Methods: A retrospective observational study was conducted on 105 out of 233 patients suffering from chronic respiratory disease attending the Homeopathic Clinic of the Campo di Marte Hospital in Lucca (Tuscany, Italy) between October 1998 and May 2003. We assessed the cost of conventional medicinal products using Anatomic Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification, specific for the pathology in question, and the general costs in the year preceding the first appointment at the Homeopathic Clinic vs. the first and second year subsequent to homeopathic treatment. The costs of conventional drugs for a group of patients affected by asthma (8 patients) and recurrent respiratory infections (16 patients) with long term use of conventional medicine treated by homeopathy were compared with the expenses of conventional drugs of a matched group of 16 and 32 patients, respectively.
Results: Costs of pharmacological therapy specific for respiratory diseases were reduced by 46.3% (n=105) in the first year (P<0.01); and by 47.5% (n=72) in the second year (P<0.01) of homeopathic treatment. Reduction in general drug costs during homeopathic therapy was 42.4% in the first year (P<0.01); and -49.8 in the second year (N.S.). Costs for patients affected by chronic asthma showed a reduction in expenses of 71.1% for specific medicines relative to the group in homeopathic treatment vs. an increase of 12.3% in the group treated only with conventional drugs after the first year of follow-up and, respectively, a reduction of -54.4% for homeopathic treatment vs. +45.2% after the second year. For patients with recurrent respiratory infections we found a reduction of 35.8% in the homeopathic group in the first year, compared to an increase 8.6% of costs for specific drugs in the control group; in the second year the respective figures were -43.6% versus +7.8% in the control group.
Conclusions: Homeopathic treatment for respiratory diseases (asthma, allergic complaints, Acute Recurrent Respiratory Infections) was associated with a significant reduction in the use and costs of conventional drugs. Costs for homeopathic therapy are significantly lower than those for conventional pharmacological therapy.