Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Strong medicine

Pleo-FORT, Pleo-QUENT, Pleo-NOT, Pleo-STOLO, Pleo-NOTA-QUENT, and Pleo-EX are all names of homeopathic "remedies" that are being sold as cures for infections of various kinds.  All of them are made from extracts of molds from the genus Penicillum, which is then (as is typical with these remedies) diluted until there's basically none of the original substance left.  As an example, here's what the site Natural Healthy Concepts has to say about Pleo-QUENT:
Pleo QUENT (Quentakehl) Drops 5X is a homeopathic decongestant medicine indicated for supporting the temporary relief of congestion due to colds and minor respiratory infections*.
  • Supports the temporary relief of congestion due to colds and minor respiratory infections* 
  • Quentakehl is indicated for acute, chronic and latent viral conditions* 
  • Quentakehl, extracted from the mold-fungus Penicillium glabrum, is not an antibiotic and produces no antibiotic substances. Therefore, there are no side-effects which could occur during an antibiotic treatment, such as allergies, liver damage, destruction of the intestinal flora and the formation of penicillin-resistant strains.
You could, of course, change the line about "no side effects" to read "no effects whatsoever" and the sentence would still be true.  A 5x serial dilution means that you now have 9,999 parts water added to 1 part of the original substance -- a dilution which would render far more dangerous substances than mold extract completely harmless.

[image courtesy of photographer Casey West and the Wikimedia Commons]

So imagine my surprise when I found out that Terra-Medica, Inc., the company that manufactures the various Pleo-WHATEVERS, is voluntarily recalling 56 lots of the "remedies."  Here's part of the statement from Terra-Medica:
Terra-Medica, Inc. is voluntarily recalling 56 lots of Pleo-FORT, Pleo-QUENT, Pleo-NOT, Pleo-STOLO, Pleo-NOTA-QUENT, and Pleo-EX homeopathic drug products in liquid, tablet, capsule, ointment, and suppository forms to the consumer level. FDA has determined that these products have the potential to contain penicillin or derivatives of penicillin.
If you're wondering if you read that right, you did:  Terra-Medica is recalling these remedies because they have actual medically active ingredients in them.

Just reading the headline in the Patheos article I linked above, which says, and I quote, "Homeopathic Products Recalled Because They Might Have Actual Medicine In Them," made me choke-snort an entire mouthful of coffee.  This might, in fact, be the best headline I've read in years.

Because, let's face it: we wouldn't want anything potentially effective sneaking into our homeopathic remedies.  *brief pause to stop guffawing uncontrollably*

Terra-Medica is, I have to admit, doing the right thing; if there really is penicillin in the "remedies" they're selling, then some poor misguided soul, who evidently failed high school biology and thought he could cure his cold by taking drops of water, could be killed if said poor misguided soul was also unlucky enough to have a penicillin allergy.  But that the chemical they suspect of having contaminated their "remedies" is an actual medicine is a circumstance that brings the term "poetic justice" to whole new levels.

You have to wonder how much longer the homeopaths will be allowed to remain in business, what with admissions like this one (not to mention an increasing number of websites devoted to debunking the whole thing, including What's the Harm, which is devoted to stories of people who were injured or killed by taking a homeopathic remedy instead of seeking conventional medical care).  There is no scientific support whatsoever for this practice; it is pseudoscience at its worst, because not only is it ripping people off, it's putting lives and health in jeopardy.  By not taking proven, effective, safe medications for treatable diseases, people are risking protracted illness, complications, and death, not only for themselves but (worse) for their children.  Simply put, a sugar pill or a bottle of water from which virtually all biologically active molecules have been removed will not treat disease.

Which makes the strong medicine that Terra-Medica is having to swallow taste pretty sweet to me.


  1. Your take on homeopathy mirrors my own.
    While the stance of Terra-Medica in this matter is good, I fear that their fear of future allergy problems resulting in embarrassing and costly legal cases against them, gives them much bigger shivers than the embarrassment of manufacturing psuedo-medicines already would. If they were so damned concerned about the health and well-being of the public, they wouldn't be charging money for useless remedies anyway.

  2. Sorry Gordon. I'm going to have to disagree with your scientific bias on this one. My personal experience with Homeopathy has been that it is sometimes subtle, sometimes robust, but very much an alternative form of healing. The "healing crisis" that comes as part of the work, has always proven helpful to me, and brought new aliveness and wholeness to my person. Is this a treatment for everyone? Of course not. That is why we refer to it as an alternative. You scientifically biased people make me feel tired at times… love you though Gordon.

  3. Have you been to Kinney Drug in Tburg lately? Take a walk through there sometime. There are so many homeopathic drugs and remedies masquerading as medicines. It is sick. They are now included with everything else. Not even broken off into their own section.... mainstream woo-woo!!!

  4. In case it's unclear, the "healing crisis" Macy refers to is where you get sicker because you're not taking actual medicine. After a time, you get better because people do heal, but you're weaker and more damaged than if you had been using effective medicine. Or, of course, you don't get better, in which case you're no longer posting comments on people's blogs about the benefits of homeopathy. So it's a self-selecting subset that we hear from.

  5. "Scientifically biased."

    I was watching Cosmos on Sunday night and was thinking to myself "Wow, Neil is really hammering home that we don't need divinity to answer questions about the Universe" ... " Then I immediately realised what I had done. I had espoused the same dogma that seems to pervade. I was behaving like a "sheeple." Our society as of late has become so bored with reality that we've begun to reinvent it for our own amusement, to the point that reminding people that science is not a bias, it's reality, is apparently necessary for Neil to do. Science isn't a feeling, an angle, or a political affirmation.

    SCIENCE IS REALITY. Science is everything that has happened in the past 13.8 billion years, before we were around to consider it a "bias" ... and "science" will still be around long after we're gone.

    1. Hontseur Thots - Science seems like's it's your religion or something. Science is only an interpretation of the truth not the truth itself. Scientific opinions and interpretations change all the time, truth never changes.

  6. If you think homeopathic remedies are just placebos then don’t use them, and leave those who think they work alone. Over course you are not going to find as many studies on homeopathic medicine in comparison to pharmaceuticals. The huge amount of side-effects and the massive budgets behind pharmaceutical medicines give them much more reason and ability to run peer reviewed studies. That being said there are peer reviewed studies that show homeopathic medicine actually do work.
    “Fisher et al. published in the British Medical Journal the results of a non-individualized, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial on the use of Rhus toxicodendron 6 C (homeopathic medicine) in patients with primary fibromyalgia. Despite important departures from genuine homeopathy, some of the findings of this research were, "The patients did better in all variables when they took active treatments rather than placebo. The number of tender points was reduced by about a quarter (p < 0.05). … If the null hypothesis were correct the direction of change after placebo and active treatment would be randomly distributed. Analysis showed a significant difference in favour of the homeopathic medicine (69).”"

  7. I have my doctorate in natural medicine, masters in Chinese medicine, and yes...I attended allopathic medical school and practiced as a PA for 15 years. You see, the problem with you Western minded folks is that you speak from absolutely no clinical experience about that which you state doesn't work.

    Only a fool would argue about something he knows nothing about first hand. I would never go into a physics department and argue physics. That would be dumb. But, you people recycle opinions of those who have a vested financial interest in keeping the public subservient to the medical establishment.

    It sure is interesting how only holistic medicine has these amazing placebo affects. I just never hear about people taking a drug and their symptoms improve and stay that way when the drug is stopped. I heal people every day that modern medicine has no idea of how to cure. People are sicker than ever, and you people claim this system is the best their is? Laughable.

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