World Health Organization Warns Against Use of Homeopathy
In response to an open letter from scientists and researchers, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a unequivocal statement that it does not support the use of homeopathy for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, influenza and infant diarrhea.
Today, the Voice of Young Science Network, part of the group Sense About Science, issued an open letter to health ministries around the world, to highlight the WHO statement and fight the growing use of homeopathy, which is nothing more an elaborate placebo system.
Here are highlights of some of the responses from WHO officials.
Dr Mario Raviglione, Director, Stop TB Department, WHO: “Our evidence-based WHO TB treatment/management guidelines, as well as the International Standards of Tuberculosis Care (ISTC) do not recommend use of homeopathy.”
Dr Mukund Uplekar: TB Strategy and Health Systems, WHO: “WHO’s evidence-based guidelines on treatment of tuberculosis…have no place for homeopathic medicines.”
Dr Teguest Guerma, Director Ad Interim, HIV/AIDS Department, WHO: “The WHO Dept. of HIV/AIDS invests considerable human and financial resources […] to ensure access to evidence-based medical information and to clinically proven, efficacious, and safe treatment for HIV… Let me end by congratulating the young clinicians and researchers of Sense About Science for their efforts to ensure evidence-based approaches to treating and caring for people living with HIV.”
Dr Sergio Spinaci, Associate Director, Global Malaria Programme, WHO: “Thanks for the amazing documentation and for whistle blowing on this issue… The Global Malaria programme recommends that malaria is treated following the WHO Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria”. (These guidelines do not include any use of homeopathy.)
Joe Martines, on behalf of Dr Elizabeth Mason, Director, Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development, WHO: “We have found no evidence to date that homeopathy would bring any benefit to the treatment of diarrhoea in children…Homeopathy does not focus on the treatment and prevention of dehydration – in total contradiction with the scientific basis and our recommendations for the management of diarrhoea.”
There is zero persuasive evidence to demonstrate homeopathy is effective for any use at all. The best and most relevant study that definitely debunks the claims of efficacy is the article by Shang et al from the Lancet in 2005. They carefully examined 220 clinical trials: half homeopathy, and half with real medicine. They observed that with homeopathy, the results were no different than the use of placebo. With real medicine, a true treatment effect, beyond placebo was observed. They came to the following conclusion:
Biases are present in placebo-controlled trials of both homoeopathy and conventional medicine. When account was taken for these biases in the analysis, there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects. (emphasis added)
People suffering around the world deserve better than being treated with make-believe medicine. The pharmacy profession must do its part by ending the sale of homeopathy in pharmacies. The continued sale of homeopathy in pharmacies is an embarrassment that discredits pharmacists in the eyes of the public and other health professionals.
If you’re not familiar with Ben Goldacre, he’s a physician and journalist who writes the Bad Science column in the Guardian newspaper. His blog, is a must-follow for anyone that cares about rational thinking in science and health.
He recently appeared in a short video on homeopathy, which gives a good overview of the ridiculousness of this practice. Enjoy.
Shang, A., Huwiler-Müntener, K., Nartey, L., Jüni, P., Dörig, S., Sterne, J., Pewsner, D., & Egger, M. (2005). Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy The Lancet, 366 (9487), 726-732 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67177-2
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