Homeopathy in Brazil: inquiry into its academic production

  • Walcymar Estrêla
  • Rosangela Caetano
Keywords: Homeopathy, Institutionalization, Brazil, Academic dissertations.

Abstract

Background: according to the WHO, there is an increasing demand for traditional medicines (TM) that must be answered by governmental health authorities. Although homeopathy is the modality of TM best institutionalized in Brazil, it still faces some obstacles among which the controversial results of meta-analyses of homeopathic clinical trials. Aims: to map out the state of clinical research in homeopathy in the Brazilian university milieu as reflected in doctoral and master dissertations. Methods: specialized databases were searched seeking for doctoral and master dissertations related to homeopathy produced in Brazil between 1985 and 2006. Dissertations were analyzed according to institution; year; research area; type of production; regional distribution and research subject. Dissertations dealing with evaluation of the efficacy/effectiveness of homeopathic treatment were further evaluated as to their aims, methods and results. Results: in the 20 years between 1985 and 2006, 161 dissertations were defended related to homeopathy. Most academic productions dated from the 2000s, particularly 2005-6; 77% were related to master degrees; there was a dramatic concentration (92%) in the Southern and South-Eastern regions of Brazil; they covered 10 different areas, the maximum being physical-biological research (20.4%) and the minimum, clinical research (3.7%); from 6 dissertations dealing with the evaluation of the efficacy/effectiveness of homeopathic treatment, 3 employed qualitative methods; 1 employed quantitative methods but was in the stage of project; 1 was a standard RCT which evinced positive results of homeopathic treatment in gastroesophageal reflux not related to hiatal hernia; the sixth study was a meta-analysis of the methodological quality of 132 RCTs of homeopathy in infectious disease. Conclusions: The number of projects related to the efficacy/effectiveness of homeopathic treatment is insignificant and their methods are chiefly qualitative. This suggests that researchers might believe that standard quantitative studies are improper or insufficient to assess the efficacy/effectiveness of homeopathic treatment or to grasp its dimension of integrality.
Published
2013-03-08
Section
Theoretical and Historical Research