To use scientific methods to evaluate 2 claims made by practitioners of alternative medicine.
A placebo-controlled, double-blind study of homeopathy in children with warts, and a cohort study of the influence of lunar phases on postoperative outcome in surgical patients.
Outpatients of a dermatology department (homeopathy study) and inpatients evaluated at an anesthesiology department (lunar phases).
Sixty volunteers for the homeopathy study and 14970 consecutive patients undergoing surgery under general anesthesia for the lunar phase study.
Treatment of children with warts with individually selected homeopathic preparations (homeopathic study); surgical procedures including abdominal, vascular, cardiac, thoracic, plastic, and orthopedic operations and assessment of the lunar phase at the time of operation (lunar phase study).
Main Outcome Measures
Reduction of area occupied by warts by at least 50% within 8 weeks; death from any cause within 30 days after surgery.
Nine of 30 subjects in the homeopathy group and 7 of 30 subjects in the placebo group experienced at least 50% reduction in area occupied by warts (χ2=0.34; P=.56); the mortality rate was 1.20% in patients operated on during waxing moon and 1.33% in patients operated on during waning moon (χ2=0.49; P=.50).
Statements and methods of alternative medicine—as far as they concern observable clinical phenomena—can be tested by scientific methods. When such tests yield negative results, as in the studies presented herein, the particular method or statement should be abandoned. Otherwise one would run the risk of supporting superstition and quackery.