Hyperthyroidism is, so I am told, a frequent veterinary problem, particularly in elderly cats. Homeopathic treatment is sometimes used to treat this condition. One article even provided encouraging details based on 4 case-reports. All 4 cats showed resolution of clinical signs; three attained normal thyroid hormone levels.  The authors concluded that homeopathic and complementary therapies avoid the potential side effects of methimazole and surgical thyroidectomy, they are less costly than radioactive iodine treatment, and they provide an option for clients who decline conventional therapies.

Yes, you guessed correctly: such a paper can only be published in the journal ‘HOMEOPATHY‘, respectable journals would not allow such conclusions based on 4 case-reports. They don’t permit inferences as to cause and effect. We have no idea what would have happened to these animals without homeopathy – perhaps they would have fared even better!

What we need is a proper controlled trial. The good news is that such a study has just been published. This double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomised trial was aimed at testing the efficacy of individualised homeopathy in the treatment of feline hyperthyroidism. Cats were randomised into two treatment arms. Either a placebo or a homeopathic treatment was given to each cat blindly.

After 21 days, the T4 levels, weight (Wt) and heart rate (HR) were compared with pre-treatment values. There were no statistically significant differences in the changes seen between the two treatment arms following placebo or homeopathic treatment, or between the means of each parameter for either treatment arm before and after placebo or homeopathic treatment. In a second phase of the study, patients in both treatment arms were given methimazole treatment for 21 days and T4, Wt and HR determined again. Subsequently, statistically significant reductions were noted in T4 (P<0.0001) and HR (P=0.02), and a statistically significant increase was observed in Wt (P=0.004).

The authors concluded that the results of this study failed to provide any evidence of the efficacy of homeopathic treatment of feline hyperthyroidism.

So, homeopathy does not work – not in humans nor in animals. This statement, backed by solid facts, proves all those wrong who cannot resist uttering the notion that HOMEOPATHY CANNOT BE A PLACEBO BECAUSE IT WORKS IN ANIMALS.

It doesn’t!

And we have seen the evidence for the correctness of this fact so often (for instance here, here, here and here) that I feel embarrassed to say it again: highly diluted homeopathic remedies are placebos. As soon as we adequately control for placebo and other non-specific effects in properly controlled studies, the alleged effects, reported in anecdotes and other uncontrolled studies, simply disappear.


16 Responses to A new RCT tests homeopathy in cats … and the results are unsurprisingly negative

  • The belief in RCT:

    Royal College of Physicians: Sir Michael Rawlins attacks traditional ways of assessing evidence

    “ To give a few day-to-day examples: we are not able to measure our thoughts, our emotions, and many of our actions based on those emotions and thoughts. Do they, then, fall outside the realm of science? Do thoughts exist? Do emotions have any role in human physiology? If the answer is yes, then we need a change of paradigm in science, at least in medical science, where the RCTs (randomized controlled studies) have been sold as the last word in medical research. The truth is that there is everything wrong with this approach. No two human beings could be compared based on a few of their phonotypical features. The results are there for all to see. Most, if not all, RCTs have given unreliable results in the long run.” Dr. BM Hegde

    And the lament:

    • so, you point is the RCT does not work and homeopathy works?
      the RCT has well-understood limitations, but it is equally well-understood that there is no better method for most situations where we want to define the efficacy of an intervention.

      • Edzard

        I believe you should look up case records generated by your grand father and father while attending to their patients. Also you should review your own illnesses that were resolved with homeopathy. Knowing Germans, I am certain there will be boxes full of these. From these records you would get an understanding about the diseases (based upon symptoms defined while taking case and prescribing) that would have got resolved on their own and which were terminal and the patient still survived.

        Then use the RCT trial report to justify release of Actos for diabetes: from Takeda (14.151 Billion US$) with 83% probability of bladder cancer. a drug for diabetes.

        The drug does not cure diabetes, and helps add bladder cancer to the patient.
        You could also explain scientifically, why should the drug also effect heart?

    • Iqbal

      There are no things that ‘fall outside of the realm of science’. Science is merely a tool — the best and most reliable one we have devised so far — to assess whether something is true or not and thus avoid fooling ourselves.

      “To give a few day-to-day examples: we are not able to measure our thoughts, our emotions, and many of our actions based on those emotions and thoughts.” We are able to measure the cerebral processes that generate thoughts and emotions, and psychologists get persistently better at devising scientific approaches for assessing thoughts and emotions directly. Are you suggesting that homeopathy works by thoughts and emotions?! Why then do you go to so much (ridiculous) trouble to dilute the remedies with succussion to potentize them? The patients seldom understand this process lies behind what you prescribe for them anyway!

      Your links are mere argument to authority. Sir Michael Rawlins might not be right. In the case of homeopathy it’s dead easy to devise RCTs for individualized remedies, but you won’t like them because they tend to show homeopathy doesn’t work as claimed. You prefer to argue that homeopathy is something mystical, transcendental, beyond human understanding; yet when I watch this video, particularly from 8.25 onwards, I feel it may in fact be a subtype of comedy.

    • Thoughts exist, but homeopathic “remedies” don’t fix cats’ thyroids.

  • Iqbal

    It really is very simple. Homeopathy made no difference to those hyperthyroid cats and they got better when given the conventional treatment.

    There is no mystery. Homeopathy doesn’t work. It’s just sugar pills and any perceived benefits are illusory or coincidental.

    Will homeopaths learn the obvious lesson? I doubt it. They’ve had 200 years reinforcing their fantasies.

  • Thank you Dr. Ernst!

    Veterinary medicine has been infiltrated by pseudoscience. Would you mind commenting on this? :

  • Thank you for your response. Perhaps you can look at the subject of Low level laser therapy in general. I ask this because you recent blog about the Mars acquisition of veterinary clinics raises a interesting point. Veterinary medicine is rife with pseudoscience and charlatanism. I get a salesperson weekly trying to sell me a ($40,000) dollar led therapeutic laser (which I say is no better than a palpation sleeve filled with warm bran mash). But many practitioners utilize them as they are sole to cure everything from asthma, behavior, to zoster, and zika. Back to the Mars acquisition. I say that it is much more difficult for a small independent “free thinking” alternative veterinary medicine practitioner to evoke a paradigm shift than the collective consciousness of a mega corp that would institute the cam modalities in over 1800 practices. NOt to sound paranoic but it goes beyond simply incorporating cam (profit center) into the corporate owned clinics… Mars corp now has vested interest in colleges of veterinary medicine. Perhaps they even own some (check Ross/ St. Georges) … Now they have a paying gullible group of willing converts to whatever cam modalities they want to teach. Besides the Corps, several schools of CAM (acupuncture at the XIE institute in Florida) have contributed to the veterinary profession trending away from science and more toward these folklorish, charalatanistic , pseudoscientific, pop culture popular modalities. Keep posting, Dr. Ernst, and know there are still a few vets that believe in the scientific method, evidence based medicine, and truth in medicine.

  • I see Iqbal hasn’t answered the simple question I posed him. I’ll try again.


    You seem genuinely to be deeply confused.

    If you have a set of case histories and the treatments that were given, how can you tell whether the treatments were responsible for any improvement instead of other coincidental factors?

    This is the pons asinorum that homeopaths are simply incapable of crossing.

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