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Pill protesters are missing the point on homeopathy

The mass pill "overdose" planned by protesters in Dublin today is a very dramatic but safe gesture.

The group who plan to swallow hundreds of homeopathic pills outside the Boots Store on Grafton Street will come to no harm.

This is not because homeopathy is ineffective. It is because they are using it in the wrong way.

Swallowing a pile of homeopathic pills to prove it does not work is a bit like standing in hot sun for two minutes and concluding it does not cause sunburn.

It is simply an inappropriate assessment.

The protesters say the remedies are just sugar pills with nothing in them -- hence the overdose to prove their point. Homeopathy does not work the same way as conventional medicine and so they are not proving anything.

If homeopathy is a con involving sugar pills why does the Irish Medicines Board, the regulating body for all medicines in this country, recognise and regulate homeopathic medicines?

Why is homeopathy incorporated into mainstream medical systems in many countries including Britain, which has specialised homeopathic hospitals? Why do health insurers in this country like Quinn Healthcare and Aviva offer cover for their clients for homeopathic treatment?

Why have patients supported homeopathy for more than 200 years?

The "overdose" group's insistence that homeopathy has absolutely no value begs another question -- why are these protesters so annoyed?

If they were protesting about some kind of poisonous substance or dangerous drug ruining vulnerable people's health, their indignation would be justified, but this is not the case. If they are concerned that the public is being conned, they are insulting the intelligence of the 30 million people across Europe alone who regularly use homeopathic remedies.

The demonstrators argue that patients with a serious illness might shun doctors and rely instead on homeopathy. Are they suggesting that a sizeable group of Europeans, not to mention millions of others worldwide, are incapable of taking proper responsibility for their own health?

Some detractors suggest, as the ultimate criticism, that homeopathy only works by the placebo effect. This does not explain how it is used very effectively by vets in the treatment of animals who cannot be influenced by placebos.

The main argument against this system of medicine is that it cannot be scientifically proven and that it is an "absurd pseudo-science".

Scientists, at one point, believed the world was flat but as their knowledge improved they realised they were wrong. It is likely that in the future, quantum physics will deliver the scientific proof for homeopathy. As a gentle system of medicine, without toxic side effects, homeo-pathy is used by thousands of Irish people for both acute and chronic conditions. No one is suggesting that it is the only system of medicine.

Undoubtedly conventional medicine has a huge role in healing but there is also an array of other therapies which can form part of an integrated approach to healthcare.

Maybe instead of opening their mouths to swallow a pile of homeopathic pills, these protesters could open their minds to possibilities.