This is a post that I wanted to write for a while (I had done something similar on acupuncture moths ago); but I had to wait, and wait, and wait…until finally there were the awaited 100 Medline listed articles on homeopathy with a publication date of 2016. It took until the beginning of August to reach the 100 mark. To put this into perspective with other areas of alternative medicine, let me give you the figures for 3 other therapies:
- there are currently 1 413 articles from 2016 on herbal medicine;
- 875 on acupuncture;
- and 256 on chiropractic.
And to give you a flavour of the research activity in some areas of conventional medicine:
- there are currently almost 100 000 articles from 2016 on surgery;
- 1 410 on statins;
- and 33 033 on psychotherapy.
This suggests quite strongly, I think, that the research activity in homeopathy is relatively low (to put it mildly).
So, what do the first 100 Medline articles on homeopathy cover? Here are some of the findings of my mini-survey:
- there were 4 RCTs;
- 3 systematic reviews;
- 8 papers on observational-type data (case series, observational studies etc.);
- 9 animal studies;
- 14 other pre-clinical or basic research studies;
- 1 pilot study;
- 14 investigations of the quality of homeopathic preparations;
- 15 surveys;
- 2 investigations into the adverse effects of homeopathic treatments;
- 49 other papers (e. g. comments, opinion pieces, letters, perspective articles, editorials).
I should mention that, because I assessed 100 papers, the above numbers can be read both as absolute as well as percentage figures.
How should we interpret my findings?
As with my previous evaluation, I must caution not to draw generalizable conclusions from them. What follows should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt (or two):
- The research activity into homeopathy is currently very subdued.
- Arguably the main research question of efficacy does not seem to concern researchers of homeopathy all that much.
- There is an almost irritating abundance of papers that are data-free and thrive on opinion (my category of ‘other papers’).
- Given all this, I find it hard to imagine that this area of investigation is going to generate much relevant new knowledge or clinical progress.