Despite the persistent popularity of homeopathic remedies, a new study on the topic reinforces previous findings — homeopathy just doesn’t work.
Homepathy [sic] has been debunked any number of times — just take a look at this 2002 report in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. But never, perhaps, quite as thoroughly or convincingly as Wednesday morning when Australia’s foremost medical research institute released a report debunking a therapy that nearly 4 million Americans used in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Health.
“There is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is effective in treating health conditions,” the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council said in a statement. “… The review found no good quality, well-designed studies with enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy works better than a placebo, or causes health improvements equal to those of another treatment.”
Researchers examined over 1,800 previous studies on the efficacy of homeopathy, and ended up with a pool of 225 that met the quality criteria for use — including a sufficient number of participants and the presence of a control group.
Unsurprisingly, it was the rejected studies — that “had either too few participants, poor design, poor conduct and or reporting to allow reliable conclusions” — that reported seeing effective use of homeopathy.
There is no good quality evidence to support the claim that homeopathy is effective in treating health conditions.
The implications are obvious to National Health and Medical Research Council chairman Paul Glasziou.
“In the current financial constraints, I would think that health insurers … should be looking at what is effective versus ineffective treatments,” says Prof Glasziou.
“Things that haven’t been shown to be effective, I wouldn’t want to see those funded either public or privately.”
Aside from concerns about funding fake medicine at the expense of real treatments, there is, of course, the concern that the patient is simply not receiving the care he or she needs. As the NHMRC statement notes, relying on homeopathy can put a patient’s health at risk. When a patient supplements real treatment with homeopathy, he’s wasting money; but if he puts his trust in remedies that are no more effective than a placebo would be, rather than real medicine, he could well be jeopardizing his life.
Whether this newest study will change minds remains to be seen, as homeopathic remedies are remarkably popular faux-treatments.
A World Health Organisation review in 2009 estimated Australians spend US$7.3 million a year on homeopathic medicines.
And not just in Australia.
In 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Health, Americans spent $2.9 billion on homeopathic medicines and an additional $1709 million going to see a homeopathic practitioner.
While the appeal of pseudoscience is often strong and the incentive for peddling modern snake apparent, the evidence is pretty clear: homeopathy is nonsense.
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