Homeopathy is not effective for treating any health condition, Australia’s top body for medical research has concluded, after undertaking an extensive review of existing studies. Homeopaths believe that illness-causing substances can, in minute doses, treat people who are unwell. By diluting these substances in water or alcohol, homeopaths claim the resulting mixture retains a “memory” of the original substance that triggers a healing response in the body. These claims have been widely disproven by multiple studies, but the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has for the first time thoroughly reviewed 225 research papers on homeopathy to come up with its position statement. While some studies reported homeopathy was effective, the quality of those studies was poor and suffered serious flaws in their design, and did not have enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy worked any better than a sugar pill, the report found. Australians spent an estimated $9.59m on the industry annually.
“Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective,” the report concluded. “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.”
“There will be a tail of people who won’t respond to this report, and who will say it’s all a conspiracy of the establishment,” Chair of the NHMRC Homeopathy Working Committee, Professor Paul Glasziou, said. “But we hope there will be a lot of reasonable people out there who will reconsider selling, using or subsiding these substances.”
Dr Ken Harvey, a medicinal drug policy expert and health consumer advocate, said “I have no problems with private colleges wanting to run courses on crystal-ball gazing, iridology and homeopathy, and if people are crazy enough to pay for it, it’s their decision,” Harvey said. “But if those courses are approved by a commonwealth body, that’s a different story and a real problem.”