It’s heartening to look at some statistics on how Australians and other countries around the world make use of complementary and alternative medicines. In fact a large number (90%) of Australian doctors get asked about natural medicines by their patients (Australian Family Physician, June 2000, 29, 6, 602-606). In France, 40% of the Doctors themselves prescribe Homeopathy, and the patients using Homeopathy cost the French government half of that for patients who use orthodox treatments (Archives of Family Medicine, 1998, 7, 537-540).
It’s not so heartening hearing about what our own Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have recently said about homeopathy, one of the most widely used complementary medicines in the world.
Despite such positive statistics about the use of homeopathy by the public, there is a movement across the Western world against homeopathy, in favour of the more ‘evidence based’ medicines which have been fortunate enough to enjoy a wealth of funding for research. Despite the fact that there has been precious little funding for study into homeopathy, it is one of the fastest growing areas of research as homeopaths, medical professionals and other scientists around the world unite to answer some of the burning questions Homeopathy brings with it.
Homeopathy around the world
Unfortunately, unless you’re in one of the countries of the less developed world, or you happen to be Swiss, it’s likely your government will prefer for you not to use Homeopathy to treat your health complaints, despite its obvious cost effectiveness. This is the way Australia has been headed for quite a while now, and the latest inquiry the NHMRC has just released is trying to push homeopathy further and further away from the reach of all Australians. It means that this wonderful system of health care, which offers effective and gentle treatment for all kinds of health issues, as well as potentially providing many alternatives to reduce the antibiotic crisis, may gradually become more and more difficult to practice. You may no longer be able to take your three year old to the homeopath for an earache, despite Homeopathy offering one of the most effective treatments for middle ear issues. If you are suffering from a tummy bug, you may just have to wait it out rather than finding relief in a dose of Arsenicum or Nux vomica from your first aid kit that you have on hand for such occasions. As for chronic, ongoing complaints…….
Scientific evidence and homeopathy
Well, despite the fact that there is quite a mountain of viable evidence that is growing by the day, it continues to be bandied about in conventional circles that there isn’t enough evidence to justify homeopathy’s continued use in Australia. That’s what the NHMRC thinks anyway. The double blind, placebo controlled, randomised clinical trial is considered to be the gold standard of science when looking at the effectiveness of a substance on a particular health issue. The only thing is, if you know anything about homeopathy, one of its strengths is that it works on a highly individual basis. If two people come in with a cough, it’s highly likely each will get a different homeopathic remedy depending on their symptoms: what time the cough is at its worst; how the cough came about; and any other mitigating factors that are relevant.
There is not much chance for such a scenario to fit the double blind placebo controlled randomised trial model, since it is imperative for the homeopath to intimately know the symptoms of their client, as well as to put a lot of thought into their choice of remedy. I call that really good client care, but the NHMRC call it unscientific. They would prefer for such treatments to be a one size fits all type approach like pharmaceuticals, which fit very nicely into the gold standard of research, especially when there are millions of dollars to throw at it.
Even with these restrictions it’s possible to find quite a few gold standard studies on homeopathy and I have included a great (unrefuted) one here. This study makes the very valid point that more research into homeopathy is needed, especially those with more participants. If only they had looked into the Leptospirosis study done on millions of people in Cuba, but that seems to have escaped their attention. You can find more on that here.
You can be assured that the NHMRC will act on its ‘findings’ that homeopathy is no better than placebo. In the coming months you may or may not notice changes to the homeopathic community. In the UK, after a similar ‘investigation’ was made into the effectiveness of homeopathy, it became increasingly difficult to access homeopathic remedies and many homeopaths lost their businesses.
I have just witnessed on youtube one of the most well known groups of homeopaths in Belgium take down their sign after twenty-plus years of practice, since in Belgium it is now no longer legal to practise homeopathy unless one is a qualified medical doctor. It’s not in English but you see what’s happening anyway, I can tell you it doesn’t make great bedtime viewing if you are a homeopath, or a dedicated user of homeopathy.
How can you help?
The pollies must be getting sick of the letters that homeopaths have written over the last few weeks/months/years. They won’t listen to us any more. But they will listen to you. We have provided a sample letter which will be more effective if you customise it to your own wording. We need your help urgently if homeopathy in Australia is to continue to grow and thrive as it has done in the past decade. This growth can’t be explained in any other way aside from: it works! And how do I know it works? Well, not only have I seen it with my own eyes on my kids, husband, friends, family and myself, I have also seen it time and again on my clients. Yet again my fellow homeopaths and I face another threat to homeopathy in Australia, this one worse than any previous attacks in the past.
There is little more that we ourselves as homeopaths can do to protect homeopathy in Australia. Now it’s up to you. Even if you take the time out to write just one letter, if every one of our clients did this there would be over three thousand letters! You the people hold the power to save homeopathy, and there isn’t much time that we have been given. These letters must be in by the 2nd June, so get writing ASAP to make your letter count! There are some instructions below as well as the addresses of politicians to address your letter to. Thanks once again for your help in preserving Australia’s health choices.
There is some urgency to our plea. The status of Homeopathy in Australia is in question. Our government needs to hear from you. Apparently more than one milllion Australians regularly make use of homeopathy but what if you could no longer come to our clinic and buy your Arnica or Belladonna or….? You can either send your letters by post or by email. To make things easier we have included a sample letter below that you can customise if you wish.
Please type your name at the bottom of each letter you are sending and, if you are sending it by post, leave enough space to sign it above your printed name.
You also need to change the recipient at the top of the letter, either with their full address (post) or email address if you are going to send it by email. Please send your letter soon before the end of May.
The Hon. Jillian Skinner
The Hon. Jai Rowell
The Hon. Dr Andrew McDonald
The Hon. Tania Mihailuk
This is your opportunity to join in positive action for our profession and the rights of the Australian public to choose their health care.
Please send your letters as soon as possible!
Sample letter to send
The Hon. ………….. MP
Minister for ……………
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
I am a supporter of homeopathy and freedom of choice with regards to health care. I urge you to continue to support the practice and teaching of homeopathy in Australia, allowing Australians to continue to access homeopathic health care. It would appear that the recent report from the NHMRC seeks to stop this right of the Australian community and of professional homeopaths to practise freely.
The NHMRC recently reported that ‘there is no reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective for treating health conditions.’ In coming to this conclusion, it completely failed to follow the guidelines of its own inquiry and routinely omitted the consideration of legitimate and more relevant forms of evidence.
Despite this finding, homeopathy is practised widely and utilised widely by Australian citizens, many of whom claim to achieve tremendous benefit in a range of conditions. Homeopathy is practised globally and is acknowledged and supported by the governments of countries including India, Brazil, France, Germany, Switzerland and Cuba.
Patients have the right as citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia to choose from a range of health care services that includes homeopathy and conventional medical care. They are not coerced into homeopathic treatment, nor are they deluded as critics such as the profession’s detractors assert.
I assert that it is my right to access homeopathic services freely. Indeed, it would be unconstitutional to prohibit the practice of homeopathy or to prevent, in any manner whatsoever, a citizen’s right to access treatment from a health professional who is registered according to government guidelines for self-regulating professions.
It is for these reasons that I write to express my frustration with the NHMRC report, which I believe is intended to prevent me from access to the health care of my choice.
I look to knowing your intentions in regards to supporting the public’s freedom of choice in a pluralistic health care system.