MDLinx readers respond to survey on the use of homeopathic remedies

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published March 30, 2017

Key Takeaways

A recent news article from American Pharmacist Association News detailed adverse events in over 370 children who had used homeopathic teething tablets or gel from the homeopathic health firm, Hyland over a 10-year period (2006 to 2016).  

MDLinx surveyed readers for their input on homeopathic remedies, their safety, regulation, adverse events, and readers' general willingness to includethese products in their own practices. Responses were received from 103 readers, 77% of whom reported being in medical practice for over 20 years.

In general, physicians did not feel that homeopathic or alternative medicines fit in their practices, and most did not include homeopathic treatments in their patient treatment options.

A full 70.6% of respondents believe that commercially available OTC homeopathic remedies should be more closely regulated by the FDA as opposed to the less rigorous FDCA regulation it is subject to now. Only 6.9% of respondents were against such more rigorous regulation.

Respondents' comments in response to this query about tighter regulation included:

  • “They have no data. They should be outlawed.”
  • “Should be prescribed by doctors with medical training and certification.”
  • “Plant extracts can be very potent and lethal, eg, digitalis, cocaine, and opium.”
  • “It is an outrageous danger to public health that snake oil is legal.”

When asked whether they include homeopathic suggestions in their treatment plans, 51.5% cited “never,” 26.2% “rarely,” 17.5% “occasionally,” and 4.9% “often.”

One respondent noted, “I do not believe in homeopathy as a valid treatment option.” Another wrote: “Yogurt is homeopathic AND probably efficacious.”

Among respondents, 50.50% reported never experiencing problems, adverse events, and other issues with homeopathic remedies in their own practices, 23.80% reported rarely, 12.90% occasionally, and 12.90% indicated that they did experience these events.

In response to the question, “Would you incorporate a homeopathic or alternative medicine practitioner into your practice if that was of interest to your patients?” a full 61.80% reported that there is no place for homeopathic remedies in the types of practices they own. Only 7.80% reported that their practice offers patients such options, 15.70% said they would consider this, and 14.70% noted that it would depend on the demand for and revenue opportunity from such an option.

Comments included the following:

  • “It is totally unethical to consider a bogus, unproven treatment only because it may represent a ‘revenue opportunity.’"
  • “I currently use some alternative medicine for select patients and diagnoses. URIs, IBS, sleep disorders. Most of which is supported by data. A lot is cured by doing what Grandma told you to do: sleep well, eat right, pray to a higher power, and stop worrying.”
  • “Again, I see homeopathy as deceiving the public and stealing their money.”
  • “I would only consider it if I was convinced by good evidence that it was in the best health interest of my patient.”

Respondents cited ineffective remedies for dental pain, severe interactions with St. John’s Wort and other herbs, liver failure with Chaparral, and dehydration as a result of cesium use to treat cancer.

Some further comments included:

  • “As almost all of these treatments have no active ingredients and are no better than placebo (a mode of therapy I sometimes employ), on occasion, I see harm when the use of an active medication is inappropriately avoided.”
  • “Homeopathy can be very powerful, and if used improperly at the improper potencies, can cause problems.”
  • “The main issue is when patients forego real medical therapy in favor of homeopathy instead. I have seen cases where they died.”

Nearly 50% of respondents (n=48) reported that they strongly agree with the statement “Homeopathic remedies can pose a serious health risk if used indiscriminately.” In addition, almost 50% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement “Homeopathic remedies offer false hope for easy cures to serious medical conditions.” Finally, a little less than 50% (n=44) strongly disagreed with the statement “I am comfortable offering a combination of homeopathic and traditional therapies, to interested patients.”

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