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Use of ultramolecular potencies of allergen to treat asthmatic people allergic to house dust mite: double blind randomised controlled clinical trial

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7336.520 (Published 02 March 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:520

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Isopathy versus homeopathy

Dear Sir,

We read with interest the excellent paper of Lewith et al.1 Their well-
designed study is one of the few examining homeopathy that stands up to
scientific scrutiny.

However, we wish to offer some comments. First, one must not forget
that isopathic medicine is one of the most controversial fields in
homeopathy and even the most ardent supporter of this method would admit
that, even if it works, its therapeutic effect is modest at best.
Therefore, performing this study during the peak of the house dust mite
season, when the subject is exposed to the maximal allergic challenge, is
unlikely to yield very impressive results. Similarly to expect an effect
from 3 single doses of an isopathic remedy over a period of 16 weeks is
overly optimistic. Some authors recommend prescribing 30C potencies of
normal homeopathic remedies once a week and isopathic remedies even more
frequently, but certainly not as little as once in 6 weeks.2 Anyone
wishing to test the activity of an isopathic remedy should do so in a mild
pathological condition, bearing in mind that, even then, the treatment
might be ineffective.

A good illustration of the different outcome after classical
homeopathic treatment from that after isopathy can be seen in the work of
Yakir et al.3 In this study, which was a part of a doctoral thesis, the
researchers compared a group treated with a variant of classical
homeopathy to a group treated with placebo, and a group treated with
isopathy (folliculinum) to a group treated with placebo in women suffering
from premenstrual syndrome. Whereas the women treated with classical
homeopathy showed a significant improvement compared with those receiving
placebo, the women treated with isopathy showed a non-significant
aggravation, which might, at best, be interpreted as indicating a slight
initial aggravation by the isopathic treatment, as expected after
administering a homeopathic remedy (unpublished results). This study has
since been repeated on a larger scale with similar results (manuscript in
preparation).

A second point is that we feel that the claim of Lewith et al that
their paper is a follow up study of the trial of Reilly et al4 is
untenable. Without detracting from the qualities of the current paper, it
differs in many respects from that of Reilly et al. The studies were
performed in different seasons, the patient selection criteria of Reilly
et al were stricter and therefore the groups more homogenous. The
observation time in Reilly’s study was shorter, which is an advantage when
using isopathic medicines and that trial also included a run-in period on
placebo while Lewith’s did not. Moreover, each group used different
blinding methods and outcome measurements. These are just some of the
differences between the two studies. Therefore it is extremely difficult,
if not impossible, to compare them.

References

1. G T Lewith, A D Watkins, M E Hyland et al. Use of ultramolecular
potencies of allergen to treat asthmatic people allergic to house dust
mite: double blind randomized controlled clinical trial. BMJ 2002; 324:
520-523.

2. Jouanny J. The essentials of homeopathic therapeutics. Laboratoires
Boiron. Lyon. 1985:96

3. Yakir M, Kreitler S, Brzezinski et al. Effects of homeopathic treatment
in women with premenstrual syndrome: a pilot study. Br Homeopath J
2001;90:148-53

4. Reilly DT, Taylor MA, Campbell J, Beattie N, McSharry C, Aitchison T,
Carter R, Stevenson R. Is evidence for homoeopathy reproducible? Lancet
1994;344:1601-06

Dr. Menachem Oberbaum
The Center of Integrated Complementary Medicine
Shaare Zedek Medical Center
Jerusalem, Israel

Itzchak N. Slotki
Adult Nephrology Unit
Shaare Zedek Medical Center
Jerusalem, Israel

Competing interests: No competing interests

19 March 2002
Menachem Oberbaum
Head of the Center of Integrated Complmentary Medicine
Itzchak N. Slotki
Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem 91031, Israel