Creating Waves of Awareness
Despite Western attack, homeopathy mkt grows
Kounteya Sinha, TNN | Mar 21, 2011, 02.06am IST
NEW DELHI: Western countries like Britain may persist with their scathing attacks on homeopathy, calling it unscientific and for which dozens of systematic reviews have failed to produce convincing evidence of effectiveness. Despite the carping critics, homeopathy, which is around 250 years old, continues to be tremendously popular.
A study has said Indian homeopathy treatment market is likely to grow 30% annually and pegged at Rs 4,600 crore in the next few years. Globally, the homeopathy market is estimated at Rs 26,300 crore, with France being the largest contributor.
Last year, the size of domestic homeopathy market was around Rs 2,758 crore, according to a study by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM). Union health ministry officials said over 100 million Indians depend solely on homeopathy. This figure is likely to exceed 16 crore in the next three years. India has over five lakh registered homeopaths and around 20,000 more are being added every year. There are 185 homoeopathic colleges, which offer 33 PG courses. Besides, there are 11,000 homoeopathic hospital beds.
D S Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM, pointed out to a practical problem. Homeopathic medicines are hardly available in 15-25 outlets in a city as compared to the reach of allopathic drugs. But abroad, the situation is different. Though there are very few practitioners of homeopathy, the medicines are well distributed. This explains a big market across France, the UK and the US.
In the UK, the homeopathy market is pegged at 46 million pounds by 2012. World Health Organiation says homeopathy is practiced in 66 countries and treatment is individualized .
Homeopathy Propers in the United States
Homeopathy hasn’t just survived the years of scathing criticism; it’s prospering. In the U.S., consumer sales of homeopathic treatments reached $870 million in 2009, growing 10 percent over the previous year, according to Nutrition Business Journal estimates.
For Oscillococcinum, sold in 60 countries, estimated annual retail sales in the U.S. are more than $20 million, according to the manufacturer, Boiron. It ranks 49th out of 318 cold and flu brand products that do more than $1 million in sales. Other popular homeopathic products include arnica gel for bruises and strains and diluted zinc remedies for colds.
“Some people feel these products shouldn’t work due to the dilution level,” said pharmacist Christophe Merville, director of education and pharmacy development for Boiron, the world’s leading manufacturer of homeopathic medicines. But he said basic science studies have shown “that highly diluted solutions have biological properties that are different than water.”
Homeopathy is one of the most polarizing forms of complementary and alternative medicine in part because it’s based on principles that defy the laws of chemistry and physics. One pillar is the assumption that “like cures like.” Chopping a red onion, for example, can make your eyes tear and nose run. Seasonal rhinitis can trigger the same symptoms, so a homeopathic treatment derived from a red onion — Allium cepa — may be a possible remedy.
The second assumption proposes that diluting and violently shaking (or “succussing”) the remedies makes them more effective, even if — and this is the part most scientists find hard to swallow — the final preparation no longer contains a single molecule of the original ingredient. The final product usually is a tiny ball of sugar the patient swallows, though homeopathic products also are sold as gels.
The mechanism behind the diluting and shaking remains a mystery. Some say homeopathic medicine may stimulate the body’s natural defenses; others suggest homeopathic medicine retains a “memory” of the original substance in the water and the effect is due to nanoparticles.
Regardless, proponents say it shouldn’t be discounted simply because it can’t be explained. For years, no one knew how aspirin worked. And scientists still don’t fully understand the mechanism behind a conventional drug such as Ritalin, argued Dr. Tim Fior, director of the Center for Integral Health in Lombard.
“Homeopathy challenges the belief in the molecular paradigm of medicines,” said Fior, ”Conventional pharmacology is based on — and profits immensely from — the idea that you can synthesize a molecule, patent it and produce it in bulk and then have a monopoly selling it. Homeopathic medicines are so dilute that they work more according to a biophysical or energetic paradigm.”
People often use homeopathy to treat chronic pain, digestive issues, colds, influenza and allergies when they’re not getting relief from conventional medicine. Homeopathic practitioners tend to spend more time with patients than regular doctors. The products also appeal to those looking for a “natural” or holistic product or who can’t tolerate the side effects of conventional drugs.
Warrenville’s Mona Grayson, 35, turned to homeopathy for chronic digestive issues after her insurance expired and she could no longer cover the cost of her conventional treatment: $4,000 every eight weeks. Though she was tolerating her pricey medication, she had concerns about the long-term effects. After an initial two-hour consultation with Fior, Grayson was given a remedy of phosphorus; she said she hasn’t had problems since. “What matters to me is that I feel good,” said Grayson, a raw food chef and happiness coach.
Dr. Iris Bell of the University of Arizona, one of the few homeopathy researchers to get federal funding, said the highest quality trials — double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies — have had both negative and positive results. Her own work on fibromyalgia has shown individualized homeopathy did work better than the placebo.
Researchers also have shown that arthritis patients significantly benefited when they received homeopathy in conjunction with conventional treatment over six months. But the study, published in the journal Rheumatology, found the improvement was due to homeopathy’s consultation process rather than its remedies.
“It has been a big problem bringing science to homeopathy,” said Dr. Josephine Briggs, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. With only a few exceptions, the center, a federal agency, hasn’t funded any studies on homeopathy in the past five years. “On the other hand, the historical tradition has some real insights to treating humans in an individualized way,” said Briggs, who said it might be appropriate to study the doctor-patient interaction.
At Merz Apothecary in Chicago, one of the largest homeopathic pharmacies in the country, president and co-owner Anthony Qaiyum summed up the thoughts of many homeopathic supporters. “Ultimately, who gives a damn whether it’s scientifically proven if it works?” he said. “There are very valid questions about how it works, but whether it’s my mind or the product, it’s working and it’s working without side effects.”
Others see homeopathy as a safe way to complement treatment choices. “We don’t always know why things work, but sometimes they do,” said Freeport podiatrist Roland Tolliver, who uses it with his children and occasionally recommends arnica for patients with musculoskeletal issues. ”Regular medicine doesn’t always work either,” he said. “The most important thing is to leave all options open.”
Courtesy : Chicago Tribune