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Australian NHMRC seeks to put the record straight on homeopathy – too little, too late?

09 Oct 2019

Brussels, 9 October Australia’s leading research institute, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), appears to be back tracking on its position on homeopathy in response to intense public pressure to put the record straight.

NHMRC is currently under investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman regarding its review of the evidence on homeopathy, facing charges of bias, misreporting, conflicts of interest and breach of procedure.

Chief executive of NHMRC admits results of homeopathy report have been misrepresented

Contrary to some claims, the review did not conclude that homeopathy was ineffective

Publication of NHMRC’s 2015 Homeopathy Review triggered inaccurate and damaging headlines around the world claiming homeopathy doesn’t work. The report has caused widespread damage to the reputation of the homeopathy sector and has been used to make decisions against homeopathy in countries around the world.

In fact, the report showed the evidence for most conditions was inconclusive, not negative.

Only now, in response to public pressure, has NHMRC spoken out to correct this misinterpretation of the report. In August, Chief Executive Prof Anne Kelso issued a belated clarification, saying, “Contrary to some claims, the review did not conclude that homeopathy was ineffective” (CEO Statement, 26 August 2019).

Suppressed NHMRC 2012 report found ‘encouraging’ evidence that homeopathy is effective for some medical conditions

At the same time, NHMRC released its first report on homeopathy, produced in 2012 but not previously released to the public. The findings of the draft 2012 report are far more positive than those of the NHMRC 2015 Homeopathy Review.

The First Report – an evidence review conducted for NHMRC by expert reviewer Prof Karen Grimmer of the University of South Australia – found ‘encouraging evidence’ for effectiveness in 5 conditions, in stark contrast to the second report which claimed there is ‘no evidence’ homeopathy works.

"Some evidence is very different from no evidence"

As Rachel Roberts, Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI) Chief Executive, explains, “The first report found some good evidence that homeopathy works for certain medical conditions. More studies are needed to confirm and build on these findings, but some evidence is very different from no evidence.”

The draft First Report only came to light after much investigation and campaigning by the homeopathy community. Contrary to normal scientific practice, it was released into the public domain without notifying the author but covered with annotations calling into question the validity and accuracy of her work and giving her no opportunity to reply. Rachel Roberts said, “Given the author’s expertise and the inappropriate comments made by NHMRC on this annotated copy, one has to question whether the First Report was buried because it did not produce the result NHMRC wanted, rather than because of any serious issues with the research itself.”

ECHAMP President, David Reckeweg Lecompte, welcomes these two moves by NHMRC, saying “The European industry for homeopathic medicines unites behind the patients, decision makers and other supporters of homeopathy who have been tireless in their quest for transparency. However, these are just the first steps towards undoing the damage NHMRC have caused to the homeopathy sector worldwide.”

A verdict from the Ombudsman’s 3-year investigation is expected soon.

Background information

  1. Information on the Australian Report story
  2. Impact of NHMRC’s 2015 report: 
  3. Summary analysis of NHMRC’s 2015 report
  4. Release of NHMRC Homeopathy Review 2012: Questions and Answers
  5. “The Effectiveness of Homeopathy: an overview review of secondary evidence” (with covering CEO Statement and NHMRC annotations) can be viewed in full here
  6. Homeopathy is used in 100 countries around the world (World Health Organisation Global Report on Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 2019). A European Commission report informs that three out of four Europeans know about homeopathy and of these 29% use it for their health care. Market studies demonstrate the widespread use of homeopathy in the EU, including 77% of French, 62% of Austrians, 56% of Germans and 33% of Spanish, as well as 69% of Belgian households. 70% of users or more are satisfied or very satisfied with the outcome. (ECHAMP 2019)
  7. With over 40 full company members from 18 European countries, ECHAMP, the European Coalition on Homeopathic & Anthroposophic Medicinal Products, works to ensure that its members can meet the demand from users and prescribers across the EU for these products.  It advocates in favour of an appropriate regulatory environment in the EU.

View statement from HRI on NHMRC First Report Findings; for further information from HRI, contact: Chris Connolly – (44) 330 344 1660 –