A good example of very bad science (pseudoscience): homeopathic migraine medication

Surprise! I call it “birthday cake,” but it’s just a cheap candle shoved in a Twinkie. Like this combo, a recent article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine has all the trappings of science, without all the burden of the effort needed to actually achieve good science. Photo from [2].
Good timing! The company – Boiron –  that produces that same homeopathic sleeping pill that we overdosed on in Friday’s lecture also recently published a TERRIBLE study of their migraine “remedy.” It’s a great example of how bad science can seem legitimate by making its way into a journal.

The abstract for the study is available online [1].  The study is presumably available if your institution has a subscription to this journal.

The abstract alone is sufficient to understand just how bad a piece of research this is Quoting from the authors, “This was an observational, prospective, open, nonrandomized, noncomparative, multicenter study.”

  • Translation:  we employed no controls (the homeopathic preparation was compared against neither an intentional placebo, nor again an existing effective migraine medication already known to work. Also, there was no randomization of who got the homeopathic preparation, who got the placebo, and who got actual migraine medication. We designed the study to intentionally leave the door wide open for bias.

In addition, the authors state, “Physicians were given complete freedom in terms of treatment prescription; thus, prescriptions were individualized for each patient.”

  • Translation: no attempt at blinding, the gold-standard of all scientific research, was made, allowing for physicians to know what they are giving patients and thus influence outcomes.

This is a great example of (1) bad science being (2) published in a journal (albeit a very poor one) which will (3) then lead adherents of homeopathy to point and say, “See?! It’s published, just like real science!”

This publication is to real science what shoving a lit match into a twinkie and handing it to your friend is to baking your friend a birthday cake.

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=danno%20homeopathyDanno K, Colas A, Masson JL, Bordet MF. “Homeopathic Treatment of Migraine in Children: Results of a Prospective, Multicenter, Observational Study.” J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Sep 14.

[2] http://immodestproposals.blogspot.com/2009/06/your-daily-photo-burn-one-down-edition.html

One Reply to “A good example of very bad science (pseudoscience): homeopathic migraine medication”

  1. I have noticed in Australian pharmacies you have to be very careful as what to buy. Homeopathic remedies are along side normal medicines and the labeling is purposely deceiving. I recently was looking for SAM-E for my dog and the majority of pharmacies were selling the homeopathic variety, in other words just water. Because the pharmacist handed it to me I nearly didn’t notice until I read the back and it didn’t supply a weight of active ingredients , because there aren’t any.

Would you like to comment? Please answer some quiz questions from the story.

We care about our comments. That's why we want to make sure that everyone who comments have actually read the story. Answer a couple of questions from the story to unlock the comment form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment Spam Blocking by WP-SpamShield