The use of homeopathic medicines in farm animals is a good thing. In cows and chickens its use can increase production of milk and eggs, stimulate growth and combat parasites.
At least that is what Luiz Miguel Mangini, the president of the Brazilian Veterinary Homeopathic Medicine Association (AHB), says.
His comments were made on the eve of the 27th Brazilian Homeopathy Congress which begins on Saturday in Brasília, capital of Brazil.
Mangini claims that research projects that have been concluded and research that is underway, around the world, all show that veterinary homeopathy is cheaper than regular treatment, as well as efficient.
The method is so good that there has also been a strong demand for homeopathic treatment for domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, reports Mangini.
There is also interest among members of the veterinary profession. In order to become a specialist, it is necessary to complete a three-year course.
At the moment, there are some 600 qualified practioners of veterinary homeopathy in Brazil.
Homeopathic medicine was invented in Germany by Dr Christian Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) and arrived in Brazil at the turn of the 20th century.
But in the 1920s, with the discovery of antibiotics, homeopathic medicine lost its institutional seal of approval. It became popular again in the 1970s as part of the counterculture.
In Brazil, for over a decade, it has been used in the public healthcare system (SUS), presently operating in 20 states and over 100 municipalities.
There are 457 registered homeopathic practioners in the SUS.
In 2003, over 300,000 SUS medical consultations were made involving homeopathic procedures. At the beginning of this year the Ministry of Health created a planning group on natural and alternative medicine.
Access to Medicine
A study conducted by the Ministry of Health discovered that 53% of the Brazilian population does not have access to the remedies people need, because they are unable to buy them.
For this reason, the Popular Pharmacy program, a partnership with states and municipalities, will offer medications at lower prices, explains the general coordinator of Program Planning, Organization, and Management, Luiz Roberto Klassmann.
According to Klassmann, current programs to distribute remedies occur through three channels: financing to states and municipalities, co-financing, and direct transfer of medications.
Between the beginning of this year and the end of December, the coordinator added, approximately US$ 1 billion should be invested, including expenditures on hospitalizations and programs that treat patients with cancer and Aids.
The financing of medications covers the Mental Health Program, conducted in partnership with the states, and the Program of Incentives for Basic Pharmaceutical Assistance, developed in conjunction with the municipalities.
In the Mental Health Program, the federal government contributes 80% of the funds. The rest comes from state government coffers. Last year the Ministry of Health spent over US$ 7 million on the purchase of medications.
In the Program of Incentives for Basic Pharmaceutical Assistance, the federal government contributes 1 real (33 cents) annually for every Brazilian, while the states and municipalities contribute at least 50 centavos each. In 2004, the federal government portion will increase to 1.50 reais.
Through the co-financing scheme, the federal government transfers resources to the states, which also participate with counterpart funds that vary according to the products that are acquired.
Federal government funds for co-financing amount to around US$ 176 million. When added to the sums provided by the states, the total reaches almost US$ 330 million.
Co-financing makes it easier to purchase exceptional medications. These products are very expensive and are used in the treatment of complex congenital or acquired diseases.
The list includes, for example, medicines for transplant patients and victims of chronic kidney insufficiency, various types of hepatitis, and multiple sclerosis.
In the area of direct transfer of medications, two programs are benefitted: the Family Health Program (PSF) and the Strategic Medications Program.
Among the latter are remedies for tuberculosis and leprosy, insulin for diabetics, and drugs used to treat carriers of the Aids virus.
The Ministry of Health distributes these medications to the states and muncipalities. In 2004, the federal government will spend US$ 172 million just on the purchase of drugs used to treat HIV victims.