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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Measuring the effects of acupuncture and homoeopathy in general practice: An uncontrolled prospective documentation approach

Corina Güthlin1*, Oliver Lange1 and Harald Walach12

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Evaluation Research in Complementary Medicine, Institute of Environmental Medicine and Hospital Epidemiology, Freiburg University Hospital Hugstetter Str. 55 D-79106 Freiburg Germany

2 Samueli Institute for Information Biology™ – European OfficeFreiburg University Hospital Institute of Environmental Medicine and Hospital Epidemiology Hugstetter Strasse 55 D-79106 Freiburg Germany

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BMC Public Health 2004, 4:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-4-6

Published: 4 March 2004

Abstract

Background

Despite the increasing demand for acupuncture and homoeopathy in Germany, little is known about the effects of these treatments in routine care. We set up a pragmatic documentation study in general practice funded within the scope of project launched by a German health insurer. Patients were followed-up for up to four years.

Methods

The aim of the project was to study the effects and benefits of acupuncture and/or homoeopathy, and to assess patient satisfaction within a prospective documentation of over 5000 acupuncture and over 900 homoeopathy patients. As data sources, we used the documentation made available by therapists on every individual visit and a standardised quality-of-life questionnaire (MOS SF-36); these were complemented by questions concerning the patient's medical history and by questions on patient satisfaction. The health insurer provided us with data on work absenteeism.

Results

Descriptive analyses of the main outcomes showed benefit of treatment with middle to large-sized effects for the quality of life questionnaire SF-36 and about 1 point improvement on a rating scale of effects, given by doctors. Data on the treatment and the patients' and physicians' background suggests chronically ill patients treated by fairly regular schemes.

Conclusion

Since the results showed evidence of a subjective benefit for patients from acupuncture and homoeopathy, this may account for the increase in demand for these treatments especially when patients are chronically ill and unsatisfied with the conventional treatment given previously.