Introduction: The Health Technology Assessment report on effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and appropriateness of homeopathy was compiled on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health (BAG) within the framework of the 'Program of Evaluation of Complementary Medicine (PEK)'.
Materials and methods: Databases accessible by Internet were systematically searched, complemented by manual search and contacts with experts, and evaluated according to internal and external validity criteria.
Results: Many high-quality investigations of pre-clinical basic research proved homeopathic high-potencies inducing regulative and specific changes in cells or living organisms. 20 of 22 systematic reviews detected at least a trend in favor of homeopathy. In our estimation 5 studies yielded results indicating clear evidence for homeopathic therapy. The evaluation of 29 studies in the domain 'Upper Respiratory Tract Infections/Allergic Reactions' showed a positive overall result in favor of homeopathy. 6 out of 7 controlled studies were at least equivalent to conventional medical interventions. 8 out of 16 placebo-controlled studies were significant in favor of homeopathy. Swiss regulations grant a high degree of safety due to product and training requirements for homeopathic physicians. Applied properly, classical homeopathy has few side-effects and the use of high-potencies is free of toxic effects. A general health-economic statement about homeopathy cannot be made from the available data.
Conclusion: Taking internal and external validity criteria into account, effectiveness of homeopathy can be supported by clinical evidence and professional and adequate application be regarded as safe. Reliable statements of cost-effectiveness are not available at the moment. External and model validity will have to be taken more strongly into consideration in future studies.