Alternative medicine, particularly homeopathy has not received the attention it deserves in the last few years from policy makers. As a result, there are several areas in the delivery and availability of homeopathic health services that need attention. Budget allocations need to bear these requirements in mind and attempt to meet them.
Fair and equitable budget allocation for Homeopathy
The Budget allocation and utilisation of funds by the ministry of AYUSH is disproportionately in favour of Ayurveda. Homeopathy is the second-most popular system of medicine in the world. It is immensely popular in India, but India also bears the torch for generating evidence in homeopathy for the rest of the world. This fact needs to be reflected in the Budget allocation.
Funds for private sector and practitioner population outreach
Some of the most significant advances in the management of COVID-19 have come from non-government treatment centres and practitioners. The first vaccine to get emergency use approval by the USFDA was a collaboration of the National Institute of Health, USA and a pharmaceutical company. Homeopathic research and development cannot be the sole purview of one or two government run bodies. Acknowledgement of the pioneering work by private practices by the Central Council of Homeopathy and Central Council for Research in Homeopathy and a proactive focussed outreach to involve these practitioners will require significant funding. This can result in an exponential increase in the speed of generation and volume of evidence.
Funds for pandemic preparedness
India led the way in the response of complementary and alternative medicine systems’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. An advisory for homeopathic prophylactic was issued within a few weeks of the onset of the pandemic. However, we need to have protocols in place to provide immediate advice, deploy resources for analysis of ‘real-world’ efficacy of homeopathic interventions in real time, collaborate with conventional centres of treatment and disseminate this information as and when deemed fit. This level of preparedness will require specific funding.
Access to homeopathic services
There needs to be a steady increase in the number and capacity of central government-run homeopathic clinics with the increase in population density in urban cities. As connectivity and population increases in semi-urban and rural towns and cities, homeopathic clinics need to be opened here as well. Patients who want homeopathic treatment are forced to opt for conventional medicine due to difficulties in accessing subsidised homeopathic treatment.
Availability of homeopathic health services through ‘Ayushman Bharat’
This highly commendable scheme by the Government of India should include homeopathy. There can be Public-Private Partnerships between private homeopathy practitioners and the government. Government outreach and planning can easily accomplish this. Homeopathy should also be made readily available at primary health centres as on option for those patients who want it. Most government health centres are held in high regard by patients. Highly trained doctors of conventional medicine are aware of the limitations of their science. The deployment of homeopaths in these centres can result in a referral from these doctors to homeopaths for conditions that do not respond to allopathic treatment. This will result in minimal time loss for the patient and reduce the burden on conventional doctors. This facility will be very important in the primary, secondary and tertiary health centres.
In primary centres, conditions likes viral infections of the respirator system, allergies, a large number of skin ailments and other conditions can be referred to homeopaths. In secondary and tertiary centres, patients with advanced cancers requiring palliation, patients of oragan failures and other serious illnesses can be referred to homeopaths. At every level of the national health services, homeopathy should be available as an add on treatment whenever requested since homeopathy does not adversely interact with conventional treatment.
For a country that recognises the importance of complementary medicine as evidenced through the creation of a ministry devoted to it, providing funding and training for these steps to be taken is the next logical step. Training also needs to be provided to conventional doctors for spreading awareness of the conditions that have limited scope in allopathy and are better and more safely managed with homeopathy.
Establishment of centres of excellence in homeopathy
The high standards of training homeopaths need to be maintained. The National Institute of Homeopathy, Kolkata needs an injection of funds for a large-scale revamp and for increasing its patient handling capacity. Similar centres need to be established in the different corners of the country – particularly the National Capital Region.
Significant funding is required for funding research related to homeopathy. This area of research is not limited to clinical trials (which are extremely important) but also fundamental research which delves into understanding the mode of action of homeopathic medicines and ultra-dilutions in general. Funding to establish research partnerships with institutes of excellence like the Indian Institutes of Technology can yield significant results which will stand up to the highest levels of scientific scrutiny.
Dissemination of Information and increasing Public Awareness
Steps are needed to address concerns which the patient population may have related to seeking homeopathic treatment. These need to be addressed and doubts need to be clarified through aggressive yet non-sensational media outreach by government bodies like the Central Council of Homeopathy and the Central Council for Research in Homeopathy. This will serve as a reliable, truthful source of information to combat any biased projection or misinformation circulating in the media.
(Dr. Kushal Banerjee M.D. (Hom.), MSc (Oxon),is a second-generation homeopath at Dr. Kalyan Banerjee’s Clinic, New Delhi, CR Park; and a member of the British Register of Complementary Medicine, England)