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A European survey has shown that more than a third of cancer patients in Europe use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), to increase their body's ability to overcome the disease, to enhance their health and well‐being, to feel empowered, and to alleviate physical and/or psychological distress.
Emerging evidence from scientific studies suggests that several CAM therapies may address pain, fatigue, and psychological distress and improve quality of life in cancer patients. Because of the growing interest in CAM by patients, academic cancer centres are exploring ways to integrate such care into a conventional cancer treatment system.
Prof Dr Dobos, Professor of Internal Medicine and Chair of Complementary and Integrative Medicine at the University of Duisburg-Essen Germany and Dr Madeleen Winkler, an experienced anthroposophic medical doctor and general practitioner from Gouda, in the Netherlands, (speaking on behalf of Prof Dr Harald Matthes, Charité University Berlin, Germany) made presentations outlining the role of CAM in the prevention and treatment of cancer, and the benefits of integrating CAM and conventional approaches. Ms Heidi Brorson, a representative from the Norwegian Cancer Society and cancer league made a presentation on how they work with and advise cancer patients about using CAM as part of their cancer treatment plans.
MEPs Sirpa Pietikäinen of MEPs for CAM and Alojz Peterle representing MAC, the MEPs Against Cancer, co-chaired the meeting. They concluded the meeting with a call to the European Commission and the European Parliament to actively support the greater integration of CAM into the healthcare of EU citizens, particularly with regards to the prevention and treatment of cancer including empowerment of patients in self-care and to iron out inequalities in the use of CAM across Europe. They also called for greater investment in research into an integrated approach into the care and treatment of patients with cancer.
More information, including documents and presentations can be found here.
The event was hosted by Jim Eadie, Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) and attended by several MSPs as well as representatives from across the homeopathic community. An assembled audience of MSPs, farmers, vets and representatives of the homeopathy profession heard from Geoff Johnson, a member of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons. He spoke about ways in which vets in the United Kingdom have successfully integrated homeopathy into veterinary practice and quoted from a growing number of research trials demonstrating homeopathy’s effectiveness in conditions such as mastitis in dairy cattle, stillbirth in pigs, salmonella in chickens and helminth parasitism in sheep.
Political interest in this issue has been heightened since the announcement late last year that the EU is funding a research project investigating how homeopathy can be used to treat farm animals and reduce the use of antibiotics. The project intends to coordinate research on the use of homeopathy and phytotherapy in livestock farming, in line with the motion for a resolution on antibiotic resistance in which the European Parliament called for the use of antibiotics in livestock farming to be reduced and for alternative methods to be used; such methods include the use of homeopathy and phytotherapy.
The studies examined 10 different countries, including Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Great Britain, Canada, USA, Australia and South Korea. Between 5% and 74.8% of the population uses CAM, the average prevalence being 32.2%. The data also demonstrate an increase of CAM usage from 1990 through 2006 in all countries investigated. For instance in Germany surveys show a steady increase of CAM utilization since 1970. In 1970 about 14% of respondents had used some form of CAM over the past 3 months; this amount doubled to 28% in 1997 and ascended to 34% in 2002.
The authors found a higher utilization of homeopathy and acupuncture in German-speaking countries. The data demonstrate that chiropractic manipulation, herbal medicine, massage, and homeopathy were the therapies most commonly used by the general population. More users were women, middle aged, and more educated. CAM users have more active coping styles and are more interested in making treatment decisions.
The ailments most often associated with CAM utilization included back pain or pathology, depression, insomnia, severe headache or migraine, and stomach or intestinal illnesses. Medical students were the most critical toward CAM. Compared to students of other professions (ie, nursing students: 44.7%, pharmacy students: 18.2%), medical students reported the least consultation with a CAM practitioner (10%).
In most countries, CAM is not covered by national insurance systems, and users pay almost all costs out of pocket. This willingness to pay reflects the public’s general acceptance of CAM and also suggests that CAM therapies have benefits that outweigh their costs.
The authors cite several other studies which concluded that the large majority of physicians had received no education in CAM but did want some education on the subject. Although knowledge levels were low, half of physicians believed in the efficacy of CAM. A majority felt that CAM should be taught as a topic course during a medical student’s training (medical students 84%, GPs 75%, hospital doctors 60%).
Another study examined the reasons for communication gaps between physicians and patients about CAM and found that patients and physicians had different reasons for nondisclosure. Physicians believed that patients felt CAM discussions were unimportant and physicians would not understand, discontinue treatment, discourage or disapprove of the use. Patients attributed nondisclosure to their uncertainty of its benefit and never being asked about CAM. The authors of another study concluded that more than half the physicians (63%) stated that the patient initiated the discussion about benefits and risks of CAM therapy.
Frass M, Strassl RP, Friehs H, Müllner M, Kundi M, Kaye AD (2012) Use and acceptance of complementary and alternative medicine among the general population and medical personnel: a systematic review. Ochsner Journal, 12:45-56.[PubMed]
The report, published under the title "Homeopathy in Europe - Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs", was commissioned by the Swiss health authorities to inform decision-making on the further inclusion of homeopathy in the list of services covered by statutory health insurance. Other studies carried out as part of the Swiss Complementary Medicine Evaluation Programme (PEK) caused a massive stir due to their schematic and exclusively quantitative (negative-) outcomes for homeopathy. The present report, in contrast, offers a differentiated evaluation of the practice of homeopathy in health care. It confirms homeopathy as a valuable addition to the conventional medical landscape – a status it has been holding for a long time in practical health care.
The book can now be ordered at Springer Publishers, Amazon UK and Germany. The book is expected to be available as an e-book as well.
At the Springer website you can have a detailed look into the contents and buy PDFs of individual chapters.
The court case began several years ago when a medical doctor, who was trained in homeopathy in the UK and used this therapy in his practice, was put on probation by the Medical Responsibility Board (Hälso- och Sjukvårdens AnsvarsNämnd - HSAN). The doctor appealed the decision on the grounds that he just used homeopathy when the patient requested it and only when conventional treatment had turned out to be ineffective. After being sentenced in two lower courts, he was forbidden to use homeopathy. The verdict claimed that homeopathy is unscientific, thus ignoring the growing evidence base of the effectiveness of homeopathy.
Just recently, after years of discrimination against him and his patients, his case came at last to the highest court. This court decided that patients were not exposed to any danger and the doctor had used scientific knowledge when it was necessary.
The implications of this decision are that from now on qualified medical personnel are allowed to use homeopathy. The verdict has already led to much publicity in Sweden and a rapidly increasing interest in homeopathy and other complementary therapies.