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“Conventional medicine is proven – homeopathy isn’t”

This is a commonly held belief, but in fact the situation is not nearly so clear cut.

Whether we are discussing conventional or homeopathic medicine, science is much more of a grey area than we might wish.

An article in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ)1 looking at the scientific evidence behind NHS treatments found that 46% of 2,500 commonly used NHS treatments are of unknown effectiveness, and only 13% are known to be beneficial:



The amount of research carried out in conventional medicine is vast compared with the relatively new field of homeopathy research, but when you look at the balance of evidence – the percentage of trials which are positive, negative or inconclusive – they are remarkably similar for the two disciplines.

Research must continue in all fields to help policy makers, patients and clinicians make the best possible decisions, but at the moment, many decisions cannot be based on scientific evidence, because there is just insufficient data.

Although there is a perception that decision-making in medicine is evidence-based, “The figures suggest that ….most decisions about treatments still rest on the individual judgements of clinicians and patients.”1


  1. Garrow J S. What to do about CAM? How much of orthodox medicine is evidence based? BMJ, 2007; 335: 951 | PubMed

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