Wednesday 28 September 2016

'Therapeutic dead-end' - Homeopathy effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses, study finds

Siobhan Fenton

Published 20/02/2016 | 09:05

Library Image. Photo: Thinkstock Images
Library Image. Photo: Thinkstock Images

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.

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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 in the UK 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 Irish School of Homeopathy: “Homeopathy is both a science and an art and embodies what we envision as a truly twenty-first century medicine. Homeopathy is a sustainable healing system that respects the wisdom of the body and recognizes that symptoms of ill health are expressions of an imbalance in the whole person.

"Homeopathy works, and it does so in both a gentle and effective way. It is a system that uses minute doses of medicine to stimulate the patient’s own healing responses and individualises these according to the totality of the patient’s physical emotional and mental symptoms. Homeopathy is a truly holistic and sustainable system of medicine that seeks to restore the patient to health in the gentlest, most effective and permanent way possible. The restoration of a patient’s health is realised according to clearly established and proven homeopathic principles.”

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.”

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