Does homoeopathy have a therapeutic effect?

August 17, 2000

Paper: Randomised controlled trial of homoeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial series

Commentary: Larger trials are needed

Much scepticism exists about the effectiveness of homoeopathy, but the time may have come to confront the idea that homoeopathic treatment differs from placebo - a chemically inert substance given in place of a drug - according a new study published in this week's BMJ.

Researchers in Glasgow randomly treated 50 patients suffering from nasal allergies with either a homoeopathic preparation or placebo. Each day, for four weeks, patients measured their nasal air flow and recorded symptoms such as blocked, runny or itchy nose, sneezing and eye irritation. Both groups reported improvement in symptoms but, on average, patients who received homoeopathy had significantly greater improvement in nasal air flow - 28% compared with 3% among those in the placebo group.

Recent attempts to resolve the controversy surrounding homoeopathy have resulted in over 180 clinical trials to date. Against this background, and combined with results of three similar studies, these findings further strengthen the evidence that homoeopathy shows some therapeutic effect over placebo, say the authors.

In an accompanying commentary, Tim Lancaster at the Institute of Health Sciences in Oxford and Andrew Vickers at the Sloane-Kettering Cancer Centre in New York emphasise the importance of high quality randomised trials in the evaluation of homoeopathy. They suggest that the new challenge "is to do the large trials that really could change thinking."

[Paper] David Reilly, Academic Departments, Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital, Glasgow G12 0XQ


[Commentary] Tim Lancaster, Clinical Reader in General Practice, Department of Primary Health Care, Institute of Health Sciences, Oxford OX3 7LF Email:


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