About 3 years ago, I reported that the Bavarian government had decided to fund research into the question of whether the use of homeopathy would reduce the use of antibiotics (an idea that also King Charles fancies). With the help of some friends, I found further details of the project. Here are some of them:
The study on individualized homeopathic treatment to reduce the need for antibiotics in patients with recurrent urinary tract infections is a randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter, double-blind trial. Frequent urinary tract infections (more than two infections within six months or more than three infections within twelve months) occur in up to three percent of all women during their lifetime and represent a high risk for increased antibiotic use in this population.
The current guidelines therefore also provide for therapeutic approaches without antibiotic administration under close monitoring. The approach to be investigated in the study is the administration of a homeopathic medicine individually selected for the patient for prophylaxis. The number of urinary tract infections and the need for antibiotics will be recorded and evaluated at the end of the trial period, around mid to late 2023.
The aim of the study is to find out whether patients taking homeopathics need antibiotics for the treatment of urinary tract infections less often compared to the placebo group. This could lead to a reduction in the use of antibiotics for recurrent urinary tract infections.
Project participants: Technical University of Munich, Klinikum Rechts der Isar
Project funding: 709,480.75 Euros
Project duration: January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2023
This sketch is of course not enough for providing a full evaluation of the study concept (if someone has more details, I’d be interested to learn more). From the little information given above, I feel that:
- the design of the trial might be quite rigorous,
- a fairly large sample will be required to have enough power,
- the closing date of 31/12/2023 seems optimistic (but this obviously depends on the number of centers cooperating),
- I, therefore, predict that we will have to wait a long time for the results (the pandemic and other obstacles will have delayed recruitment),
- the costs of the trial are already substantial and might increase due to delays etc.
My main criticism of the study is that:
- I see no rationale for doing such a trial,
- there is no evidence to suggest that homeopathy might prevent recurrent urinary tract infections,
- there is compelling evidence that homeopathic remedies are placebos,
- the study thus compares one placebo with another placebo (in fact, it is a classic example of what my late friend Harriet Hall would have called TOOTH FAIRY SCIENCE),
- therefore, its results will show no difference between the 2 groups (provided the trial was conducted without bias),
- if that is true, enthusiastic homeopaths will claim that the homeopathic verum was inadequate (e.g. because the homeopaths prescribing the verum did not or could not do their job properly),
- when that happens, they will therefore not stop claiming that homeopathy can reduce the over-prescribing of antibiotics;
- that means we will be exactly where we were before the trial.
In other words, the study will turn out to be a waste of 709,480.75 Euros. To express it as I did in my previous post: the Bavarian government has gone barmy!