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In a report published 22 February 2010, the Science and Technology Committee of the United Kingdom House of Commons concludes that homeopathy is not efficacious (that is, it does not work beyond the placebo effect), that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible and that further clinical trials of homeopathy could not be justified. Furthermore, it concludes that the NHS should cease funding homeopathy and that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should no longer license homeopathic medicines. The full report as well as all written and oral evidence that was submitted to the Committee is available here.
Remarkably, just 4 of the 14 members of the Science and Technology Committee voted on this report: 3 for, one against. One of its three signatories has stridently campaigned against homeopathy and continued to do so even in the period between the hearings and the publication of the report.
The European Committee for Homeopathy finds the conclusions and recommendations of the Science and Technology Committee completely unfounded. The report is highly tendentious and fundamentally flawed, consistently misrepresenting the scientific evidence to the detriment of homeopathy and making unfounded and pejorative allegations against those who advocate or practise homeopathy.
The report ignores large areas of evidence which were mentioned in written submissions and oral evidence such as systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials of homeopathy for specific conditions and groups of conditions, and systematic reviews of biological models of homeopathic responses. The evidence suggests that homeopathy is effective in a number of specific conditions, and there are a number of reproducible biological models of homeopathy.
The European Committee for Homeopathy fully endorses the robust and comprehensive response by the British Homeopathic Association. Their rebuttals are accessible at their website here.
In 1999 the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) evaluated a cancer treatment protocol developed at the P. Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation (PBHRF) in Kolkata, India. The ‘Banerji protocol’ used specific ultra-diluted natural substances to treat patients with different cancers. The NCI reviewed 10 patients treated on the Banerji protocol. In four of the cases with lung and esophageal cancers, the NCI confirmed partial responses. All patients reviewed had appropriate pathology and imaging studies to confirm diagnosis and response. The patients only received the remedies prescribed at the PBHRF clinic and did not receive any additional conventional treatment, such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. After rigorous evaluation, the NCI concluded that there was sufficient evidence of efficacy to warrant further research of the Banerji protocol.
Considering the growing interest in Banerji protocol remedies among patients at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas, most of whom have advanced breast cancer, a team of researchers decided to evaluate the in-vitro effect of those remedies.
The result of this study has just been published in the International Journal of Oncology. The study has demonstrated that four ultra-diluted homeopathic medicines exerted preferential cytotoxic effects against two breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231), causing cell cycle delay/arrest and apoptosis. These effects were accompanied by altered expression of the cell cycle regulatory proteins, including downregulation of phosphorylated Rb and upregulation of the CDK inhibitor p27, which were likely responsible for the cell cycle delay/arrest as well as induction of the apoptotic cascade that manifested in the activation of caspase 7 and cleavage of PARP in the treated cells.
The experiments were conducted in triplicate and repeated at least twice in each case of remedy. The researchers commented that the homeopathic remedies appeared to have similar activity to the activity of paclitaxel (Taxol), the most commonly used chemotherapeutic drug for breast cancer, without the toxic effect on the normal cells. The findings demonstrate biological activity of these products when presented at ultra-diluted doses.
Banerji P, Campbell DR (2008): Cancer patients treated with the Banerji protocols utilising homoeopathic medicine: A Best Case Series Program of the National Cancer Institute USA. Oncology Reports, 20: 69-74.
To be downloaded here.
Frenkel M et al. (2010): Cytotoxic effects of ultra-diluted remedies on breast cancer cells, International Journal of Oncology, 36: 395-403.
To be downloaded here.
WATER is a peer-reviewed journal that carries original papers, reviews, and tutorials from diverse disciplines on advances made within water-oriented research.
The article can be downloaded here.
Although there is considerable clinical research, homeopathy remains the subject of a heated debate. The special issue of the journal 'Homeopathy' makes an important contribution to this debate, by reviewing laboratory experiments with high dilutions. It includes reviews and new findings in biosystems, ranging from whole animal behavioral, intoxication and inflammation models through diseased and healthy plant models, to test tube experiments using isolated cells, cell cultures or enzymes.
Featured articles include one on the basophil degranulation test, a test tube model of allergy, developed by Jean Sainte Laudy. These results have now been confirmed in multi-centre and independent experiments. Other articles include systematic reviews of healthy and diseased plant models and experimental work on the effect of homeopathic arsenic on wheat seedlings. There are reviews of mouse and rat models of homeopathic responses and a review, including original results of animal models of homeopathic treatment of anxiety-like behaviours.
Other articles focus on the basic concept of homeopathy like cures like: in a series of cell-culture experiments Fred Wiegants team at the University of Utrecht demonstrated the importance of similarity. Christian Endler and his multinational team conclude that seven different biological models of high dilution response with positive results have been reproduced in multi-centre and/or independent experiments.
Editor-in-Chief Dr Peter Fisher commented: Throughout its 200 year history claims that homeopathy has real (as opposed to placebo) effects have been hotly contested. Our special issue brings together a wide range of scientific work in biological systems, where there can be no placebo effect, showing that there are now several biological experiments which yield consistently positive results with homeopathic dilutions.
Biological models of homeopathy Part 1
Homeopathy, Volume 98, Issue 4, Pages 183-302 (October 2009)
Biological models of homeopathy Part 2
Homeopathy, Volume 99, Issue 1, Pages 1-56 (January 2010)
See full contents and abstracts here.
A prospective multi-centre observational study describes the details and effects of an individualized homeopathic treatment in patients with chronic low back pain in usual care. The results come from a sub-group analysis of patients suffering from low back pain that were part of a large prospective multi-centre observational study population carried out over an 8-year period. Consecutive patients beginning homeopathic treatment in primary care practices were evaluated over 2 years by using standardized questionnaires.
Diagnoses (ICD-9) and symptoms with severity, health-related quality of life (QoL), medical history, consultations, homeopathic and conventional treatments, and other health service use were recorded. The study included 129 adults, treated by 48 physicians. Nearly all the patients (91.3%) had been pretreated. The severity of the diagnoses and complaints showed marked and sustained improvements with large effect sizes (Cohen's d from 1.67 to 2.55) and quality of life improved accordingly. The use of conventional treatment and health services decreased markedly: the number of patients using low back pain-related drugs was half of the baseline.
The authors conclude that individualized homeopathic treatment represents an effective treatment for low back pain. It improves health-related quality of life and reduces the use of other healthcare services.
Witt CM, Lüdtke R, Baur R, Willich SN (2009) Homeopathic treatment of patients with chronic low back pain: A prospective observational study with 2 years' follow-up. Clinical Journal of Pain, 25:334-339.
[abstract at PubMed]