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Trials. 2017 Jun 30;18(1):299. doi: 10.1186/s13063-017-2040-2.

Depressed patients treated by homeopaths: a randomised controlled trial using the "cohort multiple randomised controlled trial" (cmRCT) design.

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The Department of Health Studies, The University of Stavanger, Kjell Arholms hus, Kjell Arholms gate 39, 4021, Stavanger, Norway.
The University of Sheffield, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, School of Health and Related Research, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield, S1 4DA, UK.



Despite controversy regarding homeopathy, some patients consult homeopaths for depression. Evidence is required to determine whether this is an effective, acceptable and safe intervention for these patients.


A pragmatic trial using the "cohort multiple randomised controlled trial" design was used to test the effectiveness of adjunctive treatment by homeopaths compared to usual care alone, over a period of 12 months in patients with self-reported depression. One third of patients were randomly selected for an offer of treatment provided by a homeopath. The primary outcome measure was the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) at 6 months. Secondary outcomes included depression scores at 12 months; and the Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7) outcome at 6 and 12 months.


The trial over-recruited by 17% with a total of 566 patients. Forty percent took up the offer and received treatment. An intention-to-treat analysis of the offer group at 6 months reported a 1.4-point lower mean depression score than the no offer group (95% CI 0.2, 2.5, p = 0.019), with a small standardized treatment effect size (d = 0.30). Using instrumental variables analysis, a moderate treatment effect size in favour of those treated was found (d = 0.57) with a between group difference of 2.6 points (95% CI 0.5, 4.7, p = 0.018). Results were maintained at 12 months. Secondary analyses showed similar results. Similar results were found for anxiety (GAD-7). No evidence suggested any important risk involved with the intervention.


This trial provides preliminary support for both the acceptability and the effectiveness of treatment by a homeopath for patients with self-reported depression. Our results provide support for further pragmatic research to provide more precise estimates of treatment effect.


ISRCTN registry, ISRCTN02484593 . Registered on 7 January 2013.


Anxiety; Depression; Homeopathy; Randomised controlled trial; Treatment by homeopaths

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