Medline is the biggest electronic databank for articles published in medicine and related fields. It is therefore the most important source of information in this area. I use it regularly to monitor what new papers have been published in the various fields of alternative medicine.

As the number of Medline-listed papers dated 2018 on homeopathy has just reached 100, I thought it might be the moment to run a quick analysis on this material. The first thing to note is that it took until August for 100 articles dated 2018 to emerge. To explain how embarrassing this is, we need a few comparative figures. At the same moment (6/9/18), we have, for instance:

  • 126576 articles for surgery
  • 5001 articles or physiotherapy
  • 30215 articles for psychiatry
  • 60161 articles for pharmacology

Even compared to other types of alternative medicine, homeopathy is being dwarfed. Currently the figures are, for instance:

  • 2232 for herbal medicine
  • 1949 for dietary supplements
  • 1222 for acupuncture

This does not look as though homeopathy is a frightfully active area of research, if I may say so. Looking at the type of articles (yes, I did look at all the 100 papers and categorised them the best I could) published in homeopathy, things get even worse:

  • 29 were comments, letters, editorials, etc.
  • 16 were basic and pre-clinical papers,
  • 12 were non-systematic reviews,
  • 10 were surveys,
  • 7 were case-reports,
  • 5 were pilot or feasibility studies,
  • 5 were systematic reviews,
  • 5 were controlled clinical trials,
  • 2 were case series,
  • the rest of the articles was not on homeopathy at all.

I find this pretty depressing. Most of the 100 papers turn out to be no real research at all. Crucial topics are not being covered. There was, for example, not a single paper on the risks of homeopathy (no, don’t tell me it is harmless; it can and does regularly cost the lives of patients who trust the bogus claims of homeopaths). There was no article investigating the important question whether the practice of homeopathy does not violate the rules of medical ethics (think of informed consent or the imperative to do more harm than good). And a mere 5 clinical trials is just a dismal amount, in my view.

In a previous post, I have already shown that, in 2015, homeopathy research was deplorable. My new analysis suggests that the situation has become much worse. One might even go as far as asking whether 2018 might turn out to be the year when homeopathy research finally died a natural death.


3 Responses to Is 2018 the year when research into homeopathy died a natural death?

  • “More Harm Than Good”, especially chapter 4, is influencing much of my thinking about SCAN lately. That’s why I see the drop in numbers and potential calubre reported here as a good sign.
    The money’s not going into “research” of a clearly flawed conjecture that’s homeopathy’ foundation. Whether we can infer funds are drying up from customers of product and/or “training” would be interesting to learn, as would the effects of NHS & pharmacies being less vibrant streams for their revenues.

    Lots of wishes in my words, here, but the numbers you’ve shared seem to bode well for the progress of reasoned treatments saving lives that could be lost by the charlatans’ pockets being fed?

  • How about articles about how to help desperate people from falling for this stuff, while simultaneously respecting their fragile emotional state?

  • Homeopaths do not need science or studies for their lore. All they have to know about their remedies and their treatments can be derived from homeopathic provings or sheer imagination. They only need trials to present them to the public to show: See, we are scientific too. Si we are medicine. BTW: Pilot studies are quite sufficient for that purpose, for the layman – including the layman journalist – will not understand the implication. So we find a big number of “promising” pilots with never a full PCT to follow.
    So the reason for the decline in scientific work might be the insight, that there are cheaper ways to get the patients interested in the treatment. Once e certain critical mass is reached, it will gather momentum on its own accord anyway just with a few nudges by other marketing steps. And this is what we currently see in Germany. Homeopaths and manufacturers of homeopathic preparations seem to increase their markting efforts by sponsoring presentations and lectures, by paid articles in print media, increased number of blogs and “informative” websites, and last but not least by using social media. DHU, the biggest German manufacturer launched a Facebook based campaign “Mach auch Du mit” (something like “join in”) to have satisfied users of homeopathy tell their tale on FB and spread the news.
    Who needs science when you can have stories for much less money?

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