The Australian report
In March 2015, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) published an Information Paper on homeopathy.1 This document, designed for the general public, aims to provide a simple summary of their review of the evidence on homeopathy.2
In the Information Paper, the NHMRC concludes that, ‘there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective‘.
This means that, in their opinion, there is insufficient evidence to tell us unequivocally whether homeopathy works or not for these conditions. However following release of the draft version of this report in March 2014, it became clear that this conclusion was widely misunderstood, with people believing it meant that the NHMRC had found unequivocally that homeopathy does not work for the conditions tested.
This misunderstanding triggered widespread media coverage, propagating the completely inaccurate story that the NHMRC has found homeopathy to be no better than placebo for all the conditions tested.3
The real story behind the headlines
The NHMRC’s conclusion was based on their slightly broader statement that, ‘There were no health conditions for which there was reliable evidence that homeopathy was effective.’
If this was the case, it would put homeopathy in the same evidence category as many conventional treatments used in the NHS, but in fact it is inaccurate.
There are reliable studies which show that certain homeopathic treatments are effective for certain conditions; examples of these studies, plus the reasons why they were not included in the NHMRC’s findings are described briefly in the HRI Response to this report.
Public Consultation – getting the facts straight
In June 2014 there was a Public Consultation on the draft Information Paper. The HRI submission provided the NHMRC with full academic comment,
a) identifying fundamental mistakes in their review process which lead to their inaccurate conclusions, and
b) recommending a series of amendments to improve accuracy and prevent further misinterpretation of their work in future.
Being able to bring these issues to the attention of the NHMRC before the document is finalised shows the importance of the public consultation process.
To find out more visit Australian NHMRC review in detail
1. NHMRC Information Paper: Evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy for treating health conditions [March 2015] | Full text
2. Effectiveness of Homeopathy for Clinical Conditions: Evaluation of the Evidence. Overview Report. Prepared for the NHMRC Homeopathy Working Committee by Optum. October 2013 | Full text
3. Homeopathy is bunk, study says. The Guardian, 8 April 2014 | Article