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Clinical trial of homeopathy yields favourable results

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM. Homeopathy, developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in 1810, is based on the principle that "like cures like". In other words, if a disease symptom can be induced by a substance then that same disease can be cured by providing the patient with an extremely diluted solution of the substance. The intellectual stumbling block to this approach, at least among practitioners of conventional Western medicine, is that homeopathic solutions are generally so dilute that not a single molecule of the original substance remains. Homeopaths believe that an imprint of the substance's energy pattern is still present and accounts for the effects while opponents maintain that any benefits of homeopathic remedies are strictly due to a placebo effect.

Many clinical trials have been carried out to prove that homeopathy is bogus, but none have convincingly done so. Researchers at the University of Glasgow and the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital have just released the results of a major study designed to prove once and for all that homeopathy is no more effective than placebo. Their double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study involved 50 patients with perennial allergic rhinitis (chronic inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose caused by an allergic reaction). All patients were tested to determine the cause of their allergic reaction. Most were found to be allergic to house dust mites (70 per cent) or house dust (20 per cent). A 30c homeopathic dilution of the offending agent was prepared and administered once (in the form of lactose-sucrose globules) to half the patients while the other half were given an identical-looking product prepared exactly in the same way, but without the original addition of the offending allergen (placebo). All patients measured their nasal inspiratory peak flow in the mornings and evenings for a four-week period following the administration of the homeopathic remedy or placebo. At the end of the four weeks the patients in the homeopathy group reported a 21 per cent improvement in nasal inspiratory peak flow (liters/minute) as compared to a 2 per cent improvement in the placebo group.

The researchers conclude that the homeopathic remedy "provoked a clear, significant, and clinically relevant improvement in nasal inspiratory peak flow, similar to that found with topical steroids." So, in other words, the researchers set out with a strong bias towards proving that homeopathy does not work. After their closely controlled clinical trial they had to admit that indeed homeopathy does work and is as effective for treating allergic rhinitis as topical steroids. NOTE: This study was funded in part by the British Homeopathic Association.
Taylor, Morag A., et al. Randomised controlled trial of homeopathy versus placebo in perennial allergic rhinitis with overview of four trial series. British Medical Journal, Vol. 321, August 19-26, 2000, pp. 471-76

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