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Independents' Day

Ministers considering ‘blacklisting’ homeopathic medicines

The Department of Health is looking at blacklisting homeopathic products to stop GPs prescribing them on the NHS, it has been announced.

It comes after campaigning group the Good Thinking Society threatened legal action against CCGs for continuing to fund the prescriptions, and proposed there should be a judicial review on blacklisting the products.

The society told Pulse its lawyers had now received confirmation from the Department of Health that it ’has now decided to conduct a consultation into the question of whether homeopathic products should be included in Schedule 1’ – the so-called NHS blacklist.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has previously come under criticism for supporting a parliamentary motion on homeopathy, but has since indicated it should no longer be funded if the evidence does not support it.

Minister for life sciences George Freeman said: ‘With rising health demands, we have a duty to make sure we spend NHS funds on the most effective treatments.

‘We are currently considering whether or not homeopathic products should continue to be available through NHS prescriptions. We expect to consult on proposals in due course.’

The Good Thinking Society, led by acclaimed science writer Simon Singh, says the NHS is spending as much as £5m a year on the treatments despite no evidence they are effective.

Welcoming the DH announcement, Dr Singh said: ‘Given the finite resources of the NHS, any spending on homeopathy is utterly unjustifiable, when the money spent on these disproven remedies can be far better spent on treatments that offer real benefits to patients.’

However, leading GP advocate of alternative medicine Dr Michael Dixon told Pulse there was a ’vendetta’ against GPs who prescribe homeopathic treatments. 

Dr Dixon said: ‘Most GPs don’t know about homeopathic medicines and aren’t aware they are able to prescribe them in the first place, so I think we’re talking about a very few GPs and very small number of prescriptions.’

He added: ‘I think it’s small fish and it’s very much a vendetta against those GPs who do use and prescribe homeopathic remedies, it’s more of an ideological act than a practical solution.’

Readers' comments (30)

  • Why don't homeopathic Drs charge homeopathic fees?

    Ie infinitely small??

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  • I hope we'll question the big pharma evidence with equal vigour.

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  • How expensive are homoepathic meds? If expensive, this is clearly a sensible step.

    But if they're cheap (as I suspect), it doesn't really seem like a big enough deal to take action about.

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  • It is disappointing that at a time when the NHS is facing a funding crisis the Department of Health (DH) is embarking on a costly consultation that could prevent highly skilled clinicians prescribing a course of treatment that benefits thousands of patients each year. If the DH were serious about saving money surely it should be looking at SSRIs, prescribed for mild to moderate depression in vast quantities at considerable cost to the NHS, but which studies have found to be ineffective for those conditions.

    Dr Helen Beaumont
    President of the Faculty of Homeopathy

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  • Following breast cancer treatment I now take Anastrazole which give rise to horrible side effects - 12-15 hot flushes a day during which my hair becomes soaked; night sweats mean I have to sleep on a towel and other drying effects shall we say. I live in an area that has a Homeopathic Hospital, a godsend as my Oncologist's advice was to persist and could not offer me any other treatment. 6 months on, due to homeopathic medication, my quality of life has dramatically improved. There still is a place for homeopathic medicine in this world of medicine run by pharmaceutical conglomerates.

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  • Homeopathy is found useful in practice because it works.

    It would be of value for the 9,000 odd patients at our practice to have a voice in this matter.

    There are some who consider homeopathy an abomination and a few thousand who have found it has worked for them even after failed standard treatment.

    Patients with either opinion are treated equally in consultation with due regard to GMC directives.

    There are many pundits and doctors who rely on reports by biased authors and avoid looking at the actual data.

    A surgical research professor who grasped the nettle and looked at the raw data found 95% of homeopathic research data had been ignored to come up with 'evidence' homeopathy was no better than placebo.

    Looks like a significant amount of basic education in the matter is required in order to present an informed judgment.

    Scathing diatribe requires minimal education only.

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  • According to the NHS choices website:

    "A 2010 House of Commons Science and Technology Committee report on homeopathy said that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are "scientifically implausible". This is also the view of the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies."

    I'm surprised that a mathematician has to stand up for evidence based medicine for us.

    - Junior doctor

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  • "If the DH were serious about saving money surely it should be looking at SSRIs"


    Both homeopathy AND the use of SSRIs in mild-moderate depression should be blacklisted.

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  • I love it how people with no practical experience of a form of treatment can dam its use.
    Everyone is different and has different needs and responses. Please only spout your opinions after you have has first hand experience of these methods which must have some benefit otherwise people and doctors would simply not use them. Just because their possible benefits may be difficult to measure or assess by methods used to assess pharmaceutical drugs which suppress symptoms as opposed to homopathic treatmentd which are designed to help promote natual health and hence work in a different way.

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  • You guys are aware "big homeopathy" is a multimillion industry too?

    Homeopathy should not be funded by the NHS, I can't believe in 2015 we are still having this debate.

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • JAMA 9.11.2015....2015.5614
    "Overuse of medical care, consisting primarily of misdiagnosis and overtreatment, is a common clinical problem."
    "Many common medical practices should be reconsidered."
    Some comment as if pharma is ok being a multibillion dollar concern, but gasp if anyone else approaches healthprovision for hypocrisy intended I'm sure.
    Don't compare iatrogenic side effects and deaths of pharmacy drugs WITH homeopathic drugs.
    Above all else don't ask patients their opinion!?

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  • The House of Commons Science & Technology Committee 2010 report on Homeopathy was rejected by Government having been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt to be biased and fatally flawed. The fact it is still used against Homeopathy shows how scientific enquiry is relentlessly being replaced by myth.

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  • If draconian laws are being mooted to prevent doctors prescribing medicines of their choice for patients, these laws should be extended to ALL medicines. Every medicine available would need to pass the test including hundreds of commonly prescribed but unevidenced 'conventional' medicines. Of course Big Pharma would not want this, so therefore homeopathy is attacked exclusively.

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  • Homeopathy of course works. It just it works on the placebo effect.

    If you want it, fine, buy it over the counter like everything else.

    The main issue of the review is that tax payers are forcefully paying for essentially an unproven or largely unaccepted treatment.

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  • The thing to remember is that all homeopathic medicine is the same. They are all just water.

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  • Homeopathy works as well as placebo because it is the 'ultimate' placebo. It is tailor made for the patient.

    We used to prescribe the 'red pills' but patients would not accept that in this day and age. This way we fool patients into thinking they are getting treated, thus harnessing the placebo effect, relying on the body's natural power of healing.

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  • Well its a no brainer. If they are on the NHS schedule but no one prescribes them, except the zealots, and no one makes any money from them on the NHS, then blacklist them. Harms no one and sends the right message. Those that want to pay for them and those who are happy to profit from patients being given them can continue to do so but outside the NHS. Fair?

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  • I don't see how stopping the funding of homoeopathy means the NHS stops prescribing it. Surely one can bang a fiver against the cash till and it retains the molecular memory of the money, so you can have your homoeopathy and keep your money!

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  • I am not aware of any proper scientific study that has proved homoeopathy beyond placebo effect. The theory of homoeopathy is witch-doctor stuff.
    When homoeopathy proves itself in proper scientific studies then fine, fund it on the NHS. Until then, no.

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  • Good

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