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Views & Reviews From the Frontline

Good medicine: homeopathy

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 14 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6184

Rapid Response:

Re: Good medicine: homeopathy

Once again it must be said that what passes for ‘scientific’ discussion amongst homeopathic critics is almost entirely lacking in substance. Scientific statements, by definition, must be precise and testable. Unfortunately, criticisms of homeopathy rarely pass this test.

Alan Henness, who calls himself a ‘challenger of misleading health claims,’ continues to make vague assertions and accusations without having any grasp of the basic facts.

His previous attempts to delegitimize the Cuban homeopathic leptospirosis trial having been defused by David Eyles, he falls back on this last attempt:

“Presumably then, if homeoprophylaxis for Leptospirosis was so successful and saved so many lives, the Cuban health authorities will have been boldly rolling it out all over Cuba for the last five years?”

In fact, this is precisely what has been done, with remarkable effect: leptospirosis is now nearly eradicated - so much so that the homeopathic prophylaxis is no longer routinely needed.

Somehow, ten years of using the conventional vaccine never brought about such success.

It is clear that homeopathic ‘skeptics’ do not like being bothered with data and evidence, but for those who are interested, the facts of the Cuban experience with prophylactic homeopathy are as follows:

1) The authors of the Cuban homeopathic leptospirosis trial were not homeopaths. They were veteran conventional medical researchers and scientists who had been manufacturing, testing and implementing the use of conventional vaccinations for decades. They were highly respected in the vaccine world. Their work had previously been published in many of the major vaccine journals such as, Vaccine, Human Vaccines, Expert Review of Vaccines, etc. They were and are in fact, amongst the world’s leading experts on leptospirosis vaccination – with the trivalent Vax-spiral (the only conventional leptospirosis vaccine made anywhere in the world) designed and manufactured in their own facilities (the Finlay Institute – a WHO-designated research center). In sum, they were not homeopathic apologists. Prior to the leptospirosis study, they had no ‘skin in the game’ whatsoever, and no reason at all to defend or advocate for homeopathy.

2) The authors implemented the use of the homeopathic leptospirosis prophylaxis as a last ditch effort in 2007, when the island was overwhelmed by a record hurricane season and there were insufficient resources/time to produce enough of the conventional vaccine. They tried homeopathy in light of having no other options.

3) Unlike the conventional vaccine, the homeopathic product could be produced in less than 2 weeks (compared to 6 months), cost 2% of the conventional vaccine, and was far more easily stored and administered.

4) The results of using the homeopathic product in 2007 were far more successful than any previous use of the conventional vaccine, despite what was objectively one of the worst Atlantic hurricane seasons in modern history. Within 2 weeks of administering the homeopathic product, they observed a 90% decrease in incidence of leptospirosis in the intervention region (comprising 2.1 million persons), while in the low-risk areas which did not receive any intervention (either homeopathic or conventional) incidence of the disease continued to rise – a set of facts that would have been drastically reversed if the homeopathic product had no efficacy.

5) The homeopathic prophylaxis was then, in the ensuing years, administered to the entire Cuban population (11 million persons), to the effect of near eradication of the disease on the island – a result not achieved with use of the conventional vaccine product.

6) Despite the fact that the researchers had for decades published papers in the leading vaccine journals, none of these journals were willing to publish this groundbreaking trial – by all accounts, one of the largest ever conducted in medicine. What happened? Were the researchers no longer ‘experts?’ Did they forget how to conduct a proper trial? Was the trial of insufficient quality? No legitimate criticism has been registered to date and none was given by the journals. I’ll leave it to readers to make up their own minds, but will provide some historical context: from the beginning of homeopathy the conventional medical community has repeatedly sabotaged homeopathic research. Throughout the 19th century, on numerous occasions, conventional medial authorities simply confiscated and destroyed the records of successful homeopathic trials. Of course, we know the scientific world is much more ‘civilized’ now, right?

7) Despite all this, the researchers and scientists involved with the study still advocate for and use conventional vaccination in many diseases. Unlike homeopathic ‘skeptics,’ these people are actually committed to science – i.e. unbiased and objective observation. They care only about what works and are not blinded by dogma and ideology.

8) Based on the results achieved with leptospirosis, the Cuban Ministry of Health began using homeopathic prophylaxis and treatment for other infectious epidemics, including dengue fever, ‘swine’ flu, hepatitis A and conjunctivitis – all with similar success.

Competing interests: No competing interests

26 November 2012
Christopher M Johnson
Naturopathic Doctor
Private Practice
4910 31st St S, Suite A, Arlington, VA 22206