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GPs set to be banned from prescribing homeopathy

NHS England is planning to stop the prescribing of homeopathy as part of new guidance for CCGs on medicines that can be considered to be of low priority for funding.

Homeopathy is a new item on the list of possible low-value medicines that GPs will be banned from prescribing.

Originally NHS England said that it would review just 10 items, but it has added eight new treatments, including homeopathy and herbal treatments.

It has also said that it is reviewing over 3,200 products that could be purchased over the counter, including at pharmacies, petrol stations or convenience stores.

The original consultation document failed to include homeopathy in its treatments that should be banned.

However, following a consultation, a paper presented at today’s NHS England board meeting said: ‘NHS England’s view is that, at best, homeopathy is a placebo and a misuse of scarce NHS funds which could better be devoted to treatments that work.

‘Data on the residual use and cost of homeopathy on the NHS are hard to come by. A recent Freedom of Information request by a third party suggested that at least £578,000 has been spent on prescribed homeopathy over the past five years, with the total cost being higher than that when the cost of consultations was factored in.’

Talking at the NHS England Board meeting today NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said: ’I think this (homeopathy) has been an issue which has concerned scientific professionals for a long period of time.

‘We can no longer shy away from addressing this particular issue. If we want our NHS to be evidence based and outcomes focused, then we must expect to have difficult conversations over difficult issues.’

Gluten-free foods are subject to a separate consultation by the DH, says NHS England.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ’We know that a number of treatments are of little or no value, and are at best a placebo. We also know many other medications are available very cheaply over the counter and are much more readily obtainable than when they first became available on prescription, and both GPs and the public should be mindful of this.

’If patients are in a position that they can afford to buy over the counter medicines and products, then we would encourage them to do so rather than request a prescription – but imposing blanket policies on GPs, that don’t take into account demographic differences across the country, or that don’t allow for flexibility for a patient’s individual circumstances, risks alienating the most vulnerable in society.’

The BMA GP Committee’s prescribing subcommittee chair Dr Andrew Green said that the Government should be ‘blacklisting’ these drugs to remove the pressure from GPs.

He said: ‘GPs have a contractual duty to prescribe drugs that their patients need, and pressure must not be placed on them to act in a way that may contravene those regulations. Where there are clinical reasons that drugs should not be provided on the NHS, such as for co-proxamol or homeopathic substances, then these should be added to the “blacklist” which formally prevents NHS supply.’

Which items could GPs be banned from prescribing?

Co-proxamol

Dosulepin

Prolonged-release Doxazosin

Immediate- release Fentanyl

Glucosamine and Chondroitin

Herbal treatments

Homeopathy

Lidocaine plasters

Liothyronine

Lutein and antioxidants

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Compounds

Oxycodone and Naloxone combination product

Paracetamol and Tramadol combination product

Perindopril Arginine

Rubefacients

Once-daily Tadalafil

Travel vaccines

Trimipramine

Readers' comments (33)

  • Should also ban anything that is available over the counter inc for over 60's. Introduce a system where patients can be given a nonFP-10 script from the doctor to allow them to purchase greater volumes of paracetamol and the like. Would save the NHS millions i'm sure.

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  • NHS ENGLAND won't ban any items because they are afraid of patients.
    Instead they will leave it to "individual GP discretion" and then when we don't prescribe the items we will get referred to the GMC.

    Anyway, Jeremy Hunt is a fan of homeopathy !!

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  • I'm staggered that anyone who claims to be a doctor in the 21st century is prescribing this anti-scientific, irrational nonsense. As for resisting patient pressure- I look them in the eye and say that I only practice scientific rational medicine. They are free to make their decision from there on.

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  • For those patients already on a regular homeopathic prescription, GPs could, for a small fee, refill the empties with the generic version which is piped into the surgery!

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  • Nhsfatcat

    GPs also banned from farting in a thunder storm and weeing into the sea.

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  • The well publicised Australian NHMRC report from 2015 followed a suppressed report from 2012 which found evidence of benefit from Homeopathic prescribing.
    The delay between the 2 reports was due to massaging the inclusion criteria such that of the 176 eligible studies used in 2012 (not 1,800 as trumpeted in the media) only 5 met a spurious inclusion criterion of n150 in 2015, and needless to say those 5 were negative.
    Worth checking the data rather than relying on reports.
    The Commonwealth Ombudsman is looking into the matter which some Lawyers have alleged to be the worst case of scientific research fraud they have seen in 30 years.

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  • Curious how eye wateringly expensive placebo's have dodged this ban!!
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4172306/
    Abstract
    Antidepressants are supposed to work by fixing a chemical imbalance, specifically, a lack of serotonin in the brain. Indeed, their supposed effectiveness is the primary evidence for the chemical imbalance theory. But analyses of the published data and the unpublished data that were hidden by drug companies reveals that most (if not all) of the benefits are due to the placebo effect. Some antidepressants increase serotonin levels, some decrease it, and some have no effect at all on serotonin. Nevertheless, they all show the same therapeutic benefit. Even the small statistical difference between antidepressants and placebos may be an enhanced placebo effect, due to the fact that most patients and doctors in clinical trials successfully break blind. The serotonin theory is as close as any theory in the history of science to having been proved wrong. Instead of curing depression, popular antidepressants may induce a biological vulnerability making people more likely to become depressed in the future.

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  • X.Ray

    I banned myself 30 years ago.

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  • I am always concerned, as a matter of principle, about banning things, because later longer-term investigations often seem to turn up things that work better than we thought, or in a different area. Banning substances stops doctors being scientists and investigating correlations that they have 'just noticed'. When I first started practising, amitriptyline wasn't used for pain: now it is.
    Similarly, we all know of patients who don't respond well to certain medicines - they need alternatives that at first may seem less useful (Co-proxamol, for example). To have someone centrally banning medicines is surely not a helpful way to go, because it cuts off any ability of doctors to tailor their prescriptions to the needs of the actual patient in front of them.

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  • Please ban benzo's

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