Ministers are considering whether homeopathy should be put on a blacklist of treatments GPs in England are banned from prescribing, the BBC has learned. The controversial practice is based on the principle that "like cures like", but critics say patients are being given useless sugar pills. The Faculty of Homeopathy said patients supported the therapy. A consultation is expected to take place in 2016.
The total NHS bill for homeopathy, including homeopathic hospitals and GP prescriptions, is thought to be about £4m. Homeopathy is based on the concept that diluting a version of a substance that causes illness has healing properties. So pollen or grass could be used to create a homeopathic hay-fever remedy. One part of the substance is mixed with 99 parts of water or alcohol, and this is repeated six times in a "6c" formulation or 30 times in a "30c" formulation. The end result is combined with a lactose (sugar) tablet.
Homeopaths say the more diluted it is, the greater the effect. Critics say patients are getting nothing but sugar. Common homeopathic treatments are for asthma, ear infections, hay-fever, depression, stress, anxiety, allergy and arthritis. But the NHS itself says: "There is no good-quality evidence that homeopathy is effective as a treatment for any health condition." The Good Thinking Society has been campaigning for homeopathy to be added to the NHS blacklist - known formally as Schedule 1 - of drugs that cannot be prescribed by GPs. Drugs can be blacklisted if there are cheaper alternatives or if the medicine is not effective. After the Good Thinking Society threatened to take their case to the courts, Department of Health legal advisers replied in emails that ministers had "decided to conduct a consultation".
Officials have now confirmed this will take place in 2016.
Simon Singh, the founder of the Good Thinking Society, said: "Given the finite resources of the NHS, any spending on homeopathy is utterly unjustifiable. "The money spent on these disproven remedies can be far better spent on treatments that offer real benefits to patients." But Dr Helen Beaumont, a GP and the president of the Faculty of Homeopathy, said other drugs such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) for depression would be a better target for saving money, as homeopathic pills had a "profound effect" on patients. She told the BBC News website: "Patient choice is important; homeopathy works, it's widely used by doctors in Europe, and patients who are treated by homeopathy are really convinced of its benefits, as am I." The result of the consultation would affect GP prescribing, but not homeopathic hospitals which account for the bulk of the NHS money spent on homeopathy. Estimates suggest GP prescriptions account for about £110,000 per year. And any decision would not affect people buying the treatments over the counter or privately.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was criticized for supporting a parliamentary motion.
NHS seek views on Homeopathy services in Liverpool
We want to hear what people think about the provision of homeopathy services in the City. Homeopathy is a 'treatment' based on the use of highly diluted substances, which practitioners claim can cause the body to heal itself. NHS Liverpool CCG currently commissions around £30,000 of homeopathy services each year. Between April 2014 and April 2015, the service saw 121 new patients and held 447 follow up appointments with existing patients. The CCG wants to engage patients, the public and others with an interest in homeopathy on the future provision of this service. NHS Liverpool CCG’s Governing Body, at its meeting on November 10th, recommended that their preferred option would be to stop commissioning homeopathy services.
The CCG will now undertake an open and transparent process to engage with patients and stakeholders, to understand and take account of views around homeopathy services. Dr Nadim Fazlani, Chair of NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We have a responsibility to commission treatments which offer patients effective outcomes. “There is little evidence that homeopathy has a clinical benefit, so as a Governing Body our preferred option would be to stop commissioning this service; however it is important that the people have an opportunity to provide their views before a decision is made. “We want to hear from the public and other stakeholders about the future of these services.” Click on the 'What do you think' tab on this website for more information. You can skip any questions you wish and it should only take 5 minutes to complete.
Press Release: CAM – an important role to play in combating Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
“The role of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in reducing the problem of antimicrobial resistance"
Reference: EUROCAM’s document – 17 November 2014
To mark EU Antibiotics Awareness Day 18 November 2014, EUROCAM, the alliance of European umbrella organisations of patients, physicians and practitioners in the field of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), has published its policy document “The role of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in reducing the problem of antimicrobial resistance” Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is recognised by the WHO and EU as a major worldwide threat to public health. They have warned that, if measures are not taken immediately to counter AMR, the implications for human health will be devastating. Unquestionably antibiotics have successfully reduced illness and death from serious infectious diseases. But the burgeoning problem of AMR compounded with the fact no new antibiotic has been developed since 1987 demands new thinking. Rather than focusing on destroying pathogens (pathogenesis), the vital role of the host’s ability to counter them, based on good health and a properly functioning immune system, (salutogenesis) must now be emphasised.
CAM therapies by their individualised holistic approach and focus on assisting each person’s innate self‐healing and health‐maintaining capacity, can make a significant contribution to reducing AMR, both in the healthcare sector and in animal husbandry. EUROCAM calls for the potential of CAM in reducing the problem of AMR to be given serious consideration and for further research to be carried out in this area to determine in which conditions, both in human and veterinary healthcare, specific CAM modalities are particularly effective. Compared with other avenues, such as the identification and development of new antibiotics, such trials would be relatively easy and inexpensive to carry out. In return for this small investment, the potential rewards could be enormous.