Oscillococcinum and Homeopathy -- Manufacturer Offers Viewpoint

Ludovic Rassat; Paul A. Offit, MD


April 04, 2011

To the Editor:

I am responding to the video and article, titled "Science in One Room, Homeopathy in the Next?," authored by Dr. Paul Offit, co-inventor of the RotaTeq® vaccine, which was posted January 11, 2011 on Medscape. Dr. Offit has singled out Boiron's Children's Oscillococcinum® medicine for flu-like symptoms as nothing more than a placebo.

However, 2 double-blind, randomized clinical studies have been published on Oscillococcinum that refute his claim. These studies show that Oscillococcinum shortens both the severity and duration of flu-like symptoms.[1,2] One study reported that when patients took Oscillococcinum within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, 62.9% showed "clear improvement" or "complete resolution" within 48 hours, vs 48.5% for the placebo group (P = .0028).[2] These 2 studies have received the highest rating by the Cochrane Review.[3]

Like many other medicines, the exact mechanism of its action is still under research. However, several studies demonstrate a difference in physical, chemical, and biological activity between homeopathic solutions and water prepared in the same conditions.[4,5,6,7,8]

Dr. Offit also remarks that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the "capacity to regulate this if they choose to." In fact, homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs by the FDA.[9] To be placed on the market, a homeopathic drug must be listed with the FDA and manufactured in compliance with the FDA's current good manufacturing practices for drugs. Additionally, the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, the official compendium recognized in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, specifies standards for homeopathic medicines.

It is difficult to dismiss the empirical evidence in addition to the clinical research: Oscillococcinum is recommended by physicians and pharmacists and is used by millions of patients, including children, in more than 60 countries. It has a remarkable record of safety since its introduction into the market more than 75 years ago.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on this information. Thank you for this opportunity to provide some insight and facts on Oscillococcinum.

Ludovic Rassat

Author's Response:

Oscillococcinum is 1 gram of sugar and 1 gram of sugar only. Although it was made by diluting the heart and liver of a Burberry duck, the level of dilution precludes the final presence of a single molecule of the duck. The duck is gone.

When studies are performed that supposedly show a difference between Oscillococcinum and placebo, one is faced with the question of how 1 gram of sugar can have a clinical effect that is detectably different from 1 gram of sugar (placebo). Although there are many things in nature that we don't yet understand, the chemistry of water isn't one of them. And the structure of water does not change because there was at one time the heart and liver of a Burberry duck somewhere in its distant past. (Frankly, given that there is a limited amount of water on earth, you don't want to know where it's been.)

I would challenge the makers of Oscillococcinum to submit their product to independent chemical testing. If it contains something other than 1 gram of sugar -- and preferably something that one could imagine would have an effect on flu-like symptoms -- I will change my stance.

Paul A. Offit, MD


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