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Sunday, 26 April 2015

THE SURVIVAL OF HOMEOPATHY- The dire need for scientific introspection.


A few days ago as I opened the newspaper, I was staring at an article on page 11 of the Deccan Herald - Belgaum edition. It screamed `HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINES UNDER FDA SCANNER'. This pertained to a Food & Drug Administration missive to re-open an investigation into the effectiveness and scientific relevance of Homeo medicines and their safety. A similar but more supportive article appeared in `THE HINDU' a couple of days later. It is obvious that the allopathic pharma industry does not give up its Shark mentality. Homeopathy has now expanded into a multi-billion dollar industry, threatening the profits of the sharks. Their monopoly being disturbed is intolerable. Pushing hundreds of drugs tested on monkeys, rabbits and dogs are the best medicines for humans, is what they want us to believe. Homeo medicines tested on humans, for humans are placebo and unscientific!!! That millions of people are turning to Homeopathy even in cases where surgery is proposed as the only answer, is unsettling. That they are actually relieved by homeopathy, is preposterous!! That allopathic doctors have started referring patients to Homeopaths for management of cases where there is no remedy in their system, is sacrilegious. If results are demonstrated, it is blasphemy!!.

The pharmaceutical industry wants proof of efficacy as per their terms, under testing conditions determined by them, by standards that they will set - like playing football where the referee runs away with the goalpost!! What if the Homeopath were to call the shots? Can he ban medicines tested on animals with no anatomical or physiological resemblance to humans (what sort of scientific proof is that anyway!)? Can he ban all those drugs which have life-threatening or carcinogenic side-effects?

There are several hundred colleges of homeopathy in India, some several decades old. The unfortunate fact about these institutes, is that their graduates practice allopathy instead of homeopathy. The pretext is that the professors in these colleges often are not good enough as teachers. Their inability to instill confidence in the students being supposedly, the prime cause for their conversion. This if at all, may be only partially true. The truth is that, the law governing practice of medicine in India is very loosely applied or not at all. The Indian government faces the dilemma of a paucity of doctors especially in rural areas where such quackery is facilitated and ignored by the law enforcement agencies. That allopathy is easier to practice and fetches handsome returns with the least effort is the main reason for this bane. Homeopathic colleges and their graduates in fact have become the messengers of the allopathic system, convincing patients of its benefits, hence facilitating the penetration of allopathic medicines into the rural health care system in India. Not surprisingly this quackery is actively encouraged by the Pharma industry - they have no qualms about untrained doctors using life-threatening drugs on humans! Even in the early nineteenth century, Homeopathy was effectively practiced in some rural areas in India. My maternal grandfather practiced Homeopathy until 1955. I know most homeopaths in India actively discourage patients from taking homeopathic medicines, instilling fear about its slow effect and its unsuitability for acute diseases. It is ironical that in my thirty four years in practice, I regularly receive patients from allopathic doctors and allopathic doctors themselves as patients, but no referrals from homeopathic doctors practicing allopathy. This exposes our graduates and their hollow claims.

A scourge has now emerged from the city of Mumbai (India), which has usurped the lime-light and anointed itself as the Mecca of homeopathy. Some successful practitioners of this noble science have cunningly hijacked the science of homeopathy. Taking advantage of  its philosophical background, they have infused unsubstantiated, unscientific and home-grown fantasies into their teachings, corrupting the innocent minds of fresh graduates, who due to their very poor reading (they never read beyond their textbooks), are impressed. Concepts of Genetics, embryology and other unconnected sciences are woven into the teachings to give the students an emotional high, a delusion that homeopathy now has a modern scientific basis. Their innocent yearning for acceptability is satisfied. These students are unable to distinguish science through evidence of experiment, and circumstantial evidence (the latter is never scientific proof).

Yet another group of individuals have taken the easier way out. They too misuse homeopathic philosophy to fantasize in the most ridiculous fashion. Using Dreams, `Life-space', (the very distant past history of the patient and even that of his parents and grand-parents) and `Other songs' (whatever that might mean), to justify a prescription which can be as easily arrived at by the standard, long used and time proven system of case-taking and repertorization. Thousands of practitioners all over the world have practiced this last approach with proven results. However, the new convoluted methods can never be replicated in your own clinic (I have personally tried), because they  are entirely dependent on the fantastic interpretation of a patients symptom by the physician. Such an approach has no experimental or even circumstantial evidence to back it. The interpretation and  conversion to a rubric changes from case to case, patient to patient and symptom to symptom, depending on the whims of the proponent of this preposterous theory. Such teachings have no scientific base, are impossible to standardize, hence cannot be reproduced. This amounts to quackery and a fraudulent attempt to fame. Such ignoble attempts to confound a science through mysticism are a crime against homeopathy. These are attempts by individuals to form exclusive cults and collect followers. These latter gullible minds attend expensive seminars at exclusive locations with the vain hope that they will  learn to practice homeopathy better. Equally implicated are those teaching institutes and others who glorify these charlatans and invite such individuals to lecture students and practicing doctors. Dr. Hahnemann must be turning in his grave!

It is time for us to shed the crutch of philosophy for more credible scientific proof. Homeopathy direly needs scientific review. Another Hahnemann or Kent may yet save this science!

As a remedy, Lecturers and Professors in colleges must be qualified and practicing pure homeopathy. Every college must have an Out-patient clinic with at least 100 patients per day attending the OPD. Experienced teachers must be in charge to show students the art of case-taking which is the bed-rock of homeopathy. Hahnemannian homeopathy alone must be taught so as to reinforce the student's practical knowledge of what he has learnt in class. Every student must have a hands-on experience of interviewing and physical examination of the patient. The student must be responsible for the investigation and diagnosis of the patient and can be guided to prescribe the simillimum.Every student must be familiar with modern diagnostic procedures so that he knows what he is treating and the prognosis. In future he may face court cases where his ignorance may not be tolerated.  The patients progress must be monitored until he is cured. Every claim of cure must be backed by relevant investigations or specialist opinion if a disease entity is claimed. Seminars and conferences must change from single case presentations to series of cases where, the method of case-taking, analysis and repertorization are amply demonstrated and any new methodology claimed can be adequately studied and understood. Much can be learnt from such presentations: From groups of drugs for each rubric, to groups for particular diagnosis, comparative Materia medica to examination of rare drugs and most importantly `Key note' prescriptions. Single cases with rare diagnosis have very little demonstrative value since our prescription is based on the symptoms and not on the named disease. Discussing a single case over 4-6 hours is a futile waste of time and demonstrates the ineptitude of the physician at arriving to a conclusion.This approach gives ample opportunity to obfuscate homeopathic principles and introduce fanciful interpretation of symptoms.

A scientific approach will encourage physicians of other disciplines to refer cases to Homeopaths and also convince the common man (exposed to modern medicine) that homeopathy is not faith healing.

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