MD, PhD, FMedSci, FSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The nice thing about New Year is that one sometimes tries to get some order into the chaos of one’s files and thus finds things that were long forgotten. Such a thing, for instance, is the 1996 book ‘DURCH AEHNLICHES HEILEN‘ edited by the Austrian homeopath, Perter Koenig. It contains lots of uncritical, pro-homeopathy articles by homeopaths, but also an article I wrote upon invitation.

When I composed it, I had just started my research in Exeter after leaving my post in Vienna. The subject I had been asked to address was ‘THE PLACE OF HOMEOPATHY WITHIN MEDICAL SCHOOLS’. My short article arrives at the following conclusions (as it is in German, I did a quick translation):

What place does homeopathy have in medical schools? An extremely low one! Even homeopathic optimists cannot reasonably doubt this answer. And how can its position be improved? Only through systematic research! This research should best be conducted in cooperation between experienced homeopaths and university-based methodologists. It must fill the existing gaps in our current knowledge, particularly in respect to the proof of homeopathy’s clinical effectiveness, and the research methods must comply with the currently accepted quality standards. History demonstrates fairly clearly that conventional medicine has changed according to new knowledge. In homeopathy, such a demonstration is so far missing.

Would I change this conclusion now that 20 years worth of research is available?

Yes!

The cooperative evaluation of homeopathy that I had in mind has happened.

And what are its conclusion?

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) has made the most thorough and independent assessment of homeopathy in its history. On 11/3/2015, the NH&MRC has released its final report on homeopathy. In essence, it concluded that there is no scientific basis for homeopathy and no quality evidence of its efficacy: Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness. People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner. Those who use homeopathy should tell their health practitioner and should keep taking any prescribed treatments.

In view of this, I would today revise my conclusions as follows:

What place does homeopathy have in medical schools? Its place is in the history books of medicine! Even homeopathic optimists cannot reasonably doubt this answer. Systematic research in cooperation between experienced homeopaths and university-based methodologists complying with the currently accepted quality standards has filled the gaps in our knowledge, particularly in respect to the proof of homeopathy’s clinical effectiveness. Now it is up to homeopaths to demonstrate that they are sufficiently responsible to adapt to this new knowledge in the best interest of their patients. If they don’t, they cannot be considered to be members of the community of ethical health care professionals. 

10 Responses to The place of homeopathy … is … in the history books!

  • “Now it is up to homeopaths to demonstrate that they are sufficiently responsible to adapt to this new knowledge in the best interest of their patients. If they don’t, they cannot be considered to be members of the community of ethical health care professionals.”

    Perfectly put!

  • The thing that most strongly marks homeopathy out as religion not science is the absence of any mechanism for self-correction. They won’t adapt to the NHMRC findings because they have no mechanism for doing so.

    I have spent a long time looking for evidence of a single remedy or indication that has been dropped from any repertory or materia medica at any time due to evidence that it was incorrect. I cannot find any. Not one. Edzard may know of one, but if he does, his knowledge exceeds that of any homeopath I have ever asked about this. Homeopathists appear to believe that homeopathy, alone among all human endeavours, is immune to error. That is a very implausible idea, almost as implausible as the idea of dilution and twerking as a mechanism for imparting potency.

    Homeopaths have conflicting ideas on many things. RCTs are invalid because only individualised homeopathy is “true” homeopathy, unless they are positive, in which case all homeopathy is true. They disagree on Koraskovian dilutions, imponderables, classical versus combination homeopathics, and in some cases on the validity or otherwise of germ theory. But they all agree: homeopathy is the One True Path. And since they have no objective way of settling disputes (“does A work better than B” tends to yield the answer “neither works” if the test is competently conducted), their differences lead to schism or the formation of sects. Competing gurus argue over interpretation of sacred texts, and believers can switch between sects almost without changing mental gear.

    Exactly as happens with all religions. But no fields of science.

    • I have spent a long time looking for evidence of a single remedy or indication that has been dropped from any repertory or materia medica at any time due to evidence that it was incorrect. I cannot find any. Not one. Edzard may know of one, but if he does, his knowledge exceeds that of any homeopath I have ever asked about this.

      You’re forgetting that homoeopaths regard this as a strength, not a weakness.

    • And exactly as with all religions, its proponents are exempt from culpability.

  • Homoeopathy as a Medical school,invites a great debate which never ends in a conclusion.The reason may be presence of Philosophy strongly over the application of Science,so far debate is concerned. As a result,Homoeopathy is more close to a Religion where Faith is the only yardstick .People either as a consumer or as a service provider never ponder over the situations not offering the expected outcome but they consider that there may be Failure but success will come in the process of continuation of application .What i understand unless & until Clinical Signs and tecnology based clinical investigations will be incorporated into Applied Homoeopathic Materia Medica Knowledge base, the scenario is not going to be improved.So long Homoeopathy wll remain as a STORY based Medical Philosopy,where all will be correct but none will be perfect.

  • Actually, I think homoeopathy has a place in the classroom, as an example of what to avoid, and how easy it is to be wrong. If it is brought up it can be used as a “teachable moment”.

  • The practice of homeopathy should certainly be historical.

    However, homeopathy and homeopaths should be studied while they are still around by the neurochemists. They are a classic, extreme and well documented case of delusion.

  • “Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious.” When practically any health condition can become serious, I strongly object to any intimation that homeopathy can be used for any health condition.

  • I understand why many think homeopathy should be called a religion, but am unsure that I agree with this. Homeopathy – along with most other forms of alt med – shows itself to be totally unable to change. this is the reason many would like to see it as a religion, but if you look at religions in general, they show themselves able to adapt to change. Perhaps ho,eopathy is a sort of super religion?

    • Interesting point.

      Perhaps the comparison to religion is more the unreasoning adherence to doctrine than the absence of change.

      Religions change to survive, mostly they will claim that their morals are absolute but the reality is that they are as flexible as anybody else’s. Homeopathy has added on nosodes that counter the proving system. So I suspect the comparison there is the mendacity concerning their lack of change.

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