A review published in The Lancet which claimed that homeopathy is just a placebo, has been slammed as seriously flawed in two separate studies.
Back in August 2005 an editorial in the Lancet entitled 'The End of Homeopathy', prompted by a review comparing clinical trials of homeopathy with trials of conventional medicine claimed that homeopathic medicines are just placebo.
The review was based on 6 clinical trials of conventional medicine and 8 studies of homeopathy but did not reveal the identity of these trials and has been criticised for its opacity as it gave no indication of which trials were analysed and the various assumptions made about the data.
Sufficient detail to enable a reconstruction was eventually published and two recently published scientific papers based on such a reconstruction challenge the Lancet review.
George Lewith, Professor of Health Research at Southampton University says the review gave no indication of which trials were analysed nor of the various vital assumptions made about the data which is not usual scientific practice.
He says if it is presumed that homeopathy works for some conditions but not others, or changes the definition of a 'larger trial', the conclusions change and this indicates a fundamental weakness in the conclusions - and they are not reliable.
Professor Lewith says as analysis of all high quality trials of homeopathy yields a positive conclusion - the 8 larger higher quality trials of homeopathy were all for different conditions; if homeopathy works for some of these but not others the result changes, implying that it is not placebo and the comparison with conventional medicine was meaningless and doubts still remain about the unpublished criteria used in the review, including the definition of 'higher quality'.