Friday, 27 March 2015

PSA (Professional Standards Agency) and ASA (Advertising Standards Authority). The position of ARH.

This article was first published in ARH's journal, 'Homeopathy in Practice' in 2014
                                   It was written by Karin Mont, Chair of ARH.
According to a recent report in the Economist (13-19 September 2014) online advertising accounts for roughly one quarter of the total global advertising business. The online purchases we make are being invisibly tracked and monitored, and the results are used to build a personal profile which covers every aspect of our lives, from where we live, to our preferred choice of bathroom tissue. Most of us are oblivious to the scale of this surveillance, but the fact is that online tracking is now commonplace and anonymity is no longer an option. We may like to think that the Internet has opened up international markets, thereby providing us with greater choice, but this comes at a price. For example, someone seeking personal accident insurance may be refused cover because invisible tracking has identified them as showing an interest in skydiving! Or someone seeking employment may be unfairly discriminated against as a result of information acquired through covertly tracking their social networking activities. We are probably realistic enough to expect advertising to be manipulative, but we may be over confident in our belief that we can make informed choices on most aspects of our life. How many of us are really aware of the influence which invisible surveillance exerts on our everyday life? We think we are in the driving seat, yet much of our perceived freedom is actually being controlled by a range of unseen, ‘external’ forces.
If we combine the surveillance gathering of the advertising industry together with that of the security forces tasked with protecting us, we can see that individual autonomy has already been compromised, and we have far less control over our lives than we realise. This may be an inevitable consequence of our increasing dependence upon sophisticated technology, and perhaps we will just have to learn to live with the results. However, surveillance is not the only tool used to manipulate and control our daily activities. Regulation, which is seen as an effective way to protect us from harm, operates in so many areas of life that we take it for granted. It is easy to forget the extent to which regulation influences everything we do.
During the build-up to the Scottish referendum, a number of ‘yes’ campaigners cited freedom as their reason for seeking independence from England. The exact nature of the freedom being sought was never properly explored, but presumably the term was being loosely used to indicate political and personal autonomy. At its most idealistic, freedom represents the fundamental right of an individual to determine the course of their life, and to think, act and speak without the imposition of external influences. However, in reality, our individual freedom will always be influenced by the environment in which we live. Laws, rules and regulations form the basis upon which our society functions, which is perfectly acceptable as long as the laws are fair, just and promote the common good. However, over the last couple of decades, we have witnessed a huge increase in the powers conferred to the regulation industry. We are told that regulation is there to offer us protection, but it frequently fails to deliver on this promise, as demonstrated by numerous high profile examples. For instance, we have witnessed the collapse of our global banking system, identified inexcusable systemic failures within our policing system, which have resulted in the exploitation of thousands of children going unreported for years, and patients dependent upon a range of NHS services have experienced consistent neglect and abuse. 
These are all areas where statutory regulation has been in place for many years and where it has indisputably failed to protect the public. Regulation can also be used as a tool to promote a particular agenda, or pro- tect vested interests. The activities of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), when investigating complaints made against homeopaths and other CAM practitioners, provide a classic example of regulation being misused, in order to promote a particular agenda.
The ARH has given serious consideration to applying for accreditation of our register (AVR) via the Professional Standards Authority (PSA). Last year we attended a special PSA workshop dedicated to exploring and understanding the implications of becoming an accredited register, and we studied the PSA standards in depth. Our conclusion was that we already have quality standards in place, which we consider to be proportionate to the potential risk posed to the public when consulting with a registered homeopath. We found it difficult to identify any actual (as opposed to hypothetical) benefits which AVR might confer. We have (for example) National Occupational Standards for Homeopathy (NOSs), which describe the practice of homeopathy according to clearly defined criteria. These standards, which meet the requirements generally considered necessary to uphold the principles of best practice, have been used to inform how we regulate our profession for over ten years. We believe that quality practice results from standards which are profession specific, and which change as a profession evolves. However, standards which pertain specifically to a particular profession, such as homeopathy, fall outside of the remit of the PSA, whose only concern is to uphold generic standards which can be applied across the spectrum, to all the health professions it regulates. Normally, this single focus might not matter, but the PSA is so keen to prove its credentials as a ‘robust’ regulator, that it appears to have taken on board every spurious ‘concern’ voiced by Sense About Science (SAS), and other anti-CAM vigilantes.
The PSA has granted accreditation to 13 voluntary registers since March 2013. Each register has to satisfy the PSA Accreditation Panel that they meet the 11 core standards set by the PSA, and have processes in place to ensure that all registrants are compliant with these standards. The Panel then produces a report which considers each individual application in detail, highlighting areas where they consider improvements should be made, or specific actions taken. All the Panel reports can be viewed on the PSA website, under the heading ‘Accredited Voluntary Register Panel Decisions’.
Last year, the Society of Homeopaths (SoH) announced their intention to apply for AVR. Their application was successful, and the SoH was granted AVR in September 2014. Now they are obliged to comply with, and implement, the PSA requirements, as outlined in a 20-page report. Signing up to the establishment model of regulation comes at a price. Registered members of the SoH are not allowed to use their AVR status to promote homeopathy as a system of medicine which actually works!
I have studied the reports relating to the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), the Complementary and Natural Health Council (CNHC) and, most recently, the SoH, and they make unsettling reading. The PSA’s sole function is to scrutinise and analyse the performance of each register, to ensure that the register can demonstrate its commitment to protecting the public from harm. In terms of ‘public protection’ the PSA’s primary objective could be regarded as misleading, because it only accredits the register, not individual practitioners. However, the AVR logo is displayed by registrants, and they have only been accredited by their register. I appreciate that this is a practical approach, but it seems to take us back to square one, where the register is self-regulating, as it was in the first place! It is perfectly reasonable to expect to receive safe and effective treatment delivered by a competent practitioner, but those standards already apply to the homeopathy profession. Regulation cannot guarantee our protection; it is impossible to regulate against human error, or to anticipate the perverted actions of those who set out to deliberately harm the sick and vulnerable, so it is difficult to see the quantifiable advantages of AVR.
When a register first applies for accreditation, the PSA circulates a ‘call for information’, asking for comments and feedback about the applicant. The PSA received 18 responses to their call for information about the SoH’s application, only two of which were positive. This means the majority of responses were probably made by SAS ‘vigilantes’, and their distorted perspective of the nature of homeopathy is reflected throughout the PSA Panel’s 20-page report.
For example, several ‘learning points’ were identified, which will be re-evaluated when the SoH’s accreditation is reviewed next September. They have been asked to provide their members with guidance about sourcing medicines from correctly authorised suppliers only. Surely the majority of practitioners are caring and responsible enough to do that anyway? Furthermore, what evidence is there to suggest that any patient has suffered harm as a result of being prescribed a homeopathic medicine from an unlicensed source? Is it actually possible to monitor and control how members access their medicines, and what happens if a member does source an unauthorised product? Other recommendations include the establishment of a risk register, to record and manage any risks associated with the practice of homeopathy, and finding ways in which to support people who want to make a complaint against a registrant, but are unable to do so in writing. Risk management and complaints procedures are explored at length in all the Panel reports I have read, and some of the recommendations made seem so disproportionate I wonder what a human rights lawyer would make of them. But there is more to cause concern.
Most alarmingly, one ‘call for information’ argued that homeopathy has no evidence base, so therefore does not constitute a health care occupation. The Panel responded to this point by noting that their role is to confirm if their accreditation standards have been met, not to determine the efficacy of a particular therapy. The PSA go on to specifically instruct the SoH to ensure that they only communicate their accredited status in relation to their voluntary register. They must not present accreditation as ‘support for the efficacy of homeopathy’. This would seem to imply that a homeopath registered with the SoH can only use the much-vaunted AVR logo if they refrain from claiming that homeopathy works, or that patients get better following homeopathic treatment! Surely, if this is the case, AVR represents a total betrayal of our profession? Are practitioners expected to deny homeopathy, simply to gain the right to use a logo?
SoH members will be expected to comply with ASA rulings on marketing and promotional materials, and the SoH will check members’ websites at random, to offer advice / support if they consider a website to be in breach of the CAP Code. It is not clear what sanctions would be taken against a member who refused to make changes to a non-compliant website. What is clear is that the SoH will not be in a position to support a member who chooses to challenge an ASA ruling. So even if a website is legal, decent, truthful and honest, and contains correct information about homeopathy, including references to quality research, if the ASA considers the CAP Code has been breached, the website must be changed or the member may face a disciplinary hearing.
The SAS vigilantes have already announced their intention to inundate the SoH with fabricated complaints and, now that they have AVR, the SoH will be obliged to investigate each complaint according to the protocols described in their AVR application. If this does happen, the SoH will have to focus time and resources on implementing a set of standards which have been heavily influenced by the personal views of the homeopathy detractors. I believe that the SoH are no longer in the driving seat, nor indeed are the PSA. The hands on the wheel have ‘SAS & Co’ written all over them, so SoH members better prepare themselves for a bumpy ride.
I would like to believe that, as homeopaths, we are the custodians of a complex, finely balanced discipline. We have a duty of care to ensure we preserve the integrity of homeopathy, complete with all its nuances, for the ongoing benefit of our patients. AVR appears to be an antithesis to this view, and the ARH will not be applying for PSA accreditation in its current form. We consider it to be more important than ever to remain independent, and continue our quest to see homeopathy recognised and valued according to its own unique merits.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Seven good reasons why Homeopathy should not experiment on animals

This article first appeared in ARH's journal, Homeopathy in practice Autumn/Winter 2014

Doing harm in homeopathy

Seven good reasons why we should not experiment on animals
by Delny Britton, RSHom

Delny Britton studied at the British School of Homœopathy and the Dynamis School and has been
in practice for 11 years. She has a particular interest in sustainable healthcare and is a long-standing advocate for the protection of the environment and animal welfare. With a background in environmental science and journalism, Delny has worked internationally on river and wetland restoration projects and written for television and numerous publications, including the Times Literary Supplement and the Ecologist. She has degrees in botany, hydro- biology and zoology, including a PhD from Cape Town University.

"I have written this article to bring to the attention of the homeopathic community an ethical issue I feel strongly about; it’s one I suspect others feel strongly about too. While the ethical dimension remains the main driver for change I believe this is not the only reason why experimenting on animals does homeopathy a disservice. In this article I explain why it’s time to stop causing harm to animals in the name of homeopathy and to concentrate instead on forms of research that are more useful in practice, can benefit humanity and promote the therapy we know and love".

Ask most homeopaths what they think about the use of animals in homeopathic research and they assume you mean veterinary research, based on the care of farm or companion animals. The idea of it involving artificially induced conditions in frightened laboratory animals does not naturally spring to mind – and why would it, given the safe, non-violent nature of homeopathy itself? This type of research, however, has been going on quietly in the background for years and now appears to be on the rise worldwide. In a long-overdue examination of an important ethical issue here are seven good reasons why research into homeopathy should not involve experimentation on animals.

Reason 1: It involves suffering, often severe 
Animal experimentation within the field of homeopathy has taken place for many decades. Today it is going on in universities and research centres throughout Europe, in India, South America, Australia and the Middle East (Iran, Israel), with Brazil, India and Italy particularly well represented in English-language journals. Databases such as HomBRex and PubMed / MED-LINE contain the details of studies involving animals of all descriptions (such as mice, rats, toads, eels, guinea pigs, non-human primates) and a wide variety of conditions, most of them acute in nature. In the majority of these studies the ‘diseases’ and conditions of interest were artificially induced first in the experimental animals. Then one or two (occasionally several) remedies were given to the animals to study their effects on the induced condition.

The methodology used to make healthy experimental animals ill has been borrowed from mainstream biomedical research. So you will read about 

  • inflammatory states produced by injecting animals with substances like carrageenan to promote pain and swelling (Conforti et al, 2007); 
  • artificial diabetes created by means of alloxan (Kumar & Nayak, 2008); 
  • convulsions induced by strychnine (Alecu et al, 2010); 
  • nerve damage simulated by severing sciatic nerves (Mohammadi et al, 2012); 
  • sepsis created by puncturing intestines (Oberbaum et al, 2011); 
  • stress and anxiety enhanced by repeated electric shocks (Bousta et al, 2001), 
  • or forced swimming tests (Pinto et al, 2008), 
  • or sleep deprivation (Zubedat et al, 2013), 
  • or the use of medieval-style restraints (Dos Santos et al, 2007) and so on. 
You will find studies of bone fractures where limbs are broken mechanically (Alecu et al, 2010), or burns where the skin is scalded or irradiated (Alecu et al, 2010, Bildet et al, 1990), or infections with deadly diseases (de Almeida et al, 2008), or poisoning by mercury (Datta et al, 2004), arsenic (Banerjee et al, 2008), snake venom (D’Aprile, 2013) etc. 

Even the notorious writhe test, strongly discouraged on welfare grounds by pharmacologists (see, for example, Gawade, 2012), has made an appearance in homeopathic research in the study of inflammation (Dos Santos et al, 2007). It involves injecting mice intraperitoneally with irritant substances like acetic acid and counting the number of times they writhe in pain, with or without treatment with anti-inflammatory medicines. Freund’s adjuvant – discouraged because of the severe inflammation and tissue necrosis it causes, often leading to self-mutilation – has also been used (Patel et al, 2012; Sarkar et al, 2014). 

All these experiments cause harm and suffering, often severe, and all animals with the exception of non-human primates are killed (‘sacrificed’) at the end of the experiment.

In one particularly disturbing Brazilian study 12 capuchin monkeys were poisoned with cyclo- phosphamide (CP), a carcinogenic drug used to treat cancer in humans, to see whether a patented homeopathic combination remedy called Canova could mitigate the drug’s devastating effects on the immune system (Leal et al, 2012). Physical restraint (squeeze cages) and chemical restraint (ketamine) were used on a daily basis in order to weigh the animals and take blood samples from their femoral veins. All CP-treated animals became ill – two so seriously that they had to be destroyed before the end of the experiment. A post-mortem listed ulcerative lesions of the gastro- intestinal tract, herpetic lesions of the mouth and skin, haemorrhagic cystitis and renal damage amongst other findings.

While welfare concerns inevitably focus on the experiment itself we should remember that it’s not just the invasive procedures lab animals are subjected to that cause distress. Experimental animals great and small experience fear more than anything else – pain included (Morton, 2013). Thus heart rates, blood pressure and stress hormones rise in response to routine laboratory procedures such as handling and blood sampling and feeding through a tube (Balcombe et al, 2004). Barren living conditions can result in boredom and depression which, in turn, lead to repetitive and uniform movements and even self- mutilation (Wemelsfelder, 1994). In the CP experiment the 12 monkeys were confined in individual cages for 50 days before the 40-day experiment even began – a deeply stressful experience for such highly social animals. We know that distressed animals generate unreliable information (Osborne, 2011) so how can research that causes unusual behaviour and physiology ever be considered good science? The short answer is, it can’t.

Reason 2: It’s unethical
It is hard to reconcile much of the methodology mentioned above with homeopathy, a non-violent, safe and progressive system of medicine that evolved in response to the harmful medical practices of the day. But these experiments – sometimes bafflingly referred to as ‘pre-clinical research’ – are taking place as you read this article. They are being approved by ethics committees, presented at conferences and published in journals. It is important to note at this point that it is almost exclusively mainstream university researchers – rather than homeopaths – that are involved in this work, a fact that has important consequences for the nature of the research and its relevance to the practice of homeopathy (see Reason 4).

Scientific journals have an important role to play in ensuring the research they publish gives full consideration to animal welfare and ethical issues, yet currently around 45% of English-language journals that publish animal research have no ethical policies on animal use, while 19% simply ask that research is conducted according to relevant laws or institutional guidelines (Osborne, 2011). 

These can vary a lot in both the level of detail and the standards required, and often do not reflect best practice which now requires researchers to question whether the work actually justifies the use of animals and whether alternatives could be used instead (see Reason 6). So merely citing guidelines does little to ensure that a robust ethical review has taken place or that alternatives to animals have been thoroughly investigated.

When you combine weak animal welfare legislation with weak journal publication policies that don’t reflect best practice in animal research you encourage work of dubious ethical quality, like that involving the writhe test described earlier, or Freund’s adjuvant, or non-human primates. You also encourage bad science. The findings of the CP study, for example, are completely invalidated by a small sample size. Twelve animals, assigned to three treatment groups, were used in this experiment – effectively too small a number for the results to have any statistical power (particularly as two of them died). So even though the researchers concluded that Canova protects against DNA damage and damage to white blood cells, these conclusions are unsupported. An effective ethics committee would 
never give the green light to a study involving animals that was doomed to scientific failure, nor one involving non-human primates unless under very exceptional circumstances, nor one where alternative testing methods existed. And a journal editor working to a clear and robust ethical policy on animal research would have rejected the work for similar reasons.

This is just one of many examples that demonstrate how weak standards do nothing to foster high-quality, innovative research or encourage a shift away from animal models towards more scientifically relevant and ethical testing methodologies (see Reason 7). They encourage instead the kind of projects that do not require time-consuming enquiry and evidence gathering – work that cannot hope to address the burning questions that need answering within homeopathy. So more and more work is done, much of it ‘generally adequate’ (Bonamin & Endler, 2010) rather than outstanding in quality, and more and more research papers follow the multitudes of other such publications into the ever-expanding cyber- vaults of electronic databases.

Researchers often fail to meet even basic legal or institutional requirements on animal welfare. We know this from numerous ex-posés of work carried out at top UK research institutions (the breaches of animal experiment licences at Imperial College in 2013, for example), which gives little confidence that the same behaviour is not occurring in other parts of the world and within basic homeopathic research. One standard requirement of virtually all welfare guidelines that is never followed by homeopathic researchers (for fear of interfering with the experiment) is the provision of appropriate analgesia or sedation to relieve pain and distress. Thus control group rats in one of the Freund’s adjuvant studies were left for three weeks whilst arthritic lesions in their feet became progressively more severe and painful. No pain relief was given because this would have invalidated the experiment. Had the 12 monkeys in the CP experiment received the same standard treatment given to human patients undergoing CP therapy, their suffering would have been alleviated somewhat by anti- inflammatories, anti-nausea drugs and intravenous fluid via a drip. Instead, all that two of them received was euthanasia.

Ultimately what really brings home the unethical nature of much of this research are the insights that homeopathy has given us into the inner worlds of animals and their spiritual dimensions. Through our provings we have come to recog- nise the capacity of all kinds of species to experience joy, fear, grief, frustration and more (read, for example, some of the provings in Nancy Herrick’s Animal Mind, Human Voices). We cannot plead ignorance of this, or of the ability of animals to suffer in much the same way we do, and with this knowledge comes a moral duty to do all we can not to add to this suffering.

"Humankind’s greatest goal, which outweighs the lengthening of life through medical advancements, is to evolve spiritually and (that), in order to do this, there is a need for us as a species to learn to think of other beings as ends, rather than means.
(David O. Wiebers, Emeritus Professor of Neurology, 1994).

Reason 3: It’s not getting us anywhere
We do research into homeopathy for three main reasons: to add to the evidence base; to determine mode of action; and to improve clinical care for our patients.

As far as the evidence base is concerned, sceptics say there IS no evidence for homeopathy. This is not true of course but, while many randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of homeopathy have been carried out – with 44% showing a balance of positive evidence (a comparable percentage to trials of conventional medicine) – less than a third actually reflect real-life homeopathic practice, i.e. classical, individualised homeopathy (British Homeopathic Association, 2014). It is hard to shoehorn a complex and holistic therapy like homeopathy into the confines of an RCT and doing so tends to turn trials of homeopathy into efficacy trials of a single remedy, as in conventional, ‘one-size-fits-all’ drugs trials. But ways around such obstacles are being developed; see, for example, the ingenious ‘cohort multiple RCT’ (Relton et al, 2010), clearing the way for clinically relevant trials of homeopathy and, ultimately, additional evidence for its effectiveness.

How do basic animal studies contribute to the homeopathic evidence base? They can (and do) demonstrate biological action and they also disprove the notion that homeopathy is merely placebo. And there are certainly a very large number of them. But there is only so much that can be achieved through basic research. Ultimately lab animal studies represent the weakest evidence for an intervention (Phillips et al, 2009) and no number of them outweigh the findings of even a SINGLE well-conducted human study (Hess, 2004). 

So, if demonstrating the effectiveness of homeopathy is a priority – as researchers say it is – then research efforts clearly need to be focused on clinical trials, either human or veterinary, rather than basic animal research. In Brazil just 3.7% of academic research into homeopathy between 1985 and 2006 involved clinical studies – a staggeringly low proportion (Estrêla and Caetano, 2013). With cancer sufferers in every town and intractable problems with chemotherapeutic drugs, how much more useful would the CP study have been had it involved real-life cancer patients receiving CP as part of their treatment – perhaps at the hospital where one of the researchers was based?

Veterinary research directed at improving the health of animals has yielded positive evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy and practical benefits at the same time – without recourse to harm. A recent study of diarrhoea in piglets carried out in the Netherlands, for example (Camerlink et al, 2010), demonstrates the role homeopathy can play in reducing antibiotic use on farms, while a British study of Cushing’s disease in horses and dogs showed success rates comparable to conventional treatment but without the side- effects, relapse rates and cost (Elliott, 2001). 

Numerous small but valuable studies like these have been carried out over the years but RCTs of veterinary homeopathy remain the holy grail of evidence- building, just 44 of them having been published in peer-reviewed journals by the end of 2013 (British Homeopathic Association, 2014).

Perhaps the greatest spanner in the works as far as gaining acceptance of homeopathy is concerned is the fact that we don’t understand its mode of action. People want to know not only that homeopathy works, but also HOW it works. Researchers using animal models often propose a possible mode of action, for example that the remedies act directly on inflammatory mediators, or on the immune system, or on certain enzyme pathways and so on. These explanations are based on a conventional and materialistic view of the body and in many respects they are half-right. 

As homeopaths, however, we know the situation is significantly more complex than this because our remedies act first and foremost at an energetic level, on the vital force itself. They affect the whole organism, touching the mind and spirit as much as they act on the body. If we want to explain the mode of action it would seem logical to study the energetic qualities of our remedies and the phenomenon of the vital force itself, not simply the physical manifestations of treatment. Homeopathy is not allopathy, it is energy medicine and it requires a completely new approach to research. To quote a wise but unknown author: 

‘If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got’. 

Over the decades countless animals have been experimented on, yet this has brought us no nearer to demonstrating mode of action. It is time for something different – to move out of the tired rut of animal experiments, to be innovative and creative and to embrace new ideas emanating from other fields of science. Translating the results of basic animal studies to real-life situations involving sick humans is an impossible task (see Reason 7), and we know from mainstream medicine that it is clinical research rather than basic research that has the most effect on patient care (Pound and Bracken, 2014). 

As a consequence none of the animal experiments referred to above are likely to be of help to practising homeopaths. Stuart Close, professor of homeopathic philosophy at the New York Medical College from 1909-1913, concluded that

"... nothing of any real therapeutic value has ever been learned by experiment upon animals that could not have been learned better, more simply and more humanely by harmless experiments upon human beings; while the knowledge gained in such experiments on human beings is equally valuable for use in the treatment of sick animals.

The great majority of our patients present with chronic complaints that develop naturally and uniquely, conditions that are influenced by life events, environmental factors, inherited traits and so on that all need to be considered when prescribing. Relatively few patients present with severe poisonings, burns, or artificially induced tumours and, even if they did, they would receive individualised treatment because homeopaths, of course, practise ‘personalised medicine’ (see Reason 7) and prescribe on the totality of the symptoms not the condition itself.

If animal experiments don’t positively influence patient care, don’t add significantly to the evidence base and haven’t brought us any closer to discovering mode of action, then who exactly does benefit from this research and why is it still being done? To boost publication records and academic careers? Out of curiosity? Out of personal bias and habit? Of all the reasons for animal research these are the ones least well tolerated by society, a point explored further in Reason 5.

The process of making animals ill and then treating them with a single remedy appears crude and oversimplified to the homeopath, particularly as the focus is almost always on the physical body and on what happens at the organ or cellular level. (According to the Sensation method [Sankaran, 2004] this information equates to Sankaran’s levels 1 and 2: name and fact.) In focusing on the detail researchers become closed to the possibility that the piece of information they seek may not be needed to solve the clinical problem being addressed. And they can lose the bigger picture entirely. 

The role of the vital force, for example, which ‘governs without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation’, is rarely explored. This is unsurprising given the mainstream view that humans and animals are simply physical beings made of component parts rather than energetic ones capable of existing and experiencing them- selves at many different levels simultaneously (Morrish, 2007). Yet to overlook the vital force when studying homeopathy seems absurd. So too does the one- condition-one-remedy approach and inattention to emotional state (usually fear) unless, of course, it forms part of the experiment. This is not homeopathy. It is a pale and distorted version of the therapy that ultimately does it no favours (see Reasons 3, 5, 6).

Reason 4: It’s not homeopathy
Most basic animal research in homeopathy is geared towards testing the efficacy of a highly diluted medicine rather than the effectiveness of homeopathy itself. The work is heavily influenced by an allopathic approach to disease and treatment and it reflects both the conventional backgrounds of the researchers involved and a lack of training and experience in homeo- pathic prescribing. The remedies used are sometimes patented combinations, the homeopathic rationale for which may be unclear (Canova, for example, contains 17 different remedies, 15 of which are polycrests). More typically they are single polycrests and usually relevant to the condition studied – although this is not always the case. One study used Chamomilla 6c to treat depression in mice induced by housing healthy animals with dying cage mates (Pinto et al, 2008). The researchers concluded from behavioural studies that the remedy ‘hastened the recovery of normal behaviour’ but, as the results did not appear to be statistically significant, this conclusion lacks foundation. From a homeopathic perspective Chamomilla appears a strange choice for the condition studied, but then the researchers in question may not have seen the effects of the remedy on a fractious two-year old cutting teeth.

Reason 5: Public opinion
Public concern about the use of animals in research is a powerful agent for change. It has brought about such things as a complete ban on the testing of cosmetics in Europe and Norway in 2013 (swiftly followed by similar bans in Israel, India and Sao Paulo in Brazil) and has led to the establish- ment of numerous centres around the world researching alternatives to animal testing in toxicology
and medicine.

In 2009 a wide-ranging poll was 
carried out by YouGov in six EU member states (UK, France, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic, Sweden) before the introduction of a new EU directive on the protection of animals in scientific research (Directive 2010/63/EU). The results were highly consistent across the region and are summarised below.

79% of those polled either agreed or strongly agreed that the new law should prohibit all experi- ments on animals which do not relate to serious or life-threatening human conditions, signalling a clear opposition to all non-essential and curiosity-driven research.

84% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that the new law should prohibit all experiments causing severe pain or suffering to any animal, while 80% of those questioned agreed or strongly agreed that all information about animal experiments should be pub- licly available, except confidential information and information that would identify researchers or where they work.

Directive 2010/63/EU, now part of law in all member states, broadly reflects these attitudes and desires. Its emphasis on transparency is expected to have a major influence on the use of animals in scientific research in Europe – and ultimately in other parts of the world.

The directive requires all researchers to produce a short non-technical summary of the work they plan to do with animals. In it they will need to state the unknowns that are being addressed, the predicted harm that will be done to the animals and why alternatives can’t be used. These summaries will be published on national websites that can be accessed by the public. Entering words such as 'homeopathy’ or ‘ultra-high dilution’ and ‘animal model’, for example, into a database search will retrieve information on all relevant studies in that country.

At the time of writing no basic homeopathic research involving animals appears to be taking place in the UK, although British journals continue to provide a platform for this work. In other EU coun- tries researchers are likely to find their work coming under close scrutiny in the coming years, particularly by campaigning organisations. Judging by the response to the YouGov poll it isn’t hard to predict how the public would view harmful experiments on animals that involved safe medicines already tested on humans – and information spreads fast in the digital age. The UK homeopathic community, both practitioners and patients alike, would certainly be unhappy and want clarification on the issue by professional registering bodies and homeopathic pharmacies. The response from those not sympathetic to homeopathy might understandably be stronger ...

Reason 6: It’s quite possibly unlawful (depending on where you’re doing it) Directive 2010/63/EU places strong emphasis on the 3Rs (test methods which replace, refine and reduce the use of laboratory animals) and especially on replacement. The goal of the directive is to achieve full replacement of procedures on live animals for scientific and edu- cational purposes as soon as it is scientifically possible to do so. Article 4 states that: ‘wherever possible, a scientifically satisfactory method or testing strategy, not entailing the use of live animals, shall be used instead of a procedure.’ Within homeopathy it should be easy to comply with the 3Rs requirement and with Article 4 for the obvious reason that our medicines have always been tested on people, not animals.

European researchers who continue to harm animals in the course of homeopathic enquiry may find themselves open to legal challenge by campaigning welfare organisations who will be monitoring the new databases. These organisations would refer to the harm / benefit test now required by EU law and argue that the predicted harm would not be justified by the expected outcome (see Reason 3). They would also argue that homeopathic medicines have been around for a long time, a lot is already known about them from human studies and there is no legal requirement to test them on animals prior to using them on humans. They would cite the many alternatives (humans, plant bioassays, in vitro tests) that exist, and their case would be strong.

Outside Europe, in countries with weaker legislation, there is even wider scope for harm. India
is harmonising animal welfare law with EU legislation but doubts exist over how practical these frameworks are and how seriously the government takes their enforcement (Akbarsha MA and Hartung 
T, 2013). 

In Brazil law-makers have worked hard to overhaul 1987 welfare rules governing the use of animals in scientific research, yet the new 2008 legislation has numerous significant omissions, for example it fails to refer to or place emphasis on the 3Rs, has no severity classification system for procedures and does not even require research to be designed with consideration for its relevance to human and animal health, the advancement of knowledge or the good of society (Filipecki et al, 2011). It thus falls to the National Council for the Control of Animal Experimentation to develop strategies to improve regulations and to positively influence both animal welfare and the ingrained culture of animal experimentation in the country. This could take many years.

Reason 7: It’s not necessary
Mainstream medicine has built its foundations on animal research, yet these are looking increasingly shaky as scientists begin to evaluate evidence for the reliability and success of animal models in predicting effects in humans. A recent article in the BMJ highlighted the fact that even the most promising findings from animal research often fail in human trials and are rarely adopted into clinical practice (Pound and Bracken, 2014). The authors concluded that the benefits of animal research remain un- proven and may divert funds from research that would be more rele- vant to doctors and their patients.

Elsewhere an open letter from 21 scientists to Prime Minister David Cameron stressed the dangers of relying on animal models when testing drugs intended for humans and emphasised the need for greater use of human-based test methods (Archibald et al, 2011). Increasingly such methods are com- ing online, ranging from sophisticated computer programmes that can detect toxicity in minutes rather than months of animal testing, to in vitro models that simulate whole organs and organ systems. Thus mainstream biomedical research appears to be moving away from animal models, albeit slowly, driven by public opinion, the need to reduce the incidence of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and the cost and time required to bring a new drug to market.

The great irony (that won’t be lost on practising homeopaths) is that two of the latest testing tech- nologies suggest this movement is towards a rudimentary form of homeopathy. 

One method is ‘micro-dosing’, which involves giving human volunteers tiny doses of a potential drug at levels high enough to allow scientists to see its effects in the body but not high enough to cause harm. 

The second is ‘personalised medicine’, in which scientists obtain genetic and molecular information from a person in order to predict how they will react to a certain drug. The aim of this is to make treatment more targeted and effective and to reduce the number of ADRs.

ADRs of course have never been a stumbling block for homeopathy. The safety of our medicines has allowed experimentation on large numbers of consenting men and women of all ages and ethnicities, each of whom has been able to communicate their reactions and experiences, whether physical, mental or emotional. Over the decades this non-harmful, human-based research has led to the development of a rich, multi-dimensional and valuable homeopathic materia medica tailor-made for ‘personalised medicine’, and to a greater understanding of the nature of health and disease. As Close observed almost a century ago: 

‘Experiments of homoeopathy are made by men, upon men, for men under the natural conditions which belong to the everyday life of all men’ (Close, 1924). 

It comes as another ironic twist then to see homeopathic research move away from humans as the primary research subjects and towards genetically identical laboratory animals maintained in carefully controlled environments.

If all animal experimentation were to be banned tomorrow, then research into homeopathy would be more likely to thrive than to suffer. The focus would shift easily towards humans – both healthy and sick; to sick animals, to well-trialled plant bioassays and in vitro tests. Funding would be reassigned and progress towards a large, high-quality evidence-base accelerated. We could take full and confident advantage of the safety of homeopathic medicines – downplayed by an allopathic approach to homeopathic research – and, perhaps most importantly, research would fully reflect the ethical principles and innovative thinking that led to homeopathy’s birth.

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force itself. They affect the whole organism, touching the mind and spirit as much as they act on the body. If we want to explain the mode of action it would seem logical to study the energetic qualities of our remedies and the phenomenon of the vital force itself, not simply the physical manifestations of treatment. Homeopathy is not allopathy, it is energy medicine and it requires a completely new approach to research. To quote a wise but unknown author: ‘If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got’. Over the decades



Monday, 23 March 2015

Cataracts. A miracle, or just homeopathy in practice?

This blog has been provided by Christina Villacorta, after she shared it with the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths. Many many thanks to her for allowing me to share the story, which is quite amazing.

 I would like to add a little anecdote to the cataract topic, I know it is a guinea pig, nevertheless I find it interesting!

Last year, I was treating Punky, my guinea pig, for some fat lumps under his belly. The only reason I did it was because they were big enough to bother him, one was close to his leg and it was very big. My daughters asked me several time to give him something but I have to say I do not feel comfortable prescribing for animals, they don't say much! 

Anyway, I gave him some therapeutic remedies with great success and the girls were happy and so was I.  

Now, soon after, my daughter held the guinea pig and she called me, very distressed, the poor thing had a white eye!!! It was quite thick and blue looking so I explained he had a cataract, he was old and it happens. 

Again they ask me to give something to this poor thing but I know cataracts can be tricky to treat and I have not heard of much success. I have never treated one myself but .... I had nothing to loose. So I went to old Clark prescriber and looked under cataracts: 

"........ later stages Silic, Calc fluorica 30-200 followed by Sulphur 200c 
one dose per week for 2 weeks and repeat....  Many cataracts will recede under this treatment." 

Having nothing better to go for, I put a Calc-fluor 30 in his drinking bottle and forgot about it. About a week after, I was called again by my daughter who was holding the guinea pig and she was shocked, but so was I!

The cataract was nearly gone, I would say 90%! 

I still gave him the Sulphur for a couple of weeks and the cataract never came back! This is nearly a year after.

I do not know what to think. It is one of this miracles that we see with homoeopathy and I wish it would have happened with a patient but I have never treated anyone for that. But Punky is happy and so my daughters. It was truly amazing to see what therapeutics can do even without treating the totality.

I share Christina's view. Homeopathy does sometimes work miracles. But of course it is not a miracle at all. When treatment is based on sound homeopathic principles, whether we treat humans, animals or plants, healing and cure take place. Why else are we all doing it?