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Facts about the NHMRC Homeopathy Review

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA) has issued guidelines as part of its Choosing Wisely campaign recommending not to ‘promote or provide homeopathic products as there is no reliable evidence of efficacy’, exclusively citing the 2015 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Homeopathy Review.

The PSA recommendation is inaccurate and highly selective in omitting reference to broader positive and up to date research evidence. The following facts concerning the 2015 NHMRC Homeopathy Review should be noted:

  • No original research papers were retrieved or assessed
  • Secondary sources (systematic reviews) were exclusively relied upon, most of which (88%) the reviewer assessed to be ‘poor quality’ and therefore not fit for purpose.
  • NHMRC said the findings were based on a “rigorous assessment of over 1800 studies”. In fact results were based on only 176 studies. Effectiveness studies, basic research (e.g. in vitro, animal, plant, cell, physico-chemical studies), as well as cost-effectiveness, safety and quality studies were all excluded.
  • The main Review did not include any studies published post-2012 and is therefore years out of date.

The NHMRC Statement on Homeopathy cited by the PSA, which states that people ‘may put their life at risk’ by using homeopathy or homeopathic products, represents opinion and is not evidence based. This is because the NHMRC Review did not assess any safety data. Homeopathy has an exemplary safety record internationally.

Commonwealth Ombudsman investigation into NHMRC Homeopathy Review

The NHMRC Homeopathy Review has been under investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman regarding issues of scientific and administrative misconduct, supported by independent scientific investigation and Freedom of Information (FOI) documents. The following has not been publicly revealed by the NHMRC:

 The 2015 report declaring there is ‘no reliable evidence’ for homoeopathy was not the original findings but NHMRC’s SECOND attempt. The FIRST review conducted in 2012 and its cost was buried.

 FOI requests have revealed that a member of NHMRC’s expert committee overseeing the review process confirmed the first review to be high quality saying, “I am impressed by the rigor, thoroughness and systematic approach given to this evaluation [….] Overall, a lot of excellent work has gone into this review and the results are presented in a systematic, unbiased and convincing manner.”

 FOI requests show that the research protocol for the SECOND review was retrospectively manipulated between April and July 2013 – months after the original protocol had been finalised in December 2012 and after the second contractor had completed collating and assessing the evidence in March 2013.

 None of these midstream changes to the protocol, or their impact on the findings, were reported.

 This resulted in a method that has never been used in any other review, before or since. NHMRC decided that for trials to be ‘reliable’ they had to have at least 150 participants and reach an unusually high threshold for quality. NHMRC routinely conducts and funds studies with less than 150 participants.

 These unprecedented and arbitrary rules meant the results of 171 of the 176 trials were disregarded as being ‘unreliable’, leaving only 5 trials considered to be ‘reliable’. As all 5 of these trials were assessed as negative, this explains how NHMRC concluded that there was no ‘reliable’ evidence.

 In 2013, NHMRC contracted the Australasian Cochrane Centre to review its methods. Cochrane raised key unresolved methodological problems and also advised: “when a substantial proportion of small (but good quality) studies show significant differences, […] ‘no reliable evidence’ does not seem an accurate reflection of the body of evidence.” This advice was ignored and not disclosed to the public.

 Another expert reviewer advised NHMRC: “The dismissal of positive systematic reviews compounded with the lack of an independent systematic review of high quality randomised controlled trials leaves me uncertain of the definitive nature of the Report’s conclusions.” The advice was also ignored and hidden.

 No homoeopathy clinical, research or subject experts were included on the Homeopathy Working Committee (HWC), in breach of mandatory NHMRC standards and ethical research protocols.

 Senior NHMRC officials – including the CEO and Chairman – expressed personal and organisational anti-homoeopathy positions before, during and after the review. The first Chair of the HWC was a member of the extreme anti-homoeopathy political lobby group ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ and the replacement Chair expressed negative views in the media that exceeded the scope of the HWC’s terms of reference

More Than Skin Deep

Eddie, eight months old, had a rash which seemed related to teething and excessive salivation. A number of barrier and rash creams had had no effect. The rash looked red and swollen.

The baby was very restless and seemed "cranky", particularly in the evening. He kept on rubbing the rash, causing some fluid to discharge from one vesicle but was tearful and screamed when the rash was touched during washing or applying cream. His mother had been using a flannel soaked in warm water to wipe the area since Eddie seems to dislike the touch of cold water.

Eddie wanted to be carried but still constantly fretted. This was particularly bad around midnight; he just would not settle.

Homœopathy seeks to treat the whole person rather than one condition in isolation, so all symptoms occurring at the same time are taken into consideration.

When asked whether there are any other complaints, Eddie's mother explains that for the past month he had been constipated off and on for a few days at a time. He had passed a very smelly stool the day before and it was really loose. When offered water, Eddie just took a little at a time.

How was Eddie's appetite? He was still breast feeding but had been off milk since the day before. He seemed to drink very little at a time and then get irritated and fuss. His mother wondered if his chin felt sore. Eddie did not want any solids but accepted a few bites of really mushy food now and again.

His temperature had been raised around midnight the night before but on examination only the area covered in the rash felt warm. He stiffened when his tummy was touched and seemed to feel uncomfortable. His chest is clear.

After receiving the homœopathic medicine, the rash quickly subsided and Eddie was a much happier child. His mother was delighted and booked him in for treatment to strengthen his constitution, following this acute episode.

Dimple Kirpalani, AHA Professional member, Aubin Grove & Bassendean - WA

Facts about homoeopathy & homoeopathy research

Homoeopathy is used by hundreds of millions of patients in primary healthcare settings internationally, prescribed by an estimated 500,000 medically trained health practitioners.

Homoeopathy is integrated into the healthcare systems of many countries, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognising it as the most used form of traditional medicine in developed countries and the second most used in developing countries [1]

In the European Union, homoeopathic medicines are pharmacy-only products used by 29% of the population in daily healthcare [2]. In France it is used by around 50% of the population.

The EU Commission acknowledges the strong public demand for homoeopathic products, emphasising that it “is not for the Commission to take sides for or against a particular style of medical practice”, instead focussing on its statutory role of harmonising quality standards to ensure public access to safe and high quality medicines, and supporting user choice [3]. In Australia homoeopathic products are recognised and regulated as therapeutic goods.

Homoeopathy research:

By the end of 2014, 189 randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of homeopathy on 100 different medical conditions had been published in peer-reviewed journals. Of these, 104 papers were placebo-controlled: 41% found that homoeopathy was effective, 54% were inconclusive and only 5% were negative [4] – strikingly similar to the findings of RCTs of conventional medicine (44%, 49% and 7%, respectively [5]).

Close to 75% of laboratory and in vitro experiments on ultra-high dilute homoeopathic medicines show the substance having a biological effect and to date nearly 75% of replications have been positive [6]. Reproducibility of these results is increasing as scientists are better understanding factors influencing the results [7].

Evidence from observational studies examining the effectiveness of homoeopathy in real-world clinical settings consistently show that patients improve clinically following homoeopathic treatment, often from chronic, difficult to treat conditions [8]. Some of these studies also highlight areas of potential economic benefit in terms of reduced prescribing of conventional drugs.

A comprehensive 2012 Swiss Health technology Assessment of homoeopathic research concluded that evidence from laboratory studies and clinical research shows that homoeopathy is clinically effective, cost effective and safe [9]. Switzerland officially integrated homoeopathy into its healthcare system in 2017 through popular demand.

Some examples of recent high quality research into homoeopathy include:

  • A recent high quality meta-analysis found that homoeopathic medicines, when prescribed during individualised treatment, are 1.5- to 2.0-times more likely to have a beneficial effect than placebo [10]. This finding passed stringent sensitivity analysis, meaning its finding are robust.
  • A 2015 placebo-controlled RCT assessed the efficacy of individualised homoeopathic treatment and of Fluoxetine (a.k.a Prozac), for moderate to severe depression in menopausal women [11]. Both treatments were found to be safe and to have an effect significantly different from placebo. Homoeopathy caused greater clinical improvement in symptoms of depression than fluoxetine and also improved the patients’ menopausal symptoms, whereas fluoxetine did not.
  • In a triple-blinded RCT involving 52 pregnant sows treated with either Coli 30K (a homoeopathic medicine made from E. coli bacteria) or placebo, the sows gave birth to 525 piglets and those in the group treated with Coli 30K had 6 times less diarrhoea than the piglets in the placebo group. This result was highly statistically significant (p < 0.0001)[12]. E. coli infection is major problem in agriculture.
  • A large study at Bristol Homeopathic Hospital followed over 6,500 consecutive patients with over 23,000 attendances over a six-year period. 70% of follow-up patients reported improved health, while 50% reported major improvement [13]. In France, a major study following 8,559 patients attending GP practices assessed the effectiveness of homoeopathic treatment, demonstrating positive outcomes in common conditions, including upper respiratory tract infections and musculoskeletal disorders [14].
Homeopathy research database – CORE-Hom:

A wealth of clinical and basic research into homoeopathy has been conducted and published in peer reviewed journals. The Clinical Outcome Research in Homeopathy database (15) comprises over 1200 clinical studies on homeopathy (from RCTs to observational studies) and is the most comprehensive and academically rigorous database of its kind in the world. The Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI) (16), an innovative international charity created to address the need for high quality scientific research in homoeopathy, is an excellent resource.

      1. WHO Global Atlas of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Map Volume, 2005, page 63, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/43108/1/9241562862_map.pdf?ua=1
      2. Homeopathic medicinal products. Commission report to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Directives 92/73 and 92/74
      3. EU Commission, COM(90) 72 final of 22.03.1990, Explanatory Memorandum and Report to the Council.
      4. http://www.facultyofhomeopathy.org/research/
      5. El Dib RP, Atallah AN, Andriolo RB. Mapping the Cochrane evidence for decision making in health care. J Eval Clin Pract., 2007;13(4):689-92 | PubMed
      6. Witt CM, Bluth M, Albrecht H, Weisshuhn TE, Baumgartner S, Willich SN. The in vitro evidence for an effect of high homeopathic potencies–a systematic review of the literature. Complement Ther Med., 2007;15(2):128-38 | PubMed
      7. Endler P, Thieves K, Reich C, Matthiessen P, Bonamin L, Scherr C, Baumgartner S. Repetitions of fundamental research models for homeopathically prepared dilutions beyond 10(-23): a bibliometric study. Homeopathy, 2010; 99(1):25-36
      8. Oberservational Studies on Homeopathy. https://www.hri-research.org/resources/essentialevidence/observational-studies/
      9. Homeopathy in Healthcare: Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs by Gudrun Bornhöft and Peter F. Matthiessen (Editors). 2011. ISBN 978-3-642-20637-5.
      10. Mathie, R. T. et al. (2014) Randomised placebo-controlled trials of individualised homeopathic treatment: systematic review and meta-analysis, Syst Rev, 3:142
      11. Macías-Cortés ED et al. Individualized homeopathic treatment and fluoxetine for moderate to severe depression in peri- and postmenopausal women (HOMDEP-MENOP study): a randomized, double-dummy, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. PLoS One, 2015 ;10(3):e0118440 | Full text
      12. Camerlink I, Ellinger L, Bakker EJ, Lantinga EA. Homeopathy as replacement to antibiotics in the case of Escherichia coli diarrhoea in neonatal piglets. Homeopathy, 2010; 99: 57–62 | PubMed
      13. Spence D, Thompson E A, Barron S J. Homeopathic treatment for chronic disease: a 6-year university-hospital outpatient observational study. J Altern Complement Med, 2005; 5: 793-798
      14. Grimaldi-Bensouda, L. et al. Benchmarking the burden of 100 diseases: results of a nationwide representative survey within general practices. BMJ Open 1, e000215 (2011)
      15. CORE-Hom research database: https://www.hri-research.org/resources/research-databases/core-hom/
      16. Homeopathy Research Institute. https://www.hri-research.org/

Further Resources:

Your Health Your Choice – https://www.yourhealthyourchoice.com.au

Release the First Report – https://releasethefirstreport.com/

Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI) – https://www.hri-research.org/

AHA wins Industry Award for 'Your Health Your Choice' campaign

THE Australian Homoeopathic Association’s Your Health Your Choice campaign has taken out a National Award as Australia’s largest campaign to protect natural therapies.

The campaign, managed by the AHA and created in conjunction with media agency Adoni Media was launched on July 18.

Your Health Your Choice unites consumers, practitioners and supporters of homoeopathy, complementary medicine and natural therapies like never before.

Peak body, Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA), presented AHA President Gerry Dendrinos and AHA Vice-President Petrina Reichman with the Judges Choice Award at the 18th annual CMA Gala Dinner on October 26 in Sydney.

In accepting the award Mr Dendrinos told the 400-strong crowd that Your Health Your Choice was “a campaign that is not just owned by the AHA but owned by all of you, together, to protect the rights of people to improve their health, so thank you”.

More than 10,000 people joined Your Health Your Choice in its first week and four months on, the campaign website shows nearly 70,000 signatures.

2017 10 CMA Awards Night website

The campaign is designed to give the two in three Australians who use natural medicines a voice against regulatory change and bias that’s threatening consumer choice in healthcare.

The campaign has actively been protesting proposed changes by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) that will impact homoeopathic products, tissue salts, flower essences and aromatherapy essential oils.

Consumers are fighting alongside practitioners, angry at ongoing attacks.

When the Federal Government announced it was cutting the private health insurance rebate for natural therapies more than 32,000 people signed up and joined Your Health Your Choice in a matter of days.

The campaign, which sends letters on behalf of supporters to Federal MPs, is calling for a Senate Inquiry into the National Health and Medical Research Council’s review into homoeopathy.

Australian journalist and founder of Adoni Media, Leisa Goddard, said Your Health Your Choice represents all 17 modalities that are being targeted, including homoeopathy.

“The objective was to give people a voice that would be heard in Canberra and we are doing exactly that. Within weeks of Your Health Your Choice being launched the campaign was on the political radar with the Federal Health Department adding it to its current issues list,” Ms Goddard said.

Your Health Your Choice calls on the two in three Australians who use complementary medicines and/or natural therapies to sign the Senate Petition to expose why the Government is ignoring positive evidence that natural medicines are effective.

The digital campaign through Facebook has engaged thousands of people around the world with single posts reaching audiences of more than half a million people.

For more information please contact:

Leisa Goddard - AHA campaign manager

+61 7 3310 8776

Adoni Media

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