Oscillococcinum Information and Facts

Oscillococcinum is one of the common names used for a remedy that is widely used for prevention and relieving the flu in Europe, particularly in France. Oscillococcinum, the number one flu medicine of France, is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. This homeopathic medicine has been shown in clinical studies to decrease the duration and intensity of flu symptoms.

Oscillococcinum is a 200c potency of an autolysate of Barbary duck heart and liver. It was introduced in the 1930's by Dr Joseph Roy, who believed that it contained a bacterium, Oscillococcus, which caused influenza. We now know that this rationale was spurious, although it is not the first or last instance of an effective medicine being introduced on the basis of a theory subsequently shown to be incorrect. In a further twist, Roy's theory has been shown to be much closer to the mark than once supposed. Wild fowl have been shown to be a major reservoir of human influenza viruses.

The popular reputation of Oscillococcinum has now been vindicated by a large scale double-blind placebo controlled trial published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. 487 patients were recruited by 149 general practitioners (mostly non-homoeopaths) in the Rhone-Alps region of France during the influenza epidemic of January-February 1987.

After 48 hours, 17 of the active treatment group had fully recovered, compared to 10 of the placebo group. This difference was statistically significant (p=0.03, X2 test). Further analysis showed that the effect of Oscillococcinum peaked at 36 hours, when 40 of recoveries were attributable to the treatment. It was most effective in younger patients - 68 of recoveries within 48 hours in the under-30 were due to treatment; and when the illness was relatively mild, 52 of the recoveries from illnesses classified mild or moderate were due to treatment. Patients on active treatment used significantly less than other treatment for pain and fever (50 v 41); they also judged the active treatment more efficacious than placebo (61 v 49).

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