Sunday, 8 November 2009

VKendology: Vodka fuelled "research"

Guess what! Scientists have found the equation for the Perfect Night Out. Some really clever boffins have done loads of really hard work and figured out that: PNO = (A+Sp)* (N + V + T + TFT) * (E)

How great is that? Well, the Yorkshire Evening Post seem to think so, according to an article they wrote in October.

The background to all of this is that a Leeds University student recently won a competition advertised on facebook by VK, producers of a vodka based alco-pop. The aim of the competition was to find a science or maths student to spend a summer working for them researching what made a perfect night out. To make it sound all sciencey it had to lead to a mathematical equation, which they could then based PR activity on.

VK certainly aren't the first company to use such an approach. Increasingly companies are using “science” as part of their PR activity to get free advertising. Why pay for an advert when a journalist would be quite happy to print your corporate client's name in a news article for free? All you need is a hook and this can be provided by claiming that scientists have “found the equation for...”. Ben Goldacre has covered this issue on a few occasions, and a good overview of this can be found in this Guardian article.

Back to the VK equation though. VK, though a PR company called Brahm, made quite a big thing about how serious this research was going to be, as can be seen in the first press release relating to their search for a scientist. It was going to be scrutinised by the “Best Brains in Britain” and the equation had to be supported by an in-depth thesis. I therefore contacted Brahm and asked them to send me a copy of the thesis. To say it's poor would be a massive understatement.

Petra Boynton (a social psychologist) and Steve Anderson (a programmer with an interest in science and maths) have both reviewed the thesis and equation, from different perspectives, and their opinions can be seen at and In summary, the key problems with this work are:

1) The maths is terrible. I mean, really shockingly bad, which is worrying given it was put together by a science student and apparently reviewed by the “Best Brains in Britain”. As Steve point out in his blog there are circumstances in which you end up dividing by zero, meaning for example that it's possible to have an infinitely good night out by going out alone.

2) The social research done is very poor, with the student clearly not understanding basic concepts within social research. For example, she doesn't seem to know the difference between a semi-structured interview and a survey.

3) Nobody seems to consider or take responsibility for ethical issues, which given the research involves interviewing presumably drunk people in a night club is quite a big problem. There are issues around the safety of the researchers and whether respondents are in a position to actually give consent to being interviewed.

I decided to put a series of questions to the team at Brahm, including:

- On what basis was Ms Toon selected to undertake this research?
- Was this research and subsequent PR activity endorsed by the University of Leeds?
- How were the ethics of conducting this research considered?
- Who reviewed this research to ensure it's findings were accurate?

Brahm provided the following response:

“Vkendology by VK Vodka Kick is a fun study into what criteria we need to have the most fun nights out, and therefore we hope taken in the spirit in which it is intended. Phillippa Toon was one of over 50 respondents who applied to undertake the research and develop the formula following a cheeky VK Vodka Kick Facebook campaign to find a talented maths or science student who enjoyed nights out. She developed the formula, which we are assured is correct, in her own time following some very entertaining evenings out spent researching and interviewing partygoers. More than 2,000 responses were gathered in total and we’d like to thank her for her hard work and for being a great sport. The formula is her own work and is not connected at all with her studies at the University of Leeds. The guide to the formula is available at for you to view. Thank you for your interest in story and we hope it helps you to have lots more fun in the future.”

This essentially tells us nothing. Nothing about the ethics, which as Petra outlines on her blog are significant issues. Nothing about the review process, apart from them having been assured that the equation is correct.

I decided to follow up the issue of the reviewers, asking who they were and what their thoughts on the work was. I was told that

“We asked other individuals to check Phillippa’s report but they became involved on the understanding that they wouldn’t be named“

When probed further and asked simply for the backgrounds and credentials of the reviewers, rather than their names, I was told that the PR company was no longer able to help. I have a suspicion that the reviewers either didn't exist, or were certainly far from being the “Best Brains in Britain”. Any decent academic would have been able to flag up the massive problems with the report.

Now, some people may shrug all of this off, saying that's it's obvious from the start that this is just a PR exercise, maybe even “a bit of fun”. I disagree, as I see this as part of a wider problem of science being undermined and trivialised by such PR exercises. If a company wants to get free press by publishing “science” they should at least have the decency to do it properly and try to add something of some value to knowledge. If they don't want to do that then they should pay for their advertising space just like everyone else.

Perhaps one of the most depressing aspects of this is that people who really should know better are actively participating in this undermining of science.

Someone who should know better is Professor Anne Glover, Scotland’s chief scientific adviser, who has commented that:

“By and large most scientists would be pleased to see equations being used, and giving prominence to science. There will be some purists who look at it, realise it doesn’t work, and say it’s shocking and you shouldn’t be doing that. But it is interesting to raise the profile around science.”

There's a lot wrong with this statement. First of all, I doubt it's only “purists” who would say there's something wrong with a campaign such as VK's. What she also gets wrong is the idea that somehow this raises the profile of science, and that using equations somehow makes something more “sciencey”. Surely a chief scientific adviser should know that the key problem with the public understanding of science is that people simply don't know what science is, and by promoting bogus stories such as this they are reinforcing the idea that it's all just about equations.

Of course, the other key problem is that by attempting to promote science with nonsense like this you risk also promoting the public misconception that scientists spend all day researching pointless things and not actually doing much to benefit society.

Someone else who should know better is the student who conducted this research, who's potentially jeapordising the prospect of having a serious career in science. It would be interesting to know what her academic supervisors at Leeds University think of her research work, which she seems to take seriously. Whilst VK and Brahm seem to be now telling us it's all just a bit of fun, Phillippa Toon is standing by her research, seemingly thinking it's a robust piece of work. She has been quoted in the press as saying:

“It does stand up to scientific scrutiny. I wanted to prove that scientists weren’t all geeks. We can have a good time too.”

It's really worrying that a final year science student can really think this work stands up to scientific scrutiny. As we've seen from what Petra Boyton and Steve Anderson have to say, this work if full of holes. However, what really annoys me about this comment is her wanting to prove that scientists aren't all geeks, and that they can have a good time. Well, I'm sure there are many scientists out there who would resent the implication that you can only have fun by pretending to be a scientist and getting pissed on what to me tastes like sugary flavoured meths!

The sooner PR companies start leaving science alone, the sooner we can actually make some progress on meaningful promotion of science.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Nelsons - Can they be trusted not to misrepresent research... again?

I recently noticed a job advert for a Research Associate at the University of Westminster to work on a collaborative research project with Nelsons Ltd, purveyors of natural and quack medicines. It appears Nelsons needs “expert endorsement” from a university to enhance their “scientific credentials”. A bit of digging around shows us that Nelsons have previously misrepresented scientific research to suit their marketing objectives. Might they be about to do the same thing again?

Before we look at the detail, let’s start with a little background.

Westminster are well known for their rather gullible approach to quackery, and indeed have a whole department dedicated to “Chinese Medicine and Complementary Therapies”.

Nelsons are one of the UK’s largest providers of “natural medicine”, with a turnover of £28.9m in 2007 (latest figures available) and profits of £7.6m. They sell, amongst other things, homeopathic remedies and Bach flower remedies. In 2006 they were featured on Newsnight when they tried to sell an undercover reporter a homeopathic alternative to anti-malarial drugs, stating that:

“They make it so your energy doesn’t have a malaria-shaped hole in it so the malarial mosquitos won’t come along and fill that in.”

This is a company with a record of being more interested in PR and promoting products than accurate research. Last year they were involved in developing a PR toolkit for homeopaths to “reach local people in order to grow your client base, keep in touch effectively with your clients and make use of local or regional newspapers to print positive stories about homeopathy”. This was covered by the excellent Gimpy.

Nelsons are also involved in nutritional supplements and sell Spatone, “a 100% natural liquid iron supplement” through a sister company, Spatone Ltd.

The research project they have set up, which focuses on Spatone, is done through a subsidised (in this case by £74,928) government scheme called Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP). The idea behind KTP is that companies and Universities can pool their commercial and academic expertise to run a commercially focused research project to their mutual benefit, as well as to the benefit of the UK economy. Each KTP project recruits a recent graduate to conduct the bulk of the research, and this is the job I saw advertised.

This research project will focus on identifying the active compounds in Spatone and comparing these to competitor products. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but from looking at the job description it seems that the results of the project, before it has even taken place, have been pre-determined:

“The results will help establish Nelsons products as unique product, with significant points of difference verses other supplements in the market”

But how can they already be claiming what the results of studies on their existing products will show?

The job description also indicates that the research Nelsons have conducted into their products has been focussed on quality control, rather than effectiveness:

“Nelson’s facilities have been so far mainly limited to quality control”

For a company with a turnover of nearly £30m and profits of nearly £8m you’d think they could afford to do a little more research into the efficacy of their products before releasing them!

It seems to me that the key reason that Nelsons/Spatone are conducting this study is to make their product sound all “sciencey” for marketing and PR purposes. Their “five pillars” to support growth of the company specifically include “expert endorsement” and the outcome of the project is identified by the company as being to:

“give the brand the scientific credentials necessary for such a development…”

If I was the lead academic or the research assistant working on this project I would be concerned that rigorous scientific analysis is not what the company may be looking for. One thing that is clear is that Nelsons/Spatone can’t be trusted to accurately report research into their products. They make a very big thing on their website about the fact that Spatone has been backed up by a range of scientific studies, however reading the original research papers gives a very different picture.

I contacted Nelsons to discuss this with them, initially speaking to Chris Oldham, their R&D Manager. However, following this I was referred to a member of their communications team. They claim that the requirement for “expert endorsement” is to meet regulatory requirements when selling into new territories. I’m not convinced that this is the only reason for wanting this endorsement, as the way they have misrepresented their previous research for marketing purposes leads me to think this is as much about marketing and PR as it is about meeting regulations.

“Bod”, a blogger and contributor to the forum at Badscience, has a background in biochemistry. He examined the claims made on the Spatone website and compared these with the original research. The Spatone website was then edited on the 6th August, after I contacted them. The claims we are investigating below appear as they were originally. Here’s what Bod found:

Claim: "Spatone is effective against iron deficiency in pregnancy"

The research (1) involved a sample of only 24 anaemic pregnant and 21 non-pregnant, non-anaemic women, and therefore has little statistical power. The groups allocated to different regimes were of different sizes. The research was partially funded by Spatone. It showed Spatone to be about as effective as other forms of ferrous sulphate. Why wouldn't it be?

Claim: "Spatone does not cause the side-effects usually associated with conventional iron supplements"

The study did not prove side effects to be lower for Spatone, but rather assumed it to be the case. No-one reported the side-effects, but there is no evidence they were asked about side effects.

Claim: “Spatone has an absorption rate of iron which is up to 40% - an absorption rate unmatched by iron intake from food sources or conventional iron supplements"

The small study showed 5-40% absorption of the Spatone’s iron by anaemic pregnant women. It did not compare this with conventional supplements, but instead compared it with literature values, measured under different circumstances with different subjects. As pregnant women are known to have a far higher absorption of iron than non-pregnant women, and people with low iron stores have a far higher absorption of iron than people with high stores, all the study has done is demonstrate these two points. Comparing the results obtained with those for non-pregnant non-anaemic people is invalid.

Claim: "Spatone Iron-Plus (previous trade name of Spatone) does not cause these side-effects"

This seemingly better-designed trial (2) with 102 subjects randomised and supposedly double-blinded (hopefully the placebo was as coloured and flavoured as iron containing water would be) did not show this at all. "Dyspepsia scores did not differ between the two groups" is what it said. Once again, the researchers explain why Spatone should have a lower incidence of GI side effects without actually demonstrating it in their experiment.

It does claim that compliance scores were different between the two groups, but fails to note the lack of statistical significance of the result meant that it was probably down to chance. The conclusion was that a randomised controlled trial would probably be worthwhile. No note is made of who funded the study in the paper, but we would guess Spatone played a part.

When asked to comment about this, Nelsons stated that the dyspepsia scores did not differ between the Spatone and placebo groups and that it is on this basis that the claim of no side effects is made. However, this doesn’t tell us anything about how Spatone compares to alternative products, and the trial didn’t examine this. If Nelsons wish to show that their ferrous sulphate differs in some way from the standard kind, they needed to do an experiment to show this directly, rather than playing games with the known facts by doing half-experiments.

They compare absorption of the product by pregnant anaemic women with literature values for those who we should already know will absorb less iron, instead of comparing Spatone and standard product. They compare a low dose of Spatone with placebo, then make a false comparison with a higher dose of conventional product. If they want to know whether their product has magic powers, they need to compare the same dose of Spatone and standard product, at the same dose and concentration.

Claim: "It has... been shown that spatone has an absorption of iron of up to 40%"

This study (3) only had 13 subjects initially, of whom one was eliminated as they might have had a history of iron malabsorbtion. This already causes a problem as it is bad practice to pick and choose your subjects when your sample size is so small. The study tells us that Spatone's active ingredient is ferrous sulphate, just like the standard iron tablets. The study does NOT claim that Spatone differs in any way from any other dilute solution of ferrous sulphate. The study tells us that up to 40 % of the iron in ferrous sulphate can be absorbed under certain special conditions. The study thanks Spatone for their financial contribution.

In summary, this is poor quality research on statistically insignificant, unrepresentative and in one case cherry-picked groups which give explanations for effects not shown by the research. They are funded in at least two of the three cases by Spatone Ltd.

What this research doesn’t do is show us how Spatone differs from any of their competitor’s products. Perhaps what is needed is a clinical trial of Spatone against Irn-bru, which is also a dilute solution of iron salts. Irn-bru has around 3.5mg/l of iron as ammonium ferric citrate, a very well tolerated iron salt. Using Nelson’s level of scientific robustness we can therefore conclude that one dose of Spatone is therefore slightly inferior to one litre of Irn-bru (probably the daily consumption for some in Scotland!). One would also predict slightly better scores for GI side effects. Of course Barr's are not claiming that their product is a neutraceutical. I don't think they are even allowed to claim it is made in Scotland from girders any more.

Derek Renshaw, the KTP's lead academic at Westminster was contacted about these issues and said he would have to discuss with colleagues whether and how to respond. I have heard nothing from him since.

Previous poor quality research was spun with weasel words into what look to be claims that Spatone differs from conventional supplementation. Given the stated aims of this current research project, can we really expect anything different from them this time? Is it really an appropriate use of public money to support a multi-million profit making company’s PR and marketing work?


(1) G. HALKSWORTH, L. MOSELEY, K. CARTER, M. WORWOOD (2003) Iron absorption from Spatone (a natural mineral water) for prevention of iron deficiency in pregnancy, Clinical and Laboratory Haematology, 25, 227–231

(2) D. MCKENNA, D. SPENCE, S.E. HAGGAN, E. MCCRUM, J.C. DORNAN,T.R. LAPPIN (2003) A randomized trial investigating an iron-rich natural mineral water as a prophylaxis against iron deficiency in pregnancy, Clinical and Laboratory Haematology, 25, 99–103

(3) M.WORWOOD, W.D.EVAN, R.J.VILLIS, A.K.BURNETT (1996) Iron absorption from a natural mineral water (Spatone Iron+), Clinical and Laboratory Haematology, 18, 23-27

I'd like to thank "Bod" for his help in putting this together and analysing the previous research conducted on Spatone.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Science: So What? - Recruiting a Dialogue Manager

Nothing really to add to this, other than what Science: So What? have sent out. Anyone out there interested in this role?

Dear Bloggy People,

Having recognized some of the shortcomings of SSW online to date, and in an attempt to listen to the feedback we’ve received and act appropriately, we’re hoping you might help in publicising the opportunity below.

Time is shorter than we’d like so we’re trying to publicise this in the science blog space in the hope of attracting the right kind of applicants quickly. We’ve taken recommendations from bloggers and other stakeholders and are going to try and whittle down to a shortlist for interview in the next week or so. Whilst we recognise this is not ideal, we’re hoping you’ll understand why.

Any help you might give us in publicising this would be very much appreciated – if you want any more info on the campaign please mail us at the very catchy sciencesowhatcommunicator at googlemail dot com

Science: So What? is a Department of Business Innovation and Skills campaign to encourage wider public engagement in science at all levels – from casual interest to education and employment opportunities – as well as promoting greater understanding of why science is important to the UK.

As part of refreshing the campaign we are now looking for a science communicator to find, create and edit online content and manage dialogue across the web and social media.

We’re looking for people that have a track record as a science writer, the ability to write for diverse audiences (including young people) and excellent working knowledge of online science content, social media etiquette, and the principles of good science communication.

We imagine this to be a part-time role in the first instance, but we are open-minded as to how the role will develop and would hope that you would want to be a part of that ongoing development.

If you would like more information please contact us with your name and contact details and a brief paragraph describing your experience at email address: sciencesowhatcommunicator at googlemail dot com

The projected monthly payment is £500-£750 per month, depending on hours, responsibilities and subject to discussion.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Simon Singh to appeal - Sign up now to keep the libel laws out of science!

Just a quick one tonight... Simon Singh has decided to appeal the recent pre-trial judgement against him in the libel case brought against him by the BCA.

This is excellent news, as is the fact that his campaign is gathering momentum, with support from a huge range of people. As well as overwhelming support of the scientific community, the campaign also has support from journalists, politicians, actors, comedians and of course an active blogging community.

Sense About Science have launched a petition in support of Singh, and also to make the wider point that libel laws have no place in scientific debate. You can sign the petition at the Sense About Science website.

I'm rather chuffed that one of my old physics profs. (Jim Al-Khalili) is near the top of the list of supporters.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Bassett Chiropractic refuse to engage with critics

You'll remember I got a positive response from Jeremy Spanton at Victoria Chiropractic following my complaint regarding their use of the term "Dr" and claims made that would not be allowed by the Advertising Standards Agency.

Over at JDC325's blog we see a very different response from Bassett Chiropractic Clinic, St Albans. JDC's complaint to Bassett was in some ways similar to mine, though the conditions they claim to treat differ. Bassett claimed to be able to treat whiplash injuries and headaches.

JDC spent a while looking at the evidence base for these treatments and found it to be significantly lacking. He then pointed out to them that making claims which the ASA would not allow is against the General Chiropractic Council's code of conduct. Their response to this point differs significantly to the one I got from Jeremy Spanton.

Bassett Chiropractic responded by saying that the ASA guidelines don't apply to them because they're making the claims on their website, and not in print advertising, which is the ASA's remit. They make no attempt to justify their claims, resorting to what is essentially a childish response along the lines of "naa naa, you can't get me, naa naa, you can't get me". Pretty pathetic really.

On further probing by JDC, Bassett respond with:

You have my response, and I am not prepared to engage in further
correspondence with you on this matter

This now provides a good opportunity to see what the GCC will actually do about chiropractors breaching their code of conduct. Will they, like the Society of Homeopaths, attempt to find loopholes to avoid having to do anything, or will they actually do what they are there to do - regulate the profession?

JDC has submitted a complaint to the GCC, so hopefully we should soon get an answer to that question.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

A success with Victoria Chiropractic, a chap called Lanigan, and a paradigmatically relevant hypothesis...

Hurrah, time to chalk one up for the good guys! Following my complaint to Victoria Chiropractic Clinic in Woking I have finally had a response from Jeremy Spanton. As you may remember, I complained about his misleading use of the "Dr" title as well as his claims to be able to treat childhood illnesses such as colic.

He emailed me today to confirm that he had been
"in touch with my association, and on their recommendation... I have altered my name to Jeremy Spanton, Doctor of Chiropractic, and have removed mention of the specific childhood ailments for which Chiropractic can be helpful"

Sure enough, a quick visit to his site confirms that he now correctly identifies himself as a "Doctor of Chiropractic" and whilst he still refers to treating children he has removed references to colic, ADHD, IBS etc. The tone of this page has also been changed somewhat. I'm still not comfortable with his equating spinal exams with dental and hearing tests, but it's a big improvement.

Now, his reference to being in contact with his association interested me. Was he talking about the GCC (the industry regulator) or BCA? As you may know, the BCA are currently suing Simon Singh for claiming that treatments for conditions such as colic are "bogus". It struck me that if the BCA was now advising its members to remove references to such conditions then it might have some bearing on the case.

It turns out Spanton was referring to neither. He was in fact refering to the United Chiropractics Association (UCA), an organisation I had never heard of before.

I looked the UCA up, and what an odd bunch they are! The first thing that struck me was how unprofessional their website looked - kind of worrying for a "professional association". It looks like something straight out of the '90s.

It seems the UCA was set up in 2001 by a bunch of disgruntled chiropractors who were concerned that existing organisations just weren't wacky enough didn't adequately represent "the subluxation based wellness view of chiropractic". These are the people who won't only claim to help you with your sore lower back, posture etc. These are the ones that will claim to help with all sorts of conditions, for which there is no evidence chiropractic can help.

Their "Mission" page shows how bizarre they get. It's full of mumbo-jumbo cod philosophy that would make even a stoned sociology undergraduate blush. They base their mission around a "Philosophical Construct" that states:

Vitalism: We ascribe to the idea that all living organisms are sustained by an innate intelligence, which is both different from and greater than physical and chemical forces. Further we believe innate intelligence is an expression of universal intelligence.

Holism: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Neural supremacy: We ascribe to the concept that the nervous system is the major co-ordinator and regulator of all bodily systems.

Conservative ethic: Our belief in the body's ability to heal itself logically implies that the best care is the least invasive care.

Humanism: We ascribe to the belief that individuals have immutable rights.


Looking further down the page we have the following gems:

In Relation To The Science Of Chiropractic

- Science should seek to answer paradigmatically relevant hypothesis, which by necessity, are borne out of our philosophical constructs
- Science itself is based on a metaphysical belief system built on a priori assumptions not amenable to proof.

This is classic "woo", and a clear attempt to change the rules of the game. Essentially, they're saying "science is what we say it is". That makes it nice and easy to later say that "science" says this stuff works. I call that bullshit.

The UCA currently have 250, 350 or 450 members, depending on which page you look at. Jeremy Spanton is one of them. I dare say the websites of a fair few others contain a few unjutifiable claims.

This isn't the end of the story though. What this demonstrates to me is that chiropractors don't really know what they are. The internal politics of the profession seem quite interesting, and mirrors some of the disputes between other alternative medicine groups such as that between the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths and the Society of Homeopaths:

SoH has sent out inaccurate and defamatory information to ARH members to coincide with ARH membership renewals. This communication has been accompanied by information and registering documents inviting ARH registered members to join SoH. This at the very least, constitutes unethical behaviour.

[T]he SoH’s recent actions suggest that they are more concerned about preserving their own position of power within the profession, than representing the actual needs of practising homeopaths.

I was made aware of the internal politics of chiropractic when a Richard Lanigan copied and entire earlier post of mine on his blog.

It seems Lanigan hopes that complaints from skeptics such as myself will bankrupt the GCC. Lanigan can't call himself a chiropractor, because he isn't one. He resigned from the GCC last year. Though he does offer chiropractic treatment at his clinic. in Kingston-upon-Thames. He is good enough to tell us on his website that:

This may affect your ability to claim from an insurance provider for chiropractic treatment from Richard

Buyer beware!

Not being a member of the GCC does have its benefits though. It means he is presumably not bound by their code of conduct and can therefore make whatever claims he likes on his website.

There's more to say on Lanigan, the BCA and the GCC, but I'll leave it there for now.

Make what you will of all of this. Perhaps you could even make a "paradigmatically relevant hypothesis"!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Neal's Yard - who thought this would be a good idea?

The Guardian have a regular "You ask, they answer" column as part of their "Ethical Living" blog.

Today, the "they" in question is Neal's Yard, the well known spelling mistake and woo-remedy store. I can see the team meeting at Neal's Yard HQ, with everyone sat on bean bags drinking organic herbal tea (coffee and boardroom tables being too corporate!). Desperate to spread the message of holistic organic goodness, someone comes up with the idea of getting a piece into The Guardian. After all, surely only mung bean eating, sandal wearing beardy hippies read The Guardian.... don't they?

It obviously didn't occur to them that a fair few skeptics also read The Guardian, and regularly frequent thier Comment is Free website.

So far, around 25 questions have been asked. I don't think Neal's Yard will enjoy answering them. Here are a choice few:

Benulek : How do you validate the medical efficacy of your 'remedies'?

Saltycdogg : Do you see no problem with trying to be 'ethical' while at the same time selling snake oil for a living?

puzzlebobble : you sell a multitude of products for a wide variety of medical conditions, some of which are serious or life threatening.

Please could you explain what level of evidence of efficacy you require before stocking any product?

If, as I suspect, the level of evidence of efficacy is poor then will you tell us what, if any, studies are done to look for harmful side-effects? How are these studies conducted? Furthermore please show us the power calculations for these studies.

Surely you don't view it as ethical to sell products which are of unproven benefit and which you don't even know are safe?

takearisk : Your website states:

The correct homoeopathic remedy will stimulate a sick person's vitality to send healing energy where it is needed, thus rectifying mental, emotional and physical imbalances.

Could you please explain how the 'correct homoeopathic remedy' is decided on and describe the qualifications of the people who make these decisions?

I'd also be grateful for a biological definition of 'healing energy' and an indication of where I can find the scientific evidence for its existence.

I can't wait for the answers.