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Is Homeopathic Veterinary Medicine Scientific?

Research in basic science, on the cellular level as well as that of the whole organism, has demonstrated the activity of homeopathic remedies as well as efficacy of remedies. Witt et al performed a systematic review of 67 in vitro experiments gleaned from 75 journals. All studies involved stepwise agitated dilutions with substances in <10-23 concentrations. Of note is that thirty-three percent were replications. Quality was assessed by the modified SAPEH score. Seventy-three percent showed an effect with ultramolecular dilutions, including 68% of eighteen studies showing a SAPEH score ≥6. The authors concluded that even experiments with a high methodological standard could demonstrate an effect of high potencies.

Endler et al performed a bibliometric study to provide an overview of fundamental biochemical and biological studies that used high homeopathic potencies, and that were subjected to laboratory-internal, multicenter, or independent repetition trials.  They found 24 experimental models in basic research on high homeopathic potencies which were repeatedly investigated. Twenty-two models were reproduced with comparable results, six models with different results, and repetition showed no results for fifteen models. Seven models were independently reproduced with either comparable or different results. They comment that:

This relation is fairly well reflected by multicenter studies, i.e. studies that were centrally organized, but carried out by various researchers in different laboratories, namely 66% comparable, 17% different and 17% no effects. Thus multicenter studies seem to be an adequate tool to investigate basic high potency models.

 Independent laboratory confirmation of results was found to be high, and within expected values for positive findings in multi-centered repetitions. Indeed, studies such as physiologic effects of thyroxin in frogs and degranulation of basophils exposed to ultradiluted and succussed substances have been replicated (and published in mainstream medical journals) and shown positive results.,,,, Since the publication of two review articles demonstrating the efficacy of these SSD solutions, more research continues to be published that expands our knowledge base in this area.,,,

The largest area of documentation of efficacy of homeopathic remedies comes from case reports and case series, generated since the beginning of homeopathy as documented in books and journals of homeopathy, and extending to today with more formalized case reports. Although the bulk of these have been for humans, more recent case reports include conditions such as canine epilepsy, babesiosis, feline eosinophilic granuloma complex, and atrial paroxysmal tachycardia .,,, JAAHA published its first homeopathy case report in the November/December 2011 issue. This was a successful treatment of nasal aspergillosis, documented at a veterinary teaching hospital.

An expanding number of clinical trials in humans are being conducted and published (including in mainstream medical journals). Benefits of homeopathic treatment are being shown for many conditions, including but not limited to childhood diarrhea, mild traumatic brain injury, fibromyalgia, and respiratory disease.,,,,,,,, Many of these clinical trials already involve replications for certain conditions, confirming the efficacy of homeopathy. Additionally, emerging clinical trials are confirming the proving symptoms from previously-proven remedies and revealing findings that can be implemented to fine-tune the accuracy of the provings.,,,

Clinical trials in the veterinary field have been performed. Mathie et al recently published a bibliometric study of RCTs for a systematic review in veterinary homeopathy. They found 38 studies of 27 different species-specific medical conditions in seven species that satisfied the acceptance criteria: substantive report of a clinical treatment or prophylaxis trial in veterinary homeopathic medicine randomized and controlled and published in a peer-reviewed journal. Clinical trials showing evidence in favor of veterinary homeopathy have been published in areas such as handling stress in calves, neonatal piglet diarrhea, Foot-and-Mouth Disease in cattle, and weight gain in broiler chickens.,,, In 2011, JAAHA published its first clinical trial of a combination product for canine osteoarthritis prepared by serial dilution and succussion.

Design and execution of clinical trials in homeopathy require additional considerations from those of conventional medicine. Likewise, evaluation of clinical trials on study design as it applies to clinical trials for conventional drugs may relegate a study to the “better design” category when in fact the study design does not adhere to homeopathic principles such as individualization of remedies and the use of single remedies. Additionally, failure to predetermine the correct remedy for an individual could increase the risk that an ineffective medicine is being administered to the subject in the verum group. Fortunately, as studies in the relatively new field of research in homeopathy progress, so do improvements in study design which take into account unique considerations for clinical trials in homeopathy.,

More recent properly designed meta-analyses and systematic reviews have shown that homeopathy cannot be explained by the placebo effect and/or that homeopathy is effective.32,36,,  The most recent general meta-analysis, included in the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association’s accompanying white paper and  presented as evidence against the efficacy of homeopathy, was highly publicized and widely criticized for failing to adhere to the standards of properly-constructed meta-analyses. The criticism was most notable in that one of its sponsors, the International Review Board of the PEK of the Swiss Federal government, stated, “There is a consensus among the review board members that the final PEK process deviated from what would have been expected by conventional standards.”

Previously, a 2006 Health Technology Assessment report on effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and appropriateness of homeopathy was compiled on behalf of the PEK of the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health. Their results showed many high quality investigations of pre-clinical research of homeopathic high potencies inducing regulative and specific changes in cells or living organisms. In addition, 20 of 22 systematic reviews detected at least a trend in favor of homeopathy. In their estimation, five studies yielded results indicating clear evidence for homeopathic therapy. Their evaluation of 29 studies in the category of “Upper Respiratory Tract Infections/Allergic Reactions” showed a positive overall result in favor of homeopathy. Six out of seven controlled studies were at least equivalent to conventional medical interventions. Eight out of sixteen placebo-controlled studies were significant in favor of homeopathy.

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