Homeopathy – Significant news August 2019


This week the Homeopathic Community are able to report significant news.

It is a complex issue and I will do my best to report on it succinctly.

It concerns the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC):  In 2012 an extensive homeopathic review was conducted by the University of South Australia. The research team was headed by a reputable scientist, author of NHMRC’s own guidelines on how to conduct evidence reviews.  The review was written up as a draft report entitled ‘The Effectiveness of Homeopathy: An overview review of secondary evidence’. The author concluded that there is “encouraging evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy” in five medical conditions.  Professor Fred Medelsohn, (a member of the NHMRC expert committee) described the report as ‘rigorous’, ‘thorough’, ‘systematic’, ‘unbiased’ and ‘convincing’. The project was paid for by tax payers with the aim to educate the Australian public. The report went unpublished. The report has been released by the NHMRC this week (August 2019) after a lengthy campaign by the Australian Homeopathic Association, Homeopathic Research Institute and several other stakeholders following several Freedom of Information requests.

When the 2012 draft report was complete the NHMRC discontinued the research contract with the University of South Australia and recruited ‘OptumInsight’ to carry out another review. This was published in 2015 the results concluded with the following statement “…there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective”. The NHMRC reported that this study was a review of 1800 studies but in fact it was only 176. It transpires that the research team disregarded any study that had less than 150 participants as ‘unreliable’.   (Even though the NHMRC frequently uses studies with less than 150 participants.)  Further, the level of significance in this review was set abnormally high. Consequently 171 of the trials were thrown out.  The 2015 review has been used in several countries by governments to inform public health policy. In the UK public NHS funding has been withdrawn. 

Prof Anne Kelso CEO of the NHMRC 26th August 2019 released the following statement about the findings of the 2015 Homeopathy Review: “Contrary to some claims, the review did not conclude that homeopathy was ineffective.”

Complaints to the Commmonwealth Ombudsman in 2016 have resulted in a full investigation into the conduct of the NHMRC.  They are currently answering charges of bias, conflict of interest and scientific misconduct.

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