Every once in a while, we have a furore over some study done on homoeopathy that proves "once again" that it is not real medicine, and therefore should be banned / not supported, and warnings issued to the public at large.
Who conducts these studies? How are these studies conducted? How is Homoeopathy investigated?
I would like to make some simple suggestions on how a fair trial or investigation of Homoeopathy might be conducted. The reason for doing so is that I feel many studies are done with a preconceived negative bias, and invariably, without consulting acknowledged experts in homoeopathy. A person studying the efficacy of Judo might be expected to at least attend the dojo of a famous expert for a month. Instead, if he were to read up a book and try it on some random people, having already decided in advance that Judo is useless... the results are predictable. I understand that those doing the investigations feel they are following an established scientific protocol and "doing science". They believe that their double blind studies are fool-proof. However, if they are truly scientific, they should have no objection to keeping an open mind and trying out some of the ideas that follow.
The first thing one needs to do in the investigation of Homoeopathy is to observe two or three expert homoeopathic doctors in practice for a reasonable time period... a month or two. I know that scientists study stuff for years without any guarantee of a result. Two months, then, might be considered a "homoeopathic dose". If unable to personally attend, the scientist could depute some doctor/scientist student he trusts to attend, observe and report. What will this achieve? The investigator might see strange things. He might see a child screaming with ear pain turn calm and smiling (or asleep) within 5 seconds following a single dose of homoeopathic medicine. He might see a patient bedridden for 15+ years due to demyelinating neuropathy start walking within the two months of his own observation. He could, if suspicious of these results, take patients from his own friends or relatives - or even take homoeopathy himself if he has some complaints.
I am aware that scientists reject anything without following their methods and doing a statistical analysis etc. However, two months of witnessing such results should certainly convince the investigator that time spent doing the research is well invested. I would say it is mandatory that anyone investigating homoeopathy should at least spend a reasonable time in observation. What objection can be there to this?
For the actual study which can be a double-blind study with statistical analysis etc., there are some important considerations. Many studies have been done without taking into consideration the homoeopathic method. Imagine if someone were to read that acupuncture can relieve pain, or even cause anesthesia. After reading a book on acupuncture, they take 200 patients with pain, and put in needles in 45, no needles into another 45 and then put needles in the wrong place (as they understand it) into the remaining. Then they analyze the results very meticulously. No acknowledged experts in acupuncture are involved in the study. No one asks these experts how a study might be conducted. What use and validity would such a study have? Is it really a scientific study? A friend of mine is a wildlife scientist. She told me (with some pride) how a friend of hers was getting good pain-relief from homoeopathic treatment, but the minute she learned about the homoeopathic dosage - and how it could not possibly work - she stopped treatment. I did not know what to say to this.
For a proper study, a large group of patients suffering from some chronic condition should be taken. The condition should be one where spontaneous rapid improvement is highly unlikely. For example, one might take people suffering from hayfever - a seasonal allergy. Now the most important thing is what the study should not do - which is to say "sanguinaria canadensis" is supposed to relieve hayfever, so we will give this to 100 patients. It is the equivalent of saying - "an acupuncture needle in the palm is supposed to cure headache". Let an expert in homoeopathy treat the condition, giving whatever homoeopathic medicine he or she deems fit. Let there be 3 groups - one receiving placebo, one receiving homoeopathy from an acknowledged/reputed homoeopath, and a third group receiving anti-histamines etc. Such a study would be perfectly acceptable. The results would be apparent within a month at most, within that season. The condition being treated in the study could be chronic migraines, or chronic bronchitis, and eventually, acute illnesses as well. There are several colleges teaching homoeopathy - ask them to name some well-known and highly reputed homoeopaths from around the world, and choose the ones that overlap. If there is a genuine wish on the part of any organization to investigate homoeopathy, homoeopaths will surely be willing to offer their time for the study. In the present day, moreover, the consultation/prescribing can be done over the internet via video conferencing as well.
Unless such a proper investigation is conducted, no real conclusions can be drawn about the efficacy of Homoeopathy.