The Australian governmental agency National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has recently released a report on Homeopathy after conducting an extensive review of scientific literature.
1. There are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.
2. Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious or could become serious.
3. 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.
Criteria for effectiveness of therapy:
1. The therapy had to result in health improvements that could not be explained by the placebo effect.
2. These health improvements had to be meaningful for the persons overall health.
3. There should have been evidence that the observed health improvements were unlikely to be due to chance.
4. The results(s) had to be consistently seen in several studies.
Search and study inclusion criteria
Studies were considered only if they included a control group: there had to be two groups- one that received homeopathic treatment; and a similar group that did not receive such treatment.
57 Systematic reviews and 176 individual studies were identified from English databases (1st January 1997 to 3rd January 2013).
Systematic reviews and individual studies were assessed for quality using an internationally accepted method (the description is remarkably similar to the Cochrane method).
What types of evidence were not included/ considered?
Studies in animals
Studies in humans without a specific health condition:
-evidence about homeopathic ‘vaccines’
-whether homeopathy is good for general health and well being
-whether or not homeopathy is effective for preventing health conditions
For 13 health conditions, homeopathy was reported to be not more effective than placebo in either:
in all the studies found (regardless of size and quality), or
in a large majority of those studies that were reliable (good quality; well designed, and with enough participants for a meaningful result)
There were no health conditions for which there was reliable evidence that homeopathy was effective.
For some health conditions, studies reported that homeopathy was not more effective than placebo.
For other health conditions, some studies reported that homeopathy was more effective than placebo, or as effective as another treatment, but those studies were not reliable.
To be confident that the reported health benefits of homeopathy were not just due to chance or the placebo effect, they would need to be confirmed by other well-designed studies with an adequate number of participants.
For the remaining health conditions it was not possible to make any conclusion about whether homeopathy was effective or not, because there was not enough evidence.
Only systematic reviews were considered- most studies were of poor quality, so their results are not reliable. Therefore the Working Committee had to be cautious in applying findings- this meant that no conclusion regarding effectiveness could be reached.
The studies considered only evaluated effectiveness of homeopathy in specific health conditions. The findings do not apply to use of homeopathy for general well being.
The evaluation did not assess the safety of homeopathy.
As of now, the scientific evidence indicates that homeopathy is not better than placebo, but this could be blamed on the poor quality of studies on the subject.
Till good quality studies conclusive prove either ways, the jury will be out on the effectiveness of homeopathy.
Link to NHMRC website giving details of report, etc.
Link to NHMRC statement on Homeopathy:
Click to access cam02_nhmrc_statement_homeopathy.pdf
Link to NHMRC Information Paper on effectiveness of homeopathy:
Click to access cam02a_information_paper.pdf
Link to Frequently Asked Questions regarding the review:
Click to access cam02c_frequently_asked_questions.pdf
Thanks to Jabez Paul Barnabas for sharing a news report on this topic.