Monday, 10 April 2017

Australian Homeopathy Report. The credibility of medical science.

In March 2015, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) published an 'Information Paper' on homeopathy. It concluded that “… there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective”.

That is fairly conclusive. After all, the report was backed by medical science, and sponsored by the national government of Australia. Indeed, following the report's publication, headlines around the world heralded that homeopathy just does not work!

Most homeopaths around the world were not surprised at this. We are getting used to it! We just yawned, and got on with curing our next patient! Most homeopathy users just shrugged their shoulders, saying "Well, homeopathy worked for me!"

The pharmaceutical companies, no doubt, clapped their hand in glee. Science has come to their assistance, again! And the mainstream media has danced to their tune, again! Money well spent! Or so they thought.

However, some Australian homeopaths (who may well have yawned initially, like the rest of us) actually spent time examining the report. Now, the Homeopathic Research Institute has reported on the report and its findings.

               "An extensive detailed investigation by the Australian Homeopathic Association (AHA) into NHMRC’s conduct, combined with an in-depth scientific analysis of the report by HRI, revealed evidence of serious procedural and scientific misconduct in producing this report. FOI (freedom of information) requests have brought to light that two independent experts also raised concerns over the report’s conclusions during peer review, prior to final publication. The Australasian Cochrane Centre commented that for some conditions, "... ‘no reliable evidence’ does not seem an accurate reflection of the body of evidence”; a second expert felt “uncertain of the definitive nature of the Report’s conclusions”. NHMRC chose not to act on this feedback and did not amend their conclusions".

So, with this refusal, in August 2016, a complaint was submitted to the Commonwealth Ombudsman by the Complementary Medicines Australia, the Australian Homoeopathic Association and the Australian Traditional Medicine Society. So what exactly has been found about this 'information paper on homeopathy'? Why is it the subject of complaint? This is a summary of what HRI found.

               * The use of an inappropriate scientific method

               * Failure to use standardised, accepted methods

               * Failure to obtain sufficiently accurate data to perform a meaningful review

               * Failure to conduct an effective preliminary and public consultation

               * Significant post-hoc changes to the research protocol

               * Impact of NHMRC’s unusual method on the review results

               * Further evidence of bias and misreporting

               * Poor reporting – lack of clarity, inconsistencies and errors

               * Evidence that this was a case of deliberate bias, not scientific error.

Rachel Roberts, Chief Executive of HRI, made this statement about the Australian report.

               “NHMRC’s review is just bad science. Decision-makers and the scientific community rely on these kinds of reports and need to trust their accuracy. This is not about anyone’s personal opinion as to whether homeopathy works or not. It is about the importance of evidence being reported objectively, whatever it says, and the NHMRC did not do that.”

Indeed, it is not just the homeopathic community that should have a grievance about this report (and many other similar reports).

The Australian Report brings into question both the credibility of medical science, and the honesty and integrity of the Australian government. 

These were not casual, unimportant mistakes, they are serious errors. Moreover, they are serious errors that were not corrected by the NHMRC, or the Australian government, when pointed out to them. There is an agenda here, and the agenda has been laid bare by this report. What is at stake here is not the future of homeopathy, which is entirely secure.

  • It is the credibility of medical science. Is it really open, transparent and objective? Is it really science? Or is it 'science for sale'? Will medical science produce any evidence required to support their major paymaster, the pharmaceutical companies? Is this 'cheque-book science' in action? 
  • It is the integrity and honesty of national governments. Do they represent the people who elect them, defending them from harm, providing them with good-quality information on which to make important health decisions? Or is the value of pharmaceutical investment, or whatever other incentives they offer, more attractive than the health and safety of their constituents?

The conventional medical establishment is in trouble. Its antibiotics no longer work, and in a few years will be totally ineffective. Its vaccines are coming under heavy criticism as more patients are seriously damaged by them. All its painkillers are now known to be so harmful doctors are being asked not to prescribe them. And so it goes on.

Moreover, the pharmaceutical industry has no answer to the epidemic levels of sickness and disease we are now experiencing. National health services are in crisis around the world, both in terms of vanishing, or non-existent treatment options, and the burgeoning cost health care based on pharmaceutical drugs.

And more and more people are now refusing to risk the dangers of conventional medicine (even though most of the evidence is still largely hidden from view) and instead are turning to homeopathy, and other alternative medical treatments.

So, as usual, we must 'follow the money' in these circumstance. Who stands to profit from the rubbishing of homeopathy? Who loses profits when patients decide to use homeopathy rather than risk taking pharmaceutical drugs? So Big Pharma is under threat, and they are prepared to pay medical science to produce spurious, non-scientific reports (after all, medical science has been telling us that unsafe pharmaceutical drugs are safe, and that ineffective pharmaceutical drugs are effective for many decades now).

And they calculate that it is to their advantage to pay politicians and governments to put their name to such reports. The Australian government is an avid supporter of the pharmaceutical industry. It has been following a policy of forced, or mandatory medication now for several years. I have recently discussed this with an Australian correspondent, and the extent to which parents are being pressurised and forced to vaccinate their children is quite alarming.

This is a serious situation, and I would welcome any Australian citizen, who is concerned about this, to write a blog on the current situation, and the choices that Australian parents and patients are having to make as a consequence of health policy there. I will happily publish any informed article.