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jueves, 23 de junio de 2011

Marin boy's homeopathic treatment demonstrates difficulty of evaluating alternative remedy

(Extraído de Mercury News.com)

By Richard Halstead The Marin Independent Journal,

Valerie Goodale of Novato believes that homeopathic treatments administered by a San Anselmo doctor cured her son of a rare, potentially life-threatening disease.

"I've seen it do miraculous things," said Goodale, whose son Nicholas was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis when he was 6 months old. His plight was featured in a Sept. 28, 1997, article in the Marin Independent Journal that documented his initial alternative treatments.

Today, Nicholas is a healthy 16-year-old junior at Novato High School who competes on the track team. "He's thriving," Goodale said.

But Dr. Rima Jubran, a pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles who has specialized in the treatment of histiocytosis for 12 years, said some people with Nicholas' condition get well with no treatment at all.

"This patient may have gotten better despite this homeopathic medicine," Jubran said.

Goodale's experience with homeopathy illustrates just how tricky it is to evaluate the medical efficacy of an alternative therapy that was used by 3.9 million U.S. adults and approximately 900,000 children in 2006, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Histiocytosis is a general name for a group of syndromes that involve an abnormal increase in the number of white blood cells called histiocytes.

According to the Histiocytosis Association of America, the vast majority of sufferers survive the illness.

In some cases, however, the disease proves fatal, and other patients develop life-long chronic problems while still other patients go into remission without treatment.

"My son had a skin rash over his whole body, and he had enlarged lymph nodes," said Goodale, who has worked as a nurse for 32 years.

Goodale took another nurse's advice to explore alternative therapies after doctors at Stanford University suggested trying chemo and radiation therapy.

"I felt like I was dealing with fire. I didn't want to kill him," Goodale said.

Instead, Goodale took her son to Dr. Ifeoma Ikenze, a San Anselmo physician who earned a traditional medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City before receiving a diploma from the British Institute of Homeopathy in 1993.

"At the time we were treating Nicholas, the prognosis was really a dim one," Ikenze said. In addition to the rash and enlarged lymph nodes, the boy was having chronic ear and respiratory infections, Ikenze said.

Treatment with prednisone, a synthetic corticosteroid drug that is used as an immunosuppressant, had proved ineffective, she said.

Ikenze began her treatment of Goodale's son by having him ingest a diluted solution of graphite to treat his rash.

"It's not like giving the child some graphite to chew on," Ikenze said. "The substances are put through a dilution process that releases a magnetic vibration or magnetic energy out of the substance and that is what we harness to treat the patient."

There is another unique aspect to homeopathic remedies.

"A particular medicine has to be chosen specifically for each patient," Ikenze said.

As a result, two patients with the same condition may receive completely different homeopathic treatments.

Ikenze said she used a different remedy, a diluted solution of lapis albus, a clay-like mineral, to treat Nicholas' swollen lymph nodes. Homeopathic remedies are derived from natural substances that come from plants, minerals or animals.

Ikenze said the two remedies cured Nicholas of his disease. "His histiocytosis is something of the past," she said.

But Dr. Jubran said there is no reason to believe the homeopathic treatments caused the boy's condition to improve.

"It could have gotten better on its own," Jubran said.

She said many conventional doctors don't treat patients with Langerhans cell histiocytosis unless it begins to affect organs.

"For patients that we do treat, the treatment is usually short and has very minimal side effects," Jubran said. "Yes, we use chemotherapy, but the medicines we use are not strong medicines. They don't make people's hair fall out or cause them to vomit. And they do very well. We have a good success rate treating this disorder."

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says that it is difficult to evaluate homeopathy scientifically because the highly diluted remedies cannot be readily measured, and because homeopathy lacks a uniform prescribing standard.

The center, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the federal government's lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.

The center's website states, "Most analyses of the research on homeopathy have concluded that there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition, and that many of the studies (of homeopathy) have been flawed."

It adds, "However, there are some individual observational studies, randomized placebo-controlled trials, and laboratory research that report positive effects or unique physical and chemical properties of homeopathic remedies."

Molly Roberts, a holistic physician with a specialty in "mind/body/spirit medicine" who has office hours in Greenbrae and San Francisco, said it may be unfair to dismiss homeopathy just because treatment regimens vary.

"I would say that about allopathic (conventional) medicine as well," Roberts said. "If someone comes in with a sinus infection, there are several different ways of handling it."

Although Roberts doesn't practice homeopathy, she said, "I keep an open mind about it. I certainly have had plenty of people come in and say it worked when nothing else did."

Roberts said much of the research done on homeopathy has focused on whether results are produced by the remedies or a placebo effect.

But Roberts said, "There is a placebo component in most medicine. Our body's ability to heal is very powerful, and it's a largely untapped resource."

Jubran said a few of her patients have tried homeopathy after conventional treatments failed and their condition became grave. But Jubran said she seen homeopathy produce no miracle cures.

She said, "I think it makes parents feel like they've tried everything, and you can't take that away from them."

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