Effectiveness of Homeopathy – Release of the first report

Page last updated: 21 February 2019

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is Australia’s leading body for supporting health and medical research, developing evidence-based health advice and setting standards in ethics in health care and research.

In 2012, NHMRC commenced a review of the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy in treating a variety of clinical conditions, with the aim of providing Australians with reliable information about its use. The result of this Homeopathy Review was the 2015 NHMRC Statement on Homeopathy and NHMRC Information Paper.

This Homeopathy Review has been cited as a high quality review of the evidence by international organisations and journals including the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Healthcare, the National Institutes of Health USA and the British Medical Journal.

NHMRC methodology and quality assurance processes
To finalise the Homeopathy Review, the NHMRC Homeopathy Working Committee (the Committee) used a methodology based on the internationally accepted Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach.The work comprised an overview of systematic reviews (including 61 clinical conditions). Many of the included systematic reviews were limited by the information they reported, so the Committee adapted GRADE to allow broad statements about the body of evidence as a whole. Details of the methods used are clearly articulated in Appendix C of the Information Paper (p33). The overview methodology is also described in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.

The next step involved the Committee assessing and considering the quality of the identified evidence. The methodology applied to the evidence review and the development of the NHMRC Statement on Homeopathy and NHMRC Information Paper was reviewed by independent experts to ensure that the translation of these findings was impartial, robust and based on the best available evidence.

Independent methodological review of the assessment of the evidence and expert review of the interpretation of the evidence agreed with the review findings. These two separate quality assurance steps are examples of the rigour NHMRC applies in developing health advice.

The ‘first report’
The ‘first report’ refers to an incomplete draft report of an overview of systematic reviews that was commissioned by NHMRC in 2012 but was not finalised as the contract was terminated by mutual agreement of NHMRC and the contractor. As this draft report was never finalised, it did not undergo NHMRC’s quality assurance processes and was not considered by the Council of NHMRC. Accordingly, this incomplete draft report has not been publicly released.

The final report
The final evidence report (Effectiveness of Homeopathy for Clinical Conditions: Evaluations of the Evidence - Overall Report) was commissioned by NHMRC and prepared by a separate contractor in October 2013. It summarises the evidence from systematic reviews regarding the effectiveness of homeopathy as a treatment for human clinical conditions. This report concluded:

There is a paucity of good-quality studies of sufficient size that examine the effectiveness of homeopathy as a treatment for any clinical condition in humans. The available evidence is not compelling and fails to demonstrate that homeopathy is an effective treatment for any of the reported clinical conditions in humans.

Further information
Further details about the Homeopathy Review, including the documents referred to on this site and information on the Working Committee, can be found on the NHMRC website.