It’s officially official: homeopathy is debunked by the NHMRC – but will anything change?

Great news, everybody! While homeopathy being a load of tosh beyond its value as a placebo treatment isn’t news at all, The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released a draft information paper titled “Evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy for treating health conditions” that rejects it being a valid medical treatment. The NHMRC is, of course, Australia’s peak medical research body, so this should have implications for policy and treatments in both the public and private sectors.

The question is, will this newest study by our top medical research body have any effect, since a complete lack of data in favour of homeopathic efficacy hasn’t stopped much before now? Well, hopefully the answer is ‘yes’; this study by the NHMRC was done because they were asked to assist the Department of Health in The Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Private Health Insurance for Natural Therapies. Well thank heavens for that, it’s about time. I’ll be greatly anticipating 1 April 2015 for the results of this review.

Another important area this study could help change is in the education sector. Many Australian universities currently have degrees in alternative medicine (pingback shoutout to Sans Science! It’s been a while between blogs…). The problems with this are twofold: providing a degree in quackery endorses that quackery, and your tax dollars help fund that course and any student taking it who is using the HECS/HELP scheme. If people want to waste their own money, I have no desire to stop them. It is different when they are wasting mine through taxes.

The last area for change, from the ABC:

Pharmacists who sell homeopathic remedies such as the Brauer product range may also need to have a rethink, especially as the Pharmacy Board Code of Conduct includes (S2.2 h), “providing treatment options based on the best available information and not influenced by financial gain or incentives”. Companies who produce homeopathic remedies may also have to update their promotional/educational information.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for pharmaceutical companies to stop cashing in on the ignorant (why would they? It’s not illegal, just immoral), but I hope they are at least forced to update their promotional/educational information for the products that are proven to be tosh.

While we haven’t seen any great changes yet, an official study by a government research body is the definitely the beginning of steps in the right direction. To be perfectly summed up by Prof. James Dwyer, president of Friends of Science in Medicine;

Homeopathic preparations should not be available in our pharmacies, no private health insurer should provide any rebate for homeopathy and those few universities that lower our scientific standards by providing credibility for homeopathy in their health courses should cease doing so immediately.

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