And he will do his best to isolate his mark from the truth.
Corporate thuggery comes in all shapes and sizes. Dr. Steven Novella tells us about the latest.
Criticizing homeopathy is always fun, because it is at the extreme absurd end of the silly pseudoscience spectrum, even among some stiff competition. But now homeopathy has a corporate face in Boiron – a large multinational corporation based in France. Boiron is the largest manufacturer of homeopathic products in the world and the second largest manufacturer of over-the-counter products in France.
What they are doing to this small blogger, in my opinion, is nothing less than corporate thuggery. They are using their resources and their corporate lawyers to try to silence completely legitimate criticism of their pseudoscientific products. Of course, they will only succeed in magnifying that criticism.
For example, Riva suggested that Boiron’s oscillococcinum has no active ingredient. Well, let’s see- the company lists the active ingredient in this product as “Anas barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum 200CK HPUS.” The “200C” means that the listed ingredient was diluted with a 1:100 dilution 200 times. Serial dilution is a funny thing – a 200c dilution is the equivalent of diluting 1ml of original ingredient into a volume of water that is the size of the known universe. This is far far beyond the point where there is any reasonable chance of there being even a single molecule of original ingredient left.
I am fascinated by this particular part of homeopathy. Where do they get all that water for manufacturing their nostrums on such a large scale? I mean, homeopathy is sold all over the world and the preparation of even one dose requires gallons and gallons of water. I truly would like to see a homeopathy manufacturing plant in action.
So Riva was completely justified (as have many other critics) in saying that Boiron’s 200c product has no active ingredient. In fact it is deceptive to list something that has been diluted 200C as an “active ingredient.”
Not that it matters in this case, because the original ingredient is a pseudoscience unto itself. Mark Crislip gives the full details, here is his summary:
In the 1919 flu epidemic a physician who did not understand that artifacts on the slide, probably bubbles, move randomly due to Brownian motion. Looking at the tissues of flu patients with a microscope, he found what he thought was not only the cause of influenza, but the cause of all diseases: small cocci (round balls) that oscillated under the microscope. He found these wiggling bubbles in all the tissues of all the ill people he examined and thought he discovered the true cause of all disease. Sigh. Yet another cause of all illness. He is the only person, before or since, to see these oscillating cocci. Hence the name.
That’s right, oscillococcinum does not even exist – essentially Boiron takes fairy dust and then dilutes it out of (non)existence. The “anas barbariea hepatis” is basically duck liver, which is supposed to contain the most concentrated nonexistent oscillococcinum. It’s a pseudoscience trifecta.
There really is a reason why they call it “quack” medicine.
Dr. Novella concludes (and I agree):
I hope Boiron does draw a line in the sand over their oscillococcinum product, and that it becomes the center piece of a broader public discussion about homeopathy. Most of the public does not understand what homeopathy actually is. They think it means “natural” or “herbal” medicine. They have no idea that homeopathy is about taking fanciful ingredients with a dubious connection to the symptoms in the first place, and then diluting them into oblivion, then placing a drop of the pure water that remains and placing it on a sugar pill. The resultant pill is then supposed to contain the magic vibrations of the original substance.
This rank pseudoscience, which has no place in 21st century medicine, is the business of Boiron. Let’s see them try to defend themselves and their products. Let’s see them harass bloggers and those who are just trying to expose the public to the truth. Let’s see them argue in public how air bubbles in duck liver fantastically diluted can treat the flu.