Homeopathy is no more effective than a placebo, according to an extensive study by a peak science body.
The draft paper assessed research into the effectiveness of the alternative medicine on 68 health conditions and concluded “there is no reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective”.
Homeopathy claims to “let likes cure like,” by using highly diluted forms of the ailment it is treating. The Australian Homeopathic Association states the practice treats patients as a “whole person, taking into account personality, lifestyle and hereditary factors as well as the history of the disease.” But the NHMRC review, conducted by a working committee of medical experts, said it had no impact on a range of conditions and illnesses including asthma, arthritis, sleep disturbances, cold and flu, chronic fatigue syndrome, eczema, cholera, burns, malaria and heroin addiction.
For the 68 conditions — including those listed — the review either concluded definitively that homeopathy was not more effective than a placebo, or at the very least there was no reliable evidence to suggest it was.
Doctors welcomed the findings.
Professor John Dwyer, an immunologist,
said the greatest danger in homeopathy was in its use as a vaccination.
“In my point of view as an immunologist, the most serious issue was the spreading of the concept that homeopathic vaccinations were harmless and just as good as orthodox vaccinations. People who believe that are not protecting themselves and their children,” he said.
“Homeopathic vaccines were being offered for HIV, TB, Malaria... none of them were effective,” he said.
The report stated that “not all evidence is of equal value,” dismissing anecdotal support for the effectiveness of homeopathy, and urged health professionals to be aware of the science and inform their patients.
“It is not possible to tell whether a health treatment is effective or not simply by considering individuals’ experiences or healthcare practitioners’ beliefs,” said the report.
Submissions from homeopathy interest groups and the public were among the studies assessed by the NHMRC, but “did not alter the conclusions” of the Council, in some cases due to the poor quality of the studies submitted. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2014