When compared to placebo, homeopathic medicines do not provide any additional benefit to children with acute respiratory tract infections, according to a study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
Researchers in this analysis of double-blind, randomized, controlled or clustered trials evaluated the efficacy of oral homeopathic medicines vs identical placebos or conventional treatments for acute respiratory infections in children aged 0 to 16 years. The studies included were selected from multiple databases, including MEDLINE, CENTRAL, Embase, CAMbase, AMED, CINAHL, WHO ICTRP, the British Homeopathic Library, and ClinicalTrials.gov registers.
Eight trials of highly diluted homeopathic medicines with 1562 children participating were included for analysis. Of these, 4 were treatment studies examining the efficacy of homeopathic treatments on respiratory infection recovery, and 4 examined the prevention of respiratory infections. There were multiple limitations to these studies, including high attrition rates, methodological inconsistencies, selective reporting, protocol deviations, and high risk of bias, which prevented a robust, quantitative meta-analysis. Only 4 outcomes were found common to >1 trial that could be combined and analyzed for this study. Small odds ratios, wide confidence intervals, and the conflicting effects found in the contributing studies made it difficult to ascertain the efficacy of the treatments. The trials with a low risk of bias found no benefit to acute respiratory infections from oral homeopathic medicines, whereas the high risk of bias trials found beneficial effects of homeopathic medicines.
Low-quality evidence showed homeopathic treatments not individualized to the patient by a practitioner offer little use in preventing respiratory infections (odds ratio [OR] 1.14; 95% CI, 0.83-1.57), and homeopathic treatments have little impact on the necessity of using antibiotics (N=369; OR 0.79; 95% CI, 0.35-1.76). Insufficient and low-quality evidence was found when using homeopathic medicines as a short-term cure (OR 1.31, favoring placebo; 95% CI, 0.09-19.54) or a long-term cure (OR 0.99; 95% CI, 0.10-9.67). Inconsistent reporting of adverse events prevented any conclusions related to safety, although no serious events were reported in any trial.
Researchers noted that long term data demonstrated little difference between the cure rates for participants who received homeopathic care, and those who received placebo. Study investigators concluded that the studies analyzed “did not ﬁnd any signiﬁcant and consistent beneﬁt for cure, disease severity, recurrence of [acute respiratory tract infections], or any of the secondary outcomes deﬁned for this review… Overall, the ﬁndings of this review do not support the use of homeopathic medicinal products for [acute respiratory tract infections] in children in clinical practice.”
Hawke K, van Driel ML, Buffington BJ, McGuire TM, King D. Homeopathic medicinal products for preventing and treating acute respiratory tract infections in children [published online September 9, 2018]. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005974.pub5