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Health Sciences

Homeopathy consultations can benefit arthritis patients, say scientists

Published: 14 November 2010

New evidence that homeopathic consultations can reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis has been revealed by scientists from the University of Southampton. In a study published today in the journal Rheumatology, researchers found that arthritis patients significantly benefited when they received homeopathy alongside conventional treatment over a period of 6 months, but this improvement was due to homeopathy's consultation process and not its remedies.

"Although previous trials have shown homeopathy may help patients with rheumatoid arthritis, this is the first time that we have scientific evidence that these benefits are specifically due to its unique consultation process," comments lead author Dr Sarah Brien, a senior research fellow in complementary medicine at the University.

"Homeopathic consultations differ from those in conventional medicine in that homeopaths focus on treating the patient, whereas conventional doctors tend to treat the illness. The homeopathic consultation process improves the health of these arthritis patients based on standard rheumatology measurements and does so safely and without side effects. 

"What we don't yet know is if it is possible to introduce some of the techniques or approaches used within these consultations into conventional medicine."

Researchers recruited 83 people with rheumatoid arthritis from clinics in Southampton, Poole and Winchester for the study. Each patient received a series of homeopathy consultations over a 24 week period between January 2006 and July 2008, while continuing their conventional treatment.  Patients and doctors reported significant reductions in a variety of symptoms including reduced 'disease activity scores', fewer swollen joints, reduced pain and improved mood.

The team now plans to conduct more research into identifying which elements of the consultation process are most beneficial and if homeopathy is a cost effective treatment.

Notes for editors

1. The study, named "Homeopathy has clinical benefits in rheumatoid arthritis patients which are attributed to the consultation process not the homeopathic remedy. A randomised, controlled clinical trial " is published in Rheumatology. The study was conducted by Dr Sarah Brien, Dr Laurie Lachance, Prof Phil Prescott, Clare McDermott and Professor George Lewith.

2. Rheumatoid arthritis affects around 350,000 people in the UK according to the Department of Health and Arthritis Research UK* and is caused by the body's immune system attacking its joints. Symptoms include pain, joint swelling and stiffness which can lead to problems with mobility.

4. Funders for the study include the National Institute of Health Research, The Samueli Institute, US, Southampton Complementary Medicine Research Trust, Dreluso Pharmazeutika GmBH, NHS Fund for Science (Poole R+D Hospital Trust), Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation.

3. The Complementary and Integrated Medical Research Unit was established by Prof George Lewith in 1994 and is within the department of Primary Care in the School of Medicine.

5. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health, arts and humanities.  

With over 22,000 students, around 5,000 staff, and an annual turnover of almost £400 million, the University of Southampton is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

For further details or interviews contact:

Sophie Docker, Media Relations Officer, University of Southampton   Tel: 07545 422 512  Email:



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