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The current issue of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology has what looks like a good placebo controlled trial of homeopathy from France. “Effect of homeopathy on analgesic intake following knee ligament reconstruction: a phase III monocentre randomized placebo controlled study, Paris et al., 2007″.

Conclusion The complex of homeopathy tested in this study (Arnica montana 5 CH, Bryonia alba 5 CH, Hypericum perforatum 5 CH and Ruta graveolens 3 DH) is not superior to placebo in reducing 24 h morphine consumption after knee ligament reconstruction

Another thing that makes the paper interesting is that one of the authors is Philippe Belon. who is a director of the huge French homeopathic company, Boiron. This is properly declared at the end.

Conflicts of interest: Dr Belon is the head of the clinical research department of Laboratoires Boiron. The Laboratoires Boiron financially supported the study. None of the other investigators had any conflict of interest.

Boiron makes profits from homeopathy of about 20 million euros a year, on net operating revenues of about 300 million euros. It is big business. Philippe Belon has an interesting record.

He was one of the authors of the notorious Benveniste paper(see also here), which lead to Beneveniste’s dismissal from INSERM in disgrace. Benveniste’s results were refuted by, among others, Hirst, Hayes, Burridge, Pearce and Foreman (1993, Nature.366, 525-7.

Belon was also senior author in Fisher, P., Greenwood, A., Huskisson, E. C., Turner, P., & Belon, P. (1989). (Effect of homoeopathic treatment on fibrositis (primary fibromyalgia) British Medical Journal 299, 365-366.). That is the paper which I was asked to check (by a TV programme). After Peter Fisher gave me the raw data I found that a naive mistake had been made in the statistical analyis. There was NO evidence for the effect of the treatment at all, as described here. This correction was published (Colquhoun, D. (1990). Reanalysis of a clinical trial of a homoeopathic treatment of fibrositis. Lancet 336, 441-442.), though the correction is usually ignored by homeopaths (see here). [Get pdf].

The Truth about Homeopathy

This is the title of a commentary on the Paris et al. paper by Edzard Ernst, published in the same issue if British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

“Heavens!” I hear the homeopathic fraternity shout. “We need more research!”  But are they correct? How much research is enough to show that any treatment does not work (sorry, is not superior to placebo)? Here we go full circle: should we really spend several lifetimes in order to arrive at a more robust conclusion?”

“Most readers and even many homeopaths will be surprised to learn that that has already happened! During the Third Reich the (mostly pro-homeopathy) Nazi leadership wanted to solve the homeopathy question once and for all. The research programme was carefully planned and rigorously executed. A report was written and it even survived the war. But it disappeared nevertheless – apparently in the hands of German homeopaths. Why? According to a very detailed eye-witness report [9 – 12], they were wholly and devastatingly negative.”

Ernst sums up the situation incisively –download a copy of his paper.

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