In previous posts, we have discussed how to think about research and where to find a comprehensive research database, how homeopathy works, homeopathic provings as a special type of research, and suggestions on how to plan and prepare clinical case reports. In this post, we point to another vital resource for anyone looking for succinct and reliable information about homeopathy research.
You may know of the excellent work done by The Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI), based in England. But you may not be aware that this organization does far more than funding, coordinating and publishing research, and arranging research conferences. It also provides accessible, concise, reasoned and well supported analysis of homeopathy research as well as other information that can help cast serious doubt on some of the criticisms of homeopathy typically circulated in the media.
A handy research reference
Pouring through scientific research databases can be time-consuming and challenging, so HRI has added a page to their Resources section called “Essential evidence”. This page has several sub-pages, including statistics on homeopathy use in several countries and a quick overview of placebo-controlled clinical trial research. It also provides a concise description of 6 meta-analyses that have so far been done (a meta-analysis is a systematic way of reviewing several similar studies at a time), of which 5 were positive and 1 was negative. Other pages worth checking out touch on homeopathic treatment of specific conditions such as diarrhea or influenza, and studies that compare homeopathic with conventional medical treatment. Interestingly, while the volume of research in homeopathic and conventional medicine research differs greatly, the percentages of positive, negative and inconclusive study results are similar (41-44% positive, 5-7% negative and 49-54% inconclusive). This should certainly create pause for reflection among those who would believe that clinical trials of conventional medicine always show positive results whereas results of trials testing the efficacy of homeopathy are always negative.
Addressing the criticisms
The other page in the Resources section that you could look at is “The homeopathy debate”, which provides analyses of reports that have generated a lot of public discussion, including the negative and frequently cited Shang (et al.) Lancet meta-analysis of 2005, which claimed to be based on more than 100 clinical trials, but was in fact based on only 8, none of which used homeopathy in the way typically employed by clinicians. Another significant policy report reviewed is Homeopathy in Healthcare published in Switzerland in 2011, which concluded: “There is sufficient evidence for the preclinical effectiveness and the clinical efficacy of homeopathy and for its safety and economy compared with conventional treatment”. Based on this report’s findings, homeopathy was subsequently included in the Swiss national healthcare scheme.
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So if you want to stay on top of developments in homeopathy research, you should bookmark these important web pages, and check them regularly since HRI frequently updates them. Even easier, you can sign up for HRI’s newsletter.