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Open Access Research article

Homeopathic treatment of elderly patients - a prospective observational study with follow-up over a two year period

Michael Teut1*, Rainer Lüdtke2, Katharina Schnabel1, Stefan N Willich1 and Claudia M Witt1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Charité University Medical Center, Luisenstr. 57, D-10017 Berlin, Germany

2 Karl und Veronica Carstens Foundation, Am Deimelsberg 36, D-45276 Essen, Germany

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BMC Geriatrics 2010, 10:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-10-10

Published: 22 February 2010

Abstract

Background

Very little is known about the range of diagnoses, course of treatment and long-term outcome in elderly patients who choose to receive homeopathic medical treatment. We investigated homeopathic practice in an industrialised country under everyday conditions.

The aim of the study was to determine the spectrum of diagnoses and treatments, as well as to describe the course of illness over time among older patients who chose to receive homeopathic treatment.

Methods

In this subgroup analysis of a prospective, multicentre cohort study totally including 3981 patients treated by homeopathic physicians in primary care practices in Germany and Switzerland, data was analysed from all patients > 70 years consulting the physician for the first time. The main outcome measures were: assessment by patient of the severity of complaints (numeric rating scales) and quality of life (SF-36) and by the physician of the severity of diagnoses (numeric rating scales) at baseline, and after 3, 12, and 24 months.

Results

A total of 83 patients were included in the subgroup analysis (41% men, mean age 73.2 ± (SD) 3.1 years; 59% women, 74.3 ± 3.8 years).

98.6 percent of all diagnoses were chronic with an average duration of 11.5 ± 11.5 years. 82 percent of the patients were taking medication at baseline.

The most frequent diagnoses were hypertension (20.5%, 11.1 ± 7.5 years) and sleep disturbances (15.7%, 22.1 ± 25.8 years).

The severity of complaints decreased significantly between baseline and 24 months in both patients (from 6.3 (95%CI: 5.7-6.8) to 4.6 (4.0-5.1), p < 0.001) and physicians' assessments (from 6.6 (6.0-7.1) to 3.7 (3.2-4.3), p < 0.001); quality of life (SF 36) and the number of medicines taken did not significantly change.

Conclusion

The severity of disease showed marked and sustained improvements under homeopathic treatment, but this did not lead to an improvement of quality of life. Our findings might indicate that homeopathic medical therapy may play a beneficial role in the long-term care of older adults with chronic diseases and studies on comparative effectiveness are needed to evaluate this hypothesis.