I gave evidence at the Parliamentary SciTech committtee today for their enquiry into whether the government had used scientific evidence properly in making their decisions about MHRA licenses for homeopathic pills, and homeopathy treatment on the NHS. This was a mini-enquiry as a result of interest expressed by the public, which is excellently democratic, you can see the whole thing online here, and some of it is quite good fun.
Personal highlights, from memory, include:
- Paul Bennett from Boots saying that there is no evidence showing homeopathy pills are effective at treating any conditions, but Boots are happy to sell them anyway, since the MHRA have given them a license. Wahey!
- Robert Wilson, the head of the homeopathic pill manufacturers’ association, giving us a lecture on trial methodology, explaining that: 65 people in any trial cannot be statistically relevant (which is rubbish, if you have a pill that cures everyone from an incurable condition then 40 people is fine, hell, a dozen would do); that if you talk to statistically literate people they will tell you that size is everything (it’s one of many things); and anything less than 500 people is not going to be statistically significant (which is utter, utter nonsense).
- Edzard Ernst pwning Peter Fisher with relaxed applomb in the second half, especially when Fisher wheels out some claims on homeopathic aggravations.
- Some angry looking people in the room staring at me very intently which, from background research by Gimpy, may have been part of a magickal ritual.
- Evan Harris MP doing his “that’s rubbish” face as it emerged that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society are still slowly investigating a complaint about dangerous homeopathic pharmacists from 2006.
- Ian Stewart MP talking.
One thing that will never get old for the homeopaths, it seems, is the old practise of pulling out a single trial and saying “ah, but look, pish to your meta-analyses, here is a trial where homeopathy works”. No matter how many times you point out why this is foolish and wrong, they will always think you’re just being picky, and that is why they will always give us joy.
Anyway, it’s worth digging around on the site and watching a few other sessions, if you’re that way inclined. As I’ve said before, I think select committees are really interesting and informative, the one place where politicians do what you’d want them to do all the time, which is to say, sit down and have a good think about policy.