Recent comments on homeopathy again resulted in references to the 1994 Pediatrics paper by Jacobs et al on use of homeopathic remedies for childhood diarrhrea. The authors of that paper concluded from their blinded study that homeopathic remedies, tailored to the individual infants and children, were effective in reducing the number of diarrhea stools and thus in shortening the illness. The paper has been widely referenced and reported to have proved homeopathy efficacy, and the critiques have been argued by homeopaths as irrelevant, as has been done by Mr. Ullman.
In this short series I want to recount my experience with the report, its predecessor, and its two major sequellae, as well as its effect on systematic reviews of homeopathy. I will begin with a description of the first two studies, concentrating on their methods. Then I will discuss the results of the 1994 Pediatrics report and the authors’ interpretation of the results. Then (I hope last) I will discuss the third paper which the authors claimed supported findings of the first two and the meta-analysis which combined data from all three. If you are imagining why this series interests me, and imagining the worst, you are probably right. The sequence will help to reveal how some of the information in “holistic” and “alternative” systems become published, and despite critiques and disproofs through a sort of systematic deconstructions, still develop wheels of their own and enter the fund of general knowledge seemingly forever. Or, at least for several decades, until a social belief switch is finally turned off.