Welcome to the latest edition of the Society of Homeopaths Research Newsletter
Those who keep abreast of the news will know that, in the last months, the attacks against homeopathy as a viable and safe medical therapy has been more concerted and concerning. An example is the NHS England ‘consultations’ to end prescribing homeopathic remedies, which the Society, in conjunction with 4H and the BHA, are in the process of legally challenging.
Another is the EASAC publication on homeopathic products and practices in which the authors state that no robust, reproducible evidence that homeopathic products are effective above or beyond a placebo effect exists (http://www.easac.eu/home/press-releases/detail-view/article/homeopathy.html).
It is striking that the majority of claims against homeopathy are based on evidence from the controversial House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report (2010) and Australian NHMRC Report on homeopathy (2015). There are many positive trials of homeopathy, which the authors of the EASAC report and NHS consultations choose to overlook. In this newsletter we address this imbalance by focusing on recent studies that indicate multiple benefits of homeopathic medical treatment for a broad range of conditions and population groups.
1. Homeopathic medical treatment may play a beneficial role in the long-term care of patients with chronic diseases.
A 2005 prospective, multicentre cohort study reviewed the use of homeopathy in 103 German and Swiss primary care practices. 13,981 patients consulting the doctor for the first time were observed. 97% had chronic ailments lasting on average around 8 years, the most frequent being allergic rhinitis in men, headache in women, and allergic skin conditions in children. The severity of symptoms decreased significantly between the start of the trial and two years. The most significant improvements were seen in the young and those with more severe symptoms.
2. Homeopathy can successfully treat a wide range of conditions.
In a large scale Italian study by Rossi et al 2 of over 2,592 patients (1998-2010), the most common presenting symptoms were respiratory (29.4%), digestive tract (17%) and skin (14.7%) complaints. 47% of patients reported major improvement or even resolution of their clinical picture, and only 10% had low results.
3. Homeopathy is clinically effective, cost-effective and safe.
This was the conclusion of a Health Technology Assessment report on homeopathy commissioned by the Swiss government. The HTA report exhaustively reviewed the scientific literature and its unambiguous, positive conclusions have resulted in homeopathy being included on the list of medical treatments, which are reimbursed through Switzerland’s national health insurance scheme.
4. The use of homeopathy could help to reduce the use of antibiotics and antipyretic/anti-inflammatory drugs for upper respiratory tract infections.
Data from a 4-year population-based study (EPI3 survey) of 825 GPs and their patients in France 4was used to compare the effectiveness of antibiotic and antipyretic/anti-inflammatory drugs for URTIs with additional or alternative use of homeopathy. 518 adults and children with URTI were included. Patients in the homeopathy GP group showed significantly lower consumption of antibiotics and antipyretic/anti-inflammatory drugs yet their symptoms improve at a similar rate. This difference may be due to specific attributes of either physicians or patients or interactions between the two.
5. Patient satisfaction can be higher in primary homeopathic care than conventional care.
An observational study in Switzerland investigated patient satisfaction and perception of side effects in homeopathy compared with conventional care in a primary care setting. 5 The study used data from two cross-sectional studies (over 6,000 patients) conducted in 2002-2003. There were significant differences in the initial health status of the groups, with a higher percentage of chronic and severe conditions found in the homeopathic group. The overall patient satisfaction score was significantly higher in the homeopathic care group. The authors conclude that homeopathic treatments were perceived as a low-risk therapy by patients, with two to three times fewer side effects than conventional care.
6. Homeopathic treatment compares well with some antidepressants in the treatment of depression in menopause.
A recent RCT in Mexico compared individualised homeopathy with Fluoxetine 6 in the treatment of depression in peri-menopausal and postmenopausal women. 133 women diagnosed with major depression were included in this study. After six weeks of treatment, those in the homoeopathy group had improved more than the placebo group on two out of three inventory scales. The menopause symptoms of those in the homeopathy, but not the fluoxetine arms improved. The authors conclude that homeopathic treatment compares favourably with that of fluoxetine in the treatment of depression during menopause.
7. Homeopathic treatment could play a role in blood sugar control in patients with Type 2 diabetes.
A Hong Kong study investigated the effectiveness of individualised homeopathic treatment in glycaemic control. 27 patients with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) were given six or more months of individualised homeopathic treatment along with conventional treatment. 7 Despite the fact that the homoeopathic group came to the study with of more established and severe symptoms, after 12 months of treatment the difference in FPG level in the homeopathy group was significantly better than the control group. While the study sample is too small to reach conclusions, given the global health and cost implications of type 2 diabetes, results indicate that follow up studies in this area should be a seriously considered.
8. Homeopathy can be an effective and acceptable treatment for depression.
Evidence from a recent RCT by Viksveen et al suggests that patients with self-reported depression find homeopathy to be an effective and acceptable treatment. 8 The study (a cohort multiple randomised control trial) tested the effectiveness of add-on treatment from homeopaths compared to usual care alone, over a period of 12 months. Results showed a moderate treatment effect size in favour of those treated with homeopathy, which was still present at 12 months.
9. Homeopathy may play a substantial role in treating multi-morbid patients.
Frei et al 10 treated 50 patients with multiple conditions, using the help of polarity analysis – a system based on grading found Boenninghausen’s Therapeutic Pocket Book. 43 patients stayed for the study period, showing an average of 91% improvement in their initial symptoms. The cost of homeopathic treatment was less than half the projected equivalent of conventional treatment. The authors conclude that homeopathy may be capable of taking over a considerable proportion of the treatment of multi-morbid patients with lower costs than conventional medicine.
10. Homeopathy can help to improve the overall health and
wellbeing of cancer patients when provided in addition to conventional therapy.
The results of this pragmatic RCT suggest that the global health status and subjective wellbeing of cancer patients improve significantly when adjunct classical homeopathic treatment is administered in addition to conventional therapy. 410 patients being treated by standard anti-neoplastic therapy were randomized to receive or not receive classical homeopathic therapy in addition 9. Improvement in global health status between was significantly stronger in the homeopathy group when compared with the control group.
1. Witt CM, Lüdtke R, Baur R, Willich SN. Homeopathic medical practice: long-term results of a cohort study with 3981 patients. BMC Public Health [Internet]. 2005 Jul 1;5. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16266440 2. Rossi E, Marco P, Paola B, Marialessandra P, Mariella DS, Monia P, et al. Homoeopathy in the public health system: Outcome data from the homoeopathic clinic of the Campo di Marte Hospital, Lucca, Italy (1998-2010). Eur J Integr Med. 2014;6(1):39-47. 3. Bornhöft G, Matthiessen PF. Homeopathy in Healthcare - Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs. An HTA report on homeopathy as part of the Swiss Complementary Medicine Evaluation Programme. Berlin Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag; 2011. 4. Grimaldi-Bensouda L, Begaud B, Rossignol M, Avouac B, Lert F, Rouillon F. Management of upper respiratory tract infections by different medical practices, including homeopathy, and consumption of antibiotics in primary care: the EPI3 cohort study in France 2007-2008. PLoS One [Internet]. 2014;9. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0089990 5. Marian F, Joost K, Saini KD, von Ammon K, Thurneysen A, Busato A, et al. Patient satisfaction and side effects in primary care: An observational study comparing homeopathy and conventional medicine. BMC Complement Altern Med [Internet]. 2008;8(1):52. Available from: http://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-8-52 6. Del Carmen Macías-Cortés E, Llanes-González L, Aguilar-Faisal L, Asbun-Bojalil J. Individualized homeopathic treatment and fluoxetine for moderate to severe depression in peri- and postmenopausal women (HOMDEP-MENOP study): A randomized, double-dummy, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. PLoS One. 2015;10(3). 7. Lun K, To A, Ying Y, Fok Y, Chun K, Chong M, et al. Individualized homeopathic treatment in addition to conventional treatment in type II diabetic patients in Hong Kong e a retrospective cohort study. Homeopathy [Internet]. 2017;106(2):79-86. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.homp.2017.02.002 8. Viksveen P, Relton C, Nicholl J. Depressed patients treated by homeopaths: randomised controlled trial using the cohort multiple randomised controlled trial (cmRCT) design. Trials [Internet]. 2017;18(1):299. Available from: http://trialsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13063-017-2040-2 9. Frass M, Friehs H, Thallinger C, Sohal NK, Marosi C, Muchitsch I, et al. Influence of adjunctive classical homeopathy on global health status and subjective wellbeing in cancer patients - A pragmatic randomized controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2015;23(3):309-17. 10. Frei H. Homeopathic treatment of multimorbid patients: A prospective outcome study with polarity analysis. Homeopathy [Internet]. 2015;104(1):57-65. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.homp.2014.09.001