A randomized comparison of homoeopathic and standard care for the treatment of glue ear in children
ABSTRACT To pilot a model for determining whether homoeopathic treatment of children suffering from glue ear is more effective than standard GP care at producing a return to normal hearing (a hearing loss of less than 20 dB) within 12 months.
Non-blind, randomized controlled trial.
General practice in two locations in southern England.
Thirty-three children aged 18 months to 8 years with otitis media with effusion, hearing loss > 20 dB and an abnormal tympanogram.
Hearing loss, tympanogram, referrals to specialists and number of courses of antibiotics at 12 month follow-up.
A higher proportion of children receiving homoeopathic care had a hearing loss less then 20 dB at follow-up (64 vs 56%), though this difference did not reach statistical significance (95% confidence interval for the difference between means of -25 and 42%). More homoeopathy patients than controls had a normal tympanogram (75 vs 31%, P = 0.015). Referrals to specialists and antibiotic consumption was lower in the homoeopathy group, though differences between groups did not reach statistical significance.
Further research comparing homoeopathy to standard care is warranted. Assuming recovery rates of 50 and 30% in homoeopathy and standard care groups respectively, 270 patients would be needed for a definitive trial.
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ABSTRACT: In the U.S., large-scale national surveys have shown that the percentage of adults reporting use of homeopathy in the past 12 months has grown from 0.7% in 1990 to 3.4% in 1997 (Eisenberg, 1998), with continued annual growth. Reasons for trying homeopathy among users from the CDC-based report from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (Barnes, Powell-Griner, McFann, & Nahin, 2004) included 43% expecting the combination of conventional and homeopathic treatment would help; 36.7% indicating that conventional medical treatments would not help their condition; and 19.4% stating that conventional medical treatments were too expensive. Consumers use homeopathy both for self-care and under practitioner supervision. In homeopathy, the mental, emotional, and/or physical symptoms that a patient presents lead to selection of a medicine (remedy) to treat the patient as a whole. Homeopathic medicines are manufactured from natural animal, mineral, and plant sources. The source material is crushed in lactose and/or extracted and dissolved in a water-alcohol solvent. Remedy preparation involves serial dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking) of the source material, commonly by factors of 10 (decimal series, X) or 100 (centesimal series, c) to 1 in distilled water. Thus, a 12X remedy has been diluted (1/10)12 and succussed 240 (or more) times. The final remedy is often stabilized by addition of small amounts of pharmaceutical-grade ethanol and formulated in dissolvable pellets or tablets containing lactose and/or sucrose for ease of oral administration. Unlike many dietary supplements such as herbs, the preparation of homeopathic remedies is standardized in published monographs from the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the U.S. (see Legal/Regulatory Status below). Consumers use single or mixtures of homeopathic over-the-counter remedies for self-care first aid in injuries (Oberbaum, Schreiber, Rosenthal, & Itzchaki, 2003) or acute illnesses such as colds and flu (Vickers, 2006). Many times the remedies appear to shorten the duration of the acute illness or speed up the recovery process. For treatment of many persons with a wide range of chronic symptoms, constitutional homeopathic treatment involves a highly trained and experienced practitioner to select the correct treatment with a single remedy at a time and manage the case in partnership with the patient over a period of months to years. However, many consumers manage their own intercurrent symptoms using over-the-counter remedies as part of their self-care.