The Mythical Placebo Effect: The Science Behind the Efficacy of Homeopathy

Anything that goes against mainstream is bound to face opposition and homeopathic medicine is no different. Homeopathy has faced tremendous scrutiny for over 200 years due to its unconventional way of defining and treating disease. As homeopathic treatment is individualized and remedies are highly dilute, it is often said that homeopathy cannot be considered a valid treatment in disease. This is due to the supposed impossibility to apply standard protocols in clinical trials and the lack of scientific data. Resultantly, many critics who have not done their homework are quick to say that homeopathy is simply placebo.

It seems illogical that the scientific method used in western medicine’s clinical trials should apply to a completely different philosophy of medicine (I.e. Homeopathy that is based on individualized treatment). But these methods have been demanded by the scientific community in order legitimize homeopathy. The fact of the matter is that major studies and independent researchers have demonstrated that homeopathic protocols can fit the methodological standards used in conventional medicine in nosologically defined disorders, in which personalization of symptoms is limited. Unfortunately members of the medical profession and media have failed to perceive the existence of this body of studies.

A highly educational paper for scientific minds to read comes from an Italian Advisory Board titled, Homeopathy: the Scientific Proof of Efficacy. This study hoped to ‘stimulate open-minded physicians’ as many European countries include homeopathic medicine in their legislation (as does Ontario, Canada), and health authorities have approved homeopathic pharmacopoeia thus giving homeopathic medicines the status of ‘drug’ in many countries.

The specific objective of this meta-analysis was to see if it was possible to be certain, beyond a reasonable doubt, that homeopathic medicines have therapeutic effect (or interact with living beings and restore health). The advisory board selected only studies that complied strictly with scientific methodology and criteria used by the international scientific community (I.e. in accordance with Helsinki Declaration on Therapeutic Efficacy). The results were ‘surprising’ to many as they concluded homeopathic medicines undeniably possess therapeutic efficacy.

Homeopathic doctors do not need any confirmation about the validity of this amazing system of medicine as confirmation can been seen daily in the amelioration of their patients. Despite the fact that millions of people worldwide testify that homeopathy can cure illness, this is not enough for most skeptics. Even when scientific evidence is presented they simply refuse to listen.

More in-depth look into Homeopathy: the Scientific Proof of Efficacy:

In this meta-analysis 127 placebo controlled trials were analyzed. Of the 106 clinical trails that compared homeopathy to placebo, 77 (72.6%) showed homeopathy to be superior to placebo. Of the 21 remaining studies that compared homeopathy to corresponding allopathic reference drugs, 21 (100%) demonstrated homeopathic medicine was not therapeutically inferior to the corresponding allopathic drug (Note: ‘not inferior’ is also defined in individual studies as ‘equal’ or ‘superior to’ in many cases).

It is also important to mention that this meta-analysis also confirmed that homeopathic medicine, unlike allopathic drugs, very rarely produce side effects, and that homeopathic remedies are usually less expensive than the corresponding conventional treatment. Thus, there are socio-medical implications surrounding the efficacy of homeopathy versus allopathic medication.

Many of the methodologically correct studies used in this paper that provide proof for homeopathy have been published in homeopathic and non-homeopathic, national and international journals such as the Lancet and the British Medical Journal. Unfortunately these studies have been ignored, minimized or hyper-criticized by the scientific community. For those who need more evidence over 400 publications are obtainable from international databases that relate to controlled clinical trials that demonstrate efficacy of homeopathy. Over 200 studies have been excluded due to their inability to comply with operational protocol from these selective databases.

Example: In 1992 the US Congress implemented the National Institute of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NICAM) to create guidelines to validate the quality of research in this feild. In 1997 they published the ‘Overview of data from homeopathic medicine trials’, in which 184 studies were reviewed for scientific value. It was concluded that the number of scientific results cannot be attributed to chance and therefore, “the null hypothesis that homeopathy has no effect can be rejected with certainty”.

Andrea Hauser, Homeopath