MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Highly diluted homeopathic remedies are pure placebos; at least this is what sceptics have been saying for about 200 years. This assumption is based on the fact that homeopathy’s plausibility is close to zero and that the totality of the reliable evidence fails to demonstrate that it works beyond placebo for any condition.

But, if this is true,  why do so many patients swear by homeopathy and experience benefit from it? This question has been answered many times: THE BENEFIT IS NOT DUE TO THE REMEDY BUT TO NON-SPECIFIC EFFECTS OF THE CONSULTATION.

More confirmation for this conclusion comes from an unexpected source.

Indian homeopaths recently published a trial of individualized homeopathy in osteoarthritis. To be more precise, it was a prospective, parallel-arm, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study which was conducted from January to October 2014 involving 60 patients (homeopathy, n = 30; placebo, n = 30). All patients were suffering from acute painful episodes of knee osteoarthritis and visiting the outpatient clinic of Mahesh Bhattacharyya Homeopathic Medical College and Hospital, West Bengal, India.

The results show statistically significant reduction in 3 visual analogue scales (measuring pain, stiffness, and loss of function) and Osteoarthritis Research Society International scores in both groups over 2 weeks (P < .05). However, group differences were not significant (P > .05).

The authors conclude that, overall, homeopathy did not appear to be superior to placebo; still, further rigorous evaluation in this design involving a larger sample size seems feasible in future.

Considering what I wrote above, I would alter these conclusion to something much more reasonable: further studies of homeopathy are certainly feasible. However, they are neither necessary nor desirable.

TO PUT IT DIFFERENTLY: HOMEOPATHY BELONGS IN THE BOOKS OF MEDICAL HISTORY.

8 Responses to Is there a place for homeopathy? Yes, it’s in the history books!

  • “Homeopathy did not appear to be superior to placebo.”
    That is: “Homeopathy could not be distinguished from placebo.”
    Therefore the conclusion is: “Homeopathy is a placebo.”
    Nice to have Indian confirmation of what we already know.
    Homeopaths will catch up eventually.
    Virtually no one belives in a Flat Earth any more.

    • Sadly… http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/cms/

      The mission of the Flat Earth Society is to promote and initiate discussion of Flat Earth theory as well as archive Flat Earth literature. Our forums act as a venue to encourage free thinking and debate.

      • One should not think so “freely” that one’s brains fall out.

        • If you go on this forum (flat earth society) and you read some thread, you just might die right away from laugh.
          Some people say that Nasa builded base all around the flat earth, so no one can know the truth. (and it’s not the worst part, that could be a hollywood movie).
          And about the ‘free thinking’ don’t dare to challenge the ‘flat earther’ with scientific fact, you will be trampled by hate.

  • If, however, the study had come out showing statistically beneficial results for the homeopathy arm, we would dismiss the study saying that n=60 is insufficient.

    It is interesting that homeopaths rarely seem to conclude from their negative studies that homeopathy doesn’t work for a given condition, only that “more research is needed”.

  • Off topic in a way, but you and your new book are featured at sciencebasedmedicine.org today.

  • Respected Prof. Ernst, I found in your blog commenting on a study (“http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25238506”) “I think that, in order to agree that a homeopathic remedy generates effects that differ from those of placebo, we need a proper (not a pilot) study, published in a journal of high standing by unbiased scientists”… And now you are concluding that “further studies of homeopathy are certainly feasible. However, they are neither necessary nor desirable” based on “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25636410” (a pilot study). Isn’t the conclusion overstated (or biased)!!!

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