Homeopathy could soon be declared “baseless and unethical” in Australia

National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia might declare homeopathy as baseless and unethical.

Homeopathy is a branch of alternative medicine based on the principles of “like-cures-like” and “ultra-dilutions”. The first principle says substances that can cause symptoms can be used in diluted form to treat the same symptom in an illness, and the second says the more dilute a substance is, the more potent it is.

A draft public statement seen by The Age concluded it was “unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy, for the reason that homeopathy (as a medicine or procedure) has been shown not to be efficacious”. Although homeopathy continues to enjoy the support of Britain's royal family and is funded through the UK's National Health Service, the House of Commons report found its principles were “theoretically weak” and “scientifically implausible”.

The draft statement by Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council said that although homeopathy was not harmful in its own right, it might pose a risk to patients if safe and efficacious conventional treatments were delayed in favour of homeopathic treatments. It said homeopathy, which uses a large range of animal, plant and mineral products, should not be confused with herbal remedies. A council spokesman would not comment on the draft, but said it was reviewing the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines, including homeopathy, and would release its findings in due course.

Australian Medical Association President Steve Hambleton backed the council's draft statement. He said he hoped it would force health insurers to reconsider their funding of homeopathy, as well as other ''questionable'' therapies such as iridology and reflexology. “I think it will put them in a very difficult situation … If the NHMRC looks at the evidence and says this doesn't work, we can't support it, you'd have to ask the insurers if they will continue to fund something that a very reputable body disagrees with,” he said. The Australian Association of Professional Homeopaths Inc. says 47 health insurers, including Medibank Private and NIB, cover homeopathic consultations and medicines.

Writing in the Journal of Law and Medicine this week, Melbourne barrister Ian Freckleton, SC, said several recent deaths involving homeopaths highlighted the dangers involved when they steered people away from conventional medicine. Dr Freckleton said although many aspects of Western medicine had not been able to stand up to full scientific analysis of their underpinnings over time, there was an “urgent need” for the health sector, consumer protection authorities and policymakers to protect the community from dangerous homeopathic practices.

Australian Homeopathic Association president Greg Cope defended the situation and said there was strong evidence to support the practice, including clinical trials that were now being submitted to the NHMRC for consideration. He said there were about 700 registered homeopaths in Australia under a self-governed registration model, and they worked to a code of conduct. Consultations typically cost $50 to $100, with medicines usually costing a further $10.

Mr Cope said he had been trying to set up a formal registration scheme, similar to those for doctors and nurses. He said health insurers were wise to fund homeopathy, which was used by thousands of Australians. “It's a very popular therapy and I imagine it would reduce their expenses because it attracts people using low-cost healthcare,” he said.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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Comments

  1. Jack Jack Austria says:

    All well and good but but perhaps expand the review to cover western medicine taking into account the number of deaths it causes each year. I don't have figures for Australia but it would be similar to the U.S. where it's the 3rd leading cause of death (never mind all the side effects for survivors of western medicine).

  2. ChristyRedd ChristyRedd United States says:

    Homeopathy is a 200 year-old system of medicine with vast volumes of documented clinical records showing its efficacy.  It has a laudable safety record.  There are hundreds of high quality studies published in 86 respected, peer-reviewed journals showing it produces significant and sometimes substantial health benefits.  Some of them can be seen at:

    www.nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org/articles-research
    www.extraordinarymedicine.org

    The Swiss government released the report of its Health Technology Assesssment of CAM medicines and homeopathy.  It is the most comprehensive evaluation of homeopathy ever conducted by any government.  It shows homeopathy to be as effective as conventional medicines but safer.  It shows that the high dilutions produce no toxic effects.  Although sufficient data regarding cost-effectiveness was not available at the time, it has since been shown that homeopathy is 15.4% less expensive than conventional medicine.

    www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16883077
    www.huffingtonpost.com/.../...cine-_b_1258607.html

    • Wow
      Drew Burdett Drew Burdett United Kingdom says:

      Dropping pure water onto sugar pills, which has not shown any ability to treat any disease in a randomised, placebo controlled, double blinded study is 15.4% cheaper than medicine which has been tested, trialled and has known side-effects? Any comments on the toilet habits of bears or religious tendencies of popes?

    • Nickolas Johnson Nickolas Johnson United States says:

      You are cherry picking studies done under the guise of a bias or studies done with low quality. Homeopathy is theoretically implausible and only shows to be as effective as a placebo. Which, when you think about it, really makes since seeing as they're the exact same thing.
      summaries.cochrane.org/search/site/homeopathy

  3. Sunita Sunita Australia says:

    There are evidences, People, who rely on allopathy treatment without much knowledge and experiences about homeopathy, have a miserable life. Allopathy does not work for many ailments also have side effects. This is all insecurity and jealousy of the allopathic business who are spreading wrong messages in public and playing with the happiness of people for whome homeopathy is a piece of mind.

  4. Dr.kannan Arunachalam Dr.kannan Arunachalam India says:

    Homeopathy Never Fails , I agree with sunita statement, WHO said "Homeopathy is the second largest system in the world" Allopathy people scared,  about growth of homeopathy, lot of people believe homeopathy system, scientifically it was proved. So many incurable conditions were treated by great homeopath.    

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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