Scientists from the University of Southampton have found evidence suggesting that homeopathic consultations -- but not homeopathic remedies -- are associated with clinically relevant benefits for patients with active but relatively stable rheumatoid arthritis.
In a study published in the journal Rheumatology, the researchers found that arthritis patients significantly benefited when they received homeopathy alongside conventional treatment over a period of 6 months, but this improvement was due to homeopathy's consultation process and not its remedies.
"Although previous trials have shown homeopathy may help patients with rheumatoid arthritis, this is the first time that we have scientific evidence that these benefits are specifically due to its unique consultation process," comments lead author Dr. Sarah Brien, a senior research fellow in complementary medicine at the University of Southampton.
"Homeopathic consultations differ from those in conventional medicine in that homeopaths focus on treating the patient, whereas conventional doctors tend to treat the illness. The homeopathic consultation process improves the health of these arthritis patients based on standard rheumatology measurements and does so safely and without side effects.
"What we don't yet know is if it is possible to introduce some of the techniques or approaches used within these consultations into conventional medicine."
Researchers recruited 83 people with rheumatoid arthritis from clinics in Southampton, Poole and Winchester for the study. Each patient received a series of homeopathy consultations over a 24-week period between January 2006 and July 2008, while continuing their conventional treatment. Patients and doctors reported significant reductions in a variety of symptoms including reduced 'disease activity scores', fewer swollen joints, reduced pain and improved mood.
The team now plans to conduct more research into identifying which elements of the consultation process are most beneficial and if homeopathy is a cost-effective treatment.
- S. Brien, L. Lachance, P. Prescott, C. McDermott, G. Lewith. Homeopathy has clinical benefits in rheumatoid arthritis patients that are attributable to the consultation process but not the homeopathic remedy: a randomized controlled clinical trial. Rheumatology, 2010; DOI: 10.1093/rheumatology/keq234
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