By Mark Land, AAHP President
We at AAHP thank Rachel Roberts for her presentation on “The State of Research for Homeopathy,” which you can now watch for free on TheAAHP.org. I received several congratulatory emails following the presentation, although it was not my work. The important outcome of Rachel’s presentation is in her simple summation: We need more replication.
Rachel reported that one facet of the research database included slightly more than 220 studies, covering just over 120 therapeutic categories. Simple math shows fewer than two studies per category. In reality, many of those categories have only one study. Rachel went on to say this has been the resounding conclusion of the Cochrane review, the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, and Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council. These bodies never concluded that homeopathy doesn’t work, but rather that there is not enough information in any one category to conclude effectiveness.
Rachel spoke of plausibility bias as a barrier: some people simply think homeopathy is impossible, despite evidence to the contrary. She concluded that the only way to break through that wall of bias is more research. The plausibility bias is real. It’s challenging to understand the concept of micro dilutions of pharmacologically active substances as a therapeutic stimulus. More challenging is evidence of biologic action of these agents in systems agnostic to placebo bias. This reality is challenging because we don’t understand it. This is not the time to rest on the accumulated evidence but to examine it critically for new opportunities.
Clinically, Rachel reported submitting more than 400 research articles to Australia’s leading public research institute to support their updated review of the effectiveness of homeopathic medicines. In assembling her list of studies, Rachel did not consider publications from North America. Based on that, one could conclude that the research base in North America is not robust enough to merit consideration. If that is true, it seems we have work to do. I rather think it has to do with the short deadline Rachel was given to assemble the literature review.
Although I am not sure of the strength of the 400 studies, I take comfort in knowing that there is a good chance that a few hundred studies may meet the Australian government’s criteria for review. If that is the case, it means that the results are likely to be more meaningful than the 2015 study.
One point that was explored in the Questions and Answers segment of the presentation was the current research database as a source of inspiration for scientific and commercial organizations in their own research agendas. For example, seasonal allergies and childhood diarrhea are therapeutic areas that show promise. These and others are natural starting points for replication of research in these areas. Consider mining the research database for therapeutic areas showing promise but lacking replication.
Once again, we thank Rachel for shedding light on this topic. One thing is for sure — resting on the accumulated database of research is unlikely to yield more than we have. Actively support research within your own and other organizations. And if you value Rachel’s work, I urge you to make a financial donation to Homeopathy Research Institute today.