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Homeopathy lobby strikes, diclofenac overprescribed and why walking is better than high intensity exercise

A round-up of the health news headlines on Thursday 14 February

The NHS Choices website pulled draft guidance that there was no evidence that homeopathy works following lobbying by a charity set up by Prince Charles, the Guardian has reported.

The draft guidance spelled out the scientific implausibility of homeopathic remedies, reflecting the criticisms by chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies who told a Commons science and technology committee it was ‘rubbish’ and she was ‘perpetually surprised’ that homeopathy was available in some places on the NHS.

However, DH officials removed the criticisms after lobbying by the now defunct Foundation for Integrated Medicine. This was revealed following an FOI request by Professor David Colquhoun oof University College London

The editor of the draft advice, David Mattin – who has now left NHS Choices – said in a statement to Colquhoun, published on his blog, that the DH had failed patients. ‘In causing NHS Choices to publish content that is less than completely frank about the evidence on homeopathy, the DH have compromised the editorial standards of a website that they themselves established and that they fund. They have sold out the NHS Choices editorial team who work tirelessly to fulfil their remit. And, most seriously, they have failed the general public, by putting special interests, politics and the path of least resistance (as they saw it) before the truth about health and healthcare.’

Meanwhile a study published in PloS Medicine has found that diclofenac, the painkiller that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, may be overprescribed worldwide, including England.

The BBC reports that diclofenac was often prioritised above other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It was included in the essential medicines lists of 74 countries, while naproxen was listed in 27.

Justin Mason, a professor of vascular rheumatology at Imperial College London, said: ‘I do think there is over prescription of diclofenac.

‘There are some particular cases when it is a good option - but there are other painkillers that may be considered safer.’

A spokesman for the MRHA said: “Our advice remains that these medicines should be used for the shortest time necessary and at the lowest dose possible to control symptoms.

“There is an ongoing Europe-wide review of diclofenac that was initiated at the request of the MHRA. We will continue to review all available data and take any appropriate action required to further minimise any risk to patients. If people have any concerns about any NSAID they are taking then they should speak to their doctor.”

Finally today, a study in PLOS ONE suggests that long periods of walking could be better for you than high intensity exercise.

The Daily Mail reports that researchers from Maastricht University in Holland split 18 youngsters aged 19 to 24 into three groups - one sat for 14 hours doing no exercise, the second sat for 13 hours but did an hour of vigorous exercise, and the final group sat for six hours, walked for four and stood for two.

It was found that when energy expended was the same, cholesterol and lipid levels were significantly improved in the group that exercised over a longer period, far more than in the other two groups.

Dr Hans Savelberg, from Maastricht University in Holland, who led the study, said: ‘One hour of daily physical exercise cannot compensate for the negative effects of inactivity on insulin sensitivity and plasma lipids if the rest of the day is spent sitting.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • Chief medical office, Dame Dr. Sally Davies, does her none of her three titles in favours for making a statement that "Homeopathy is rubbish." Not only is it rude, crude and insulting to NHS doctors using homeopathy, it may even contravene GMC guidelines on how doctors should refrain from speaking ill of the way their colleagues practise medicine. The same probably does not apply to Prof.Colquehoun as I do not think he is a registered doctor with the GMC.

    Perhaps it is time to applaud successive governments for supporting NHS homeopathy as it is clear that a substantial minority of people in the country,including the Queen have valued it for many years despite the efforts of the like of Prof. Colquhoun and the uncouth language of Dame Sally Davies

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