Research: VICKERS and SMITH,

Listed in Issue 106

Abstract

VICKERS and SMITH, Integrative Medicine, Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA, have reviewed (16 references) the use of homeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes.

Background

Oscillococcinum is a patented, commercially available homeopathic medicine. It is manufactured from wild duck heart and liver, which are said to be reservoirs for 'flu virus, and is applied to the treatment of influenza on the principle that "like cures like" (simila simila curant). This study aimed at reviewing the evidence that Oscillococcinum or similar medicines are more effective than placebo for the prevention and treatment of 'flu.

Methodology

Databases were searched for information, and the manufacturers contacted. Placebo-controlled trials of Oscillococcinum or other homeopathic medicines against influenza were included in the meta-analysis.

Results

Seven studies were included in this review, 3 prevention trials with a total of 2265 patients, and 4 treatment trials with a total of 1194 patients. There was no significant evidence that homeopathic treatment can prevent influenza. Oscillococcinum treatment reduced the length of influenza illness slightly. It also increased the likelihood of patients considering treatment effective.

Conclusion

Although the data are promising, at present the evidence is not strong enough to warrant a recommendation of Oscillococcinum as a first-line treatment for influenza. Further research is indicated but will require large sample sizes.

References

Vickers AJ, Smith C. Homeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004 (1): CD001957.

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