Thursday, May 31, 2007

The clash of medical systems

In the context of the double dose of chikungunya and dengue in Kerala ,there has been an ongoing debate on the merits or demerits of homeopathy vaccinations for the same.Most practitioners of modern medicine would find it extremely difficult to believe that these homeopathic preparations have any real prophylactic benefit.For one, I am not aware of any kind of controlled studies in this field .In fact one of the major faults of the system of homeopathy is this very lack of documentation. Many of the conditions in which homeopathy apparently produces dramatic cures are conditions having natural remissions after a course of time. I mean why is that conditions which do not have a definite cure in allopathy and are not self- subsiding, have no effective homeo cure? Say for example HIV infections ?If as homeopaths say ‘we treat the patient as a whole ,based on his /her symptoms’ ,then can’t you treat HIV infections too? Or for that matter cancers?
The very theory that extreme dilutions of toxic products like arsenic can be used to cure disease sounds a bit improbable.( Things like arsenic have been used effectively for various diseases in the past at higher doses ,but this practice has been stopped because of it’s toxicity ) In fact the whole issue has been put rather simply by a US FDA statement regarding the safety of homeo medication –The United States Food & Drug Administration considers that there is no real concern over the safety of most homeopathic products "because they have little or no pharmacologically active ingredients".( )

There are good aspects of every specialty and an active, constructive interaction might help all systems of medicine ,but the basic problem is modern medicine stresses on meticulous documentation of clinical evidence, while homeopathy largely ignores this basic scientific principle.After the initial works on the Materia Medica by Hahnemann and later Kent , modern homepathy has shown very little original research .All you have to do is compare the average number of scientific papers bought out by the respective systems in recent times ( Though I admit ,the concept of healing goes far beyond documentation on paper ).Surprisingly the most elaborate study on the effectiveness of homeo medications in recent times was the famous Lancet study (Lancet ,Aug 2005 ) ,which was contested by a number of homepathic researchers.What is not commonly known is that there have been a number of other ‘evidence based medicine’ studies in relation to the efficacy of homeo medication in specific diseases in recent times ,all of which have shown results that are rather unflattering to homeopathy . ( /reviews ).Actually if homeopaths really want to end the criticism of their system , they should conduct more controlled studies to prove the validity of their treatment modalities.It would be nice if they at least tone down their claims before coming out with reproducible evidence.Will the homeopaths who are promoting these ‘vaccines’ be brave enough to be inoculated with the chikungunya virus after taking the vaccines themselves ?(There will be the valid counter argument that can modern medicine practioners risk inoculation with something like the small pox virus after taking a vaccination ?Maybe not, but the point is that virtually every single modern drug or vaccine which comes out into the market has gone through extensive animal and human trials.In spite of this there are unexpected side effects ,like the recent Valdecoxib issue.So how can you justify mass treating people with a drug which has simply not been used for a condition before? Morover most modern medicine practitioners don’t go about claiming miraculous success for even established medicines ).
Like Shakepeare wrote in Hamlet “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.So maybe there are hidden ways in which homeopathy works ,which is beyond the comprehension of modern medicine.However if that be the case ,then it’s time that homeopaths thought of proceeding in a more scientific way with their system.If you think a medicine can work for a disease ,prove it first in a scientific manner ,try to find how exactly it works and then share it with the world.,instead of obstinately sticking to your claims without backing it up properly.Modern medicine is far from perfect but at least whatever is there, is out in the open.Any detail regarding any effect or side effect of a drug or disease is freely available on the net.
It is futile to argue on the relative merits of alternative systems of medicine vis-a vis modern medicine.Instead it is time that various groups put their heads together in a scienific manner ,to make the best of what each system has to offer .

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