Homeopathy! Why do the National Institute of Complementary Medicine continue to defend it?

With age comes wisdom, but for some, age comes alone. Let me explain.

I recently noticed an UK newspaper article which referred to the much discussed Australian NHMRC review on homeopathy (published in 2014). Main finding: Homeopathy was found to be ineffective for 68 medical conditions and “people who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.”  Add to this that there has been a class action lawsuit against a homeopathic company in the US, then the conclusion can easily be drawn that homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo. This was also confirmed by the mass protests where people overdosed themselves with homeopathic medicine – obviously without it having any effect.  Surely then, any scientist will concede that homeopathy simply does not work for any medical condition!

But there is also a much more serious side to this. The clear warning of the NHMRC is that people put their health at risk, not due to the homeopathic medicine itself, but mainly by delaying effective treatments. That this warning is not an overstatement has been tragically demonstrated over and over. Add to this that you can also buy homeopathic medicine for serious conditions such as malaria and HIV, then I would argue that any scientist supporting homeopathy is out of their mind, and is acting not only unethically but in some countries criminally.

Now back to the year 2000. In my previous blog post I discussed the National Institute of Complementary Medicine’s (NICM), hosted by Western Sydney University (WSU), rather misleading statements regarding the efficacy of TCM and CM in general. During those particular radio interviews the statement by the NICM concerning homeopathy was;

“In homeopathy there’s a very difficult field because whilst there are some clinical trials that show benefits, and well-controlled clinical trials that show benefit, the theory that accompanies homeopathy, if anything gets up a medical scientist’s nose”.

Another participant however stated that;

“….so we have seen much better studies about homeopathy. And actually it turned out that most, I would say almost every one of those newer studies, was negative for homeopathy”. 

So even back in 2000 the NICM was trying to convince the public that there are indeed scientific evidence for homeopathy, even though they knew that high quality studies gave negative results.

If we now look at the systematic reviews that the NHMRC included in their 2014 study we find that 51 of the 58 (or 68 of the 176 individual trails) studies were published since 2000. Therefore, in the 14 years since the radio interview almost 90% of the reviews on Homeopathy were published and one might argue that with time comes wisdom and with all this new scientific information the NICM will surely change their stance on homeopathy. Unfortunately, they did not! Their response to the NHMRC report remains the same as what they claimed in 2000. According to the NICM there are a number of high quality clinical trials that support homeopathy and they simply make the NHMRC report look suspect. So, why do they continue to knowingly mislead the public?

The NHMRC stated shortly after the release of their findings the following:

Indeed the International Council for Homeopathy is currently leading a fund-raising effort: not to fund better research, but to attack the NHMRC document.”

And what does the NICM do as an “independent” scientific institute? The highlighted text on page 2 of this document should clarify their stance. They join forces with their (homeopath) sponsors in order to attack the NHMRC report. They don’t do much of the dirty work themselves but they leave that to their partners, specifically the ‘Complementary Medicine Australia’ (CMA) organisation. The CMA promptly publish a report called the; “The Five Fundamental Flaws of the NHMRC Homeopathy Review”. This report is now being used all over the world to ignore the NHMRC’s findings and recommendations.

In previous blog posts I made it clear that the NICM is nothing more than a front company for the complementary medicine industry. For them no amount of science, common sense or even compassion for people who are currently suffering at their hands will be enough to change their views or the views of the university that hosts them. If you are funded by industry or fervent supporters of CM, including homeopathy, then you will never be able to take an unbiased independent scientific stance on homeopathy.

The public needs to get unbiased information from institutes at universities who does not have this level of vested interests, in order to make informed choices regarding healthcare issues. After all, universities are mainly funded by the taxpayer. As it stands now, this is impossible and, in my view, makes the NICM a serious public health threat. This, however, is not an Australian issue but a global issue. With time comes wisdom but only if you seek the truth – and this is not something that the NICM is looking for.

What can you do about all of this?

Unfortunately, if you fall for their trickery and you get hurt, then you will be all alone. The bureaucracy involved is extremely complex so the best thing to do is prevention.  Stop buying their products or using their treatments, and inform yourself and your family and friends about how these people play their game and what the dangers are regarding these ‘treatments’. ‘Friends of Science in Medicine’ provides valuable healthcare information as well as the website of Prof Edzard Ernst, where he discusses everything complementary medicine (what works and what doesn’t). If you are interested in receiving automatic updates regarding the NICM and what they are up to, you can always follow my Blog,  Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.