Following an extremely extensive and rigorous study, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has published their final statement on the evidence regarding the use of homeopathic products in the treatment of health conditions. Their primary conclusion is:
there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.
Many New Zealand pharmacies sell a range of homeopathic products. In September 2014, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint laid by the Society for Science Based Healthcare against an advertisement for a homeopathic jet lag prevention product (“No-Jet-Lag”) in an Auckland pharmacy, where an in-store display misleadingly claimed “it really works”.
The pharmacy involved in the complaint agreed to stop selling this product in the event that the complaint was upheld, but this particular product is still promoted and sold in many pharmacies across the country. Many other homeopathic products, such as the New Zealand made NaturoPharm range, are also sold in many New Zealand pharmacies.
An industry code of ethics published by the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand requires that:
[Pharmacists] must:… Only purchase, supply or promote any medicine, complementary therapy, herbal remedy or other healthcare product where there is no reason to doubt its quality or safety and when there is credible evidence of efficacy.
Pharmacy Council’s Safe Effective Pharmacy Practice Code of Ethics Section 6.9
It is abundantly clear that this is not the case for any homeopathic product. As such, it is imperative that all responsible pharmacists should immediately stop promoting and selling homeopathic products in response to this report from the NHMRC.
Consumers should be able to rely on pharmacists and pharmacy sales assistants to only provide reliable healthcare advice and to only promote reliable healthcare products. Until pharmacies stop promoting and selling homeopathic products, this will not be the case.
Homeopathy is based on the principles that substances which cause symptoms in a healthy person can cure them in a sick person, and that more diluted substances have stronger effects. Homeopathic products are typically diluted to such an extreme level that no original ingredients are present in the final product.
The NHMRC assessed over 1,800 scientific papers in their review of the literature. Of these, 225 met their criteria that required they were well-designed with a sufficient sample size, and compared the experimental homeopathic treatment with a placebo.
Their conclusions should come as a surprise to no one familiar with the evidence for homeopathy. It has never been supported by the body of scientific evidence, and this is the latest in a long line of reports with essentially the same finding:
In 2013, the NHMRC published a report based on their research that found:
There is a paucity of good-quality studies of sufficient size that examine the effectiveness of homeopathy as a treatment for any clinical condition in humans. The available evidence is not compelling and fails to demonstrate that homeopathy is an effective treatment for any of the reported clinical conditions in humans.
A 2010 report from the UK House of Commons concluded:
homeopathy is a placebo treatment.
Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy
A 2010 systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy published in the Medical Journal of Australia concluded:
The findings of currently available Cochrane reviews of studies of homeopathy do not show that homeopathic medicines have effects beyond placebo.
Homeopathy: what does the “best” evidence tell us?
A 2002 systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology concluded that:
the hypothesis that any given homeopathic remedy leads to clinical effects that are relevantly different from placebo or superior to other control interventions for any medical condition, is not supported by evidence from systematic reviews. Until more compelling results are available, homeopathy cannot be viewed as an evidence-based form of therapy.
A systematic review of systematic reviews of homeopathy