Patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have limited treatment options. Alongside conventional anticancer treatment, additive homeopathy might help to alleviate side effects of conventional therapy. The aim of this study was to investigate whether additive homeopathy might influence quality of life (QoL) and survival in NSCLC patients.
In this prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, three-arm, multi-centre, phase III study, the researchers evaluated the possible effects of additive homeopathic treatment compared to placebo in patients with stage IV NSCLC, with respect to QoL in the two randomized groups and survival time in all three groups. Treated patients visited the university teaching hospital every 9 weeks: 150 patients with stage IV NSCLC were included in the study.
- 51 patients received individualized homeopathic remedies plus conventional treatments,
- 47 received placebo plus conventional treatments,
- 52 control patients without any homeopathic treatment were treated with conventional therapies and observed for survival only.
For groups 1 and 2, the study was double-blind. The constituents of the different homeopathic remedies were mainly of plant, mineral, or animal origin. The remedies were manufactured by stepwise dilution and succussion, thereby preparing stable GMP grade formulations.
QoL as well as functional and symptom scales showed significant improvement in the homeopathy group when compared with placebo after 9 and 18 weeks of homeopathic treatment (p < .001). Median survival time was significantly longer in the homeopathy group (435 days) versus placebo (257 days; p = .010) as well as versus control (228 days; p < .001). Survival rate in the homeopathy group differed significantly from placebo (p = .020) and from control (p < .001).
The authors concluded that QoL improved significantly in the homeopathy group compared with placebo. In addition, survival was significantly longer in the homeopathy group versus placebo and control. A higher QoL might have contributed to the prolonged survival. The study suggests that homeopathy positively influences not only QoL but also survival. Further studies including other tumour entities are warranted.
First of all, let me thank my friend Dana Ullman for alerting me to this new and interesting study. I have read what seems to be the full paper several times and have to admit that it puzzles me (and perhaps this version is just some type of pre-publication paper). Firstly, there seems to be no methods section (the abstract is followed by several tables and a discussion), and I am left guessing much of the details. Secondly, the paper raises several questions in my mind:
- What is the purpose of group 3? The authors call it a control group and state it allows assessing the real homeopathic effect on the homeopathic cohort as the real effect will be the natural historical effect minus the placebo effect and the homeopathic effect. Does that make sense?
- Was the study under-powered? From my reading of the text, the answer seems to be yes.
- What is the full list of conventional treatments the patients received, and did they differ between the 3 groups?
- If I understand it correctly, the study patients did not receive immuno-oncological therapy. Does that fact not render the study unethical?
- What homeopathic potencies were prescribed in group 1? The paper says: The constituents of the different homeopathic remedies were mainly of plant, mineral, or animal origin. This is unlikely, as most homeopathic remedies contain nothing.
- The authors seem to have used individualised homeopathy according to Hahnemann’s instructions. Did Hahnemann not strictly forbid combining his approach with other types of treatment?
- How well respected is THE ONCLOLOGIST, the journal that published the paper?
- Was the article peer-reviewed? If so, by whom?
- Was the placebo indistinguishable from the verum?
- Was the success of patient-blinding checked?
- Have similar findings regarding survival been reported previously? The authors call this finding ‘unexpected’; I find it more than that; it is baffling.
- Should we accept such surprising findings, or would it be more prudent to wait until independent replications are available?
- The first author of this trial is Prof Frass who has featured on this blog several times before (see for instance here, here, here, here and here). Frass has published several studies of homeopathy and invariably manages to produce positive results. Am I the only one to find this odd?
I would be most grateful, if the readers of this blog could assist me in finding answers to some of the above questions.