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Homeopathy 'ineffective' so NHS should not fund it

No evidence for effectiveness of homeopathy beyond a placebo effect

OnMedica Staff

Monday, 22 February 2010

The NHS should stop funding homeopathic remedies because there is no evidence that they actually work, MPs have said.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee investigated government policy towards homeopathic remedies, of which Prince Charles is a high profile fan, and the evidence for them.

The MPs concluded in a report, published today, that there is no evidence that the remedies work beyond a placebo effect (where a patient gets better because of their belief in the treatment), explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible and that the cash-strapped NHS should cease funding them.

While the government acknowledges this, it has no intention of changing or reviewing its policies on NHS funding of homeopathy, the committee said. It added prescribing pure placebos is bad medicine, their effect is unreliable and unpredictable and therefore cannot form the sole basis of any treatment on the NHS.

They recommended that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should no longer license homeopathic products and emphasised that such products should not be allowed to make medical claims without evidence of efficacy.

The committee was particularly concerned over the introduction of the National Rules Scheme (NRS) in 2006, which allows medical indications on the basis of study reports, literature and homeopathic provings and not on the basis of randomised controlled trials - the normal requirement for medicines that make medical claims.

It added that, given that the existing scientific literature showed no good evidence of efficacy, further clinical trials of homeopathy could not be justified.

Chairman of the committee, Phil Willis MP, said: "This was a challenging inquiry which provoked strong reactions. We were seeking to determine whether the Government's policies on homeopathy are evidence based on current evidence. They are not.

"It sets an unfortunate precedent for the Department of Health to consider that the existence of a community which believes that homeopathy works is 'evidence' enough to continue spending public money on it. This also sends out a confused message, and has potentially harmful consequences."

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