Here’s the direct link from Medscape.com (will only work if you’re registered):
Homeopathy’s Benefits Are Placebo Effects – Meta-Analysis
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Aug 25 - After examining the quality of clinical trials that evaluated the effects of homeopathic and allopathic medicine, the authors of a report in August 27th issue of The Lancet have concluded that the clinical benefits attributed to homeopathic treatment are placebo effects.
Dr. Matthias Egger, from the University of Berne in Switzerland, and associates searched 19 electronic databases covering the period from 1995 to 2003 to identify randomized, placebo-controlled trials of homeopathy. Trials in conventional medicine were randomly selected from the first issue of the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register in 2003 and matched with the homeopathy trials for disorder and outcome measures.
Included were 110 trials each of homeopathy and conventional medicine, with a median of 65 subjects in each.
The odds ratios for most trials indicated a beneficial effect of the intervention, the authors report. Smaller trials with larger standard errors showed more beneficial treatment effects than larger trials, as did trials of lower methodological quality (those with inadequate randomization or masking, or data analysis not based on intention to treat).
The investigators separately analyzed the larger trials (trials with standard error in the lowest quartile) and of high-quality methodological quality (with adequate randomization, masking, and data analysis by intention to treat). They conducted a random-effects meta-analysis to estimate odds ratios, with those below 1.0 indicating a beneficial effect of treatment. Included were eight trials of homeopathy and six trials of conventional medicine.
The restricted analysis revealed odds ratio of 0.88 for homeopathy and 0.58 for conventional medicine. Including the largest trials, the corresponding odds ratios were 0.96 and 0.67.
Dr. Egger and his colleagues write: “When analyses were restricted to large trials of higher quality there was no convincing evidence that homeopathy was superior to placebo, whereas for conventional medicine an important effect remained.”
In a related comment, Dr. Jan P. Vandenbroucke, at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, queries, “Can a sophisticated application of statistics in meta-analysis in itself solve the problem that randomized trials might have provided a wrong answer?”
He answers by stating that “the ultimate proof is that science makes progress in changing reality: in allopathic medicine by preventing, alleviating, and curing disease ever more effectively.”
Lancet editors also weigh in on this topic, suggesting that “surely the time has passed for selective analyses, biased reports, or further investment in research to perpetuate the homeopathy versus allopathy debate.”
They add: “Now doctors need to be bold and honest with their patients about homeopathy’s lack of benefit, and with themselves about the failings of modern medicine to address patients’ needs for personalized care.”