As promised, I emailed the authors of that Cochrane Review of homeopathy for reducing the side effects of cancer treatment. I asked them to clarify why they had included the Pommier et al trial of Calendula ointment - a decision which attracted some criticism. Their (very prompt) response included this statement:
"...We contacted the manufacturer of the calendula ointment and they confirmed that it had been prepared in accordance with the German Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia, therefore the trial met our inclusion criteria..."Which is a reference to the inclusion criteria as set out in their paper, i.e.:
Homeopathy (also spelt homoeopathy) was defined, for the purpose of this review, as the use of homeopathic medicines prepared in accordance with officially recognised homeopathic pharmacopoeias. Where there was doubt about the classification of the medicine, we contacted authors or the product manufactures for confirmation. Any homeopathic prescribing strategy was included (pp. 3-4).So it looks like the debate over the inclusion of this trial boils down to a difference of opinion over the definition of "homeopathy". Critics (myself included) who questioned the inclusion of this trial did so because we hold a rather narrower concept of "homeopathy" than the authors do. Of course, there is no right or wrong definition of homeopathy - no-one holds a trademark on the term - so I think that this is where the debate is going to have to rest.