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A former GP-homeopath who lectures at the Dunedin School of Medicine says Western medicine does not understand homeopathy, but that should not mean it is written off.
Dr Monika Clark-Grill was responding to Victoria University medical researcher Prof Shaun Holt's call for GPs to stop practising homeopathy, or referring patients to a homeopath.
Prof Holt criticised guidelines issued by New Zealand's Medical Council which encourage GPs to inform patients of competing viewpoints regarding alternative therapies.
"There is no grey area with respect to homeopathy, a practice which involves diluting substances to such a degree that not a single molecule remains," he said.
Dr Clark-Grill teaches a postgraduate course in the department of general practice, which gives an overview of non-conventional treatments. She also lectured postgraduate medical ethics, and taught undergraduates community health care.
Dr Clark-Grill said medical students from Asian backgrounds seemed to be more open to alternative medicine, probably because they had been exposed to cultural medicines, such as those in China and India.
Now focused on research and teaching, she once combined homeopathy and general practice and said the controversial therapy addressed "effectiveness gaps" in mainstream medicine.
Dr Clark-Grill, who trained in her native Austria, said homeopathy enjoyed greater acceptance in Europe, where it was integrated with mainstream medical practice.
"Homeopathy meets a lot of scepticism, as the mechanism of homeopathy is not known and seems counter-intuitive to present thinking.
"However, it has been used worldwide now for over 200 years and the trend for its use is growing."
While homeopathic remedies did not contain active ingredients, they were charged with energy, the type and role of which worked in ways not understood.
Dr Clark-Grill pointed out that while Western medicine did not understand how anti-depressants, among other drugs, operated chemically, they were still prescribed.
As well as a small but promising pool of clinical trials showing effectiveness, strong anecdotal evidence for homeopathy could not be dismissed.
She believed Prof Holt misinterpreted the Medical Council guidelines, which recognised patients' rights, rather than endorsing alternative therapies.
It was important GPs and other clinicians understood, respected, and co-operated with other health therapies, Dr Clark-Grill said.
Dunedin School of Medicine dean Dr John Adams, who is also Medical Council chairman, said doctors needed to be informed about alternative therapies so they could give sound information to patients, put different therapies in context and help patients make decisions.
When asked, he said he would not refer a patient for homeopathy because it was not evidence-based.