In a discovery that brought out surprising results, a research report in The Lancet had said that the specific effects of homeopathic remedies are as weak as the placebo effects.
Researchers, from University of Berne, Switzerland, had compared 110 placebo controlled, randomized trials of homoeopathy with 110 conventional-medicine trials matched for disorder and type of outcome. The clinical topics studied in the trials ranged from respiratory infections to surgery to anesthesiology. The researchers looked at the treatment effects in smaller, low quality trials and larger trials of higher quality. They found, in both groups, that smaller trials of lower quality showed more beneficial treatment effects than larger and higher-quality trials. However, when the analysis was restricted to large trials of high quality there was no convincing evidence that homoeopathy was superior to placebo, whereas for conventional medicine an important effect remained.
In their conclusion the researchers had said that their study powerfully illustrates the interplay and cumulative effect of different sources of bias. They acknowledge that to prove a negative is impossible, but they feel that they have shown that the effects seen in placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy are compatible with the placebo-hypothesis.
In an accompanying Comment, Jan Vandenbroucke (Leiden University Medical Centre, Netherlands) states: "Science is an intrinsically human affair. When new theories are created and new evidence sought, judgment will retain a subjective element. This does not mean that it is impossible to sift out which interpretation is more valuable . . . The ultimate proof is that science make progress in changing reality: in allopathic [conventional] medicine by preventing, alleviating, and curing disease ever more effectively."
In an accompanying editorial of The Lancet comments: "It is the attitudes of patients and providers that engender alternative-therapy seeking behaviors which create a greater threat to conventional care—and patients' welfare—than do spurious arguments of putative benefits from absurd dilutions . . . 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: Newswise, The Lancet