An article published in the Lancet (vol 366, 27 August 2005) authored by Swiss researchers led by Aijing Shang, PhD, of the University of Berne, purports that clinical effects of homeopathy are no better than placebo. This meta-analysis, an evaluation of previously published research, in the end draws upon only 14 trials (8 homeopathic, and 6 conventional medicine) to make its conclusion. As documented in numerous international critiques and in selected articles on this web page, the study has several significant methodological flaws and was published with a “transparent bias” on the part of the authors. Shang’s article was coupled with an editorial that professed broad conclusions about the efficacy and future of homeopathy. Homeopathy has withstood many attacks and criticisms from the conventional medical realm in its 200 year history. However, this latest Lancet publication appears to be an attempt to discredit homeopathy no matter how weak the study employed and no matter how unsuitable the research methods.
As practitioners of the world’s second largest form of medicine, homeopaths here in British Columbia, Canada, are joined by international researchers in their criticism of this recent Lancet publication.
On 20 September 2005 the following International Press Release was issued:
Universal Condemnation for The Lancet’s Stance on Homeopathy
Scientists and experts from around the world are condemning the Swiss evaluation of homeopathy trials and The Lancet medical journal for publishing such a poor quality report on 26 August (1). Leading homeopaths and researchers from the USA, India, Greece, Canada, Italy, Ireland, Norway, Germany and the UK, many of them medically qualified, are calling for an end to this kind of attack on homeopathy.
At least six previous similar evaluations of homeopathy trials have all shown an effect over and above placebo. One of these studies was published by the European Commission.
The report professes to be based on 110 homeopathy studies, but in the end selected only 8 studies to draw the conclusion that homeopathy is no better than placebo. The article admits that some high quality studies showed that homeopathy works, but these were ruled out.
“Out of the millions of trials in conventional medicine, their primary outcome relies on the comparison of ridiculously small numbers – 8 trials of homeopathy and 6 trials of conventional medicine.” says Dr. Joyce Frye, from the University of Pennsylvania.
Prof. Chaturbhuja Nayak, Director of the India Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy, challenges the study: “It conflicts with the previous meta-analyses published in the same journal in the years 1994 and 1997 where homeopathy was proved to be effective. It seems that the authors have begun their work with a bias.”
Medical doctors agree: Dr. Paolo Bellavite, professor of General Pathology, University of Verona and Dr. Giuseppina Pitari, professor of Biochemistry, University of L’Aquila, went further: “A prejudice against homeopathy is shown by the authors. As a matter of fact, there is much data to support the evidence of a physical and chemical plausibility of homeopathy along with a strong scientific consistency but this evidence has been ignored.”
The Guernsey branch of the British Medical Association (BMA) has defended the inclusion of homeopathy in some of its doctors’ services.
Mikel Aickin PhD, Research Professor at the University of Arizona commented: “The Lancet article appears to be part of a recent trend, in which medical journals are publishing articles of exceedingly low quality to justify attacks on controversial therapies.”
The Lancet’s Senior Editor, Zoë Mullan, admits an inherent conflict on the part of the authors: “Prof Eggers stated at the outset that he expected to find that homeopathy had no effect other than that of placebo. His “conflict” was therefore transparent. We saw this as sufficient”.
The international list of experts in homeopathy below, as well as their professional bodies, are calling for and end to such unjustified attacks on homeopathy.
1. Shang et al . Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? Lancet 2005;366 (9487):726-733
For the full critique of, “Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects?” by leading UK researchers in this field see: Kate Chatfield and Clare Relton
For further information please contact:
• Society of Homeopaths
Melanie Oxley RSHom – Communications Manager 0845 450 6611 firstname.lastname@example.org
• Kate Chatfield RSHom – Researcher, University of Central Lancashire 01772 893697 email@example.com
• Clare Relton RSHom – Researcher, ScHARR, University of Sheffield 0114 22 20752 firstname.lastname@example.org
• Zoe Mullan – Editor, The Lancet, 0207 424 4910 email@example.com
• USA Peter Gold, NCH 860 674 1500 firstname.lastname@example.org
• Canada Cynthia Shepard, NASH 250 519 0695 email@example.com
• Germany Carl Classen, VKHD 0049-721-463235 firstname.lastname@example.org
• Italy Paolo Roberti email@example.com
• India Chaturbhuja Najak, ICCR 91 1128 525523 firstname.lastname@example.org