A new peer-reviewed paper which compares veterinary drugs with homeopathy should arguably be required reading for all veterinary professionals, not just because it provides a bulletproof case against a form of pseudo-science quack medicine, but because it offers a valuable reminder of the errors in human thinking which all veterinary surgeons need to guard against when assessing the effect of any treatment, not to mention a fascinating history lesson.

Part 1 of "Comparison of veterinary drugs and homeopathy", by Peter Lees, Professor Emeritis in Pharmacology at the RVC, Ludovic Pelligand, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology and Anaesthesia at the RVC, Martin Whiting, Lecturer in Veterinary Ethics and Law at the RVC, Danny Chambers, an RCVS Councillor currently working at Langford Veterinary Services, University of Bristol, Pierre-Louis Toutain, a European Veterinary Specialist in Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Martin Whitehead Co- and Clinical Director at the Chipping Norton Veterinary Hospital, is published in last week's (August 12th) edition of the Veterinary Record.

The paper considers some of the reasons why medicinal products work and the errors in human thinking which make them seem to work when actually they don't. It also takes a look at the history of veterinary and homeopathic medicine, which helps explain how something as scientifically implausible as homeopathy ever gained traction in the first place.

VetSurgeon.org Editor Arlo Guthrie said: "As the parent of a child with a severe, chronic and highly variable disease, I’ve had prolonged first-hand experience of just how easy it is to fall prey to the sorts of errors in human thinking that can make you believe a treatment is working when in reality it is not. It’s something I continue to have to fight against, despite being well-educated about things like cognitive bias and regression to the mean.

"I believe all veterinary surgeons, and doctors for that matter should constantly remind themselves of these errors and importantly keep them front of mind when advising clients. Not just so they can explain cogently why quack medicine offers nothing more than false hope and a thinner wallet, and why randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials are so important, but also to improve their own assessment of a patient’s response to treatment."

The paper can also be downloaded here: http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/181/7/170 

Part 2 of the paper is due to be published in next week’s edition of the Veterinary Record.

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VetSurgeon.org has funded the Open Access publication of this paper, so both parts are now available for all to read here:
Part 1: http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/181/7/170
Part 2: http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/181/8/198 

Photo: The father of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, Wikipedia