Switzerland Recognizes CAM as a Legitimate Medical Treatment

Switzerland is one of the most progressive European countries in terms of complementary and alternative medicine. According to surveys published in 2006 and 2007, up to 57% of the Swiss population use CAM and 40% of Swiss doctors are fully or partially active in the field of CAM. According to further surveys, a large proportion of other doctors would resort to CAM if necessary. (187)

On 1 June, 1999, five selected CAM methods were added to the national health insurance system for a limited period of six years. The five methods were anthroposophic medicine, homeopathy, neural therapy, phytotherapy and traditional Chinese medicine. These therapies were included in the basic health insurance programme based on scientific evidence of their efficacy, suitability and cost-effectiveness (within the Complementary Medicine Evaluation Programme, "Project Evaluation Komplementärmedizin", abbr. PEK). The PEK programme ended in 2006. Although the interim research reports and the final report of the program supported the use of these five CAM methods as rational based on objective findings, the Minister of Health excluded CAM from the health insurance system again 3 June, 2005. (188)

Swiss CAM advocates, the Forum on Holistic Medicine in particular, realized that there is no national or cantonal political will in favour of CAM recognition in Switzerland. They therefore decided to try to change the federal constitution via a referendum. Almost all professional and interest groups for CAM came together to form a referendum committee consisting of medical and non-medical practitioners, therapists, pharmacists, nurses, drug manufacturers and patient organizations. (189)

The "Yes to complementary medicine" referendum was launched on 21 September, 2004 as it had received 140,000 signatures within 12 months. The government and parliament rejected the referendum in its original version, but a counter-proposal containing a somewhat milder wording, to which the referendum organizers also agreed, was approved. The referendum took place on 17 May, 2009 (190and two thirds of the Swiss citizens said yes to complementary medicine in Switzerland. Complementary medicine is now embedded in the Swiss federal constitution.

EUROCAM published an online report on the major step in the process of integrating CAM into the system of public health care in Switzerland 5 April, 2016: Switzerland to recognize complementary therapies as legitimate medicine:

“The Swiss interior ministry has announced plans to give four complementary therapies, i.e. homeopathy, anthroposophic medicine, herbal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine the same status as conventional medicine by May 2017 when it comes to health insurance. Acupuncture – another complementary therapy – has this status already at present. The ministry will allow reimbursements of treatment costs by compulsory health insurance.” (191)

In the Czech Republic, the magazine Šifra published an article on this crucial step, Breakthrough: The Swiss government officially recognizes homeopathy as a legitimate medical treatment:

“The Swiss Government has shifted the boundaries of medicine towards alternative treatment methods. Last year, they decided that health insurance would cover a range of treatment methods including homeopathy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, phytotherapy and holistic medicine from May 2017.”

“Following the Swiss health authorities withdrawal of the legitimacy of alternative medicine in 2005, people in Switzerland spoke out in favour of it. In 2009, two thirds of the Swiss population voted for five important treatment methods to be added to the list of paid health services. In 2012, all supplementary methods were added to the compulsory basic insurance within a six-year probationary period. At the end of the trial period, their "efficacy, cost-effectiveness and suitability" were assessed.” (192)