From being an alternative system of medicine, homeopathy has become a complementary system of medicine and a primary healthcare choice to treat both acute and chronic medical conditions.
By Michele Boiron,
Director, Boiron S.A., France.
Homeopathy has survived the last 200 years despite opposition from many quarters and is slowly emerging as the largest system of medicine patronised by governments and people alike due to safety, efficacy and standardisation of homeopathic practices.
From being an alternative system of medicine, homeopathy has become a complementary system of medicine and a primary healthcare choice to treat both acute and chronic medical conditions. People including allopathic doctors are accepting homeopathy like never before. This is what I sensed during my recent visit to India where I had the opportunity to interact with some of the leading researchers, doctors, students and patients.
From a humble beginning with just 200 drugs during Hahnemann’s time, today there are more than 2,000clinically-tested homeopathic medicines in practice. Its growing popularity can be gauged from the fact that World Health Organisation has recognised it as the second largest system of medicine in the world. For the past 250 years, this system of medicine has made a remarkable journey and has a bright future across the world.
In the recent times, homeopathy has made major advances in regions like the Mediterranean basin, South America, Eastern Europe, and India growing at more than 20% every year the world over. Despite national regulatory frameworks and health care systems differing from country to country, the use of homeopathic medicines, mostly as nonprescription medicines, is growing in many parts of the world. Homeopathic medicines are now available over the counter (OTC) and treatments are being offered by insurance companies under their comprehensive health insurance policy. Some hospitals in India and Dubai already have homeopathy department as part of their OPDs. People are now increasingly demanding an alternative to the orthodox system of western medicine that focuses on holistic healing, not just on a particular illness in isolation.
There are multiple factors that have lead to a resurgence of homeopathy globally. First, thanks to standardisation,that is happening at a rapid pace in developed countries, homeopathy is coming on par with allopathic medicines. Homeopathy drugsare now pre medicated, prepackaged, sealed, and labelled which is proving to be a boon for patients. New packaging tubes are made of food grade plastic and dispensing has become hygienic and easier using modern technology. The trend has just begun and is rapidly catching up.
Standardised products have become a necessity due to globalisation as many of the raw materials and medicines are coming from different countries. Second, many clinical trials have debunked the ‘placebo theory’ and proven that homeopathy has a scientific basis and actually works. One such study, the EPI3 study has amply demonstrated the effectiveness of homeopathic practice vis-à-vis conventional practice by highlighting how homeopathy can be as effective as conventional practice with fewer side effects. For example, in a study conducted on upper respiratory tract infection it was proved that homeopathic practice reduces use of antibiotics by almost 50 percent.
Third, the spectrum of diseases curable with homeopathy has become much wider than previously thought of. Studies indicate that homeopathic medical therapy can play a beneficial role in the long-term care of patients with chronic diseases. Some of the illnesses that respond best to homeopathic treatment are ENT, digestive, cardiovascular and osteoarticular problems as well as behavioural and psychiatric disorders. It can also help people recover sooner after a surgery. In summary, 50 percent of the health issues can be taken care of by homeopathy including the side-effects of allopathy.
Fourth, homeopathic medicines are quite cheap compared to other drugs. The French government compared all the costs associated with treatment from a homeopathic physician with that of a conventional physician and discovered that homeopathic care costs one half as much.
To improve the practice of homeopathy we need to incorporate homeopathy into the conventional medical systems and this is only possible when proactive measures are taken by the governments and medical fraternity together. There has to be better understanding between the two systems of medicines to arrive at a holistic treatment outcome and standards of practice. Clinical research must be promoted by opening up hospital services for homoeopathic clinical practice, so that controlled trials can be carried out based on the specificities of its practice. Critical education and training in university education should be encouraged by instituting an interuniversity degree allowing practitioners trained under it to incorporate homoeopathy in a therapeutic strategy after the establishment of a diagnosis. Additionally, benefits of non-conventional therapies must be included in Contiuing Medical Education programs during conventional medical training.
Last but not the least, industry standards encompassing various parameters such as safety need to be defined rigorously. All homeopathic medicines should comply with pharmacopeia specifications and quality requirements. Manufacturers need to ensure that Good Manufacturing Practice guidelines prevail during the manufacturing process similar to conventional pharmaceuticals. Awareness levels in patients too need to be enhanced so that they know the diagnosis made by doctors and the medicines prescribed to them. The shroud of secrecy surrounding the dosage and name of drugs needs to go.
To the critics, I humbly ask, would the market for homeopathy keep growing if it were not benefiting people?