MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) is an umbrella organization representing 29 national and international scientific academies in Europe, including the Royal Society (UK) and Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. One of its aims is to influence policy and regulations across the European Union. Now, the EASAC has issued an important and long-awaited verdict on homeopathy:

The EASAC is publishing this Statement to build on recent work by its member academies to reinforce criticism of the health and scientific claims made for homeopathic products. The analysis and conclusions are based on the excellent science-based assessments already published by authoritative and impartial bodies. The fundamental importance of allowing and supporting consumer choice requires that consumers and patients are supplied with evidence-based, accurate and clear information. It is, therefore, essential to implement a standardised, knowledge-based regulatory framework to cover product efficacy, safety and quality, and accurate advertising practices, across the European Union (EU). Our Statement examines the following issues:

  • Scientific mechanisms of action—where we conclude that the claims for homeopathy are implausible and inconsistent with established scientific concepts.
  • Clinical efficacy—we acknowledge that a placebo effect may appear in individual patients but we agree with previous extensive evaluations concluding that there are no known diseases for which there is robust, reproducible evidence that homeopathy is effective beyond the placebo effect.

There are related concerns for patient-informed consent and for safety, the latter associated with poor quality control in preparing homeopathic remedies. Promotion of homeopathy—we note that this may pose significant harm to the patient if incurring delay in seeking evidence-based medical care and that there is a more general risk of undermining public confidence in the nature and value of scientific evidence. Veterinary practice—we conclude similarly that there is no rigorous evidence to
substantiate the use of homeopathy in veterinary medicine and it is particularly worrying when such products are used in preference to evidence-based medicinal products to treat livestock infections. We make the following recommendations.

1. There should be consistent regulatory requirements to demonstrate efficacy, safety and quality of all products for human and veterinary medicine, to be based on verifiable and objective evidence, commensurate with the nature of the claims being made. In the absence of this evidence, a product should be neither approvable nor registrable by national regulatory agencies for the designation medicinal product.

2. Evidence-based public health systems should not reimburse homeopathic products and practices unless they are demonstrated to be efficacious and safe by rigorous testing.

3. The composition of homeopathic remedies should be labelled in a similar way to other health products available: that is, there should be an accurate, clear and simple description of the ingredients and their amounts present in the formulation.

4. Advertising and marketing of homeopathic products and services must conform to established standards of accuracy and clarity. Promotional claims for efficacy, safety and quality should not be made without demonstrable and reproducible evidence.

END OF QUOTE

No comment needed!!!

17 Responses to The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council’s verdict on homeopathy

  • This of course undermines the EU’s stance on regulation of homeopathic products. It deserves a response from the EU Commission.

  • Bringing some sanity to the veterinary profession!!

  • About time!

    I only skimmed the 12 pages of the document so far, but I hope it gets spread far and wide, and soon. And I hope too that the incompetent politicians find it in their hearts to act upon the recommendations made in this statement.

    I’m fed up with our health insurers here in Germany still paying for sugar and water, while I have to fight for reimbursement of e.g. physical therapies for my old parents with dementia and Parkinson’s syndrome all the way to the top, just like other people have to argue for adequate care for their children with special needs.

    Now on to the next step – making sure we can eventually get rid of the esoteric quacks known as Heilpraktiker over here.

  • The Academies have done their job. Now the EU needs to do its. Ensure that the public is informed of the scientific facts and protected from purveyors of products making false health claims.

    Homeopathic products should be clearly labelled as NON-MEDICINAL!

  • What a heartwarming document, nice to hear a bit of sense coming out of Europe on the subject. But my heart sinks when I think what’ll happen when the politicians het hold of it. And great to hear veterinary homeopathy getting a mention, too.

    Niall

  • I do applaud the EASAC-statement. Hopefully it puts an end to the question whether there is ambiguity if homeopathy is effective or even scientifically plausible! I however do not agree that homeopathic remedies should not be legally treated as anything other than medicinal products (to use the EU-term of choice). To think that excluding these nostrums from “medicines” will prevent their use is naive, and patients are as entitled as other individuals to have hopes of a cure and be fooled by false promises. I thoroughly believe that the best protection for the patient is to keep these anomalies as medicinal products – IF further exceptions than the basic rules in the directive are universally applied!
    If no national exceptions “due to homeopathy’s cultural standing” is implemented within a EU-country these products can only be registered if the dilution is deemed to render the product harmless at normal use (with a minimum of 1 to 10000, and higher if deemed necessary in some sort of overdose situation), is used as externally applied or administered by-mouth (i.e. no sort of injection or implantation is allowed), and cannot be attributed any use or corresponding indication (totally in line with the false-concept of holistic treatment and diagnosis in most traditions of homeopathy schools). I also think that homeopathy should universally be excluded from state funded and provided healthcare – as this should be evidence-based. Therapies shown to lack any effect but placebo should accordingly be phased out from these systems, but that is not equivalent to exempt them from healthcare or medicinal product laws and regulations.
    I live in a EU-country where homeopathy use is basically non-regulated but is not allowed in conventional medicine as an alternative to conventional care (physicians and nurses need to show that conventional care has been provided concomitantly or face being struck off). The path forward should include information that not only is the homeopathic remedies only a placebo-cure, the premises of production, diagnosis and basis of disease are completely non-scientific. Homeopathy should not be allowed within state-reimbursed practice of medicine and licensed professional should be “disbarred” if applying such treatments. But the products as such – which lack any intention beyond treating disease – should continue to be treated as medicinal products! If anyone can come up with a definition of a medicinal product that not includes the treatment, diagnosis or prevention of disease I am open to revision of this stance.

    • Placebos are not medicines. Would-be medicines are tested against placebos for that very reason. Labelling a homeopathic product as a placebo would not be as clear as labelling it non-medicinal. To label it “placebo-cure” would be positively misleading.

  • Non medicines should never be labeled as medicines. That is clearly misleading. They should be labeled for what they are: Non Medicines without evidence for efficacy,( like water), or Non Effective Placebos, or Unproven Placebos. (UP’s)

  • Why not label them
    “Play medicine, suitable for all ages. Contains only sugar”

    or just
    “Make-believe medicine”?

  • Make believe doctors imagine themselves in a surgery performing heroic work to save patients: imaginary medicine

  • and here is the first (and very predictable) response from homeopaths(https://www.britishhomeopathic.org/bha-blog/bha-response-easac-statement/):
    The statement by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) on Homeopathic Products and Practices is little more than a rehash of previously published negative studies and reports, carefully selected from the wider body of homeopathic research to exclude any quality evidence supporting the efficacy of homeopathy.1 EASAC’s claim that its conclusions are based on “excellent science based assessments” by “authoritative and impartial bodies” is seriously undermined by the inclusion of the findings from the 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s report on homeopathy. This flawed and discredited report was rejected by the government and an Early Day Motion2 was signed by 70 MPs unhappy at the way the committee conducted its review. They were concerned that only four MPs from the committee voted on the report: three in favour of its conclusions with one abstention. Two of the MPs who supported the report didn’t even attend the committee sessions to hear the evidence. The impartiality of the review was also questioned because it was chaired by an MP who was actively campaigning against homeopathy at the time.
    Citing the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) 2015 review of homeopathy further damages the credibility of the EASAC statement. As a public funded body the NHMRC currently finds itself under investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman for a number of irregularities in the way it conducted its review.3 These include:
    conducting the review twice, first in July 2012 and then the one published in March 2015. The existence of the first, which was more favourable to homeopathy, was never published. NHMRC say it rejected the first review’s findings because it was poor quality, this is despite it being undertaken by a reputable scientist and author of NHMRC’s own guidelines on how to conduct evidence reviews. FOI requests have revealed that Professor Fred Mendelsohn – a member of NHMRC’s expert committee overseeing the review process – confirmed the first review to be of high quality saying, “I am impressed by the rigour, thoroughness and systematic approach given to this evaluation of the published reviews of efficacy and side-effects of homeopathy. Overall, a lot of excellent work has gone into this review and the results are presented in a systematic, unbiased and convincing manner.”
     the NHMRC said the results of the report published in 2015 were based on a “rigorous assessment of over 1800 studies”. In fact results were based on only 176 studies.
    NHMRC used a method that has never been used in any other review, before or since. NHMRC decided that for trials to be “reliable” they had to have at least 150 participants and reach an unusually high threshold for quality. This is despite the fact that NHMRC itself routinely conducts studies with less than 150 participants. This unprecedented and arbitrary rule meant the results of 171 of the trials were completely disregarded as being “unreliable” leaving only five trials the NHMRC considered to be “reliable”. As they assessed all five of these trials as negative, this explains how NHMRC could conclude that there was no “reliable” evidence.
    two independent experts also raised concerns over the conclusions of the 2015 report during peer review, prior to final publication. The Australasian Cochrane Centre, no less, commented that for some conditions, “…. ‘no reliable evidence’ does not seem an accurate reflection of the body of evidence”; a second expert felt “uncertain of the definitive nature of the report’s conclusions”. Surprisingly, the NHMRC chose not to act on this feedback and did not amend their conclusions.
    Professor Peter Brooks, chair of the NHMRC committee that conducted the 2015 review, initially failed to declare he was a member of an anti-homeopathy lobby group called Friends of Science in Medicine.
    contrary to NHMRC’s own guidelines there was not one homeopathy expert on the committee.
    It is notable that the last of the criticisms levelled at the NHMRC can also be applied to the EASAC working group that supposedly conducted its own analysis of the evidence.
    The EASAC statement also references the 2005 Shang review, but once again fails to tell the whole story. Shang was widely reported to have compared 110 similar trials on homeopathy and conventional medicine, and reached the conclusion that homeopathy is no better than placebo. However, the conclusions of this study were in fact based on only eight of the 110 trials, none of which involved usual homeopathic care. Furthermore, if just one of the eight trials was switched for a different one from the 110, the results show that homeopathy does work beyond placebo.4 This demonstrates that the findings of this study are completely unreliable.
    The EASAC working group responsible for this statement appears to have conducted very little – if any – scientific analysis of the evidence available on homeopathy, preferring instead to blindly accept and repeat the questionable findings of studies and reports that support their own prejudiced views on the subject. A rigorous analysis of evidence should also be applied to studies critical of homeopathy, not just those that have produced positive results. By citing the questionable studies and reports listed above, it is clear on this occasion EASAC has failed to adopt this objective approach to scientific analysis.
    References
    http://facultyofhomeopathy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2-page-evidence-summary-for-homeopathy.pdf
    http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/908
    https://www.hri-research.org/resources/homeopathy-the-debate/the-australian-report-on-homeopathy/
    https://www.hri-research.org/resources/homeopathy-the-debate/the-lancet-paper-by-shang-et-al/

    • Edzard, how good of you to post the British Homeopathic Association response.

      I look forward to your critique of their response. Posting it without commenting on it in detail tentatively suggests that you are becoming more impartial in this discussion?

      Good grief, I wonder what Mr Henness will have to say?

    • Nothing new. Among many argumenta ex culo, the technique to write as many void expressions as is possible to discourage and deter potential detailed debunking is also profusely applied.

    • And the principal sponsor of the early day motion – one Tredinnick, David, Mr Astrology himself.

      ‘Nuff said. Just another example of homeopaths complaining that not enough poor quality evidence was included in order to make homeopathy seem as if it was effective!

      Niall

  • the ECH reacted predictably (https://homeopathyeurope.org/flawed-research-used-discredit-homeopathy/)
    FLAWED RESEARCH USED TO DISCREDIT HOMEOPATHY
    The recent statement by the European Academic Science Advisory Council (EASAC) concludes that there is no scientific evidence for efficacy of homeopathy which is based on three flawed research studies. Moreover, the statement has not reviewed the numerous studies that show positive outcomes for homeopathy. This selection bias seriously undermines EASAC claims that its conclusions are based on “excellent science based assessments”.
    The EASAC statement is based on:
    The 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s report on homeopathy, which was rejected by the UK government and an Early Day Motion was signed by 70 MPs unhappy at the way the committee conducted its review.
    The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) 2015 review of homeopathy, which is under investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman for the numerous irregularities in the way it conducted this review.
    The 2005 Shang review, which reported to have compared 110 similar trials on homeopathy and conventional medicine, and reached the conclusion that homeopathy is no better than placebo. However, the conclusions of this study were in fact based on only eight of the 110 trials, none of which involved usual homeopathic care.
    The EASAC working group that produced the statement did not include a single expert on homeopathic research. On the other hand, one member of the working group has been the former chairman of a national sceptic’s association. This is in contradiction with EASAC’s claim that the statement was produced by “authoritative and impartial bodies”.
    Therefore, this statement from EASAC cannot be used to inform policymaking in such an important area as the right of European citizens to choose their health care options. For more information about the evidence, research and common misperceptions around homeopathy, visit the website of the Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI)
    1. https://www.hri-research.org/resources/essentialevidence/
    2. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2009-10/908
    3. https://www.hri-research.org/resources/homeopathy-the-debate/the-australian-report-on-homeopathy/
    4. https://www.hri-research.org/resources/homeopathy-the-debate/the-lancet-paper-by-shang-et-al/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Gravityscan Badge

Recent Comments

Note that comments can be edited for up to five minutes after they are first submitted.


Click here for a comprehensive list of recent comments.

Categories