According to the most recent comprehensive meta analysis on homeopathy, homeopathic treatments have been proven to be completely useless beyond the well-known “placebo effect.” The study, entitled: Effectiveness of Homeopathy for Clinical Conditions: Evaluation of the Evidence, concluded that there is no evidence that homeopathy is useful for any condition. Scientists involved in the study wrote:
There is a paucity of good-quality studies of sufficient size that examine the effectiveness of homeopathy as a treatment for any clinical condition in humans. The available evidence is not compelling and fails to demonstrate that homeopathy is an effective treatment for any of the reported clinical conditions in humans.
Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council conducted the study, which was a meta-analysis and one of the largest studies of its kind. The results are significant because the NHMRC is the top medical body in Australia. The conclusion supports numerous previous meta analyses that show homeopathy is ineffective beyond the placebo effect. One of the study authors explained, “systematic reviews and meta-analyses conclusively demonstrate that homeopathic products perform no better than placebo.”
To date, there has been no well controlled, randomized, large peer-reviewed meta analysis that shows homeopathy to have a definite significant clinical effect on any specific condition beyond what could be realized with a placebo treatment. In contrast, many studies have proven the practice of homeopathy to be useless. The National Health Service of the UK states “There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition.”
Homeopathic practitioners and societies advocating homeopathy have provided their own research in the past which has concluded that homeopathic medicines are beneficial in a variety of conditions; however, according to the most recent meta analysis, the studies showing significant clinical effects are “scientifically, logically and ethically flawed” and do not meet the “gold standard” of randomized, placebo controlled studies expected of the scientific community. Further, while some studies have shown some benefit to homeopathic treatment, none have conclusively proven that homeopathy is useful beyond what one might expect from a placebo.
Homeopathy has been practiced for hundreds of years and practitioners often cite anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness. Consumers of homeopathy often share stories of miraculous cures of a variety of conditions ranging from simple colds to cancer. However, anecdotes and scientific evidence are two very different things, say experts.
The practice of homeopathy is based on the idea that “like cures like.” Homeopathic treatments consist of vastly diluted ingredients that cause negative health symptoms in healthy people. It is thought that the dangerous ingredients become so diluted that very little, if any, active substance is left in the “medicine.” The water used to dilute the original ingredients is said to contain a “memory” of the ingredients, and therefore, this memory will cause the body to fight against the illness using the body’s own immune system.
However, scientists and doctors warn that should any homeopathic treatments contain too much of a harmful substance, there is the possibility that the treatment could interact with other medicines and cause a host of deleterious health effects. In serious conditions, the ineffectiveness of homeopathic remedies could become life-threatening, such as in the case of homeopathic remedies for asthma or more serious conditions such as cancer.
The study’s findings could have a significant impact for Australians. The most important changes on the horizon include government funding for tax rebates for homeopathic treatments being cut, as well as funding for schools that teach homeopathy being drastically reduced or completely discontinued.
In the United States, a meta analysis on homeopathy was performed in 2000. That meta analysis reported similar findings to the new Australian study, and concluded that the strength of evidence showing that homeopathy was more effective than a placebo was “low because of the low methodological quality of the trials.” Furthermore, the study concluded, “Studies of high methodological quality were more likely to be negative than the lower quality studies.” Another meta analysis published in The Lancet found “insufficient evidence from these studies that homoeopathy is clearly efficacious for any single clinical condition.” Another study published in The Lancet found “there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects.”
So far, at least four meta analyses of homeopathic treatments have found no good evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathy, and a new study has made it official by proving that homeopathy is useless beyond the placebo effect. In addition to these meta analyses, the World Health Organization has officially stated that homeopathy should not be used for any serious diseases. Despite the burgeoning evidence of homeopathy’s complete ineffectiveness, it continues to be a multi-million dollar industry in the United States and abroad.
By: Rebecca Savastio