During my early years of graduation, I became aware of the skeptic movement which was campaigning against Homeopathy, maintaining it was not evidence-based and was harmful. Homeopaths all over the world are being treated in a very hostile manner. Many countries are planning to start campaigns to stop the dispensing of homeopathic preparations. They even declare the "end of Homeopathy". While the others very sympathetically say that "any treatment that does not harm patients cannot be all bad". So, from this perspective, they let it be carried on. This is perhaps the most ridiculous issue in the debate; we just can't be left on the mercy of the others.
Now as a homeopath, the controversy surrounding the evidence base for Homeopathy both concerns and disturbs me and I intend to use all my skills in clinical research to establish its true therapeutic value.
There are several main obstacles to wider acceptance of Homeopathy by the scientific community. I am discussing two basic reasons for the same.
The Ultra-small Doses:
The main is the apparent implausibility that ultra-diluted medicines could have a biological effect. A wide range of scientists claim that Homeopathy is no better than a placebo. Placebo is the Latin word for I will please, and refers to any medical treatment that is inert. They argue that the homeopathic medicines are something like a super-placebo, which have the ability to evoke large non-specific health effects thus treating a wide range of illnesses. Homeopaths have been regularly witnessing, from the times of Dr Hahnemann, this kind of inevitable scepticism that is born out of our scientific background. We use infinitesimal small doses of the potentised medicines and that's the reason why they say that our medicines contain "Nothing" whatsoever.
There are certain qualities of a placebo effect:
- Placebo effects tend to be small and short-lived.
- Placebo effects are unreliable; the patient who benefits today might not do so tomorrow.
- In case a clinician tells the truth (i.e. this is a placebo), the effect is most likely to disappear.
- Research shows that larger sized pills have a stronger effect than smaller pills and generally, injections have a more powerful effect than pills.
- It does not work on the comatose patients.
- It does not work on the insane.
- It does not work on the infants and kids.
- It does not work on the animals.
Well then, Homeopathy works on infants, on kids, on comatose patients, on insane patients and also on the animals. There are veterinary homeopathic consultants, animal lovers, trainers, shelters, rescues and breeders who are using homeopathic remedies for animals and getting results. Definitely this cannot be called a placebo-effect.
Another point here is that, well if we cannot prove efficacy of a potentized remedy therapeutically, then can we not prove it the other way round? There are obviously reasonably good arguments either way. Simply let a remedy (a mineral most probably) be taken for a considerable period of time in repeated doses. Will it not produce the symptoms, it is meant to treat? If yes then how can a medicine which has "nothing" produce symptoms? It simply cannot unless it has "something" which is beyond the explanation of our present-day technology. I don't intend to harm anyone from the pathognomic effects of a drug but sometimes we must turn things on their head to consider possible solutions.
We need to engage in different ways to challenge perceptions because these are the times of extreme pressures on us and unlike the skeptics, the detractors and denigrators of Homeopathy are not interested in listening and discussing, only in abusing.
Non-performance in RCTs:
Secondly the currently unknown physiological mechanism about its working or location of action in the body makes its acceptance doubtful. Less encouraging is the narrow "drug-trial" attitude for the Evidence-based medicine. Evidence-based medicine refers to a medicine relying totally upon prospective randomized control trials (RCTs). RCT is a study in which a number of people are randomly assigned to two (or more) groups to test a specific drug or therapy. One group receives the treatment (the experiment group) being tested; while the other group receives a placebo or an alternative treatment or no treatment at all (the control group). The RCTs are viewed as the gold standard for clinical research. Unfortunately, Homeopathy does not perform well in the frame of its parameters.
It is true that there is no conceivable scientific explanation that could possibly explain it and we simply have not yet discovered how homeopathy works, but the clinical experiences of the homeopaths since last two centuries just cannot be overlooked by some clinical trials of prejudice medical associations.
The problem with Homeopathy during RCTs is the underlying philosophy which is based on the concept of Individualization rather than generalization. In Homeopathy, medicines are prescribed on the basis of individual's genetic make-up. Every patient can have a different modality for same ailment. So there are times when the "unspecific-factors" come into play, where such randomized trials seem to have a restricted relevance. Hence, the efficacy of a drug cannot be known in a generalized study on a group of people. We are indeed in need of organized attempts in fundamental research and any "new" trial that provides clear evidence of effectiveness and will be capable of overcoming these restrictions soon.
Due to these reasons it is extremely disappointing how the word "Homeopathy" seems to raise barriers and produce knee-jerk reactions within the medical profession. There are doctors who discourage patients from even trying homeopathy without giving it a chance. Nevertheless, since referrals are not necessary, many patients choose to give it a try anyway. The findings of various recent surveys, confirm that people are very receptive to Homeopathy. A large percentage of people are open to it and it is heartening to see that negative news stories spun by detractors have very little impact on the decision-making of people. We do not have authentic statistical data but it is clear that still only a small fraction of population opts for Homeopathy. It is gaining recognition but it is not as popular as it should be, especially amongst the rural and uneducated population.
The limitations of present RCTs led to difficulties in securely defending the evidence base of Homeopathy. The negative reports of authorities have a devastating impact on the outside perception of the RCT evidence in Homeopathy & so "The Placebo Effect" has become the definitive word for many outside observers of Homeopathy. And so any two-way discussion on the topic of the RCT evidence is now typically a sterile and polarized debate that descends into a mere argument and rancour. It is simply impossible to prove everything by a statistical data. The fact is not well understood by people who only rely on such statistics without understanding their limitations and start doubting their homeopath.
However, it is seen in general practice that often patients come to a homeopath with a bag full of "evidence proven drugs", that they have been taking for years without any improvement. It is a well-known fact that most "proven" medicines don't work for most people. In that case can we not question the proven evidence of such drugs?
And after the treatment of a year or so if they regain their healthy state back by Homeopathic remedies, it is simply called a "Placebo Effect"...! Thousands of homeopaths round the world are serving the humanity, making people healthier, improving the lives of children, curing the sick, preventing deadly epidemics, treating cancer, auto-immune diseases and so on, and they are finally rewarded with a single word "Placebo".
We must remember that most homeopaths of the past were the allopathic converts. It is the need of the hour that all homeopaths must unite to make whole-hearted attempts and actively participate to create more public awareness about our system of healing. The fast-moving world today demands planned marketing skills and proper advertisement along with a pure and genuine heart and soul of a "Homeopath", Dr Hahnemann expected each of us to have. It is clear that the world today needs Homeopathy, without being aware of it.
|Homeopathy Works! |
The GOOD NEWS:
The good news is despite the fundamental and clinical research in Homeopathy still being in its infancy, it is fantastic to see the growing evidences of the ultradoses. In the year 2011, the IIT (Team Bombay), reports the fascinating proof that certain homeopathic remedies made from metals even in high potency, contain measurable amounts of the starting material, even at extreme dilutions of 1 part in 10 raised to 400 parts (i.e. the 200C). It is said that at 200th dilution the likelihood of there being even one atom of the starting material approaches zero. However, according to this paper, dilution does not work so simply.
Using electron microscopy (TEM), electron diffraction, and atomic spectroscopy, Prashant Chikramane (Ph.D, research scholar and his team of Professors) found that, contrary to the arithmetic, there are nanogram quantities of the starting material still present in these 'high potency' remedies in the form of nanoparticles.
The whole homeopathic community is indebted for their researches and we thank the entire team for their continued efforts. The important work he and his collaborators have undertaken will enable us to speak confidently about the evidence. We are indeed grateful for their dedication and admirable work ethic and we hope to see some more researches to provide the scientific rationale for the cures we are privileged to observe. It is disappointing that the news was not much highlighted by the higher authorities who were supposed to shout it from the highest roof tops and have the results of the paper, published repeatedly in scientific journals and broadcast them to millions through the social media. It is clear that it is high time to react to the arguments of the naysayers in this context, by letting our real cures and positive stories better known. Not just for our own sake, but also for the sake of all those deserving people who could benefit from Homeopathy.
In the meantime, we hope that in near future the new laboratory research on nanoparticles and gene expressions may lead to better understanding of the physics and chemistry of the "modus operandi" of Homeopathy. This is the reason why Dr. Samuel Hahnemann is called a genius because he discovered a SCIENCE, almost two centuries ago, which is still far-far beyond the present day science.
Note: The article was originally published in. Nov 2015, issue of Vital Informer, New Delhi.