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Gold, incentives and meh

GPs shun homeopathy as prescriptions halve

By Nigel Praities

GP prescriptions for homeopathy have almost halved in two years, placing huge question marks over future provision of the controversial treatment.

Figures obtained by Pulse from the Prescriptions Pricing Authority show the number of prescriptions for homeopathic preparations dropped from 83,000 in 2005 to 49,300 in 2007.

The drop occurred against the backdrop of an increase in the overall number of prescriptions written in primary care, from 720 million in 2005 to 796 million in 2007.

41201122A Pulse investigation in January revealed PCTs across the country were cutting back on homeopathic services, with a quarter of trusts stopping or reducing funding over the past two years, and a leading homeopathic hospital forced to close.

The new figures demonstrate the squeeze on PCT contracts at homoeopathic hospitals is also being reflected in primary care, with the cost of homeopathic prescribing plummeting in line with the number of items, by 46%. The total spend in 2007 was just £321,000 – just 0.006% of the total prescribing budget - compared with £593,000 in 2005.

Professor Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at Peninsula Medical School in Exeter [check] and a vocal critic of homeopathy, said the huge drop in prescribing reflected a shift in attitude within the medical profession.

‘The figures reflect a more critical attitude on homeopathy and a shift towards evidence-based medicine. The trend is bound to increase as the evidence that homeopathic remedies are pure placebos is getting stronger,' he said.

But Dr Tim Robinson, a GP who provides a local homeopathic service in Dorset, said the huge drop reflected an orchestrated ‘hate campaign' against homeopathy that had been led by Professor Ernst.

‘Patients are not asking for it because of what has been written in the press and this also reflects the disillusionment of medical homeopaths with the system and cuts in funding from PCTs,' he said.

Pulse can also reveal that efforts to provide a formal regulatory framework for homeopathy have stalled.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency revealed only two homeopathic remedies had applied for a licensed medical indication under their National Rules Scheme launched in September 2006.

Neither application has been approved.

Applications for indications under the National Rules Scheme must be supported by a dossier of data on quality safety and efficacy.

Homeopathic remedies Number of homeopathic preparations prescribed

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