Homeopathic Community Responds to BJM Article on Reporting Bias

By Mark Land, AAHP President


You may have seen recent reports about a new study claiming that most homeopathic research is of poor quality, with positive results overestimated. AAHP members should be aware of this study, published on March 15 in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine. An insightful response from Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI) adds much-needed context and reveals some positive data that the researchers overlooked.

In short, the study by Gartlehner et al. claims that poor research quality and overstated positive results within the body of homeopathic research are often due to a phenomenon called research bias. Such bias occurs when, for example, published trials do not represent all the scientific studies on a subject, but a select few reporting only positive results.

For years, AAHP and the homeopathic community have looked to HRI as the leading voice on research in our field. (Members may remember the presentation from Rachel Roberts, Chief Executive of HRI, on the state of research last March.) HRI quickly released a counterpoint article the day after the BJM study results went public and, on April 4, BJM published the counterpoint! HRI is continuing its in-depth analysis of the paper and is finding a high level of errors in the data to further challenge the paper, should that option be warranted.

I encourage all interested in homeopathy to read HRI’s response closely, but here is the main heft of their compelling counterargument:

First, HRI notes that the study’s authors concede that reporting bias is “not a phenomenon that is limited to homeopathy.” On the contrary, it occurs in all areas of clinical research. Thus, the authors fail to adequately contextualize their results by comparing data from clinical trials in other fields.

Here is HRI’s most interesting point: had researchers made comparisons, their results would have looked much different. Namely, according to HRI, the homeopathy research sector appears to be out-performing conventional medicine regarding scientific and ethical standards, with lower levels of reporting bias. For example, inconsistencies in reporting of primary outcomes occur in 43% of conventional medical studies, while this occurs in only 25% of published homeopathy trials. See HRI’s article for additional data points.

HRI concludes by stating: “While attempts have clearly been made to use this new study to undermine the evidence base in homeopathy, claiming ‘poor research practice’, such claims are entirely unfounded.”

I urge members to share HRI’s perspective with their stakeholders and use it if they receive any questions about negative media reports.

On behalf of AAHP and our members, I thank HRI for quickly formulating this important response. Research is critical in supporting our legitimacy as an industry and will ultimately help us to provide the most effective drugs we possibly can to the consumers who demand them each day. Please support HRI’s vital work for our industry with a donation.