Homeopathy may put people's health at risk: Australian report

Sydney: After reviewing 225 research papers on homeopathy, a top Australian body for medical research has concluded that homeopathy is not effective for treating any medical condition.

In a statement, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has warned that "People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness".

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"Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective," the Guardian reported citing the report.

Homeopaths believe that illness-causing substances can, in minute doses, treat people who are unwell.

By diluting these substances in water or alcohol, homeopaths claim the resulting mixture retains a "memory" of the original substance that triggers a healing response in the body, the report said.

These claims have been widely disproved by multiple studies.

According to Paul Glasziou, chair of the NHMRC Homeopathy Working Committee, the findings would lead private health insurers to stop offering rebates on homeopathic treatments and force pharmacists to reconsider stocking them.

"There will be a tail of people who will not respond to this report and who will say it is all a conspiracy of the establishment," Glasziou maintained.

While some studies reported homeopathy was effective, the quality of those studies was poor and suffered serious flaws in their design and did not have enough participants to support the idea that homeopathy worked any better than a sugar pill, the report found.

To reach this conclusion, researchers at the NHMRC also analysed 57 systematic reviews - a high quality study that assesses all existing quality research on a particular topic and synthesises it to make a number of strong, overall findings.

Glasziou said homeopathy use declined in Britain following a House of Commons report released in 2010 which found the treatments were ineffective and that he hoped the NHMRC report would have a similar effect in Australia.

Responding to the NHMRC report, the Australian Homeopathic Association (AHA) in a statement claimed that around a million Australians use homeopathy.

However, there are no reliable estimates of Australians' current use of homeopathic medicines, the NHMRC replied, though a 2009 World Health Organisation (WHO) review found Australians spent an estimated $9.59 million on the industry annually.

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