Homeopaths believe that their remedies work for every condition imaginable and that naturally includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). But what does the evidence show?
The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the efficacy of individualized homeopathic treatment in patients with IBS. The study was carried out at the National Homeopathic Hospital of the Secretary of Health, Mexico City, Mexico and included 41 patients: 3 men and 38 women, mean age 54 ± 14.89 years, diagnosed with IBS as defined by the Rome IV Diagnostic criteria. Single individualized homeopathics were prescribed for each patient, taking into account all presenting symptoms, clinical history, and personality via repertorization using RADAR Homeopathic Software. The homeopathic remedies were used at the fifty-millesimal (LM) potency per the Mexican Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia starting with 0/1 and increasing every month (0/2, 0/3, 0/6). Severity scales were applied at the beginning of treatment and every month for 4 months of treatment. The evaluation was based on comparing symptom severity scales during treatment.
The results demonstrated that 100% of patients showed some improvement and 63% showed major improvement or were cured. The study showed a significant decrease in the severity of symptom scores 3 months after the treatment, with the pain score showing a decrease already one month after treatment.
The authors state that the results highlight the importance of individualized medicine regimens using LM potency, although the early decrease in pain observed could also be due to the fact that Lycopodium clavatum and Nux vomica were the main homeopathic medicine prescribed, and these medicines contain many types of alkaloids, which have shown significant analgesic effects on pain caused by physical and chemical stimulation.
Where to begin?
Let me mention just a few rather obvious points:
- A pilot study is not for evaluating the efficacy, but for testing the feasibility of a definitive trial.
- The study has no control group, therefore the outcome cannot be attributed to the treatment but is most likely due to a mixture of placebo effects, regression towards the mean, and natural history of IBS.
- The conclusions are not warranted.
- The paper was published in the infamous Altern Ther Health Med.
Just to make sure that nobody is fooled into believing that homeopathy might nonetheless be effective for IBS. Here is what the Cochrane review on this subject tells us: no firm conclusions regarding the effectiveness and safety of homeopathy for the treatment of IBS can be drawn. Further high quality, adequately powered RCTs are required to assess the efficacy and safety of clinical and individualised homeopathy for IBS compared to placebo or usual care.
In my view, even the conclusion of the Cochrane review is odd and slightly misleading. The correct conclusion would have been something more to the point:
THE CURRENT TRIAL EVIDENCE FAILS TO INDICATE THAT HOMEOPATHY IS AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT FOR IBS.