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Following the debate: homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine in the news

08 Feb 2017

Behind the headlines… in our regular round up, we provide a summary of recent news stories on homeopathy and anthroposophic medicine, with useful background and links, showing all angles of the debate.

  • At the end of September, the Italian media covered a new study by Omeoimprese, showing that one in three family paediatricians prescribes homeopathic medicines. This was based on a survey of 5,400 doctors in Italy.
  • In October, MC Toscana, the Tuscan regional newsletter on complementary medicine, published a report of a seminar on the scientific evidence and clinical experience of integrated health care for cancer and the results of a survey of 236 integrated oncology centres in Europe (over 30% of which are in Italy); according to this, acupuncture is the most frequently used complementary medicine ((56%), followed by homeopathy (41%), phytotherapy (39%), Chinese medicine (37%) and anthroposophic medicine (20%)
  • A new book by Edzard Ernst, ‘Homeopathy – the undiluted facts,’ was published on 8 November, receiving limited press coverage.
  • In November, the US Federal Trade Commission’s new ‘Enforcement policy statement on marketing claims for over-the-counter (OTC) homeopathic drugs,’ received wide coverage in the business media in the US. Consumer media coverage in the US was limited, although the announcement was also covered by media elsewhere including in Europe (e.g. France, Germany and Spain). In most cases, news articles simply took the FTC statement at face value. By contrast, in his article in The Huffington Post, ‘Extreme Bias in FTC’s Ruling on Homeopathic Medicine,’ Danna Ullman, MPH, CCH, an eminent spokesperson for homeopathy, points out numerous significant errors of fact in the statement. The FTC guidelines will have no direct impact on homeopathic medicinal products in the EU, which are governed by EU legislation. Products registered under Article 14 are already required to have a disclaimer on label, stating that the products do not have approved therapeutic indications. For Article 16.2 products and those with Marketing Authorisations, conventional labelling guidelines apply, although article 16.2 products must still indicate on label that any indications are based on homeopathic tradition of use. Conversely, in the USA, all homeopathic medicinal products have carried therapeutic indications on their labelling, many without any kind of disclaimer.
  • A new study published in Veterinary Record, the journal of the British Veterinary Association, reviews the ‘Efficacy of homeopathy in livestock according to peer-reviewed publications from 1981 to 2014.’ This paper results from the IMPRO project (Improvement of animal health in organic dairy farming), funded under the EU’s Seventh Framework Program for research. A comprehensive literature review assessing the efficacy of homeopathy in cattle, pigs and poultry found that 54% of eligible trials were in favour of homeopathy, with 50% showing a significantly higher efficacy in comparison to a control group, and 42% showing no medicinal effect. However the poor quality of the studies and insufficient replication of the positive studies mean that further veterinary research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn on the role of homeopathy e.g. as a replacement for antibiotics in livestock. Media headlines and articles focused on the weaknesses of the existing body of research.
  • The Indian government has declared its commitment for India to become a global centre for the practice of and research into traditional medicine; Shripad Yasso Naik, the Minister for AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) informs that India is making concentrated efforts for the systematic development of Ayurveda and other traditional methods in India; it also wants to facilitate the export of Indian traditional medicine products to foreign markets.
  • Media in Germany and UK report on a memorandum on homeopathy released in Russia on 6 February by the Commission to Combat Pseudoscience and Falsification of Scientific Research, a committee of the Russian Academy of Science, which argues that homeopathy has no scientific basis and should have no place in the Russian health care system; it makes recommendations to the ministry of health and other bodies to reduce and restrict the use and availability of homeopathic treatment and homeopathic products. The Homeopathy Research Institute website offers a more careful analysis of the facts on homeopathy research.