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

13 thoughts on “World Health Organization Warns Against Use of Homeopathy

  1. An important step. Baloney cures exploit the most vulnerable and undermine trust in genuine treatments.

    They are far from harmless.

  2. I truly believe that homoeopathy has its place in the health care sector. Both allopathic medicine and homoeopathic medicine have their pros and cons, but together could be very effective. I speak from experience using homoeopathic medicine in a primary healthcare clinic in South Africa where we offer treatment to patients who have often nowhere else to turn and have exhausted the allopathic route.

    • What is the pro to treating patients with something that has been demonstrated to have no effect beyond placebo? Are patients informed that the homopathic product has no active ingredient, and has not been shown to offer any meaningful benefit?

  3. Is it a part of lancet study to expeled homeopathy treatment system from the world? I want speak from my experience using homeopathic medicine in somany diseases like flu, typhoid fever, rheumatic fever, asthma are very useful and cost effective treatment system. Homeopathy is the real treatment against any viral diseases.

  4. Homeopathy is very useful for under developed & developing country for cost-effective treatment. They are depended on homeopathy system for their beneficiary. Can we request to WHO to avoid any bias study on this system? If the WHO give a opportunity to use modern medical technology to the homeopath then Homeopathy system will be more popular for everyone & health system will be benefited.

  5. “Dr” Uddin and “Dr” Begum, all you have to do is provide real evidence that homeopathy is actually effective for the conditions you would prescribe homeopathy for.

    For instance, “Dr” Uddin please provide the documentation that homeopathy is better for flu than vaccination or typhoid fever. Also, please provide the evidence that homeopathy is better for rheumatic (strep) fever is better than antibiotics. Also show that persons with a life-threatening asthma attack were effectively treated with homeopathy instead the standard treatments.

    “Dr” Begum, tell us how homeopathy prevents measles, rotavirus, typhus, and polio better than vaccines in developing countries. I am sure that you must have good data in light of recent news reports: India still accounts for 21% of under-five deaths:

    These new estimates calculated by Unicef, WHO, World Bank and United Nations Population Division pointed to another interesting fact that under-five mortality is increasingly getting concentrated with 75% of these deaths occurring in only 18 countries, including India. Around 40% of the 8.8 million children who die globally every year are from India, Nigeria and Congo.

  6. Pingback: Why is the SickKids Foundation Supporting Antivaccinationists? « Science-Based Pharmacy

  7. I truly believe and enjoyed benefit of using homeopathic medicine to cure my ailment.. and yet it requires some qualified doctors to guide and treat… like B.H.M.S qualification….let the practical beneficent like myself be the proof…

  8. By data of that organisation will you try to prove most of the people are using homoeopathy in those country? alopathic system is the first choice of treatment in those country and that is result in those country.also people died due to poverty.if homoeopathy is the first choice then you all have to think twice, my dear. Dr Samanta B.H.M.S.

  9. come & contact how homoeopathy works at dynamic level,its result may manifest on gross body in some time according to the immunity,however gross pathological changes are difficult to remove,to cut thorns from rose tree is not treatment ,removal of its tendency is proper treatment, i.e.that is done by homoeopathy,consequently mental health too, how understand all this,

  10. dear crish , your question too childish , because u compare only vaccine with homoeopathy medicine ,any homoeopath does not says that, not to give the vacccine.But homoeopathic medicine is effective & safe , before raise ur voice anti homoeopathy 1St u go through the homoeopathic valueable text,several times there describes about the homoeopathic law, this the first time some of u raise your voice with anti slogan against homoeopathy,without knowing anything.

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