MD, PhD, MAE, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The objectives of this randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial were to determine if there:

  • (a) is an overall effect of homeopathic treatment (homeopathic medicines plus consultation) in the treatment of ADHD;
  • (b) are any specific effects the homeopathic consultation alone in the treatment of ADHD;
  • (c) are any specific effects of homeopathic medicines in the treatment of ADHD.

Children aged 6–16 years diagnosed with ADHD were randomized to one of three arms:

  • Arm 1 (Remedy and Consultation);
  • Arm 2 (Placebo and Consultation);
  • Arm 3 (Usual Care).

The primary outcome measure was the change of the Conner 3 Global Index-Parent T-score (CGI-P T score) between baseline and 28 weeks.

The results showed an improvement in ADHD symptoms as measured by the CGI-P T score in the two groups (Arms 1 and 2) that received consultations with a homeopathic practitioner when compared with the usual care control group (Arm 3). Parents of the children in the study who received homeopathic consultations (Arms 1 and 2) also reported greater coping efficacy compared with those receiving usual care (Arm 3). There was no difference in adverse events among the three study arms.

The authors concluded that, in this study, homeopathic consultations provided over 8 months with the use of homeopathic remedy was associated with a decrease in ADHD symptoms in children aging 6–16 years when compared with usual treatment alone. Children treated with homeopathic consultations and placebo experienced a similar decrease in ADHD symptoms; however, this finding did not reach statistical significance when correcting for multiple comparisons. Homeopathic remedies in and of themselves were not associated with any change in ADHD symptoms.

In the discussion section, the authors make their findings a little clearer: “The findings are generally consistent with a recent meta-analysis that concluded that (i)ndividualized homeopathy showed a clinically relevant and statistically robust effect in the treatment of ADHD. Similar to the meta-analysis, the authors found individualized homeopathy (consultation plus remedy) resulted in improvement in ADHD symptoms. However, the data suggest that this effect is not due to the remedy component of the intervention.”

The authors do not cite the (to the best of my knowledge) only study that had a very similar aim, namely differentiating between the effects of the homeopathic remedy and the homeopathic consultation. It was conducted by the late George Lweith who certainly was not against homeopathy. The conclusions of this trial were as follows: Homeopathic consultations but not homeopathic remedies are associated with clinically relevant benefits for patients with active but relatively stable rheumatoid arthritis.

Both trials confirm what rational thinkers have been saying for many years: the effects that many people experience after homeopathic therapy are not due to the homeopathic remedy but to the usually long and empathetic therapeutic encounter, the placebo effect, and other non-specific effects. To put it bluntly homeopathy is a kind of amateur psychotherapy.

Before someone now claims that this means homeopathy is fine, let me tell you this: no, it is not fine! If someone needs psychotherapy, he/she should see not an amateur but a professional, i.e. a psychologist who is properly trained in what she can and cannot do.

12 Responses to Homeopathic remedies are placebos, and the positive effects some patients experience are not due to the remedy

  • It must be said that this study has some other flaws.

    The parents of the bairns are not blinded, as they know fine well about the homeopathy element. They may even be sympathetic, as trhey signed up for the study, so it’s not completely randomised.

    For those who don’t know, the Conners’ scales have 3 different elements: parent, teacher or similar, and then trhe “patient” themselves. It is interesting that the study in question only uses the parent report element and not either of the others or any other usual clinical form of halfway objective symptom assessment. And the parents were not blinded…

    Colour me not impressed, just from that bit.

  • Thanks for having courage to publish something like this.

  • Bluffer Dullman not pitched up yet?

  • Two trials confirmed that effect was only due to contextual effects (in two diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and ADHD) vs more 100 trials confirming that effect is not only contextual.

    • wrong!
      the ‘100’ trials you mention do not differentiate between specific effects and contextual effects. they merely show that there is a therapeutic response.

      • Brien et al and Brulé et al do not measured “objective” measures or analytical lab parameters! I remember that Riley trials were dispachted by “skeptics” with the same objection! Why do you decide only in your convenient way?

        • I don’t know what you remember, of course.

        • ‘Sunbead’ wrote: “Brien et al and Brulé et al do not measured “objective” measures or analytical lab parameters!”

          What do you mean? Or are you being deliberately abstruse.

          In the study on which we are commenting[1], are you saying that:
          • the Conners 3rd Edition Global Index–Parent tool is incapable of being an objective measuring instrument
          OR
          • in your opinion, this tool was not being deployed in a manner that would enable it to yield a reasonably objective measure?

          1. Brulé D, Landau-Halpern B, Nastase V, Zemans M, Mitsakakis N, Boon H.
          A Randomized Three-Arm Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Study of Homeopathic Treatment of Children and Youth with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
          J Integr Complement Med. 2023‑09‑06.
          doi:10.1089/jicm.2023.0043.
          PMID: 37672605.

          • “are you being deliberately abstruse?”
            yes!

          • Re-read my comment:

            Brien et al and Brulé et al do not measured “objective” measures or analytical lab parameters! I remember that Riley trials were dispachted by “skeptics” with the same objection! Why do you decide only in your convenient way?

          • Yep, ‘Sunbead’ is being deliberately abstruse. I shall apply Hanlon’s razor.

    • @Sunbead
      Admittedly, homeopathy has come up with some trials with positive outcomes in the 200+ years of its existence. There are, however some problems with those trials:
      – They are so few in number (a couple of hundred at most) compared to the many hundreds of thousands of trials in real medicine that they quite likely represent statistical noise and placebo effects, not clinical effects, and can therefore be dismissed.
      – Far fewer of this already small number have ever been replicated successfully – I’d say maybe a dozen or so at most.
      – The higher the quality of a trial, the smaller any effects that are found.
      – Homeopathy’s principles are incompatible with several universal principles of chemistry and pharmacology, and can be rejected on that basis alone.
      – Homeopaths so far have failed to come up with even one experiment or ‘remedy’ exhibiting significant, consistent and repeatable effects.
      – Homeopaths are generally not very well educated in the scientific method, and are notoriously prone to bias and errors in their work. Personally, I think that most homeopaths can’t even be trusted to study the colour of grass and come up with a credible answer – given the extreme implausibility (not to say: foolishness) of their beliefs and their methods.

      So it’s safe to assume that homeopathy does not work. It is also futile to bring up any trials with positive outcomes – that is, unless those trials have been independently replicated by real scientists (i.e. not homeopaths), with identical outcomes.

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