The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released a draft information paper which says there’s no evidence that homeopathy is an effective health treatment.
Annual sales of complementary medicines and therapies in Australia total $3.55 billion. Homeopathy is a small part of that, about $8 million.
Homeopathy is a 200-year-old form of alternative medicine underpinned by the principle of “like cures like”, meaning substances which cause symptoms have the ability to treat an ill person .
The review by the research council found there’s a paucity of good quality studies of sufficient size examining the effectiveness of homeopathy as a treatment.
“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,” the overview report, Effectiveness of Homeopathy for Clinical Conditions: Evaluation of the Evidence, says.
Australian experts say this report is the latest in a long line of negative conclusions on homepathy. A recent, similar British parliamentary review also found homoeopathy to be ineffective.
Research council CEO Professor Warwick Anderson says health care choices should be based on good quality evidence.
The Draft Information Paper is a summary of rigorous assessment of available research examining the effectiveness of homeopathy for treating 68 health conditions.
On assessment of the current evidence, it found “there is no reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective for treating health conditions”.
The research council also released a guide for doctors, Talking with your Patients about Complementary Medicine – A Resource for Clinicians.
“It is especially important that clinicians consider the evidence of effectiveness for any treatments they recommend and are aware of their professional and ethical responsibilities,” Professor Anderson said.
Immunologist John Dwyer, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of New South Wales, said it was now clearly unethical for homeopaths and others to prescribe concoctions which offer no more than a placebo effect.
“Homeopathic preparations should not be available in our pharmacies, no private health insurer should provide any rebate for homeopathy and those few universities that lower our scientific standards by providing credibility for homeopathy in their health courses should cease doing so immediately,” Dwyer says.
Dr Ian Musgrave , Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide, says homoeopathy is extremely implausible.
“However, although greatly needed, the impact of this finding (the research council) is probably minor overall,” he says
“While around 69% of Australians use some form of complementary medicine at least once a year, only around 6% use homoeopathy. These finding may affect whether homoeopathy will continue to attract health insurance rebates though.”
According to Professor Anderson, public consultation on the draft is important.
“NHMRC is acutely aware of strongly held views on the effectiveness of homeopathy, which is why this Draft Information Paper is available for public comment until 26 May 2014,” he said.