Rajya Sabha MP and former hockey star, Dilip Tirkey, voiced the concern of many Indians when he asked Shripad Yesso Naik, the Union Minister of State for the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), what his ministry was doing to counter "media reports (which) debunk homoeopathy as unreliable and unscientific method of treatment".
It's something that Tirkey called "false propaganda against homoeopathy", and the minister did not disappoint homeopathy's many Indian adherents — the Ministry of AYUSH, he said, was aware of the fact.
A committee consisting of the chairpersons of different committees including the 'Scientific Advisory Committee, Sub-committee on clinical research and Basic & Fundamental research' has been set up to address such issues, he said.
The media — the international media in particular — has indeed been awash with articles in the last few years debunking homeopathy, which India officially recognizes as a system of medicine. Here are some of the "false propaganda against homeopathy" that have driven these articles:
1. In 2005, a systematic evaluation published in the medical journal Lancet found that "there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional [allopathic] interventions. This finding is compatible with the notion that the clinical effects of homoeopathy are placebo effects." In a strongly-worded attached editorial titled "The end of homeopathy", the Lancet's editorial board wryly remarked, "the more dilute the evidence for homoeopathy becomes, the greater seems its popularity."
2. The British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee found in 2010 that the scientific principles underlying homeopathy — like-cures-like and ultra-dilutions can maintain an imprint of substances previously dissolved in them — were unsound and that there was no evidence, despite enough testing, of its effectiveness. It called for an immediate end to government funding and support for homeopathy.
3. The same year, the British Medical Association likened homeopathy to "witchcraft" and called for it to be no longer marketed as medicine.
4. The chief executive of England's National Health Service last month said that homeopathy is "at best a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds"; the NHS will no longer prescribe homeopathic medicines.
5. In 2015, Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council reviewed the scientific evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathy in treating a range of medical conditions and concluded that "there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective. Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness."
6. In February 2017, the Russian Academy of Sciences declared that the principles behind homeopathy "contradict known chemical, physical and biological laws" and could not be verified. "Homeopathy originated in an era when the most important principles of the chemistry and biology of the molecule properties and existence of microbes had not yet been accepted," the researchers said. "[We call on the media] to present homeopathy as a pseudoscience on a par with magic, healing and psychic practices," they said.
7. The United States Federal Trade Commission requires advertising and labelling of over-the-counter homeopathic drugs to make it clear that "(1) there is no scientific evidence that the product works and (2) the product's claims are based only on theories of homeopathy from the 1700s that are not accepted by most modern medical experts."
Perhaps the question MPs need to be asking the minister, then, is why India continues to recognize homeopathy, train students in it, allow doctors to prescribe medicines during public health crises, and waste public resources in studying its impact on diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and claim success.