By Mark Land, AAHP President
Many believe the draft report arrived at a more encouraging conclusion regarding the effectiveness of homeopathy and may have been suppressed by the then conservative Australian government.
After years of requests and inquiry, Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has decided to release the first draft report. Researchers, decision-makers and the general public can finally see the full draft of the 2012 Homeopathy Review The Effectiveness of Homeopathy: an overview review of secondary evidence. Many believe the draft report arrived at a more encouraging conclusion regarding the effectiveness of homeopathy. I have not read the 293-page report.
Given the rumor and innuendo that the first report was more favorable than the final report published in 2015, proponents of homeopathy look at the situation in Australia with an eye jaundiced by the same lack of research integrity on the part of NHMRC that some clinical research in homeopathy is accused of. Many believe the first report was purposely suppressed because it did not reach the conclusions desired by the then conservative Australian government.
Professor Anne Kelso, CEO of NHMRC, says the first report was only a draft that was rejected by the expert homeopathy working committee. Second, she says that contrary to some claims, the 2015 review did not say homeopathy was ineffective. Rather it stated “that based on an assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.”
In the United States, jaded observers of government and politics would say that Professor Kelso is both walking back the conclusions of the 2015 report and using doublespeak to obscure what has been a very damaging series of report and non-report. The 2015 Australian report has been used by government agencies and plaintiff’s attorneys in the United States since its publication to attack individual homeopathic products and homeopathy as a whole.
As for the research and publication processes, all parties agree that there were two reports prepared by two different contractors of the Australian government. The first report was not adopted by the expert homeopathy working committee. For what reasons we don’t know. The second report reaching different conclusions was published and used to inform a national policy regarding reimbursement of homeopathic treatments.
While it is prudent to minimize reliance on draft conclusions, it seems that the process that lead to the decision to change the research strategy, disregarding the first study, lacked transparency and caused suspicion. The first report, draft or not, represented an important piece of forensic evidence necessary to evaluate integrity of the research process. Withholding the report for nearly seven years further lends to suspicion.
I applaud Professor Kelso’s decision to release the first report and look forward to what it has to reveal both for homeopathy and for the veracity of policy making. For further reading, the Homeopathy Research Institute (HRI) in London is preparing a review of the 2012 report.
CEO Statement: Release of an annotated version of the 2012 draft report The Effectiveness of Homeopathy: an overview review of secondary evidence. https://www.hri-research.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Draft-annotated-2012-homeopathy-report.pdf
Roberts, R. NHMRC finally release first report on homeopathy. Homeopathy Research Institute.