MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

‘Homeopathy in perspective’ is the title of a book by Anthony Campbell, the revised edition of which has recently become available. Dr Campbell has been a consultant at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (RLHH, as it was called then) for ~20 years and also served as the editor of the journal ‘Homeopathy‘ (as it is now called) for many years. He retired in 1998 but is still active in writing and teaching. His book is well-written, informative and far less promotional than one would expect. It summarizes the history of homeopathy in some detail and then discusses the scientific evidence – and it is, of course, this section that might be of particular interest for this blog and its readers.

I think Campbell is correct when he writes that it is wrong to say, as some critics do, that there is no objective evidence for homeopathy. There is, but most of it is of rather poor quality. Even at its best there is evidence for only a small effect, and when an effect is as small as this it may not be there at all. It is also disturbing that the better the quality of a trial the less likely it is to show a positive effect.

Amazing, coming from a retired consultant of the RLHH, isn’t it? It gets even more surprising as we read on: I conclude that there are no firm answers to questions about the efficacy of homeopathy to be found in the research that has been done up to now. Homeopathy has not been proved to work but neither has it been conclusively disproven – it is of course notoriously difficult to prove a negative.

A few paragraphs further on, Campbell provides his final conclusions on the evidence and gets even more explicit: My own assessment of homeopathy is that, while it is impossible to say categorically that all the remedies are without objective effect, any effect there may be is small and unimportant. The great majority, at least, of the improvement that patients experience is due to non-specific causes.

When I began saying and writing things like this, the world of homeopathy decided that I was a fraud and imposter who had no training in or knowledge of homeopathy; therefore, they almost unanimously agreed, my verdict was not to be trusted. I wonder how they are going to try to invalidate the words of someone who was for 20 years a consultant and director of the RLHH.

PS 

While I agree with much of what Campbell writes here, I have reservations about one particular aspect and will explain in the next post.

4 Responses to Homeopathy in perspective

  • Anthony Campbell’s book tells it like it is and I can recommend it to all who whish to explore behind the facade of homeopathy.

    Homeopathy is an ‘alternative to medicine’ because it bases its philosophy and practice on precepts which do not fit the paradigm of modern scientific evidence-based treatment. As and when it can meet the same intellectual and academic scientific standards as ‘modern medicine’ so it will be taken seriously.

    Until then we must accept that most if not all of the patients who report ‘benefit’ from homeopathic remedies are in fact confused. Their feelings have resulted from the placebo effects of having a caring empathic practitioner spend some time with them.

    I am sure Anthony’s many patients very much appreciated the efforts he made on their behalf. I am sure we can now all appreciate the honesty and integrity it has taken to write this book.

    Would that all proponents of ‘homeopathy’ and its ‘integration’ with modern medicine had the insights Campbell now has.

    And many thanks to Edzard for helping him gain these insights.

    Richard Rawlins

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