British researchers on Monday requested the WHO "publicly condemn homeopathy as a treatment for serious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria," amid growing concern that some patients are dying as a result of choosing homeopathy over effective medicines, the Mail & Guardian reports. "The WHO works with national organisations that promote homeopathy and other alternative medicines in their public health programmes," according to the Mail & Guardian.
"Homeopathy practitioners have opened clinics throughout Asian and sub-Saharan Africa and offer to treat patients with HIV, malaria, influenza and childhood diarrhoea, none of which have been shown to respond to homeopathy. Many patients are told that conventional drugs work only temporarily and that homeopathic preparations are cheap and effective alternatives with fewer side effects," the newspaper writes (Mail & Guardian, 6/1).
The statements – issued by the Voice of Young Science Network, which includes doctors and scientists – ask the WHO "to make it clear that homeopathy cannot prevent or treat these five conditions," the London Times reports. The comments come in advance of an international conference to be held in the Netherlands later this week to promote homeopathy in developing countries.
"Homeopathic medicines are made by repeatedly diluting preparations with water until there is no trace left of the original compound" and have been found "usually no more effective than a placebo" in treating disease, according to the newspaper.
"The WHO’s strategy is very unclear on homeopathy and that is shocking," said Daniella Muallem, a biophysicist at University College London, who signed the letter, adding, "They are supposed to be articulating evidence-based medicine, but their stance is very wishy-washy" (Rose, Times, 6/1).
In an open letter to the WHO highlighting homeopathy projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana and Botswana that offer treatments for HIV, malaria, diarrhea or the flu, the researchers wrote, "Those of us working with the most rural and impoverished people of the world already struggle to deliver the medical help that is needed. When homeopathy stands in place of effective treatment, lives are lost" (Mail & Guardian, 6/1).