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Research Study Arthritis and Homoeopathy

by Dr Michel van Wassenhoven(more info)

listed in arthritis, originally published in issue 17 - January 1997

Background Information

Dr Wassenhoven writes that thousands of individual cases have been published by homoeopathic physicians, many of these spectacular cases with noteworthy outcomes. He cautions that individual cases will never constitute a satisfactory evaluation of the effectiveness of homoeopathy in daily practice. He states that rigorous, incontestable scientific evaluation of homoeopathy must be achieved through open or blind prospective studies; however the requirement for individualisation in each individual case, necessary for correct homoeopathic practice, makes such studies difficult to design and conduct. He states that retrospective studies may be considered a first step towards the evaluation and improvement of homoeopathic practice, which can enable the identification of the correct criteria to be chosen as well as suitable practitioners to conduct the studies.

Dr Wassenhoven decided to attempt such a retrospective study, with some 20 years' experience in general medicine, 15 years in homoeopathy, and having computerised his patient files over ten years (3,555 patient files). His computer system enabled him to search for diagnosis as well as other criteria such as the prescription of a particular medicine, score of the homoeopathic repertorisation made, etc.

Materials and Methods

From 3,555 patient files searched by automatic computer selection for a primary diagnosis of arthritis, 99 patients were recorded. This diagnosis included rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis (OA), psoriatic arthritis (PSA), gout (GOU), juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA), Sjörgren's syndrome (SJO) and arthritis associated with spondylitis (AS).

Patients were divided into groups according to diagnosis, age, sex and length of follow-up. Those patients who had not been seen by the physician for over a year, because they had improved, become discouraged, moved away from the area, etc, were contacted by the secretary to ascertain their progress. The results prior to, during and following homoeopathic treatment were reviewed, analysed and summarised for the degree of homoeopathic similitude achieved, length of treatment, number of medicine changes, frequency of consultations, associated allopathic medication taken, etc.

Description of the Arthritis Sample of Patients

The 99 patients were comprised of 64 women and 35 men; osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis were more often diagnosed in women, whereas arthritis associated with spondylitis was more prevalent in men. Diagnoses were by specialists in rheumatology. The patients were from all age groups, but the majority were over 30 years old. The gender ratio was similar within differing age groups. Age of onset is spread over all age groups, rising from 6 patients under 15, to 25 within the 30-40 year old group, and then declining again.

AS
11
5
9
2
1

RA
2
2
4
4
1

AF
3
3
3
.
2

 OA–Osteoarthritis; AS–Ankylosingspondylitis;
RA–Rheumatoid arthritis; AF–Atypical +fibromyalgia

Men tended to consult the doctor less often than women. 21 of the 35 men (60%) consulted a maximum of twice per year, whereas 53 of the 64 women (83%) consulted at least twice per year. The length of follow-up ranged from less than two years (41 patients) to over 15 years (9 patients). The number of homoeopathic repertorisations worked out for men was significantly lower than that needed for women. In 30 of the 35 men (86%), one or no repertorisation was enough to establish the correct homoeopathic treatment.

Discussion

Six women in the study never used conventional medication. 20 patients, (14 women and 6 men) had given up conventional medication because it was of no benefit, or they could not tolerate it.

During the follow-up, 43 (28 women and 15 men) stopped conventional medication and 24 (16 women and 8 men) used it rarely. 14 patients (10 women and 4 men) had been using major conventional drugs such as cortisone prior to being included in the study.

Although the number of homoeopathic repertorisations for men was lower than that for women, global level of similitude was more often reached in men (80% men compared to 56% women). Isopathic treatment was more often used for men than women. Results observed in the group of patients followed for less than 2 years were less good, with nearly all failures and aggravation found in this group.

19 patients abandoned treatment – 11 women (2 recovered, 4 improved, 2 suffered aggravation and 2 failures), and 8 men (2 recovered, 4 improved, 1 aggravation and 1 failure).

Results of the study would be more significant if a minimum treatment period of two years were imposed. The most significant results were observed in the group of patients with arthritis associated with spondylitis (AS). Other associated diseases were fully cured in this study – iritis, paroxysmal tachycardia, chronic colitis, recurrent respiratory infections.

Conclusions

The need for individualised medical treatment, especially in homoeopathy is evident. No conclusions can be drawn for several of the pathologies but those for ankylosing spondylitis cases are very promising. A medicine at an isopathic level of similitude is often needed to start the recovery process. When treatment appears unsuccessful, laboratory tests often indicate an underlying chronic viral disease which, if not treated specifically, impedes all recovery.

Of the 19 patients who did not continue treatment, 14 gave up because there was no rapid improvement (several stopped following the first consultation), the other 5 did not return because they had recovered. It would appear that a minimum period of two years treatment and follow-up would be required for any further research.

43 patients were able to stop the use of conventional drugs and thus one may conclude that homoeopathy has its place in the treatment of these diseases. Many rheumatologists have a biased view of the effectiveness of homoeopathic treatments because they tend to encounter cases where homoeopathy has failed and they don't see patients who have recovered. It is therefore very important that further studies be carried out with the collaboration of homoeopathic doctors and rheumatology specialists. This study will be continued for a further 5 years in order to follow up the cases so far collected.

Extracted with permission from: Retrospective study of rheumatological patients in a private homoeopathic medical practice. British Homoeopathic Journal 85: 198-204. October 1996.

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About Dr Michel van Wassenhoven

Dr Michel van Wassenhoven recently published (British Homoeopathic Journal 85: 198-204, Oct 1996) the details of a retrospective study of rheumatological patients from his private homoeopathic medical practice in Brussels.

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