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Int J Epidemiol. 2001 Jun;30(3):526-31.

The methodological quality of randomized controlled trials of homeopathy, herbal medicines and acupuncture.

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Institute for Social Medicine & Epidemiology, Charité, Humboldt-University, Berlin, Germany.



To investigate the methodological quality of randomized controlled trials in three areas of complementary medicine.


The methodological quality of 207 randomized trials collected for five previously published systematic reviews on homeopathy, herbal medicine (Hypericum for depression, Echinacea for common cold), and acupuncture (for asthma and chronic headache) was assessed using a validated scale (the Jadad scale) and single quality items.


While the methodological quality of the trials was highly variable, the majority had important shortcomings in reporting and/or methodology. Major problems in most trials were the description of allocation concealment and the reporting of drop-outs and withdrawals. There were relevant differences in single quality components between the different complementary therapies: For example, acupuncture trials reported adequate allocation concealment less often (6% versus 32% of homeopathy and 26% of herb trials), and trials on herbal extracts had better summary scores (mean score 3.12 versus 2.33 for homeopathy and 2.19 for acupuncture trials). Larger trials published more recently in journals listed in Medline and in English language scored significantly higher than trials not meeting these criteria.


Trials of complementary therapies often have relevant methodological weaknesses. The type of weaknesses varies considerably across interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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