I´d like to thank Dr. Manish Bhatia for his kind invitation, since it´s a pleasure to contribute for Homeopathy for Everyone and it´s also an opportunity to make some observations on the subject of Research Challenges in Homeopathy.
Quoting the challenges pointed out by the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), I´d like to pose some questions and considerations.
“Homeopathy is a controversial area of CAM because a number of its key concepts are not consistent with established laws of science (particularly chemistry and physics). Critics think it is implausible that a remedy containing a miniscule amount of an active ingredient (sometimes not a single molecule of the original compound) can have any biological effectâ€”beneficial or otherwise. For these reasons, critics argue that continuing the scientific study of homeopathy is not worthwhile.”
On the pathway towards plausible mechanisms to explain the biological effects of Homeopathy, the hypothesis of modification of the electromagnetic characteristics of the solvent has recently gained support in the findings of Nobel Prize winner Prof. Montagnier and his Colleagues. Using a device designed by Prof. Benveniste and Collaborators  they demonstrated that bacterial DNA sequences at high aqueous dilutions can induce electromagnetic waves, if those sequences are serially diluted and strongly agitated on a Vortex apparatus. Finding a general plausible explanation is different from determining the exact mechanism of action of homeopathic remedies. This knowledge however, is not essential for clinical research. For instance, after six decades of intensive research on the development of antidepressant drugs, the therapeutic action of these agents remains largely unknown .
Back to NCCAM:
“Homeopathy is difficult to study using current scientific methods because highly diluted substances (known as ultra-high dilutions or UHDs) cannot be readily measured, making it difficult to design or replicate studies.
Is it? As widely known, gold standard scientific method in clinical research is randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Should RCTs aim at measuring UHDs or their effects on samples of patients suffering from a specific disease? In an analogous manner, Psychotherapy cannot be readily measured either, but it has been extensively investigated by “current scientific methods”. Why should it be so difficult to study homeopathy, if dynamized medicines are even easier to compare to placebo or active controls than Psychotherapy?
“In addition, homeopathic treatments are highly individualized and there is no uniform prescribing standard for homeopaths. There are hundreds of different homeopathic remedies which can be prescribed in a variety of different dilutions, to treat thousands of symptoms.”
In fact, a study design in which the selection of a suitable, individualized homeopathic medicine occurs during the double-blind randomized phase evaluates not only the efficacy of homeopathy, but also the efficiency of the homeopath in selecting and managing that medicine. However, in some cases an open-label phase for remedy selection can precede the randomization, rendering it easier to assess the efficacy of individualized homeopathic approaches.
Individualized or not, the homeopathic approaches being investigated must be (as far as possible) standardized, which might be a major challenge in Homeopathy, since it has become a heterogeneous therapeutic system with a multitude of schools and directions.
“On the other hand, many aspects of the interaction between the homeopathic practitioner and his or her patients may be quite beneficial, and can be studied more easily.”
Yes, the homeopathic consultation probably “is in itself a therapeutic intervention, working independently or synergistically with the prescribed remedy”, but only randomized placebo-controlled trials studying standardized clinical-pharmaceutical methodologies can ascertain if there is a specific effect of the homeopathic medicines. Researchers, Clinicians, Pharmacists and other health care professionals working with Homeopathy should be aware that without RCTs showing that specific effect, the advantages of Homeopathy tend to be reduced to its anamnesis, at least from the point of view of medical science.
MD, PhD, Homeopath
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