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No Evidence or Poor Methodology? The NHMRC Homeopathy Draft Report – 04/2014

nhmrc_logoThe National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released its revised draft document, Evidence on the Effectiveness of Homeopathy for Treating Health Conditions, on April 9th, 2014. It states, in part, “There is no reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective for treating health conditions.”

The worldwide homeopathic community is both dismayed but unsurprised by this report as the NHMRC working group was compromised from its inception by failing to have at least one qualified homeopath on its panel though several suitable candidates were presented.

Different principles underpin studies and practice

When examining the NHMRC draft report, it is important to realise that homeopathy is practised by very different principles to those of conventional medicine. In drawing its conclusions on homeopathy, the NHMRC overlooked studies based on these principles and clinical practice in favour of less suitable studies that focus on isolated disease conditions – studies much more suited to the allopathic (conventional) model of treatment. This alone has had a negative impact on the NHMRC findings.

AHA recommends a more comprehensive approach

To overcome this problem, the Australian Homoeopathic Association has recommended the NHMRC take “a more comprehensive approach” in its analysis of homoeopathy so that evidence for its effectiveness is more easily identified and studied.

ATMS says no evidence of ineffectiveness

The Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) says the draft report has no compelling evidence of a lack of effectiveness with homeopathy, just a lack of high quality studies. They call on the Federal Government to support and fund these studies, just as it does for other therapies.

The ATMS advises it has already provided numerous examples of studies in which homeopathy is superior to placebo to the Chief Medical Officer and says that to place the report in context, only 30% of all conventional medical procedures are supported by a strong evidence base according to the British Medical Journal.

Prophylactic and other studies excluded

A significant amount of evidence for effectiveness of homeopathy has been lost by the NHMRC exclusion of homeopathic prophylactic studies – some of the largest observation studies ever conducted. The NHMRC also says it will not accept studies on “the use of homeopathy for preventing health conditions (including homeopathic ‘vaccines’), or whether homeopathy maintains and/or enhances general health” as part of its call for further submissions.

As these studies provide some of the clearest evidence of homeopathy’s effectiveness, the question must be asked, why are they, along with animal studies, being excluded?

At what cost?

The NHMRC draft report has been more than 3 years in the making and so far, according to reports, has cost the tax-payer $140,000 – all the more reason to ensure its integrity. But is that all this report will cost?

According to the World Health Organisation, homeopathy is the most widely used alternative medicine in the world today and second only conventional medicine. Many millions of people rely on it as a primary form of healthcare – and they know it works.

If the NHMRC continues to exclude important evidence from its examination, and if it chooses to word its final report in such a way that it is then used to discredit homeopathy and disenfranchise Australian users of homeopathy, the greatest cost of all will be borne by the Australian Government, the scientific community, and the NHMRC itself. Trust lost is never easily regained and that is what is truly at stake with this report.


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