Homeopathy for chronic asthma

Homeopathy is a complementary healing system based on "curing like with like". It involves greatly diluting substances (potentising) which ordinarily may or may not cause symptoms, in order to strengthen the body's own healing response to a problem. Homeopathic remedies (potencies) aim to minimise the risk of adverse effects. There are different types that may be used for asthma, such as classical homeopathy (tailored to an individual's symptoms) or isopathy (for example using a dilution of an agent that causes an allergy, such as pollen). The review of trials found that the type of homeopathy varied between the studies, that the study designs used in the trials were varied and that no strong evidence existed that usual forms of homeopathy for asthma are effective. There has been only a limited attempt to measure a 'package of care' effect (i.e., the effect of the medication as well as the consultation, which is considered a vital part of individualised homeopathic practice). Until stronger evidence exists for the use of homeopathy in the treatment of asthma, we are unable to make recommendations about homeopathic treatment.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is not enough evidence to reliably assess the possible role of homeopathy in asthma. As well as randomised trials, there is a need for observational data to document the different methods of homeopathic prescribing and how patients respond. This will help to establish to what extent people respond to a 'package of care' rather than the homeopathic intervention alone.

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Background: 

Homeopathy involves the use, in dilution, of substances which cause symptoms in their undiluted form. It is one of the most widespread forms of complementary medicines and is also used to treat asthma.

Objectives: 

The objective of this review was to assess the effects of homeopathy in people with chronic stable asthma.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Airways Group Specialised Register of trials. Searches were current as of August 2007.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised trials of homeopathy for the treatment of stable chronic asthma, with observation periods of at least one week were included.

Data collection and analysis: 

Data extraction was undertaken by two reviewers. Trial quality was assessed by the reviewers.

Main results: 

Six trials with a total of 556 people were included. These trials were all placebo-controlled and double-blind, but of variable quality. They used different homeopathic treatments which precluded quantitative pooling of results for the primary outcome. Standardised treatments in these trials are unlikely to represent common homeopathic practice, where treatment tends to be individualised. No trial reported a significant difference on validated symptom scales. There were conflicting results in terms of lung function between the studies. There has been only a limited attempt to measure a 'package of care' effect (i.e., the effect of the medication as well as the consultation, which is considered a vital part of individualised homeopathic practice). An update search in August 2005 did not identify any new studies.

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