Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Just a placebo


The idea that homeopathy is ‘just a placebo’ is a common criticism, however there are several studies which look at treatment of children or animals who could not have been influenced by any kind of placebo effect. These are just two examples of papers which address the issue of placebo.

There are three well-known studies where children given homeopathic remedies showed a highly significant result in the duration of childhood diarrhoea. It should be noted that the World Health Organisation consider childhood

diarrhoea to be the number one public health problem today because of the millions of children who die every year from dehydration from diarrhoea.

Jacobs J, Jonas WB, Jiménez-Pérez M, Crothers D

Homeopathy for childhood diarrhoea: combined results and meta-analysis from three randomized, controlled clinical trials. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2003 Mar;22(3):229-34

Article abstract available at



Researchers at the University of Glasgow have conducted several studies into the effect of serially agitated high dilutions of an allergen (30C, which contains no molecules of the original substance) on patients with allergic rhinitis. These were not trials of treatment but they were designed to address the placebo hypothesis, using allergy as a model. In 2000 they performed a meta-analysis, reviewing all the data from four studies on allergic conditions, which totalled 202 subjects. The results of this meta-analysis were so substantial (P=0.0004) that the authors concluded that either homeopathic medicines work or controlled clinical trials do not. Because modern science is based on controlled clinical trials, it is a more likely conclusion that homeopathic medicines are effective.

Taylor, M., Reilly, D., Llewellyn-Jones, R., McSharry, C., Aitchison, T. Randomised controlled trial of homeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial series. British Medical Journal 2000; 321: 471-6.

Full article available at