Homeopathy and CBC Marketplace: The Real Truth

Dear Dhiru Nathwani:

Thank you for your correspondence to the Canadian Radio-television and
Telecommunications Commission regarding the CBC MARKETPLACE story on
homeopathy which aired on January 14, 2011. It is "blatantly false and
misleading", you wrote further suggesting that the content may have been
influenced by "powerful Big Pharma interests."

CBC prides itself on the excellence of its journalism. We take very
seriously any assertion that our journalism is inaccurate, biased or unfair,
or in any way fails to meet the rigorous criteria set out in the CBC's
Standards and Practices.*Where criticisms are justified, we take immediate
corrective action.

With respect, your assessment of the program is not one that we share. You
wrote about a number of specific shortcomings you find in "Cure or Con?" and
we want to respond to them in turn.

First, you questioned "Why did MARKETPLACE use the wrong and inappropriate
technology to analyze homeopathic dilutions? The correct and appropriate
technology is RAMAN spectroscopy, not MASS spectroscopy.


As a consumer program, MARKETPLACE regularly tests products available to
the general public. The program approached the testing of over-the-counter
homeopathic remedies, available to the general public, in the same manner as
it would any other consumer product that can be bought off the shelf.

MARKETPLACE began with the basic premise, as would most consumers, that
these products contain at least some level of active ingredient. With this
assumption in mind, that there is indeed an active ingredient, it set out to
determine if said ingredient could be identified and, in fact, be detected.
Two products, Ipeca and Belladonna were selected for analysis. Each are
well-known to be derived from natural sources (yielding the compounds
emetine and atropine, respectively) for which both have known
pharmacological effects in humans.

Liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) is the most
appropriate analytical method for identification and quantitation of these
compounds. Mass spectrometry provides superior sensitivity and specificity
than any other accepted analytical technique for the analysis of emetine and
atropine in sugar pellets. This technique allowed those conducting the tests
to detect far lower levels of the ingredients (analytes) than can be
achieved via alternative analytical methods such as Raman spectroscopy, IR
spectroscopy, NMR spectroscopy or UV/Visible spectroscopy.

It has been suggested that Raman spectroscopy might be the 'correct'
analytical technique to distinguish homeopathic remedies having excessive
dilution factors (i.e. those in excess of 10^24 such as the 30C
formulation). That the use of Raman Spectroscopy in this application is
appropriate would be predicated first on accepting the scientific validity
of the theory of the "memory of water". Despite the controversy and debate
surrounding this issue, there is neither a known nor plausible
physical/chemical explanation for the memory of water.

Second, you asked "Why did MARKETPLACE not show the correct two-step
dilution process? Swirling dilution in open unstoppered bottles (like
swirling wine in a wine glass) without mechanical shocks and without the
correct quantity of the diluting medium was intended to make homeopathy look

By "two-step dilution process," we believe you are referring to the actual
diluting process (dilution) coupled with vigorous shaking between each
dilution (succussion). The programs' presentation did show both steps and
did explain the reasoning behind each step. The process depicted was not
intended to be an exact "how-to" but rather an illustrative representation
of the basic steps and philosophies involved. It was meant to serve a wide
television audience whose members were, for the most part, completely
unfamiliar with the manufacture of homeopathic remedies.

Third, you asked "Why did MARKETPLACE not interview medical doctors who
practice homeopathy at various homeopathic hospitals in the U.K. and also

MARKETPLACE made a point of seeking out comment from Canadian homeopaths.
This story focused on pending federal regulation of the homeopathic
profession, as well as the efficacy of the medicines used. Since the story
concerned the profession, we wanted to talk to someone who could speak on
behalf of one of the organizations representing Canadian homeopaths. Our
view was and remains that this is a popular treatment in this country, and
there are professional organizations in this country which should be able to
speak to the issues. The program contacted the Ontario Homeopathic
Association, the Canadian Society of Homeopaths and Nupath. We asked each of
those organizations if we could speak with a representative in an on-camera
interview. All declined.

MARKETPLACE's producers thought, as we believe our viewers would, that the
program should not have to go outside Canadian borders in order to find a
suitable spokesperson. As you may recall, the Homeopathic Medical Council of
Canada did agree to speak on air, and we spoke with their representative,
Ranvir Sharda, on the program. And the producers of MARKETPLACE are well
aware of Peter Gold; he has contacted the program and its researchers on
numerous occasions.

Another of your questions was: "What was MARKETPLACE trying to establish
when it asked a group of people to take contents of whole tubes of
homeopathic pills? That the pills don't work? If so, why was this experiment
not properly done and carried to its conclusion?"

As part of the program, CBC filmed members of the organization Centre for
Inquiry Canada, a group dedicated to, in their words, "reason, science,
secularism and freedom of inquiry" taking multiple doses of common and
popular homeopathic preparations. The aim of this organization is create
debate on issues including alternative medical therapies, like homeopathy.
The program did provide an opportunity for this organization to express
their opinion on the claims made by proponents of homeopathy. While
laboratory experiments and results are useful in explaining the veracity of
a remedy's claims (and the program did undertake a number of tests and duly
reported the findings), television is a visual medium. For many viewers,
seeing a test like the one conducted by CFI provides information in the same
way that showing regular users of homeopathy taking the remedies does:
provide a wide spectrum of opinions from which viewers are able to make
their own determination on a subject.

Lastly, you asked "Why did MARKETPLACE not post a link [to] the British
Government's response to the report of the Science and Technology

CBC MARKETPLACE posted a link on its show's website to the report filed by
the British House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee titled
"Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy" to provide our audience with an additional
resource on this subject. As the report states, the purpose of the committee
is to "examine how the Government uses evidence to formulate and review its
policies." This specific report was an examination of the reasoning behind
the decision by the National Health Service, the publicly funded health
service, to fund homeopathy and to license homeopathic products. To
investigate this issue, the committee sought out scientific evidence on
homeopathic evidence, based in part on the fact that "scientific evidence
was not used" to create the guidelines surrounding the licensing of
homeopathic products.

The government's response provided no new information in relation to the
findings of the report, that is, it did not support or deny the findings of
the committee. Rather, it reiterated that as a policy, funding would
continue through the NHS for homeopathic remedies because it provided
patients with "choice."

CBC had no preconceptions approaching this story. We set out to look at
homeopathy from a consumers' point of view. In fact, CBC MARKETPLACE prides
itself on its tests, which are neutral and objective.

While we regret that you take issue with the presentation, we hope we have
addressed some of the issues that you raise. Please note that we have made
your concerns known to the senior producers of MARKETPLACE as well as senior
staff in CBC News, and senior management at CBC, including the President and

It is also our responsibility to tell you that if you are not satisfied
with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by the CBC
Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body
reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program
compliance with the CBC's journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be
reached by mail at the address shown below, or by fax at (416) 205- 2825, or
by e-mail at ombudsman@...<http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/homeoworks/post?postID=qXx-JzyxWgNNZYVQvstZ6q2EtySLGXAHquT3ip5_Tf2O3h-QwvkFPvdGhT1HM-JUHcTbCdJ6i3Mi-y0>


Denis Andrychuk

Communications Officer

CBC Audience Relations