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A An international protest against homeopathy this week aims to demonstrate the truth about homeopathy – that there is literally nothing in it, says Martin Robbins at 10.23 am on 30 January, and more than 300 activists in the UK, Canada, Australia and the US will take part in a mass homeopathic “overdose”. Skeptics will publicly swallow an entire bottle of homeopathic pills to demonstrate to the public that homeopathic remedies, the product of a scientifically unfounded 18th-century ritual, are simply sugar pills. Many of the skeptics will swallow 84 pills of arsenicum album, a homeopathic remedy based on arsenic which is used to treat a range of symptoms, including food poisoning and insomnia. The aim of the “10:23” campaign, led by the Merseyside Skeptics Society, based in Liverpool, UK, is to raise public awareness of just exactly what homeopathy is, and to put pressure on the UK’s leading pharmacist, Boots, to remove the remedies from sale. The campaign is called 10:23 in honor of the Avogadro constant (approximately 6 x 1023, the number of atoms or molecules in one mole of a substance), of which more later.
B That such a protest is even necessary in 2010 and is remarkable, but somehow the homeopathic industry has not only survived into the 21st century, but prospered. In the UK alone more than £40 million is spent annually on homeopathic treatments, with £4 million of this being sucked from the National Health Service budget. Yet the basis for homeopathy defies the laws of physics, and high-quality clinical trials have never been able to demonstrate that it works beyond the placebo effect.