"But it's an entirely different matter when people who are ill with a treatable illness are pushed therapies that don't work and, in fact, are often implausible, pushed by practitioners who we must assume either believe in magic or perhaps are just dishonest. Ill health has attracted charlatans since time immemorial. Snake oil merchants wanting to take your money by promising false hope."
In conducting the Homeopathy Review, did NHMRC:
NHMRC CEO submits article to the MJA declaring personal anti-homeopathy viewpoint:
In October 2010, the NHMRC CEO, Prof Warwick Anderson, submitted an article to the Medical Journal of Australia (published December 2010) , in which he stated he found it:
The NHMRC Act 1992, Section 42A(2) stipulates:
NHMRC CEO advises Council to develop a NHMRC Position Statement on homeopathy on the basis of a political (not scientific) UK report:
The same month (October 2010), the CEO directed NHMRC Council to develop a NHMRC Position Statement on homeopathy , on the sole basis of a political (not scientific) UK report , which was an examination of the evidence behind government policies on homeopathy, not an inquiry into homeopathy.
The UK Parliament had rejected the recommendations of the UK Report in July 2010, in favour of supporting user-choice and also encouraged further research into homeopathy. For further details about UK Report process, click here.
NHMRC embarked upon this process without:
In December 2010, NHMRC Council approved the content of a draft NHMRC Statement on Homeopathy .
After NHMRC Council approved the Draft Statement's content, NHMRC contracted the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) to ensure that the Draft Statement was ‘readable’ for release to the public .
CHF's email to its members confirmed the Draft Statement was intended for public release :
Draft NHMRC Position Statement on homeopathy leaked to the media:
On 20 April 2011, the Draft Statement was leaked to the media, on the same day that homeopathy stakeholders accidentally learned of the process via the CHF’s distribution list. The Statement declared:
The Statement declared homeopathy to be “inefficacious”, “unethical” and even “deceptive” (an emotive term); it also confirmed the UK report as its sole point of reference, in lieu of assessment of any other published research evidence.
At the time, the CHF’s complementary medicines (CM) spokesperson was the active anti-CM campaigner Dr Ken Harvey - currently an Executive member of the anti-homeopathy/CM lobby group Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) (see 'Conflicts of Interest').
NHMRC abandons Draft Statement due to perceptions of bias & lack of rigour:
Controversy resulting from explicit anti-homeopathy bias and lack of procedural and scientific rigour apparent in the development of the Draft Statement, resulted in NHMRC abandoning the process and instigating a formal review of the evidence on homeopathy.
In correspondence to stakeholders NHMRC claimed ‘it was only a draft that had not been finalised’, incongruous with NHMRC Council having formally endorsed its content intended for public release.
NHMRC CEO appoints expert committee without subject/research experts:
In mid 2011, the NHMRC CEO personally selected and appointed members to a ‘homeopathy reference group’, which later became the Homeopathy Working Committee (HWC) upon official commencement of the Homeopathy Review on 2 April 2012.
The reference group did not include any homeopathy subject, clinical or research experts - despite lack of consultation/ collaboration with homeopathy subject or research experts being a key criticism of the abandoned Draft Statement process.
The exclusion was unprecedented in NHMRC evidence review processes and in breach of mandatory NHMRC standards regarding the composition of its expert committees.
NHMRC Chairman publically discloses NHMRC anti-homeopathy bias:
During this period in mid 2011, the NHMRC Chairman publically disclosed his personal and NHMRC’s organisational anti-homeopathy bias, when he declared :
On the back of the bias inherent in the development of the Draft Statement, this increased stakeholders' concerns that the topic was not being managed by an agency with the required objectivity.
From October 2011 onwards, the Office of NHMRC/ CEO did not respond to any AHA (the key homeopathy stakeholder organisation in Australia) correspondence attempting to engage NHMRC on the exclusion of homeopathy experts on its committee. NHMRC had already refused to consider suitably qualified experts the AHA had nominated for inclusion on the expert committee.
A hallmark of ethical scientific inquiry is involving suitable subject expertise; 'collaborative' conduct is also a core statutory APS Value that applies to all government processes where applicable (such as here).
NHMRC Complementary Medicines webpage - reiterates message of Draft Statement:
Throughout the Homeopathy Review, the NHMRC ‘Complementary Medicines’ (CM) webpage scoped the Review using pre-emptive language and tone consistent with the discredited NHMRC Draft Statement on homeopathy. The March 2012 CM webpage (live 10 April 2012) introduced the Review in the following terms, before any evidence assessment of homeopathy or any other CM therapies had commenced  (emphasis added):
The NHMRC CM webpage went on to further subliminally warn:
The webpage also reiterated the pre-formed view expressed in the Draft Statement on Homeopathy that homeopathy was 'placebo' and 'implausible' - a pre-emptive conclusion not based on any assessment of the evidence.
NHMRC Complementary Medicines webpage & anti-homeopathy conflicts:
Between March and September 2012 (the duration of the first terminated evidence review), the NHMRC ‘Complementary Medicine’ webpage presented the official announcement of commencement of the Homeopathy Review under the heading, ‘Evaluation of effectiveness’.
Under this same heading, on the same webpage, NHMRC also presented an excerpt of a transcript from an interview with the CEO, published in Asian Scientist, which specifically focussed on and highlighted the anti-CM agenda of FSM. FSM had already identified homeopathy at the top of its list of 'pseudo-sciences' in lobbying NHMRC reviewers in January 2012 to join their cause, which the CEO had been made personally aware of (see 'Conflicts of Interest').
Why would NHMRC have given a public platform to an extreme anti-homeopathy lobby group on their official website, let alone place it right next to its announcement of the Homeopathy Review? The inclusion of this article was not balanced by any other opinion pieces regarding homeopathy – just FSM’s.
FSM’s anti-CM views were entirely unrelated to NHMRC’s Homeopathy Review (or should have been), yet their inclusion on this NHMRC webpage gave the public perception of an alignment of views between NHMRC and FSM.
NHMRC CEO & anti-homeopathy bias in public orations:
The NHMRC CEO also directly reiterated the biased themes of the abandoned Draft Position Statement on homeopathy/ NHMRC CM webpage in his public orations on the subject; often employing explicitly rhetorical language.
For example, the bias in the tone and expression of Prof Anderson's 2015 National Press Club speech is explicit and not open to interpretation:
Such biased, openly adversarial language exceeds the boundaries of acceptable conduct required by senior public officials in public engagements (Public Service Act 1999). Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) Conflicts of interest guidance stipulates:
NHMRC CEO iterates views and language of anti-homeopathy lobby groups:
The NHMRC CEO iterated the rhetoric of anti-homeopathy advocacy groups that had openly lobbied him against homeopathy during the course of the NHMRC Review.
For example, on 8 April 2014 (the day before NHMRC officially released the Draft Information Paper), the Vice-President of Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM), Prof Alastair MacLennan, wrote to 'congratulate' the CEO on the conclusions of the Draft NHMRC Information Paper, urging the CEO that:
On 15 April 2015 (National Press Club Speech), shortly after the Review had been concluded, the CEO reiterated the FSM Vice-President's message, proclaimed the sector to be:
(See 'Conflicts of Interest' page for more details of undisclosed and unmanaged conflicts associated with the Review).
NHMRC CEO publically pre-empts Review’s findings; biased comments in QIMR Berghofer public address, 21 Oct 2014:
In October 2014, the CEO pre-empted the outcome of the NHMRC Homeopathy Review in a public address :
The CEO made this public announcement before:
In the address, the CEO reiterated his anti-homeopathy bias, elevating it to a "sermon" (noting that his comments clearly allude to homeopathy) :
Chair of Homeopathy Working Committee & anti-homeopathy public comments:
The Chair of the HWC, Prof Paul Glasziou, expressed his personal anti-homeopathy views in public engagements both during and after the Review, which exceeded the terms of reference of the HWC.
After release of the Draft Information Paper on 9 April 2014, Prof Glasziou expressed views in media interviews that exceeded the scope of the Review's coverage and appeared to pre-empt its findings.
Partisan and non-evidence based opinions he offered to the media included :
Prof Glasziou reiterated these opinions in 2015, after release of the final report, which exceeded his committee's terms of reference and did not relate to the actual assessment conducted, for example :
He also stated :
HWC Chair openly vilifies homeopathy, BMJ Blog, 2016:
In 2016, Prof Glasziou vilified homeopathy as "a therapeutic dead-end" .
This was on the sole basis of a review associated with unusual procedural and methodological issues that he would have been fully aware of as Chair of the HWC, especially since he was personally involved in developing and approving them.
“Let me assure you I am no supporter of homeopathy.
 Anderson, WP (2010). A balloon, the beach, biology and blood pressure. MJA, Vol 193 Number 11/12, 6/20
 NHMRC Council 183rd Session Report. Item 3 CEOs report, p.4, 10 October 2010
 UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee ‘Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy' HC 45
 NHMRC Council 184th Session report. Item 6 Homeopathy, p.8, 12 December 2010
 Email correspondence between NHMRC and CHF re. NHMRC draft statement on homeopathy, 5 April 2011. NHMRC FOI 2015-16 002-15
 Emails between CHF and Australian Homoeopathic Association (AHA) re. the NHMRC draft position statement on homeopathy, 20 April 2011
 Griffith Uni Rejects Homeopathy Link, Australian Skeptics Inc., 22 July 2011
 NHMRC ‘Complementary Medicines' webpage, 16 March 2012 (live on 10 April 2012)
 NHMRC CEO QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute 2014 Derrick-Mackerras Lecture, 21 October 2014
 HWC Chair, Prof Paul Glasziou, interview with SBS, 21 April 2014
 HWC Chair, Prof Paul Glasziou, The Guardian, 11 March 2015
 Prof Paul Glasziou, BMJ blog, 16 Feb 2016.
"There are many examples, such as the wide-spread use of such alleged therapies as homoeopathy"