CAM EducationHomeopathy

Homeopathic medicine: Bucking the trend

Homeopathy is at odds with two powerful trends in today’s culture: sooner is better than later, and the more the better. First, homeopaths claim that patients need at least one month of active treatment for every year of illness. Second, treatments are undertaken using minute concentrations (1:50,000) of remedies.

Then, there is one more difference from conventional mainstream medicine that poses a problem for practitioners and researchers of homeopathic treatments.

The endpoints of treatment are different. And to misquote Shakespeare, “there-in lies the rub.”

The fundamental principles of homeopathy, as defined by Iris Bell, MD from the University of Arizona are “that the treatment addresses the patient’s entire pattern of problems at once in a patient-specific but not disease-specific manner” [as in conventional medicine]. She continues, “Homeopathic outcomes are different from those in conventional medicine; homeopaths report global and… multidimensional changes at local (body part) levels. Thus the very nature of homeopathy… is inherently nonspecific.

The British journal, The Lancet proclaims, “time has passed for selective analyses, biased reports, or further investment in research to perpetuate the homoeopathy versus allopathy [conventional medicine] debate. Now doctors need to be bold and honest with their patients about homoeopathy’s lack of benefit.

But, Dr. Bell counters, “nonspecific does not mean biologically inert; that is, nonspecificity is more than a simple ‘placebo’ effect.”

Who is correct on this? This debate has heated up because of a review published in The Lancet, which concluded, “there was weak evidence for a specific effect of homoeopathic remedies, but strong evidence for specific effects of conventional interventions.”

My own view is that medical systems, like people, should be considered on their own terms. For any opposing system, or person, that can’t do this, the problem is more with them than the system being critiqued.

Importantly, we should not ignore effectiveness (or lack of it). But if homeopathy is an ineffective complementary medical system, how does The Lancet explain these findings.

Illustration: TargetWoman

8/7/06 20:38 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.