Society of Homeopaths Research Ebulletin
“Up to the end of 2011, there have been 164 peer-reviewed papers reporting randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in homeopathy. This represents research in 89 different medical conditions. Of those 164 RCT papers, 71 (43%) were positive, 9 (6%) negative and 80 (49%) non-conclusive1”.
The fact that 80 trials were inconclusive highlights the need for changes in the way homeopathy research is conducted in future to ensure that meaningful results are generated from clinical trials. Three key factors for improving the clinical trial evidence base for homeopathy are2:
- the need for larger scale trials with larger sample sizes (commonly prevented by a lack of funding)
- the use of research methods that are better suited to the task of testing homeopathy as a complex individualised therapy (such as pragmatic trials which allow treatment by a homeopath as experienced in real world practice, to be compared)
- assess the value of homeopathy across a wider range of illnesses with repetition in each condition.
Given that homeopathy is a holistic therapy (treating the person as a whole rather than treating specific diseases) it can appear contradictory to have research trials testing homeopathic treatment of specific medical conditions. There are three main reasons why researchers are performing clinical trials that assess how effective homeopathic treatment is for a specific disease, working through this apparent clash of philosophies:
- Patients considering seeing a homeopath often ask whether homeopathy can help with the health problem that is bothering them most (their chief complaint)
- When another medical professional refers a patient to a homeopath they may want to know what track record the therapy has in treating that specific disease
- The NHS provides the majority of medical services according to disease categories. So for homeopathy to be included in the range of services offered by specific departments, research needs to demonstrate that homeopathic treatment is effective in treating specific conditions.
Research in homeopathy is a wide field and clinical trials are just one of many different avenues being pursued by researchers world-wide to build the evidence base for homeopathy, particularly the evidence base for homeopathy in practice.
The British Homeopathic Association has prepared a comprehensive list of positive trials investigating specific medical conditions that can be accessed here http://www.britishhomeopathic.org/conditions-with-overall-positive-evidence-for-homeopathy/.