All right nonbelievers, brace yourselves. Homeopathy is legitimate. It works. Annual sales of homeopathic products are at $250 million and growing at a rapid clip. Clinical trials support use of these products. But don’t take our word about homeopathy. Listen to your brothers-in-arms – pharmacists who once, like you, were defiantly skeptical, but now sing homeopathy’s praises.
These pharmacists are not out to change your mind or suggest that you are wrong. They do recommend, however, that you take a second look. That maybe upon closer inspection you too will be convinced of the validity of this medicinal approach – one with over 200 years of history behind it.
Ten years ago, homeopathy “wasn’t even a consideration” for Tom Cremona, pharmacist and clinical nutritionist at Professional Pharmacy, South Norwalk, CT. He now recommends homeopathic remedies to upwards of 15 patients per week.
Then there’s Len Brancewicz and Joe DiMatteo, two Pennsylvania-based Medicine Shoppe pharmacists who, several years ago, had “absolutely no confidence in home – opathy whatsoever,” but now carry 60 homeopathic mixtures, with 70 different dilutions each, in their respective stores.
There’s also Allen Kratz, Pharm. D., who, while attending pharmacy school, didn’t know what homeopathy meant, but for the past 20 years has owned HVS Labs, Naples, FL, a homeopathic products manufacturer that markets a homeopathic cellular detoxification program. (see “Cleansing Cells.”)
Why the change of heart? For some pharmacists, personal experiences have been the most convincing. For others, it was seeing homeopathy work on their patients. Either way, as these pharmacists say, “the proof is in the pudding.”
Pharmacist Bill Nicoletti, president of the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists and a Las Vegas-based pharmacy consultant, began his career working for a homeopathic products manufacturer. “I was still incredibly skeptical about the products,” he remembers. “I didn’t know anything about them. Then, about ten years ago, I had a fall and smashed my elbow. I was used to hearing about homeopathics, so I tried Arnica Montana for trauma. It cut down the pain and my bruising went down. That was a turning point for me.”
Brancewicz recalls a family experience that occurred about four years ago. “My wife, a physician’s assistant, developed a sciatic nerve problem, making it difficult for her to perform her duties.” After conventional drug therapies did not work, he suggested a sciatic drop formula – Arsenicum (a derivative of arsenic) – an anti-inflammatory for bone on bone or nerve on nerve conditions. Brancewicz says that his wife takes 12 drops every morning in a glass of juice and her condition has improved so much that she has resumed her full work schedule of seeing 40 to 50 patients per day.
Ross Pelton, Ph.D., CCN, a pharmacist who authors American Druggist’s Clinical Nutrition column, also has a story to tell. “I had been following the [homeopathic] research since the 1970s, but was extremely skeptical, though open-minded,” he explains. Then a relative of his came down with “a very serious cat allergy and suffered from violent allergic reactions.” He gave animal antigens to his relative and “over a five-day period in a house with a cat, she suffered no reactions,” he recalls. He later recommended the same treatment to a patient, and “again it worked extremely well.”
Cremona credits fellow pharmacist Jim LaValle, co-owner, Natural Health Resources, Cincinnati, for his conversion. “He’s the expert on natural products,” he says of LaValle. “He told me to learn more about homeopathy, that he’d seen how well it worked. So I tried it with some patients and was amazed at the results.”
For example, he explains, for a child experiencing bedwetting but no other complications (i.e. nightmares, defecation), he suggests Equisetum Hyemem, which he said has worked eight out of the 12 times he has recommended it.
LaValle did not start out as an ardent supporter of homeopathy either. More than 20 years ago, cousins of his had a business in which they imported homeopathic products from Germany and sold them to physicians. “I didn’t know what homeopathy was,” he says. “It seemed so weird, but it piqued my interest.”
After doing some experimentation “I saw the products work,” he relates, pointing to Acanitem for anxiety and digestive complaints and a combination remedy for vertigo and motion sickness, as two of many preparations he now recommends.
Even with the success Brancewicz had treating his wife, it wasn’t until after he and DiMatteo participated in a call-in radio program three years ago that they began to pursue homeopathy vigorously. “One caller asked about natural products and it dominated the rest of the show,” Brancewicz says. “We didn’t quite understand homeopathy, so we started learning.”
Recently, both completed a yearlong correspondence course on homeopathy through the British Institute of Homeopathy. Brancewicz, in Rochester, PA, and DiMatteo, in Oakmont, PA, charge $60 for an initial patient visit – including a complete medical history – and $30 for follow-up visits. “There are real financial possibilities with homeopathy,” Brancewicz says.
Consumers seem to be leading the charge. Retail sales of homeopathic products are currently growing at a rate near 20 percent, according to the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists (AAHP), which last year celebrated its 75th anniversary. Boericke and Tafel, Santa Rosa, CA, a homeopathic pharmaceutical manufacturer, says its sales have increased by 10 to 20 percent each year for the past seven years. Homeopathics have been widely used throughout Europe. In the U.S. they are recognized as OTC drugs under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938.
So why, then, do most pharmacists remain skeptical? Cremona says that “as pharmacists, we are taught to think in a scientific method,” and the mechanism of action [of homeopathic products] is unknown. “It’s also difficult for most people to get their minds around the doses needed for homeopathic products to work,” Brancewicz says. “How can less be more? It doesn’t make any sense, but it works.” (see “What Is Homeopathy?”)
“The problem,” contends Eric Foxman, pharmacist and AAHP secretary, “is that most medical and pharmacy schools dismiss homeopathic methods and make no serious attempts to teach them.”
“Many pharmacists are unwilling to consider anecdotal evidence,” Cremona continues. “You have to trust the 200 years of history behind it and for some people that’s hard to do.”
But Dana Ullman, M.Ph., owner, Homeopathic Educational Services, Berkeley, CA, a homeopathic products and education company, says the best evidence is the clinical research attesting to their safety and efficacy.
Pelton agrees. “Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the research has proven that homeopathy works,” he says.
Consider: A study published in the September 1997 Lancet showed that in 89 trials, homeopathic remedies had a 2.45 times greater effect than placebo. In a 1991 study published in the British Medical Journal, of 107 controlled trials, 81 found homeopathic medicines to be effective.
“Unfortunately,” DiMatteo says, “nobody knows why homeopathy works. We just know that it does.” He then points to a patient for whom homeopathy was the only effective remedy.
“A woman came to me complaining that her 3-year-old son was suffering from chronic ear infections,” he says. “But she didn’t want to use any more [traditional] drugs. After recommending Otoplex,” he says, describing it as a noninvasive, nonthreatening combination homeopathic used to encourage drainage, “my patient is happy.”