Context: Economic evaluations of commonly used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies such as homeopathy are needed to contribute to the evidence base on which policy makers, clinicians, health-care payers, as well as patients base their health-care decisions in an era of constrained resources.
Objectives: To review and assess existing economic evaluations of homeopathy.
Methods: Literature search was made to retrieve relevant publications using AMED, the Cochrane Library, CRD (DARE, NHS EED, HTA), EMBASE, MEDLINE, and the journal Homeopathy (former British Homoeopathic Journal). A hand search of relevant publications was carried out. Homeopathy researchers were contacted. Identified publications were independently assessed by two authors.
Results: Fifteen relevant articles reported on 14 economic evaluations of homeopathy. Thirteen studies reported numbers of patients: a total of 3,500 patients received homeopathic treatment (median 97, interquartile range 48-268), and 10 studies reported on control group participants (median 57, IQR 40-362). Eight out of 14 studies found improvements in patients' health together with cost savings. Four studies found that improvements in homeopathy patients were at least as good as in control group patients, at comparable costs. Two studies found improvements similar to conventional treatment, but at higher costs. Studies were highly heterogeneous and had several methodological weaknesses.
Conclusions: Although the identified evidence of the costs and potential benefits of homeopathy seemed promising, studies were highly heterogeneous and had several methodological weaknesses. It is therefore not possible to draw firm conclusions based on existing economic evaluations of homeopathy. Recommendations for future research are presented.