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NHMRC Draft Information Paper: Evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy for treating health conditions submission

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Semi-retired, studying health science
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Q1. Is the draft Information Paper presented and written in a manner that is easy to understand?: 

I found the paper easy to follow, but do not believe it reflects high level evidence as stated. This made it difficult to accept the conclusions reached, being based as they are upon a systematic review of other systematic reviews which were, as cited in 3.6.1 as being '...aimed to highlight limitations in the body of evidence...' rather that provide clear evidence from primary sources (i.e. the studies in the reviews). I could not understand why, if the reviews selected were of such poor quality, the researchers continued, rather than seek better quality studies from wider afield. It made interesting, if controversial, reading.


Q2. Does the draft Information Paper clearly outline how the evidence was reviewed and interpreted by the Homeopathy Working Committee?: 

As mentioned above, the lack of focus on definable results from individual studies and reliance on various reviewer's conclusion which, according to the report (again 3.6.1) the evidence summary was '...presented according to the included systematic review and not by study outcome.' This seems to me to be a self-serving statement that introduces bias into the results.

As 'The quality of the included studies was also not assessed by the evidence reviewer as the primary studies were not retrieved', it seems to suggest that 'hearsay evidence' that already did not meet a sufficiently high standard of 'proof' on which to base such important decisions regarding complementary health options was all that was reviewed. Additionally, in 3.8, if 'study level data was incompletely reported in systematic reviews', and whether comparison between outcomes in 'two or more systematic review were, in fact, referring to the same result', it begs the question how can a sustainable conclusion be reached by the researcher?

This causes some concern, particularly as there did not appear to be any attempt to include 'high quality' studies but, rather, a broad scan across a number of identified 'poor' quality reviews that could be used to dismiss any apparent claims to efficacy of any homeopathic treatment,

When it is also stated that 'a different, new framework was developed by the evidence reviewer in conjunction with the HWC due to incomplete reporting of the systematic reviews...', I have to wonder why the usual scientific review framework could not be used and further reseach done to find appropriately high quality material? When a student, I was continually reminded of the need to use primary, high quality sources in research. To use secondary or indirect sources was both poor research and provided little support for an argument, regardless of the size and scope of the paper.

While certainly many studies were intially identified by the researcher, the outcome of this critical appraisal of an 'alternative healthcare system' appears to have been reduced to 60 systematic review which, all being clearly identified as flawed in some way by the researcher were still included as primary support for the conclusions reached. This tends to suggest, to me at least, that no clear distinction can be made one way or the other. Unless conclusions are based upon primary, well designed studies, assessed by standard, accepted methods, any interpretation is likely to be flawed.

Q3. Is there additional evidence on the effectiveness of homeopathy for the treatment of clinical conditions in humans that needs to be considered? To be considered in public consultation any additional evidence must:: 

Not being a homeopath, I cannot provide any additional studies. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Page reviewed: 11 March, 2015