I am indebted to my good friend and long-term admirer Dana Ullman for alerting me to this new (2019) paper. It reports a study aimed to test whether homeopathic medication administration to COPD patients during the influenza-exposure period may help to reduce the frequency of common URTIs.
This prospective, observational, multicenter study was carried out in Cantabria, Spain. Patients with COPD were divided into two groups: group 1 received conventional treatment + homeopathic medication (diluted and dynamized extract of duck liver and heart; Boiron) (OG); group 2 received conventional treatment only (CG). The primary endpoint was the number of URTIs between the 4-5 months follow up (mean 4.72 ± 0.96) from basal to last visit. Secondary endpoints included the duration of URTIs, number and duration of COPD exacerbations, use of COPD drugs, changes in quality of life (QoL), compliance, and adverse events (AEs).
219 patients were analyzed (OG = 109, CG = 110). There was a significant reduction in mean number of URTIs during the follow-up period in OG compared to CG (0.514 ± 0.722 vs. 1.037 ± 1.519, respectively; p = 0.014). Logistic regression analysis showed a 3.3-times higher probability of suffering ≥2 URTI episodes in CG (p = 0.003, n = 72). OG patients having ≥1 URTI also had a significant reduction in mean URTI duration per episode (3.57 ± 2.44 days OG vs. 5.22 ± 4.17 days CG; p = 0.012). There was no significant difference in mean number of exacerbations, mean duration of exacerbations, or QoL between OG and CG. There was a greater decrease in proportion of patients using corticosteroids for exacerbations between baseline and visit 2 in OG compared to CG (22.1% vs. 7.5% fewer respectively, p = 0.005). Exacerbator phenotype patients had a significant decrease in number of URTIs (0.54 ± 0.72 vs. 1.31 ± 1.81; p = 0.011), and fewer COPD exacerbations (0.9 ± 1.3 vs. 1.5 ± 1.7; p = 0.037) in OG vs. CG, respectively.
The authors concluded that homeopathic medication use during the influenza-exposure period may have a beneficial impact at reducing URTIs’ number and duration in COPD patients and at reducing the number of COPD exacerbations in patients with the exacerbator phenotype. Further studies are needed to confirm the effects observed in this study.
Evidently, Dana thinks highly of this new evidence for Boiron’s duck diluted out of existence, markeded as Oscillococcinum. Do we now have to eat out words? Does homeopathy work after all? Has Dana been right all along?
Here are just a few of the most obvious flaws of this trial:
- It was not an observational study as I understand it.
- It followed the infamous A+B versus B design (which never generates a negative result).
- As such it did not control for placebo effects.
- It cannot achieve its stated aim.
- Its statistical analysis seems faulty.
- It lacks randomisation which means the 2 groups differed in many undetected ways.
- The primary endpoints were assessed by an undisclosed method.
But there is more, much more.
Conflicts of interest:
J.L. Garcia-Rivero has received speaker’s fees from Boiron Laboratories. G. Diaz Saez (the senior author of the trial) was the Medical Director of Boiron Laboratories when the study was carried out and continued to collaborate in the study after leaving this post. A. Viejo Casas has received speaker’s fees from Boiron Laboratories. All authors of this study, except for G. Diaz, received fees for including patients.
This work was supported by Boiron Laboratories.
I REST MY CASE