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Homoeopathy misunderstood

From Dr Andrew Morrice, Midsomer Norton

Your article about the RCGP response to the proposal to license homoeopathic medicines for particular conditions (News, 26 January) was interesting for several reasons.

One wonders who is behind the move to license homoeopathic medicines in this way. I suspect most homoeopathic doctors would oppose or be ambivalent about it, since it undermines the entire clinical method of homoeopathy.

Homoeopathic medicines are very very rarely indicated on the basis of pathology, in fact there is a group of about 100 medicines each of which have been used for a quite extraordinary array of complaints.

Only the most ill-informed critics of homoeopathy are unaware that prescribing is done on the individuating features of a specific patient rather than the symptoms typical of the pathology or the disease label.

The use of one remedy to treat one clinical state is also an area where the evidence is weak for homoeopathy, and clinically it usually produces very disappointing results.

Second, after nearly 200 years of being told our medicines are 'nothing but water', even proponents of homoeopathy are shy of claiming that the medicines themselves are active.

Yet the in vitro evidence of activity of ultramolecular (extremely high) dilutions, when prepared in the homoeopathic manner by succussion, is in some respects the strongest evidence stream available to us1.

Within the last two years, two different methods of analysing the hydrogen-bond energy states in ultramolecular dilutions have shown that these preparations are not the same as the solute2,3.

Last, there remains incredible confusion in the minds of most people, both professionals and patients, about the nature of the placebo response.

Even if homoeopathic medicines were useless and inert (the actual evidence shows neither) they are a good deal safer than any drug.

The danger, as Tony Crockett correctly pointed out, is in not engaging with another therapy that would help. Placebos can make patients better, really better, not just an imagined improvement.

The same goes for homoeopathic treatments, and some of those successes will be placebo cures. The same goes for conventional treatment too.

We live in the real world, with real patients, and our conventional treatments simply do not help all of them. As a doctor I'm only interested in tools to help my patients. I'm very happy to have both conventional medicine and homoeopathy in my bag.

But I wouldn't be happy to see those homoeopathic medicines licensed for specific diseases.

1. J Sainte-Laudy and P Belon. Improvement of flow-cytometric analysis of basophil activation inhibition by high histamine dilutions, Homoeopathy, 2005, 95, 3- 8

2. NC Sukulet al. Variation in Fourier Transform Infrared Spectra of Some Homoeopathic Potencies and Their Diluent Media, J Alt Comp Med 2005, 11:807-812

3. Rey L. Thermoluminescence of ultra-high dilutions of lithium chloride and sodium chloride, Physica 2003, 323 67-74

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