MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The Australian ‘NATIONAL HEALTH AND MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL’ (NHMRC) has assessed the effectiveness of homeopathy. The evaluation looks like the most comprehensive and most independent in the history of homeopathy. Its draft report has just been released and concludes that “the evidence from research in humans does not show that homeopathy is effective for treating the range of health conditions considered.”

Not for a single health conditions was there reliable evidence that homeopathy was effective. No rigorous studies reported either that homeopathy caused greater health improvements than a placebo, or that homeopathy caused health improvements equal to those of another treatment.

The overview considered a total of 57 systematic reviews that assessed the effectiveness of homeopathy for 61 different health conditions.

The draft report presents the evidence according to 4 different categories:

1)

Homeopathy was reported to be not more effective than placebo in either all the studies found, or in a large majority of the reliable studies for the treatment of the following health conditions:

  • adenoid vegetation in children
  • asthma
  • anxiety or stress-related conditions
  • diarrhoea in children
  • headache and migraine
  • muscle soreness
  • labour
  • pain due to dental work
  • pain due to orthopaedic surgery
  • postoperative ileus
  • premenstrual syndrome
  • upper respiratory tract infections
  • warts.

2)

For the following condition, although some studies reported that homeopathy was more effective than placebo, trials were not reliable and homeopathy was therefore judged to be no more effective than placebo:

  • allergic rhinitis
  • attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • bruising
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • diarrhoea in children
  • fibromyalgia
  • hot flushes in women who have had breast cancer
  • human immunodeficiency virus infection
  • influenza-like illness
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • sinusitis
  • sleep disturbances or circadian rhythm disturbances
  • stomatitis  due to chemotherapy
  • ulcers.

3)

For the following conditions, although some studies reported that homeopathy was as effective as or more effective than another treatment, trials were not reliable:

  • acute otitis media or otitis media with effusion
  • allergic rhinitis
  • anxiety or stress-related conditions
  • depression
  • eczema
  • non-allergic rhinitis
  • osteoarthritis
  • upper respiratory tract infection

4)

There was no reliable evidence on which to draw a conclusion about the effectiveness of homeopathy, compared with placebo, for the treatment of the following health conditions:

  • acne vulgaris
  • acute otitis media in children
  • acute ankle sprain
  • acute trauma
  • amoebiasis and giardiasis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • boils and pyoderma
  • Broca’s aphasia after stroke
  • bronchitis
  • cholera
  • cough
  • chronic polyarthritis
  • dystocia
  • eczema
  • heroin addiction
  • knee joint haematoma
  • lower back pain
  • nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
  • oral lichen planus
  • osteoarthritis
  • proctocolitis
  • postoperative pain-agitation syndrome
  • radiodermatitis in women with breast cancer
  • seborrhoeic dermatitis
  • suppression of lactation after childbirth
  • stroke
  • traumatic brain injury
  • uraemic pruritis
  • vein problems due to cannulas in people receiving chemotherapy.

5)

There was no reliable evidence on which to draw a conclusion about the effectiveness of homeopathy compared with other therapies for the treatment of the following health conditions:

  • burns
  • fibromyalgia
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • malaria
  • proctocolitis
  • recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis
  • rheumatoid arthritis.

The authors of the report now invite comments from interested parties. This means that homeopaths across the world can submit evidence which they feel has been ignored. It will be fascinating to see whether this changes the conclusion of the NHMRC’s assessment.

42 Responses to The most thorough and independent assessment of homeopathy ever

  • The NHMRC Homeopathic Working Committee included an academic who is a “German trained pharmacist with high level training in herbal and homeopathic medicines”
    http://www.nhaa.org.au/docs/ACCESS/Access%2064%20Mar11.pdf

  • Ah! My goof!

  • And still the British National Health Service continues to waste millons of pounds of taxpayers’ money on funding homeopathic hospitals.

    Perhaps I should say thank you, Prince Charles.

  • Talking of the Royal family you may want to look at this gem of (mis)information http://e2r3t4.tumblr.com/post/78824232554/homeopathy-medical-science-explained-dr-juan

    My sides ache after watching it. And with no sense of irony whatsoever, the link was reposted on twitter by Dr Nancy Malik, a self styled champion of Evidence Based Homeopathy

    Coincidentally I have already seen a criticism of the report along the lines of ‘No homeopaths were involved so the outcome is flawed…’

  • “… homeopaths across the world can submit evidence…

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho ho ho!…
    Wait! Were you serious?

  • Kausik Datta said:

    “… homeopaths across the world can submit evidence…
    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ho ho ho ho ho!…
    Wait! Were you serious?

    Oh they’ll submit evidence. There’s little doubt of that.

    I was told recently there are more than 25,000 volumes of case studies. Assuming they are printed and each volume is 25 mm width, they would occupy 625 km of shelf space!

  • Evidence based homeopathy? Surely a contradiction in terms?

  • Homeopathy is obviously as outdated and useless as the royal family. And with Prince Charles as its champion in the UK it obviously doesn’t work on mental problems!

  • Teething in infants?…… I’ve seen this work with my own eyes….. However I can’t say that I’ve noticed it help with any other condition….

    • I know people who also swear by those admittedly stylish but stupid amber necklaces, that ‘work’ by just being there somehow.

  • Having had severe ulcerative colitis for over 10 years, which conventional medicine could only give me steroids for, followed by removal of my bowel at some point in the future when the illness became to debilitating – I was so happy when I went to see a good homeopath who, after careful discussion and assessment, gave me remedies which stopped my symptoms in a few days (unlike the months it took for conventional medicine).
    You can’t just throw random remedies at people, it needs careful thought by someone with the correct experience. Which is why these trials never work.

    • @Eliza

      Truly a magical miracle, if it were the remedies that caused improvement! How wonderful if something that contains nothing but hope and illusion can cure a serious disease.
      Have you ever wondered how homeopathic remedies are prepared and what they contain, or rather do not contain? Maybe time to do some reading (not on homeopathy sites, they never tell the whole truth about the nature of their potions).
      If homeopathic remedies really work then Harry Potter is indeed for real. And possibly even Santa Claus?

      Are you sure it was not the other medications working at last? Are you sure you did not just improve spontaneously as colitis does at times? Do you know what proportion of UC patients will not improve after taking homeopathic remedies? An equation must have at least two parameters.

      Think!!

      (…or are you just another homeopath writing under a pseudonym?)

    • Once again Bjorn, it would have been just as easy to get your points across without the “Think!!” and your magic references, and the pseudonym comment. Actually, your points would have been better served without the petty.

      Or at the very least an inclusion of “Eliza, I’m glad your symptoms have stopped.”

      @Eliza – I’m glad your symptoms have stopped, and that you found a good medical practitioner. Regarless of the modality, they seem hard to find these days.

  • i strongly disagree, i have seen it work on dogs and small children, where the placebo effect is null and void, i highly doubt the integrity of these doctors.

    • might be wiser to doubt your own competence: both animals and children are as prone to placebo effects as anyone else!

    • @Roy Jackson

      Did the dogs and small children report that it worked, or was it the people looking after them who reported this? And how did you rule out other nonspecific factors such as regression to the mean, the natural history of the condition, or any of the other alternative expanations mentioned here?

      And see also this study, noting the reported “discrepancies between single-blind and double-blind methods in animal pharmacological research”.

      In the second phase of experiments, the effects of homeopathic remedies were not confirmed.

  • AND THIS IS HOW HOMEOPATHS RESPONDED TO THE REPORT [here]:
    In Australia recently, an organization which represents the medical cartel contrived a phony study of homeopathy, and then announced that homeopathy was ineffective. That lie was picked up and repeated by news outlets globally. It spawned numerous articles and comments attacking homeopathy. Such attacks are often part of a coordinated campaign where government policy and funding are at stake. One approach to this is to ignore the attacks and just focus on curing more patients. There is a good rationale for that, as each patient we heal becomes another convert. On the other hand, if people read only disparaging views of homeopathy, that will shape their opinions. When repeated enough, these rants affect the public debate, and public opinion has a way of becoming public policy.

    How are we to deal with this undermining of our healing art? One method is to respond quickly and forcefully to any attack. Don’t let the lie go unchallenged. The other approach is to be proactive and send letters to whatever media you are familiar with, sharing your views and experience. Not everyone is comfortable making scientific arguments and quoting studies. Fortunately, your own experience of healing with homeopathy carries as much or more weight.

    • That comment would be equally at home in your post on conspiracies

    • “How are we to deal with this undermining of our healing art?” Have they branched out into restoring old paintings or was that a clear admission that homeopathy has nothing whatsoever to do with science, evidence, and healthcare.

      The word medicine is derived from the Latin ars medicina, meaning the art of healing. The term “the art of healing” is profoundly different from the nonsensical phrase “our healing art”.

      Their argumentum ad populum seems to be the only argument that now remains open to them. Homeopathy enjoys using Latin to name its prescriptions, which is wonderfully self-mocking because each of its fallacious arguments also has a Latin description.

      • I agree and wonder how they sleep at night – coffea C300?

        • Coffea C300 is probably just a short-term solution to sleepless nights. Scientia C300 might be a much more effective long-term solution to the sleepless knights of homeopathy.

  • Some may find this video interesting:

    Published on 6 Apr 2017
    Ms Rachel Roberts, CEO Homeopathy Research Institute presents key facts from HRI’s in-depth scientific analysis of NHMRC’s Homeopathy Review, demonstrating that the public were misled by serious misreporting of the evidence.
    For more detail visit http://www.HRI-Research.org/Australian-Report

    DISCLAIMER: You watch it at your own risk: I have myself run out of irony meters and have a repair backlog.

    • More here: The Australian report and the Executive Summary of the Ombudsman submission.

      It basically seems to conclude that if you include poorer quality trials, there is evidence homeopathy works… and that the NMHRC for some unknown reason only chose to consider higher quality evidence, therefore they must have been biased…

      • Alan, homeopathy ‘works’ when it is used in accordance with the principle of each case as unique/individual. Each patient must be treated in accordance with their individual presenting signs and symptoms, and no two cases will be alike. Some will benefit more than others, some may be past the stage of being able to benefit.

        In my opinion (yes: opinion), homeopathy will not be proven efficacious in large scale studies as per the quoted report: 5 clinical conditions: diarrhoea in children, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, URTIs and lower back pain.

        My perspective is based on my lifetime of experience of homeopathy.

        I am pleased that it works for me and others, and if others have a different view, I am fine with that too. I hardly ever attempt to ‘convert’ anyone to homeopathy. If they show some interest, I might feel inclined to share with them. Each person must find what it is that they are looking for.

        • Greg

          “Alan, homeopathy ‘works’ when it is used in accordance with the principle of each case as unique/individual. Each patient must be treated in accordance with their individual presenting signs and symptoms, and no two cases will be alike.”

          There is a saying in Hindi, translated into English sounds like:

          You may continue to play a flute in front of a buffalo, the buffalo would continue to chew on the cud in her mouth.

          Why waste your time with the flute.

        • It works, does it? Yet no one can provide any robust evidence it does…

          But why do you suppose homeopathy will not be ‘proven efficacious in large scale studies’?

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