It is always good to hear of a therapy that has been given the sanction from a serious body with comments, research and results which quantify how positive the use of homeopathy can be.
Back in 2005, the Swiss government produced a scathing report about an analysis by Shang et al, which was published in the Lancet and widely publicised by sceptics of alternative medicine as signalling the “end of homeopathy”.
This Shang study had a scientific team which evaluated 110 clinical trials of homeopathy and then compared them with the same number of trials of conventional medicine.
The Swiss authors noted that Shang and his colleagues had neglected to follow the basic accepted QUOROM (quality of reporting of meta-analyses) guidelines on best practices for scientific reporting (Forsch Komplementmed., 2006).
The Swiss report also quoted the views of David Sackett, a Canadian who is considered one of the leading experts in ‘evidence based medicine’. He argued that the ‘gold standard’ study, otherwise known as the randomised, placebo-controlled trial, may not be the only means of judging the safety and effectiveness of a treatment. For example, it could not be used to evaluate surgery – what a joy to hear this comment.
The sceptics disregard the results from homeopathy mainly because they don’t understand it and because they can’t allocate any reasoning to the above mentioned controlled trials. Homeopathic high potency remedies induce regulative and specific changes in cells or living organisms. Switzerland is a good example of belief in this treatment.
Nearly two-thirds of all medical practitioners in Switzerland rate alternative medicine, 40 per cent use it and 85 per cent would like their country’s national health to include this therapy.
In 1998, a decision by the Swiss government expanded its national insurance to include a number of alternative treatments, such as homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and herbal medicine.
However, government reimbursement was provisional, pending the outcome of an extensive government-commissioned study of the various treatments.
The most comprehensive assessment ever conducted by any government body into homeopathy has concluded that not only does it work, but that it is far more cost-effective than conventional medicine. In fact, it works so well that patients should be reimbursed for it on the National Health Service.
The Swiss government conducted this detailed inquiry in a very rare departure from its history of neutrality on many issues.
Interestingly, Switzerland is the home of two pharmaceutical giants, but despite this they have still conducted the assessment, which has resulted in their endorsement of homeopathy.
The book-length report Homeopathy in healthcare: Effectiveness, appropriateness, safety, costs was edited by Gudrun Bronhoft and Peter Matthiessen from the University of Witten and Herdecke in Germany and Pan-Medion Foundation in Zurich.
This report reviewed all the major evidence for homeo-pathy from major preclinical research and the ‘gold standard’ trials in humans to systematic reviews, meta-analyses and epidemiological studies.
The methodology used in this report was used by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research as a means of assessing true effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of the treatments available from the National Health Service. It has also been widely adopted by many other international agencies.
In previous studies, often, the researchers use the wrong remedy or use it inappropriately. Some homeopathy studies have attempted to use a ‘one size fits all’ remedy for a condition, when it is widely understood that many conditions require individualised remedies.
I can attest to the type of diagnosis of a homeopath is very much based on an understand-ing of the patient, their background, lifestyle, individuality and personal knowledge.
After assessing all the available data, the Swiss team concluded that the high quality investigations of pre-clinical basic research proved that homeopathic high-potency remedies induce “regulative and specific changes in cells or living organisms”.
The report also found that homeopathy treatment costs at least 15 per cent less than conventional medicine, even though those seeking homeopathy tended to have more chronic or serious ill health.
Homeopathy also led to less dependency on drugs. For example, in more than 500 patients with rheumatic disease, nearly one third were able to stop taking conventional medication, and another third reduced their use of drugs.
Homeopathic fertility treatment for women offered one of the largest cost savings of all, compared with standard medical treatments. It also saved on hospital bills, as well as indirect cost savings such as fewer days off sick when patients opted for homeopathy.
Importantly, homeopathy users reported fewer side-effects and better doctor-patient relationships.
When comparing patient satisfaction with homeopathic vs. conventional therapies in more than 3,000 subjects, significantly more homeopathic patients were “completely satisfied” with their results and treatment in comparison. (BMC Complement Altern. Med., 2008).
This has occurred at the point where EU initiatives funded by the pharmaceutical industry are industriously banning or drastically curtailing the availability of nutritional supplements and many alternative treatments despite their long history of success.
The Swiss are sending a firm message to the pharmaceutical giants in their continued attempts to discredit alternative medicine (in the words of Mark Twain) “that reports of its death are greatly exaggerated”.