Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Painkiller Usage Reduced by 50 Percent with Homeopathy

The front page lead story of the Los Angeles Times on March 30, 2013, was the significant increase in deaths as a result of painkillers (Glover and Girion, 2013).  The good news is that there are alternatives to painkillers and safer treatments that can reduce their usage.

A large study conducted in France showed that patients with chronic musculoskeletal disorders had a 50% reduced usage of conventional pain medication by being under the care of a physician who specializes in prescribing homeopathic medicines (Rossignol, Begaud, Engel, et al, 2012).

This study of 1,153 patients with musculoskeletal disorders* compared treatments from conventional physicians (CM), physicians who specialized in homeopathic medicine (Ho), and physicians who engaged in a mixed practice of conventional and natural treatments (Mx).  Some of the musculoskeletal disorders of patients who were included in this study were: Osteoarthritis, rheumatism, fibromyalgia, muscle spasms, tendinitis, rotary cuff syndrome, ankylosing spondylitis, intervertebral disc disorders, neck pain, torticollis, and spinal stenosis.

This study was approved by the French National Data-Protection Commission and the French National Council of Physicians.  Prior to the start of the study, a higher percentage of patients who received care from a MD homeopath were found to have a "chronic" musculoskeletal disorder (61%), as compared with those going to conventional MDs (50%) or to MDs who practiced a mixed treatment (52%).

Despite the fact that the homeopathic patients were considered ill for a longer period of time, this study showed that the patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain had a 50% reduced use of conventional pain medication, while patients with acute musculoskeletal pain had a 38% reduced use.  In addition to this significant reduction in the use of painkillers, the patients who received homeopathic treatment showed a similar clinical progression of their musculoskeletal disease as assessed by standardized functional scales.

The researchers acknowledged that musculoskeletal disorders are a leading reason for medical consultation in primary care.  The researchers also noted that this nationwide observational study was conducted over one year and that long-term usage of conventional pain medications are known to have numerous minor and serious side effects, as distinct from homeopathic medicines which have a long-time history of safety.  Because homeopathic medicine in France is only practiced by MDs, the researchers asserted that maintaining the present reimbursement schedule for homeopathic treatment keeps health care costs down.

The researchers of this study were a diverse and prestigious group of professors of epidemiology, biostatistics, and medicine from the University of Paris, the Pasteur Institute, University of Bordeaux, University of Pierre and Marie Curie, McGill University, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


Other Studies Confirm Homeopathic Efficacy

There have been over 200 randomized and placebo controlled clinical trials, most of which have shown therapeutic benefits to patients receiving homeopathic treatment.  It is not the purpose of this article to review all of them, but it is instructive to review some of the other studies that dealt with treating people with musculoskeletal ailments.

Fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome that includes musculoskeletal pain.  The <strong>British Medical Journal </strong>published a sophisticated study in which half of the subjects were initially given a placebo and half were given a homeopathic medicine (Fisher, Greenwood, Huskisson 1989).  Then, halfway through the study, the group that initially took the medicine was given the placebo, and those who initially took the placebo began taking the real medicine.  Instead of comparing two groups against each other, this "crossover" methodology compared each person under one treatment with him or herself under a placebo.  This type of study is considered the most sophisticated type of research design.

Researchers consider a study to have statistical significance if calculations show that there is a 5 in 100 possibility (written:  P=.05) of the result to occur simply through chance.  However, the results of this experiment were so significant that the researchers found that there was a 5 in 10,000 chance (P=.005) of this occurring from chance.  This study is therefore considered "substantially" significant, not just statistically significant.

This study concluded that homeopathic medicines are effective in reducing the pain and tender spots and in improving sleep in patients suffering from fibromyalgia.

The highly respected journal, Rheumatology (the journal of the British Society for Rheumatology), also published a very positive study on homeopathic treatment.  Researchers from the University of Arizona in collaboration with homeopaths conducted a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial with 62 fibromyalgia patients (Bell, Lewis, Brooks, et al., 2004).  Patients were randomized to receive an oral daily dose of an individually chosen homeopathic medicine in LM potency (or a placebo).  Patients were evaluated at baseline, 2 months, and 4 months.

The study discovered that 50% of patients who were given a homeopathic medicine experienced a 25% or greater improvement in tender point pain on examination, while only 15% of those who were given a placebo experienced a similar degree of improvement (P=0.008).  After 4 months, the homeopathic patients rated the "helpfulness of the treatment" significantly greater than did those patients given a placebo (P=0.004).

Even an independent group of researchers (who included one of the most ardent antagonists to homeopathy) evaluated this study and have deemed it to be of the "highest quality"(De Silva, El-Metwally, Ernst, et al 2010).

One additional feature of this study was that the first dose of medicine was given by olfaction (by smell) and that both groups of patients were monitored by EEG (electroencephalography is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp).  The scientists found that there were both significant and identifiable differences in the EEG readings in patients who were given the homeopathic medicine, as compared to those patients who were given the placebo (Bell, Lewis, Schwartz, et al, 2004a).  Each patient in this study underwent three laboratory sessions, including at baseline, at 3 months, and at 6 months after initial treatment.  The active treatment group were found to experience significant increases in the EEG relative alpha magnitude, while patients who were given a placebo experienced a decrease in this measurement (P=0.003).  Ultimately, this study showed clinical benefits from homeopathic medicine, and it showed objective measurements that verified a physiological response to treatment.

In a meta-analysis of clinical research on the homeopathic treatment of people with rheumatic disease, researchers concluded, "Overall, it appears that homeopathic remedies work better than a placebo in studies of rheumatic syndromes, but there are too few studies to make definitive conclusions about the efficacy of any one type of homeopathic treatment on any one condition" (Jonas, Linde, and Ramirez, 2000).

One early study on the homeopathic treatment of people with rheumatoid arthritis was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.  This study found that 82% of those patients prescribed an individually chosen homeopathic medicine experienced some relief of their arthritic pain, while only 21% of patients prescribed a placebo experienced a similar degree of relief (Gibson, 1980).  

In 2007, a randomized double-blind placebo controlled trial was conducted at a University Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, where they compared the use of ibuprofen and Arnica in external gel preparations in the treatment of 204 patients with osteoarthritis in the joints of the hands (Widrig, 2007).  The use of topical preparations for symptom relief is common in the treatment of osteoarthritis. The effects of ibuprofen (5%) and Arnica (50 g tincture/100 g, DER 1:20), as gel preparations in patients with radiologically confirmed and symptomatically active osteoarthritis of joints of hands, were evaluated in 204 patients, to ascertain differences in pain relief and hand function after 21 days treatment.

The researchers found were no differences between the two groups in pain and hand function improvements or in any secondary end points evaluated.  Their results confirmed that this preparation of Arnica is not inferior to ibuprofen when treating osteoarthritis of hands.

A more recent double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in England that compared individualized homeopathic treatment (versus a placebo), homeopathic treatment with a homeopathic complex medicine (versus a placebo), and the homeopathic consultation (with prescription of a real medicine vs. a placebo) (Brien S, Lachance L, Prescott, 2010).  Participants were randomly allocated to consultation or no consultation and then further randomized to treatment type for a total of five arms in the trial.

However, because this study had five different treatment options, the researchers estimated that they needed at least 110 patients for the study.  The study ended up with only 56 subjects, with an average of only 11 patients in each arm of the study.  Predictably enough, the study did not any difference between the groups.  Although skeptics of homeopathy contend that this study "proves" that homeopathic medicines do not work, good scientists good scientists understand the severe limitations with this trial which simply did not have an adequate number of patients to evaluate properly.

Ultimately, skeptics of homeopathy insist that homeopathic medicines are placebos, and yet, the body of basic sciences research on cells, on plants, and on animals suggests a real biological action to homeopathic medicines.  Or perhaps the skeptics are right, and perhaps cells, plants, and animals have some type of profoundly wild psychic abilities, a possibility that is much more metaphysical than skeptics may want to believe.  The truth is much more likely to be the results of a homeopathic medicine.




References:

Bell, IR, Lewis, DA, Brooks, DJ, Schwartz, GE, Leis, SE, Walsh, BT, and Baldwin, DM, Improved Clinical Status in Fibromyalgia Patients Treated with Individualized Homeopathic Remedies Versus Placebo, Rheumatology, January 20, 2004:1111-7.  http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/43/5/577.long

Bell IR, Lewis Ii DA, Lewis SE, Schwartz GE, Brooks AJ, Scott A, Baldwin CM.
EEG Alpha Sensitization in Individualized Homeopathic Treatment of Fibromyalgia.
Int J Neurosci. 2004;114(9):1195-1220.

Bell IR, et al: Electroencephalographic cordance patterns distinguish exception clinical responders with fibromyalgia to individualized homeopathic medicines. J Alt Comp Med 10,2:285-299, 2004c.

Fisher P, Greenwood A, Huskisson EC, et al., "Effect of Homoeopathic Treatment on Fibrositis (Primary Fibromyalgia)," BMJ, 299(August 5, 1989):365-6.  http://pubmedcentralcanada.ca/pmcc/articles/PMC1837216/pdf/bmj00244-0034.pdf

Glover, Scott; and Girion, Lisa.  Deaths tied to painkillers rising in the U.S. Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2013, front page.  http://articles.latimes.com/2013/mar/29/local/la-me-0330-rx-deaths-20130330

Rossignol M, Begaud B, Engel P, et al.  Impact of physician preferences for homeopathic or conventional medicines on patients with musculoskeletal disorders: results from the EPI3-MSD cohort. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2012 Jul 11. doi: 10.1002/pds.3316.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22782803

Widrig, R., Suter, A., Saller, R., and Melzer, J.  Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study. Rheumatology International.  2007 Apr;27(6):585-91. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17318618



Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Scientific American Declares Homeopathy Indispensable to Planet and Human Health

Scientific American Declares Homeopathy Indispensable to Planet and Human Health


The below article was published in Brazil's edition of "Scientific American" (April, 2012) and was translated into English.


The Questioned Effectiveness of Homeopathy

Application of this technique in agriculture shows recuperation of plants and environment.
Homeopathy is known as an alternative treatment for human beings, but few people know about its utilization on animals, plants, soils, and water. This technique is the target of critiques regarding results and efficacy.  One of them is about the “placebo effect” of its remedies, which do not contain any trace of the raw material used in its preparation. To answer this criticism, a clarification is necessary: homeopathy is not related to chemistry, but to quantum physics, because it works with energy, not with chemical compounds that can be qualified and quantified.
The application of homeopathy techniques to agriculture is not recent, as most people might think. One of the first studies in this field dates back to the 20s, with the research on plants carried out by the couple Eugen and Lili Kolisko, based on the theories of Rudolf Steiner about biodynamic agriculture. Since then a lot of studies have been done in countries like France, India, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, Cuba, Italy, South Africa, and Brazil. Here the Federal University of Viçosa, in Minas Gerais, is a pioneer in this field.
One needn’t be a health or environment specialist to realize that the conventional methods of treating agricultural pests and diseases produce a disequilibrium in the ecosystem and, consequently, in human beings. Pathogenic agents and pests acquire, over time, resistance to pesticides (which, by market strategy, have come to be called “agricultural defenses”). Therefore, the quantity and aggressiveness of these chemical products must be increased to overcome this situation, causing a disastrous cascade effect: the soil becomes poorer and its yield is diminished; rural workers get severely sick by constantly handling these toxic products; water supplies, including underground ones, are contaminated; and the people who depend on agricultural products get all this exposure to poison, triggering a series of health problems.
With the exception of the pesticide and chemical fertilizer industries, who else benefits from the practice of these conventional treatments?
If Hippocrates could reassess his principle of opposites, represented by allopathy, in view of its later consequences on living beings and the environment, he would remove it from his considerations. Today, homeopathy as a sustainable technique, economically viable, and ecologically correct, has become indispensable to the equilibrium of the planet and to the health of all beings that live in it.
Author: Nina Ximenes, a biologist and postgraduate environmental education student.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Disinformation Campaign Against Homeopathy

Homeopathic medicine is at present one of the leading alternative therapies practiced by physicians in Europe (particularly France, Germany, UK and Italy) and Asia, especially on the Indian subcontinent (EU Commission, 1997; Prasad, 2007). Since homeopathy's development as a medical specialty in the early 1800s, it has been a leading alternative to orthodox medicine internationally, and it has posed an ongoing threat to the scientific, philosophical and economics of conventional medical care.

The homeopathic approach to healing maintains a deep respect for symptoms of illness as important defenses of a person's immune and defense system. While conventional medicine often tends to assume that symptoms are something "wrong" with the person that need to be treated, inhibited, suppressed or biochemically manipulated, homeopaths tend to assume that symptoms are important defenses of the organism that are most effectively resolved when treatments nurture, nourish or mimic the symptoms in order to initiate a healing process. Ultimately, these two different approaches to healing people have led to various conflicts.

It is common, for instance, for homeopaths to question the alleged "scientific" studies that conventional drugs are "effective" as treatments because of concern that many of these treatments tend to suppress symptoms or disrupt the complex inner ecology of the body and create much more serious illness.  Just as opiate drugs of the 19th century gave the guise of healing, homeopaths contend that many modern-day drugs provide blessed short-term relief but create immune dysfunction, mental illness and other chronic disease processes in its wake.  Further, the fact that most people today are prescribed multiple drugs concurrently, despite the fact that clinical research is rarely conducted showing the safety or efficacy of such practices, forces us all to question how scientific modern medicine truly is.

Homeopaths contend that increased rates of cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue and various chronic diseases for increasingly younger people may result from conventional medicine's suppression of symptoms and disease processes. It is therefore no surprise that conventional physicians and Big Pharma have a long and dark history of working together to attack homeopathy and homeopaths.

The antagonism against homeopathy began when the highly-respected Saxon physician Samuel Hahnemann, M.D., first developed the system in the early 1800s. Hahnemann was a translator of leading medical and pharmacology texts and the author of the leading textbook used by pharmacists of his day.

Despite Hahnemann's high stature in medicine, pharmacology and chemistry, his strong critique of conventional medicine led to personal attacks against him by orthodox physicians as well as by the apothecaries (the drug makers of that time) who were philosophically and economically threatened by Hahnemann's work.  When homeopathy arrived in America in 1825, it grew rapidly due to its widely-recognized success in treating infectious disease epidemics that raged in the early and mid-1800s.  Then, when the American Institute of Homeopathy became the first national medical organization in 1844, a rival organization developed that proposed to stop the growth of homeopathy (Rothstein, 1985, p. 232). That organization called itself the American Medical Association, and this organization worked relentlessly to diminish the popularity and influence of this natural medicine.

Paul Starr's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "The Social Transformation of American Medicine," acknowledged the stature that homeopathy achieved in America in the mid-and later 19th century:

"Because homeopathy was simultaneously philosophical and experimental, it seemed to many people to be more rather than less scientific than orthodox medicine" (p. 97).

U.S. President William McKinley even dedicated a special monument to Dr. Hahnemann in Washington, D.C., in 1900, which still stands today as the only monument in America's capital to the deeds of a physician.

However, because of the economic, philosophical and scientific threat that the paradigm and practice of homeopathy represents, the vitriol and antagonism still exists. It is therefore enlightening to expose the disinformation that is spread about homeopathy and then understand who is leading this disinformation campaign (the second part of this article will name names and discuss two individuals, one from the U.S. and one from the UK, who are presently leaders in the campaign against homeopathy).


The Myths Spread about Homeopathy

Like other propagandists, the homeopathy deniers seek to create disinformation by using three straightforward techniques. First, the homeopathy deniers make a simple false accusation, a lie, and repeat it constantly and consistently in an attempt to make it a new "truth." Second, this repetition is then done within the context of some legitimizing element. In the case of the homeopathy deniers, that element is a corruption of normal science, an analysis of scientific evidence that creates reasons (excuses) to exclude high-quality studies that show positive results (even those studies that have been published in leading conventional medical journals), and a mis-use of the concept of skepticism. The homeopathy deniers ignore or downplay the substantial body of evidence from basic science and clinical research, from outcome studies, from cost-effectiveness studies and from epidemiological evidence, and only quote from those studies that verify their own point of view, rather than reviewing the entire body of evidence.

The third component of the technique is to sell the lie to a vulnerable population in an attempt to have repetition from that group. In the case of the homeopathy deniers, the vulnerable groups are often young students of science who are enamored with the language and elitism of their newly-learned craft, but who lack the deep understanding and experience to realize that they are being "used" by the deniers. The homeopathy deniers also play on the fears of those older and established scientists and physicians and who are led to believe that "if homeopathy is true, then everything about modern medicine and science is false." This over-simplification of reality is commonly repeated.

However, just as quantum physics does not "disprove" all of physics -- but, rather, extends our capability to understand and predict events on extremely small and extremely large systems -- likewise, homeopathy does not disprove all of modern pharmacology but extends our understanding of the use of extremely small doses of medicinal agents to elicit healing responses.

History is replete with orthodox medicine and science being steadfastly resistant to different systems of medicine and paradigms of healing. Although, the average physician and scientist tends to be threatened by new ideas, a common attribute of leading physicians and scientists is a certain openness and humility due to the common and even expected evolution of knowledge.

It should be acknowledged upfront that homeopathic practitioners, patients and users of these natural medicines are often surprised and amazed at the results they experience in the treatment of themselves, children, infants, animals and even plants. In my observations over the past 40 years, most people are skeptical about homeopathy until they try it and see for themselves ... and there are then good reasons that tens of millions of people all over the world use and rely upon these natural medicines for a wide range of acute and chronic ailments. That said, the challenge is not just trying homeopathy, but first learning something about it so you can use it correctly and effectively.

Sadly, however, the homeopathy deniers tend to spread disinformation about homeopathy, including the following myths:

Myth #1: "There is no research that shows that homeopathic medicines work."

Such statements are a creative use of statistics, or what might be called "lies, damn lies and statistics." Actually, most clinical research studies conducted with homeopathic medicines show a positive outcome.  However, if "creative statisticians" evaluate only the smaller number of large studies, a positive result is less likely, not because homeopathy doesn't work, but because these larger studies tend to dispense only one homeopathic medicine for everyone in the study, without any degree of individualized treatment that is typical of the homeopathic method (1). To claim that homeopathic medicines do not work using only these studies is as illogical as to say that antibiotics are ineffective just because they do not cure for every viral, fungal or bacterial infection.

Myth #2: "The research studies showing that homeopathic medicines work are 'poorly conducted studies.'"

Wrong!  Studies showing the efficacy of homeopathic medicines have been published in the Lancet, the British Medical Journal, Pediatrics, Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, Cochrane Reports, Chest (the publication of the British Society of Rheumatology), Cancer (the journal of the American Cancer Society), Journal of Clinical Oncology (journal of the Society of Clinical Oncology), <em>Human Toxicology, European Journal of Pediatrics, Archives in Facial Plastic Surgery, Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry and many more (2).  All of these studies were randomized, double-blind and placebo controlled.  Further, because of bias against homeopathy, these studies have been scrutinized rigorously, perhaps even more rigorously than is usual.

The weak response from the homeopathy deniers is that the above studies are "cherry-picked."  Well, it seems that there are a lot of "cherries" (clinical studies that verify the efficacy of homeopathic medicines).  Also, numerous of the above leading medical journals have published meta-analyzes of clinical trials on specific diseases and have shown that homeopathic medicines have significantly more benefits than does a placebo. And further, the deniers erroneously equate the "negative" studies as evidence that the whole system of homeopathy does not work when, in fact, these studies are usually of a preliminary nature that explored the use of one or a small handful of remedies for a specific condition.

Ironically, the one review of research that the homeopathic deniers most commonly assert as strong evidence that there's no difference between homeopathic medicines and placebo (Shang et al, 2005) has been shown to be bad or certainly inadequate science (Walach, et al, 2005; Fisher, 2006; Rutten, 2009, Rutten and Stolper, 2008; Lüdtke and Rutten, 2008).

Myth #3: "12C is like one drop in the entire Atlantic Ocean."

Pure fantasy (and fuzzy math)!  In fact, the 12C dose requires 12 test tubes, and 1 percent of the solution is drawn from each of the 12 test tubes. It is also very typical for the "deniers" of homeopathy to assert with a straight face that the making of a single homeopathic medicine requires more water than exists on the planet.  It seems that the skeptics are so fundamentalist in their point of view that they consciously or unconsciously mis-assume that the dilutions used in homeopathy grow proportionately with each dilution; they assume that each dilution requires 10 or 100 times more water with each dilution -- which they don't, and even the most elementary articles and books on homeopathy affirm this fact.  Sadly (and strangely), most of the skeptics of homeopathy seem to read each other's misinformation on homeopathy and have a propensity to spin the reality of what homeopathy is in ways that misconstrue it.

Myth #4:  "There is nothing in a homeopathic medicine. It is just water."

Ignorance and direct disinformation.  First, a large number of homeopathic medicines that are sold in health food stores and pharmacies are what are called "low potencies," that is, small or very small doses of medicines, most of which are in a similar dose to which certain powerful hormones and immune cells circulate in our body.  Second, using samples of six different medicines made from minerals, scientists at the Department of Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology have consistently confirmed that the starting substance is still present in the form of nanoparticles of the starting minerals even when the medicine has undergone hundreds of serial dilutions -- with vigorous shaking in between each dilution, as per the homeopathic method (Chikramane, Suresh, Bellare, 2010) (3).  Further, leading chemistry and physics journals have published other research to confirm that there are differences between water and "homeopathic water" (Elia and Niccoli, 1999; Elia, Napoli, Niccoli, et al, 2008; Rey, 2003)

Myth #5: "If we do not presently understand how homeopathic medicines work, then, they cannot work. It's witchcraft."

Lame on face value. How many more times in history do scientists and others need before they realize that we do not understand a lot of nature's mysteries, but our lack of understanding does not mean that the mysteries are not real.  Calling homeopathy "witchcraft" clearly is someone's fear of what they do not know or understand, and a common observation from history is that whenever one goes on a witchhunt, a witch is found (one way or another). The fact that there is a small but significant body of basic sciences research that has shown physical and biological effects from homeopathic medicines tends to be ignored (Endler, Thieves, Reich, et al 2010; Witt, Bluth, Albrecht, et al, 2007). To publish in peer-reviewed scientific journals is not a common practice from witches (or warlocks).

Dr. Karol Sikora is a respected oncologist and dean of the University of Buckingham medical school in England. Sikora has expressed serious concern about the "Stalinist repression" that certain skeptics of homeopathic and alternative medicines engage (Sikora, 2009). Sikora has harshly criticized "armchair physicians" and others who seem to have little or no experience in using these treatments with real patients.

One other critical piece of evidence to show and even prove the unscientific attitude of the homeopathy deniers is that they now wish to close off all discussion of the efficacy of homeopathic medicines (Baum and Ernst, 2009).  These medical fundamentalists actually discourage keeping an open mind about homeopathy.  One must question this unscientific attitude that select antagonists to homeopathy embody, and one must even wonder why they maintain such a position.

The second part of this article will provide further specific evidence of the unscientific attitude and actions from those individuals and organizations who are leading the campaign against homeopathy.  A leading antagonist to homeopathy from the U.S. and another from the UK will be discussed in order to shed light on this important debate in health care.  Stay tuned to find out who they are and why they maintain their point of view.


FOOTNOTES:

(1)  Although individualization of treatment is one of the hallmarks of the homeopathic method, there are exceptions to this common rule.  For instance, there have been four large randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled studies that have shown that homeopathic Oscillococcinum is effective in treating people with influenza or influenza-like syndrome (Vickers and Smith, 2006).

(2) References to these and other studies can be found in the following article: The Case FOR Homeopathic Medicine: Historical and Scientific Evidence

(3) Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction by Selected Area Electron Diffraction (SAED), and chemical analysis by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy.


REFERENCES:

Baum M, Ernst E.  Should we maintain an open mind about homeopathy?  American Journal of Medicine. 122,11: November 2009.  doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2009/03.038.  http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(09)00533-6/fulltext

Chikramane PS, Suresh AK, Bellare JR, and Govind S.  Extreme homeopathic dilutions retain starting materials: A nanoparticulate perspective. Homeopathy. Volume 99, Issue 4, October 2010, 231-242.

Elia V, and Niccoli M. Thermodynamics of Extremely Diluted Aqueous Solutions, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 879, 1999:241-248.

Elia V, Napoli E, Niccoli M, Marchettini N, Tiezzi E(2008). New Physico-Chemical Properties of Extremely Dilute Solutions. A Conductivity Study at 25 °C in Relation to Ageing. Journal of Solution Chemistry, 37:85-96.

Endler PC, Thieves K, Reich C, Matthiessen P, Bonamin L, Scherr C, Baumgartner S. Repetitions of fundamental research models for homeopathically prepared dilutions beyond 10-23: a bibliometric study. Homeopathy, 2010; 99: 25-36.

EU Commission report evaluating implementation of Homeopathy Directives 92/73 EEC and 92/74/EEC, 1997.

Fisher P, 2006.  Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2006 March; 3(1): 145-147.
Published online 2006 January 26. doi:  10.1093/ecam/nek007

Lüdtke R, Rutten ALB. The conclusions on the effectiveness of homeopathy highly depend on the set of analysed trials.  Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. October 2008. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2008.06/015.

Prasad R. Homoeopathy booming in India. Lancet, 370:November 17, 2007,1679-80.

Rey L. Thermoluminescence of Ultra-High Dilutions of Lithium Chloride and Sodium Chloride. Physica A, 323(2003)67-74.

Rothstein WG. American Physicians in the 19th Century. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1985.

Rutten L, 2009.

Rutten ALB, Stolper CF, The 2005 meta-analysis of homeopathy: The importance of post-publication data. Homeopathy. October 2008, doi:10.1016/j.homp.2008.09/008.

Shang A, Huwiler-Müntener K, Nartey L, Jüni P, Dörig S, Sterne JA, Pewsner D, Egger M.  Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy.  The Lancet.  366,9487, 27 August 2005:726-732.

Sikora K. Complementary medicine does help patients. Times Online, February 3rd 2009. Online document at:

Starr P.  The Social Transformation of American Medicine.  New York: Basic, 1982.

Vickers A, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001957. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001957.pub3.

Walach H, Jonas W, Lewith G. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Lancet. 2005 Dec 17;366(9503):2081; author reply 2083-6.

Witt CM, Bluth M, Albrecht H, Weisshuhn TE, Baumgartner S, Willich SN. The in vitro evidence for an effect of high homeopathic potencies--a systematic review of the literature.  Complement Ther Med. 2007 Jun;15(2):128-38. Epub 2007 Mar 28.   From 75 publications, 67 experiments (1/3 of them replications) were evaluated. Nearly 3/4 of them found a high potency effect, and nearly 3/4 of all replications were positive.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The New Film, “Contagion,” Infects the Public with FEAR


It is hard to say if fear is stronger motivating force on behavior than love, but certain movies tend to play into our fears in order to sell more tickets and to make more money. 

And sadly, the new movie "Contagion" may be the most powerful fear-mongering movie of the year.  It is the fictional story about an epidemic that spreads worldwide and that is a unique and never previously known mixture of a pig virus and a bat virus with a capability to infect humans. This new virus is shown to spread rapidly and to kill everyone it infects.

With an impressive list of A-list movie celebrities (Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet) and directed by the famed Steven Sodenbergh, this high-paced drama provides a compelling story that is particularly frightening because it seems so plausible, even though no such epidemic or near-epidemic of this type has ever occurred.

The serious problem with this movie is that it glorifies the U.S. Center for Disease Control (the CDC), and it demonizes a blogger (Jude Law) who rightly questions the integrity of the CDC, provides evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO) has proven links to Big Pharma, and raises big questions about the greediness of Big Pharma.

Much to my real surprise, the character who plays a CDC’s Deputy Director (Laurence Fishburne) actually says during a television interview that the CDC is investigating “homeopathic and other alternatives” in the treatment of this epidemic (I wish that there was evidence of this happening in real life).  However, he and the CDC focus their entire efforts on creating a new vaccine, while ignoring the real life possibility that this new virus may mutate, requiring new and ever-changing additional vaccines. 

The film reports initially that thousands of people are dying from this new virus, then hundreds of thousands, and then millions of people.  Rampant looting occurs, entire states are quarantined, and murder for food and medicines take place.  The film suggests that the very worst of human nature is brought out due to this epidemic. 

Although one can say that “this is only a movie” or “just a story”, the problem is that it creates an example of what people should expect from such a disaster.  As such, this movie’s fear-mongering creates an expectation that we all do NOT want to see happen ever. 

 More about this film…and homeopathy:

There is indeed a lot more that I can say about this movie, but I can no longer afford the significant amount of time and effort that it takes to write such articles.  As most of you know, I do not get paid to write 98% of the articles I get published.

On January 1, 2011, I informed a group of people who have previously shown financial support for my work that I needed (!) tangible support for future writing.  I was very pleased that several people stepped forward with donations to the Foundation for Homeopathic Education and Research, a non-profit organization that supports my educational efforts for homeopathy.  With this support, I was able to write important articles that went viral, including an article about the Nobel Prize-winning virologist, Luc Montagnier, and his newest research testing homeopathic doses and principles.  It also enabled me to write an article, “The King’s Homeopath,” which discussed the movie, “The King’s Speech,” and the special relationship that King George VI had with his homeopathic doctor.

Financial support from the homeopathic community also enabled me to write “Homeopathy for Radiation Poisoning,” another article that went viral.  This article was well-timed because it was published shortly after the Fukishima disaster.  Further, I wrote another very popular and widely read article about homeopathy and ADD/ADHD.  

Most recently, financial support from the homeopathic community enabled me towrote a two-part article called “The Dis-information Campaign Against Homeopathy.”

I now NEED your support for future writing, including future writing about real and possible epidemics as depicted in the new film, “Contagion.”  Because my writings seem widely appreciated and because these articles are reaching hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of readers, there is a REAL need to continue using this microphone to advocate for homeopathy and other natural healing methods.

I realize that people want to read my thoughts on various subjects for free…and I would too love to offer them, but I cannot afford to do so anymore.  If you or anyone you know wants to support my efforts, please consider sending a tax deductible donation to The Foundation for Homeopathic Education and Research (a non-profit organization that supports my educational efforts for homeopathic medicine—you can send PayPal donations to:  fher@igc.org)…OR if a tax deduction isn’t important to you, you are welcome to send your contributions to Homeopathic Educational Services.  If money is tight (and yes, I am sympathetic), please simply consider buying whatever homeopathic medicines or books or software you need from my website.

Having appreciation is a good thing...but SHOWING it in some tangible ways is now imperative.  In return, I will show my appreciation by writing further important articles on homeopathy....

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nobel laureate Montagnier takes homeopathy seriously

 
Dr. Luc Montagnier, the French virologist who won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for discovering the AIDS virus, has surprised the scientific community with his strong support for homeopathic medicine.

In a remarkable interview published in Science magazine of December 24, 2010, (1) Professor Luc Montagnier, has expressed support for the often maligned and misunderstood medical specialty of homeopathic medicine. Although homeopathy has persisted for 200+ years throughout the world and has been the leading alternative treatment method used by physicians in Europe, (2) most conventional physicians and scientists have expressed skepticism about its efficacy due to the extremely small doses of medicines used.

Most clinical research conducted on homeopathic medicines that has been published in peer-review journals have shown positive clinical results,(3, 4) especially in the treatment of respiratory allergies (5, 6), influenza, (7) fibromyalgia, (8, 9) rheumatoid arthritis, (10) childhood diarrhea, (11) post-surgical abdominal surgery recovery, (12) attention deficit disorder, (13) and reduction in the side effects of conventional cancer treatments. (14) In addition to clinical trials, several hundred basic science studies have confirmed the biological activity of homeopathic medicines. One type of basic science trials, called in vitro studies, found 67 experiments (1/3 of them replications) and nearly 3/4 of all replications were positive. (15, 16)
In addition to the wide variety of basic science evidence and clinical research, further evidence for homeopathy resides in the fact that they gained widespread popularity in the U.S. and Europe during the 19th century due to the impressive results people experienced in the treatment of epidemics that raged during that time, including cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, scarlet fever, and influenza.

Montagnier, who is also founder and president of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, asserted, "I can't say that homeopathy is right in everything. What I can say now is that the high dilutions (used in homeopathy) are right. High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules."

Here, Montagnier is making reference to his experimental research that confirms one of the controversial features of homeopathic medicine that uses doses of substances that undergo sequential dilution with vigorous shaking in-between each dilution. Although it is common for modern-day scientists to assume that none of the original molecules remain in solution, Montagnier's research (and other of many of his colleagues) has verified that electromagnetic signals of the original medicine remains in the water and has dramatic biological effects.

Montagnier has just taken a new position at Jiaotong University in Shanghai, China (this university is often referred to as "China's MIT"), where he will work in a new institute bearing his name. This work focuses on a new scientific movement at the crossroads of physics, biology, and medicine: the phenomenon of electromagnetic waves produced by DNA in water. He and his team will study both the theoretical basis and the possible applications in medicine.

Montagnier's new research is investigating the electromagnetic waves that he says emanate from the highly diluted DNA of various pathogens. Montagnier asserts, "What we have found is that DNA produces structural changes in water, which persist at very high dilutions, and which lead to resonant electromagnetic signals that we can measure. Not all DNA produces signals that we can detect with our device. The high-intensity signals come from bacterial and viral DNA."

Montagnier affirms that these new observations will lead to novel treatments for many common chronic diseases, including but not limited to autism, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Montagnier first wrote about his findings in 2009, (17) and then, in mid-2010, he spoke at a prestigious meeting of fellow Nobelists where he expressed interest in homeopathy and the implications of this system of medicine. (18)

French retirement laws do not allow Montagnier, who is 78 years of age, to work at a public institute, thereby limiting access to research funding. Montagnier acknowledges that getting research funds from Big Pharma and certain other conventional research funding agencies is unlikely due to the atmosphere of antagonism to homeopathy and natural treatment options.


Support from Another Nobel Prize winner

Montagnier's new research evokes memories one of the most sensational stories in French science, often referred to as the 'Benveniste affair.' A highly respected immunologist Dr. Jacques Benveniste., who died in 2004, conducted a study which was replicated in three other university laboratories and that was published in Nature (19). Benveniste and other researchers used extremely diluted doses of substances that created an effect on a type of white blood cell called basophils.

Although Benveniste's work was supposedly debunked, (20) Montagnier considers Benveniste a "modern Galileo" who was far ahead of his day and time and who was attacked for investigating a medical and scientific subject that orthodoxy had mistakenly overlooked and even demonized.

In addition to Benveniste and Montagnier is the weighty opinion of Brian Josephson, Ph.D., who, like Montagnier, is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist.

Responding to an article on homeopathy in New Scientist, Josephson wrote:


Regarding your comments on claims made for homeopathy: criticisms centered around the vanishingly small number of solute molecules present in a solution after it has been repeatedly diluted are beside the point, since advocates of homeopathic remedies attribute their effects not to molecules present in the water, but to modifications of the water's structure.

Simple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account.

A related topic is the phenomenon, claimed by Jacques Benveniste's colleague Yolène Thomas and by others to be well established experimentally, known as "memory of water." If valid, this would be of greater significance than homeopathy itself, and it attests to the limited vision of the modern scientific community that, far from hastening to test such claims, the only response has been to dismiss them out of hand. (21)


Following his comments Josephson, who is an emeritus professor of Cambridge University in England, was asked by New Scientist editors how he became an advocate of unconventional ideas. He responded:


I went to a conference where the French immunologist Jacques Benveniste was talking for the first time about his discovery that water has a 'memory' of compounds that were once dissolved in it -- which might explain how homeopathy works. His findings provoked irrationally strong reactions from scientists, and I was struck by how badly he was treated. (22)


Josephson went on to describe how many scientists today suffer from "pathological disbelief;" that is, they maintain an unscientific attitude that is embodied by the statement "even if it were true I wouldn't believe it."

Even more recently, Josephson wryly responded to the chronic ignorance of homeopathy by its skeptics saying, "The idea that water can have a memory can be readily refuted by any one of a number of easily understood, invalid arguments."

In the new interview in Science, Montagnier also expressed real concern about the unscientific atmosphere that presently exists on certain unconventional subjects such as homeopathy, "I am told that some people have reproduced Benveniste's results, but they are afraid to publish it because of the intellectual terror from people who don't understand it."

Montagnier concluded the interview when asked if he is concerned that he is drifting into pseudoscience, he replied adamantly: "No, because it's not pseudoscience. It's not quackery. These are real phenomena which deserve further study."


The Misinformation That Skeptics Spread

It is remarkable enough that many skeptics of homeopathy actually say that there is "no research" that has shows that homeopathic medicines work. Such statements are clearly false, and yet, such assertions are common on the Internet and even in some peer-review articles. Just a little bit of searching can uncover many high quality studies that have been published in highly respected medical and scientific journals, including the Lancet, BMJ, Pediatrics, Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, Chest and many others. Although some of these same journals have also published research with negative results to homeopathy, there is simply much more research that shows a positive rather than negative effect.

Misstatements and misinformation on homeopathy are predictable because this system of medicine provides a viable and significant threat to economic interests in medicine, let alone to the very philosophy and worldview of biomedicine. It is therefore not surprising that the British Medical Association had the sheer audacity to refer to homeopathy as "witchcraft." It is quite predictable that when one goes on a witch hunt, one inevitable finds "witches," especially when there are certain benefits to demonizing a potential competitor (homeopathy plays a much larger and more competitive role in Europe than it does in the USA).

Skeptics of homeopathy also have long asserted that homeopathic medicines have "nothing" in them because they are diluted too much. However, new research conducted at the respected Indian Institutes of Technology has confirmed the presence of "nanoparticles" of the starting materials even at extremely high dilutions. Researchers have demonstrated by Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction and chemical analysis by Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-AES), the presence of physical entities in these extreme dilutions. (24) In the light of this research, it can now be asserted that anyone who says or suggests that there is "nothing" in homeopathic medicines is either simply uninformed or is not being honest.

Because the researchers received confirmation of the existence of nanoparticles at two different homeopathic high potencies (30C and 200C) and because they tested four different medicines (Zincum met./zinc; Aurum met. /gold; Stannum met./tin; and Cuprum met./copper), the researchers concluded that this study provides "concrete evidence."

Although skeptics of homeopathy may assume that homeopathic doses are still too small to have any biological action, such assumptions have also been proven wrong. The multi-disciplinary field of small dose effects is called "hormesis," and approximately 1,000 studies from a wide variety of scientific specialties have confirmed significant and sometimes substantial biological effects from extremely small doses of certain substances on certain biological systems.

A special issue of the peer-review journal, Human and Experimental Toxicology (July 2010), devoted itself to the interface between hormesis and homeopathy. (25) The articles in this issue verify the power of homeopathic doses of various substances.

In closing, it should be noted that skepticism of any subject is important to the evolution of science and medicine. However, as noted above by Nobelist Brian Josephson, many scientists have a "pathological disbelief" in certain subjects that ultimately create an unhealthy and unscientific attitude blocks real truth and real science. Skepticism is at its best when its advocates do not try to cut off research or close down conversation of a subject but instead explore possible new (or old) ways to understand and verify strange but compelling phenomena. We all have this challenge as we explore and evaluate the biological and clinical effects of homeopathic medicines.


REFERENCES:

(1) Enserink M, Newsmaker Interview: Luc Montagnier, French Nobelist Escapes "Intellectual Terror" to Pursue Radical Ideas in China. Science 24 December 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6012 p. 1732. DOI: 10.1126/science.330.6012.1732

(2) Ullman D. Homeopathic Medicine: Europe's #1 Alternative for Doctors. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-ullman/homeopathic-medicine-euro_b_402490.html

(3) Linde L, Clausius N, Ramirez G, et al., "Are the Clinical Effects of Homoeopathy Placebo Effects? A Meta-analysis of Placebo-Controlled Trials," Lancet, September 20, 1997, 350:834-843.

(4) Lüdtke R, Rutten ALB. The conclusions on the effectiveness of homeopathy highly depend on the set of analyzed trials. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. October 2008. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2008.06/015.

(5) Taylor, MA, Reilly, D, Llewellyn-Jones, RH, et al., Randomised controlled trial of homoeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial Series, BMJ, August 19, 2000, 321:471-476.

(6) Ullman, D, Frass, M. A Review of Homeopathic Research in the Treatment of Respiratory Allergies. Alternative Medicine Review. 2010:15,1:48-58. http://www.thorne.com/altmedrev/.fulltext/15/1/48.pdf

(7) Vickers AJ. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Cochrane Reviews. 2009.

(8) Bell IR, Lewis II DA, Brooks AJ, et al. Improved clinical status in fibromyalgia patients treated with individualized homeopathic remedies versus placebo, Rheumatology. 2004:1111-5.

(9) Fisher P, Greenwood A, Huskisson EC, et al., "Effect of Homoeopathic Treatment on Fibrositis (Primary Fibromyalgia)," BMJ, 299(August 5, 1989):365-6.

(10) Jonas, WB, Linde, Klaus, and Ramirez, Gilbert, "Homeopathy and Rheumatic Disease," Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America, February 2000,1:117-123.

(11) Jacobs J, Jonas WB, Jimenez-Perez M, Crothers D, Homeopathy for Childhood Diarrhea: Combined Results and Metaanalysis from Three Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trials, Pediatr Infect Dis J, 2003;22:229-34.

(12) Barnes, J, Resch, KL, Ernst, E, "Homeopathy for Post-Operative Ileus: A Meta-Analysis," Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 1997, 25: 628-633.

(13) M, Thurneysen A. Homeopathic treatment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled crossover trial. Eur J Pediatr. 2005 Dec;164(12):758-67. Epub 2005 Jul 27.

(14) Kassab S, Cummings M, Berkovitz S, van Haselen R, Fisher P. Homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 2.

(15) Witt CM, Bluth M, Albrecht H, Weisshuhn TE, Baumgartner S, Willich SN. The in vitro evidence for an effect of high homeopathic potencies--a systematic review of the literature. Complement Ther Med. 2007 Jun;15(2):128-38. Epub 2007 Mar 28.

(16) Endler PC, Thieves K, Reich C, Matthiessen P, Bonamin L, Scherr C, Baumgartner S. Repetitions of fundamental research models for homeopathically prepared dilutions beyond 10-23: a bibliometric study. Homeopathy, 2010; 99: 25-36.

(17) Luc Montagnier, Jamal Aissa, Stéphane Ferris, Jean-Luc Montagnier, Claude Lavallee, Electromagnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences. Interdiscip Sci Comput Life Sci (2009) 1: 81-90.
http://www.springerlink.com/content/0557v31188m3766x/fulltext.pdf

(18) Nobel laureate gives homeopathy a boost. The Australian. July 5, 2010. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/nobel-laureate-gives-homeopathy-a-boost/story-e6frg8y6-1225887772305

(19) Davenas E, Beauvais F, Amara J, et al. (June 1988). "Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE". Nature 333 (6176): 816-8.

(20) Maddox J (June 1988). "Can a Greek tragedy be avoided?". Nature 333 (6176): 795-7.

(21) Josephson, B. D., Letter, New Scientist, November 1, 1997.

(22) George A. Lone Voices special: Take nobody's word for it. New Scientist. December 9, 2006.

(23) Personal communication. Brian Josephson to Dana Ullman. January 5, 2011.

(24) Chikramane PS, Suresh AK, Bellare JR, and Govind S. Extreme homeopathic dilutions retain starting materials: A nanoparticulate perspective. Homeopathy. Volume 99, Issue 4, October 2010, 231-242.

(25) Human and Experimental Toxicology, July 2010: http://het.sagepub.com/content/vol29/issue7/
To access free copies of these articles, see: http://www.siomi.it/siomifile/siomi_pdf/BELLE_newsletter.pdf

Friday, January 7, 2011

Healthier Ways to Treat Depression: Homeopathy to the Rescue (again)

Depression lowers the spirits and drowns the eyes in sorrow, though tears aren't the only reason why depressed people sometimes can't see straight. Depression also caves in the chest, slumps the shoulders, and inhibits full breathing, usually forcing unhappy people to try to catch their breath by frequent sighing. It is sometimes said that depression brings you down to sighs (my apology to those readers who get depressed by bad puns).


On a much more serious note, depression can be a temporary passing experience or a deeply disturbing condition that may lead to suicide. Except in cases of minor depressive states, professional attention is generally recommended to help a person go through this emotional experience in a conscious manner.



The Real Dangers of Conventional Medical Treatment


Recent studies published in leading medical journals have seriously questioned the efficacy of conventional pharmaceutical treatment of people with mild or moderate depression.

In early 2010, major media reported on a significant review of research testing antidepressant medications.(1) What is unique about this review of research is that the researchers evaluated studies that were submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), though the researchers discovered that many studies submitted to the FDA were unpublished (they found that the unpublished research consistently showed negative results of antidepressants).

This meta-analysis of antidepressant medications found only modest benefits over placebo treatment in published research, but when unpublished trial data is included, the benefit falls below accepted criteria for clinical significance.

Perhaps most startling about this research is the fact the FDA only requires drug manufacturers to provide them with two positive studies on depression to attain FDA-approval status, even if these same drug companies submit many more studies with negative results. Such information forces consumers to question the efficacy of "FDA approved drugs," and it explains why so many conventional medications eventually get withdrawn from marketplace.


At the same time that the above review research was published, another review of research was published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), and they found similar results, "The magnitude of benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo increases with severity of depression symptoms and may be minimal or nonexistent, on average, in patients with mild or moderate symptoms."(2) These researchers did find benefits from the use of antidepressants in the treatment of severe depression, but because the majority of people taking antidepressants today do not have "severe depression," it is prudent for many people with depression to talk to their doctors about safer and more effective alternatives.

Sadly (and strangely), when conventional doctors today do not obtain adequately effective results with one drug, they often simply prescribe more drugs in hopes that one of them, or their combination, will be more effective (whether this increased use of drugs is effective or not, there are certain "benefits" that drug companies receive from this strategy). However, increasing research is finding that "polypharmacy" (the use of multiple drugs concurrently) may lead to worse, not better, results. New research has shown that polypharmacy with psychotropic medications in suicidal adolescent inpatients has been linked to a significantly increased risk for early readmission.(3)

Presented at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital, the researchers found that suicidal adolescent inpatients receiving three or more different classes of psychotropic medications had a 2.6-fold increased risk of being re-admitted within 30 days of discharge.

Cynthia A Fontanella, PhD, the lead researcher, asserted, "Our finding that polypharmacy was associated with an increased risk of readmission is concerning, although not surprising." Even though the serious problems with polypharmacy are known and expected, polypharmacy is growing in mental health care, not decreasing.

Other researchers discovered a disturbing trend among the over 13,000 visits of outpatients with mental disorder diagnoses: the number of psychotropic medications prescribed increased in successive years. Visits in which two or more medications were prescribed increased from 42.6 percent in 1996-1997 to 59.8 percent in 2005-2006, and those in which at least 3 medications were prescribed virtually doubled from 16.9 percent to 33.2 percent.(4)


Why Mental Illness is Increasing

There are numerous theories for why the number of people suffering from mental illness is increasing and why it is afflicting people at younger and younger ages. The homeopathic analysis for this epidemic is unique and may provide additional insight as to why this is occurring.

Like most observers of health and medicine today, homeopaths do not believe that there is simply one reason for the increase in mental illness, though many homeopaths assert that iatrogenesis (doctor-induced disease) plays a much greater role than is commonly recognized.

Homeopaths, like modern-day physiologists, understand that symptoms of illness represent the body's defenses in its efforts to adapt to and respond against infection, environmental assault, or stress of some kind. As discomforting as symptoms can be, they still represent the living organism's best efforts at the time to try to defend and heal him or herself. Such defenses are an innate part of our evolutionary efforts to survive. The symptoms that a person experiences are a part of the body's innate wisdom, commonly referred to as "vis mediatrix naturae" (the healing power of nature).

Using conventional medications to inhibit or suppress a symptom may be effective temporarily, but THIS is often the "bad news." Because symptoms as diverse as fevers, coughs, nasal discharges, or even high blood pressure are recognized by physiologists as adaptations and defenses of the body, drugs that inhibit these symptoms may provide a short-term benefit, but such drugs also reduce the person's ability to get over the illness. More significantly and more seriously, conventional medications may actually suppress the disease process and the wisdom of the body, thereby creating a deeper and more serious illness.

The irony to "modern scientific medicine" is that the evidence that doctors proudly show that a drug "works" is often actually evidence that the drug is effective in suppressing, not curing, a specific symptom (there are, of course, many exceptions to this general observation, such as antibiotics, but antibiotic drugs create other problems about which this writer and many others have commented already).

For over 200 years homeopaths have observed the ability of many conventional drugs to suppress acute illness into more deep chronic illness. During this time, homeopaths have also found that this disease suppression also creates more and greater mental illness. When reviewing the side-effects of many drugs, it is not uncommon to find that drugs are known to lead to various states of mental illness from depression to delusion to suicidal propensities.

Just as suppressing one's emotions often leads to a later explosion of these emotions to someone who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, suppressing physical symptoms can lead to a more serious physical disease or a more disturbing mental illness. Using drugs to provide temporary relief does have some type of cost, and the cost is usually a later and more serious ailment.


Homeopathic Treatment of Depression

The Menninger Clinic is world-renowned as one of the leading mental health centers for research and treatment. Most people don't know it, but the founder of the Menninger Clinic, Charles Frederick Menninger, MD, was originally a homeopathic physician. He was even the head of his local homeopathic medicine society and was so frequently impressed with the results that he got from homeopathic medicines, he once said, "Homeopathy is wholly capable of satisfying the therapeutic demands of this age better than any other system or school of medicine." (5)

Numerous studies have shown benefits in using the herb, St. Johns wort, to treat mild to moderate depression. However, homeopaths generally find that it is preferable to prescribe individualized homeopathic remedies to each patient to attain better long-term sustained results without having to take continual doses of any medicine (natural or otherwise). In fact, a recent study published in a medical journal published by Oxford University Press found that individualized homeopathic treatment is as effective and is safer than Prozac in the treatment of people with moderate or severe depression.(6)

This study included 91 outpatients with moderate to severe depression who received an individually chosen homeopathic medicine or fluoxetine (Prozac) 20 mg/day (up to 40 mg/day) in a prospective, randomized, double-blind double-dummy eight week trial. The primary efficacy measure was the mean change in MADRS depression scores (MADRS is a commonly used observer rated depression scale, with a score of 32 representing the "severe depression"). The average MADRS of patients in this study was 29.

The mean MADRS scores differences were not significant on the fourth (p=0.654) and eigth weeks (p=0.965) of treatment, which suggests that the two methods are treatment are equally effective. There were also no significant differences between the percentages of response or remission rates in both groups. The study also found a higher but non-significant percentage of patients treated with Prozac reported troublesome side effects, and there was a trend toward greater treatment interruption for adverse effects in the Prozac group.

Those people who claim to be "skeptics" of homeopathy will be surprised and impressed to know that two specialty medical journals published a double-blind and placebo controlled study on mice and found that one of the medicines in the above study, Gelsemium sempervirens, had anxiety-related effects.(7)(8)

Jonathan Davidson, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University, conducted a small study of adults with major depression, social phobia, or panic disorder. He found that 60 percent of the patients responded favorably to homeopathic treatment.(9) When one recognizes the considerable safety of homeopathic medicines and the benefits that some patients get from this safer method of treatment, it is remarkable that the majority of psychiatrists and psychologists do not yet refer appropriate patients to homeopaths prior to prescribing powerful conventional drugs for them.

A clinical outcome study of interest involved 14 physicians of the United Kingdom's Faculty of Homeopathy (13 NHS GPs and 3 private practitioners) who treated a wide variety of people with chronic ailments.(10) The outcome scores from 958 individual patient conditions having two or more appointments found that 75.9 percent experienced a "positive outcome," 14.7 percent had no change, and 4.6 percent experienced deterioration in health. Patients with the highest positive scores (over 50 percent of patients who self-scored a +2 or +3 on a 7 point Likert scale from -3 to +3) were achieved in the treatment of anxiety, catarrh, colic, cystitis, depression, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, and PMS. A total of 63.6 percent of patients with depression self-scored a +2 or +3 result from homeopathic treatment.

More information on the homeopathic treatment of mental illness and more scientific evidence verifying its efficacy is contained in a newly published textbook on the subject, Homeopathy and Mental Health Care: Integrative Practice, Principles, and Research .


How NOT to Use Homeopathy for Depression

In early 2010, Alexa Ray Joel, the daughter of singer Billy Joel and actress/model Christy Brinkley, supposedly tried to kill herself by taking a homeopathic medicine, called Traumeel. Anyone with the simply elementary knowledge of homeopathy knows that one cannot commit suicide taking homeopathic medicines due to the extremely small doses in these medicines. Even homeopathy's most ardent skeptics must have had a good laugh at this media report.

After the initial media report about Alexa Ray Joel's suicide attempt, she went public with the fact that she suffered from depression as a result of a break-up in a relationship. And yet, Ms. Joel did not correct the misunderstanding of homeopathic medicine or the assertions made claiming that she (or anyone) could kill themselves with a homeopathic remedy. Sympathy is certainly appropriate for anyone who experiences such emotional trauma from the break-up of a love relationship to consider suicide. However, we should be wary of actions that inappropriately seek to tarnish the reputation of good companies or safe medicines.



Why Homeopathy Makes Sense for Depression

Homeopathic medicines are not prescribed based on the person's diagnosed disease but on the unique way the person experiences his or her disease. In other words, homeopathic medicines are prescribed based on the SYNDROME of various physical and psychological symptoms, not just a single symptom or disease label. Although the selection of the correct homeopathic prescribing is more complex than the use of conventional drugs or even many herbal preparations, the system of prescribing that is individualized to the whole person is intellectually sound... and its results are often significant if not substantial.

The premise behind homeopathy is that symptoms of illness are not just something "wrong" with the person but are actually efforts of their bodymind to fight infection and/or to adapt to stress. Instead of using large doses of pharmacological agents to inhibit or suppress symptoms, very small and specially prepared doses of medicinal substances are individually prescribed to a person for their unique ability to cause in overdose the similar symptoms that the sick person is having. By finding a medicine that matches the symptoms of the sick person, the medicine supports and augments the body's defenses. Ultimately, homeopathy is what Stewart Brand, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, called "medical aikido" because it goes with, rather than against, the force of the disease. It is also a type of "medical biomimicry."

There is, indeed, much more that could be said about the sophisticated system of healing that homeopathy embodies and on the historical and scientific evidence that verifies its safety and efficacy, but the above information and insights provide a good introduction to why people with mild to moderate depression might be consider seeking professional homeopathic care.



REFERENCES:

(1) Kirsch I, Deacon BJ, Huedo-Medina TB, Scoboria A, Moore TJ, et al. (2008) Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. PLoS Med 5(2): e45. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045 http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050045

(2) Fournier JC, DeRubeis RJ, Hollon SD, Dimidjian S, Amsterdam JD, Shelton RC, Fawcett J. Antidepressant Drug Effects and Depression Severity: A Patient-Level Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2010;303(1):47-53. http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/303/1/47?home

(3) Fontanella CA, Bridge JA, Campo JV. Psychotropic medication changes, polypharmacy, and the risk of early readmission in suicidal adolescent inpatients. Ann Pharmacother. 2009 Dec;43(12):1939-47.
(4) Mojtabai R, Olfson M. National Trends in Psychotropic Medication Polypharmacy in Office-Based Psychiatry. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67:26-36.

(5) Menninger, C. F. The Application as Well as the Similar, Transactions of the American Institute of Homeopathy, 1896, pp. 317-324.

(6) Adler UC, Paiva NMP, Cesar AT, Adler MS, Molina A, Padula AE, Calil HM. Homeopathic individualized Q-potencies versus fluoxetine for moderate to severe depression: double-blind, randomized non-inferiority trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Aug 17. http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/nep114v1

(7) Bellavite P, Magnani P, Zanolin E, Conforti A. Homeopathic Doses of Gelsemium sempervirens Improve the Behavior of Mice in Response to Novel Environments. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Sep 14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19752165?dopt=Abstract

(8) Magnani P, Conforti A, Zanolin E, Marzotto M, Bellavite P. Dose-effect study of Gelsemium sempervirens in high dilutions on anxiety-related responses in mice. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Apr 20.

(9) Davidson, J, Morrison, R, Shore, J, et al., Homeopathic Treatment of Depression and Anxiety," Alternative Therapies, January, 1997,3,1:46-49.

(10) Mathie, RT, Robinson, TW. Outcomes from Homeopathic Practice in Medical Practice: A Prospective, Research-Tarageted, Pilot Study, Homeopathy. 2006,95:199-205.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Case FOR Homeopathy: Historical & Scientific Evidence

A lot of people today are confused about what homeopathy is (and isn't), and this situation is not helped by the skeptics of homeopathy who go to incredible extents to exaggerate and misconstrue what homeopathic medicine is and who commonly provide misinformation about it. It is more than a tad ironic that these "skeptics" who hold themselves out as "defenders of medical science" have exhibited an embarrassingly poor scientific attitude when evaluating what homeopathy is and what the scientific evidence does and doesn't say about it.


Because many skeptics of homeopathy today indulge in spreading misinformation about homeopathy, this blog is addressed at setting the record straight and is packed with references to confirm the veracity of what is being asserted here.

First, to clarify, advocating for or using homeopathic medicines does not preclude appreciation for or use of selective conventional medical treatment. Advocates of homeopathy simply honor the Hippocratic tradition of "First, do no harm" and therefore seek to explore and utilize safer methods before resorting to more risky treatments. This perspective has historical and international roots, and it is thus no surprise that American health care which has been so resistant to homeopathic and natural therapies in its mainstream institutions is presently ranked 37th in the world in the performance of its health care system.(1) In comparison, the #1 ranked country in the world is France, a country in which around 40% of the population uses homeopathic medicines and around 30% of its family physicians prescribe them(2).

The Evidence IS There

The fact that homeopathy became extremely popular during the 19th century primarily because of its impressive successes in treating the infectious disease epidemics that raged during that time is a fact that is totally ignored by skeptics.(3)(4)(5) It is highly unlikely that a placebo response is the explanation for homeopathy's notable successes in treating epidemics of cholera, yellow fever, scarlet fever, typhoid, pneumonia, or influenza. Skeptics are wonderfully clever in trying to make up stories and excuses for the good and often amazing results that people get from homeopathic medicines. Most often, however, they simply say that "old news is no news," as they brag about not learning from the past as though this is a good thing.

There are more than 150 placebo controlled clinical studies, most of which have shown positive results, either compared with a placebo or compared with a conventional drug.(6-10)

If that were not enough, studies testing the effects of homeopathic medicines on cell cultures, plants, animals, physics experiments, and chemistry trials have shown statistically significant effects.(11-16) Needless to say, the placebo effect in these basic science studies is virtually non-existent, while the effects from homeopathic doses are significant and sometimes substantial.

Skeptics are virulently silent on the entire field of hormesis (the multidisciplinary science of evaluating the power of small doses of varied biological systems) and its thousands of studies (!) in a wide variety of scientific disciplines.(17)(18) This silence on hormesis is completely understandable because their acknowledgement of this body of evidence obliterates much of their criticisms of homeopathy. The doses of homeopathic medicines that are commonly sold in health food stores and pharmacies throughout the world are in a similar low dosage range to the thousands of hormesis studies on low-dose effects. It is very odd that skeptics ignore the thousands of studies in this field, and yet, these same skeptics repeat their embarrassingly uninformed mantra of "where is the research?" It is indeed no wonder that these skeptics are often referred to as "denialists" rather than skeptics.

It is readily acknowledged that the pharmacological process of making homeopathic medicines is often misunderstood or inadequately understood. Homeopathic medicines are made with a specific process, called potentization, that is unique to homeopathy. Each medicine is made in double-distilled water in a glass test-tube, diluted in a 1:10 or 1:100 solution that is vigorously shaken 40 or more times. Then, this process of dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking) is repeated 3, 6, 12, 30, 200, 1,000, or more times. Although one would think that one is diluting out whatever was in the original solution, the immense worldwide experience using homeopathic medicines over the past 200 years proves otherwise.

There is a body of intriguing but not yet fully verified theories about how homeopathic medicines work. These theories are too technical for this article, though I sincerely hope that the "good skeptics" out there will work to explore and help figure out the many mysteries that may explain homeopathy, rather than repeat the old reactionary mantra that "it cannot work."

For instance, the new "silica hypothesis" is particularly intriguing, , especially in light of the fact that approximately 6 parts per million of “silica fragments” or “chips” are known to fall off the walls of glass vial during the shaking process, and the creation of nanobubbles from the shaking process results in transient localized regions of high pressure topping 10,000 atmospheres (atm) that have been hypothesized to alter the water in a significant and persistent way.(19)

Because a homeopathic medicine is selected for its unique ability to cause the specific pattern or syndrome of symptoms that it is known to cause in overdose, a living organism has a hypersensitivity to even extremely small doses of the correctly chosen homeopathic medicine. Just as a "C" note of a piano is hypersensitive to other "C" notes, living organisms are hypersensitive to extremely small doses of medicines that are made from substances that cause the similar symptoms that the sick person is experiencing. This ancient principle, "like cures like," was heralded by the Oracle at Delphi, the Bible, and various Eastern cultures, and the fact that modern-day immunology and allergy treatments derive from the primary principle of homeopathy, "the law of similars," provides additional substantiation to this system of medicine. Conventional allergy treatment and vaccination are two of the very few conventional medical treatments that do something to augment immune response, and yet, both of these treatments derive from the homeopathic principle of similars.

Actually, a better description of this principle of similars is the "principle of resonance," which any student of music knows has both power and hypersensitivity. The additional wisdom of this homeopathic principle is that its use leads to the prescription of medicines that mimic, rather than that suppress, the symptoms and the innate intelligence of the human body. Because homeopathic medicines are prescribed for their ability to mimic the similar symptoms that the sick person is experiencing, it is no wonder that people find that these medicines augment immune competence and improve body and mind health.

In this light, homeopathy can and should be considered a type of "medical biomimicry" and a "resonance medicine."

Homeopaths may not yet adequately understand precisely how their medicines work, but the body of historical and present-day evidence and experience is simply too significant to ignore. The fact that so many highly respected people and cultural heroes over the past 200 years have used and advocated for homeopathy provides additional evidence for this medical system. Some of these cultural heroes include eleven U.S. Presidents, six popes, JD Rockefeller, Charles Darwin, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and scores of literary greats, corporate leaders, sports superstars, world-class musicians, and monarchs from virtually every European country.(20)

It is also important to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands, even millions, of medical doctors learned conventional medicine but who have used homeopathic medicines in conjunction with or (commonly) as replacement for conventional medicines. In comparison, the number of medical professionals who have trained in homeopathy and who then stopped using these medicines is extremely small. The fact that homeopathic medicine represents the leading medical alternative in Europe and in significant portions of Asia (especially India and Pakistan) provides additional support for this often misunderstood medical science and art. In fact, over 100 million people in India depend solely (!) on this form of medical care.(21) Further, according to an A.C. Neilsen survey, 62% of current homeopathy users in India have never tried conventional medicines and 82% of homeopathy users would not switch to conventional treatments.(22)


The So-Called Best Evidence that Homeopathy Does Not Work

Sadly and strangely, the skeptics of homeopathy put much of their belief that homeopathy does not work on a review and comparison of homeopathic and conventional medical research that was published in the Lancet in 2005.(23) The Lancet even published an editorial in this same issue entitled "The End of Homeopathy."

However, this "evidence" is a very controversial and some say extremely flawed review of homeopathic research.(24)(25) This review sought to compare 110 placebo-controlled homeopathic studies and with a "matched" group of 110 studies testing conventional medications. The researchers appropriately sought to evaluate only those studies that their criteria deemed to be of sufficiently "high quality." 

Although the idea of comparing studies is a good idea, the way that this group of researchers evaluated only a small subset of all studies showed an initial and ongoing bias, as you shall soon see...

First, it is important to know that the leader of this review of homeopathic research is A. Shang's boss (and co-author of this article) is M. Eggers, a noted vocal skeptic of homeopathy. Second, evidence of strong bias against homeopathy by these researchers was brought to light by the Lancet's senior editor, Zoe Mullan, who acknowledged that, "Professor Eggers stated at the onset that he expected to find that homeopathy had no effect other than that of placebo."(26)

Shang and his team deemed that "high quality trials" must fit certain criteria. It must be acknowledged that two other meta-analyses that have previously been published in the Lancet (1997) and the British Medical Journal (1991) have deemed several trials that had strongly positive effects from homeopathic treatment as "high quality" than was not deemed as such by Shang (and he has never commented about this discrepancy).

Despite the problems in comparing conventional medical research and homeopathic research, let's assume that the two groups of studies ARE comparable. It is therefore more than a tad ironic that they found 21 of the homeopathic studies fit this definition of "high quality" clinical researcher but only 9 of the conventional studies did so. One would have thought that the researchers would then compare these "high quality" trials. However, this result would have shown that there IS a difference between homeopathic treatment and a placebo in a variety of ailments, and authors (who are known skeptics of homeopathy) could not allow that conclusion.

Instead, Shang's group chose to only evaluate a much smaller subset of these high quality trials. They limited the review to the largest trials in both groups to 8 homeopathic trials (with at least 98 subjects) and 6 conventional trials (with at least 146 subjects). Strangely enough, when evaluating only this last group of larger studies, they were not comparable in ANY way. The diseases that they treated were all different. And conveniently enough, the researchers asserted that one of the large trials testing homeopathic medicines in the treatment of patients with polyarthritis (arthritis in multiple joints) did not have a comparable trial (they actually asserted with complete seriousness that there has never been a study of patients with this common malady, and rather than admit that this large trial of 175 patients which showed significant efficacy of treatment, they simply threw out the trial from their evaluation). When one realizes that NONE of the studies in the final evaluation matched each other in any way, the researchers' decision to throw out this study on the homeopathic treatment of people with polyarthritis is additional evidence of the researcher's strong biases and their efforts to prove homeopathy as a placebo "by hook or by crook."

The researchers put a higher value of those studies with larger numbers of patients because they asserted that smaller trials are "biased," even though they were randomized double-blind and placebo studies (and many of which were published in the Lancet, the BMJ, and other highly respected conventional medical journals). One group of four studies on patients with respiratory allergies which included 253 subjects and was published in the BMJ(27) was not a part of the final analysis without explanation. An earlier study published in the Lancet with 144 subjects suffering from hay fever was also missing from the final analysis.(28) The fact that these studies showed a significant benefit from homeopathic treatment was ignored entirely.

Using large number of subjects is "do-able" in homeopathy, though it is simply less frequent, due to the high costs of such studies and due to the fact that the profit margin for the sale of homeopathic medicines does not even approach that of conventional drugs. Also, it is a lot easier using conventional medicine than homeopathic medicine in studies because the very nature of homeopathy is the necessity to evaluate a person's overall syndrome, not just any localized disease. This type of sophistication in individualized treatment is a part of good acupuncture treatment as well.

It is therefore not surprising that 6 of the 8 large homeopathic trials gave the same homeopathic medicine to every subject, no matter what symptoms of the disease the subjects in the experiments experienced. Astonishingly enough, the Shang review included a "weight-loss" study in their final review. The "study" used Thyroidinum 30C (a small dose of thyroid gland), even though this remedy is not reported in the homeopathic literature as an appropriate medicine for this condition.

Even though a study can be "well designed" and "well conducted," it will become a "junk science" study if the drug used is totally inappropriate for the sick person. As it turns out, 6 of the 8 homeopathic studies in the final analysis by Shang used homeopathic medicines that were unlikely to be prescribed by a practicing homeopath (they prescribe their medicines based on the overall syndrome of physical and psychological symptoms the patient has, not just based on the diagnosed name of the disease, except in exceptional situations). In research and statistics, good studies need to have "internal validity" (how the study was designed and conducted) and "external validity" (how the treatment in the study can be generalized to clinical practice). The Shang group did not even seek to evaluate whether any of the studies had "external validity" or not. Sad, but true.

Perhaps the most interesting fact about this study was totally ignored by its authors. Shang and his team purposefully did not evaluate safety issues of treatment. Therefore, it is not surprising that at least three of the conventional medical treatments that were found to be "effective" initially were later found to be so dangerous that the drugs were withdrawn from medical use.  In other words, while conventional medicines were "proven" to be initially effective, further studies "proved" that these treatments provided more problems than benefits (a fact totally overlooked by the authors of this review).

Finally, imagine if researchers evaluated ALL studies for which antibiotics were used. Although antibiotics are primarily effective in the treatment of bacterial infections, they have been tested to treat a wide variety of infections, not just bacterial, but as we all know, antibiotics are not effective for anything other than bacterial infection (and even then, the frequency of use of antibiotics will reduce their efficacy because the bacteria adapt to it). Just because antibiotics are not effective for most conditions does not mean that specific antibiotics are ineffective for specific conditions. Good science requires specificity, not over-generalized statements, as Shang and his ilk have made.

Although the above seems to be a simple and logical statement, skeptics of homeopathy prove their paucity of rational thought by lumping together ALL types of homeopathic research, then throwing out or ignoring the vast majority of studies (including MOST of the studies that the researchers defined as "high quality"), and using studies that are not good examples of how homeopathy is practiced.

For instance, the World Health Organization has deemed that childhood diarrhea represents one of the most serious public health problems in the world today because millions of children die each year as a result of dehydration from diarrhea. With this concern in mind, three randomized double-blind trials were conducted testing individually chosen homeopathic medicines for children with diarrhea. One of these studies was published in Pediatrics,(29) and another study was published in another highly respected pediatric medical journal.(30) All three of these trials showed a significant benefit from homeopathic treatment when compared with placebo.

Similarly, four double-blind placebo controlled trials has shown benefit from the homeopathic medicine, Oscillococcinum, in the treatment of influenza.(31) Research has consistently found it to be effective in the treatment of influenza, though it does not seem to be effective in its prevention.

As for homeopathy and respiratory allergies, reference above was already made to four studies that showed effectiveness of homeopathic treatment (2 of which were published in the BMJ and 1 of which was published in the Lancet). Further, a review of seven double-blind and placebo controlled studies showed that homeopathic doses of Galphimia glauca were effective in treating people with hay fever.(32)

The two new re-analyses of the Shang review of homeopathic research prove the old cliché, garbage in, garbage out. Junk data indeed creates junk science which creates junk and meaningless results. And ironically, THIS study is considered the 'best" evidence that homeopathy does not work. If this is the best that they have, skepticism of homeopathy is not only dead, it is stupid dead.

While I would like to think that this article would finally put the last nail in the coffin of skeptics of homeopathy, I know that Big Pharma will not allow that to happen. Further, these skeptics are often like religious fundamentalists who will believe what they want to believe no matter what. And then, there's the impact from cognitive dissonance: many people who have invested their time and energy into conventional medicine simply cannot imagine admitting that homeopathy may have any benefit. It may be time to put that rotary telephone in the attic along with the typewriter and your former skepticism of homeopathic medicine.


A Simple Challenge to Skeptics

To adequately and accurately evaluate homeopathy, one has to evaluate the whole body of evidence that has enabled homeopathy to persist for 200+ years. While evaluating double-blind clinical trials is important, so is evaluating the wide body of basic sciences, as well as the clinical outcome trials, the epidemiological studies, the cost-effectiveness literature, and the serial case review trials. It is strange that these defenders of science would remain so ignorant of the whole body of evidence that homeopathic medicine stands. Some leading skeptics of homeopathy even pride themselves on the value of having a closed mind to homeopathy.(33)

Skeptics of homeopathy assume that homeopaths, more than any other type of health practitioner, have incredible magic powers to elicit a placebo effect. We all acknowledge a certain power of the placebo in treating the "worried well," but do skeptics of homeopathy really believe that a placebo effect is consistently effective to treat all of the serious illnesses that are commonly treated by homeopaths...and for which good double-blind studies show efficacy? Studies at the University of Vienna showed "substantial significance" in treating patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease...the #4 reason that people in the USA die!)(34) and severe sepsis (a condition which kills 50% of patients in hospitals who are inflicted with it, and yet, homeopathic treatment has been found to cut this death rate in HALF!).(35)

The vast majority of homeopaths throughout the world are medical doctors or some other licensed or certified health professional who practice family medicine and who see patients with varied acute and chronic ailments. Therefore, I personally challenge ANY skeptic of homeopathy to try to maintain a family practice and only dispense "sugar pills," rather than real homeopathic medicines. My challenge is simple: while seeing a wide variety of children and adults with various acute and chronic problems, take them off all of their conventional drugs (with the exception of insulin and a small selection of drugs of "medical necessity"), and prescribe only sugar pills...for just one week.

When you consider that homeopaths do this for 52 weeks of the year, skeptics of homeopathy should not have any problem IF they think that homeopaths are only prescribing placebos. Let's see how many patients complain, call you late at night expressing concern about the ineffectiveness of your "medicine," and simply do not return for future health care. Any skeptic of homeopathy will be "cured" by this experience in humility. (For the record, I have offered hundreds of skeptics with this challenge, and not a single one has agreed to "prove" that placebo treatment can work in family medicine).

To clarify, I honor good skepticism, for a healthy skepticism seeks to truly explore a subject with knowledge and without arrogance. Further, good skepticism seeks to understand the wide body of evidence that it is necessary to evaluate to determine veracity of phenomena. It is the bad or ugly skepticism that breeds an unscientific attitude and that is simply a form of denialism, or in some cases, hyper-denialism.

Sadly, many of today skeptics are fundamentalists who epitomize a "closed mind." Deepak Chopra said it so well when he asserted, "professional skeptics who are self-appointed vigilantes dedicated to the suppression of curiosity" (huffingtonpost, Dec 27, 2009). When such people do not want to learn from the past, do not even read the research (or only read those studies that confirm their own point of view), and maintain a high degree of arrogance, such "skepticism" isn't skepticism at all: it is bad scientific thinking, it is an unhealthy attitude towards science, and it is a model for how not to learn.

One of the leaders of the skeptics is famed magician James Randi, who like many skeptics is seemingly skeptical of everything (except conventional medicine). He, however, has begun to lose respect from his colleagues and scientists by his skepticism of global warming.(36)

When the denialists assert and insist that homeopathy "cannot" work, I remind them that "science" and "medicine" are not just nouns but verbs...science and medicine are ever-changing. ..and what may be today's medicine is tomorrow's quackery, and what may be today's quackery may be tomorrow's medicine. This is not a prediction; this is history. I encourage everyone and anyone who is seriously interested in the science and art of real healing to explore what homeopathic medicine has to offer. As Mark Twain once asserted in 1890, "you may honestly feel grateful that homeopathy survived the attempts of the allopathists [conventional physicians] to destroy it."



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(36) http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/805-agw-revisited.html

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