Recently, while lurking at Orac’s place, I noticed a couple of comments about a report by the Swiss government that apparently endorsed homeopathy. The Natural News website is having a ball with this, with its author saying things like
[t]his breakthrough report affirmed that homeopathic treatment is both effective and cost-effective and that homeopathyic treatment should be reimbursed by Switzerland’s national health insurance program.
Now, if this were true, it would surely mean that the Swiss government (or its representatives) had been persuaded by evidence that the laws of physics and chemistry had been overturned, and treating people with what is essentially water (or sugar, if you go for the pills) really does have health effects beyond helping someone who’s dehydrated. Is that really what the ‘Swiss government report’ says?
Well, no. No, the policy-makers of Switzerland don’t say that at all – something that has already been amply demonstrated by other bloggers, including Zeno (who provides a link to all relevant documents) and Andy Lewis at the Quackometer. The claim that the Swiss government has endorsed the use of homeopathy is simply an attempt at an argument from authority, for in fact the document claiming efficacy for highly diluted substances (which can include things like Berlin Wall, Tyrannosaurus rex, and antimatter– yes, really) was written, not by those policy-makers, but by a group of homeopaths and edited by academic staff at a private German university specialising in alternative medicine.
What did the Swiss government really have to say about this document? Well, it was hardly a ringing endorsement & certainly didn’t affirm the efficacy of treating illnesses with water &/or lactose. In fact, it agreed with an overall review panel that said
[I]t is very obvious that all or some of the authors have a positive attitude towards the treatments in question or are convinced about their efficacy. Unquestionably, strict proponents of the usual hierarchy of evidence will regard the presented evaluations as scientifically untenable and unreasonably positive…