Diluted Thinking

in Australian healthcare


What is Homeoprophylaxis?

Homeoprophylaxis is the practice of using homeopathic remedies to prevent infectious disease. Many Australian homeopaths promote homeoprophylaxis as a safe and effective alternative to vaccination. Some other homeopaths describe it (publically) in milder terms.

I was unable to find a definition of homeoprophylaxis from the websites of the Australian Register of Homoeopaths (AROH), the Australian Homoeopathic Assoc. (AHA), or The Australian Association of Professional Homeopaths.

AROH has this statement on homoeoprophylaxis (pdf) for their practitioners to follow.

Fran Sheffield, a homeopath at Homeopathy Plus, describes homeoprophylaxis as follows:

"... Vaccines made from infectious organisms are used to prevent the very diseases they're made from. The big difference between homoeopathic prophylaxis and vaccination is that vaccines contain numerous additives that are harmful for health, work at a chemical level, and bypass the body's early detection and defence mechanisms when injected directly into a muscle.

In contrast, a homoeopathic remedy has no dangerous additives and is prepared so that there are no remaining molecules of the infecting organism or virus. While the method of action is not yet fully understood, the remedy (prophylactic) appears to carry an energetic imprint of the original substance into the body that in turn stimulates resistance to the targeted disease.

Melanie Creedy, a homeopath at Elements of Health describes it as:

"Homeopathy can offer a safe and effective option to orthodox vaccination via a program of homeopathic remedies known as "homeoprophylaxis", which protects against the same diseases as the conventional vaccination program."

From homeopath Jimi Wollumbin:

"'Homeo-prophylaxis' is the homeopathic prevention of disease and may be used as an alternative or compliment to pharmaceutical and chemical approaches such as vaccines and pestacides."

Why Homeoprophylaxis is Dangerous

The danger lies not in the homeopathic products used, but in the false sense of security homeoprophylaxis provides. To appreciate this fully, one needs to understand the indisputable fact that homeopathy does not work. There is no plausible mechanism by which it can work. Despite this, homeopathy has undergone extensive trials and be shown to work no better than a placebo.

In February 2010, the British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee published Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy (pdf). Some excerpts:

54. We conclude that the principle of like-cures-like is theoretically weak. It fails to provide a credible physiological mode of action for homeopathic products. We note that this is the settled view of medical science."
61. We consider the notion that ultra-dilutions can maintain an imprint of substances previously dissolved in them to be scientifically implausible.
73. We regret that advocates of homeopathy, including in their submissions to our inquiry, choose to rely on, and promulgate, selective approaches to the treatment of the evidence base as this risks confusing or misleading the public, the media and policy-makers.

Overall Conclusion
"By providing homeopathy on the NHS and allowing MHRA licensing of products which subsequently appear on pharmacy shelves, the Government runs the risk of endorsing homeopathy as an efficacious system of medicine. To maintain patient trust, choice and safety, the Government should not endorse the use of placebo treatments, including homeopathy. Homeopathy should not be funded on the NHS and the MHRA should stop licensing homeopathic products."

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has stated that homeopathy is not efficacious, and described homeopathic treatments as unethical. To find out more about this, please read Dr Rachie's The Skeptics' Book of Pooh-Pooh blog post.

List of Diseases

Here are some diseases that Australian homeopaths claim homeoprophylaxis can protect you against, and be used in place of a conventional vaccination program.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

The TGA is Australia's regulatory authority for therapeutic goods. This includes the safety of the goods and how they are advertised to the public. The TGA Complaints Resolution Panel (CRP) justified the following complaints in regard to homoeopathic immunisation:

1a: CRP: Homeopathy Plus.
Sanctions: Withdrawal of advertisement; withdrawal of representations; publication of a retraction.
Homeopathy Plus refused to comply and no further action was taken.

1b: CRP: Homeopathy Plus.
Sanctions: Withdrawal of advertisement; withdrawal of representations; publication of a retraction.
Homeopathy Plus refused to comply. On 27 March 2012 the TGA made an Order to Homeopathy Plus which states, in part:

  1. withdraw the website advertisement which is the subject of the complaint and determination by the Panel found at the Homeopathy Plus website (www.homeopathyplus.com.au) from further publication;
  2. withdraw any representations that the homoeoprophylactic products can prevent or otherwise have benefits in relation to infectious diseases, can prevent or otherwise have benefits in relation to meningococcal disease, are comparable in efficacy to vaccines, can prevent diseases for which no vaccine exists, are 90.4% effective in relation to childhood communicable diseases, or have been 95% effective against meningococcal disease, or that the Flu-Stop product can treat or prevent flu, together with any representation that the advertised products are safe or are safe for particular categories of consumer;
  3. not use the representations in (b) above in any other advertisement unless Homeopathy Plus satisfies the TGA the use of the representations would not result in a contravention of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (the Act), the Regulations or the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code 2007 (the Code).
  4. where the representation has been provided to other parties such as retailers or website publishers, and where there is a reasonable likelihood that the representation has been published or is intended to be published by such parties, to advise those parties that the representations are to be withdrawn;
  5. arrange for the publication on the website www.homeopathyplus.com.au of a retraction in the form of, and in accordance with, the conditions set out in the attachment to this order (Attachment A).

2. CRP: Jimi Wollumbin.
Sanctions: Publication of retraction, withdraw advertisement; withdraw representations.

3. CRP: Melanie Creedy.
Sanctions: Publication of retraction, withdraw advertisement; withdraw representations.

It has been shown that homeopathy does not work. Therefore, the reliance of a homeopathic remedy to prevent an infectious disease, is dangerous. By relying on homeoprophylaxis you are at just as much risk of contracting the disease as not being vaccinated at all, you will suffer the effects of the disease as if you had not been vaccinated at all, and you will be as contagious to others as if you had not been vaccinated at all.

Homeoprophylaxis has no effect whatsoever in protecting people against infectious diseases. Please, do not rely on homeoprophylaxis. If you don't vaccinate (for whatever reasons) you are much safer knowing you have no protection, than in believing you have a protection that does not exist.

Further Reading:

Homeopathic vaccine regulation by La Trobe University
No Evidence That Homeopathic Preparations Protect Against Whooping Cough by North Coast Area Health Service
Homeopathy in Cuba? by Orac
Closing the Door on Homeopathy by Steven Novella