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MPs call to stop funding homeopathy

An influential House of Commons committee has said that all public funding of homeopathy should be stopped

An influential House of Commons committee has said that all public funding of homeopathy should be stopped.

It also concluded that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should not allow homeopathic product labels to make medical claims without evidence of efficacy and that MHRA licensing should be taken away from homeopathic products as they are not medicines.

The report, published by the Science and Technology Committee, follows an 'evidence check' to see if current government policies on homeopathy were based on sound evidence. Homeopathy is an oral system of medicine that seeks to treat patients with highly diluted substances in the hope to encourage the body's self-healing process.

It was concluded that there was no evidence that homeopathy works beyond the placebo effect, and that current government policies did not match the experimental data behind homeopathy.

'When the NHS funds homeopathy, it endorses it,' says the report. 'Since the NHS Constitution explicitly gives people the right to expect that decisions on the funding of drugs and treatments are made "following a proper consideration of the evidence", patients may reasonably form the view that homeopathy is an evidence-based treatment.'

Decisions on the use of homeopathy are currently left to the NHS and Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), with the report saying the Department of Health (DoH) told the committee it "does not maintain a position" on any complementary or alternative treatment, including homeopathy.

It is estimated in the report that £4m is spent on homeopathy a year, though no official government figures are kept. It also added that these costs do not include maintenance and running costs of the four homeopathic hospitals in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow or the £20 million spent on refurbishing the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital in the middle of last decade.

Chairman of the Committee, Phil Willis MP, said: "This was a challenging inquiry which provoked strong reactions. We were seeking to determine whether the government's policies on homeopathy are evidence-based. They are not.

"It sets an unfortunate precedent for the Department of Health to consider that the existence of a community which believes that homeopathy works is 'evidence' enough to continue spending public money on it. This also sends out a confused message, and has potentially harmful consequences. We await the government's response to our report with interest.”

The report's findings were criticised by the Society of Homeopaths, the largest body of professional homeopaths in the UK, who said in a statement that it had 'grave concerns about the processes that led to its report issued today'.

The society also condemned the lack of 'patient representatives who had used homeopathy or a PCT currently commissioning homeopathy' and its own inability to give oral evidence along with its written evidence.

The full report can be found on the Science and Technology Committee's page on the parliament website

23rd February 2010

From: Healthcare

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