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Homeopathy ‘overdose’ staged to discredit drugs

world Updated: Jan 31, 2010 00:07 IST

Hundreds of sceptics will stage a “mass overdose” outside Boots stores, a chain of chemists’ stores that sells the alternative medicine, around Britain on Sunday to protest against the chain’s continuing sale of homeopathic remedies and to argue that such treatments have no scientific basis.

The event, called 10:23, will see the protesters swallowing the contents of entire bottles of homeopathic pills to illustrate their claims that such remedies “are nothing but sugar pills”.

It is being co-ordinated by the Merseyside Sceptics Society, a non-profit scientific organisation dedicated to “developing and supporting the sceptical community”.

The “overdoses” will cover a dozen UK cities. “Sympathy events” will also be held in Canada and Australia.

Homeopathy, which is based on treating people using highly diluted substances to trigger healing, was developed by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century. Homeopaths say water retains a memory of the substance, which has a therapeutic effect. Most scientists claim that such treatments are no better than placebos or sugar pills.

A spokesman for the event, which will begin at 10.23 am, said the group had been moved to act by the evidence given to the House of Commons science and technology select panel last November.

“Hundreds of people were following the action together on Twitter, and sharing our general disbelief at the circus that was unfolding before our eyes,” he said. “To see a homeopathic doctor explaining to MPs how many times a remedy had to be tapped before it would imprint the water was just surreal. And for the spokesman of Boots to explain that they were happy to sell customers pills for which they have no evidence of effectiveness was an insult to many people.”

He added: "We believe it is unethical for the government and [a company] to continue to support what is essentially an 18th century magic ritual.”

Paula Ross, chief executive of the Society of Homeopaths, which has more than 1,450 members across Europe, said the 10:23 event would not advance the argument on homeopathy."