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Need any more proof that homeopathy is useless? We've just got it, so let's finally end this farce

A new study has found that homeopathy is effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses

Vials containg pills for homeopathic remedies are displayed at Ainsworths Pharmacy on August 26, 2005 in London.
Vials containg pills for homeopathic remedies are displayed at Ainsworths Pharmacy on August 26, 2005 in London.

The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia recently published what might be the most thorough evaluation of homeopathy ever since it began 200 years ago.

They assessed 176 individual clinical trials focused on 68 different conditions, and had two conclusions. Firstly, that there is no evidence that homeopathy works better than placebo and, secondly, that patients may harm themselves if they use homeopathy instead of effective therapies.

I warned against homeopathy in 2002, and a range medical experts have been vocal about the dangers of homeopathy for many years now. Yet homeopaths around the world seemed shocked by the news of this study, and are now on the warpath to suppress it.

Their reaction is ridiculous. As Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1842, "[homeopathy is] a mingled mass of perverse ingenuity, of tinsel erudition, of imbecile credulity, and of artful misinterpretation, too often mingled in practice… with heartless and shameless imposition.” And yet, 174 years later, people still continue to believe.

Homeopaths have claimed for the last 200 years that science was not yet able to explain how it works. In other words, they believe they're ahead of their time. However, scientists have always been perfectly able to affirm that there cannot be an explanation for homeopathy that does not fly in the face of science.

“The proof is in the pudding”, homeopaths countered, “if patients benefit from homeopathy, it works regardless what the science tells us!” This argument too has long been shown to be based on little more than the delusion of homeopaths. Patients benefit from the therapeutic encounter, from the placebo-effect and from other phenomena that are unrelated to the sugar pills dished out by homeopaths. To convey such benefits to their patients, clinicians do not need placebos. Administering truly effective treatments with compassion will make them benefit from both the specific and the non-specific effects of the therapy in question. This means that just using placebos like homeopathics is unethical and amounts to cheating the patient.

Given the overwhelming evidence against homeopathy it now seems like the time to act. There is no reason any longer for anyone to believe in homeopathy. Pretending there is room for a legitimate debate is merely misleading the public. There is no reason to have homeopathy on the NHS, to pay for homeopathic hospitals, or to invest into further research. After researching the subject for more than two decades, I am convinced that the only legitimate place for homeopathy is in the history books.

Edzard Ernst is author of ‘A Scientist in Wonderland’ and blogs at: edzardernst.com,

Follow Edzard on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EdzardErnst​

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