An analysis of over 225 medical studies and 1800 scientific papers has found that homeopathy is ineffective as a health treatment. Its authors urge that "people who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments."
The study, carried out by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council -- along with an independent company brought on board to ensure that the analysis wasn't biased -- examined the effectiveness of homeopathy according to the scientific literature. Its authors write that it found "no good quality, well-designed studies with enough participants" to claim that homeopathy works any better than a placebo or brings about any health improvement any more effectively than other kinds of treatment. The finding are described in an information paper published today (PDF).
While some of the 1800 papers included in the study did describe research where homeopathy was claimed to be effective, analysis reveals that the studies had too few participants, were badly designed, were carried out with poor conduct, or were reported inaccurately. Either way, National Health and Medical Research Council reports that the seemingly positive results could not be used to reliably support the use of homeopathy.
Homeoptahy is a form of alternative medicine based on the theories of Samuel Hahnemann. Its proponents claim that "like cures like", so a substance that causes symptoms can also remove them. That process is theoretically achieved using a process of dilution of the substance and subsequent shaking, known as succussion. When diluted, its users claim, the substance has the greatest power to treat a condition.
Professor Warwick Anderson, the CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council, urges those tempted to use homeopathy to think through their choices carefully. "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," he says in a press release. "People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner and in the meanwhile keep taking any prescribed treatments." [NHMRC via Guardian]
Read the full information paper here.