NEWS broke recently that the “homeopathic vaccines” being sold by a Brisbane homeopath were made of nothing but refined sugar.

Cyena Caruana, whose website is no longer publicly viewable, was apparently selling vaccines purported to protect against pertussis, measles, polio, meningococcus and malaria.

According to the Courier Mail, a post on her Facebook page had also claimed to have sold “homeopathic prophylaxis medicines” against the Zika virus.

The newspaper arranged for vaccination and booster pilules from Caruana’s business, Homeopathy at Home, to be tested by scientists at the Queensland University of Technology, who found they were simply refined sugar.

Very expensive sugar – the total cost of the products was more than $250.

That homeopathic preparations might be found to have nothing in them is hardly a surprise. After all, the principle of homeopathy is that the “active” ingredients are diluted to a point where there may no longer be a single molecule present in the final preparation.

It does seem surprising, though, that businesses continue to get away with this kind of misleading advertising despite repeated attempts to rein them in (see this 2015 Federal Court judgment about vaccination on the Homeopathy Plus! website, for example).

It’s not as though the claims being made for the sugar pills are consequence-free.

If a pregnant woman believes she is protected from the Zika virus by one of these magic potions, she might well be more willing to engage in behaviours that could put her baby at risk.

Parents of a homeopathically “immunised” child might likewise be less worried about exposing their child to infection or, worse, about putting a newborn at risk by allowing their unimmunised child to visit.

Not all homeopaths endorse the practice of “homeoprophylaxis” against infectious disease, but Caruana is certainly not alone.

Victorian homeopath Dr Isaac Golden (he gained a PhD from Swinburne University in 2004 for his homeopathic research) is something of an international celebrity in the field.

Many of those offering homeoprophylaxis in Australia, and elsewhere, base their services on his approach.

“I use the immunisation protocol developed by Dr Golden as it has been rigorously tested and verified over a 20-year study as being currently the most effective and safest method of providing homeopathic immunisation,” writes one practitioner from Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

“His results have found that those children who were immunised with homeprophylaxis have a similar rate of incidence of childhood disease as those who have been vaccinated, and a lower rate of incidence than those who used no form of immunisation.”

Oh, well, if it’s a protocol, it must work.

One of the stated purposes of Dr Golden’s research has been to provide governments with data showing that “vaccination is not the only valid option to prevent targeted infectious diseases”.

Parents, he believes, should be able to freely choose between two apparently equal options: vaccination or homeoprophylaxis.

Such a dual system would “increase the national coverage against targeted diseases (increase herd immunity), and lower the national incidence of certain chronic illnesses, such as asthma and eczema, as well as reduce behavioural problems associated with vaccination”, Dr Golden writes.

The research underlying this claim (that 20-year study) was based on questionnaires completed by Dr Golden’s clients, the parents following his homeoprophylactic program.

It’s perhaps not surprising these true believers reported excellent health outcomes in their children.

You’ll be relieved to hear that Dr Golden’s rigorous research found homeoprophylaxis was not only non-toxic (well, of course it is, there’s nothing in it) but also “energetically safe” (whatever that means).

The internet is hard to police: it’s a vast and sprawling beast, and one that is constantly changing.

Maybe it’s inevitable that the peddlers of miracles so often seem to act with impunity.

Under Australian law, “businesses are not allowed to make statements that are incorrect or likely to create a false impression”.

Now that would be a true miracle.

 

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