The evidence for homeopathy comes from two main sources – the studies and trials undertaken, and the experience of the many people who use it. There is a great deal of positive information to be shared that many people don’t know about as it rarely appears in most of the media. What you read here may surprise you.
The Evidence for Homeopathy – What You Need to Know
Is There Any Evidence for Homeopathy?
You have probably heard via the news and some newspapers that there is no evidence for homeopathy. And that is simply inaccurate. In fact, there is a lot of evidence and much is positive. This post is simply to let you know why you need to look and where you can find it! You could say I am biased, as I am a homeopath, so please, do not take my word for any of this. Follow the links, look at the information and make up your own mind.
What is The Evidence for Homeopathy?
The individualised approach of homeopathy does not always lend itself well to clinical trial structures, and the resources needed for large-scale trials are mostly beyond the research and financial resources of those outside of the pharmaceutical industry. However, despite this, there are studies and trials that you can refer to.
Evidence for Homeopathy – Clinical Trials
Of the six major reviews of homeopathy trials undertaken, five were positive. Only one reached a negative conclusion. This one negative study by Shang et al. was published in The Lancet in 2005. This was a bizarre editorial decision on their part as it was also one where the study protocol does not stand up to even brief scrutiny.
110 homoeopathy trials and 110 matched conventional medicine trials were included in this study. But only 8 of the homeopathy trials and 6 from conventional medicine trials were used for the results. In the 8 homeopathy trials selected, the results were less positive as they were the ones where homeopathic remedies were not prescribed on an individual basis, which is the more typical way in which homeopathy is used.
In other words, they selectively chose the least favourable trials from the 110, where homeopathy was not used in the most common and beneficial way. This cherry-picking of data then gave the negative result.
Significantly, the Shang study’s review protocol was so flimsy that if you changed over just one of those 8 trials with one of the other homeopathy trials, it would reverse the result and homeopathy would be shown to have an effect greater than placebo.
This means this meta-analysis would fail a statistical sensitivity analysis. One can only assume that in this instance, when deciding to publish The Lancet editorial team were only concerned with the headline and did not actually read the contents of that very flawed and biased review!
You can read more about the lack of transparency, sensitivity and external validity of this study and its publication in Dr Peter Fisher’s excellent article “Homeopathy and The Lancet”.
More recently, a review by Mathie et al. found that homeopathic medicines, when prescribed on an individual basis, are more likely to have a beneficial effect than placebo. You can find more background information about these and other homeopathy clinical trials on the HRI website.
Evidence for Homeopathy – Observational Studies
Observational studies provide us with another valuable source of evidence for homeopathy. These focus on patient experiences and outcomes of homeopathy. Real life data from clinical practice, such as the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital Clinical Outcome Study, 2005.
“An observational study at Bristol Homeopathic Hospital included over 6,500 consecutive patients with over 23,000 attendances in a six-year period; 70% of follow-up patients reported improved health, 50% major improvement. The largest improvements were reported in childhood eczema or asthma, and in inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, menopausal problems and migraine.” (Source: HRI Website)
There are other observational homeopathic studies that have been undertaken in the UK and Europe.
The EPI3 project in France found fewer drugs were used, with positive outcomes in urinary tract infections, musculoskeletal disorders, and for sleep, anxiety and depressive disorders.
In Tuscany in Italy where homeopathy has been integrated into the public healthcare system they have seen positive results at the three homeopathy clinics in Lucca. The results are measured using an Outcome in Relation to Daily Living (ORIDL) assessment tool. 88.8% of patients experienced improvements, with 68.1% experiencing significant improvements.
Germany has also produced positive studies showing patients benefiting homeopathy with no significant difference in cost. You can read more about these homeopathy studies on the HRI website.
Patient Testimonials – Evidence for Homeopathy
Did you know that over 200 million people worldwide use homeopathy? In the UK it is thought to be around 6 million, 10% of the population, and in France 40% and Germany 27% of the population there.
Our current monarch and members of the UK’s royal family have long been supporters of homeopathy. As have royal families across Europe and Russia. What is significant about this for me is that they have had access to whatever they felt would help their health, and they have chosen homeopathy as part of their healthcare regimen.
Homeopathy is used by athletes and sportsmen and women across the world. You can read more if this area interests you. And you can also read about how a wide range of celebrities have used homeopathy to help with all types of situations.
Given how individually-tailored homeopathic treatment is, it can also be very interesting to look at testimonials people who have used it in everyday life. What it has helped them with and their positive experiences of using homeopathy. You can look up an A-Z of homeopathy testimonials to see the many ways in which homeopathy has helped them.
If you have used homeopathy for your pets, or on a farm, you will know that when it works it cannot be explained away as placebo. Animals are not susceptible to that. Homeopathy at Wellie Level is a homeopathy course for farmers. They are perhaps one of the most down to earth groups of people that you could find using homeopathy. They are only going to use it if it works, is safe and is also cost-effective. You can read some lovely testimonials of their positive experiences of using homeopathy in farm animals.
Ignoring the Positive Evidence & Constructing a Negative Framework
In 2010 The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee ‘Evidence Check’ was published. This failed to include a broad range of relevant evidence for homeopathy, just the 5 major reviews available at the time. It then disregarded the 4 more positive studies and based its conclusion on the one negative study by Shang et al. And, as we know that that is not a statistically robust or reliable study.
There was an astonishing level of bias in terms of the data that was included, and those allowed to participate. Ultimately only 4 MPs voted to ratify it, one of whom abstained, because he was concerned by the “balance of witnesses”. Subsequently, 70 MPs expressed their concern by signing an Early Day Motion (EDM 908). Clearly this report should not be taken seriously or used as part of any NHS decision making.
More recently in 2015, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Report was published. This (second) report concluded that “there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective”. If you have read this far you will know that is untrue.
How they went about creating this report is worthy of Monty Python for sheer lunacy. There was a more positive first report which was undisclosed until a Freedom of Information request. The second report cherry-picked data until it came up with a negative result. The chair of the committee despite declaring no conflict of interest was a member of an anti-homeopathy lobby group. And no experts in homeopathy were included on the committee even though this is a part of NHMRC’s guidelines.
It is hard to conclude anything other than that in both instances the committees involved were more concerned with ensuring a predetermined negative outcome, rather than any semblance of a genuine review of available evidence for homeopathy. And, other than some notable exceptions, it reflects poorly on our media that they have mostly broadcast and published these reviews without apparent concern as to their validity, and seem to ignore positive sources of evidence.
If you would like more details about these and other reports you can visit the HRI’s Homeopathy Debate page.
Could Homeopathy Help Our Struggling NHS?
The NHS is groaning under the weight of an aging population with increasingly complex and multiple health issues. The costs are staggering, and rising. The total NHS drugs bill for the year ending April 2017 was £17.4 billion. That is an increase of 33.7%, up from £13 billion for the year ending April 2011.
“In Europe, where homeopathy is more widely accepted by the medical profession, doctors who integrate the therapy into their practice report lower prescribing costs and fewer hospital referrals. These are the very things the Department of Health is constantly calling on GPs to deliver.” (From More NHS homeopathy, not less – by Dr Andrew Sikorski)
Ignoring the positive evidence for homeopathy, NHS management have decided to decommission homeopathic prescriptions from the NHS. This is a deeply flawed strategy that reduces patient choice and will immediately increase costs – it is utterly self-defeating.
The NHS desperately needs to save money and it is therefore nonsensical to remove treatments that have efficacy and offer a lower cost alternative to more expensive options, and where the doctor and patient both wish to use them.
In a survey of 223 patients in a NHS General Practice, when homeopathic treatment was made available, the number of consultations with general practitioners were reduced by 70% in a 1 year period. Expenses for medication were reduced by 50%. (Ref: Christie EA, Ward AT. Report on NHS practice-based homeopathy project. Analysis of effectiveness and cost of homoeopathic treatment within a GP practice at St. Margaret’s Surgery, Bradford on Avon, Wilts. September 1996. The Society of Homeopaths. ISBH 1 901262 006).
This is a small study, but it should make us curious as to what could be achieved nationally? Imagine the impact – being able to get an appointment more easily with your GP when needed, and more funds available for necessary procedures and medications. When considered alongside the results of the observational studies in both the UK and Europe we should be exploring the potential savings and benefits to healthcare this could bring.
Consider also the increasing resistance to antibiotics, and the consequences we could face if this is not addressed successfully. Trying to find more antibiotics just kicks an expensive can down the road – the problem will resurface later. A recent study found that practices where there were GPs trained in integrative and complementary medicine had lower prescribing rates for antibiotics. Especially for respiratory tract infections, which is a significant proportion of antibiotic prescriptions in the UK.
In Switzerland the Health Technology Assessment report compiled on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health In concluded that homeopathy, as practiced in Switzerland, is clinically effective, cost-effective and safe. And their national healthcare insurance covers complementary medical services, including homeopathy.
I care deeply about the NHS. It is a wonderful resource and we need to be its intelligent custodians for our, and future generations. It is a blinkered and limiting stance that ignores the positive clinical evidence available and the positive experiences of other healthcare systems in Europe. The NHS may well struggle all the more in delivering positive health outcomes and effective budget management if those blinkers stay on.
How Does Homeopathy Work?
One of the most fascinating areas of research in homeopathy is in discovering how the remedies work. Dr Stephen Cartwright has been conducting research work into using light sensitive dyes to detect the presence of remedies and can observe differences between the remedy and the control solutions.
Many medicines with demonstrable effects have been used long before we could definitively explain the exact mechanism of action. If you have had a general anaesthetic you are living proof that has been the case.
Evidence for Homeopathy – Trust the Truth of Your Own Experience
Whilst we are still endeavouring to explain the mechanism of action of homeopathic remedies, what is very clear is that there are demonstrable benefits in using them. There is still scope for wide ranging study into the myriad of different ways in which homeopathy can be of help.
When people say there is not enough evidence for homeopathy I generally ask them what they are basing that on. Usually they have not tried it themselves and so have no direct personal experience to draw upon. And mostly they will not have looked at the information I have shared with you here. They have simply recycled an opinion from someone-else who has also not tried it or read much about it but heard someone say something about it. You get the idea.
There is a wealth of evidence for homeopathy. And the positive evidence we already have suggests that we should be researching and exploring even further. No one system of medicine can help 100% of people 100% of the time. But homeopathy clearly has so much to contribute. We need to be smarter at knowing what to use and when. To be able to intelligently draw on all of the available options.
If homeopathy has already worked for you, your family, farm animals and pets, you already have the evidence of your own experience. And perhaps that is the most powerful evidence of all.
I hope you have found this blog about evidence for homeopathy to be of interest. If you are curious to find out more and see if homeopathy might be helpful for you, I offer a free mini-appointment to see if my approach might suit you. I see patients at clinics in Lewes in East Sussex, and in West Sussex, and also via Skype. Please do contact me.