First, with the Commons Science and Technology Committee advising the Government to no longer provide homeopathic treatment on the NHS and that further research into the effectiveness of Homeopathy cannot be justified. Then, the pendulum swung the other way with a lobby of parliament by hundreds of pro homeopathy supporters delivering the evidence and data from hospitals and clinics from around the world showing how Homeopathy has been useful and in some cases vital, for the healthcare of tens of thousands of people. There were almost 30,000 signatures delivered from happy Homeopathic customers from the UK declaring Homeopathy had worked for them.
The main issue raised was should we fund Homeopathy through the NHS? It costs £4 million per year to fund NHS Homeopathy out of an NHS budget of over £100 billion; just £152,000 is spent on homeopathic remedies out of a drugs bill of £8 billion.
Now that is something to think about.
Does this £4 million actually help patients? This should surely be the first question? I find the majority of patients turn to Homeopathy when their conventional treatments have not been able to help them – it is a vital option for them. Here Homeopathy is primarily used for chronic, long-term physically and or emotionally based problems, and I have seen patients benefit greatly from it’s use. Patient outcome surveys at the four Homeopathy Hospitals have shown positive results and that patients are happy with the treatment and results achieved.
A study at the Bristol Homeopathic hospital followed 6500 patients over a six-year period that were sent by their doctor for Homeopathic treatment because conventional medicines had been unable to help them. The results showed an average of over a 70% improvement in health. The complaints people sought help for included asthma, eczema, IBS, depression and fatigue. Another study at the London Homeopathic Hospital showed that following homeopathic treatment over 60% of patients had either stopped their medications or decreased them due to health improvements.
There is a wealth of data showing similar results from around the world. Most significantly, they show a decreased need for medication, and also fewer visits to the doctor/ consultant. Now this would certainly save the NHS money. The arguments to remove homeopathy doesn’t take into account that the NHS still has to pay for some other sort of treatment, which would probably be far more expensive.
So is Homeopathy just a placebo? This is a great question, which deserves a whole article, so I will just pass brief comment on it for the moment and return to it another time. Placebo and placebo effect are different. Placebo often refers to a dummy pill while placebo effect is a well-known phenomenon where patients can get results just because they think they may benefit from a treatment.
My take on it would be that I see many patients who have been to multiple doctors / hospital / consultant visits often over a period of many years. Many of them comment that the homeopathy is the only thing that has worked and why didn’t they try it earlier? We could ask why didn’t the placebo effect work for these patients during earlier treatments, many would say they had greater belief in these conventional approaches than in a Homeopathic treatment?
I once had a male patient in his late forties who had a chronic cough for over nine years and no matter what he tried he couldn’t shift it. He told me that the only reason he’d come to see me was because his sister had sent him as I’d helped her with IBS symptoms. We sorted his problem to his amazement, and he joked with me, ‘Why haven’t the consultants in white coats been able to help me as I believed they would, and this has, and you don’t even wear a tie!’ Homeopathy also helps many children, and increasing numbers of vets and farmers are using it for their animals, and they would seemingly not be influenced by the placebo effect.
Did they have to believe in Homeopathy for it to work? This is another common assumption I come across in conversations with people who question its effectiveness. In practice, I have found that most people sit on the fence when it comes to whether they think Homeopathy is going to work, or don’t really think it can. They arrive at the session to give it a go as are looking for another option to regain their health. To me it’s clear that it’s much more than the placebo, that’s if you give the right medicines – giving the wrong homeopathic medicine does absolutely nothing at all!
Up to 2009 there were seventy-four, randomised, controlled trials (the type of trial seen as the recognizable gold standard in the NHS) comparing homeopathy and the placebo, sixty-three of these were positive in favour of Homeopathy.
But they are just dummy pills aren’t they!? The report has suggested that the Homeopathic remedies are so dilute that their action is implausible. The science of Homeopathy is quite specific. The method of dilution and shaking was developed by a doctor through a lifetime of experiments, this is often how new discoveries are made. He found that by repeatedly diluting and importantly, shaking, the medicines they still worked, with the biggest bonus being that the medicine has no toxic side effects. A massive plus for Homeopathy is the fact that there is no toxicity within the medicines. The treatment of adverse side effects from conventional medications cost the NHS cost an estimated £500 million – £1 billion a year.
Scientists have been puzzled for quite a while with this one; rightly so, as it doesn’t fit into the science box as we know it. But does this mean we should ignore it if actually works? Hundreds of thousands of patients around the world would say taking the remedies has worked for them, and increasing numbers of doctors are prescribing homeopathy in their surgeries. The UK has four hundred medically qualified doctors using homeopathy, just a little behind India with over 300,000 doctors using homeopathic medicines for their patients; I guess we have to start somewhere.
There is much research being carried out to find out why this phenomena of active high dilutions is occurring and with some good success in recent years. They have found that the high dilutions are active on biological substances. This could pave the way for an exciting discovery that minute doses of medicines do and can act to stimulate the body to heal, which is what thousands of people have experienced for the last 200 years
Unfortunately, there are big gaps in our healthcare system where thousands of patients are unable to be helped with conventional medicines, and want to seek another way. Should a form of treatment that is cheap, safe, effective and helps so many people be removed?
My concern is that the real benefits are not being shown in all their glory to the many people who could benefit. Homeopathy is such a word of mouth culture, which will increase as time goes on, but it would be great to make it more readily available to the society as a whole.
I thoroughly enjoy my job as I see it help so many people. It’s great to be able to offer a system of medicine that helps both physical and emotional health problems with safe medicines.
Well that’s all for now, it’s all sunny here, hope it is where you are!
Matt Pepper RS Hom
“How Homeopathy works and who uses it?”
Case studies: We will be setting off on our case studies trail, with patients wanting to share their stories to inspire you to know that good health is not just a possibility, it is the norm. Our first case study, Rosie, wanted to share how she overcame low moods, anxiety, premenstrual symptoms and headaches.