MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported yesterday that the Bavarian government has given the go-ahead to a major study of homeopathy, and Die Zeit published a similar article. For those who read German, I append the text from the SZ below. For those who don’t, let me give a short summary.

The study is aimed at clarifying whether the use of homeopathic remedies can reduce the use of antibiotics in humans and animals. The vote was carried because of the CDU delegates being in favour. The debate of the project was, however, controversial. Critics stressed that, at best, the study is superfluous and pointed out that the project is negligent because it implies that homeopathics might be effective, whereas the evidence shows the opposite. A SPD delegate stated that he is ‘open moth’, homeopathy works because of the doctor-patient contact and not because of its remedies which are pure placebos.

The project was tabled because some people had worried about antibiotic resistance and felt that homeopathy might be an answer. Some CSU delegates stated that in ENT medicine, there is evidence that homeopathics can reduce the use of antibiotics. Even in cases of severe sepsis, there was good evidence, they claimed.

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Mit einer medizinischen Studie soll die Staatsregierung klären, ob durch homöopathische Mittel der Einsatz von Antibiotika reduziert werden kann. Dies hat der Landtag am Donnerstag mit den Stimmen der Regierungsfraktionen von CSU und Freien Wählern beschlossen. Bei der namentlichen Abstimmung votierten 120 Abgeordnete für den Antrag und damit acht mehr, als die Koalition selbst stellt. Im Plenum löste der Antrag, der im Zusammenhang mit weiteren Maßnahmen gegen sogenannte multiresistente Keime besprochen wurde, teils kontroverse Debatten aus. Kritiker der Homöopathie betonten, dass die Studie bestenfalls überflüssig sei.

“Das Vorhaben der bayerischen Staatsregierung ist fahrlässig, weil es bereits mit der Fragestellung suggeriert, dass homöopathische Mittel wie Globuli multiresistente Keime bekämpfen könnten”, sagte Dominik Spitzer (FDP). Bisher habe keine wissenschaftliche Studie beweisen können, dass homöopathische Mittel allein gegen Beschwerden wirkten.

Auch die SPD-Abgeordnete Ruth Waldmann hatte bereits vor der Debatte zum Ansinnen der CSU gesagt: “Da bleibt einem der Mund offen stehen.” Wenn an Homöopathie “wirklich nachweislich etwas wirkt, dann ist es der Anteil der sprechenden Medizin, der ganzheitliche Blick auf die Patienten”. Das tue vielen Menschen gut. “Und da bin ich auch dafür, das den Leuten zu lassen”, betonte Waldmann. “Aber bei schwerer Sepsis auch nur daran zu denken, diese Kügelchen womöglich anstelle von Antibiotika zu verabreichen”, das könne sie nicht mehr nachvollziehen.

Die CSU-Landtagsfraktion hatte ein Paket von insgesamt fünf Anträgen eingereicht, mit denen sie erreichen will, dass es weniger Todesfälle durch multiresistente Keime gibt. Dazu gehöre es, im Alltag den Antibiotika-Einsatz zu reduzieren, auch in der Landwirtschaft. Fahrlässig eingesetzte Antibiotika werden von Forschern mit als Grund dafür genannt, dass Krankheitserreger resistent werden. In einem dieser Anträge wird die Staatsregierung aufgefordert, per Studie untersuchen zu lassen, wie der Antibiotika-Einsatz reduziert werden kann – und ob dabei womöglich auch homöopathische Präparate eine “positive Rolle” spielen.

Im Bereich der Hals-Nasen-Ohren-Erkrankungen, so die CSU-Abgeordneten, hätten Studien aufzeigen können, “dass durch den Einsatz klassischer Homöopathie sowohl ein Einsatz von Antibiotika vermieden als auch eine Verbesserung der individuellen Infektabwehr erreicht werden konnte”. Auch an schwer septischen Patienten – also Patienten, bei denen das körpereigene Abwehrsystem bereits die Organe und das Gewebe schädigte – habe eine Studie Hinweise darauf gebracht, dass eine homöopathische Behandlung “eine nützliche Behandlungsmethode” darstellen könne.

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The notion that there might be good evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy in ENT and sepsis is clearly mistaken. On this blog, we have even discussed a tragic case of a child dying because of this erroneous belief. Homeopathy does not work in humans nor in animals as an alternative to antibiotics. And, of course, the notion that there is good, reproducible evidence to show that homeopathy effectively cures sepsis is a most dangerous fallacy. (There have been some experiments along these lines in the Dachau concentration camp, but they cannot seriously mean that!)

As far as I know it is as yet unclear what the precise research questions of the Bavarian project are, how much money will be spent on it (I saw a mention of 400 000 Euros), who is going to conduct the research, etc. No doubt, we will learn all this in due course. Meanwhile, if I may be so bold as to recommend someone for designing the research, I can think of nobody better suited than the only person who truly believes that it can produce a positive result: PRINCE CHARLES.

19 Responses to Homeopathy as an alternative to antibiotics? It’s official: the Bavarian government has gone barmy!

  • Our German group of critics of homeopathy (the INH) is eager to see what the Bavarian government will make out of this. It even might boil down to a systematic review or some mere literature research. I dare say they will not be able to resist the temptation save the money and just go for the review. You see, Michael Teut, successor of Claudia Witt at the Charité in Berlin, apparently has such a thing ready to be published (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878973019301677).

  • Great… money well spent.
    But what else can you expect from the CSU, a conservative & highly religious party, where wishful belief in a supernatural power is a defining part of the party doctrine.

    Thank god (pun intended) that we have no real problems in Germany that the money could be spend on.

  • Any alternative action can reduce antibiotic use in humans because many people would get better without taking them. Some of that is overprescribing. Some would increase the length of illnesses, number of people with severe illnesses (e.g sepsis, scarlet fever from untreated throat infections with the right strain of strep) , the number of long term side effects (e.g. burst eardrums) and even deaths, but overall antibiotic use would decline if we did something meaningless instead of using antibiotics appropriately.
    So the study conclusion could be “yes homeopathy reduces antibiotic use” even if it harms health outcomes.

  • If we define antibiotic as “a medicine (such as penicillin or its derivatives) that inhibits the growth of or destroys microorganisms” then yes, the action of pathological similitude, as employed in homeopathy, can act as an antibiotic as demonstrated in numerous biochemical tests, such as basophil degranulation.

    • And the evidence for Mr Beneth’s assertion is?

      • See Witt “The in vitro evidence for an effect of high homeopathic potencies – A systematic review of the literature”

        • So where are the Nobel prizes, John, seeing that, if correct, such findings would overturn all that we know about physics, chemistry and biology? That review is twelve years old. Plenty of time for people to have sat up and noticed.

          Witt, however, when reviewing the studies commented that “no positive result was stable enough to be reproduced by all investigators” which you appeared to miss. There was no reproducibility, John. It’s all a load of specious, fanciful nonsense.

    • If we define antibiotic as “a medicine (such as penicillin or its derivatives) that inhibits the growth of or destroys microorganisms”

      Actually that is not how we define antibiotic.

      An antibiotic is a naturally-occurring chemical substance produced by a micro-organism which inhibits the growth of, or kills, competing micro-organisms. Some of them are useful in medicine, when the term is specifically applied to antibacterial agents (not antifungals or antivirals). Synthetic antibacterials are not strictly antibiotics. Your definition better applies to the word antimicrobial.

      homeopathy, can act as an antibiotic as demonstrated in numerous biochemical tests, such as basophil degranulation

      What has basophil degranulation got to do with antibiotics?

  • The Bavarian Government is not such a hotspot in science. But in order to find some reasons for their proposed study, they refer to a clinical trial published by M Frass (Medical University Vienna), his study was published in 2005 – and was heavily under fire.

    some details here
    https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/ho…nd-sepsis/

    The study from Frass was never repeated. His lecture in homeopathy was abandoned last year, after complaints from students.

    Now a new lecture is offered “complementary medicine: “esoterism and evidence” this lecture will be science based.

    Edzard is aware of this lecture 🙂

  • In this case I insist to be Franconian.

  • Didn‘t you yourselve state in your metaanalysis „postoperatve ileus“ state:
    There is evidence above placebo-effect for homeopathic treatment????

    • yes, and here is the quote in context:
      There is evidence that homeopathic treatment can reduce the duration of ileus after abdominal or gynecologic surgery. However, several caveats preclude a definitive judgment. These results should form the basis of a randomized controlled trial to resolve the issue.
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=ernst+e%2C+ileus

      • „However, several caveats preclude a definitive judgment.“

        99% of the studies end up (or should end up!) with this conclusion.
        See also:
        Mapping the Cochrane evidence for decision making in health care

        Regina P. El Dib PhD
        Álvaro N. Atallah MD PhD
        Regis B. Andriolo
        First published: 04 August 2007
        https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2753.2007.00886.x
        Only aprox. 2,5% of the studies of conv. medicine make a safe statement….!

        • if you read the full paper, you might understand: there were several small studies all producing a positive result and all done by homeopaths; this prompted a large, independent trial which was negative. meta-analytically, the small studies dominated and produced an overall positive finding. however, the large trial provides the definitive evidence and laid the matter to rest: since then, no further trial was published.
          so, the evidence fails to be convincing.

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