really disappointed that in their attempt to get a balanced "for" and "against", they picked some journalist who clearly hadn't got the first clue about homeopathy to argue against it!

That allowed the "doctor" woman to peddle her bullsh*t about there being many, many trials of homeopathic medicine that show that it works completely unchallenged.

I did consider sending an email in to complain about it, but didn't get around to it.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 18:06:00 UTC | #417416

j.mills's Avatar Comment 28 by j.mills

Excellent prose from the scouse sceptics there. Maybe we should find some choice admissions from Boots, print 'em on stickers and place them on their homeopathy shelves...

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 19:15:00 UTC | #417424

clunkclickeverytrip's Avatar Comment 29 by clunkclickeverytrip

Somebody should find the elastic bands in the Boots stationery section and re-label them "homeopathic condoms".

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 19:23:00 UTC | #417426

exchemist's Avatar Comment 30 by exchemist

I'm a pharmacy student. It pisses me off to no end to see homeopathic products in pharmacies, and find it hilarious that they bear the warning "contact poison control in case of overdose". Actually, i'ts kind of troubilng, because there shouldn't be any need to. You'll all be happy to know that nobody takes it seriously, and many profs spare no opportunity to mock homeopathy, but we did have one lecturer who believed in it and, without a hint of irony or recognitin of how dishonest she was being, present to us every bad study (the Benvenista article from Natre, for example) that exists as though it were real evidence. I sent her an e-mail to call her on it, and not surprisingly, got no response.

One of the profs in my faculty is all into herbals and naturals. For a laugh, one bit of advice she gave us was to recommend one scpecies of ginseng plant over another if someone really wants it. Why? Because that species is, and I quote, "more likely to be associated with efficacy." Geez. when you have to use words like that, just give up and admit it doesn't work.

Fri, 27 Nov 2009 19:37:00 UTC | #417430