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MHRA stands firm on homeopathy scheme despite criticism

The MHRA has vowed to keep its controversial scheme to approve indications for the marketing of homeopathic remedies, despite criticism from a House of Commons report.

The Government had consulted the public on proposals to potentially scrap the National Rules Scheme for homeopathic medicines altogether or to merge the system with other regulations to simplify the process of registering homeopathic remedies in England.

The results of the consultation, which formed part of the Cabinet Office's ‘Red Tape Challenge' earlier this year, are yet to be published. But the MHRA told Pulse it is not intending to make changes to the scheme.

The scheme enables manufacturers to register indications for the treatment of minor conditions if they can supply a dossier of data on quality, safety and efficacy. But since the National Rules Scheme was created in 2006, only one homeopathic treatment has been given an indication – Nelson's Arnicare Arnica 30c pillules – which was able to market itself as providing ‘symptomatic relief of sprains, muscular aches and bruising or swelling after contusions'.

The scheme was heavily criticised in the House of Commons health committee's ‘evidence check' report on homeopathy in 2010, which said the same ‘rigorous scrutiny' on safety, quality and efficacy applied by the MHRA for other medicines should apply to homeopathic products.

But an MHRA spokesperson said: ‘We have no plans to change our position in relation to homeopathic medicines.

‘We advise people to use licensed medicines because these are independently assessed for safety and quality. Unlicensed homeopathic medicines will not have received this independent assessment, so we advise that patients should consult their GP or pharmacist before using any unlicensed homeopathic medicines.'

'Through the Red Tape Challenge we have consulted on what more we can do to deliver a simpler, less bureaucratic and more effective system, increase choice and opportunity whilst maintaining necessary safeguards and legal protection.'

In 2010, the Department of Health decided to reject a call from the House of Commons science and technology committee for a national ban on NHS funding for homeopathic treatment. The DH said it was instead up to local commissioners to decide whether requests should be funded on a ‘case-by-case basis'. Since then, funding for homeopathic treatments has been cut by some English PCTs.