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Homeopathy in developing countries

In spring 2009, VoYS became 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.

In August 2009, the WHO responded and said that it DOES NOT recommend the use of homeopathy for treating HIV, TB, malaria, influenza and infant diarrhoea.

Open letter to the WHO

On 1st June 2009, VoYS sent as open letter to the World Health Organisation, calling for the body to issue a clear international communication about the inappropriate use of homeopathy for five serious diseases. They said they were frustrated with the continued promotion of homeopathy as a preventative or treatment for HIV, TB, malaria, influenza and infant diarrhoea. VoYS joined with other early career medics and researchers working in developing countries to send the letter, in advance of a 'Homeopathy for Developing Countries' conference in the Netherlands on 6th June 2010.

The letter:

  • Explains that medics working with the most rural and impoverished people of the world already struggle to deliver the medical help that is needed. The promotion of homeopathy for serious diseases puts lives at risk.
  • Lists some of the examples of recent and planned developments of homeopathic clinics offering treatment for these five conditions.
  • Asks the WHO to make clear that homeopathy cannot prevent or treat these five conditions.

Leading experts in malaria, HIV and other serious diseases affecting the developing world supported the young medics' and researchers' call for the WHO to take action. Read comments from these experts and VoYS members.

Media Coverage

The Guardian online British scientists ask WHO to condemn homeopathy for diseases such as HIV 

The Times online Doctors condemn homeopathic treatments for Aids and malaria

WHO does not recommend the use of homeopathy for HIV, malaria, TB, influenza and infant diarrhoea

On 21st August 2009, the WHO responded to the open letter and said 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 (below) “clearly express the WHO’s position”. VoYS 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 from the WHO:

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

Dr Teguest Guerma, Director Ad Interim, HIV/AIDS Department, 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 Sergio Spinaci, Associate Director, Global Malaria Programme, 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.”

Joe Martines, on behalf of Dr Elizabeth Mason, Director, Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development, 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.”

Media Coverage

BBC online Homeopathy not a cure, says WHO

VoYS pinboard

  • Top tip 1: Ask for Evidence. If you’re being sold a product or asked to believe a claim then you deserve to know whether it’s based on evidence – or imagination.

  • Top tip 2: Detox. It’s a marketing myth – our body does it without pricey potions and detox diets.

  • Top tip 3: Superfood. There is no such thing, just foods that are high in some nutrients.

  • Top tip 4: Cleansing. You shouldn’t be trying to cleanse anything other than your skin or hair.

  • Top tip 5: If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.

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