Comparing homeopathy with conventional medicine
Individualised homeopathic treatment
A recent randomised placebo-controlled trial assessed the efficacy of individualised homeopathic treatment, and the efficacy of Fluoxetine (a.k.a Prozac), for moderate to severe depression in menopausal women.1
Both treatments were found to be safe and to have an effect significantly different from placebo. Homeopathy caused greater clinical improvement in symptoms of depression than fluoxetine and also improved the patients’ menopausal symptoms, whereas fluoxetine did not.
According to NICE an antidepressant drug can be defined as giving ‘significant clinical benefit’ if it causes an improvement in the ‘Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression’ of 3 points more than the placebo it is being tested against.2
In this Mexican study, after a 6-week course of treatment, homeopathy was more effective than placebo by 5 points in the Hamilton Scale; Fluoxetine was more effective than placebo by 3.2 points.
N.B. Analysis of data previously submitted to the FDA has found that SSRI antidepressants perform no better than placebo for mild to moderate depression, but they do have a greater effect than placebo in severely depressed patients.2
Ear infections in children
A pragmatic randomised controlled trial in India involving 81 children with ear infections (acute otitis media) found that individualised homeopathic treatment was as effective as conventional treatment, namely analgesics, antipyretics, anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, taken as needed.3
Results for 80 patients were analysed: 40 conventional and 40 homeopathic. In the conventional group all 40 (100%) patients were cured, in the homeopathy group, 38 (95%) patients were cured, with 2 (5%) patients lost to the last two follow-ups. By the 3rd day, 1 patient was cured in the conventional group compared with 4 patients cured in the Homeopathy group. In the conventional group antibiotics were prescribed in 39 patients (97.5%); no antibiotics were required in the homeopathy group.
Although homeopathic treatment was individualised from a large range of medicines, 85% of homeopathic patients were prescribed one of only six different homeopathic medicines.
As there is a global need to reduce the use of antibiotics, HRI would like to see this study repeated in other countries and on a larger scale, to see whether similar results are achieved again. If so, individualised homeopathic treatment would provide an alternative to antibiotics for childhood ear infections.
Upper respiratory tract infections
A multi-centred international study found that homeopathic treatment in primary care was non-inferior to conventional treatment for acute upper respiratory and ear complaints.4 The study evaluated 1577 patients receiving either homeopathic or conventional treatment in a total of 57 primary care practices in 8 countries (Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom and USA).
Non-individualised homeopathic products
Four clinical trials (2 RCTs and 2 Observational Studies) compared the homeopathic medicinal product ‘Vertigoheel’ with other existing treatments for vertigo.
A meta-analysis of the four studies found that Vertigoheel was not inferior to betahistine or dimenhydrinate, as measured by the number of vertigo episodes, their duration and intensity.5
Observing patient outcomes for multiple conditions
Chronic conditions in general practice
A study in Germany looking at 493 patients treated by GPs for chronic conditions showed that homeopathy produced better clinical outcomes than conventional medicine, for similar costs.6
Comparing research in homeopathy and conventional medicine
Only one study has compared the quality of homeopathy research with that of conventional medicine. Overall the quality of homeopathy trials was higher than that of the conventional trials they were matched and compared to.7
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Total amount of research available
There is a vast difference in the quantity of research being carried out in the two fields. By the end of 2014, 189 individual randomised controlled trials (RCTs) on homeopathy had been published in peer reviewed journals;8 by contrast, 1016 systematic reviews have been published on conventional medicine, each analysing multiple individual trials.9
This highlights the fact that homeopathy research is, by comparison, a relatively new field of scientific exploration and reflects the lack of available funding.
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- Macías-Cortés ED et al. Individualized homeopathic treatment and fluoxetine for moderate to severe depression in peri- and postmenopausal women (HOMDEP-MENOP study): a randomized, double-dummy, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. PLoS One, 2015 ;10(3):e0118440 | Full text
- Kirsch I, Deacon BJ, Huedo-Medina TB, Scoboria A, Moore TJ, et al. Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. PLoS Med, 2008; 5 (2): e45 | Full text
- Sinha, M. N. et al. Randomized controlled pilot study to compare Homeopathy and Conventional therapy in Acute Otitis Media. Homeopat. J. Fac. Homeopat., 2012; 101: 5–12 | PubMed
- Haidvogl M. et al. Homeopathic and conventional treatment for acute respiratory and ear complaints: A comparative study on outcome in the primary care setting. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2007; 7:7 | Full text
- Schneider et al. Treatment of vertigo with a homeopathic complex remedy compared with usual treatments – a meta-analysis of clinical trials. Arzneim.-Forschung, 2005; 55(1): 23-29 | PubMed
- Witt C, Keil T, Selim D, et al. Outcome and costs of homeopathic and conventional treatment strategies: a comparative cohort study in patients with chronic disorders. Complement Ther Med, 2005;13: 79-86 | PubMed
- Shang A, Huwiler-Muntener K, Nartey L, et al. Are the clinical effects of homoeopathy placebo effects? Comparative study of placebo-controlled trials of homoeopathy and allopathy. Lancet, 2005; 366: 726–32 | PubMed
- Faculty of Homeopathy | Link
- El Dib RP, Atallah AN, Andriolo RB. Mapping the Cochrane evidence for decision making in health care. J Eval Clin Pract, 2007; 13(4):689-92 | PubMed