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The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has ignored good quality, evidence-based research which shows complementary medicine is effective. When practiced alongside conventional medicine, this evidence shows it improves health outcomes and cuts costs for the healthcare system.
The AHA is calling for a Senate Inquiry into the NHMRC Homeopathy Review:
In 2015, the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) published its Review of the evidence on homœopathy, concluding that there is ‘no reliable evidence’. The NHMRC initiated its Review to “engineer” a result that aligned with its previously stated prejudicial viewpoint against homœopathy, rather than impartially assessing the evidence, using accepted methods. For example, its Chairman stated: “Let me assure you that NHMRC does not support homeopathy” before the Review began and the CEO, who instigated the Review, labelled the sector “snake oil merchants”.
This prejudicial stance resulted in distortion of administrative and scientific processes, including:
- Not declaring or managing multiple anti-homœopathy conflicts of interest involved in the Review, in breach of NHMRC and Australian Public Service conflict of interest policies.
- Not appointing or involving any homœopathy discipline or research experts, in breach of mandatory NHMRC quality assurance standards.
- Concealing from public knowledge the existence and findings of an earlier, good quality review (First Review) of the evidence on homœopathy, which was terminated in August 2012.
- Concealing taxpayer expenditure on the First Review process and the reasons for its termination.
- Undertaking post-hoc manipulations to the methodology of the Review, which directly prevented 97% of the included evidence from contributing to the findings.
- In doing so, retrospectively creating and applying arbitrary criteria not recognised by any scientific standards; not applied to any other category of medicine (including by NHMRC).
- Not disclosing any of the post-hoc changes to the methodology, despite their forming the basis of the Review’s published findings and overall conclusion.
- Ignoring and withholding expert peer reviewer advice disputing the methods and findings, including advice that “no reliable evidence does not seem an accurate reflection of the body of evidence”.
The NHMRC misled the public by claiming that it employed ‘accepted, standardised methods’ for reviewing health evidence, when it abandoned these methods midway through the Review.
The NHMRC also conducted an ineffectual public consultation process, whereby external parties were invited to submit additional evidence ‘it may have missed’ (comprising a quarter of the eligible data), all of which was then excluded from the Review’s findings on the basis that it was submitted by external parties. This was not disclosed in NHMRCs reporting of the findings to the public.
Policy makers and regulators such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Department of Health are now inappropriately citing this administratively flawed and scientifically biased Review for proposed regulatory changes.
The harm caused to the homœopathy and the complementary medicine sector is ongoing and far-reaching. NHMRC used similar flawed methods and procedures to generate reports that discredited 16 other natural therapies. These reports are now being used to misinform and erode consumer confidence, support drastic calls to ban natural medicines from sale in pharmacies and initiate other regulatory reforms impacting consumer choice.
A Senate Inquiry into NHMRCs misconduct is requested to restore public confidence in its ability to ethically and impartially inform the public on matters relating to health.