Can homeopathy ‘work’ even when there’s no evidence?

From ABC Health and Wellbeing, 23 May 2014:

The debate about the effectiveness of homeopathy is nothing new. Most recently it made headlines after Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council released a draft information paper on homeopathy which found there were “no health conditions for which there was reliable evidence that homeopathy was effective”.

Back in 2010 a report from the UK House of Commons said the evidence failed to show a credible physiological mode of action for homeopathic products, and what data was available showed homeopathic products were no better than placebo.

Yet plenty of people turn to homeopathy for treatment of a range of health conditions, including colds, coughs, ear infections, skin conditions, arthritis and headaches. There are no recent figures available on the use of homeopathy in Australia, but data collected by the Complementary Healthcare Council in 2008 showed that Australians spent at least $11 million that year on a form of therapy that all available mainstream evidence suggests doesn’t work.

So what’s going on? If Australians – and citizens of many other nations around the world including Germany, France and India – are voting with their wallets, does this mean homeopathy must be doing something right?

“For me, the crux of the debate is a disjunction between how the scientific and medical community view homeopathy, and what many in our communities are getting out of it,” says Professor Alex Broom, Head of Sociology at the University of Queensland.

“The really interesting question is how can we possibly have something that people think works when for all intents and purposes, from a scientific perspective, it doesn’t?” Read more.

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