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Government probe following GP homeopathy debate

By Nigel Praities

The Government plans to ask NICE to compare the cost-effectiveness of complementary therapies with other treatments, a health minister revealed this week.

The comments came after a Pulse investigation – showing over a fifth of PCTs have cancelled or reduced homeopathy contracts since 2006 – was discussed by MPs in a debate in about homeopathy provision in the UK.

Health minister Dawn Primarolo said PCTs needed to take the clinical and cost-effectiveness of complementary therapies into account and NICE could be a good source of this information.

‘The issue for the Department is to ensure that PCTs are aware of the evidence where it is available. We would certainly wish to consider where it is appropriate for NICE to consider complementary therapies alongside other treatments,' she said.

Dr Kailash Chand, a GP in Ashton under Lyne in Lancashire and a trained acupuncturist himself, said he was happy that NICE may be involved.

‘Complementary medicine does work, but it does need regulating and supervising otherwise there is the danger that any Tom, Dick and Harry can claim to be a provider of complementary medicine,' he said.

Professor Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, also welcomed the proposal but warned the lack of efficacy data for many complementary therapies would prevent NICE comparing then with pharmacological treatments.

‘There are very few studies which compare acupuncture with anti-emetics, for example. The evidence does not exist, so NICE cannot evaluate it,' he said.

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