Homeopathy in Switzerland – breaking the ice?

Lesedauer / Reading Time: 3 min
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It has been a strange and tortuous path that the debate on “complementary medicine” in the Swiss public health system has taken over the last 20 years, leading to a hardly less strange result.

In short, in several “rounds”, Switzerland became increasingly locked between scientific facts and their re-declaration as matters of opinion and wishful thinking. The first step was undoubtedly to decide the question of the role of “complementary” methods in the public health system by means of a scientifically based evaluation. We won’t repeat the whole story here. Let us just reiterate the current state of affairs:

How do you manage the balancing act between scientific facts, the requirements of social insurance law for economic efficiency, necessity and expediency and the “will of the people”?

By giving complementary medicine the benefit of the doubt. Instead of examining each method (of the five in question) individually and only including them in the benefits catalog after a successful examination, all therapies were included in the benefits catalog of basic insurance on a blanket basis and only then, when someone applies for a review, is the therapeutic benefit of the respective method examined in more detail.

A kind of incantation spell, in other words, which may also be based on the fact that the Swiss could be weary of ever new rounds in the dispute between science and ideology. Especially as there were full-bodied promises that the inclusion of complementary procedures in the benefits catalog would not lead to additional costs, and possibly even to a reduction in the burden on the insured community.

Santésuisse, the association of health insurers, quickly exposed the latter as a soap bubble. Cost-neutral, my ass. Otherwise – nothing happened. As I said, they were probably tired of it. Despite the situation, which was best compared to a failed squaring of the circle.

Now many things are changing – tempora mutantur, even in Switzerland. You only need to compare today’s general view of homeopathy in Germany with that of, say, 2018. Meanwhile, homeopaths felt so comfortable in Switzerland that it even became the new home of many homeopathic researchers, including in academic institutions in the Swiss Confederation.

And now it suddenly turns out that they still exist, the belligerent descendants of William Tell, who at some point are really fed up with having to salute the Geßler hat of medical nothingness – well, not exactly having to salute it, but encountering it everywhere and seeing that sham medicine in the healthcare system is becoming business as usual for many people.

A private individual (known to us by name) has actually now officially initiated such a review procedure for homeopathy in Switzerland. And for homeopathy as a whole, as was confirmed to us once again. The onus is now once again on homeopathy to provide evidence. And oh wonder – the submission to the Federal Department of Home Affairs and the Federal Office of Public Health, which is based there, was accepted! It cannot be ruled out that certain people were quietly hoping for this …

The current state of affairs is that a kind of hearing and participation procedure will be initiated with the professional organizations involved in order to reopen the question, which was put on ice by Federal Councillor Alain Berset at the time, as to whether homeopathy can meet the reimbursement requirements of cost-effectiveness, necessity and appropriateness that also apply in Switzerland. And thus to place the burden of proof on homeopathy. And it is not difficult to guess what will happen. For example, the homepage of the University of Bern on homeopathy, a compendium of well-known misinterpretations and selective quotations, or the reference to the Swiss HTA on homeopathy (HTA = Health Technology Assessment, an instrument of health care research), which is repeatedly used as evidence.

It is clear, however, that the question of the prerequisites for the five “complementaries” in the Swiss healthcare system has already been answered negatively several times since the early 2000s. Only without clear consequences. As I said, times can change, as we are currently experiencing here in Germany. We are keeping our fingers crossed for the brave Swiss citizen that this time his impetus may lead to an end to the mixing of facts and ideological opinions. Our support is assured. We are really very excited and wish our neighbors in Switzerland that they will be spared another farce in this matter!

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