Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Continuing to fund homeopathy is irresponsible

  • Print
  • Comments (37)
  • Rate
  • Save

‘Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day,’ is one of the few quotes from one of my favourite films that doesn’t have to be censored for expletives. It’s proved popular with obscure shoe-gazing indie rock bands and techno acts. In the very same film a hippy drug dealer in the 1960s extols the virtues of long hair, because hair picks up signals from the cosmos. It seems this type of hippy sentiment is reverberating round the Department of Health, which recently rejected calls by MPs to withdraw the funding of homeopathy on the NHS.

It would appear that the Government is happy to continue to fund the prescribing of placebo, even though there appears to be something ethically dubious about prescribing inert sugar pills that may have been in touch with a molecule of something or another at some point, and telling the patient that it will alleviate their symptoms. I suppose one doesn’t consider it to be lying if you believe it yourself.

When the NHS is being asked to make efficiency savings, allowing the choice, and funding, of treatments that are based on fantasy, is irresponsible

There is a part of me that hopes that those that prescribe homeopathy are actually aware of how powerful placebos can be. In the distant past, when I was at medical school, I remember reading about the initial trials for erectile dysfunction treatment. The placebo response in many of the trials was about 50%. Men who believed they were taking an active treatment responded in half the cases. The writers of the article concluded that the cheapest most effective treatment that could be introduced worldwide was placebo. The only slight issue was the ethical one of lying about what you were giving patients. Nowadays we settle for one or more of Vitamin D, topical NSAID gels, peppermint oil or arguably SSRIs.

My other theory is that the NHS has become so obsessed with preventative medicine, which makes up the majority of QOF targets, that perhaps we have taken our eye off the ‘treating of symptoms’ ball. I sometimes feel that I spend so much time ensuring that the patient in front of me has ‘evidence-based’ prevention for fragility fractures, strokes, heart attacks, dementia, kidney impairment, nephropathy, retinopathy, neuropathy, pregnancy and worsening heart failure, that the treatment of patients’ symptoms takes a back seat. Homeopaths, whether they realise it or not, are exploiting the ‘doctor as a drug’ by concentrating on relief of symptoms.

The Department of Health argues that the funding of homeopathy should continue to allow for patient choice. This argument is blatantly ridiculous. At a time when the NHS is being asked to make efficiency savings, allowing the choice and funding of treatments that are based on fantasy, is irresponsible and is further evidence of the Government railroading its own agenda.

Dr Samir Dawlatly is a GP in Birmingham, managing partner and board member of Our Health Partnership and co-clinical director of QCAPS Referral Improvement Programme

Rate this blog  (3 average user rating)

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Readers' comments (37)

  • Can we get the daily wail on it? Coeliac prescriptions (you know, evidence based, real demonstrable disease and solution) have been stopped as a whimsical area where patients should be able to choose and buy their own. Why are we starting with choice around evidence-based and scientifically demonstrable medicine, rather than hocus pocus. Does Mr Hunt's personal view have an impact?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Homeopathy is extremely cheap and extremely safe. Please stop expressing fundamentalist view and dressing them up as so- called evidence based medicine. You just don't see how it could work so don't believe it does. It does work and does not cause pathology.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Such provinsialism!!! QEll isn't doing so bad and she believes in homeopathy. I've have seen it work and it has also worked on members of my Family. With unenlightened views such as your we would still not have transplants.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Re 24 Nov 2015 10:53am

    Brilliant spelling and English. Thanks for the uneducated opinion. You'll fit in well with the rest of those who believe in homeopathy and unicorns.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Homeopathy works alongside usual medical and surgical interventions in clinical practice.

    There is research evidence both for and against the effectiveness of homeopathic medicines in Pubmed which suggests anyone stating there is no evidence for homeopathy is ill informed and under educated.

    European Health Authorities and Governments, let alone doctors and managers, have no problem with co-existence of therapies such as Homeopathic Medicine which help suffering patients.

    India has 300,000 doctors trained in Homeopathic Medicine.

    There is RCT evidence for Homeopathy.

    An experienced research professor in anaesthetics and surgery has looked at the 'lack of evidence homeoapthic reports' and found 95% of the eligible research data was ignored with curious gymnastics in data analysis: https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/355916

    There is a fanatical small group of well connected individuals who have chosen to attack homeopathy, despite the clinical and research evidence.

    At this time of AMR Homeopathic Medicine is a scientifically evidenced safe, cheap and effective alternative for Sinusitis, Bronchitis, Influenzaa, Otitis Media (acute) and Tonsillitis.
    http://www.britishhomeopathic.org/conditions-with-overall-positive-evidence-for-homeopathy/

    Lets leave fantasy and the alleged privatisation of the NHS to the fantasists.

    Looking at our usual treatments will yield far higher savings than the paltry £4 million allegedly due to be saved from withdrawing the choice of Homeopathic treatment from patients.

    "The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness."Dr Richard Horton- Editor in Chief of the Lancet.

    "It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine" Dr. Marcia Angell Editor in Chief of the New England Medical Journal.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Excellent article.

    Popcorn anyone?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Excellent article.

    Popcorn anyone?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Question:

    How does one set up a placebo vs. homeopathy trial? How do you guard against the molecules in the placebo never having been in touch with the "active" ingredient. Surely the placebo could be more dilute and therefore more powerful?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • @12:30

    I'm sure you're right that homoeopathy "works", I just don't believe that its efficacy has anything to do with the alleged active ingredients, or the memory of water. I believe the observed effects are consistent with placebo response.

    Unfortunately mainstream medicine does itself a grave disservice by ostensibly rejecting the use of the placebo effect. I believe that homoeopathy could form part of a broader movement towards greater placebo use within medicine.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The belief in homeopathy is like dolphin worship. You know the sort of thing, where a pub raises funds to send a kid off to Florida. The frightened kid is put in a pool with a dolphin, and as dolphins are supernatural beings (whales as well), the contact with the mammal dramatically relieves symptoms. Readers of Pulse are supposed to be members of the medical community, yet when the subject of homeopathy is aired, we get a barrage of comments which any kid studying O Level chemistry could debunk. Modern medicine is a science, and the workings of the homeopathic religion should be confined to homeopathic churches, not NHS funded surgeries or hospitals.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say

  • Print
  • Comments (37)
  • Rate
  • Save