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  Efficacy of Homeopathic Potencies

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By: Friedwart Husemann, M.D.
pgs. 76-77B.doc

(Original title: Neue klinische Studie von D. Reilly belegt die Wirksamkeit homooeopathischer Hochpotenzen. Merkurstab 1995; 48: 274-5. English by A. R. Meuss, FIL, MTA.)

In 1986 the same author published a report on his hayfever trial, a double-blind placebo-controlled trial with 144 patients. Both groups were given placebo in the first week, and then one group Pollen 30x, the other placebo for 2 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of follow-up observation. Selection was by strict criteria, monitoring numerous variables. The two groups were comparable. Patients would daily record their hayfever symptoms, using a visual analog scale, with physicians assessing the symptoms at the beginning, and after 3 and 5 weeks. The results showed a definite, statistically significant reduction in hay fever symptoms in the group receiving homeopathic treatment, as assessed by both patients and physicians. The need for additional antihistamines was halved in this group. This main trial, published in The Lancet(1) was preceded by a pilot study published in The British Homoeopathic Journal in l985.(2)

In December 1994, a further paper on homeopathy by Reilly was published in The Lancet(3). The trial design was, as before, with 28 asthma patients who received asthma allergens individually selected on the basis of allergy tests in the 30c potency or placebo. Again, the group receiving homeopathic treatment showed significant improvement in symptoms (p = 0.003).

In the same paper Reilly gives a general analysis of his 3 homeopathic trials, concluding that the efficacy of relatively high potencies, tested on 202 patients, is highly significant (p = 0.0004). Reilly stresses that he merely wanted to establish if homeopathic potencies differ from placebo; he does not attach practical clinical importance to this isopathic treatment. Summing up, he says that either homeopathic treatment is effective or modern clinical trials give false positive results. Either of these two findings would be spectacular for it would go against accepted medical teaching.

Reilly also refers to Kleijnen's paper in the British Medical Journal in 1991,(4) which has been fully discussed in this publication.(5) Kleijnen reviewed 107 clinical trials with homeopathy and established that 77% of them showed homeopathy to have a positive effect.

Reilly conducted his trials in the Department of Medicine working in collaboration with 5 other departments at Glasgow University. With subtle Scottish humor he also has a bit of a go at John Maddox and his notorious editorial, "When to believe the unbelievable" in Nature. At the time of the Benveniste affair, it was difficult not to remember the Hundred Years' War between England and France. It appears that something of a contest is developing between Glasgow in Scotland, supported by The Lancet, and the English journal Nature, and this will do much to get the truth to emerge.

There are, of course, also good reasons for rejecting double-blind trials and placebo controls. They do not apply in the present case. It has to be clearly understood for whom such clinical trials are conducted. Practicing homeopathic and anthroposophic physicians who, having seen the efficacy of relatively high potencies and understood them, do not need such trials. On the other hand, it is necessary to marshal arguments which are at university level if we are to enter into discussion with medical colleagues who consider homeopathy to be placebo or even call it "heresy", as members of the Department of Human Medicine at Marburg University did in 1993. A statement concerning facts (homeopathy is placebo) can only be met with facts; methodological arguments will not serve. Papers such as those published by Reilly are, therefore, a great help in providing arguments in the discussion concerning "effective medicines" vs. "placebo," "scientific" vs. "philosophic medicine."

Friedwart Husemann, MD
Maria-Eich-Str. 57A
D-82166 Graefelfing b.
Muenchen Germany


1 Reilly DT et al. Is homoeopathy a placebo response? Controlled trial of homoeopathic potency with pollen in hay fever as a model. Lancet 1986; 19 October.

2 Reilly DT et al. Potent placebo or potency? A proposed study model with initial findings using homoeopathically prepared pollens in hay fever. Brit Horn f 1985; 74:65- 75.

3 Reilly DT et al. Is evidence of homoeopathy reproducible? Lancet 1994; 344:1601-06.

4 Kleijnen J et al. Clinical trials of Homeoopathy. BrMedJ 1991; 302:316-23.

5 Husemann F. Rhythmusphaenomene beim Wirksamkeitsnachweis potenzierter Heilmittel-nachgewiesen von Kolisko (1923) bis Cristea (1991). Merkurstab 1992; 45:73-91.

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