Paper backing homeopathy to treat COVID-19 startles research community

The article's authors had used mathematics to 'prove' homeopathy could be effective.

A bizarre paper purporting to demonstrate why homeopathy should be considered as a treatment for COVID-19 has slipped past reviewers to be published by a major academic publisher.

The authors — two engineers and a dentist from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece — stated that they had employed mathematics to “prove” the therapeutic benefit of ultra-high diluted, succussed homeopathic products.

It was published by the German-based Journal of Public Health: From Theory to Practice, which has promised to retract the paper after it was widely derided, according to the website Retraction Watch.

Among the claims were that homeopathy could be prescribed when patients first became symptomatic to prevent “full development of the pathology”.

Read more: 

The researchers also called for epidemiological research to compare homeopathic treatment with established treatments.

“It is now time to end prejudice and adopt in this fight against COVID-19 alternative therapeutic techniques and practices that historically have proven effective in corresponding situations,” they wrote.

The paper quickly attracted criticism on social media after professors at the University of Washington in the US called for it to be retracted.

The pair, who said they had been policing social media to combat COVID-19 misinformation, pointed out the paper was published by Springer Nature, one of the “big five” academic publishers, rather than a predatory or phony journal.

Soon after, the journal’s editor, Professor Joachim Kugler, told Retraction Watch he had been in contact with the publishers, who had promised to retract the article.

The publicity had been like “tipping the finger in an open wound”, he said.

“Over the last few weeks we experienced an overflow of manuscripts, especially with regards to COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, our quality control was not properly working, so the manuscript got accepted.”

In response, Professors Bergstrom and West said the excuse was honest “but not exculpatory”.

“There’s a massive pandemic that makes our journal super-relevant to life and death for billions of people, so naturally we dropped our editorial standards,” they wrote.

More information:

We have compiled a list of resources to help GPs combat coronavirus, which can be read here. Or, click here to read the rest of our coronavirus coverage.