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The EASAC Statement

The European Academies’ Scientific Advisory Council (EASAC) online position statement, Homeopathic Products and Practices1 was published in 2017 to ‘reinforce criticism of the health and scientific claims made for homeopathic products’.  

The Statement claims that the clinical effects of homeopathy are only due to placebo because homeopathic products have no biological effect. EASAC conclude with recommendations for EU regulation of homeopathy, advocating for a ‘level playing field’ and public engagement in the debate.

The Statement was produced by a Working Group of European Science Academy members giving the Statement the appearance of scientific authority.

EASAC announced their Statement with a press release claiming it was a ‘new evaluation from EASAC’2 shortly followed by an accompanying commentary piece in the well-respected Journal of Internal Medicine (JIM)3.

However, despite appearances, the EASAC Statement is unscientific, based on highly selective citations and inaccurately presents the evidence base for homeopathy, thus failing in its primary remit to accurately inform consumers and EU policy makers about the evidence for homeopathy.

Representatives of HRI and WissHom met with EASAC President Prof. Thierry Courvoisier to raise concerns over the lack of objectivity and scientific rigour in the process that led to the publication of the EASAC statement. He replied, ‘‘It was never our intention to write a balanced statement …’ (25 April 2018).

The official response by BPI (a German national pharmaceutical industry trade association) highlights the fact that this Statement was produced by “a working group of 11 scientists acting in an individual capacity”, reminding us also that it was EASAC’s own decision to produce the Statement – it was not done at the request of the European Union (EU) or by any EU Member State.

EASAC Statement key facts

  • The EASAC Statement was never intended to be a balanced statement on the evidence for homeopathy (EASAC President, April 2018) – it was prepared to ‘reinforce criticism of the health and scientific claims made for homeopathic products’
  • Was written by a Working Group of 11 scientists “acting in an individual capacity” who openly stated they would start from the premise homeopathy is placebo because it cannot have a biological effect, and that there is no valid research supporting its use4
  • Contains nothing new at all: despite a press release claiming it was a ‘new evaluation from EASAC’2 the authors of the statement were clear they did not carry out any new evaluation or analysis
  • Is an unscientific collation of largely out of date, cherry-picked negative studies, along with websites, blogs, opinion pieces, commentaries and ‘grey literature’ reports
  • Makes extraordinary unsubstantiated claims and misses out entire sections of the evidence base e.g. EASAC state that homeopathy practitioners “recommend products that they know are biologically ineffective”1, yet fail to include any of the published data from experiments showing biological effects of homeopathic medicines e.g. in plant models and immortalised cell lines.
  • Is an inaccurate representation of the evidence base for homeopathy, but a useful summary of arguments used by anti-homeopathy lobbyists
  • Fails in its primary remit to accurately inform consumers and EU policy makers about the evidence for homeopathy

The late Dr Peter Fisher, leading expert in conventional medicine and homeopathy research, summarised the EASAC Statement perfectly in his editorial, ‘Homeopathy and intellectual honesty’:

“’Homeopathic products and practices’ makes no attempt at a transparent, objective or scientific view of homeopathy.  It is an abuse of authority by the European Academies of Science. The motto of the UK Royal Society, a member of EASAC is ‘Nullius in verba’ meaning ‘Take nobody’s word for it’. Readers of the statement should heed that advice.”5

EASAC’s website describes its role as providing ‘independent science-based advice for Europe’, but on the topic of Homeopathy ‘independent’ should not be confused with ‘objective’.

For further details, including outcomes from HRI engaging directly with EASAC to address this issue, see HRI Analysis of EASAC Statement 2017.

ReferencesLess

  1. EASAC. ‘Homeopathic Products and Practices – Assessing the Evidence and Ensuring Consistency in Regulating Medical Claims in the EU’. 20 September 2017 [Full text]
  2. EASAC. Homeopathy: harmful or helpful? European scientists recommend an evidence-based approach. Press release 20 September 2017. [Link]
  3. Fears R, et al. Assessing and regulating homeopathic products. Journal of Internal Medicine, 2017; 282:563-565
  4. Call for experts: EASAC working group homeopathy. 14 June 2016. [Link]
  5. Fisher P. Homeopathy and intellectual honesty. Homeopathy, 2017; 106:191-193 [Abstract]
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