Objective: This study was done to determine characteristics and management of patients in France visiting allopathic general practitioners (AGPs) and homeopathic general practitioners (HGPs) for influenza-like illness (ILI).
Design: This was a prospective observational study.
Settings/location: It was conducted in metropolitan France during the 2009-2010 influenza season.
Subjects: Sixty-five HGPs and 124 AGPs recruited a total of 461 patients with ILI.
Interventions: Patients were treated for ILI by their GPs. GPs and patients completed questionnaires recording demographic characteristics and patient symptoms when patients were included in the study. Patients reported satisfaction with treatment on day 4. Prescriptions were recorded by the GPs.
Outcome measures: Outcome measures were patient characteristics, demographics, and symptoms at baseline; medications prescribed by type of physician; and satisfaction with treatment by type of physician and medication.
Results: Most AGPs (86%), and most patients visiting them (58%) were men; whereas most HGPs (57%; p<0.0001), and most patients visiting them (56%; p=0.006) were women. Patients visiting AGPs were seen sooner after the appearance of symptoms, and they self-treated more frequently with cough suppressants or expectorants (p=0.0018). Patients visiting HGPs were seen later after the appearance of symptoms and they self-treated with homeopathic medications more frequently (p<0.0001). At enrollment, headaches (p=0.025), cough (p=0.01), muscle/joint pain (p=0.049), chills/shivering (p<0.001), and nasal discharge/congestion (p=0.002) were more common in patients visiting AGPs. Of these patients, 37.1% visiting AGPs were prescribed at least one homeopathic medication, and 59.6% of patients visiting HGPs were prescribed at least one allopathic medication. Patient satisfaction with treatment did not differ between AGPs and HGPs but was highest for patients treated with homeopathic medications only.
Conclusions: In France, homeopathy is widely accepted for the treatment of ILI and does not preclude the use of allopathic medications. However, patients treated with homeopathic medications only are more satisfied with their treatment than other patients.