Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic medicine marketed to relieve influenza-like symptoms. It is one of the most popular of all homeopathic medicines, particularly in France. The name Oscillococcinum is owned by a French company, Boiron, its sole manufacturer.
Origin and history
The word Oscillococcinum was coined in 1925 by the French physician Joseph Roy (1891-1978) who saw military duty during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1917. Roy wrote that on examining the blood of flu victims, he had observed a vibrating bacterium which he named Oscillococcus. He believed that this bacterium was the causative agent of diseases as varied as eczema, rheumatism, tuberculosis, measles and cancer. Medical science has since challenged Roy's theory: rheumatism, for example, is not caused by bacteria, and measles is caused by a virus far too small for Roy to have observed in his optical microscope.
Subsequent researchers have not presented a peer-reviewed report of an independent sighting of Oscillococcus. Nonetheless, Oscillococcinum is now used in more than 50 countries worldwide. In France, it has been in production for over 65 years and is the country's top-selling over-the-counter flu medicine.
The ingredients of a one gram tube of Oscillococcinum are listed as:
* Active ingredient: Anas Barbariae Hepatis et Cordis Extractum (extract of Muscovy duck liver and heart) 200CK HPUS 1x10-400g
* Inactive ingredient: 0.85 g sucrose, 0.15 g lactose
The 200CK indicates that the preparation entails a series of 200 dilutions of the starting ingredient, an extract from the heart and liver of a Muscovy duck. Each step entails a 1:100 dilution, where the first mixture contains 1% of the extract, the second contains 1% of the first mixture, etc. Chemically, it is essentially impossible that the final pill will contain any of the original extract (although as with other homeopathic treatments, it is argued that it is not the presence of the molecules of these ingredients that provide the therapeutic value).
The preparation of Oscillococcinum is carried out under strict conditions according to the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States (HPUS), a manufacturing standard accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The efficacy of Oscillococcinum
There is debate over the efficacy of Oscillococcinum. After diluting the original mixture 200 times there is an overwhelming probability that not a single molecule of its active ingredient will be present in the final product. In terms of chemistry, such a dilution is identical to water and therefore there is no known mechanism for a medicinal effect. Homeopathy as a whole is considered pseudoscience by the majority of doctors.
Since it is used for the relief of symptoms of flu, a self-limiting disease which lasts for a variable number of days, the best it could do is shorten the duration of those symptoms. If one takes any medication and one's flu goes away, then it is easy to attribute this to the medication. However, the infection would have resolved anyway.
Various clinical trials of Oscillococcinum have been conducted; however, the statistical significance and the scientific rigor of these studies is debated, and some studies attributed the results to the placebo effect.
In one systematic review of the published clinical studies, the authors reported that the studies showed that Oscillococcinum possibly reduced the duration of the flu by about six hours, but has no effect on preventing it. They concluded the data are not strong enough to make a general recommendation to use Oscillococcinum for flu. Another review of flu treatments (vaccine, medicine, homeopathy) has concluded that the popularity of Oscillococcinum in France was unsupported by the current evidence as to its efficacy.
1. ^ a b Nienhuys, Jan Willem (2003-08-23). The True Story of Oscillococcinum. Retrieved on 2007-02-23.
2. ^ Vickers AJ, Smith C. Homoeopathic Oscillococcinum for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like syndromes., Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001957.
3. ^ van der Wouden JC, Bueving HJ, Poole P. Preventing influenza: an overview of systematic reviews. Respir Med. 2005 Nov;99(11):1341-9. Epub 2005 Aug 19. PMID 16112852
* Papp R., et al. Oscillococcinum in patients with influenza-like syndromes: a placebo-controlled, double-blind evaluation. Br Homeopath J. 1998;87:69-76.
* Ferley JP., et al. A controlled evaluation of a homeopathic preparation in the treatment of influenza-like symptoms. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1989;27:329-335.
* Cassanova P., et al. The evaluation of 100 randomized observations of Oscillococcinum/placebo in the influenza syndrome. Data on file, Boiron.
* O.A. Julian. Treatise on dynamised micro-immunotherapy. Part II. B. Jain Publishers, LTD.