Integrative Care
Policy News

CAM methods introduced in Switzerland pending review

19 September, 2012 by David Finer

In Switzerland, patients will be able to get CAM treatments under the auspices of state-funded health care, at least through the year 2018. This is a result of new scientific studies and a referendum.

There has been quite a heated debate going on in Switzerland the last few years as to whether certain CAM methods should be included in the publicly funded health care system.

In 1999-2005, five CAM methods were introduced (herbals, TCM, homeopathy, neural therapy and holistic medicine) in regular health care, and now they are being reintroduced again. During the years 2006-2012 this support was temporarily retracted, due to perceptions that the scientific underpinnings were too flimsy.

Two out of three for CAM
Now the methods are regarded as having a stronger foundation. Moreover, in a 2009 referendum, two out of three citizens (67 percent) voted to include the CAM methods in public health care (with 33 percent against).

Scientifically speaking, the decision has been influenced by a HTA report (Health Technology Assessment) from 2011.

Effectiveness of homeopathy
The report has not only reviewed efficacy studies of homeopathy under artificial lab conditions but has also assessed real-world effectiveness studies.

The authors conclude that ” individual CAM interventions , especially homeopathy, were effective, under Swiss conditions safe and, as far as could be judged from the trial situation, also cost-efficient.

However, sceptics have published a detailed critique of the report´s findings, which they say lack all merit. See:,_Appropriateness,_Safety,_Costs

More research required
However, a prerequisite for the five methods to continue being part of the public health care system is that more convincing research results will be presented after 2018, according to agency requirements.

Research has already begun to evaluate the effectiveness, cost-efficiency and suitability of CAM methods in clinical practice. The results will be evaluated by a yet-to-be-determined, independent international research body.

Poorest to benefit

The reform in Switzerland will above all make a difference for those who have not been able to afford these methods previously and for the group of patients, who are most seriously ill, according to a statement by Swiss physician/researcher Klaus von Ammon at an international CAM conference in Portland, Oregon, USA recently.

Sentiments about the reform are mixed among prescribing physicians in Switzerland, dr von Ammon said.

Johanna Hök & David Finer

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