Prince ignores scientists’ attack on homoeopathy: praises St. John’s wort clinical trials

Speaking to a packed chamber at the World Health Assembley in Geneva, he said: “Patients should be able to gain the benefit of the best of both worlds – complementary and orthodox.” He feared the world had lost touch with many traditional treatments and cures. “Much of this knowledge, often based on oral traditions, is sadly being lost yet, orthodox medicine has so much to learn from it,” he told the conference.

It was essential, he said, to redress the fragile, but vital balance between man and nature. The world was plagued by chronic illnesses that were responsible for around two-thirds of deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organizations own figures. Surely it was time, he added, to consider multi-dimensional solutions from how we farm the land to how we build our cities and how we care for our precious natural heritage.

The prince said there was clear evidence that acupuncture worked for conditions such as osteoarthritis of the knee, while the plant St Johns Wort had proved successful in treating non-severe depression in 30 clinical trials. Central to his beliefs was the view that poor health could not be viewed in isolation. “If we poison and pollute our earth, we poison and pollute ourselves,” he added, referring to chemicals from food colourings to pesticides. He threw down a challenge to the governments attending the assembley to develop their own plan for an integrated health strategy. A proper mix of proven complementary, traditional and modern remedies could, he said, create “a powerful healing force for our world.” 
THE oldest known medicine, also called phytotherapy, which uses various remedies derived from plants and plant extracts to treat disorders and maintain health. This is where modern pharmaceuticals began, and most prescribed drugs are still based on plant constituents. Examples include phytodolor, which is used for the of treatment osteoarthritis and was found to be as effective as the drug Diclofenac on pain, swelling, function, joint mobility and global symptom score. It’s here that the Prince Charles study really believes the NHS could save money. The cost of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in 2004 was £11.82; while phytodolor costs only 45p per week. In treating depression, a weekly course of St John’s wort costs just 82p as opposed to £13.82 for anti-depressant drugs. Other remedies recommended by herbal practitioners include Ginkgo biloba for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, and Devil’s claw for musculoskeletal problems, including inflammation, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Britain’s Prince Charles Tuesday insisted that alternative medicine has a critical role to play in the health of future generations, and urged governments to adopt a more integrated approach to medicine using acupuncture and herbal remedies.

Prince ignores scientists’ attack on homoeopathy: praises St. John’s wort clinical trials

By Caroline Davies and Celia Hall
May 24, 2006

Your view: Should the NHS pay for holistic medicine?

A defiant Prince of Wales promoted the use of complementary medicine yesterday, as a group of British scientists launched a campaign urging the National Health Service to reject alternative unproven treatments such as homoeopathy in favour of “those based on solid evidence”.

In a letter to all NHS trusts the 13 signatories, led by Michael Baum, an emeritus professor of surgery at University College London, describe homoeopathy as “an implausible treatment” and call for the rejection of funding for all “unproven or disproved treatments” with the money going to treatments proven to be effective.

The timing of the letter, made public just as Prince Charles was about to address the annual World Health Assembly in Geneva, suggests there is unease among some senior medical establishment figures over the prince’s message. Other signatories included Sir James Black, the Nobel Prize winner, and Sir Keith Peters, the president of the Academy of Medical Science.

Supporters of complementary therapies called the campaign a “medical apartheid” but the prince made no mention of the controversy as he addressed hundreds of delegates in Geneva. Instead he urged them to promote an “integrated and holistic” approach to modern medicine, that included factors such as housing, the environment and agriculture. “I believe that the proper mix of proven complementary, traditional and modern remedies, which emphasise the active participation of the patient, can help create a powerful healing force in our world,” he said.

While he praised the “extraordinary success” of modern medicine, orthodox practice could learn from complementary medicine. “The West can learn from the East and new from old traditions”, he said. Of acupuncture, he said, there was “robust evidence” it worked for osteoarthritis of the knee, and alleviated the nausea and vomiting for those taking anti-cancer drugs. St John’s wort had been shown in “about 30 clinical trials” to help to treat non-severe depression.

One project supported by his Foundation for Integrated Health, which he founded 11 years ago, had shown in one deprived inner-city area “how an integrated approach, involving acupuncture and other complementary treatments, appears to have been particularly helpful for patients with mental health problems,” he said. Other projects showing success included “the Beacon project” in Falmouth, Cornwall. Prof Baum told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m all in favour of treatments that make people better but there is the issue of evidence. How do we know that what we are witnessing is a real effect or a placebo? If the placebo is non-toxic and cheap it doesn’t matter. “My concern is the issue of opportunity cost. If the NHS is spending good money on placebos at the cost of not providing effective medicines, then it does matter. The UCL Hospital Trust has spent £20 million on refurbishing the Royal Homoeopathic Hospital. If that sum of money was spent on making available Herceptin and aromatase inhibitors, then it could be saving in my own health district 600 lives a year”.

However, practitioners of homoeopathy staunchly defended the therapy yesterday. The British Homeopathic Association and Faculty of Homeopathy pointed out that homoeopathy had been part of the NHS since 1948. “We will fight for patients’ right to choice in the NHS. Conventional medicine doesn’t have all the answers,” said Sally Penrose, the association’s chief executive. She said a study of 6,500 patients treated at Bristol Homeopathic Hospital showed that 70 per cent reported an improvement to their health following treatment. A range of chronic diseases were treated including eczema, asthma, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, menopause, arthritis, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.