More UAE residents rely on homeopathy for common illnesses: Experts
Dubai - So far, homeopathy has not been banned anywhere.
Homeopathy, an alternative medical practice, has been gaining traction in the UAE - so much so that major insurance firms have included it in their coverage and more pharmacies are stocking up on homeopathic medicines.
However, France's recent decision to stop reimbursing patients for homeopathic treatment from 2021 has become the talk of the town in local communities, with many wondering whether the move would affect the popularity of the practice in the UAE.
In reports published last week, France's national health authority argued that the alternative medicine had no proven medical benefit. French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said the refunds paid by their social security - currently 30 per cent of the treatment - will be reduced to 15 per cent in 2020 and then to zero in 2021.
Leading homeopaths in the UAE, however, told Khaleej Times that France's position is unlikely to have an impact in the UAE anytime soon.
"The popularity of homeopathy is increasing each year in UAE. For many residents here, it is the first choice of treatment for common ailments. Even in France it did not stop licensing homeopathy, it just stopped funding homeopathy in public sector," said Ahammed PK.
So far, homeopathy has not been banned anywhere. In fact, it is well accepted in the Middle East, India and Western Europe, experts said.
Dr Sumayya Shabeel, homoeopathic consultant at Dr Batras Homoeopathic Clinic in Dubai Healthcare City, said: "Homeopathic remedies are cheap to make; safe to take; do not destroy the environment nor require chemicals to make the remedies. It tries to stimulate bodies' own self-healing mechanism and, thus, improves the immunity of the person."
The UAE has been supportive of the practice. In the region, it was among the first to legalise homeopathy, introducing a licensing system for practitioners in 2003.
There are currently around 250 licensed homeopaths in the country, out of which over 120 homeopaths are in medical centres across the emirates.
"The homeopathy community in the UAE is so large, and this system is a common practice in all emirates. The availability of alternative medicines across many pharmacies is proof that it is widely accepted," said Dr Shifa Muhammed of Good Health Medical Clinic in Al Nahda, Sharjah.
Popular medical insurance companies, such as Bupa, Oman Insurance, Nextcare, AXA, ADNiC, Neuron and NAS, also cover homeopathic treatments.
Dr Najeeb Ahammed PK, homeopathic consultant at Jansons Medical Centre, said: "Over 24 companies reimburse the cost of homeopathic treatments in UAE. Some of the major insurance companies cover them, and there is a recent increase in the number of companies providing direct billing services."
For insurance companies, providing coverage for homeopathy is about responding to a "demand".
The system is widely accepted among Asians and Europeans, experts said.
Insurers offer alternative treatment as an 'additional benefit', within the limit of Dh4,000-Dh5,000. Some firms, like Allianz and Bupa, cover it based on consultations, with members being given around 10 to 20 visits.
Sanjay Babur ACII, managing director of Cosmos Insurance Brokers, said: "It must be noted, however, that insurers will cover homeopathy treatment only from DHA/MOH-approved doctors."
For a few other companies, homeopathy is not covered under the alternative medication umbrella. But even in some of these firms, homeopathy can be covered by request within certain policies.
What is homeopathy
Homeopathy is an alternative medical practice that was developed in the late 1700s. It is generally based on two main principles:
1-That a substance that causes symptoms in a healthy person can be used in diluted form to treat symptoms and illnesses, a principle known as "like-cures-like"; and
2-The more diluted the substance, the more potent it is, which is known as the "law of infinitesimals."
Historically, homeopathic products have been identified through "provings," in which substances are administered to healthy volunteers in concentrations that cause symptoms.
Symptoms experienced by volunteers are recorded to indicate possible therapeutic uses for the substances. In other words, if a substance causes a particular symptom, individuals experiencing that symptom would be treated with a diluted solution made from that substance.