Michael Teut, Harald Walach, Roja Varanasi, Raj K. Manchanda, Praveen Oberai, Elizabeth Thompson, Susanne Ulbrich-Zürni

Recommendations for Designing, Conducting and Reporting Observational Studies in Homeopathy

Homeopathy, 2020, 109 (3), 114-125

Background – Randomized placebo-controlled trials are considered to be the gold standard in clinical research and have the highest importance in the hierarchical system of evidence-based medicine. However, from the viewpoint of decision makers, due to lower external validity, practical results of efficacy research are often not in line with the huge investments made over decades. Method – We conducted a narrative review. With a special focus on homeopathy, we give an overview on cohort, comparative cohort, case-control and cross-sectional study designs and explain guidelines and tools that help to improve the quality of observational studies, such as the STROBE Statement, RECORD, GRACE and ENCePP Guide. Results – Within the conventional medical research field, two types of arguments have been employed in favor of observational studies. First, observational studies allow for a more generalizable and robust estimation of effects in clinical practice, and if cohorts are large enough, there is no over-estimation of effect sizes, as is often feared. We argue that observational research is needed to balance the current over-emphasis on internal validity at the expense of external validity. Thus, observational research can be considered an important research tool to describe “real-world” care settings and can assist with the design and inform the results of randomised controlled trails. Conclusions – We present recommendations for designing, conducting and reporting observational studies in homeopathy and provide recommendations to complement the STROBE Statement for homeopathic observational studies.

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