By Adam Smart, The Conversation

There’s no reliable evidence that health conditions can be effectively treated with homeopathic medicine, according to a statement by the National Health and Medicine Research Council (NHMRC) released today.

The statement comes a year after the NHMRC’s draft paper was put out for public consultation. It is based on a summary of research on homeopathy’s effectiveness for treating health conditions. It aimed to provide people who use homeopathic remedies with information of their risks and benefits so they could make informed health decisions.

The chair of the committee that produced the report, Paul Glasziou said the statement was not going to stop the use of homeopathic treatments overnight.

Professor Glasziou, who is director of the Centre for Research in Evidence-Based Practice at Bond University said the trend would likely follow a similar pattern observed after the release of a 2010 UK report by the House of Commons. There had been a decline in the use of homeopathy in the UK since that report, he added.

The review failed to find any evidence for homoepathy’s effectiveness for treating 68 conditions, which ranged from the common cough through to malaria. Only single studies were identified for 29 of the conditions, and all were deemed unreliable for either having too few participants for a meaningful result or being poorly designed.

“This lack of scientific research into the use of homeopathic medicine is not unusual and is mirrored across most alternative treatments” said Paul Komesaroff, professor of medicine from Monash University and medical practitioner.

Glasziou said reports like this created “a dialogue about the nature of the evidence and what constitutes evidence and people start to look at it and it makes an impact”.

Professor Komesaroff said patients should be supplied with accurate and up-to-date information on treatment options and that some treatment types in the field of complementary and alternative medicine lacked evidence.

“People who use alternative medicines such as homeopathy do so for a large suite of reasons not just for treatment. Their supposed effectiveness is only one reason,” Professor Komesaroff said. “One quick example is reducing the symptoms that people suffer from HIV medication.”

The NHMRC statement did not mention preventative health, but Professor Glasziou did not see this as a shortcoming.

“If you look at what GPs are treating people for, the vast majority of people are coming in for symptoms rather than health checks and preventative measures,” he said.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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Oh, hai there internets.


After posting this photo from Coles last night, discussion ensued on my FB wall about the merits or non-merits of homeopathy, how much your own experience of something can weigh up against a systematic review of systematic reviews (of homeopathy).

So, what is Homeopathy? Shall we consult wikipedia?

Homeopathy i/ˌhoʊmiˈɒpəθi/ (also spelled homoeopathy or homœopathy; from the Greek hómoios- ὅμοιος- “like-” + páthos πάθος “suffering” ) is a form of alternative medicine originated by Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843), based on the hypothesis that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure that disease in sick people.[1] This hypothesis is known as “the law of similars” or “like cures like”. Scientific research has found homeopathic remedies ineffective and their postulated mechanisms of action implausible.[2][3][4] Conventional medicine generally considers homeopathy to be quackery.[5][6][7]
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution in alcohol or distilled water, followed by forceful striking on an elastic body, called “succussion”. Each dilution followed by succussion is assumed to increase the remedy’s potency. Homeopaths call this process “potentization”. Dilution usually continues well past the point where none of the original substance remains.[8] Apart from the symptoms, homeopaths consider the patient’s physical and psychological state and life history,[9] consult homeopathic reference books known as “repertories”, and select a remedy based on the “totality of symptoms” as well as traits of the patient.
The low concentrations of homeopathic remedies, often lacking even a single molecule of the diluted substance,[10] lead to an objection that has dogged homeopathy since the 19th century: how, then, can the substance have any effect? Modern advocates of homeopathy have suggested that “water has a memory”—that during mixing and succussion, the substance leaves an enduring effect on the water, perhaps a “vibration”, and this produces an effect on the patient. However, nothing like water memory has ever been found in chemistry or physics.[11][12] Conventional medicine has found that higher doses usually cause stronger effects, whereas homeopathy claims the opposite.
Homeopathic remedies have been the subject of numerous clinical trials, which test the possibility that they may be effective through some mechanism unknown to conventional science. These studies have generally found that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos,[13][14][15][4][16] although there have been a few positive results.[17][18][19] Because of the extremely high dilutions, most homeopathic remedies are, at least, harmless. Patients who favor homeopathic cures over conventional medicine do, however, incur some risk of delaying diagnosis and effective treatment.[20][21][22] The regulation and prevalence of homeopathy vary greatly from country to country.[23]

So, what does this actually mean? Well, it means that there may only be the “memory” of the active ingredient in the product you are buying. Yes, Brauer teething products might be a good placebo, but there probably is little in it aside from sugar and a smile that actually does anything physiologically to remedy the discomfort of teething. Had I realised that Brauer was a homeopathic company when I went to the Blogger’s Brunch last time, I would have spent more energy drilling them on it and trying to edumacate the others around me (you know, the same people who were busy being baffled by the presence of Nestle at the same event). I was too busy playing with the Lego and chatting to companies about their Gluten Free products.

Why does it frustrate me so much?

Well, I just don’t feel that people are getting what they think they’re paying for. Also, it’s sugar water being passed off as “medicine”. If sugar water works, then great, let me buy a bag of chemist jelly beans and I’ll be set for life. But quit with the “may help relieve” claims, and perhaps test out your products?

Oh yeah, and stop taking people who are desperate for a solution for a ride.

See the 10:23 site for some more info.

And for those who ask “what’s the harm?”

Kids and science

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