Research: WEATHERLEY-JONES

Listed in Issue 110

Abstract

WEATHERLEY-JONES and colleagues, Medical Care Research Unit, School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield S1 4DA, UK, e.weaherley-jones@sheffield.ac.uk, have conducted a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of homeopathy for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Background

There is no management regime for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) that has been found to be universally beneficial, and no treatment can be considered a 'cure'. Patients with CFS often use complementary and alternative medicine. The aim of this study was to evaluate homeopathic treatment in reducing subjective symptoms of CFS.

Methodology

Using a triple-blind design (patient and homeopath blind to group assignment and data analyst blind to group until after initial analyses), patients were randomly assigned to homeopathic medicine or identical placebo. 103 patients meeting the Oxford criteria for CFS were recruited from two specialist hospital outpatient departments. Patients had monthly consultations with a professional homeopath for 6 months. Main outcome measures were scores on the subscales of the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI) and proportions of each group attaining clinically significant improvements on each subscale. Secondary outcome measures were the Fatigue Impact Scale (FIS) and the Functional Limitations Profile (FLP).

Results

79 patients completed treatment in the trial (41 homeopathic treatment, 38 placebo). Patients in the homeopathic medicine group showed significantly more improvement on the MFI general fatigue subscale and the FLP physical subscale but not on other subscales. Although group differences were not statistically significant on four out of the five MFI subscales, more people in the homeopathic medicine group showed clinically significant improvement. More people in the homeopathic medicine group showed clinical improvement on all primary outcomes (relative risk=2.75, P=.09).

Conclusion

There is some evidence that the effects of homeopathic medicine are superior to placebo. Results also suggest that there may be nonspecific benefits from the homeopathic consultation. Further studies are needed to determine whether these differences hold in larger samples.

References

Weatherley-Jones E, Nicholl JP, Thomas KJ, Parry GJ, McKendrick MW, Green ST, Stanley PJ, Lynch SP. A randomised, controlled, triple-blind trial of the efficacy of homeopathic treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 56(2): 189-197, Feb 2004.

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