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

homeopathy

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This review updated and extended a previous one on the economic impact of homeopathy. A systematic literature search of the terms ‘cost’ and ‘homeopathy’ from January 2012 to July 2022 was performed in electronic databases. Two independent reviewers checked records, extracted data, and assessed study quality using the Consensus on Health Economic Criteria (CHEC) list.

Six studies were added to 15 from the previous review. Synthesizing both health outcomes and costs showed homeopathic treatment being at least equally effective for less or similar costs than control in 14 of 21 studies. Three studies found improved outcomes at higher costs, two of which showed cost-effectiveness for homeopathy by incremental analysis. One found similar results and three similar outcomes at higher costs for homeopathy. CHEC values ranged between two and 16, with studies before 2009 having lower values (Mean ± SD: 6.7 ± 3.4) than newer studies (9.4 ± 4.3).

The authors concluded that, although results of the CHEC assessment show a positive chronological development, the favorable cost-effectiveness of homeopathic treatments seen in a small number of high-quality studies is undercut by too many examples of methodologically poor research.

I am always impressed by the fantastic and innovative phraseology that some authors are able to publish in order to avaid calling a spade a spade. The findings of the above analysis clearly fail to be positive. So why not say so? Why not honestly conclude something like this:

Our analysis failed to show conclusive evidence that homeopathy is cost effective.

To find an answer to this question, we need not look all that far. The authors’ affiliations give the game away:

  • 1Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy, Witten/Herdecke University, Witten, Germany.
  • 2Medical Scientific Services/Medical Affairs, Deutsche Homöopathie-Union DHU-Arzneimittel GmbH & Co. KG, Karlsruhe, Germany.
  • 3Institute of Integrative Medicine, Witten/Herdecke University, Herdecke, Germany.
  • 4Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

Another rather funny give-away is the title of the paper: the “…evaluation for…”comes form the authors’ original title (Overview and quality assessment of health economic evaluations for homeopathic therapy: an updated systematic review) and it implies an evaluation in favour of. The correct wording would be “evaluation of”, I think.

I rest my case.

The Academy of Homeopathy Education is a US-based accredited teaching institution offering homeopathy education services to professional and medically licensed homeopathy students. This study reports on clinical outcomes from the teaching clinic from 2020 to 2021.

Data were collected using the patient-generated outcome measure, the Measure Yourself Concerns and Wellbeing (MYCaW). Mean MYCaW values for initial and subsequent consultations were analyzed for the degree of change across the intervention period in 38 clients. Each client listed up to two complaints. MYCaW scores between initial and subsequent consultations were analyzed for the degree of change (delta) across the intervention period.

A total of 95 body system-related symptoms were analyzed for change in intensity following the homeopathic intervention. Statistically significant improvements in the intensity of main symptoms were observed between initial and subsequent follow-ups. The main symptom scores showed a mean change in intensity (delta MYCaW) of −0.79 points (95% confidence interval (CI), −1.29 to −0.29; p = 0.003) at first follow-up, a mean change of −1.67 points (95% CI, −2.34 to −0.99; p = 0.001) at second follow-up compared with the initial visit, and a mean change of −1.93 points (95% CI, −3.0 to −0.86; p = 0.008) at third follow-up compared with the initial visit. For clients with four or more follow-ups, the mean delta MYCaW was −1.57 points (95% CI, −2.86 to −0.28; p = 0.039).

The authors concluded that statistically significant improvements as well as some clinically meaningful changes in symptom intensity were found across a diverse group of individuals with a variety of long-term chronic conditions. The improvement was evident across different body systems and different levels of chronicity. There are limitations to the generalizability of the study due to the research design. Further research and investigation are warranted given the promising results of this work.

There are, of course, not just limits to the generalizability of this study! I’d say there are limits to the interpretation of any of its findings.

What was the cause of the improvements?

Here are just a few questions that I asked myself while reading this paper:

  • Are the guys from the Academy of Homeopathy Education not aware of the fact that even chronic conditions often get better by themselves?
  • Have they heard of the placebo effect?
  • Are they trying to tell us that the patients did not also use conventional treatments for their chronic conditions?
  • What about regression towards the mean?
  • What about social desirability?
  • Why do they think that further research is needed?
  • Are these really results that look ‘promising for homeopathy?

To answer just the last question: No, these findings are in perfect agreement with the fact that highly diluted homeopathic remedies are pure placebos (to be honest, they would even be in agreement with such remedies being mildly harmful).

 

‘WORLD HOMEOPATHY DAY’ is upon us and the Internet is awash with pro-homeopathy comments, e.g.:

  • World Homeopathy Day is observed annually on April 10th to commemorate the birth anniversary of Samuel Hahnemann, a prominent figure in the development of homeopathy. This day celebrates the principles and practices of homeopathy, an alternative medicinal approach that emphasizes treating ailments by utilizing natural substances and stimulating the body’s inherent healing abilities.
  • The theme for World Homeopathy Day 2024 is ‘Empowering Research, Enhancing Proficiency: A Homeopathy Symposium”. This theme underscores the significance of continuous research in homeopathy and the need to upgrade capability in its training to give better medical care results.

Even slightly less biased sources cannot bring themselves to a more realistic approach, e.g.:

The significance of the World Homeopathy Day is said to be as follows:

  • Raising Awareness: World Homeopathy Day has successfully brought homeopathy to the forefront of public attention, generating dialogue and interest in its principles and practices.
  • Bridging Communities: The Day serves as a platform for bringing together homeopaths, practitioners, researchers, and individuals interested in alternative medicine, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange.
  • Focus on Education: World Homeopathy Day emphasizes the importance of education and ethical practices within the field, promoting responsible usage and informed choices for individuals seeking homeopathic care.

World Homeopathy Day is about understanding and exploring the potential of this alternative medicine system while keeping an open mind and prioritizing evidence-based healthcare practices.

So, let me try to counter-balance these texts by showing you what my recently published 7 key points about homeopathy tell us:

Homeopathy is popular, particularly in India, Germany, France and parts of South America. It was invented more than 200 years ago and still divides opinions like few other subjects in alternative medicine.

  1. Homeopathy was invented by the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843). At the time, our understanding of the laws of nature was woefully incomplete, and therefore Hahnemann’s ideas seemed less implausible than today. The conventional treatments of this period were often more dangerous than the disease they were supposed to cure. Consequently, homeopathy was repeatedly shown to be superior to ‘allopathy’ (a term coined by Hahnemann to denigrate conventional medicine) and Hahnemann’s treatments were an almost instant, worldwide success.[1]
  2. Many consumers confuse homeopathy with herbal medicine; yet the two are fundamentally different. Herbal medicines are plant extracts that contain potentially active ingredients. Homeopathic remedies are based on plants or any other material and they are typically so dilute that they contain not a single molecule of the substance advertised on the bottle. The most frequently used dilution (homeopaths call them ‘potencies’) is a ‘C30’; a C30-potency has been diluted 30 times at a ratio of 1:100. This means that one drop of the staring material is dissolved in 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 drops of diluent (usually a water/alcohol mixture)—and that equates to less than one molecule of the original substance per all the molecules of the universe.
  3. Homeopaths claim that their remedies work via some ‘energy’ or ‘vital force’ and that the process of preparing the homeopathic dilutions (it involves vigorous shaking the mixtures at each dilution step) transfers this ‘energy’ or information from one to the next dilution. They also believe that the process of diluting and agitating their remedies, which they call potentisation, renders them not less or not more potent. Homeopathic remedies are usually prescribed according to the ‘like cures like’ principle: if, for instance, a patient suffers from runny eyes, a homeopath might prescribe a remedy made of onion, because onion make a healthy person’s eyes water. This and all other assumptions of homeopathy contradict the known laws of nature. In other words, we do not fail to comprehend how homeopathy works, but we understand that it cannot work unless the known laws of nature are wrong.
  4. According to Hahnemann’s classical homeopathy, homeopaths are focussed on the symptoms and characteristics of the patient. They conduct a lengthy medical history, and they show little or no interest in a physical examination of their patient or other diagnostic procedures. Once they are confident to have all the information they need, they try to find the optimal homeopathic remedy. This is done by matching the symptoms with the drug pictures of homeopathic remedies. Any homeopathic drug picture is essentially based on what has been noted in homeopathic provings where healthy volunteers take a remedy and monitor all that symptoms, sensations and feelings they experience subsequently. Thus, the optimal homeopathic remedy can be seen as a diagnosis which makes homeopathy also a diagnostic method.[2]
  1. Today, around 500 clinical trials of homeopathy have been published. The totality of this evidence fails to show that homeopathic remedies are more than placebos.[3] Numerous official statements from various countries confirm the absurdity of homeopathy, for instance:
  • “The principles of homeopathy contradict known chemical, physical and biological laws and persuasive scientific trials proving its effectiveness are not available” (Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia)
  • “Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness.” (National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia)
  • “Homeopathic remedies don’t meet the criteria of evidence-based medicine.” (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary)
  • “The incorporation of anthroposophical and homeopathic products in the Swedish directive on medicinal products would run counter to several of the fundamental principles regarding medicinal products and evidence-based medicine.” (Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden)
  • “There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition” (National Health Service, England)
  1. Yet, many patients undeniably do get better after taking homeopathic remedies. The best evidence available today clearly shows that this improvement is unrelated to the homeopathic remedy per se. It is the result of a lengthy, empathetic, compassionate encounter with a homeopath, a placebo-response or other factors which experts often call ‘context effects’.[4]
  2. Whenever homeopaths advise their patients (as they often do) to forgo effective conventional treatments, they are likely to do harm. This phenomenon is best documented in relation to the advice of many homeopaths against immunisations.[5]
[For references, see the original text]

I do not expect fans of homeopathy to be impressed by my evidence-based assessment of their cult. In fact, just looking what is currently being posted on ‘X’ today about the ‘WORLD HOMEOPATHY DAY’ seems to justify my expectation. Here are the 10 first postings that appeared on my screen about an hour ago:

  1. Today, on #WorldHomeopathyDay, we celebrate the birth anniversary of Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy. Let’s embrace the principles of natural healing and holistic well-being.
  2. On #WorldHomeopathyDay President #DroupadiMurmu to inaugurate 2-day Homeopathic Symposium at Yashobhoomi Convention Centre Dwarka, New Delhi. Organized by Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) based on theme of ‘Empowering Research, Enhancing Proficiency.’
  3. Dr. Ashvini Kumar Dwivedi, Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, Ministry of Ayush, Government of India, and #ASSOCHAM Ayush task force member, underlined the significance of #WorldHomeopathyDay, observed on April 10th each year
  4. Today, we celebrate #WorldHomeopathyDay 2024, embracing the gentle healing power of nature.
  5. Happy #WorldHomeopathyDay!  Let’s celebrate the holistic approach to health that homeopathy offers, honoring its contributions to alternative medicine and its focus on individualized care. Here’s to exploring natural remedies and supporting wellness for all! #HolisticHealth
  6. Happy World Homeopathy Day Embracing the gentle yet powerful healing of homeopathy, let’s cherish its holistic essence, promoting balance and well-being worldwide. Here’s to the harmony it brings to mind, body, and spirit.
  7. #WorldHomeopathyDay: President #DroupadiMurmu to inaugurate 2-day Homeopathic Symposium at Yashobhoomi Convention Centre Dwarka, New Delhi. Organized by Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) based on theme of ‘Empowering Research, Enhancing Proficiency.’
  8. Celebrate #WorldHomeopathyDay with us & enter to win these two enlightening reads by renowned homeopath Dr. Mukesh Batra. What inspired you to explore homeopathy? Share your story in the comments section & get a chance to win a copy of #HealWithHomeopathy and #FeelGoodHealGood!
  9. #WorldHomeopathyDay is celebrated on April 10th, promoting awareness of the principles and benefits of homeopathic medicine. It aims to address the whole body, including hereditary predispositions and disease history, and encourages people to pursue homeopathy as a profession.…
  10. On World Homeopathy Day, we celebrate Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the pioneer of homeopathy. His gentle remedies, made from natural substances, have helped countless people heal without side effects.

_______________________

In view of this volume of pure BS, I encourage everyone to post (here, or on ‘X’, or elsewhere) some evidence-based comments on homeopathy, Hahnemann and the ‘World Homeopathy Day’.

Let me make a start:

Homeopaths are as deluded as their remedies are diluted

Pre-diabetes is a significant public health problem worldwide. India has a very high rate of progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes, 75-78 per thousand persons per year.

The objective of this study was to test the efficacy of individualized homeopathic medicinal products (HMPs) against placebos in preventing the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes. It was designed as a ix-month, double-blind, randomized (1:1), two parallel arms, placebo-controlled trial.

Sixty participants with pre-diabetes were treated either with:

  • HMPs plus yoga therapy (YT; n = 30)
  • or with identical-looking placebos plus YT (n = 30).

Pre-diabetes was defined as elevated fasting blood glucose (FBS) of 100-125 mg/dL, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) value of 5.7-6.4%, and/or an elevated blood glucose level 2 hrs. after an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) of 140-199 mg/dL (ICD-10-R73.03).

The primary efficacy endpoint was the proportion of participants progressing from pre-diabetes to diabetes, measured after three and six months. Secondary outcomes comprised of fasting blood glucose (FBS), oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), glycated hemoglobin percentage (HbA1c%), lipid profile, liver enzymes (alanine transaminase, aspartate transaminase), urea and creatinine, and Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile version 2 (MYMOP-2); all measured after 3 and 6 months.

The proportion of participants converted from pre-diabetics to diabetics (n/N; n = diabetics, N = prediabetics) was significantly less in the verum group than control: HbA1C% (month 3: verum – 2/30 versus control – 11/30, p = 0.003; month 6: 3/30 vs. 2/30, p = 0.008), OGTT (month 3: 0/30 vs. 8/30, p = 0.015; month 6: 0/30 vs. 1/30, p = 0.008), but not according to FBS (month 3: 1/30 vs. 1/30, p = 0.779; month 6: 1/30 vs. 3/30, p = 0.469). Several secondary outcomes also revealed significant improvements in the verum group than in placebo: HbA1C% (p < 0.001), OGTT (p = 0.001), serum ALT (p = 0.031), creatinine (p = 0.012), and MYMOP-2 profile scores (p < 0.001). Sulphur, Bryonia alba, and Thuja occidentalis were the most frequently indicated medicines. Thus, HMPs outperformed placebos by successfully preventing the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes.

The authors concluded that HMPs with YT produced significantly better effects than placebos plus YT with moderate to large effect sizes. Overall, HMPs outperformed placebos by successfully preventing the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes.

This is an odd study with very odd results; it begs several questions and comments, e.g.:

  • If the aim was to test the efficacy of individualized homeopathic medicinal products (HMPs) against placebos in preventing the progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes, why add yoga as a treatment?
  • What were the influences of other factors such as diet and life-style, and were these the same in both groups?
  • The sample size seems far too small for such firm conclusions.
  • What might be the alleged mechanism of action?
  • Why not publish such a study that has allegedly important results in one of the many established journals dealing with diabetes?

I fear that this trial is merely one in the long list of poor quality, false-positive homeopathy studies that are currently emerging from India. I predict that the findings will not even be taken seriously enough to be submitted to a replication by established diabetes researchers.

An article entitled “Homeopathy for worm infestations in children’s” caught my eye. Here is the un altered abstract:

Unusual sorts of worms can be there in a child’s stomach and may initiate several health complications such as pain, infection etc. To treat worm infections, one must identify about various categories of worms, and after understanding the kind of infection induced by the worm’s the treatment for the babies or children can planned. There are various Homeopathic medicines available which be used to treat worm infections without any side effects on the health of the children’s. In this paper we have discussed how the worm infection has been treated at our homeopathic research institute.

In the paper itself, the author, Dr. AK Dwivedi (Professor and H.O.D, Department of Physiology and Biochemistry, SKRP Guajarati Medical College, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India), explains:

Homeopathic do not take care of just the disease, but is prescribed on the base of physical, emotional and genetic condition of a person. Homeopathic medicines act on both the mental and physical levels of individuals. Homeopathy is a natural and mild system of medicines that utilizes minute doses of well-researched remedies to improve the body’s natural curing procedure. Homeopathic medicines originate from substances that come’s from plants, minerals & animals.

The author’s conclusion is equally impressive:

On the basis of our research and after analysing the patients after medication we have found that homeopathy can completely cure the worm infection, If the dosages are properly prescribed and taken on that basis of investigation reports from time to time under guidance of experienced Homeopathic Physician worm infection can be treated with homeopathy effectively.

Yes, this level of incompetence could be quite funny! But sadly, it is also quite concerning. Most worm infestations are easily treated with effective conventional therapies. Untreated, they can have serious consequences. To advocate homeopathy – which is of course ineffective – is irresponsible, unethical and arguably criminal, in my view.

 

Acute Otitis Media (AOM) is one of the most common acute infections in children and often injudiciously treated by antibiotics. Homeopathy has been claimed to work but is it really effective?

This open label, randomized, controlled, parallel arm trial was conducted on children (aged 0–12 years), suffering from AOM. The primary outcome was changes in Tympanic Membrane Examination scale (TMES) and Acute Otitis Media-Severity of Symptoms (AOM-SOS) scale, time to improvement in pain through Facial Pain Scale-Revised (FPS-R) over 10 days. The need for antibiotics in both groups and the recurrence of subsequent episodes of AOM over 12 months were also compared.

Intention-to-treat analysis was performed on 222 children; Homeopathy (n = 117) (H-group), Allopathy (A-group) (n = 105). There was a statistically significant reduction of scores in H-group compared with A-group at each time point: at day 3 (mean diff. ± sd: 1.71 ± 0.19; 95% CI: 1.34 to 2.07; p = 0.0001), at day 7 (mean diff. ± sd: 1.29 ± 0.24; 95% CI: 0.82 to 1.76; p = 0.0001) and at day 10 (mean diff. ± sd: 1.23 ± 0.25; 95% CI = 0.74 to 1.71; p = 0.0001) favoring homeopathy. Clinical failure by the third day of treatment was observed in 11% and 24% of children in H-group vs A-group (OR: 0.03; 95% CI: 0.001 to 0.52; p = 0.03). None of the children in the H-group required antibiotics, whereas 14 children in the A-group did.

The authors concluded that both therapies seemed to produce comparable effects and appeared safe. The study consolidated the findings observed during a pilot study, i.e., homeopathy is non-inferior to allopathy in managing AOM in children and antibiotics in children can be avoided.

This study was published in the journal ‘Homeopathy’ and originates from the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, New Delhi, India. Sadly, I do not have the full text of the paper and cannot therefore scrutinize it adequately.

Let me just mention these three facts:

  1.  The journal ‘Homeopathy’ never publishes negative results.
  2. Indian researchers of homeopathy publish as good as no negative results.
  3. As far as I can see, the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy, New Delhi, has never published a negative result.

These points do, of course, not necessarily mean that the study is false-positive, but they do not inspire me with confidence. In any case, it seems wise to insist on better evidence. To render it credible, we would need:

  1. Several rigorous RCTs that test homeopathy for AOM against placebo.
  2. If (and only then) they show that homeopathy is better than placebo, at least one independent replication of the present study.

As the biological plausibility of all this is close to zero, the chances that this will happen are also zero.

Jennifer Jacobs started publishing peer-reviewed papers on homeopathy in the early 1990s. This happens to be around the same time as I did. So, we both have about 30 years of research into homeopathy behind us.

Jennifer just authored a paper entitled “Thirty Years of Homeopathic Research – Lessons Learned“. Here is its abstract:

Conducting double-blind randomized controlled trials is difficult, even in the allopathic medical system. Doing so within the paradigm of classical homeopathy is even more challenging. More than thirty years of experience in carrying out such trials has taught me much about the pitfalls to avoid as well as the factors that can lead to success. The initial steps of putting together a research protocol, securing funding, and obtaining human subjects’ approval can be daunting. After that comes developing questionnaires and surveys, hiring study personnel, and recruitment of subjects. The actual implementation of the research comes with its own set of possible missteps. Sample size determination, entry criteria, as well as type, frequency and duration of treatment are all crucial. Finally, statistical analysis must be performed to a high standard and a manuscript prepared to submit for publication. Even then there can be one or more manuscript revisions to make, based on feedback from reviewers, before a study is actually published. The entire process can take at least two years and is usually much longer.

Mistakes at any one of these steps can damage the outcome, as well as the impact of the study. With examples from my body of research, I will discuss some of the things that I wish I had done differently, as well as those that turned out to be correct. Homeopathic research is held to a much higher standard than conventional trials. Any flaws in study design, implementation, and analysis can be used by critics to negate the results. I am hopeful that the next generation of homeopathic researchers will learn from my experiences and carry on with great success.

Jennifer’s example motivated me to follow suit and contribute some very brief thoughts about my 30 years of homeopathy research and the lessons I have learnt:

  Conducting double-blind randomized controlled trials is difficult in any area of medicine. Yet these types of studies are by far the best way to find out which treatments work and which don’t. Therefore, they need doing, regardless of the obstacles they may pose.

In homeopathy, we now have a large body of such trials. Sadly, not all of them are reliable. Those that are, according to accepted criteria, tend to fail to show that homeopathy works better than a placebo. Understandably, homeopaths are disappointed with this overall result and have made numerous attempts to invalidate it.

The main problem with research into homeopathy is not the research methodology. It is well established for clinical trials and can be easily modified to fit all the demands made by individualised treatment or other pecularities that may apply to homeopathy. The main problem is the homeopath who finds it impossible to accept the truth, namely that highly diluted homeopathic remedies are pure placebos and any observed benefits of homeopathy are due to non-specific effects such as the empathetic encounter or a placebo response.

The lesson to be learned from the past is that, in medicine, even the most obsessive belief, conviction or wishful thinking will eventually have to give way to the scientific evidence. In the case of homeopathy, this process has taken an extraordinary amount of time and effort but, finally, we are almost there and the writing is on the wall for everyone to see.

Two resumes of 30 years of work, research and experience!

And what a difference between them!

Who do you think gets closer to the truth,

Jennifer or I?

If I had a £ for each time I was asked during the last few days whether King Charles is going to treat his cancer with homeopathy, I would have my pockets full of cash. The question seems reasonable because he has been singing the praise of homeopathy for decades. But, as I have pointed out previously, he is unlikely to use homeopathy or any other unproven cancer cure; on the contrary he will certainly receive the most effective therapies available today.

In any case, the homeopathic treatment of cancer is currently a most popular topic. As if on command, an article appeared on my screen that promises to address the subject:

“Homoeopathy and Cancer – An Alternative Approach towards the path of Healing”

Here is the abstract of this remarkable paper:

Homoeopathy is a holistic system of medicine rooted on the principle of “Similia Similibus Curentur”. It has gained attention for its potential therapeutic benefits. It offers a holistic approach that addresses both the physical symptoms and emotional well-being of individuals. While this alternative approach of healing has been explored in various health contexts, a notable gap remains in understanding its application in the realm of cancer care. This review seeks to fill this void by exploring the broader landscape of homoeopathy’s principles and applications. Through a critical examination of existing research and evidence, it aims to offer valuable insights into the potential role of homoeopathy as a complementary approach in cancer care and symptomatic relief. This review underscores the need for further research and a more nuanced understanding of homoeopathy’s place in healthcare, particularly in the context of cancer patients and their well-being.

I am sure you are as impressed as I am and keen to learn more. In the article itself, the authors offer some brand-new, cutting-edge science to back up their views:

According to Samuel Hahnemann, “When a person is ill, it is originally merely the spirit-like, autonomic life force (life principle), which is always there in the organism, that is mistuned by the dynamic effect of a morbific agent inimical to life.Only the life principle, tuned incorrectly to such an anomalyis capable of causing irregular functions the body. Cancer may initially be treated as a one-sided disease because the expanded pathology weakens the Vital Force. According to Hahnemann, “Diseases that seem to have just a few symptoms are called one-sided because only one or two prominent symptoms are indicated. This makes these diseases, which primarily fall under the category of chronic diseases, harder to cure. According to Arthur Hill Grimmer, the biggest challenge in treating advanced cancer cases is getting therapeutic individualization of symptoms. Even with all the typical symptoms, it is quite difficult to create a potent homoeopathic prescription. Burnett considered both the characteristic aspects of the patient as well as the ‘action’ or‘organ affinity’ of the remedy he prescribed.

Eventually, the authors (who are affiliated with prestigeous institutions: Rajasthan Ayurved University, Jodhpur; Swasthya Kalyan Homoeopathic Medical College & Research Centre, Jaipur) arrive at the following conclusion:

In the scientific literature, homoeopathy’s use in the treatment of cancer is still largely unexplored. Pioneers have offered intriguing perspectives on disease origins and treatment challenges. The miasmatic perspective offers a distinctive approach that emphasises individualised strategies based on symptoms and characteristics. Some studies suggest an improvement in quality of life of the individuals suffering from cancer. In the dynamic landscape of cancer treatment, more studies are warranted to enhance the scope of holistic, patient-centered care through homoeopathy.

Yes, homeopathy is a joke. This paper (and the many similar publications out there) could thus be intensely funny – except for the fact that these charlatans are playing with the lives of many vulnerable and desperate patients. I sincerely hope Charles manages to stay well clear of homeopathy and its irresponsible practitioners which clearly is one precondition for making a full recovery.

Guest post by Udo Endruscheit

Switzerland is probably the European country with the strangest complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) regulations in the health insurance system. A total of five different CAM methods have been included in the benefits catalogue of basic insurance for several years. However, this is subject to a strange proviso. How did this come about?

As almost everywhere in Europe, there was a desire in Switzerland in the 1990s to include CAM in the public healthcare system, with homeopathy naturally once again taking pole position. Initially, the urge to include five CAM modalities in basic care was granted, but only provisionally. A major project called the “Complementary Medicine Evaluation Programme” (PEK) was launched in 1999 to evaluate the procedures. Even back then, the criteria of efficacy, appropriateness and cost-effectiveness were prerequisites for reimbursement in health insurance. PEK was intended to create clarity here.

One part of PEK has been the well-known Shang/Egger (2005) study on homeopathy “Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy”, which was to become a bone of contention without precedent. However, this did not change the negative result for homeopathy.

In any case, clear conclusions were drawn in Switzerland not only from this study, but also from the results of the other evaluations: the provisional inclusion of the methods in statutory basic insurance was terminated.

This in turn enraged the supporters of CAM methods, who thought they had already reached their goal with the provisional decision in their favour. Apparently, they had not even considered the possibility that scientific evaluations could actually lead to a sudden end to their wishes, which they believed had already been fulfilled.

In fact, in 2009, the friends of ineffective methods succeeded in bringing about one of the referendums for which Switzerland is known under the catchphrase “direct democracy”. And they prevailed – around two thirds of the votes cast were in favour of CAM and its inclusion in the Swiss Federal Constitution. However, it should be borne in mind that the two-thirds figure is put into perspective if the approval, including the low voter turnout, is converted to the proportion of the total electorate. This leaves just 17 per cent who voted for the CAM. And a closer look at the issue of the constitution also reveals that no unconditional protection space has been created for CAM. This is more or less a kind of good behaviour clause for CAM methods, but not rules that could render laws null and void.

The Swiss government was faced with the question of how to avoid simply ignoring the result of the referendum, while at the same time complying with the still valid requirements for reimbursement in basic insurance. So the representatives of the five CAM directions were actually asked to come to the Federal Office of Public Health with their proof of efficacy and economic efficiency. This was done in 2011.

Of course, this was a little bizarre at this stage – and of course nothing came of it. Or actually it did: once again, no proof could be provided. Meanwhile, a lot of time had passed again and a new Federal Council was forced to take up the matter.

The latter, Alain Berset, came up with the plan that the necessary proof of efficacy could actually be postponed until after the methods had been included in the catalogue of basic insurance benefits. In other words, he gave the methods a governmental leap of faith (which, in view of the long-year history of the case, meant closing several eyes) and postulated that this should be the matter until someone applied for an evaluation of one of the methods.

This is what happened in the year of our Lord 2017. Apparently everyone was able to make their peace with it, which is hardly surprising after ten years of moving around and around. Only the umbrella organisation of health insurers, Santesuisse, grumbled about it and predicted that the announced cost neutrality of such a measure could hardly be expected. Which Santesuisse did indeed prove in a dossier two years later.

The exhausted Swiss have so far left it at that. Homeopathy remained untouched. This was also unfortunate for the reason that the fairy tale of the clever and innovative Switzerland, which knew how important the wishes and preferences of its patients were, was propagated in Germany. The rather strange result of more than ten years of struggle was even passed around by German homeopaths under the name “Swiss model”. Even the leading Swiss press was embarrassed by this and published a clarifying article. And unfortunately, the Swiss began to get used to the existence of hocus-pocus in their basic insurance and to take it for granted.

Until now. Even in Switzerland, the fact that homeopathy is coming under increasing criticism everywhere has probably not gone unnoticed. And the Swiss are actually a rather critical and resistant people. And so it happened that a single brave inhabitant of the country recently decided to exercise his right to demand a new evaluation of homeopathy. The Federal Office of Public Health must have been surprised – or perhaps they were desperately waiting for it? Perhaps. In any case, the application was accepted without hesitation. Meanwhile, a notification has been issued that the hearing procedure for the evaluation has been initiated. The representatives of homeopathy (the service providers), the representatives of the Swiss medical profession and the representatives of the health insurance companies – the aforementioned Santesuisse – will be heard. The final decision will then be made by the Swiss government’s Department of Home Affairs.

How many attempts at an evaluation has this actually been – the third? The fourth? We can’t keep up … We have seen the consequences of scientific questions being decided by majorities. It is to be hoped that Switzerland will not add another chapter to the drama that has been going on since 2005. Mr Berset’s successor, who has been in office since the beginning of the year, should only be given a brief reminder: in Switzerland, too, homeopathy has no effect beyond contextual effects. And that is not enough to prove efficacy, appropriateness and cost-effectiveness.

But cheers to the courageous descendant of William Tell, who is about to single-handedly bring down homeopathy in the Swiss healthcare system!

The Austrian ‘Initiative für Wissenschaftliche Medizin‘ (Initiative for Scientific Medicine) did a great job by summarizing the non-scientific training events dedicated to pseudomedicine organized, supported or promoted by the ‘Österreichische Akademie der Ärzte‘ (Austrian Academy of Physicians), a partner of the Austrian Medical Association. They sorted them by date in descending order, listing the DFP points (points required for postgraduate education) awarded and the link to each specific event. The content of the programme of such events, if available, is also often “interesting”. The pseudomedicine methods are provided with links to psiram.com, where these methods are described in more detail.

So, restricting ourselves to the period of 20 years (2003-2023) and merely looking at a selection of all possible so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), we find in this treasure trove of quackery the following:

  • Anthroposophic medicine – 218 events
  • Homeopathy – 1 708 events
  • Orthomolecular medicine – 645 events
  • Neural therapy – 864 events
  • TCM diagnostics – 1214 events

In total, thousands SCAM events were organized, supported or promoted by the Academy, and I am not aware of any national physicians’ organization that has done anywhere near as much for quackery.

On their website, the Austrian Academy of Physicians state that they were founded by the Austrian Medical Association as a non-profit organisation with the aim of promoting and further developing medical education in Austria… The aim is to lead the way in medical education issues in order to achieve continuous improvement in the medical profession. For the Academy, continuing medical education is an essential component of medical quality improvement…

This may sound alright but, in my view, it raises several questions, e,g,:

  • Does the Academy believe that continuous improvement in the medical profession can be achieved by promoting, organizing or conducting such a huge amount of courses in quackery?
  • Do they not know that this is the exact opposite of medical quality improvement?
  • Are they aware of their ethical responsibility?
  • Do they know that the promotion of quackery puts patients at risk?
  • Have they heard of evidence-based education?

It is easy to criticize but less obvious to improve. In case the people responsible for postgraduate education at the Academy want to discuss these issues with me, I would therefore be delighted to do so, for instance, via a series of evidence-based lectures on SCAM.

 

 

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