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Within the 7th Research Framework Programme of the European Union a pan-European consortium of researchers has been selected to carry out a project on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM): CAMbrella. The consortium includes researchers from the departments for Complementary Medicine at various universities and institutes in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The expected EU contribution will be € 1.498.598. The aim of this project is to develop a roadmap for future European research in CAM that is appropriate for the health care needs of EU citizens, and acceptable to the EU Parliament, as well as their national research funders and healthcare providers. The specific objectives are to develop an EU network involving centres of research excellence for collaborative research, to develop consensus-based terminology widely accepted in Europe to describe the major CAM interventions used clinically in Europe, to create a knowledge base that allows to accurately evaluate the patient demands for CAM and its prevalence, to review the current legal status and policies governing CAM provision in the EU and, to explore the needs, beliefs and attitudes of the EU citizens with respect to CAM. Based on this information, a roadmap will be created that will enable a sustainable and prioritised EU research roadmap for CAM.
These overall objectives will be achieved in 3 years. The project will be managed by a Steering Committee with the support of a Scientific Committee and an Advisory Board and will involve all the major European stakeholders in the field of CAM.
In 2006 a prospective, multi-centre cohort study was conducted by a research team at Berlin’s Charité University (Germany), including 103 primary care practices with additional specialization in homeopathy in Germany and Switzerland. In this study the use and effects of homeopathy under conditions of usual care were investigated. The study involved 3981 patients who consulted a physician for classical homeopathic therapy in 103 primary care practices in Germany and Switzerland. Disease severity and quality of life demonstrated marked and sustained improvements following homeopathic treatment period. The study indicates that homeopathic medical therapy may play a beneficial role in the long-term care of patients with chronic diseases.
In recent publications the results of homeopathic treatment in two subgroups of the above-mentioned study were described, one subgroup of children with atopic eczema and another subgroup of 82 adults with psoriasis.
The study on atopic eczema included 225 children with a disease duration of 3.6 ± 3.8 years who were followed up for 24 months. Over the course of the study patients received 7.3 ± 6.4 homeopathic prescriptions, most frequently Calcium carbonicum (8.2%), Tuberculinum (7.2%), and Medorrhinum (6.8%). In total, 137 different homeopathic remedies were used. The strongest improvement in diagnoses and medical complaints was seen in the first 3 months, and it continued during the full observation period. After 24 months, the atopic eczema as well as the other baseline diagnoses were considerably relieved, while reductions in use of conventional medicines were observed.
The other study was aimed at evaluating details and effects of homeopathic treatment in patients with psoriasis. Forty-five physicians treated 82 adults, who had had psoriasis for an average of 14.7 years and of whom 96.3% had been treated before. Patients received 6.0 ± 4.9 homeopathic prescriptions. Diagnoses and complaints severity improved markedly with large effect sizes. In addition, the quality of life improved, while conventional treatment and health service use were considerably reduced.
It has to be kept in mind that these are not experimental studies (with control group, randomization, and blinding, but observational studies which are, by their character, less rigorous than experimental studies. The aim of these studies was to provide systematic and detailed information about status and effects of homeopathic medical care in usual care. And the results clearly demonstrate that under individualized (‘classical’) homeopathic treatment, patients with atopic eczema and psoriasis improved in symptoms and quality of life.
Witt CM, Lüdtke R, Willich SN (2009) Homeopathic treatment of patients with psoriasis--a prospective observational study with 2 years follow-up. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 23:538-543.
Acquaintance with information on the scientific underpinning of CAM is greatly lagging behind its increasing use by European citizens. To plug the information gap the European Information Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (EICCAM) has been founded with the aim of providing and disseminating understandable, objective and high-quality information on the safety, effectiveness and efficiency of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). The outcome of research on complementary medicine is usually only presented in scientific journals and to fellow scientists, using scientific terminology. Consequently there is a communication gap. As long as this exists, it will be a barrier to CAM’s greater use.
EICCAM central purpose is to collect and update scientific information on CAM on a regular basis, converting the scientific information into a summarised and understandable format for the educated non-expert public. This information is independent, comprehensive, understandable and quality assured in order to contribute to informed decision-making by politicians, legislators and other stakeholders. The centre also networks with the scientific community, with CAM stakeholders, and is intending to organise or participate in scientific events on CAM.
EICCAM has been set up as a Public Utility Foundation under Belgian Law, with a Management Board and a Scientific Board. Both boards jointly decide on actions and activities while the Scientific Board selects the information input and output and, most importantly, ensures its quality and independence. The current scientific committee includes reputable scientists working at European universities and includes expertise in the CAM field. To date, they have published several ‘EICCAM Research Facts’ on studies in the field of homeopathy, acupuncture, anthroposophic medicine and herbal medicine, all downloadable from the website. More publications are in the pipeline.
EICCAM has already obtained some funding, but more funding will be needed to keep the Centre running and to continue to produce regular research facts. Readers of this article who interested to make a donation to the funding of EICCAM or are aware of possible funding sources are encouraged to contact the Chair of the EICCAM Management Board, Dr Susanne Schunder-Tatzber, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the last few years complementary medicine has been politically marginalized in Switzerland. Therefore, the complementary medicine sector, including doctors, therapists, manufacturers and specialized traders, together launched and brought about a national popular initiative. This enabled Swiss voters to obtain a referendum for a constitutional amendment if they collected 100,000 valid signatures within 18 months.
Parliament availed itself of its right to oppose the proposers’ constitutional article and suggest a slightly diluted form. Since parliament’s counterproposal adopted all the core demands on a legal level, the original popular initiative was withdrawn. Therefore, the people only had to vote on a constitutional article, which, experience has shown, increases the chances of them voting in favour. Particularly because parliament and the government support the parliamentary proposal.
On 17 May 2009, Swiss voters clearly approved the constitutional article proposed by parliament. The majority of voters per canton also voted in favour, which is likewise a prerequisite for any constitutional amendment.
In accordance with the referendum, the Swiss Federal constitution will be expanded by an article stipulating that “The Federal government and cantons shall ensure that, within the scope of their jurisdiction, complementary medicine is taken into consideration”.
On this constitutional basis, parliament and the authorities have to implement the following requirements:
1. Admission of doctors of complementary medicine in the fields of anthroposophic medicine, homeopathy, neural therapy, herbal medicine (phytotherapy) and Traditional Chinese Medicine into the obligatory public health insurance system.
2. Creation of national diplomas for CAM therapists without a full medical education.
3. Integration of complementary medicine into teaching and research.
4. Safeguarding of proven remedies.
On 10-12 December 2008 at the ‘Nosodes 2008’ conference in Havana (Cuba) the director-general of the Finlay Institute, an advocate of homeopathy herself, Dr. Concepción Campa Huergo, gave a presentation about controlling the local epidemic disease of leptospirosis by using a Leptospira nosode.
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by the spirochaete Leptospira transmitted to humans from rats. In humans it may cause a wide range of symptoms including high fever, severe headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or a rash. If the disease is not treated, the patient could develop kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, and respiratory distress. Cuba goes through a yearly cycle of Leptospirosis epidemic, especially after the hurricanes flood the countryside and water pollution reaches its height. Many people are left homeless, flooded out and under the stress of disaster situation.
A part of the Ministry of Public Health, the Finlay Institute is the Cuban research institute. It has WHO qualified facilities, produces allopathic vaccinations and acts as supporting institution for research, production and development of high quality homeopathic products. Since Cuba is outcast by the USA government, the Cubans have come to depend on themselves for the production of medicines, health care programs, etc. And since they have no pharmaceutical multi-nationals to stop them, they were able to conduct the leptospirosis project on a massive scale unknown in the history of homeopathy.
On October November 2007, three provinces of the eastern region of Cuba were affected by heavy rainfalls causing floods of big areas and damage to sanitary and health systems. The risk of leptospirosis infection raised extremely dangerous levels with about 2 million people exposed to potentially contaminated water.
Considering this situation, the Finlay Institute prepared a leptospira nosode 200 CH using 4 circulating strains and following international quality standards. A multidisciplinary team travelled to the affected regions to conduct the massive administration of the nosode. Coordinated action with public health system infrastructures allowed the administration of a preventive treatment consisting in two doses (7- 9 days apart) of the nosode to about 2,4 million people (4,8 million of doses). The coverage of the intervention rose up to 95% percent of total population of the three provinces at risk. Another dose, at a higher potency (10M), was given after the hurricane Ike hit the island.
The epidemiology surveillance after the intervention showed a dramatic decrease of morbidity two weeks after and a reduction to zero mortality of hospitalized patients. The number of confirmed leptospirosis cases remained at low levels and below the expected levels according with the trends and rain regimens. The usual expectancy of infection even with allopathic vaccination would have been around a few thousand, with some deaths included.
The costs of the leptospirosis project were US$ 200,000, whereas the costs of ‘normal’ vaccination, only for the most at-risk populations, ie children, pregnant women, and the elderly, are about US$3,000,000.
What is remarkable is their application to such a large population, and its dramatic success, with full scientific verification. This experience could be extended to other diseases and other countries. The Finlay Institute is offering their facilities and specialists to spread this alternative to all regions needing emergent alternatives for epidemic control and prevention.
More information can be found at the website of the Finlay Institute.