Evaluation of specific and non-specific effects in homeopathy: Feasibility study for a randomised trial
Received21 April 2006
revised12 June 2006
accepted13 July 2006
14 December 2017 (online)
Objective: To determine the feasibility, in terms of acceptability to patients, physicians and other staff; data return and statistical power of a study to elucidate the relative contributions of specific and non-specific effects in homeopathic treatment of dermatitis.
Design: Randomised, controlled 4-arm trial, 2 arms double-blind.
Setting: Outpatient clinic, Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital.
Participants: Seventy-five adult patients with dermatitis.
Interventions: Patients were randomly allocated to: ‘fast track’ open verum homeopathy, ‘fast track’ double-blind verum homeopathy, ‘fast track’ double-blind placebo homeopathy or waiting list control.
Main outcome measures: One hundred millimeter visual analogue scale of overall symptom severity; 10 point digital scores of sleep, itching, skin condition; weekly 5-point Likert scale of topical steroid use; Dermatology Life Quality Index at entry and completion.
Results: Recruitment was below target, but the study was acceptable to staff and feasible. Blinded patients were more likely to withdraw (P=0.021, χ2 test). After correction for baseline differences and multiple comparisons, no outcome measure showed statistically significant between group differences. Blindness appeared to have a negative effect, but this was confounded by differential withdrawal.
Conclusions: A definitive trial of this design is unlikely to discriminate the relative contributions of the non-specific and specific effects to the outcome of homeopathic treatment of dermatitis, because of patient preference issues.
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