An Interview with Peter Fisher

If there were such a thing as homeopathic royalty, Peter Fisher would easily fit the bill. And that’s not just because he is physician to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as well as both Clinical and Research Director of the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine–the largest public sector provider of holistic medicine in Europe (formerly called the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital).

Of at least equal importance is that for the past 25 years he has served as editor-in-chief of the journal Homeopathy, the only MEDLINE-indexed homeopathic journal. MEDLINE is the medical research database of the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health and is considered the gold standard of published medical research. In his role as editor of the journal and author of numerous published studies, Peter brings to homeopathy what it so richly deserves–serious consideration, assessment, and refinement by the most rigorous methods of science.

Trained at elite Cambridge University, Peter is qualified in both homeopathy and rheumatology and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. (The Royal College is the oldest medical society in the world; Fellowship is a select honor bestowed by Royal College peers.) He is also a Fellow of the Faculty of Homeopathy (The Faculty, established in 1844 and incorporated by an act of British Parliament in 1950, regulates the education, training, and practice of homeopathy by the medical profession in the UK). Peter is a member of the World Health Organization’s Expert Advisory Panel on Traditional and Complementary Medicine, and he chaired the WHO’s working group on homeopathy.

Below is an interview I conducted with him in 2011.

How did you first become interested in homeopathy?

I went to China in 1972 in between my undergraduate and post-graduate medical studies, just a few months after Nixon’s visit.  China had been completely closed to foreigners during the Cultural Revolution. I remember vividly seeing a woman lying on the operating table, entire abdomen open, having half her stomach resected, conscious, with three needles in her left ear. And I thought, “Oh, well they didn’t teach us about that in Cambridge. That doesn’t happen.” But clearly it was happening. So that’s what first got me interested in unorthodox forms of medicine.

So, for a while I studied Chinese. I seriously intended to take up Traditional Chinese Medicine, but it is a huge cultural leap.

Then I became ill myself while still a medical student. I went to see various distinguished physicians who made a precise diagnosis and said, “Tough, nothing can be done.” And an American friend suggested homeopathy. The first thing [after taking the remedy], I had a terrible aggravation. It made me realize at least it did something. And then it helped, and that sort of started the ball rolling.

How did you get involved in rheumatology?

Well, it was a bit of an accident. I found a research opening in the rheumatology department at Bartholomew’s Hospital of London with an open-minded professor of rheumatology and clinical pharmacology. And we conducted one of the very first good quality studies of homeopathy published in a first line medical journal–published in BMJ [British Medical Journal] in 1989.  [1]

How did you get involved in research?

It clearly needed to be done in homeopathy. I just felt there was a desperate need for it. So I did it.

It was actually very difficult because we had a hospital and consultants but you had no way to train consultants–that was the problem at the time. So you could be appointed a consultant if you could get trained, but you couldn’t get trained in homeopathy–it was a bit of a Catch-22. And the one way you could get around it was by being a research fellow, so that’s what I did.

What do you see as the role of and the direction you want to take the journal?

The historic piece was when we got MEDLINE-listed, that was in 1998 I believe, when Wayne Jonas was the boss at the Office of Alternative Medicine [at NIH, now called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine]. He was instrumental in that. That was very important. So that means we were no longer in the so-called “grey” literature. The “black and white” literature gets cited in MEDLINE.

Homeopathy needs a specialized journal. There are a lot of the generic complementary medicine journals…but I think there is a need for a dedicated [homeopathic] journal….We put together some coherent issues. For instance we did a special issue three or four years ago on basic science. And then we did one on biological models – which ended up being 2 issues, because there was so much material two years ago. And that was important–to make it clear that there really is evidence.

We are going to do one on clinical research. We are planning a mega-series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

What is your opinion on randomized controlled trials versus more pragmatic observational studies? At the 2011 Joint American Homeopathic Conference in Alexandria, VA, Wayne Jonas said that it’s time to focus on the real-world, outcomes-based trials as opposed to placebo-controlled studies.

Of course he’s been saying that for a long time, and I think he is right in many ways.

One thing to remember about research is it is just a method of answering questions. It gets fetishized–people turn it into an end in itself, which it shouldn’t be. So, the question really is, “What is your question?” If your question is, “Can homeopathic dilutions really do anything?” then actually the randomized controlled trial is an expensive, difficult way of answering it. I’ve done many of them, and there is an awful lot that can go wrong. If your question is, “Is this stuff placebo or not?” then there is a strong argument that randomized trials are actually an expensive way of answering that question and you would do much better with a biological model [i.e., in vitro laboratory study].

On the other hand if your question is “Does homeopathy make a useful, cost-effective therapy or fill an effectiveness gap in health care?” then you need some kind of, observational or controlled clinical study which might be randomized or cohort. The difference being “observational” means you just watch the patients and watch what happens–it is completely uncontrolled. Cohort study means you compare it, but it is not randomized.

Claudia Witt in Germany has done some excellent cohort studies showing that patients who get homeopathy do at least as well as, in many cases better than, comparable [conventional medicine] cohorts. Although, of course, the cohorts are never quite comparable–that’s the problem. You can use clever statistical methods to try and make them comparable, but they never are. One of the things I rather like is that you find pretty consistently the cohort that chooses homeopathy has higher levels of education. That’s got to say something. The cohort studies are pretty consistently positive.  But of course the differences, such as level of education do interfere with the interpretation.

So, controlled trials are difficult and expensive, but is it something we should be doing as a community just for the sake of our advancement?

Yes of course they have an important role. But we need to think very carefully. I’m chair of a research group and we actually have some money–and you need to be very targeted to consider, “What are you going to do, and why?”

We are doing this meta-analysis of homeopathic trials. There are, I think, 240 of them. It is a huge undertaking to do them properly. And we’ll be dividing them into individualized (so-called “classical”) and non-individualized. And non-individualized further subdivides into so-called “clinical” and “complex.”

We are still concentrating on the potential of homeopathy in pandemic/epidemic disease. There was a very nice study [2] done by Gustavo Bracho in Cuba – very interesting.  I met him for the first time recently–very impressive guy, very interesting guy. So that is one area we are looking at.

But there is a need to repeat studies and concentrate on promising areas, and not just to go off and do the first thing that comes into your head

What areas are promising–influenza maybe?

Yes, influenza, dengue fever. There is one study done by Jennifer Jacobs which is negative, [3] but there are many people who think it might work in dengue. And interestingly, you’ve got countries as diverse as Brazil and Malaysia where you’ve got groups of homeopaths interested in working on dengue, so we’re trying to put those together.

What do you think about Lex Rutten’s work on the repertory? (Lex Rutten leads a team of 10 Dutch homeopaths working to assess repertory rubrics for their accuracy and reliability based on the statistical methodology of Bayesian analysis. They published their first paper, assessing 6 rubrics, in 2009.) [4]

It is very interesting. He is definitely right, but the trouble is it takes a vast amount of data collection to validate the repertory. It is alarming–the repertory just gets bigger and bigger and bigger, but less and less reliable.

I always start with my students, I pick up a copy of Synthesis Repertory and I say, “The problem with this book is that half of it is wrong–the question is, ‘Which half?’” What I mean really is that 80% of it is wrong, the question is, “Which 80%?”–but I don’t want to discourage them too much.

Lex told me it would take about 15 years working with 20 groups such as his to assess the top 600 rubrics, representing the most common keynote symptoms.

Yeah, it is a vast undertaking to do it properly. But his methodology is very good, and he is right.

How did you come about being physician to Her Majesty?

By a rather opaque process. Somebody comes up to you and says, “If you were to be asked, you wouldn’t say ‘no’, would you?” They can’t risk you possibly saying “no.” So they check you out, and then you don’t hear a thing. Then a year later you get a letter. So, I suppose it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

The royal family has had homeopathic physicians since…?

For a long time–since the 1840s. The founder of our hospital Dr Frederick Quinn had been homeopathic physician to Prince Leopold of the Belgians, father of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert and all the monarchs for a long time. George VI certainly, the one who was in The King’s Speech…he had homeopathic treatment for his stutter. Ambra grisea was the remedy they gave him.

And the Prince of Wales [Prince Charles] is into it. We don’t know about Princess Kate, yet. We’ll see.

Do you think the scientific community will ever embrace or even accept homeopathy?

Well, I think that is up to us. There is huge prejudice–there is prejudice and persecution which actually seems to have originated in the UK for various psycho-social-geopolitical reasons.

And one interpretation of the current situation is that it is the early stages of a scientific revolution, when you get a reaction. Homeopathy is persecuted because it is a new paradigm that is threatening the established order…a scientific revolution in the sense of Thomas Kuhn. That’s one interpretation

On the other hand I am always a bit cautious about that because we’ve had false starts before. If you read the [writings of] homeopaths from the 1890s, they talk rather pityingly of “old school” medicine, and how the “new school” [homeopathy] is about to sweep it away; but it never did happen.

So, yes I believe that eventually something, maybe descended from homeopathy, using the key techniques of homeopathy, will be accepted. I have to say I think the homeopathic community is in many ways its worst enemy, particularly in this country [UK]–we have people who make silly claims, frankly, who are not qualified and say things they really shouldn’t say, for instance, about preventing malaria.  That is potentially very dangerous and gets us a bad press.

Iris Bell said she thinks homeopathy will be accepted by the medical community, but it may be with a different name?

Yeah, well as I said, something descended from homeopathy. Maybe the name will have to change. Homeopathy has been forced into a ghetto. But one of the things we can do something about–you can’t do a lot directly about the skeptics–is to get our own house in order; not to make claims we can’t back up; to try to be scientific; and instead of larding up the repertory with anything you please, we need to think a little bit more carefully about what we put in there; be a little bit more serious about it.

Because undoubtedly homeopathy works. It is a therapeutics that has survived, that works, and that makes remarkable claims–and we need to be sure.

References

  1. Fisher, et al. Effect of homoeopathic treatment on fibrositis (primary fibromyalgia). BMJ Aug 5;299(6695):365-6.
  2. Bracho G, et al. Large scale application of highly-diluted bacteria for Leptospirosis epidemic control. Homeopathy 2010 Jul;99(3): 156-66.
  3. Jacobs, et al. The use of homeopathic combination remedy for dengue fever symptoms–A pilot RCT in Honduras. Homeopathy. 2007 Jan;96(1):22-6.
  4. Rutten AL, Stolper CF, Lugten RF, Barthels LW. Statistical analysis of six repertory rubrics after prospective assessment applying Bayes’ theorem. Homeopathy 2009 Jan;98(1):26-34.
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2 New Studies Demonstrate Significant Effectiveness of Homeopathy in Treatment and Palliation of Cancer

Two important studies have recently been published concerning the use of homeopathy in cancer – one demonstrating greater effectiveness in certain types of cancers than any treatment yet assessed by modern research methods. Both involved relatively large numbers of participants and together represent a significant step forward, as research data in this area has been limited.

The first study [1] looked at primary homeopathic treatment of cancer – meaning, treatment with the intent to cure without the use of conventional oncologic treatment. The second study [2] looked at the effect of homeopathy on the quality of life in cancer patients receiving concomitant conventional care. Both studies had very impressive results.

In fact, the results of the first study are far and away the most robust of any therapy (conventional or holistic) yet assessed in treatment of pancreatic, gallbladder, liver, and stomach cancers. If replicated in further studies the protocol would represent a true breakthrough in treatment of these intractable malignancies – greatly increasing the survival and quality of life of these patients.

Study 1

This was a non-randomized, observational trial conducted at the Critical Cancer Management Research Centre and Clinic located in Kolkata, India.

The findings were first presented at the 2009 American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) Annual Conference. ASCO is the world’s leading professional cancer organization. An abstract of the study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Lead investigator Aradeep Chatterjee is an ASCO member and on staff at the Critical Cancer Management Research Centre and Clinic. Co-investigator Jaydip Biswas is also an ASCO member and is Director of the National Cancer Institute, Kolkata, India. Other investigators included researchers at the National Cancer Institute, Kolkata and the National Institute of Technology, Durgapur.

158 subjects participated, with the following distribution of cancer types – 42 stomach (gastric adenocarcinoma), 40 gallbladder (adenocarcinoma), 44 pancreas (adenocarcinoma) and 32 liver (hepatocellular carcinoma).

Inclusion criteria for participants were: 1) histopathalogic/cytopathologic confirmation of malignancy, 2) inoperable tumors, and 3) no prior chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

24.9% of subjects were diagnosed at stage III and 70.9% at stage IV – meaning, nearly all had locally advanced or metastatic disease.

The protocol involved the use of the homeopathic remedy Psorinum in a 6X potency. All subjects received this remedy daily along with supportive homeopathic and conventional care.

Examples of conventional supportive care include control of infection, pain, electrolyte balance, bleeding, etc. Homeopathic supportive care consisted of the use of homeopathic remedies prescribed on a pathological (as opposed to the more common patient-individualized) basis. Most remedies were in the 200C potency, with a few as mother tinctures. Examples include Baryta carbonicum 200C, Lycopodium 200C and Thuja occidentalis mother tincture.

The results were astonishing, with survival rates many times greater than that achieved with conventional treatment or any other type of rigorously assessed cancer care.

For instance, the 5 year survival rate of patients receiving conventional treatment for stage III and IV pancreatic adenocarcinoma, the most deadly of all common malignancies, is approximately 1-2% [3] [4]. In this study 38.6% survived 5 years.

Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) has a 1 year survival rate of 20% and a 3 year survival rate of 5% with conventional treatment [5]. Of the subjects receiving the Psorinum protocol 81% survived 1 year, and 59% survived 3 years. An astounding 43.75% survived 5 years.

38.1% of patients in the study having gastric adenocarcinoma survived 5 years, while conventional care achieves less than 20% 5 year survival [6].

Considering the study group as a whole, 33% of those with stage III disease had a complete tumor response – meaning, complete disappearance of all cancerous lesions (tumors) without disease progression or appearance of any new lesions. 41% had radiologic partial response – meaning, at least 30% shrinkage of tumors.

Among those with stage IV disease, 10.7% had complete, and 34% partial tumor response.  

In addition to increased survival rates, quality of life was also significantly improved compared to standard care. 60% of those with stage III disease and 45% of those with stage IV reported that “the therapy was effective in reducing their cancer-related pain, cough, dyspnea, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, constipation and improving appetite and weakness.”

Further, “no adverse side effects were observed from the drug Psorinum. However, very few patients reported to have mild oral irritation and skin itching which were successfully controlled by supportive care.”

At the 2010 ASCO Annual Conference, Chatterjee and Biswas presented results of a similar trial – use of the same Psorinum protocol with 95 patients having inoperable lung cancer (non-small cell cancer of the lung – the most common type) [7] Outcomes in this trial were similar with a 5 year survival rate of 44%. This is compared to 16% with conventional treatment [8]. Again, the abstract was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The full study is not yet published.

One more trial, [9] using the same Psorinum protocol in treatment of advanced esophageal carcinoma was published in the Proceedings of the 2011 ASCO Annual Conference and later presented at the 2012 ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. [here] Of 65 participants, 17% had full and 31% had partial tumor responses. 68% survived 1 year and 26% survived 5 years. The average 5 year survival rate for non-resectable esophageal carcinoma treated conventionally is around 1%. [10] [11]

Taken together, data from these three trials demonstrate a very high level of effectiveness of Psorinum therapy along with supportive conventional and homeopathic care in some of the most difficult-to-treat common malignancies.

Though the trials were not randomized or controlled, the data are noteworthy for a number of reasons: 1) the extraordinary degree of effectiveness of the treatment in these difficult to treat conditions – no published study has demonstrated anything even close to these results, 2) survival rate as an outcome measure is completely objective and therefore not subject to assessment bias, 3) there already exists a very large body of data demonstrating the degree of effectiveness of conventional treatment of these cancers – data which is consistent across all cultures and types of patients – which gives a valid basis for comparison and 4) the trials comprise a fairly large study group, with 318 total subjects.

The primary limitation of the studies is the lack of control for the effects of the supportive homeopathic care. We already know what to expect from supportive conventional care, so it is not much of a variable. However, we are left wondering how much of the effectiveness was due to the Psorinum therapy itself versus the supportive homeopathic remedies which were extensively used.

In a personal correspondence, Dr. Chatterjee indicated there would be a phase III (larger, controlled) clinical trial as a follow up to the studies – comparing the full Psorinum protocol versus 1) conventional cancer treatment, and 2) Psorinum protocol minus the homeopathic supportive care (in other words, Psorinum 6X along with only the conventional supportive care) in treatment of pancreatic adenocarcinoma. In August 2011, the Times of India reported that Chatterjee had signed a “mutual confidentiality agreement” with MD Anderson Cancer Center (at the University of Texas, Houston) to collaborate on further clinical trials.

Study 2

The second study was lead by doctors at University Hospital Zurich (Switzerland), University Hospital Freiburg (Germany) and the Tumor Biology Center at Albert Ludwig’s University Freiburg (Germany). It was published in the journal BMC Cancer.

This trial aimed to assess the effects of homeopathy as an adjunct to conventional oncologic care versus conventional care alone. There were 259 subjects in the homeopathic/conventional group and 380 in the conventional-only cohort. It should be noted that 10% of those in the homeopathic group refused recommended conventional care.

The most frequent cancer type was breast cancer. Colorectal and prostate cancers as well as melanoma were also prevalent.

The primary outcome measure was change in quality of life. Secondary outcome measures were change in fatigue, psychological wellbeing and patient satisfaction. All of these parameters were measured using widely accepted assessment tools.

The type of homeopathy used was the traditional “constitutional” approach, in which a single remedy is chosen based on individualized characteristics (as opposed to common pathological or medical indications).

Patients were assessed at 3 and 12 months.

The following data emerged in the homeopathic group:

  • Quality of life improved significantly at 3 months and further at 12 months – twice as much as the conventional group – in the upper range of the clinical significance scale
  • Mental and physical fatigue and physical activity improved significantly at 3 and 12 months
  • Anxiety and depression did not change

The following data emerged in the conventional group:

  • Quality of life was slightly improved at 12 months – at the bottom edge of the clinical significance scale
  • Fatigue did not change
  • Anxiety and depression did not change

This trial was meant to reflect real-world medical practice and decision-making (by patients and doctors). The participants were not randomized and were free to choose their course of treatment. Doctors were free to recommend individualized treatment protocols.

Although the 2 groups were well-matched at entry to the study in terms of symptoms, there were important disparities, namely, 1) demographics – the homeopathic group was more likely to have a higher level of post-graduate education and to be white collar workers or self-employed, 2) stage of disease progression – the homeopathic group was more likely to have a more severe diagnosis or progressed tumor stage, and had a longer elapsed time since first diagnosis, and 3) types of therapies used – the homeopathic group used less chemotherapy and radiation, due to already having utilized more prior to study entry.

These differences precluded statistically valid comparison of the two groups as matched pair controls. Nevertheless, the data clearly suggests that homeopathic treatment is beneficial to cancer patients as a whole.

If anything, the differences should have favored a greater improvement in the conventional group – the participants were at earlier stage of illness and therefore more amenable to treatment. Some would argue that greater results are to be expected from a sicker population (the homeopathic group) who have more potential for improvement. While this may be true in non-degenerative or self-limiting conditions, it is certainly not the case in cancer, where advanced progression of disease is nearly always associated with worse symptom scores and poorer response to treatment.

Some would argue the conventional group fared worse due to greater exposure to chemotherapy and radiation – but these interventions would have been finished primarily in the first few months, and outcomes at 12 months should not have been negatively influenced by the side effects of these therapies. Indeed, one of the primary goals of conventional treatment is decreased symptom severity and increased quality of life in the long term.

Even considered as a separate pool of data, the results achieved in the homeopathic group were “by all standards, a clinically relevant improvement”.

As the authors concluded:

“We have shown that under homeopathic care, sizeable benefits were achieved for patients’ quality of life, as measured by FACT-G and also for spiritual well-being as measured by the FACIT-Sp. The improvement was clinically relevant and statistically significant. It could also be seen in symptoms of physical and mental fatigue. Thus our data suggest that classical homeopathic care could complement conventional cancer care to the benefit of patients.”

References:

  1. Chatterjee A, Biswas J, Chatterjee AK, Bhattacharya S, Mukhopadhyay B, and Mandal S. Psorinum Therapy in Treating Stomach, Gall Bladder, Pancreatic, and Liver Cancers: A Prospective Clinical Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011: 724743.
  2. Rostock M, Naumann J, Guethlin C, Guenther L, Bartsch HH, Walach H. Classical homeopathy in the treatment of cancer patients – a prospective observational study of two independent cohorts. BMC Cancer. 2011 Jan 17;11(1):19.
  3. Cancer Facts and Figures 2009. American Cancer Society. Available at http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/500809web.pdf. Accessed February 5, 2010
  4. Erickson A, Larson C, Shabahang M. Pancreatic Cancer. Available at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/280605-overview. Accessed February 21, 2010.
  5. Olsen SK, Brown RS, Siegel AB. Hepatocellular carcinoma: review of current treatment with a focus on targeted molecular therapies. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2010 Jan;3(1):55-66.
  6. Hui P Zhu,1 Xin Xia,2 Chuan H Yu,2 Ahmed Adnan,3 Shun F Liu,3 and Yu K Du. Application of Weibull model for survival of patients with gastric cancer. BMC Gastroenterol. 2011 Jan 7;11:1
  7. Chatterjee A, Biswas J, Chatterjee AK, Bhattacharya A, Mukhopadhyay BP. A Phase II, Single Arm Clinical Trial Involving an Alternative Cancer Treatment – Psorinum Therapy – in Patients With Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma (NSCLC). J Clin Oncol. 2010 vol.28, suppl(15s), abstract 2592.
  8. Jemal A, Siegel R, Xu J, Ward E. Cancer Statistics, 2010. CA Cancer J Clin. 2010 Sep-Oct;60(5):277-300.
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Esteemed French Virologist Publishes Work Supporting Scientific Validity of Homeopathy – Consequence: Contreversy

Mark this as the second time in recent memory an eminent French scientist has published research appearing to affirm the validity of homeopathic remedies only to be disparaged by some in the scientific community and professionally maligned.

More on the first incident (concerning immunologist Jacques Benveniste) in another column, but in recent news none other than Luc Montagnier – Nobel Laureate and discoverer of the HIV virus –  has made plans to significantly alter his professional activities after being essentially banished by the scientific community of Europe for his work with ultra-dilute materials. 

Montagnier is not a homeopath and has never worked in the field. He has never advocated for homeopathy. His recent work never mentioned the word homeopathy and did not involve traditional homeopathic remedies.

Montagnier is an immunologist/virologist, whose work on retroviruses (along with that of NIH’s Robert Gallo), laid the groundwork for he and Gallo’s eventual discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS –  a scientific achievement widely considered one of the most important of the 20th century, and the basis for Montagnier receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine (2008).

Recently, Montagnier has been involved in more groundbreaking work – the creation of a diagnostic technique which can detect viral and bacterial effects in the human body, even when the presence of the organisms is not observable. This advance is significant, because it may make possible new ways of understanding and treating many diseases. Montagnier has so far detected bacterial effects in patients with autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Part of the controversy is that his technique utilizes samples of bacterial DNA which have been homeopathically prepared – meaning, highly diluted in water (dilutions as low as 10 -18) and succussed (mechanically agitated). This is past the point where according to modern science even a single molecule of source material is likely to be present. Although DNA has not traditionally been used in homeopathic remedies, the results nevertheless provide evidence that substances which have been homeopathically prepared continue to influence the water long after the solution has been diluted past Avagadro’s number (6.02 x 10-23), and these changes can be detected.

In an interview published in the January 2011 issue of Science, Montagnier put it this way: “What we have found is that DNA produces structural changes in water, which persist at very high dilutions, and which lead to resonant electromagnetic signals that we can measure.”

You might think that scientists would be thrilled about these advances but unfortunately the opposite is true – or at least enthusiasm is not being expressed publicly and criticism from some quarters has been strong.

At 78, this life-long French citizen is moving to China so that he can fruitfully engage his work. He will assume leadership of a new research institute at Jiaotong University in Shanghai. When asked why he does not pursue his research in France he replied, “I don’t have much funding here…I have applied for funding from other sources and been turned down. There is a kind of fear around this topic in France…intellectual terror from people who don’t understand it.”

So what does Montagnier have to say about homeopathy?

“I can’t say that homeopathy is right in everything. What I can say now, is that high dilutions are right. High dilutions of something are not nothing. They are water structures which mimic the original molecules. We find that with DNA we cannot work with the extremely high dilutions used in homeopathy; we cannot go further than a 10-18 dilution or we lose the signal. But even at 10-18, you can calculate that there is not a single molecule of DNA left. And yet we detect a signal.”

What does Montagnier have to say to his critics?

“Well, I was skeptical myself in the beginning. But these are facts. The findings are very reproducible and we are waiting for confirmation by other labs…it’s not pseudoscience. It’s not quackery. These are real phenomena which deserve further study”

ARTICLE UPDATE: In May 2012 at the annual Joint American Homeopathic Conference in Reston, Virginia, Montagnier stated that his results have been replicated by teams in Italy, Germany and the US – with results awaiting publication.

 

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In Memorium – Rustum Roy

Rustum Roy died August 26th, 2010 at the age of 86. He represented the best science has to offer. A professor of chemistry and physics with an illustrious 65 year career at Pennsylvania State University, accolades and accomplishments too numerous to mention, yet he never lost sight of the big picture, working to build bridges and share his knowledge with those in other scientific disciplines, public policy, health care, religion, and art. His contributions to homeopathy are significant.

Roy was born in India and came in 1944 to Penn State where he received his masters in science and PhD. There he held numerous prestigious positions over the years including Evan Pugh Professor of the Solid State (Emeritus), Emeritus Professor of Geochemistry, and Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology and Society.

He was also a Distinguished Professor of Materials Science at Arizona State University, a Visiting Professor of Medicine at University of Arizona and an Advisory Council Member at the School of Engineering, Stanford University.

He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences (both Engineering and Ceramics) in the US, Sweden, Japan, Russia and India. He chaired many committees at the US National Academy of Sciences, US National Academy of Engineering, and the National Science Foundation.

He founded and/or edited 10 scientific journals (including the Journal of Materials Science), wrote 6 books, published over 800 scientific papers and held 25 scientific patents.

In the 1980’s he got involved in public policy working as a Science Policy Fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.

He was also involved in spiritual work as Chair of the Committee on Science, Technology, and the Church at the National Council of Churches and for many years served on the Board of Directors at the Kirkridge Retreat Center (a center dedicated to spirituality, justice, and ecumenism).

All of this is but a fairly limited account of his accomplishments. A more complete list is available here.

Roy was one of the key pioneering figures in the field of materials science. A discipline which incorporates elements of applied physics and chemistry, materials science continues to have increasing relevance to the advancement of science as a whole.

Roy was the first director of the Materials Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University – the first such research facility of its kind. He held the position for 22 years. And he was the principal architect and founding member of the Materials Research Society.

It was Roy’s work in materials science that contributed most to homeopathy. In the twilight of his career he conducted several important studies [1] [2] which demonstrated unequivocally the unique physical properties of homeopathic remedies.

Materials science concerns itself with the structural aspects of matter. This is different than elementary chemistry which is concerned primarily with the chemical composition of matter. Materials science research has discovered properties of substances which could not have been known using chemistry alone. A good example of this is nanotechnology.

This is hugely important to homeopathy since the principle scientific argument against homeopathy – namely, that homeopathic remedies, being incredibly dilute are chemically identical to water and therefore cannot be active medications – has always been based on inadequate concepts of basic chemistry.

The discoveries in materials science over the last half century, many guided by Roy, have put the lie to this tired argument.

The example he liked to cite to illustrate the fallacy of attributing material properties solely to chemical composition was that of carbon. In one form (graphite – e.g. “pencil lead”) it is one of the softest materials on earth, while as diamond it is the singular hardest material on the planet. Both of these substances are nothing but pure carbon, yet they have dramatically different properties due to differing structures and one can be changed into another in less than a millisecond in a laboratory. If this can be done with carbon, why not with water?

“At Penn State we have studied pure water and have done very preliminary work on commercial homeopathic samples of the remedies Natrum muriaticum and Nux vomica using Raman and UV-Vis Spectroscopy. What we have found is that there are differences between such commercial samples, as used in homeopathic practice. There are also differences between different potencies – a fact likely tied to the succussion process in the remedy preparation process.”

“Our work at Penn State…provides data to dispose once and for all the ‘anti-science, theological’ crowd’s ‘feasibility’ argument against homeopathy. Pure water’s structure and properties can be changed. The key lies in the homeopathic succussion process which introduces three vectors: pressure, epitaxy, and nano-bubbles. Each of these things are inherent in remedy preparation. All three of them can change structure.”

We honor this pioneering figure and amazing human being who contributed so much to the advancement of homeopathy, science in general, and humanity.

References

  1. Rao ML, Roy R, Bell IR, Hoover R. The defining role of structure (including epitaxy) in the plausibility of homeopathy. Homeopathy. 2007 Jul;96(3):175-82.
  2. Rao ML, Roy R, Bell IR. Characterization of the structure of ultra-dilute sols with remarkable biological properties. Materials Letters. 2008 Apr 15;62(10-11):1487.
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Homeopathic Preventative Treatment of Epidemic Leptospirosis

A landmark study[1] published in the August 2010 issue of the journal Homeopathy describes the successful use of homeopathy to prevent epidemic disease – one of the first such studies and by far the largest homeopathic trial of any kind to be published in the modern medical literature. The study took place in Cuba, where researchers and public health officials collaborated in the homeopathic immunization of over 2 million persons against epidemic Leptospirosis. The results were highly impressive.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease which has historically occurred throughout the developing world and in the tropics. In recent years it has increasingly been recognized as a serious health problem worldwide [2] [3] [4]     It is spread primarily through consumption of contaminated drinking water and so incidence rises during rainy seasons, floods and other natural disasters.

In Cuba, each year since statistics have been compiled, dozens to hundreds of deaths and thousands of cases of serious illness are caused by Leptospirosis. The bulk of these cases occur in the last 12 weeks of the calendar year (October through December), with December representing the peak incidence.

In October of 2007, with an unusually early rise in disease incidence indicating the likelihood of an especially dire season of disease and with the inability to procure adequate amounts of conventional vaccine, the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba decided for the first time to utilize a homeopathically prepared vaccine product. Made from 4 strains of Leptospira and delivered orally, the homeopathic product was administered to 2.1 million people living in the regions considered at highest risk of disease. The rest of the 11 million inhabitants of the island did not receive any preventative forms of medicine other than 15,000 persons (0.6% of the population) in the high risk area who received the conventional vaccine.

The results were unprecedented.

In the intervention region (i.e. the high-risk area which received the homeopathic product), within 2 weeks of administering the homeopathic product a 90% decrease in disease incidence was observed. This was stunning, considering disease incidence had historically increased during this period (even with the administration of conventional vaccination) and that the statistical model had predicted close to a 100% increase for this period in 2007.

No decrease in disease incidence was observed in the non-intervention region – instead, the usual increase for this time of year occurred.

In September 2008 a second round of homeopathic prophylaxis was administered – this time to 2.3 million persons.

Again results demonstrated the effectiveness of the homeopathic product, with disease incidence in the intervention region occurring at a remarkably low 0-2 cases per week, per 100,000 persons– a rate very significantly below the historical average, and this despite another record rainy season with hurricanes of unusual intensity (‘Gustav’, ‘Ike’, and ‘Paloma’).

In the non-intervention region in 2008, disease incidence remained at historical levels, just as in 2007.

The total annual incidence of Leptospirosis was reduced in the intervention region by 84% from 2007 to 2008, while incidence rose in the non-intervention region by 21% – this despite significantly higher risk of disease in the intervention region.

The authors of the study considered numerous variables outside of the homeopathic intervention which may have influenced the disease trends, but all were shown to be statistically non-significant: “Taken together, these facts suggest that the [homeopathic prophylaxis] intervention in the [intervention region] was the main factor causing a significant reduction in Leptospirosis incidence.”

The study was conducted at the Finlay Institute, which is Cuba’s national medical research institute and a World Health Organization recognized research facility. The institute is primarily involved with study of conventional medicine but also has a small homeopathic arm.

Since 1998, scientists at Finlay have manufactured the world’s only commercially available trivalent conventional vaccine for Leptospirosis – “vaxSpiral”. This product takes almost one year to make, costs the Cuban government $3M dollars and covers about 800,000 of its citizens (leaving a large percentage of high-risk population un-protected).

By contrast the homeopathic vaccine product was manufactured within one week at a cost of $200,000 and covered 2.3 million people. This means the homeopathic product cost around 2% of the conventional vaccine.

The fact that homeopathic prophylactic medicines can be manufactured so quickly has significant medical implications – making it possible to create vaccines in real-time using the exact strain of annual infectious organisms as they emerge (something not possible in conventional vaccine manufacture and a common cause of vaccine failure – in influenza, for example).

None of this invalidates the use of conventional vaccinations, most of which have a demonstrated record of effectiveness, but it does present a potential lifesaving opportunity for developing countries that lack resources to either purchase the conventional vaccine and/or administer it to their populations. And if replicated sufficiently in further studies and shown to be reliable, homeopathic immunization could potentially offer great benefit to the developed world as well.(though don’t hold your breath on NIH being eager to investigate anytime soon).

Which brings up the unfortunate side of this story – the fact that none of the prominent conventional medical journals would publish it.

Homeopathy editor Peter Fisher, had this to say in an accompanying editorial, “It is hard to imagine that such an impressive study of a conventional medicine or vaccine would not be published in a major medical journal, especially given the sample size of 2.3 million subjects.”

But we don’t need to imagine, since the authors of this study have indeed had their work in the conventional medical field consistently published in prominent journals. Lead author Gustavo Bracho and investigators Jorge Menendez, Luis Garcia, Rosa Solis, and Concepcion Campa have published dozens of papers in journals such as Science, Vaccine, Human Vaccines, Expert Review of Vaccines, Infection and Immunity, The International Journal of Medical Microbiology, and Immunology and Cell Biology

This sort of “all evidence is equal but some evidence is more equal than others” attitude is a fact most in the homeopathic community have unfortunately grown accustomed to.

Nevertheless, it is a good day for homeopathy and for those willing to listen.

UPDATE (2013) Since the writing of this article, Cuban health officials broadened the administration of  homeopathic Leptospirosis prophylaxis to the entire population, with the result that the disease is nearly eradicated (so much that the product is no longer routinely given). Additionally, use of homeopathy as a public health measure has been expanded to include other epidemic conditions such as dengue fever, ‘swine’ flu, Hepatitis A, and conjunctivitis – all of which have been successfully treated (though results are not yet published).

References
1. Bracho G et al, Large scale application of highly-diluted bacteria for Leptospirosis epidemic control. Homeopathy 2010 Jul;99(3): 156-66
2. Pappas G, Papadimitriou P, Siozopoulou V, Christou L, Akritidis N. The globalization of leptospirosis: worldwide incidence trends. Int J Infect Dis 2008; 12(4): 351-357.
3. Vijayachari P, Sugunan AP, Shriram AN, Leptospirosis: an emerging global public health problem. J Biosci 2008; 33(4): 557-569.
4. Cruz LS, Vargas R, Lopes AA. Leptospriosis: a worldwide resurgent zoonosis and important cause of acute renal failure and death in developing nations. Ethn Dis 2009; 19(1 Suppl 1). S1-S37-S41.

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