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Homeopathy (also spelled homoeopathy or homœopathy; from the Greek hómoios- ὅμοιος- "like-" + páthos πάθος "suffering" ) is a form of alternative medicine. Practitioners treat patients using highly diluted preparations believed to cause symptoms in healthy individuals similar to the undesired symptoms of the person treated. Scientific evidence has found homeopathy no more effective than placebos. German physician Samuel Hahnemann first stated the basic principle of homeopathy in 1796, known as the "law of similars". This principle is: "let like be cured by like." Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution with shaking by forceful striking on an elastic body, which homeopaths term "succussion". Each dilution followed by succussion is assumed to increase the effectiveness. Homeopaths call this process "potentization". Dilution often continues until none of the original substance remains. Apart from the symptoms, homeopaths examine aspects of the patient's physical and psychological state, then homeopathic reference books known as "repertories" are consulted, and a remedy is selected based on the totality of symptoms. In the context of homeopathy, the term "remedy" is used to refer to a substance which has been prepared with a particular procedure and intended for patient use; this differs from the generally accepted use of the word, which means "a medicine or therapy that cures disease or relieves pain".

Homeopathy is fairly common in some countries while being uncommon in others. Regulations vary in Europe depending on the country. In some countries, there are no specific legal regulations concerning the use of homeopathy, while in others, licenses or degrees in conventional medicine from accredited universities are required. In Austria and Germany, no specific regulations exist, while France and Denmark mandate licenses to diagnose any illness or dispense of any product whose purpose is to treat any illness. Some homeopathic treatment is covered by the national insurance of several European countries, including France, some parts of the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Luxembourg. In other countries, such as Belgium and the Czech Republic, homeopathy is not covered. In Austria, public insurance requires scientific proof of effectiveness in order to reimburse medical treatments, but exceptions are made for homeopathy. In 2004, Germany which formerly offered homeopathy under its public health insurance scheme withdrew this privilege, with a few exceptions. In June 2005, the Swiss Government, after a 5-year trial, withdrew insurance coverage for homeopathy and four other complementary treatments, stating that they did not meet efficacy and cost-effectiveness criteria. However, following the result of a referendum in 2009 the five therapies were reinstated for a further 6-year trial period from 2012.

Clinical trials are a set of procedures in medical research and drug development that are conducted to allow safety (or more specifically, information about adverse drug reactions and adverse effects of other treatments) and efficacy data to be collected for health interventions (e.g., drugs, diagnostics, devices, therapy protocols). These trials can take place only after satisfactory information has been gathered on the quality of the non-clinical safety, and Health Authority/Ethics Committee approval is granted in the country where the trial is taking place. Depending on the type of product and the stage of its development, investigators enroll healthy volunteers and/or patients into small pilot studies initially, followed by larger scale studies in patients that often compare the new product with the currently prescribed treatment. As positive safety and efficacy data are gathered, the number of patients is typically increased. Clinical trials can vary in size from a single center in one country to multicenter trials in multiple countries. Due to the sizable cost a full series of clinical trials may incur, the burden of paying for all the necessary people and services is usually borne by the sponsor who may be a governmental organization, a pharmaceutical, or biotechnology company. Since the diversity of roles may exceed resources of the sponsor, often a clinical trial is managed by an outsourced partner such as a contract research organization or a clinical trials unit in the academic sector.

Oscillococcinum (commonly shortened to Oscillo) is a homeopathic alternative medicine marketed to relieve influenza-like symptoms. It is a popular homeopathic preparation, particularly in France. Oscillococcinum is manufactured by a French company, Boiron, its sole manufacturer. There are, however, other manufacturers who make similar preparations. Oscillococcinum is used in more than 50 countries. In France, it has been in production for over 65 years. The preparation is derived from duck liver and heart, diluted to 200C—a ratio of one part duck offal to 100200 parts water. This is such a high dilution that the final product likely contains not a single molecule of the original liver. Homeopaths claim that the molecules leave an "imprint" in the dilution that causes a healing effect on the body, although there is no evidence that supports this mechanism or efficacy beyond placebo. A class action lawsuit on behalf of customers who purchased Oscillococcinum has been filed against Boiron, alleging that Boiron falsely advertises that Oscillo has the ability to cure the flu. The word Oscillococcinum was coined in 1925 by the French physician Joseph Roy (1891–1978) who saw military duty during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1917. Roy wrote that on examining the blood of flu victims, he had observed an oscillating bacterium which he named Oscillococcus. Roy claimed he had detected it in the blood of patients that had several viral diseases like herpes, chicken pox and shingles.

Gheorghe Jurj (born 1958, Saratov, Russia) is a physician with specialization in Homeopathy. Dr. Jurj lives in Romania since 1960. He graduated from Timisoara Medical University in 1984. The next year he obtained a degree in Acupuncture. In 1991 he became specialist in general practice, as well as in Anthroposophic medicine in Arlesheim (Switzerland); in 1995, "medic primar" (equivalent to German Oberarzt) and fulfilled the requirements for the degree in Homeopathy by the Romanian Homeopathic Society. From 1990 to 1994, he was the Medical Director of the Hospital of Integrative Medicine in Masloc (Romania). In 1994 he opened his private practice in Timisoara, where he still practices, having helped about 125,000 homeopathic patients in the last 20 years. This did not deter him from further obtaining an MA and a DSc in Complementary Medicine and a PhD in Philosophy on the "Ontological and Epistemological Features of Charles S. Peirce's Semiotics" (University of the West of Timisoara, 2010). Dr Jurj was the Editor of Revista Romana de Homeopatie from 1990 to 2009 and currently is the Vice President of the Romanian Society of Homeopathy and President of the Romanian Association of Clinical Homeopathy. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of International Journal of High Dilution Research. His vast clinical experience allowed Dr Jurj to formulate an approach to the practice of Homeopathy grounded on sound medical procedures (diagnosis, prognosis and treatment) specifically addressed to homeopathic medicine.

Homeopathy involves a process known by practitioners as "dynamisation" or "potentisation" whereby a substance is diluted with alcohol or distilled water and then vigorously shaken in a process called "succussion". Insoluble solids, such as quartz and oyster shell, are diluted by grinding them with lactose (trituration). The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann (1755 — 1843) believed that the process of succussion activated the "vital energy" of the diluted substance, and that successive dilutions increased the "potency" of the remedy. The idea is considered a pseudoscience, because at common dilutions, no atoms of the original material are likely to remain. It is illogical that a process of dilution would arrive at a higher potency. There is not enough water on earth to produce the highest homeopathic dilutions. Several potency scales are in use in homeopathy. Hahnemann created the centesimal or "C scale", diluting a substance by a factor of 100 at each stage. The centesimal scale was favored by Hahnemann for most of his life. A 2C dilution requires a substance to be diluted to one part in one hundred, and then some of that diluted solution diluted by a further factor of one hundred. This works out to one part of the original substance in 10,000 parts of the solution. A 6C dilution repeats this process six times, ending up with the original material diluted by a factor of 100−6=10−12. Higher dilutions follow the same pattern.

Alternative medicine is any practice claiming to heal "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It may be based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence. Alternative medicine is frequently grouped with complementary medicine or integrative medicine, which, in general, refers to the same interventions when used in conjunction with mainstream techniques, under the umbrella term complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM. Critics maintain that the terms “complementary” and “alternative medicine” are deceptive euphemisms meant to give an impression of medical authority. A 1998 systematic review of studies assessing its prevalence in 13 countries concluded that about 31% of cancer patients use some form of complementary and alternative medicine. Alternative medicine varies from country to country. Jurisdictions where alternative medical practices are sufficiently widespread may license and regulate them. Edzard Ernst has said that in Austria and Germany complementary and alternative medicine is mainly in the hands of physicians, while some estimates suggest that at least half of American alternative practitioners are physicians. In Germany herbs are tightly regulated: half are prescribed by doctors and covered by health insurance based on their Commission E legislation. Alternative medicine methods are diverse in their foundations and methodologies. Methods may incorporate or base themselves on traditional medicine, folk knowledge, spiritual beliefs, or newly conceived approaches to healing.

The National Health Service (NHS) is the shared name of three of the four publicly funded healthcare systems in the United Kingdom. They are primarily funded through general taxation rather than requiring insurance payments. They provide a comprehensive range of health services, the vast majority of which are free at the point of use to residents of the United Kingdom. Only the English NHS is officially called the National Health Service, the others being NHS Scotland and NHS Wales. Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland is called the HSC rather than the NHS. Each system operates independently, and is politically accountable to the relevant government: the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, the Northern Ireland Executive, or the UK government. Combined, the NHS is the world's fifth largest employer, comprising approximately 1.7 million staff. Despite their separate funding and administration, there is no discrimination when a resident of one country of the United Kingdom requires treatment in another, although a patient will often be returned to their home area when they are fit to be moved. The financial and administrative consequences are dealt with by the organisations involved and no personal involvement by the patient is required. Treatment of persons not resident in the United Kingdom is subject to mostly uniform arrangements made by or delegated to the UK Department of Health rather than any individual health service. Foreign nationals always receive treatment free at the time of use for emergencies.

Zicam is a branded series of products marketed for cold and allergy relief whose original formulations included the element zinc. The Zicam name is derived from a combination of the words "zinc" and "ICAM-1" (the receptor to which a rhinovirus binds in order to infect cells). It is marketed as an "unapproved homeopathic" product. Zicam was invented by Robert S. Davidson and Charles B. Hensley in the mid 1990s and is produced, marketed and sold by Zicam, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Matrixx Initiatives, Inc., an American over-the-counter drug company. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised consumers to avoid intranasal versions of Zicam Cold Remedy because of a risk of damage to the sense of smell, leading the manufacturer to withdraw these versions from the U.S. market. The Zicam brand has been expanded to include non-zinc formulations. The only possibly biologically active ingredients present in Zicam Cold Remedy are slightly diluted zinc acetate (2X = 1/100 dilution) and zinc gluconate (1X = 1/10 dilution); the product's other originally active ingredients have been serially diluted to the point that Zicam should no longer contain any molecules of those ingredients, and are listed as "inactive ingredients" on the label. Zicam is marketed as an "unapproved homeopathic" product; Some of the homeopathic ingredients used in the preparation of Zicam are galphimia glauca, histamine dihydrochloride (homeopathic name, histaminum hydrochloricum), luffa operculata, and sulfur.

Evidence-based medicine (EBM) or evidence-based practice (EBP) aims to apply the best available evidence gained from the scientific method to clinical decision making. It seeks to assess the strength of the evidence of risks and benefits of treatments (including lack of treatment) and diagnostic tests. This helps clinicians understand whether or not a treatment will do more good than harm. Evidence quality can be assessed based on the source type (from meta-analyses and systematic reviews of triple-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials with concealment of allocation and no attrition at the top end, down to conventional wisdom at the bottom), as well as other factors including statistical validity, clinical relevance, currency, and peer-review acceptance. EBM/EBP recognizes that many aspects of health care depend on individual factors such as quality- and value-of-life judgments, which are only partially subject to scientific methods. EBP, however, seeks to clarify those parts of medical practice that are in principle subject to scientific methods and to apply these methods to ensure the best prediction of outcomes in medical treatment, even as debate continues about which outcomes are desirable. Because this approach is used in allied related fields, including dentistry, nursing and psychology, evidence-based practice is a more encompassing term. Two types of evidence-based practice have been proposed.

Homeopathy is practised in New Zealand with the population evenly divided as to its effectiveness. Homeopathy practice is unregulated and homeopathic remedies are available at pharmacies, although there are calls to have them removed from sale. A small scale survey of homeopathic practitioners in 2008 showed that they all claimed to be able to treat asthma and ear infections and statement such as "hundreds of remedies for ear infections and asthma" and "homeopaths have a success rate nearing 80%" were made. The New Zealand Medical Association does not oppose the use of alternative medical practices such as homeopathy if it can be shown to have a benefit and the patient can make an informed choice, however this stance has been called unethical and may be in contravention of medical regulations. The New Zealand Skeptics organisation took part in the international 1023 campaign in 2011. Protests were held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. A 2012 survey showed that 51% of the New Zealand population had some degree of belief that homeopathic remedies were scientifically proven. The Auckland Homeopathic Hospital, with Carl Fisher as superintendent, operated from 1858 to 1862. For a half yearly report of 1859 a total of 34 patients out of 55 were claimed to have been cured. There are a number of training providers that teach homeopathy, and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority issues credits for homeopathy courses.


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