View attachment 48872 A leading scientist has declared homeopathy a "therapeutic dead-end" after a systematic review concluded the controversial treatment was no more effective than placebo drugs.
Professor Paul Glasziou, a leading academic in evidence based medicine at Bond University, was the chair of a working party by the National Health and Medical Research Council which was tasked with reviewing the evidence of 176 trials of homeopathy to establish if the treatment is valid.
A total of 57 systematic reviews, containing the 176 individual studies, focused on 68 different health conditions - and found there to be no evidence homeopathy was more effective than placebo on any.
Homeopathy is an alternative medicine based on the idea of diluting a substance in water.
According to the NHS: "Practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms. Many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left."
The review found "no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo" and concluded "there was no reliable evidence from research in humans that homeopathy was effective for treating the range of health conditions considered".
Writing in a blog for the British Medical Journal, Professor Glasziou states:
"As chair of the working party which produced the report I was simply relieved that the arduous journey of sifting and synthesising the evidence was at an end.
"I had begun the journey with an 'I don't know attitude', curious about whether this unlikely treatment could ever work… but I lost interest after looking at the 57 systematic reviews which contained 176 individual studies and finding no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo."
He continues: "I can well understand why Samuel Hahnemann- the founder of homeopathy- was dissatisfied with the state of 18th century medicine's practices, such as blood-letting and purging and tried to find a better alternative.
"But I would guess he would be disappointed by the collective failure of homeopathy to carry on his innovative investigations, but instead continue to pursue a therapeutic dead-end."
In the UK, two NHS hospitals provide homeopathy, as well as a number of GP practices.
Siobhan Fenton | 22nd Feb 2016
© Capricornia Newspapers Pty Ltd 2016.
BMJ Blog Referenced in Article
Professor Paul Glasziou is an expert in the understanding of placebo drugs
Paul Glasziou: Still no evidence for homeopathy
When the National Health and Medical Research Council report on homeopathy concluded that “There was no reliable evidence from research in humans that homeopathy was effective for treating the range of health conditions considered” few in conventional medicine were surprised, but the homeopathy community were outraged. As chair of the working party which produced the report I was simply relieved that the arduous journey of sifting and synthesising the evidence was at an end. I had begun the journey with an “I don’t know” attitude, curious about whether this unlikely treatment could ever work. Still, who would have believed that bacteria caused peptic ulcers, or that vaccines for cancers would become routine. So just maybe.…but I lost interest after looking at the 57 systematic reviews (on 68 conditions) which contained 176 individual studies and finding no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo.
Of course, with 176 trials we would expect a few p-values under 5% just by chance: 1/20 of 176 is about 9 which luck would class as “statistically significant.” So we relied on replication and systematic reviews to avoid such false positives. The NHMRC did not redo all 63 systematic reviews (which at say $50,000 each would have cost over $3M), but appraised the existing reviews and used them as a window on the body of evidence. Though that body was mixed in size and quality, no clear signal of effectiveness emerged from the higher quality studies.
One surprise to me was the range of conditions that homeopathy had been evaluated in, including rheumatoid arthritis, radiodermatitis, stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth) due to chemotherapy, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. What subsequently shocked me more was that organizations promote homeopathy for infectious conditions, such as AIDS in Africa or malaria. Given the current effective treatments, that seems a very dubious activity, and is another example that justifies the NHMRC statement that “People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.”
Unsurprisingly there has been considerable pushback from those who use or sell homeopathic remedies. Indeed the International Council for Homeopathy is currently leading a fund-raising effort: not to fund better research, but to attack the NHMRC document. I can well understand why Samuel Hahnemann—the founder of homeopathy—was dissatisfied with the state of 18th century medicine’s practices, such as blood-letting and purging, and tried to find a better alternative. But I would guess he would be disappointed by the collective failure of homeopathy to carry on his innovative investigations, but instead continue to pursue a therapeutic dead-end.
Competing interests: While I chaired the NHMRC report on homeopathy, the contents of this blog are my own thoughts, and not those of the NHMRC or other committee members.
Paul Glasziou is professor of evidence based medicine at Bond University and a part time general practitioner.
16 Feb, 16 | by BMJ
© BMJ Publishing Group Limited 2016. All rights reserved.
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.