Homeopathy and the WHO

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Voice of Young Science (VoYS) our programme for early career researchers, sent an open letter to the World Health Organisation in spring 2009, calling for the body to issue a clear international communication about the inappropriate use of homeopathy for five serious diseases.

VoYS had become aware of widespread promotion of homeopathic treatments for serious diseases in developing countries and saw that there were no clear guidelines available on this from the World Health Organisation (WHO). VoYS joined with other early career medics and researchers working in Africa and pressured the WHO to condemn the promotion of homeopathy for the treatment of serious diseases.

On 21st August 2009, the WHO responded to the open letter stating clearly that it does not recommend the use of homeopathy for treating HIV, TB, malaria, influenza and infant diarrhoea. The Director General’s office confirmed that the responses from WHO departments (see below) “clearly express the WHO’s position.” VoYS members then wrote to the health ministers of all countries to publicise the WHO’s position, asking them to combat the promotion of homeopathy for these dangerous diseases.

Comments

“Our evidence-based WHO TB treatment/management guidelines, as well as the International Standards of Tuberculosis Care (ISTC) do not recommend use of homeopathy.” — Dr Mario Raviglione, Director, Stop TB Department, WHO

“WHO’s evidence-based guidelines on treatment of tuberculosis…have no place for homeopathic medicines.” — Dr Mukund Uplekar, TB Strategy and Health Systems, WHO

“The WHO Dept. of HIV/AIDS invests considerable human and financial resources […] to ensure access to evidence-based medical information and to clinically proven, efficacious, and safe treatment for HIV… Let me end by congratulating the young clinicians and researchers of Sense about Science for their efforts to ensure evidence-based approaches to treating and caring for people living with HIV.” — Dr Teguest Guerma, Director Ad Interim, HIV/AIDS Department, WHO

“Thanks for the amazing documentation and for whistle blowing on this issue… The Global Malaria programme recommends that malaria is treated following the WHO Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria.” — Dr Sergio Spinaci, Associate Director, Global Malaria Programme, WHO

“We have found no evidence to date that homeopathy would bring any benefit to the treatment of diarrhoea in children…Homeopathy does not focus on the treatment and prevention of dehydration – in total contradiction with the scientific basis and our recommendations for the management of diarrhoea.” — Joe Martines, on behalf of Dr Elizabeth Mason, Director, Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development, WHO

Select Coverage

Homeopathy not a cure says WHO, BBC News online (20 August 2009)

Doctors condemn homeopathic treatments for Aids and malaria, the Times

British scientists ask WHO to condemn homeopathy for diseases such as HIV, the Guardian (1 June 2009)