The websites Homeopathy Plus! and www.d-n-h.org have been ordered to remove information suggesting “homeopathic immunisation” is as effective as vaccination and issue a retraction following a complaint made to the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Dr Ken Harvey, a lecturer at Latrobe University School of Public Health, who authored the complaint (read the full complaint as a pdf here), objected to claims on the website that “homeopathic immunisation is effective against poliomyelitis, chicken pox, meningococcal disease, hepatitis (all types), Japanese encephalitis, Hib, influenza, measles, pneumococcal disease, smallpox, typhoid, cholera, typhus, whooping cough, rubella, mumps, diptheria, malaria, tetanus, yellow fever, dysentery and many other epidemic diseases”.
The websites, classified as advertisements for the purposes of the complaint, also claimed that “recent research conducted at Swinburne University by Australian homeopath, Dr Isaac Golden confirmed that homeoprophylaxis provides the same degree, or better protection, than vaccines with none of their side effects or complications.”
About influenza, the websites state that the homeopathic preparation, “Anas Barbariae relieves the intensity and shortens the duration of flu symptoms better than anti-virals…..without the side effects” and “symptoms are sometimes removed in a few hours”.
In reference to the claims about the positive results of Isaac Golden, Dr Harvey noted these claims are directly contradicted by the thesis from where they are sourced. Golden’s thesis contains the statement; “the effectiveness of the homeopathic immunisation programme could not be established with statistical certainty given the small sample size..”. In spite of this, and in lieu of providing further evidence, the complainant stated (in part) that the thesis had “indeed reached a positive conclusion with a high degree of confidence”.
The findings from The Complaints Resolution Panel stated that although the complainant cited references for homeoprophylaxis, they “did not provide complete copies of the papers cited.” Further, the material on the websites was deemed “misleading”, “unverified” and “abused the trust or exploited the lack of knowledge of consumers” (my emphasis).
The Panel found that none of the material supplied by the advertiser supported claims made on the websites, and therefore the information was misleading and “likely to arouse unwarranted expectations” from consumers. The Panel ruled for Homeopathy Plus! and www.d-n-h.org to remove the misleading material and issue a retraction on their websites which is to remain for 90 days. The advertiser has 14 days to comply with the ruling.
Claims about efficacy of homeopathic immunisation are in direct contravention to statements from the National Council for Homeopathy London which “strongly supports the conventional vaccination programme..”. In Australia, The Executive Director of the Australian Natural Therapies Association said “no properly qualified natural therapist would recommend homeopathic immunisation as an alternative to conventional immunisation”.
This comes at a time when NSW Health authorities have issued a warning about meningococcal disease following the death of a woman in Sydney, and a spike in cases in NSW, with eight reported in December 2009, in Sydney.