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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19976

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: Magazine

O'Brien M
'Unethical': NHMRC to reveal stance on homeopathy
Medical Observer 2012 Mar 14

Full text:

THE NHMRC is expected to release a statement today in relation to fresh media reports the council may advise that treating patients with homeopathy is “unethical”.

Fairfax newspapers reported this morning the council had prepared a draft public statement declaring it was ‘‘unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy [because it] has been shown not to be efficacious’‘.

The latest suggestion that the NHMRC is poised to make public its stance on homeopathy follows similar reports of the same draft document almost 12 months ago, which led to debate at the time over the future of the contentious practice.

AMA president Dr Steve Hambleton said he welcomed scientific reviews of the evidence by “august bodies” like the council and the British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, which found in 2010 that homeopathy was no more effective than a placebo.

Dr Hambleton said the AMA was reviewing its own position statement on alternative therapies but that the key to the ethical use of complementary medicines was making certain patients were properly informed.

“If there is no evidence a treatment is any more effective than a placebo and people still want to use it, that’s fine,” Dr Hambleton said.

“But that becomes a problem when practitioners claim to be able to do something for which there is no evidence and the patient incurs an opportunity cost by not seeking out conventional therapies which have been shown to be efficacious.”

Dr Hambleton said a 2010 British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee review of homeopathy and the NHMRC’s reported statement were important information for the general public to consider when seeking treatment.

“I think we have to be careful to define the particular area [of homeopathy] we’re talking about – [this is] homeopathy based on the principle of ‘like cures like’ and ‘ultra-dilute’ preparations,” he said.

“That is not only biologically implausible and theoretically weak, but there is also no evidence to support it.”


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As an advertising man, I can assure you that advertising which does not work does not continue to run. If experience did not show beyond doubt that the great majority of doctors are splendidly responsive to current [prescription drug] advertising, new techniques would be devised in short order. And if, indeed, candor, accuracy, scientific completeness, and a permanent ban on cartoons came to be essential for the successful promotion of [prescription] drugs, advertising would have no choice but to comply.
- Pierre R. Garai (advertising executive) 1963