Homeopathy effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses, study finds

A leading scientist has declared homeopathy a "therapeutic dead-end" after a systematic review concluded the controversial treatment was no more effective than placebo drugs.

Professor Paul Glasziou, a leading academic in evidence based medicine at Bond University, was the chair of a working party by the National Health and Medical Research Council which was tasked with reviewing the evidence of 176 trials of homeopathy to establish if the treatment is valid.

A total of 57 systematic reviews, containing the 176 individual studies, focused on 68 different health conditions - and found there to be no evidence homeopathy was more effective than placebo on any.

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Homeopathy is an alternative medicine based on the idea of diluting a substance in water. According to the NHS: “Practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms. Many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left.”

The review found “no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo” and concluded “there was no reliable evidence from research in humans that homeopathy was effective for treating the range of health conditions considered".

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Writing in a blog for the British Medical Journal, Professor Glasziou states: “As chair of the working party which produced the report I was simply relieved that the arduous journey of sifting and synthesising the evidence was at an end. I had begun the journey with an ‘I don’t know attitude’, curious about whether this unlikely treatment could ever work… but I lost interest after looking at the 57 systematic reviews which contained 176 individual studies and finding no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo.”

He continues: “I can well understand why Samuel Hahnemann- the founder of homeopathy- was dissatisfied with the state of 18th century medicine’s practices, such as blood-letting and purging and tried to find a better alternative.

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“But I would guess he would be disappointed by the collective failure of homeopathy to carry on his innovative investigations, but instead continue to pursue a therapeutic dead-end.”

In the UK, two NHS hospitals provide homeopathy, as well as a number of GP practices.