Research: VICKERS and SMITH,

Listed in Issue 64

Abstract

VICKERS and SMITH, Integrative Medicine, Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA, andrewline@earthlink.net evaluated data from placebo-controlled trials of the homeopathic medicine Oscillococcinum or similar medicines investigating its efficacy in the prevention or treatment of influenza and influenza-like symptoms .

Background

Oscillococcinum is a patented, commercially available homeopathic medicine used to treat influenza. It is manufactured from wild duck heart and liver, well-known reservoirs for influenza virus.

Methodology

The authors searched the registry of randomized trials for the Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field using the term 'homeopathy' with 'influenza', 'respiratory tract', 'infection', 'cough', 'virus' and 'fever'. They also contacted the manufacturers of Oscillococcinum for details of other trials. The date of the most recent search was February 1999. The two reviewers extracted the data and assessed quality of methodology independently.

Results

7 studies were included in the review: 3 prevention trials (2265 patients ) and 4 treatment trials (1194 patients ). Sufficient information to complete data extraction fully was available from only 2 of the trials . There was no evidence that treatment could prevent influenza-like syndrome (relative risk 0.64). Oscillococcinum treatment reduced the length of influenza illness by 0.28 days and increased the chance of a patient considering treatment effective (relative risk 1.08).

Conclusion

Current evidence does not support a preventative effect of Oscillococcinum in influenza and influenza-like syndromes. Oscillococcinum probably reduces the duration of illness in patients with influenza symptoms. However, the data are not strong enough to make a general recommendation to use Oscillococcinum as a first-line treatment. Further research is warranted, but large sample sizes will be required.

References

Vickers AJ, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2): CD001957. 2000.

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