August 26, 2005

Homeopathy no better than placebo-analysis

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The clinical benefits
attributed to homeopathic treatment are merely placebo effects,
according to the authors of a report in The Lancet medical

Homeopathy is based on the notion that "like cures like,"
and treatment involves giving a patient small amounts of drugs
that, in larger quantities, cause symptoms like those suffered
by the patient. It also involves a great deal of interaction
between the practitioner and the patient.

In the current article, Dr. Matthias Egger, from the
University of Berne in Switzerland, and associates searched 19
electronic databases covering the period from 1995 to 2003 to
identify scientific trials of homeopathy, and matched them with
trials in conventional medicine.

The team identified 110 trials each of homeopathy and
conventional medicine, or allopathy. They used sophisticated
statistical analysis to score the results of the studies, with
those below 1.0 indicating a beneficial effect of treatment
versus inactive placebo.

Including the largest trials, which were considered the
most reliable, the overall scores were 0.96 for homeopathy and
0.67 for conventional medicine.

Egger and his colleagues say the results provide "no
convincing evidence that homeopathy was superior to placebo,
whereas for conventional medicine an important effect

The Lancet editors weigh in on this topic, saying, "Surely
the time has passed for selective analyses, biased reports, or
further investment in research to perpetuate the homeopathy
versus allopathy debate."

They add: "Now doctors need to be bold and honest with
their patients about homeopathy's lack of benefit, and with
themselves about the failings of modern medicine to address
patients' needs for personalized care."

SOURCE: Lancet, August 27, 2005.