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

Ever since the government in Bavaria has been misguided enough to agree to a research programme testing whether homeopathy has a role in curtailing the over-use of anti-biotics, the subject of homeopathics as a replacement of antibiotics has been revived.

In this paper, homeopaths describe four female cases with recurrent urinary tract infections. The patients were treated successfully with the homeopathic strategy after several conventional approaches revealed no improvement. The follow-up period was a minimum of 3 years and the frequency of episodes with urinary tract infection as well as of antibiotic treatment was documented. Additionally, the patients were asked to assess the treatment outcome retrospectively in a validated questionnaire.

The treatment resulted in a reduction of urinary tract infections and the need for antibiotics from monthly to less than 3 times a year. Three of the four women had no cystitis and related intake of antibiotics for more than 1.5 years. A relapse of symptoms could be treated efficiently with a repetition of the homeopathic remedy. All subjective outcome assessments resulted positive.

The authors concluded that this case series suggests a possible benefit of individualized homeopathic treatment for female patients with recurrent urinary tract infections. Larger observational studies and controlled investigations are warranted. 

Such articles make me quite angry! They have the potential to mislead many patients and, in extreme cases, might even cost lives.

The ‘possible benefit’ of any treatment cannot be demonstrated with such flimsy case series. It has to be shown in properly controlled clinical trials. The findings of case series are confounded by dozens of variables and tell us next to nothing about cause and effect.

Case series make sense when they explore possible new therapeutic avenues. Homeopathy does certainly not fall into this category. The notion that homeopathics might be an alternative to antibiotics has been tested many times before in different settings, in animals, in humans, it vivo and in vitro. This has never generated convincingly positive findings. To re-address it by reporting uncontrolled cases is not just a nonsense; in my view, it is an unethical attempt to mislead us.

3 Responses to Homeopathics can replace antibiotics! Yes, some deluded homeopaths believe this, but that does not make it true

  • In my presentations I make it a point to indicate case series are without any value as evidence. Reason is, treatment failures are never reported in case studies, the same with cases that improved without homeopathy. Cherrypicking, that is all there is.

  • The first author of this paper, K. Gaertner, seems to be affiliated with the University of Witten/Herdecke.
    The department for human medicine of this Uni runs the “Institute for Integrative Medicine” (IFIM), which is a cluster for ridiculous pseudoscientific BS, as it includes four (!) professorships related to anthroposophic medicine as well as a professorship for “life quality, spirituality and coping”.

    Further “star scientist” like Dr. Stephan Baumgartner, who desperately tries to prove effects of homeopathically diluted substances on plants, also work at this “reputable” department.

    Whenever I hear news from the University of Witten/Herdecke, I wonder why it´s not generally prohibited to promote such utter nonsense at a German University.

    If the University where I work at would run such a BS department, I know that I could not stop laughing at every single “colleague” working there.

  • Of course homeopathics can replace antibiotics. I’m surprised anyone would question this. They won’t work. But they can replace them.

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