By: Larry Malerba, DO
Homeopathy is a thorn in the side of Pharma because of the fact that its unique medicines are FDA regulated, safe, inexpensive, and can’t be patented.
Now that the deadline for public comment at FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has officially come to a close, supporters of homeopathy are waiting to see what steps, if any, will be taken to further regulate the marketing of homeopathic medicines. In light of these developments and other recent events, some believe that there is an organized effort under way to discredit this venerable medical art and science.
Homeopathy is a 200 year-old holistic system of healing with a remarkable safety record and a reputation for yielding excellent results. It employs small doses of naturally occurring substances, which are prescribed in accordance with the principle of similars: A treatment is chosen on the basis of a homeopathic medicine’s ability to closely mimic the symptom pattern of the sick individual.
However, FDA and FTC actions in the U.S. along with similar developments in the U.K., Australia, and Canada have homeopathic supporters wondering.
Although homeopathy has been part of the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) since 1948, recent pressure by anti-homeopathy activists has led to a decision by the Dept. of Health to review the status of NHS funding for homeopathy.
One U.K. homeopathic physician, Dr. David Fitton, noted,
“It’s quite respectable in all European countries, and it’s well integrated at the consultant level, but for some reason in the UK there’s a big anti-homeopathy attitude, a campaign almost.” (1)
Meanwhile, in Canada, a University of Toronto professor’s efforts to conduct research on the homeopathic treatment of children with ADHD have also met with resistance. A group of scientists led by well-known anti-holistic medicine activist, Joe Schwarcz, of McGill University, sent a letter to Univ. of Toronto questioning why it would sanction a study based on a therapy like homeopathy. A response from U. of T. stated that,
“Rigorous research into these products and therapies—including the research conducted by Professor Boon and at the Centre for Integrative Medicine—helps patients and their caregivers make informed treatment choices.” (2)
Coincidentally—or not—a recent review conducted by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Australia concluded that, “there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.”
This rather sweeping and surprisingly bold condemnation of homeopathy contradicted a prior review sponsored by the Swiss government, which came to the opposite conclusion. That study vindicated homeopathy, calling it effective, safe, and cost-effective. It recommended that homeopathy be included in Switzerland’s national health program.
The American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists (AAHP) responded to the Australian review:
“The AAHP considers their conclusion to be a blanketed and unfounded generalization about the therapeutic effects of all homeopathic medicines. This overreaching announcement is a disservice to patients and health care systems around the world.” (3)
A Homeopathy Research Institute critique of the Australian study pointed out…
“… deep flaws in how the NHMRC had analyzed the evidence on homeopathy. This raises questions … leading to serious concerns about the conduct of this governmental body.” (4)
Homeopathic supporters are familiar with the standard arguments lodged by anti-homeopathy activists who like to call themselves “skeptics.” They insist that there is no scientific evidence to support homeopathy. They repeat this unfounded claim in spite of a growing body of evidence to the contrary.
It has recently come to light that a well-known skeptic organization, Sense About Science, which actively campaigns against homeopathy in the UK, was reportedly accepting money from Coca-Cola to spread disinformation downplaying the dangers of sugary drinks. Coca-Cola’s Chief Science & Health Officer immediately “retired” from her position after the Associated Press exposed the scam. (5)
Iris Bell, MD, PhD, is a Stanford University School of Medicine graduate and Director of Research for the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. She has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles. In response to critics’ claims that there is no scientific evidence to support homeopathy, Dr. Bell noted that such claims…
“…rely on a small selection of methodologically flawed, highly criticized meta-analyses of homeopathy while ignoring the specific peer-reviewed published scientific evidence from multiple independent laboratories that homeopathic medicines are biologically active on gene expression, immune modulation, and biological signaling effects. It also ignores data showing that homeopathic medicines can have beneficial effects in individual patients and in animals different from placebo effects in a number of studies.”