“Major study calls for end to homoeopathy”

Dr Vijay H Viashnav
Email: vijay@drvaishnav.com

This is with reference to the article in the Lancet which was referred to in the news item “Major study calls for end to homoeopathy” in the Times of India on page 1, Hindu and Mathrubhumi Daily dated 27.08.05.This article is a compilation of some of the results of different studies conducted to test the efficacy of homoeopathy.

Scientists and physicians have maintained skepticism towards homeopathic medicine because of the exceedingly small doses used in this pharmacological specialty. Skeptics of homeopathy have asserted that there is “nothing” in the medicines because there are no molecules left in the highly diluted solutions. However, research published in the prestigious Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (1999) suggests that there may be something active in homeopathic medicines after all.

Two Italian professors of chemistry, Vittorio Elia and Marcella Niccoli measured the amount of heat emanating from plain double-distilled water and compared that with double-distilled water in which a substance was placed. Both the control water and the treated water underwent consecutive dilution between one to thirty times, with vigorous shaking in-between each dilution, which represents the common pharmacological method in which homeopathic medicines are made.

The researchers conducted over 500 experiments, approximately half of which were made with double-distilled water that was mixed with a specific acid and base substance and half were in the control group of only double-distilled water. The researchers found that 92% of the test solutions with the added acid or base substance had higher than expected heat emanating from them (sodium chloride was one of the salt substances and a type of vinegar was one of the acid substances tested).

Dr. Vittorio Elia, the lead researcher, asserted, “We are setting the basis for a new science: the physics-chemistry of homeopathic water. These results make for a strong support to the hypothesis of the existence of a memory of water.”

This study confirms that there is something there in homeopathic water. It should now be known that physicians and scientists who assume that there is nothing in homeopathic medicines are showing their own ignorance of the scientific literature.

The Lancet published the most significant and comprehensive review of homeopathic research ever published in its September 20, 1997, issue. This article was a meta-analysis of 89 blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. The authors conclude that the clinical effects of homeopathic medicines are not simply the results of placebo.

The researchers uncovered 186 studies, 119 of which were double blind and/or randomized placebo-control trials, and 89 of which met pre-defined criteria for inclusion into a pooled meta-analysis. The reseachers found that by pooling the 89 trials together that homeopathic medicines had a 2.45 times greater effect than placebo.

Some skeptics insist that research on homeopathy is mandatory since the exceptionally small doses used do not make sense and there is no known mechanism for action for these drugs. While it is true that homeopaths presently do not know precisely how the homeopathic microdoses work, there are some compelling theories about their mechanism of action. And although homeopaths may not understand how their medicines work, keep in mind that leading contemporary pharmacologists readily acknowledge that there are many commonly prescribed drugs today, including aspirin and certain antibiotics, whose mechanism of action remains unknown, but this gap in knowledge has yet to stop physicians from prescribing them.

Another recent study, published in the American Journal of Pediatrics, tested homeopathic medicine for the treatment of a condition recognized to be the most serious public health problem today, childhood diarrhea. Over 5 million children die each year as the result of diarrhea, mostly in nonindustrialized countries. Conventional physicians prescribe oral rehydration therapy, but this treatment does not fight the infection that underlies the diarrhea.

Conducted in Nicaragua in association with the University of Washington and the University of Guadalajara, this randomized double blind, placebo-controlled study of 81 children showed that an individually chosen remedy provided statistically significant improvement of the children’s diarrhea as compared to those given a placebo. Children given the homeopathic remedy were cured of their infection 20% faster than those given a placebo, and the sicker children responded most dramatically to the homeopathic treatment. A total of 18 different remedies were used in this trial, individually chosen based on each child’s symptoms. This trial, individually chosen based on each child’s symptoms.

A study of the homeopathic treatment of migraine headache was conducted in Italy. Sixty patients were randomized and entered into a double blind, placebo-controlled trial. Patients regularly filled out a questionnaire on the frequency, intensity, and characteristics of their head pain. They were prescribed a single dose of a 30c remedy at four separate times over two-week intervals. Eight remedies were considered, and prescribers were allowed to use any two with a patient. While only 17% of patients given a placebo experienced relief of their migraine pain, an impressive 93% of patients given an individualized homeopathic medicine experienced good results.

In addition to various studies on human health, there have also been some animal studies. British researchers have conducted trials showing that homeopathic medicines, specifically Caulophyllum 30c, could lower the rate of stillbirths in pigs. Here the question of the placebo effect does not arise.

One important reason for such adverse opinion against homoeopathy by so called scientists and researchers is the increasing awareness about the efficacy of homoeopathic medicines among the conventional medical practitioners. Thousands of the ‘allopath’ doctors are veering towards the practice of homoeopathy all over the world. Imagine how great a loss this is for the allopathic pharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Vijay H. Vaishnav
Professor,Dept. of Materia Medica,
Smt. C M P Homoeopathic Medical College,Mumbai.
Email: vijay@drvaishnav.com

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