Reuters, Apr. 2, 2003
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Homeopathic remedies offer no additional benefit above and beyond the traditional inhalers and steroids given to children with asthma, according to researchers in the United Kingdom.
About 15 percent of children in the UK use homeopathic remedies to help control asthma, the report indicates.
Homeopathy is a type of alternative medicine that involves diluting drugs in a solution to the point where only a few or no molecules of the original drug remains. Homeopaths believe the small amount of drug will stimulate or provoke the body’s immune system to defend itself.
But Dr. Adrian White at the Peninsula Medical School at the University of Exeter and colleagues in the UK found that homeopathy seemed to be no better than a placebo at improving quality of life for children with mild to moderate asthma.
The researchers randomly assigned 93 children between the ages of 5 and 15 to receive up to six sessions of homeopathy or a placebo, in addition to their traditional asthma medications. The year-long study was blinded, so none of the homeopaths or children knew whether they were getting placebo or real homeopathic treatment.
Results were based on the children’s responses to “active quality of life” questionnaires that asked how they felt during their daily activities such as playing, running, or swimming. It also asked how often they experienced symptoms like wheezing, coughing and waking up in the middle of the night.
The children’s symptoms were tracked with a weekly diary, and the parents were asked to give their comments as well.
Questionnaires were given to the children on the first day of the study and compared to responses a year later. The results are published in the April issue of the journal Thorax.
The study allowed enough time for the changes that homeopathic medication is supposed to initiate. However, “there was no clear evidence of a statistically significant treatment effect in the active quality of life score” for homeopathy compared to placebo, the report indicates.
Children given homeopathy showed no reduction in asthma symptoms compared with other youngsters. The treatment also did not reduce the need for an inhaler, and did not decrease the number of days missed from school compared with placebo.
Homeopathy is generally regarded as safe if practiced correctly, but doctors warn that it can become dangerous if patients abandon treatments that are proven to work better.
Future studies should look at different homeopathic remedies and see if children with more severe asthma benefit from the alternative medicine, the researchers write. But based on the results from this study, homeopathy does not appear to provide any added relief to children with mild to moderate asthma over placebo, they conclude.