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Clinical Trials of Homeopathic Medicines

There is good reason to want to gather more evidence about the efficacy of homeopathic medicine, not least of which is the huge prize (of I believe $1000000) available from the James Randi Educational Foundation to anyone who can prove homeopathy works!

It is sensible to try and gather more information about homeopathy. We need to know, without doubt, whether it works and if so how it works. However the studies carried out on homeopathic medicines are very often loaded against it, and will probably go further to "prove" that it does not work.

Clinical trials of medicines are carried out in order to ascertain whether or not the medicine works, effective dose rates and other information. These trials are usually carried out on a large number of animals with the same problem. Scientists will often split the large group of animals into two separate groups. One group will receive the medicine while the other will receive a placebo. If the group receiving the medicine improves while the placebo group do not it is considered that the medicine works. Often these trials are "blinded" so that nobody knows which animals are receiving the real medicine; this makes the trial more reliable.

These methods are great for conventional medicines, but when applied to homeopathy are very likely to be unfair.
Homeopathy has never been a "one treatment fits all" type of medicine. Several animals with the same condition could be seen by the same homeopathic practitioner and receive different treatments. Homeopathy is very much an individual treatment for an individual animal. Treatment takes into account the animal's characteristics (i.e. nervous, excitable) as well as factors about the disease and individual circumstances.

If clinical trials of homeopathy take place using the principals used for conventional therapies the treatment will not be individual for the animal concerned, but will merely be a formularized homeopathic remedy for a particular condition. Since this goes directly against the procedures usually employed when treating homeopathically the trail is unfair.

So far there is no proof that homeopathy works but perhaps we should look more closely at the way we investigate it?

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