2014 was a bad year for homeopathy


On Saturday we had a lively debate about homeopathy, so I thought I’d do some more digging on the topic.

There were lots of weird links chucked about, nothing of any empirical nature.

I found a sensible link, with pesky things called facts, scientific fact. It seems homeopathy had a bad year last year.

[2014] has been a bad year for homoeopathy, first there was the Draft Information Paper on Homoeopathy from the NHMRC, which concluded there was no reliable evidence for the use of homoeopathy in the treatment of the 61 health conditions looked at. Then a homoeopathic remedy manufacturer left the North American market due to law suites over the ineffectiveness of their products, then the Federal Court has found that Homeopathy Plus! was engaged in misleading conduct over its homoeopathic “vaccines”

Quoting from the ACCC website “…[Homeopathy Plus!] engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false and misleading representations to the effect that there was an adequate foundation in medical science for the statement that homoeopathic treatments are a safe and effective alternative to the whooping cough vaccine, when in fact no such foundation exists..”

However, this is not a one-way street. Complementary Medicines Australia has claimed, 6 months after the public consultation process had closed, that the NHMRC process was flawed. In the august publication Food Navigator Asia it was claimed to be “fatally flawed”.

But, but,but what about the “science” of homeopathy.

Before we examine these claims, let me remind you that homoeopathy is based on two principles “like cures like” and extreme dilution, in most cases to levels so dilute that there is almost no chance of a single remaining molecule of original compound being present in the remedy. Thus caffeine diluted 1 in a hundred 30 times is used to treat insomnia and Uranium nitrate diluted 1 in a hundred 30 times is used to treat diabetes.

In the latter case it is fortunate at no uranium will actually be present, as uranium nitrate causes kidney failure. In uranium nitrate-induced kidney failure some glucose turns up in the urine, as the kidneys ability to reabsorb it is damaged. This is completely unlike what happens in diabetes, where high blood glucose overwhelms the kidneys capacity to reabsorb it (in uranium nitrate toxicity blood glucose is not elevated so it is not “like” diabetes at all). Thus the rationale for homoeopathic treatment is flawed at many levels.

So many levels that clown shoes should be issued to believers in homeopathy.

But back to the draft report of the NHMRC’s review of homoeopathy. This represents the largest and most extensive recent review of homoeopathy research. The review looked at both systematic reviews of the use of homoeopathy in 61 heath conditions and submissions on behalf of interested parties, which contained a mix of systematic reviews and individual randomised controlled trials. All submissions and papers were carefully evaluated against strict criteria recognised internationally for this type of review. The Australasian Cochrane Centre independently reviewed the overview report to ensure that it was valid and high quality.

To remind you, the review found there was no good evidence that homeopathy was effective for any of the 61 medical conditions considered. In some cases, there was clear evidence that homoeopathy was ineffective; in others the evidence base was too weak to give a clear result. These findings are in concert with other large reviews of homoeopathy.

In summary:

Overall, while there are some limitations to the study, this is a wide ranging, carefully interpreted study. While overall the broad conclusion is that there is no good evidence the homoeopathy being effective in the 61 studied conditions, in at least 13 studies there was good evidence that homoeopathy was ineffective (asthma for example). The results of this study are in broad agreement with previous studies of homoeopathy (see also this, and before you bring up the “Swiss Report” see here and here).

The NHMRC study conclusion that “…the assessment of the evidence from research in humans does not show that homeopathy is effective for treating the range of health conditions considered” cannot be ignored or dismissed.

Simply put, homeopathy is a fraud, quackery, bunkum, total rubbish, a pile of horse dung.

Don’t believe me…believe the reports.


– The Conversation


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  • But seeing as it is a religion you will never change the faithful from their misguided beliefs.

    This reminds me of the joke – How many homeopaths does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

    • Coffee Connoisseur

      The thing is Brian it works for many. Myself included. I have quite an analytical and scientific mind. So for me here is where its at.

      It works for me but not every time and not for everything. It doesn’t work for headaches for me personally, yet it seems to provide relief from hayfever. Perhaps placebo works for hayfever but not headaches. Perhaps it is something else. I don’t know. I don’t actually care either. When I get hayfever I just want it gone or at least significantly relieved.

      On the Science I know that according to double blind test scientific studies it isn’t shown to be effective.

      Given my own personal experience I have to logically conclude that there must be other conditions that cause it to work in the instances that it does. It could be placebo, It could be to something to do with the individuals that it worked for. There maybe a number of factors in the scientific testing that will never show why it supposedly works for some people in some instances. Perhaps there are other factors altogether that cause it to work in some instances for some people.

      Some people smoke cigarettes. They say they do it because it relaxes them. Scientific studies show the opposite effect is true.

      I do not advocate homeopathy to anyone else as the scientific side of me cannot. I am of the opinion that those that may find benefit from it will find it on there own.

      What I struggle with more than anything is why people with absolutely no personal experience suddenly become the thought police with a religious like fervor when it comes to this particular topic. Perhaps you could explain that one for me.

      The ultimate question in all of this is should those who want to be allowed to use homeopathy?

      As I see it that is the only question that needs to be answered. So to this what do those (yourself included) with a religious like fervor against homeopathy say?

      • Momo

        It is your money and your body. You should be able to do what you want. Just like you can smoke, gamble or get a big pile of money and set fire to it.

        If people don’t speak up, the advertising and “word of mouth” recommendations of homeopathy continue unopposed. This is why people speak out against it, especially health professionals.

        • Coffee Connoisseur

          Perhaps if those health professionals focused on cleaning up their own back yard instead there might not be such a growing demand for alternative therapies including homeopathy.

          • Momo

            What do you mean about cleaning up their own back yard? All medicines prescribed are approved by Medsafe?

          • Coffee Connoisseur

            take a step back and take a wider look at allopathy
            surgical mishaps
            side effects
            Dr Misconduct
            annual death toll from adverse reactions overdoses etc.
            the list goes on and on and on.
            Its a real shame.

          • Catriona

            Exactly, but the good Dr won’t want to acknowledge that.
            She’ll just keep filling her hysterical patients up with Dizepam.
            How unprofessional.

          • Momo

            You can’t cure stupidity.
            But you can sedate it.

          • Momo

            I don’t acknowledge surgical mishaps, side effects, misconduct, adverse drug reactions?

            Please don’t speak for me with your moronic comments

            Babble away about your lolly water. I’m no longer engaging with you. I will be responding to others on this thread. Don’t read my comments if you don’t want to be upset.

            I suggest slowly blowing in and out of a paper bag if you get overexcited again. Drug free and effective.

          • Momo

            Yes, a small percentage of the trillions of patients episodes every year.

            Do you expect every system to be perfect? Do you expect drugs to have no side effects? You have the expectation of perfection from mainstream medicine but buy water as a cure?

          • Coffee Connoisseur

            “You have the expectation of perfection from mainstream medicine but buy water as a cure?”
            I know my magic water isn’t going to kill me. Its also a lot cheaper than a drs consult.

            Do I expect every system to be perfect.
            I have spent my entire career fixing imperfect systems.
            The issues with allopathy are systemic. As a general rule it is not the people that are the problem.

            The biggest issues with allopathy are the profit motive and its reluctance to take the time to identify and deal with the root cause of a problem. This is also why allopathy would do very well to start incorporating more alternative therapies and their approach alongside the use of modern medicine.

          • Momo

            I work in a public hospital. There is no profit motive.

            We strive for efficiency in the service and always are trying to improve systems so we have less error and we can treat as many patients as we can with the budget constraints that are imposed on us. We would love to spend more time with patients but if we did, less patients would be treated for ‘elective operations’. There is a balance and unfortunately some people feel they need more attention than what we can provide. I’d love to spend a lot more time with preoperative and postoperative patients. I simply can’t as it means less patients will be operated on. Theatre time is approximately $1000 re minute. While available we have to maximise it so it is not wasted.

            I also work in a private setting where patients are charged on an hourly basis for the hospital, surgeon and anaesthetist. We are under pressure from the patients themselves to minimise times as more time is significantly more money.

            We are just as frustrated with the systems as patients are.

            I don’t speak for GPs but I know if you feel you need a longer consultation, you can request one at our GP practice.

            I think you will find most doctors are open to discussion of your needs.

      • Damon Mudgway

        Cc, if it works for you, go for it. I spend a ton of dosh on blurays and home theater, as watching movies calms my nerves and gives me escapism, thereby lowering my blood pressure and curing a headache. May not be a pill or a concoction, but achieves the same thing.

        • Momo

          I buy shoes

      • peterwn

        The size of the practitioner’s invoice is probably the most influential thing helping the cure.

      • How about you give 30C homeopathic coffee a go…surely it would taste and act just the same as the coffee you now prefer.

        Someone already did htat, but I’d be interested in your results. Surely the lifeforce and essence of the coffee will remain…but would you still drink it?

        • Coffee Connoisseur

          I have another alternative remedy (not homeopathy) for getting to sleep. I also prefer my coffee as a long black so I don’t thing it would cut it to be fair.

  • Will Travers

    Just in case no one posted it in all those comments from the other day; – I think it is pertinent for you all to see a Homeopathic Emergency Department in action before you all scoff – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMGIbOGu8q0

  • Second time around

    Some homeopaths become very rich in their practices so they must be doing something right, at least in a commercial sense. The feel good effect of seeing a caring person, and the placebo effect of following a regimen of drugs in the belief that it will do good are well documented. Is it possible that homeopathy, by guaranteeing that awkward things like internal examinations, needles and the prospect that something serious could be diagnosed at the consultation, has created an environment where the placebo effect can work to its best advantage?

    • RightofSingapore

      When the science talks about homeopathy being ineffective, they’re referring to the fact its ineffective beyond a placebo-its no more effective than a placebo. The fact that some homeopaths have made a lot of money from it is more testament to the gullibility of their customers rather than the effectiveness of the treatment.

      • Second time around

        My point is that a homeopath will always dispense a placebo regardless of whatever the condition was. There is the fiction in NZ that an alternative medical practitioner will always know the limit of their skills and will always advise a patient with a medical complaint to seek proper advice. How a person with no credible medical training could reach such a conclusion is beyond me, but the Health and Disability Commissioner last year censured an Iridologist for not doing so.

  • Cadwallader

    The facts as now presented seem to adequately confirm Saturday’s consensus despite some niggly defence of the voodoo.

    • Coffee Connoisseur

      Yes Homeopathy doesn’t work……. except of course for those that have tried it and found that it did.

      • jay

        If its effective it will work in clinical trials! People find homeopathy and other alternative “medicine” effective thanks to the placebo effective, and this has been proven time and time again.

        • Coffee Connoisseur

          So lets run with that for a second lets say it is placebo. Placebo has been proven to be effective. The mind is a powerful thing afterall. The question is would the placebo effect still happen without the homeopathic remedy for those that have had benefit from homeopathic remedies.
          They believe they are taking something that will help. Take it away and you may take away the opportunity for the placebo effect to work in that instance and leave the person with the ailment.
          Is this a good outcome?
          Sometimes it is best just to leave things alone or risk the law of unintended consequences.

          • Catriona

            Hey there CC, I read in the paper the other day that India has appointed a Minister of Homoeopathy. Quite interesting.

          • Catriona

            Hi CC again- I’ve just been ‘googling’ – 1 in 8 GP’s in NZ either practice Homoeopathy as well or refer patients to a Homoeopath.

          • Disinfectant

            Not surprising when you have patients that you know you can never appease or find a diagnosis for their ailment.
            So send them to the Homeo’ and they become happy chappy’s believing in what they want to believe.

          • Catriona

            Well, if you want to believe that then that’s ok.
            But, hey, the Dr’s job is to find a diagnosis for the patient isn’t he/she?

          • Coffee Connoisseur

            That is fantastic. That said like many kiwi blokes I pretty much need to have a limb falling off before I will go to the Doc.

          • Catriona

            Hi CC again – I found a website – http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org – very interesting. It’s about Medical Practitioners who also use Homoeopathy in their medical practice. Can’t imagine the Doc who got her knickers in a twist the other day and stooped to unprofessional behaviour by saying I was hysterical and needed a good dose of Diazepam even daring to read it.

  • If people think it is doing them good and want to spend their money on it, as long as they don’t want me to subsidise it can’t really see what the fuss is about, a bit like god.

    • Whitey

      Very true. The problem I have with homeopathy (and similar quackery) is when people give it to their children instead of providing real medical treatment. That’s child abuse in my opinion.

      • Coffee Connoisseur

        yes instead they should run to the Dr for every bump bruise and scratch.

        • Whitey

          Coffee Connoisseur, you are misrepresenting my comment and you know it.

          • Coffee Connoisseur

            yes I was but there was a serious side to the comment and that is having had experience with homeopathy I would be inclined to try a homeopathic remedy first. (depending on the issue of course -things like bumps, bruises, hayfever a headache, upset stomach and the like). If that fixed it great. If it didn’t then off to the doc.

    • Hoju

      True, and at least the homeopaths don’t behead non-believers.

  • Jimmie

    I got forced to go on a farming homeopathic course years ago by an over eager farm boss. I tried to keep an open mind until the lady siad that you could tip several drops of the solution into a river and animals upstream of the treatment would be protected/cured of illness.

    She couldn’t explain exactly how this work apart from muttering about ‘the life force’ that it endowed into the river.

    Homeopathy – the most ‘value added’ water product ever sold – also likely to hold the world record for the highest profit mark up ever made to a set unit of water.

  • Momo

    As a medical practitioner, if I sold water/sugar/alcohol as a cure I would be prosecuted. I don’t know how they make so much money selling something that is ineffective without the Commerce Commission getting involved.

    • Coffee Connoisseur

      perhaps people simply want options less invasive than allopathy. I know more and more people turning to alternative treatments as they can’t reconcile 10 mins a $60 dollar bill, a script for some pills (with a risk of side effects) designed only to treat the symptom and not the root cause of the problem.

      • Momo

        We are not talking about alternative treatments, we are talking about homeopathy. Not one study, despite the screaming from the homeopaths, shows it works.
        You are paying a homeopath for soothing words, reassurance and expensive water. No side effects apart from those related to a few drops of water.

        • Tippex

          Seems to me that no matter how immaculate the purity of the water there will still be enough trace elements of nasties to negate the so-called good bits at such a miniscule dilution.

        • Coffee Connoisseur

          funny then that for some depending on the ailment they find a few drops of water to be more beneficial for what ails them than pharmaceutical drugs. No wonder its such a big concern to allopathy.

          • Momo

            No more of a concern than Moonies, Scientologists, Smokers, Drug takers etc.

            Spend your money, we have done our jobs by warning you. If you continue to use unproven therapies, you risk delayed diagnosis of curable medical issues including cancer. But that is what informed consent is about, patient choice.

            Good luck.

      • jay

        Mainstream medicines have to prove they’re effective and safe in clinical studies, and this can cost hundreds of millions.

        Sellers of “Alternative” medicines are able to make all kinds of unfounded claims, with the only science being that which has demonstrated the remedies are either unsafe, ineffective, or both.

        The alternative medicine industry rants on about “natural” remedies being better, not mentioning that a very large percentage of mainstream medicines are synthesised from nature and are chemically indistinguishable.

        Life expectancy is nowadays thirty years more than it was 200 years ago thanks to mainstream medicine. Many of us spend those extra years deriding the very thing that has kept them alive.

        Reliance on “alternative” medicine has killed a lot of people. The industry is worth hundreds of millions and is nothing but shameless profiteering by charlatans pedalling snake oil to a superstitious public.

        Foolish people who think they know better than their doctor, a highly trained and intelligent person relying on a voluminous wealth of studies etc etc, then they deserve everything that’s coming to them.

      • Catriona

        Yes CC – our local Medical Centre Drs are under contract by the off-shore outfit who owns them to push through a certain number of patients a day and, also, quiz them about their drinking habits and put it on record.’ You’re lucky if you get 10 minutes. So they are paid pretty well for patient dissatisfaction imo.
        I refuse to answer that question – I don’t drink anyway, but i see it akin to asking a teenage girl when she first had sex!
        Why would I want to go there?

        • Momo

          So find a good GP.
          I have a GP. She is wonderful.

          • Catriona

            I have a new one – she is also a Homeopath.

          • Momo

            Wonderful. Do you just lick the outside of the bottles of whatever she prescribes?

          • Catriona

            Oh, you’re showing the nasty form again. I will dis-engage from you as i consider you are on the verge of becoming hysterical. Go and swallow a few Dizepam – you’ll feel better in the morning.

          • Momo

            I will simply leave you with the words of Dr Holt et al published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. If your doctor has not conformed to the guidelines she is operating outside the guidelines and standards of medicine in New Zealand.


          • Coffee Connoisseur

            I would trust a Dr or a vet whose mind is open to alternative medicine far more than one who is closed to it.

    • Damon Mudgway

      Oh bugger, there goes my bottled filtered water as a cancer cure business idea flushed down the toilet.

      • Rick H

        It might work if you add a cancer cell, and shake it a lot first, and then dilute it again.

        • Don’t forget the two taps on a leather bound bible in the near vicinity of the “water”

  • Damon Mudgway

    True story:

    I asked my 8 year old daughter is she knew what homeopathy meant? Her answer:

    Isn’t that when two men live together like our neighbours?

    Child are soooo cool.

  • kiwibattler

    People who think Homeopathy works for them are actually good examples of the power of the placebo effect: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/835197

  • “With or without research to expose homeopathy as bogus, the believers will prevail in their view. Dismissing them outright doesn’t really advance the issue, but we could use the opportunity to examine the role of doctor-patient communication in driving people to seek the false reassurance of alternative remedies.”

    Ranjana Srivastava – oncologist based in Melbourne

    • Momo

      Very wise man

  • Wheninrome

    I love the Chinese system, you pay your Doctor if he keeps you well. Here we pay our Doctors when we visit regardless of the outcome.
    If the Plumber doesn’t fix the problem they have to come back. As do other tradesmen.
    Perhaps Doctors might not wish to be called Tradesmen.

    • Momo

      With that system, they can’t have many people dealing with cancers!

      • Wheninrome


        • Momo

          So the minute you get cancer, you get no treatment because the doctor won’t get paid?


  • Hard1

    Every single variety of pathogen and chemical has had a homeopathic dilution in the sea. That would make drinking seawater the greatest homeopathic cure ever.
    Ask any fish.

    • Except those ones that float on their backs.

    • Momo

      There may be something in that.

      Do fish get cancer, depression, hay fever, headaches?

      • Pharmachick

        Actually, some fish do get certain cancers.

        • Momo

          You’ve shot down my get rich scheme.
          Back to the drawing board.

          • Pharmachick

            Oh dear, maybe chelation therapy?

  • david W

    Given that the placebo rate hovers ~60% (from memory this is for antidepressants), this is quite a high “success” rate. And given that people self select, that is if it doesn’t work they do something else, thus you only get reinforcement from those it works for. It is no surprise that people continue to take it.

    The “side effects” and/or no-cebo (the placebo effect of the negative side effects) would be very low, thus for conditions that a difficult to manage I have no problem trying homeopathy. By difficult to manage I mean things like back pain, depression, headaches, random sore bits, etc. These can be difficult to treat with western medicine, so if someone finds relief via homopathy (or any other method) then I see no problem with it.

  • Ryan

    If governments start banning homeopathic ‘cures’ people might think the ‘cures’ are being banned because they work and the government is colluding with the pharmaceuticals industry to protect the corporation’s profits.

    So it’s better not to ban the ‘cures’ and just let people waste their money on homeopathy if they so desire to.

  • Chrish4

    What worries me most, is if by some miracle it does work – what about the waters “memory” of all the dead fish and effluent that is in my Pump bottle??!

    • Clutch Cargo

      Not to mention that fish have sex in water……how’s that for a memory!!!!!

  • Steve (North Shore)

    If Grandma thinks it works and makes her feel better then let it be. As long as it is affordable Grandma should be happy in her final years.
    There are some who think the money is wasted and would be better as their inheritance, but hey – go earn your own money and leave Grandma alone.
    The children show their true colours as Grandma dies – repugnant

  • Disinfectant

    Once went to the Biodynamic vineyard in Pyramid Valley, North Canterbury where the philosophy is similar to Homeopathic.
    Apparently cows horns in the ground some distance away from the vines make for good healthy wines.
    The experience was bizarre. I thought the people (who were most earnest in their endeavour) were simply mad.

    • david W

      I think what you are talking about is the berrying of manure in cows horns. These are then placed into the ground and left to rot/mature/incubate etc. Then they are dug up and diluted and sprayed.

      This does seem to work and result in healthier plants / more production. Likely due to some bacteriological effect. But unfortunately the interesting stuff gets mixed in with mumbo jumbo like you need to stir the liquid 50 times alternating ways in the bucket to entrap energy from the air into the liquid.

      So it is hard to determine what is good science and what is hocus pocus in a Biodynamic system. I would love to get a massive funding grant to determine what steps are important, and why. ie do some controlled studies changing variables. Unfortunately the “tree huggers” don’t like/trust science and the science boffins look down their noses at the tree huggers. So little collaborative work is done, which is a bit of a pity.

  • Catriona

    For those who dare – take a look at this website – http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org – and read the profile of the Drs who have added Homeopathy to their treatment .
    One of the Drs, Brian Kaplan MBBcH FFM says ‘I consider Homeopathy to be a powerful from of holistic stimulus cable of catalysing the body’s inherent healing abilities”. There are other profiles as well.