Scientific Research

Placebo effect sizes in homeopathic compared to conventional drugs – a systematic review of randomised controlled trials

Placebo effect sizes in homeopathic compared to conventional drugs – a systematic review of randomised controlled trials

Positive effects of homeopathy are often attributed to the placebo effect by its critics. Recently Nuhn T, Lüdtke R & Geraedts M. compared the placebo effects in clinical trials in homeopathy with the same in conventional medicine trials1. They found that the placebo effect in homeopathy is not larger than in conventional medicine when comparing classical homeopathy to conventional medicine. The lengthy case-taking process and empathy shown by the practitioner does not account for an increased placebo effect, as claimed by the skeptics. Here is the abstract for more details:

BACKGROUND: It has been hypothesised that randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials (RCTs) of classical (individualised) homeopathy often fail because placebo effects are substantially higher than in conventional medicine.
OBJECTIVES: To compare placebo effects in clinical trials on homeopathy to placebo effects on trials of conventional medicines.

METHODS: We performed a systematic literature analysis on placebo-controlled double-blind RCTs on classical homeopathy. Each trial was matched to three placebo-controlled double-blind RCTs from conventional medicine (mainly pharmacological interventions) involving the same diagnosis. Matching criteria included severity of complaints, choice of outcome parameter, and treatment duration. Outcome was measured as the percentage change of symptom scores from baseline to end of treatment in the placebo group. 35 RCTs on classical homeopathy were identified. 10 were excluded because no relevant data could be extracted, or less than three matching conventional trials could be located.
RESULTS: In 13 matched sets the placebo effect in the homeopathic trials was larger than the average placebo effect of the conventional trials, in 12 matched sets it was lower (P=0.39). Additionally, no subgroup analysis yielded any significant difference.
CONCLUSIONS: Placebo effects in RCTs on classical homeopathy did not appear to be larger than placebo effects in conventional medicine. Copyright 2009 The Faculty of Homeopathy. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Nuhn T, Lüdtke R, Geraedts M (2010). Placebo effect sizes in homeopathic compared to conventional drugs – a systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Homeopathy, 99: 76-82.

About the author

Manish Bhatia

Manish Bhatia

- CEO, Hpathy Medical Pvt. Ltd.
- Homeopathy physician.
- Lecturer of Organon & Homeopathic Philosophy.
- Founder Director of Hpathy.com
- Editor, Homeopathy 4 Everyone
- Member, Advisory Board, Homeopathic Links
- Member, Center for Advanced Studies in Homeopathy
- Co-author - Homeopathy and Mental Health Care: Integrative Practice, Principles and Research
- Author - Lectures on Organon of Medicine vol 1 & 2
- For consultation, seminars or clinical training, write to asha@hpathy.com

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3 Comments

  • good article.we must do such research related activities to logically argue with those pseudoskeptics & biased individuals who have morbid fixed idea that homeopathy is placebo.often homeopaths say “scientist should come forward to do research in homeopathy as we are not scientist”.but the problem is we have founded a science that is different & contrdictory to conventional science,its a seperate field whose physics & chemistry is still controvertial so the best way would be to some of us become scientist too & involve scientis in our research work too.A newly founded science with its own working mechanism & theories need doctors,scientists in a balanced way.

  • Wonder if any of the recent anti homeopathy demonstrators suffered pullout from swallowing a whole bottle of pills – wasn’t Sulpher among the remedies tested? In my experience unsuspecting sceptics can also suffer from very visible signs of remedy aggravation.

  • A “sceptic” friend was recently confused by the fact that we consider proving symptoms & signs, (i.e. what is “caused” by the remedy in healthy people) an indication of what may be helped by that homeopathic. As he believes homeopathy to be nothing “more than placebo..”, the idea that it can cause “unpleasant symptoms” puts a spanner in the works! Information about how provings are conducted is freely available on the internet & hard copy, yet so many choose to ignore, as it doesnt suit their purpose.