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Proposed indications for homeopathic medicine

The UK drug regulator is to push ahead with controversial plans to allow homoeopathic medicine to carry specific indications ­ despite absence of evidence.

By Daniel Cressey

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has released consultation responses expressing 'widespread support' for plans to move homoeopathy further into the NHS mainstream. The release follows last week's GP research claiming homoeopathy was highly effective in general practice.

But the RCGP and GPC poured scorn on the proposals questioning how homoeopathy could have pharmacy-only licences, for what was tantamount to the sale of water'. The plans have now been passed to the Department of Health for approval and could be implemented in June.

To gain an indication, applicants would have to provide evidence only that a preparation had been used to treat a condition ­ not that it was effective.

The RCGP's response to the consultation, obtained by Pulse, said: 'The proposal is to license new or existing homoeopathic medicines with indications on the basis of no rigorous scientific data on effectiveness or safety. Some of these may be pharmacy-only preparations which would seem a remarkable situation for what is tantamount to the sale of water.'

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, said: 'There is no evidence base. It's not meant to treat anything ­ it's just lactose powder. Money would be better spent on something to wash your hands so you didn't spread infectious disease.'

The plans would allow indications only for self-limiting and minor conditions (see box), but doctors warned some of these could be symptoms of serious underlying illness.

Dr Tony Crockett, a GP in Swindon, Wiltshire, who helped draw up the RCGP submission, said: 'There is a danger patients will use treatment for which there is no evidence for efficacy and will not be given the option to use medicine which does. Diagnoses may be missed. If they're going to be licensed it has to be the same as for any other medicine

  • Chilblains
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Indigestion, heartburn, hyperacidity, dyspepsia
  • Common colds, coughs, 'conditions commonly referred to as influenza'
  • Muscular pain, stiffness, rheumatic pain and cramp
  • Head ache, neuralgia
  • Head lice
  • Hay fever, rhinitis
  • Psoriasis

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