Homeopathic MYTH: US Homeopaths Claim ‘Therapies’ Prevent Measles and ‘Cure’ Autism

“An understanding of the basic function of the immune system is useful in order to understand both how vaccines work and the basis of recommendations for their use.”1(CDC)

            So what do measles, mumps, and pneumococcal pneumonia have in common in 2019?  Well, after having spent 6 months on my last medical school rotations in a border city in pediatrics, the amount of unvaccinated individuals crossing our border, these diseases are spreading within this community and the surrounding communities. These are all preventable diseases with vaccines. We would see these routinely in the border city hospitals.  This blog is NOT about immigration, but is about vaccines. With the reemergence of such diseases, vaccines are ever more important as is educating communities in the face of zealous misinformation being perpetrated on a mostly naive populous.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,001 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in more than 20 states this year alone.2Many people will google items about vaccines and feel more educated than actual physicians – especially those against vaccines. Most in the scientific community would agree with the above statement from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). However, there are those who are staunch advocates against vaccines and believe as indicated in the title of the article that homeopathic ‘therapies’ can prevent measles and ‘cure’ autism.2Bottom line up front (BLUF): Those who are against vaccines are against science. However, there are those who believe (without science on their side) that: “homeopathic remedies can be used preventatively for measles.”2However, the science regarding the MMR live attenuated vaccine purports:

“Live attenuated vaccines are produced by modifying a disease-producing (“wild”)virus or bacterium in a laboratory. The resulting vaccine organism retains the ability to replicate (grow) and produce immunity, but usually does not cause illness.”1

            Keeping these biological principles in mind, homeopathic medicine purports: 

“Homeopathy is a medical system based on the belief that the body can cure itself. Those who practice it use tiny amounts of natural substances, like plants and minerals. They believe these stimulate the healing process.”3

            So technically, couldn’t vaccines be considered a form of homeopathy?

“A basic belief behind homeopathy is “like cures like.” In other words, something that brings on symptoms in a healthy person can — in a very small dose — treat an illness with similar symptoms. This is meant to trigger the body’s natural defenses.”3

            According to WebMD:

“Don’t use homeopathic medicine for life-threatening illnesses, like asthmacancer, and heart disease, or in emergencies. You should also avoid using it in place of vaccines. Some homeopathic products called “nosodes” are marketed as an alternative for vaccinesbut there’s no research to prove they’re effective.”3

            But don’t tell that to the staunch homeopaths:

“More than 2,000 American children have been put on the program which claims to build natural immunity against infectious diseases,”2

            “Though there is no scientific evidence that it works.”2Parents and anti-vaxxers choose to not follow scientific evidence in lieu of the dangerous practice of exposing themselves to potentially life threatening diseases. We all remember the recent case of the anti-vaxxer family in Oregon whose child acquired tetanus, costing close to a million dollars and 2 months inpatient in the hospital all because they choose to ignore science. Maybe there is an argument to be made for freedom of choice, but how did that choice work out for them?  How does that also work when vaccines protect others from diseases individuals may bring. Take the border issue, and unvaccinated child bringing measles into the country exposes others to measles. The anti-vaxxers behavior towards vaccines has societal consequences that can’t be ignored:

“More than 100 hotspots in which large numbers of children are now going unvaccinated have been identified across the nation. Of those, 15 are in urban areas. Seven of the 15 have experienced measles outbreaks in 2019.2

            But the anti-vaxxers counter with:

“exposing children to infectious disease by leaving them unvaccinated was a good thing. “We need infectious disease,” she said.“The best immunity to childhood infectious disease is through natural exposure and then you have lifelong immunity”.2

            It seems almost pointless to debate someone with a closed mind. Afterall, they googled the information and are more informed and educated than MDs/Dos/PhDs on the topic right? Not exactly. But suffice to say if history repeats itself:

“The last time that the American public relied on “natural exposure” to measles – that is, before the US measles vaccination program began in 1963 – the disease caused untold human suffering. Up to 4 million Americans contracted it each year, of whom almost 50,000 were hospitalized and 500 died annually.2

            But what do we know? Exactly, what exactly do we know:

“Vaccines protect by inducing effector mechanisms (cells or molecules) capable of rapidly controlling replicating pathogens or inactivating their toxic components. Vaccine-induced immune effectors are essentially antibodies— produced by B lymphocytes—capable of binding specifcally to a toxin or a pathogen……”5

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            Myth: homeopaths ‘therapies’ prevent measles and ‘cure’ autism – BUSTED!

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/prinvac.pdf
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jun/07/homeopathic-therapies-prevent-measles-cure-autism
  3. https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-homeopathy#1
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/09/well/oregon-child-tetanus-vaccine.html
  5. https://www.who.int/immunization/documents/Elsevier_Vaccine_immunology.pdf

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Robert Duprey MD

Robert P. Duprey Jr studied medicine as a 2nd career medical student who went to medical school in his 40’s after honorable discharge and ‘retirement’ from 25 years in the US Military (USCG & US Army). He was a registered nurse (RN) with specialty training as a psychiatric RN in the US Army for 15 years. During this time he also became a Master’s level psychotherapist in 2002. While on US Army active duty he also became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner while working full time in 2011. He served as a Psych NP on active duty, to include a combat tour in Iraq, until his ‘retirement’ in 2014 and moved to Philippines with his 3 children. At this time he started medical school overseas at Oceania University of Medicine based out of Samoa accredited by Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU). He continued to work as a Psych NP throughout medical school to support his children and to not have to take out loans for medical school tuition. Originally from Rhode Island, he completed medical school clerkship rotations throughout the USA with a graduation in May 2019 earning the esteemed credential of MD. He has successfully completed USMLE Steps 1, 2CS, and 2CK. He will take Step 3 this September as he applies for Psychiatry Residency. Having been and RN, NP and now MD, he is a believer of Physician led multidisciplinary healthcare teams