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Homeopaths Without Borders practice exploitation not humanitarianism

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 17 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5448

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Re: Homeopaths Without Borders practice exploitation not humanitarianism

After reading the comments made here by Alan Henness, Guy Chapman and Shyan Goh, I believe it is appropriate and, in fact, necessary to expand and clarify the facts about the three studies they mention.

Shyan Goh notes two studies along with links to discussions of them provided by a site well known for its bias against homeopathy.

The first study on the use of homeopathic potassium dichromate in critically ill patients was published in the peer-reviewed journal Chest in 2005. It can be seen at:

In addition to the study there is clinical proof of its efficacy. Dr. Martin Forest, certified in pulmonary and internal medicine and Director of the Intensive Care Unit at Shore Health Systems, a major U.S. hospital and part of the University of Maryland Medical Systems, added it to their formulary because it allows patients to be taken off ventilators sooner than would otherwise be possible and results in shorter hospital stays and reduced costs. The medical system serves 100,000 mid-shore residents, has over 200 consulting and attending staff members and offers a wide array of medical services.

The second study on adjunctive homeopathic treatment in severe sepsis can be seen at:

It shows that on day 180 75.8% of the homeopathy group had survived as compared to 50.0% of the placebo group. No adverse effects were observed.

It is somewhat ironic that Mr. Henness and Mr. Chapman would imply the findings of the Swiss HTA weren't valid by claiming it was "written by homeopaths" while, at the same time, offering up criticisms of the study made by people well known for their own personal bias against homeopathy -- one being Edzard Ernst. It's hard to know why David Shaw would be commenting on homeopathic research. He is a bioethicist not trained in medical research and not trained in homeopathic research. His resume includes working as a moral philosophies tutor, an English instructor and a lecturer in ethics at the Dental School, U. of Glasgow. His papers include "Cryogenics: Seeking life after death" and "We should not let families stop organ donation from their dead relatives". Mr. Henness even offers his own comments as a reference. I'm curious about his credentials as a medical or homeopathic researcher.

Gudrun Bornhoft, M.D., and Peter Matthiessen, M.D., were the editors of the Swiss HTA. The study itself was conducted by appropriately qualified professionals without a vested interest. The investigating team was composed of 13 members. Ten are trained in conventional medicine. Of them six are also trained in homeopathy. The other three are trained in physics, electrical engineering and sociology. 8 of the thirteen held academic positions. Six were involved in CAM research.

The full text of the study along with the names and qualifications of the authors of each chapter can be seen at:

The study analyzed all of the homeopathic literature over the past 40 years not just literature on respiratory infections and allergies. It included all the major evidence for homeopathy from major pre-clinical research (studies on human cell lines, plants and animals and basic research into chemical changes) and trials on people, systematic reviews, meta-analyses and epidemiological research.

The results of the HTA are "Many high quality investigations of pre-clinical basic research proved homeopathic high potencies inducing regulative and specific changes in cells or living organisms. 20 of 22 systematic reviews detected at least a trend in favor of homeopathy. In our estimation 5 studies yielded results indicating clear evidence for homeopathic therapy. The evaluation of 29 studies in the domain 'Upper Respiratory Tract Infections/Allergic Reactions' showed a positive overall result in favor of homeopathy. 6 out of 7 controlled studies were at least equivalent to conventional interventions. 8 out of 16 placebo-controlled studies were significant in favor of homeopathy. Swiss regulations grant a high degree of safety due to product and training requirements for homeopathic physicians. Applied properly classical homeopathy has few side effects and the use of high potencies is free of toxic effects. Taking external and internal validity into account, effectiveness of homeopathy can be supported by clinical evidence and professional and adequate applications be regarded as safe."

The PEK report was a sub-study. It found that:

1. Patients are more satisfied with the care in practices offering CAM

2. Total annual costs are markedly lower than the average for con med

3. The actual increase in costs resulting from covering the 5 CAM modalities studied proved to be markedly lower than expected

4. Markedly fewer CAM patients reported side effects except in phytotherapy

Competing interests: No competing interests

13 October 2013
Christine E. Jahnig
Retired IBM Employee
Monmouth, NJ