The Trouble with Traumeel

I’m on a roll here, so lets have at her. Below is a picture of me conveying how much confidence I have in the effectiveness of Traumeel:

Oh Traumeel, how loyal art thou. With your arbitrary expiry date, you seem to be good forever. When I read your list of ingredients out loud I feel as if I’m the Pope delivering a sermon in Latin. Your DIN number: 02004224, brings me comfort. Actually, I don’t have much confidence in federal health regulators and advisory committees since they tend to disregard proper research methodologies when approving products for public use. The fact that they even entertain pro-homeopathy studies baffles me. It doesn’t take a magician to see through water pills, although one has:

Anycase, you don’t need James Randi (a man with whom I disagree with on many points) to persuade you. Unfortunately it’s hard to find studies that test Traumeel, which aren’t sponsored or conducted by an “alternative remedies” or “homeopathic” organization. I found this one SINGER SR, et al. (2010). Traumeel S for pain relief following hallux valgus surgery: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Clinical Pharmacology. 10, which is publicly available. The study was conducted in 2010 at the Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine, Shaare Zedek Medical Center. I found the fine print (on page 7 under “Competing Interests”) of this article particularly interesting:

The HEEL Company (Baden-Baden, Germany) has funded previous research at the Shaare Zedek Center for Integrative Complementary Medicine, and pro- vided funding for the performance and monitoring of this project, supplied the study medication and placebo, and prepared the randomization list. However, it had by contractual agreement no control over the flow of the study, the data analysis, or the decision when and where to publish the study findings. The authors have full control over the primary data, and agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested.

Some of the conclusions that this HEEL sponsored study drew were:

  • Traumeel was not superior to placebo in minimizing pain or analgesic consumption over the 14 days of the trial, however a transient reduction in the daily maximum post-operative pain score was observed on the day of surgery.
  • Wound infection was more prevalent in the placebo group, but the difference was not statistically significant. Other adverse effects were too rare to analyze statistically.

Some other interesting notes from this study:

  • Homeopathy is frequently attacked for its use of solutions diluted beyond Avogadro’s number, and hence physical-chemical implausibility. That criticism was circumvented in this trial by employing a preparation of solutions that were dilute, but well within the material range.
  • This trial has several limitations. By choosing a cumulative 14-day measure for our primary outcome, we may have inadvertently diluted any effect that may have been present in the first days after surgery – those with the greatest pain.
  • Homeopathic purists may find fault in the administration of a standardized combination homeopathic formula to all patients, based upon clinical diagnosis as opposed to the individualized manner dictated by standard homeopathic practice.
  • …for the sake of simplicity we chose to use only oral administration of the study medication, under the assumption that its effect would be similar to that of injection followed by oral therapy. In retrospect, that assumption may have been mistaken.

Some of these concerns were legitimate methodological concerns. However, the idea that “Homeopathic purists may find fault in the administration of a standardized combination homeopathic formula to all patients, based upon clinical diagnosis as opposed to the individualized manner dictated by standard homeopathic practice” doesn’t fly with me. First of all, you have to agree that homeopathic methodology is sensible to start with, which I don’t. The researchers here are obviously following good scientific etiquette. Good form!

I also found Scott Gavura’s blog post at Science-Based Pharmacy an informative, yet critical look at Traumeel and its claims. And Paul Ingraham from SaveYourself.ca posted this article looking at Traumeels effectiveness as a homeopathic remedy for pain. I recommend that while you read these posts that you review their arguments critically and dip into the literature yourself – unless you want to passively accept or reject what you read like a good little consumer.

Clinical trials were also posted by HEEL on its website. Make sure you pay attention to methodology, results, and their interpretation of the results. Also, try to find out who sponsors studies, or who the stakeholders are. This information is always important in reviewing research. For instance, notice that the study I posted above was not cited on their website even though it was sponsored by them. Why would they? It doesn’t support their product.

Lastly (although it’s not really evidence of anything) I’d just like to mention that an employee of HEEL is the Chair of Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Program Advisory Committee, and volunteers with the Canadian Homeopathic Pharmaceutical association (CHPA). Actually, wait a second…CHPA has two employees of HEEL, the second is HEEL Canada Inc’s General Manager. I’m sure this is all nothing more than a conspiracy theory, but it sure looks interesting.

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One thought on “The Trouble with Traumeel

  1. I think your main problem with Traumeel is that it’s homeopathic. You have a prejudice and it’s obvious. My wife fell and injured her back and hip severely. Traumeel completely healed what should have been a life long injury. It also decreased inflammation dramatically after a breast biopsy. Doctors were amazed at how quickly she recovered. As for the biopsy a few years ago, she had breast cancer, 1st stage invasive. Gone. All with alternative medicine. So, while you may think advocates of alternative medicine have some sort of blind prejudice for wanting to be avante guard, it’s the foaming at the mouth people who just assume that to be the case who have the prejudice. Traumeel works. It is touted widely in conventional sources as being effective with no mention of it being homeopathic. The minute someone menntions it’s homeopathic, everything changes.

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