Re: Links to scientific studies of homeopathy

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Thu, 5 Aug 1999 16:02:36 -0700 (PDT)

In response to my request to document the claimed effectiveness of homeopathic treatment, Mr. Lubkin responded with statistics from three epidemics and citations of two meta-analyses (one even from Lancet). All of the epidemics noted were in the late 19th century before antibiotics. It is likely that the medical treatments of the time were quite harmful, and that therefore homeopathy would have been more effective, so I discount those. It should also be noted that two of the three were cholera, and homeopathic hospitals were at the time necessarily located near sources of fresh water (cholera is caused by waterborne bacteria).

The meta-analyses are harder to dismiss (though all such are susceptible to selection bias and very vulnerable to fraud). Here's what Dr. Stephen Barrett says about them:

>> K. Linde, N. Clausius, G. Ramirez, et al.,
>> "Are the Clinical Effects of Homeopathy Placebo Effects? A
>> Meta-analysis of Placebo-Controlled Trials" Lancet,
>> September 20, 1997, 350:834-843.

  1. None of the published homeopathic meta-analyses shows effectiveness against any specific condition. This paper even acknowledges this.
  2. The tipoff is that they rated the Jacobs Nicaragua study highly when it was completely worthless. I have no way to judge whether similar uncritical thinking impacted on any of the others, but what they did with the study I know best indicates lack of trustworthiness. A few negative studies have been published within the past two years, but I don't know whether they would tip the balance.

>> J. Kleijnen, P. Knipschild, G. ter Riet,
>> "Clinical Trials of Homeopathy" British Medical Journal,
>> February 9, 1991, 302:316-323.

These folks are tops, but the analysis is a bit old. I don't know whether they would draw the same conclusions today.

[End of Dr. Barrett's comments]

Make no mistake: the claims of homeopathy are extraordinary claims that would overturn much of what we think we know about chemistry and biology. Because such extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof, and the proof offered here barely even rises to ordinary, I remain convinced that homeopathy is bunk. Until they can either come up with an explanation that doesn't fly in the face of common sense, or demonstrate an independently-reproducible result at least as good as those demanded for conventional drugs, I will continue to consider homeopathy tantamount to fraud.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC