Homeopathic medicine is under fire

The FDA is currently reevaluating its stance on homeopathic preparations, for several reasons.  The public is widely unaware of what homeopathy is and how it works.  According to a recent CNN article, homeopathic medicine is a 2.9 billion dollar business and it is rapidly growing, along with the spread of misinformation surrounding homeopathic principles.

Note: I have no stake in any homeopathic companies nor in any pharmaceutical companies, including stocks or consulting fees.  In fact, I would benefit if  homeopathic arnica was effective because it would provide me with something to offer my patients to prevent bruising after procedures.  I’m writing this blog article because I became interested in the topic and my intention is to educate and inform my patients and those who read my blog.  I may come under attack for writing this, but those who attack will likely be the ones who have financial gain from homeopathy.  I’m not against alternative therapies and worked alongside naturopathic physicians on several occasions.

Homepathic medicine is not scrutinized by the FDA like conventional drugs

Homeopathic medications are currently regulated only in the sense that they must meet manufacturing and labeling guidelines like other over-the-counter products, but they don’t have to go through the rigorous testing and trials that drugs do.  The FDA does not review these products for safety or efficacy.

Homeopaths want you to believe that more dilute is more potent

I performed an unbiased, placebo-controlled, randomized trial on oral homeopathic arnica as part of my thesis for the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ASOPRS) and I described it this blog post.  I found there was no difference between arnica and placebo for bruising or comfort after eyelid surgery, and the study was validated by 3 independent reviewers and a statistician, none of which had any stake in the topic.  I mention this because homeopathic companies have a very big stake in this and they are fighting to keep their profits.

The principle of homeopathic medicine is that “like cures like” and dilute substances can have strong effects.  The dilution factor of the homeopathic arnica in my trial (which is the most popular version of the product on the market) was 8,953,382,542,587,164,451,099 – fold.  That is how many drops of water you would have to add to 1 drop of the active ingredient to produce the  most popular homeopathic strength of arnica.  Yes, that is a huge number, and it means that there is essentially no active ingredient in the product.

What science and evidence say about homeopathy

If you are still attached to the idea that homeopathy works, this report from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia did the hard work to compile the evidence.  Not anecdotal evidence but pure scientific papers and hundreds of them.  They found no scientific evidence that homeopathy is effective.  None.

So, if your doctor is recommending a homeopathic product or they are selling you one, they are either unaware that homeopathy is no better than placebo or they are intentionally giving you a placebo.

Cearna Aesthetics and Ocumend in my inbox

I recently received a promotional email from a company called Cearna Aesthetics who sells a homeopathic arnica gel called OcuMend.  I’ve declined invitations to work with this company before because I didn’t wish to promote homeopathy for profit after conducting my trial and reading all the evidence.

Cearna’s email focused on the fact that homeopathic arnica is safe, and it quoted my study as support.  Yes, it’s true, homeopathic preparations (and placebos) are safe, and so the only adverse effects they found were for the topical gel carrier causing some irritation.  They conveniently left out the fact that the majority of the studies they cited showed no benefit to homeopathic arnica.

This is how I advise my patients on homeopathic arnica: I don’t recommend it and I don’t suggest they spend their money on it, but if they feel strongly about using it then it shouldn’t hurt them.